Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mormonism is NOT Christianity

Well, it's happening. There is, as I feared, a growing confusion over what constitutes the content of genuine Christian faith. I am sure Glenn Beck is a nice man. I am sympathetic to his fear over our diminishing liberties and a federal government that has gotten far to big. But the reason why I was not enthusiastic about his gathering in Washington is that it was a rally that blurred lines between religious faith and civic engagement. It's not that our faith should not inform our politics. Quite the contrary. The problem is that as a Christian I must not involve myself in religious observances with non-Christians. Such compromises do not honor God. What is more, the Gospel gets muddied in such events. Now there are many good evangelicals who are openly entertaining the possibility that Glenn Beck is a Christian even though he is a Mormon. I feared this would happen. I feared the lines would be blurred.

Thanks to
Justin Taylor for posting the following information:

The following is adapted from the section on Mormonism (or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in the ESV Study Bible article on religious cults. The attempt is to be concise yet still accurate. I’ve added questions in bold to break it up a bit.

What do Mormons believe about apostasy and restoration?

Mormons claim that “total” apostasy overcame the church following apostolic times, and that the Mormon Church (founded in 1830) is the “restored church.”

What’s the problem with this understanding?

If the Mormon Church were truly a “restored church,” one would expect to find first-century historical evidence for Mormon doctrines like the plurality of gods and God the Father having once been a man. Such evidence is completely lacking. Besides, the Bible disallows a total apostasy of the church (e.g., Matt. 16:18; 28:20; Eph. 3:21; 4:11–16), warning instead of partial apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1).

What do Mormons believe about God?

Mormons claim that God the Father was once a man and that he then progressed to godhood (that is, he is a now-exalted, immortal man with a flesh-and-bone body).

What does the Bible teach about the nature of God?

Based on the Bible, God is not and has never been a man (Num. 23:19; Hos. 11:9). He is a spirit (John 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Furthermore, God is eternal (Ps. 90:2; 102:27; Isa. 57:15; 1 Tim. 1:17) and immutable (or unchangeable in his being and perfections; see Ps. 102:25–27; Mal. 3:6). He did not “progress” toward godhood, but has always been God.

What do Mormons believe about the Trinity and polytheism?

Mormons believe that the Trinity consists not of three persons in one God but rather of three distinct gods. According to Mormonism, there are potentially many thousands of gods besides these.

What does the Bible teach about the Triune God?

Trusting in or worshiping more than one god is explicitly condemned throughout the Bible (e.g., Ex. 20:3). There is only one true God (Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:18; 46:9; 1 Cor. 8:4; James 2:19), who exists eternally in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).

What do Mormons believe about human exaltation?

Mormons believe that humans, like God the Father, can go through a process of exaltation to godhood.

What does the Bible teach about humanity?

The Bible teaches that the yearning to be godlike led to the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:4ff.). God does not look kindly on humans who pretend to attain to deity (Acts 12:21–23; contrast Acts 14:11–15). God desires humans to humbly recognize that they are his creatures (Gen. 2:7; 5:2; Ps. 95:6–7; 100:3). The state of the redeemed in eternity will be one of glorious immortality, but they will forever remain God’s creatures, adopted as his children (Rom. 8:14–30; 1 Cor. 15:42–57; Rev. 21:3–7). Believers will never become gods.

What do Mormons believe about Jesus?

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit-child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. Jesus then progressed to deity in the spirit world. He was later physically conceived in Mary’s womb, as the literal “only begotten” Son of God the Father in the flesh (though many present-day Mormons remain somewhat vague as to how this occurred).

What does the Bible teach about Jesus?

Biblically, the description of Jesus as the “only begotten” refers to his being the Father’s unique, one-of-a-kind Son for all eternity, with the same divine nature as the Father (see note on John 1:14; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; see also John 5:18; 10:30). Moreover, he is eternal deity (John 1:1; 8:58) and is immutable (Heb. 1:10–12; 13:8), meaning he did not progress to deity but has always been God. And Mary’s conception of Jesus in his humanity was through a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).

What do Mormons believe about our eternal destiny?

Mormons believe that most people will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory, depending on one’s level of faithfulness. Belief in Christ, or even in God, is not necessary to obtain immortality in one of these three kingdoms, and therefore only the most spiritually perverse will go to hell.

What does the Bible teach about our eternal destiny?

The Bible teaches that people have just two possibilities for their eternal futures: the saved will enjoy eternal life with God in the new heavens and new earth (Phil. 3:20; Rev. 21:1–4; 22:1–5), while the unsaved will spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:13–15).

What do Mormons believe about sin and atonement?

Mormons believe that Adam’s transgression was a noble act that made it possible for humans to become mortal, a necessary step on the path to exaltation to godhood. They think that Christ’s atonement secures immortality for virtually all people, whether they repent and believe or not.

What does the Bible teach about sin and atonement?

Biblically, there was nothing noble about Adam’s sin, which was not a stepping-stone to godhood but rather brought nothing but sin, misery, and death to mankind (Gen. 3:16–19; Rom. 5:12–14). Jesus atoned for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation (Isa. 53:6; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

What do Mormons believe about salvation?

Mormons believe that God gives to (virtually) everyone a general salvation to immortal life in one of the heavenly kingdoms, which is how they understand salvation by grace. Belief in Christ is necessary only to obtain passage to the highest, celestial kingdom—for which not only faith but participation in Mormon temple rituals and obedience to its “laws of the gospel” are also prerequisites.

What does the Bible teach about salvation?

Biblically, salvation by grace must be received through faith in Christ (John 3:15–16; 11:25; 12:46; Acts 16:31; Rom. 3:22–24; Eph. 2:8–9), and all true believers are promised eternal life in God’s presence (Matt. 5:3–8; John 14:1–3; Rev. 21:3–7).

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday's Sermon

After 7 weeks in Revelation 2&3 we returned to our series through the book of Hebrews, Hold Fast to Christ. It was part 41 and is entitled "Faith Focused on Jesus". It can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On Trading the Gospel for Political Power

Okay, I don't hide the fact that I am conservative politically. I believe the federal government is too big and that it taxes people too much. I believe abortion is a moral crime and a national shame and am committed to never voting for anyone who is pro-choice. But I continue to be concerned that some of my fellow conservatives seem to be undiscerning when it comes to the relationship between politics and the Christian faith. Too often it seems that some of my conservative brethren are willing to ignore distortions to the Gospel in order to enjoy the cheap pottage of political power. The political left has done this for generations. Why have we followed suit?

Certainly there were many good and decent people attending the "Restoring Honor" rally this weekend. But brothers and sisters we must clear: Glenn Beck is not a Christian. He is a Mormon. Mormons deny every fundamental doctrine of biblical faith. My fellow conservatives, recall how we fume and fuss when the Christian left partners with universalists, Buddhists, Nation of Islam and other Christ-deniers in order to further political ends? Why are we doing the same thing?

Russell Moore (no liberal!) of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has written a fine article on the subject. I ask you to consider it carefully.

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.

It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.

Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah...

Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.

Read the entire article HERE.

By Whose Authority?

Great post from Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniacs on a sermon preached by Lloyd-Jones in 1969. The point of Lloyd-Jones remarks is that the church is yielding to pressure from the cultured despisers of Christianity by rejecting those passages of Scripture and doctrines which they do not approve of.

These words from the sermon could not be more timely:

The Christian church in her utter folly during this present century has been recognizing a new authority. And the new authority of course is the man of knowledge, the man of culture, and particularly the man of scientific knowledge. And the church has been at great pains to do everything she can to please this new authority.

This man of learning must never be offended. And in order to please him and duplicate him, the church has been ready to take things out of the Bible. She rejects and throws out the whole of the first three chapters of Genesis, much of the other history, throws out all the miracles . . . She'll throw out anything in order to make her message pleasing and acceptable to this new authority—the man of knowledge, the man of learning, the man of science.
Check out Phil's post HERE.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Legalism & Self Help - The Fruit of Missing the Gospel

In Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, one of the most important books on preaching I have ever read, Graeme Goldsworthy writes:
We are all legalists at heart. We all love to be able to say that we have fulfilled all kinds of conditions, be they tarrying, surrendering fully, or getting rid of every known sin, so that God might truly bless us. It is a constant temptation to want to take our spiritual pulse and to apply the sanctification barometer. . . . The preacher can aid and abet this legalistic tendency that is at the heart of the sin within us all. All we have to do is emphasize our humanity: our obedience, our faithfulness, our surrender to God, and so on. The trouble is that these things are all valid biblical truths, but if we get them out of perspective and ignore their relationship to the gospel of grace, they replace grace with law.

If we constantly tell people what they should do in order to get their lives in order, we place a terrible legalistic burden on them. Of course they should obey God; of course we should love him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The Bible tells us so. But if we ever give the impression that it is possible to do this on our own, not only do we make the gospel irrelevant, but we suggest that the law is in fact a lot weaker in its demands than it really is. Legalism demeans the law by reducing its standards to the level of our competence.

[ . . .] In practical terms, if we as preachers lay down the marks of the spiritual Christian, or the mature church, or the godly parent, or the obedient child, or the caring pastor, or the responsible elder, or the wise church leader, and if we do this in a way that implies that conformity is simply a matter of understanding and being obedient, then we are being legalists and we risk undoing the very thing we want to build up. We may achieve the outward semblance of conformity to biblical pattern, but we do it at the expense of the gospel of grace that alone can produce the reality of these desirable goals. To say what we should be or do and not link it with a clear exposition of what God has done about our failure to be or do perfectly as he wills is to reject the grace of God and to lead people to lust after self-help and self-improvement in a way that, to call a spade a spade, is godless.

Can Biologos Save Christianity?

Dr. Karl Giberson has apologized to Al Mohler for his schoolyard tactics of "debate". As I mention in an earlier post, Dr. Giberson, in a piece for the Huffington Post, accused Dr. Mohler of not being interested in the truth. While I would quibble with some of the details of Giberson's apology, it is not mine to accept or reject the apology which seems to be sincere.

However, the problem still remains that Giberson and his cohorts at Biologos continue to do just exactly what
Mohler and many others contend. That is, the Biologos program is inherently hostile to the doctrines of God, creation, man, sin, and redemption revealed in the Scriptures. Astonishingly, Dr. Giberson states that the work of Biologos to bring about the full embrace of Darwinism within the church is for the purpose of saving Christianity. I don't know which is worse: the ignorance or arrogance of such a statement.

Giberson writes:

Is it not here that we find the central truth of our faith? Our sinful nature is a simple reality… But is it not possible that we might have different ideas about how we came to have that nature? Does the saving power of Jesus vanish if sin becomes something that developed through natural history, rather than appeared all at once in the Garden of Eden? It seems to me that there is a conversation to have here, beyond simply drawing a line in the sand. Satisfactory answers to questions like these are truly ‘How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.’

At BioLogos we have made our peace with evolution, and it has been liberating and even faith-affirming. We encourage conversations to further that agenda and make no excuses for that. We are not destroying Christianity. We are saving it. (emphasis mine).
In related news, Al Mohler comments on an article by John Farrell in the Wall Street Journal.

The American literary critic Frederick Crews once spoke of defenders of evolutionary theory who attempt to make Darwinism appear more congenial to the Christian faith than it truly is. These defenders, Crews wrote, present a vision of Darwin and Darwinism that “is often prettified to make it safe for doctrines that he himself was sadly compelled to leave behind.” The prettifying of evolution continues, even in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Writing in the paper’s weekly “Houses of Worship” column, John Farrell argues that the 60th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Church’s encyclical Humani Generis should be cause for celebration, since that historic document, issued by Pope Pius XII, “confirmed, in broad terms, that there is no intrinsic conflict between Christianity and the scientific theory of evolution.”

However, As Dr. Mohler points out, the Catholic Church continues to maintain that any theory of evolution that denies human ascent from the man Adam and the historicity of the Fall is incompatible with Christianity. This of course is the proverbial rub. There simply is no way to be committed to Darwinian evolution and at the same time maintain belief in human ascent from a specially created Adam as well as the historical Fall which is affirmed by both Jesus and Paul.

Mohler points out that Farrell "affirms the work of the late Catholic theologian Karl Rahner, who 're-interpreted Genesis in light of evolution, arguing that the story of Adam and Eve needed to be read metaphorically.' He also applauds John Haught at Georgetown University, who proposes 'that the new cosmology of the expanding universe and the evolution of life require a more dynamic sense of God’s role in a world that is still not complete, a work in progress.'"

But this "more dynamic sense of God's role" has profound implications.

Actually, John Haught argues that the entire structure of Christian theology should be recast in light of evolution. In his recent book Making Sense of Evolution, Haught asserts that “Darwin has altered our understanding of almost everything that concerns theology.”

Let no one doubt just how comprehensive Haught’s alteration of Christian theology will turn out to be. “Other disciplines such as geology, cosmology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, computer science, and medicine have already undergone a major retooling in the wake of Darwin’s findings,” he asserts. “Can theology realistically expect to escape a major metamorphosis?”

In Making Sense of Evolution, Haught provides ample evidence of what this “major metamorphosis” would mean. Every doctrine is brought to terms with evolutionary theory, including God. The revised deity of Haught’s evolutionary model is inseparable from his creation and stripped of sovereignty.

This kind of theological revisionism is not limited to Roman Catholic theologians, of course. John Weaver, a former Baptist minister and geologist who currently teaches at Regent’s Park College at the University of Oxford, also argues that we must surrender belief in an historical Adam and an historical Fall. Adam is a
symbolic, rather than a genetic head of humanity, he asserts. As for the Fall, he argues: “Within the movement of evolutionary development, there must have been a moment when Homo sapiens came to full moral consciousness for the first time.” He suggests that a proposed “bottleneck” in the evolutionary past probably reduced human populations to “fairly low numbers for a time,” and that this made “the significant moment of moral choice even more critical for humankind as a whole.” The historicity of Genesis 3 is just dismissed.

Read Mohler's entire article HERE.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What your doctor believes about God may matter more than you think...

As it turns out believers and atheists have different ideas about the dignity of human life. Of course, this should not be any surprise. Apart from a biblical worldview, what reason is there, other than sentiment, to invest human life with any dignity?

An article in the Daily Mail comments on a study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics which found that doctors who do not believe in God are twice as likely to kill their patients, er, help them die.

Atheist doctors are almost twice as likely to take decisions that speed up death for very ill patients as those who are deeply religious, research has found.

Those with a strong faith are also less willing to discuss treatments that hasten the end, according to a poll of nearly 4,000 British doctors. Medics from a wide range of specialities were asked about their religious views, their care for their last patient who died and any decisions they had taken that were expected, or partly intended to, end life.

The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, showed that doctors who described themselves as non-religious were more likely than any other group to have given continuous deep sedation until death, having made a decision that they knew could or would end life. Those who described themselves as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ non-religious were almost twice as likely to have taken these kinds of decisions as those with a strong religious belief.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Carl Trueman at COS

On September 5th Carl Trueman will be preaching at the morning services at Church of the Saviour. Additionally, Dr. Trueman will be one of the speakers at the Full Confidence Conference.

I love to hear Carl preach and am looking forward to welcoming him to COS. When you get a chance, check out some of Carl's teaching and preaching at sermonAudio.com HERE.

Whither Evangelicalism?

Okay, so I'm posting more from Al Mohler. In this truly important address (8/24/2010) to the graduating students of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Dr. Mohler deals with the increasingly amorphous nature of evangelicalism.

Denny Burk writes of the address:
In particular, Dr. Mohler notes that the doctrine of inerrancy is now up for grabs again. So is Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement, the exclusivity of Christ’s saving work, and a host of other moral and doctrinal concerns. In this context, he calls Southern Baptists to three ideals:

1. Theological Integrity – Southern Baptists must be both a “centered” and a “bounded” movement.

2. Gospel Clarity – Southern Baptists must be clear about the gospel and the necessity of conversion.

3. Biblical Authority – Southern Baptists must not abandon inerrancy, even though many in broader evangelicalism are. In this point, Mohler takes on Peter Enns, Kenton Sparks, and others at the Biologos site. [His full response to Karl Giberson should be published on his website very soon.]

This is an important, programmatic address given by a leading statesman for the cause of the gospel. Give it a close listen.
Watch or Listen to the address HERE.

Al Mohler responds to Karl Giberson

As I posted last week, Karl Giberson of Biologos apparently thought it was a good idea to write an article attacking Al Mohler over at the Huffington Post. The tone of Giberson's article, his failure to actually respond to Mohler's thesis, and his remarkably poor choice of venue are worth further conversation. However, I am happy to say that Dr. Mohler has responded in a way that will hopefully help Dr. Giberson to stay on the subject at hand: Is human evolution compatible with biblical faith?

I understand why Giberson wants to avoid that thesis. It is a monumental, indeed impossible, task to prove that a mythical Genesis record with an accompanying denial of the historicity of Adam and Eve and the Fall is compatible with biblical orthodoxy. But this seems to be the clear program for Biologos.

The article begins by demonstrating that Giberson's criticism of a statement made by Mohler in a recent address was overstated.

I have read your posting several times, and it seems that your central complaint comes down to one or possibly two sentences in my address to the 2010 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. Indeed, you provide a link to the transcript of my address that was posted at the BioLogos site. You point to this section of my address: “Darwin did not embark upon the Beagle having no preconceptions of what exactly he was looking for or having no theory of how life emerged in all of its diversity, fecundity, and specialization. Darwin left on his expedition to prove the theory of evolution.”

You complain that this was a misrepresentation of Darwin, and you answer that with considerable bombast. In your words: “Of course, Mohler may simply have made a mistake. He is, after all, a theologian and not a historian. He could have gotten this wrong idea from any number of his fellow anti-Darwinians. However, I don’t think so. In his address he read from my book Saving Darwin, in which I took some pains to correct the all-too-common misrepresentation of Darwin he presented. So, unless he was just cherry-picking ideas from my book that he wanted to assault, he should have known better. But let us bend over backwards here and give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps his only real encounter with Saving Darwin was an instruction to an assistant to ‘find something in Giberson’s book that I can ridicule in my speech.’”

No, I can assure you that my encounter with Saving Darwin comes through reading the book quite thoroughly and more than once. You are at great pains to present an understanding of Darwin that will appeal to conservative Christians who are committed to biblical Christianity. You have a great challenge in this respect, and I seriously doubt you will make much headway. You are determined to convince biblical Christians to accept evolution. I seriously doubt you will make much progress through your book.

In making my argument, I did not need to “cherry-pick” ideas from your book. Nor do I need to misrepresent Darwin and his views. I would be most interested and concerned to find that I have in any way misquoted or misrepresented you. I am confident that your larger problem with the Christian public is in being understood, rather than in being misunderstood. You are straightforward in your celebration of evolution, and you utterly fail to demonstrate how an embrace of evolution can be reconciled with biblical Christianity. Your rejection of an historical Adam and Eve is one precise point at which the Gospel of Christ is undermined, and your proposed “new and better way to understand the origins of sin” is incompatible with the Bible’s clear teaching.

The theory of evolution is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ even as it is in direct conflict with any faithful reading of the Scriptures. Darwin’s historic role in the development of evolutionary theory is central and significant, but the theological objections to evolution are not centered in the person of Darwin, but in the structure and implications of his theory of natural selection.
Mohler continues by pressing the antithesis between evolutionary theory as advanced by Biologos and biblical Christianity. He challenges Giberson's thesis that Darwin had been an orthodox Christian. Mohler shows quite clearly that Giberson has at best erred in casting Darwin as a conventional Christian believer.

And if a misrepresentation of Charles Darwin is the central issue, I must insist that it is you who offers the truly dangerous misrepresentation. In Saving Darwin, you attempt at great lengths to present Charles Darwin as a rather conventional and orthodox Christian, prior to his later loss of faith. You state that he was “born to a well-to-do British family who, despite having some unorthodox characters listed in the family Bible, raised him in the Anglican Church, educated him in an Anglican school, and put him on the train to Edinburgh to study medicine.”

This hardly seems adequate or straightforward. The “some unorthodox characters listed in the family Bible” included both his father and his paternal grandfather. His mother’s family was Unitarian in belief, rejecting the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. Even as Charles Darwin was nominally involved in the Anglican Church, largely through the influence of his sister and brother-in-law after the death of his mother, his involvement and exposure appears to me largely incidental to his life. He later married a woman of Unitarian convictions as well.

It is certainly true that Charles Darwin was directed to become an Anglican clergyman by his unbelieving father, but this was a social tradition for second sons of the developing British middle class. As Randal Keynes, Darwin’s own great-great-grandson explains, “His idea was to become a country parson, caring for his parishioners but living for natural history.” And, as the authoritative biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore recount, “Dr. Darwin, a confirmed freethinker, was sensible and shrewd. He had only to look around him, recall the vicarages he had visited, [and] ponder the country parsons he entertained at home. One did not have to be a believer to see that an aimless son with a penchant for field sports would fit in nicely. Was the church not a haven for dullards and dawdlers, the last resort of spendthrifts? What calling but the highest for those whose sense of calling was nil?”

Of far greater concern is your tendency to appear to agree with some of Darwin’s complaints against biblical Christianity. You claim that he “boarded the Beagle with his childhood Christian faith intact,” but then add, “although he had begun to wonder about the historicity of the more fanciful Old Testament stories, like the Tower of Babel.” This is insignificant? Are we to understand that you, too, see that biblical account as “fanciful”? You explain that Darwin, “like most thoughtful believers,” began to distance himself from the doctrine of hell — a doctrine you describe as “a secondary doctrine that even many conservatives reject.”

If your intention in Saving Darwin is to show “how to be a Christian and believe in evolution,” what you have actually succeeded in doing is to show how much doctrine Christianity has to surrender in order to accommodate itself to evolution. In doing this, you and your colleagues at BioLogos are actually doing us all a great service. You are showing us what the acceptance of evolution actually costs, in terms of theological concessions.

I stand by my address in full, and only wish I had been able to address these issues at even greater length in that context. I plan to do that over the next few months. I greatly regret that you have committed yourself to a cause that I can see as incompatible with the Scripture and destructive to the Christian faith.
I look forward to Dr. Mohler's continued interaction with the theories flying about at Biologos. I hope that their contributors will show better judgement in their responses that has been so far demonstrated by Dr. Giberson.

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's not about me...

Birds of a Feather

I noticed over the weekend that Biologos is attacking Al Mohler (once again). This is no surprise since Dr. Mohler is taking them to task for their efforts to rid the church of the doctrine of the Scripture's inerrancy. What interested me about this latest attack against Mohler, authored by Karl Giberson, was two-fold. First Dr. Giberson is almost apoplectic in his anger against Mohler. Secondly, the complaint was published in the left-wing and aggressively secular Huffington Post. But as I reflected further I concluded that it makes perfect sense for the Biologos folks to publish at the Huffington Post. What is more, it makes perfect sense for the folks at the Huffinton Post to eagerly publish the thoughts of Biologos contributors. It seems that the Huffington Post has a better understanding of the implications of Biologos' program for the historic Christian faith than does Biologos.

Over at Pyromaniacs, Phil Johnson has written a fuller reflection on this issue.
To paraphrase one of my Facebook friends: Even if they really do believe the abusive ad hominem argument they are making against Al Mohler, that's an interesting strategy. Let's air our differences at this bastion of secular humanism, and we'll invite some of the giants of discernment over at Huffpo to sort it out for us in their combox.

Dr. Karl Giberson, vice president of BioLogos, wrote the Huffington piece. The case he makes against Dr. Mohler has basically one point. Here it is: In his Ligonier lecture, Dr. Mohler claimed that Charles Darwin had a pretty good idea about what kind of "evidence" he was looking for before he ever boarded the Beagle; he was already sympathetic to evolutionary theory, and he was already hostile to biblical authority.

Not so, Dr. Giberson says. Darwin was a devout Christian and a creationist when he first set off on the Beagle. Giberson claims Darwin's very first doubts about the reliability of Scripture-as-history came as he collected his samples and observed and analyzed the biological evidence. Dr. Giberson evidently would have us believe Darwin was a typical evangelical until an honest inquiry into the scientific evidence forced him to take a more enlightened position.

I'm admittedly no Darwin scholar, but I do know for a fact that the only version of "Christianity" he ever adhered to was by no means evangelical. He was a product of that Unitarian intellectualism that dominated the established church in Georgian times. According to an 1887 article by Robert Schindler (published in Charles Spurgeon's magazine, The Sword and the Trowel):

If anyone wishes to know where the tadpole of Darwinism was hatched, we could point him to the pew of the old chapel in High Street, Shrewsbury, where Mr. Darwin, his father, and we believe his father's father, received their religious training. The chapel was built for Mr. Talents, an ejected minister [i.e., a Puritan who dissented from the established church order]; but for very many years full-blown Socinianism has been taught there. (Emphasis added.)

Furthermore, Darwin was enthralled with natural theology and (like BioLogos) held the truth-claims of Scripture to be less reliable and less authoritative than "scientific proofs." That was what prompted his interest in science to begun with. And—as Dr. Giberson himself notes in an earlier open letter to Dr. Mohler—"[Darwin] was a devotee of William Paley."

Perhaps the most succinct summary of William Paley's religious convictions comes to us from Sir Leslie Stephen, a younger contemporary of Paley's. Stephen was a respected English author and an Anglican clergyman. He described William Paley as "Socinian in all but name."

Given BioLogos's own theological trajectory (I'm thinking particularly their dismissive attitude toward key doctrines like biblical authority and original sin), they may not recognize Socinianism—or its close cousins, Unitarianism, Deism, and theological liberalism—as anti-Christian worldviews. But Dr. Mohler certainly understands that those ideas are hostile to Scripture and antithetical to every major stream of historic Christian faith.

In other words, Dr. Mohler undoubtedly disagrees with Dr. Giberson's assessment of Darwin. As difficult as this may be for Dr. Giberson to receive and as hurtful as it may be to his academic ego, Dr. Mohler no doubt found Dr. Giberson's book Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution unpersuasive.
Read the entire post HERE.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's message was the final in our series, What Jesus Says to the Church. It is entitled "A Deadly Kind of Warmth" and is based on Jesus' words to the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). You can listen to or download it HERE.

RIP: Michael Been (1950-2010)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Pastor: Shepherd, Therapist, or CEO?

"The pastor is the Manager of resources, financial and personal – no wonder the MBA may be more appealing than the MDiv. Note, however, that this picture of leadership is taken from other social institutions. The Israelites wanted a king like the other nations; we evangelicals want managers of megachurches to be like the megacorporations of our age. On the institutional level, the pastor is a professional manager of organizations. On the individual level, ministers function as Therapists, applying psychological technology to individuals. The Manager and the Therapist are the dominant social paradigms for leadership in our times: the question is, to what extent should the Church follow suit?"

- Kevin Vanhoozer

Friday, August 20, 2010

Where the battle rages...

"If I profess, with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle field besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

- Martin Luther

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Ministry"

Protestants are not Roman Catholics. Pretty profound eh? But one important distinction is that Protestants know that the call to vocational ministry is not a sacrament. While there are unique responsibilities and blessings to being one who preaches, the call to preach does not provide a spiritual advantage over the masses, so to speak. One of the great contributions of the Protestant Reformers and, later, the Puritans was the value and, yes, sanctity of all work. It was a re-discovery that all work, whether preaching or washing dishes could and should be done for the glory of God.

That said, the work of the preacher is clearly not for everyone. Beyond a clear calling from God upon his life to preach the Word there are certain competencies which the preacher ought to possess if he is to be a blessing to the people of God. This is not to say that the preacher must be one who is brimming with a plethora of skills. He does not have to be a particularly gifted administrator, a "cultural architect" (There is a pastor in L.A. who uses this as a title), or particularly good looking (In my case that is self-evident). But it seems clear that if God is going to entrust his dearly loved people to the care of an under shepherd then that man will be able to do a few things well.

Over at Ref21 Carl Trueman reflects on some of the skills that Martin Luther said a preacher must possess. In this first posting, Dr. Trueman mentions the first five of those skills.

In Table Talk 2580, Luther outlines the qualifications of a good preacher in a way that is refreshingly practical. I will deal briefly with the first five marks today, the last four tomorrow.

The first five are: ability to teach; possession of a good head; eloquence; clarity of speech; and a good memory. The list is interesting because it focuses first on practicalities, things often lost in the romantic spiritual notions of ministry we often have. In short, the person should be able to think and speak clearly, two traits which are often intimately connected. It seems like common sense, but these basic elements are often neglected by churches, seminaries, sessions, elder boards, presbyteries and classes. To put it bluntly: if you cannot put a decent, clear sentence into English and speak it in a way that others can understand, you are not called to the ministry, no matter how much that inner voice tells you that God is calling you to preach, or your mum tells you you'd make a wonderful pastor.

That does not mean that you cannot be of great use to the church; but clarity of mind and speech are absolutely basic, just as important as godly zeal and sense of call (internal and external), for the office of preacher. We need to be careful that we do not over-spiritualize the call: just as someone with St Vitus' Dance should never be allowed to be a brain surgeon, so the one who cannot speak with coherence and confidence should not be in a pulpit.

The task for the church is thus twofold: to create a culture which reflects the Pauline culture where to desire to be an elder is a good thing, elders are honoured, and elders who teach are considered worthy of double honour; but also to avoid the kind of Protestant sacerdotalism where many think the only way of being of true value is to hold ordained office. That requires church officers to be true servants of the people; and to have the courage to tell someone who cannot teach that, however powerful the inner call, they are not called to be a teacher. Not an easy balance; and the latter in particular might prove tough in a culture where it is considered self-evident that every member has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of ministry.

But, as usual, Luther got it right.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clark Pinnock - A Modern Parable?

Clark Pinnock died on Sunday at the age of seventy-three. Dr. Pinnock was a theologian who stirred up no small amount of controversy during his life. Early in his career Pinnock was a conservative of the fundamentalist sort. A strong advocate for the Bible's inerrancy, Dr. Pinnock (a Canadian) was influential in warning Southern Baptists about their slide into theological liberalism. During his tenure at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary he taught young pastors to have confidence in the full trustworthiness of God's Word even writing an influential book A Defense of Biblical Infallibility (1967). He thus became instrumental in the conservative resurgence in the SBC.

However, Clark Pinnock ultimately retreated from almost every theological tenet he once contended for so valiantly. He retreated from his Calvinistic convictions and embraced Arminianism. He came to believe that if man were to be truly free then God must not be truly sovereign. In time, Pinnock became the unacknowledged leader of the "Openness of God" movement which teaches that God possesses no foreknowledge of future events. What is more, Openness theology, not surprisingly, holds that God has no sovereignty over those events that are yet to come. The future is...open.

Pinnock would come to deny the necessity of faith in Christ if one was to be saved. He denied the imputed righteousness of Christ, the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement, and the historic doctrine of hell and God's judgement. But it all began with denying the doctrine for which he once fought: the Bible's inerrancy. After abandoning inerrancy, Pinnock called upon evangelicals to not seek coalescence around inerrancy but instead to look to the doctrine of Jesus' atoning sacrifice as that which provides evangelical unity. Certainly, the doctrine of Christ's atoning work on the cross is central not only to our faith but our unity as well. But of course, if you follow the theological evolution of Clark Pinnock it was not long before he began to deny Christ's blood atonement. Once the inerrancy of God's Word is denied then it is usually not long before other doctrines are tossed into the dustbin. If inerrancy is abandoned for not being "intellectually satisfying" then can Christ's deity, virgin birth, atonement, and resurrection last long? For Clark Pinnock the answer was an unfortunate "no."
Certainly our condolences go to Dr. Pinnocks friends and family. He died of Alzheimer's which is a sad end for such an intelligent man or any man for that matter.
According to Dr. Pinnock's theology, God did not know that he would contract this terrible disease. What is more, God had no control over the circumstances. He could only watch and hope for the best along with Clark's friends and family. What a sad and pathetic god. But for Pinnock, Greg Boyd and the other advocates of Openness Theology, we can only be assured of God's goodness if He is completely unresponsible for the unpleasant things that come our way. It is as if they have said, "You can believe that God is good so long as you believe he is incompetent."
What a sad distortion of the God who reveals Himself in Scripture. He declares the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). He is the God who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). God is sovereign over the weather. He is sovereign over his enemies. He is sovereign over cancer cells and earthquakes. He is sovereign over the salvation of his people. And God is sovereign over the number of our days. What a comfort these truths could have been for Clark Pinnock in his later days.

You can read a wonderful article on Clark Pinnock by Russell Moore HERE.
Also, you can read a more sobering assessment of Pinnock by Scott Clark HERE.

Monday, August 16, 2010


The latest issue of Themelios is now available. You can read in PDF or HTML.

1. Carl Trueman Minority Report: Not in the Public Interest

6. Book Reviews
1.Old Testament 3 reviews
2.New Testament 24 reviews
3.history and historical theology 6 reviews
4.systematic theology and bioethics 15 reviews
5.ethics and pastoralia 8 reviews
6.missions and culture 3 reviews

Can the Bible be Trusted?

In an article posted today, Al Mohler observes that the battle over the Bible's inerrancy is heating up once again. Since 1995 and the publication of Inspiration and Incarnation by Pete Enns the new battle over inerrancy has moved well within the "big tent" of evangelicalism. Kenton Sparks' book God's Word in Human Words added fuel to the fire by accusing Scripture of not only historical and cosmological errors but theological and moral errors as well.

Mohler writes:

God’s Word in Human Words is an erudite book with a comprehensive argument. Kenton Sparks does not misunderstand the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy — he understands it and sees it as intellectually disastrous. “So like any other book,” he asserts, “the Bible appears to be a historically and culturally contingent text and, because of that, it reflects the diverse viewpoints of different people who lived in different times and places.” But a contingent text bears all the errors of its contingent authors, and Sparks fully realizes this.

The serialized articles by Sparks appear at the BioLogos Web site, a site with one clear agenda — to move evangelicals toward a full embrace of evolutionary theory. In this context, Sparks understands that the affirmation of biblical inerrancy presents a huge obstacle to the embrace of evolution. The “evidential threshold” has been crossed, he insists, and the Bible has come up short. The biblical writers were simply trapped within the limits of their own ancient cosmology and observations.

But Sparks presses far beyond this argument, accusing the Bible of presenting immoral teachings, citing “biblical texts that strike us as down-right sinister or evil.” The Bible, he suggests, “exhibits all the telltale signs of having been written by finite, fallen human beings who erred in the ways that human beings usually err.”

When Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks argue for an incarnational model of inspiration and biblical authority, they are continuing an argument first made long ago — among evangelicals, at least as far back as the opening salvos of the battle over biblical inerrancy. Sparks, however, takes the argument further. He understands that the incarnational model implicates Jesus. He does not resist this. Jesus, he suggests, “was a finite person who grew up in Palestine.” While asserting that he affirms the historic Christian creeds and “traditional Christian orthodoxy,” Sparks proposes that Jesus made routine errors of fact.

His conclusion: “If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, [and/or] John wrote Scripture without error.”

That is a breath-taking assumption, to say the very least. But, even in its shocking audacity, it serves to reveal the clear logic of the new battle-lines over biblical inerrancy. We now confront open calls to accept and affirm that there are indeed errors in the Bible. It is demanded that we accept the fact that the human authors of the Bible often erred because of their limited knowledge and erroneous assumptions about reality. We must, it is argued, abandon the claim that the Bible is a consistent whole. Rather, we are told to accept the claims that the human authors of Scripture were just plain wrong in some texts — even in texts that define God and his ways. We are told that some texts are just “down-right sinister or evil.”

And, note clearly, we are told that we must do this in order to save Evangelicalism from an intellectual disaster.

Of course, accepting this demand amounts to a theological disaster of incalculable magnitude. Rarely has this been more apparent and undeniable. The rejection of the Bible’s inerrancy will please the evangelical revisionists, but it will rob the church of its secure knowledge that the Bible is indeed true, trustworthy and fully authoritative.

Kenton Sparks and the new evangelical revisionists are now making some of the very arguments that earlier opponents of inerrancy attempted to deny. In this sense, they offer great clarity to the current debate. Their logic is clear. They argue that the human authors of the Bible were not protected from error, and their errors are not inconsequential. We are talking about nothing less than whether the Bible truthfully reveals to us the nature, character, acts, and purposes of God.

Read the entire article HERE.

In September Church of the Saviour will be hosting an important event. It is called Full Confidence and will be held on September 24 and 25. You can register HERE for only $15.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's message was part 6 in our series through Revelation 2&3 - What Jesus Says to the Church. The message is entitled "The Faithful Church" (Rev 3:7-13) and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Are we fighting too much over doctrine?

Carl Trueman weighs in on some of the recent episodes of seeming self loathing among a few well known leaders in the Reformed community.

I have taken the liberty to highlight some portions that I believe are particularly important.

Over the last decade, it has become something of a commonplace in Reformed evangelical circles to decry the level of polemic that has historically characterised the Reformed world. From John Frame's famous critique of Machen's warrior children to more recent comments by high-profile members of the Gospel Coalition, the idea has gone abroad that there are these Reformed and evangelical doctrinalists who just live to fight. Discussing this over lunch with a pastor friend the other day, he commented to me, `You know, I'm not quite prepared to jump into this sea of self-loathing just yet.' And I think he is right. Here are some reasons why.

1. Polemic is no monopoly of the Reformed. Talk to Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, and Episcopalian friends. They too have their struggles. This does not in itself make any particular polemic, or any particular polemical technique, correct; but it does rather highlight the fact that the church was born in controversy and, if her beliefs are important, there will always be such struggles. The day the polemics die out you will know that (a) Christ has returned or (b) people no longer care about doctrine and the church has ceased to exist.

2. The criticism of polemics often comes from those who enjoy the space that polemics have carved out for them and the safety that polemics provides them. Such critics are like those who use their right to freedom of speech to decry the use of armed force by police and army, not realising that the very right they enjoy in this regard is positively connected to what they are attacking. Don't tell the world that the Trinity or justification by faith are important doctrines and then lament the existence of polemics; you can only have a coalition based on the gospel because every element of that gospel has been first hammered out in the furnace of controversy and then defended in the same way. Sure, not all polemics are good polemics, in form and/or substance -- so be discriminating in your criticisms and drop the stereotypes. Failure to be so is simple ingratitude to those who have put reputations and, in the history of the church, often lives on the line for the preservation of the truth. Penning an anti-polemic polemic may help the author sleep well at night, confident that his hands are clean and his conscience clear; but he can only do so because somebody has first made the mean streets outside his house safe for women and children.

3. Closely related to point 2 is the fact that, 99 times out of a 100, a nasty controversy only ever erupts because, at an earlier point in time somebody, somewhere took the easy way out and chose to turn a blind eye to a peccadillo, moral or theological. Think of David and Adonijah, the son who rebelled. We are told in 1 Ki. 1:6 that his father had never checked his behaviour as he had grown up, surely one of the most eloquent verses in the Bible. What had presumably started with Adonijah throwing toys out of the pram or not observing a teenage curfew ended with full-scale rebellion. In my limited experience in both local churches and institutions, all of the major conflicts in which I have been involved could have been avoided if somebody at some point in the past had had the backbone -- and the love for an erring brother or sister -- to check them gently when they first showed signs of wandering. Dare I say it? It is pretty rich to criticise those involved in major polemics if those polemics actually involve cleaning up significant messes created by the fact that others failed to do what was right when the problem was much easier to address and the stakes were much lower. Anti-polemic polemicists should reflect as much about how the events of the present -- not least their development of the next generation of leaders -- will impact the church for good or for ill -- as they do on the allegedly over-polemical attitude of some. Polemics in one generation are often as much, if not more, the fault of the lack of discernment or moral leadership in the previous generation as they are of any innately combative personalities in the present.

4. Finally, I simply don't recognise the pictures drawn by the Reformed evangelical critics of Reformed evangelical polemicists. The problem is they build grand cases about general types on very limited access to evidence. When particular figures are dismissed as being polemically minded, relentlessly aggressive etc, it is possible that, on occasion, the criticism is true. More often, however, it is built upon reading a few pages of a blog or a book or a magazine; or listening to one lecture or public statement; worse still, it is based on hostile witness of some kind. For most of us who write and speak in the public forum, that speaking and writing is just a small part of our lives. More important for us is being in church both ends on a Sunday, encouraging our pastor, helping with the Sunday School or the nursery or the church cleaning rota, connecting with other members in church when their basement is flooded or they need help, having an open office policy so students can wander in at any time to talk about a problem, striving to be better husbands and dads. Sure, we can fight when we think it is necessary; and yes, certainly, as sinners, we sometimes fight when it isn't necessary or in an inappropriate way, and, as with all sin, we need to be challenged on that and repent -- believe me, my wife, my own `Katie' is quite capable of tearing me off a strip on that score; but that is just a small part of our Christian lives -- a necessary one, for all the reasons given above -- but a small one.

So, please, let's bin this sad, misguided self-loathing on the polemic front. We must repent where necessary, where we have crossed the line; but, just as necessary, we must fight where we see the truth is at stake. We should be grateful for the truth that polemics have preserved so that we have a gospel to proclaim; and we should not allow a misguided commitment to being nice to allow us, in effect, to dump huge problems on the next generation by running up a massive theological and moral deficit in the church of the present.

Polemics against polemics have a role to play in provoking self-reflection; and, let's face it, they sound pretty cool and attractive in the current cultural climate; but they are, ironically, parasitic on polemic and polemicists; and, moreover, when they witness to, and help promote, self-loathing, they should be abandoned as serving no good purpose.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Good Theology Resources...

One of the things I want to do with this blog is provide excellent resources for the Christian lay person. Take time to peruse the "Biblical Studies/Theology" and "Audio" sections of this blog. Some of the newer links in this section are:

Also, check out the following outstanding (and free!) audio resources:

Is there a difference between election and predestination?

Kevin DeYoung on the distinction between election and predestination:
The terms election and predestination are often used interchangeably, both referring to God’s gracious decree whereby he chooses some for eternal life. In Romans 8:30 Paul speaks of those whom God has predestined, called, justified, and (in the end) glorified. In 8:33 Paul references “the elect,” apparently a synonym for the predestined ones described a few verses earlier.

A sharp distinction between the two words is not warranted from Scripture, but if there is a distinction to be made, predestination is the general term for God’s sovereign ordaining, while election is the specific term for God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is, predestination is the broader category of which election is the smaller subset. Calvin defined predestination as “God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man…Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death” (Inst. III.xxi.5). For Calvin, predestination encompasses the entire eternal decree. Election and reprobation, then, represent two different aspects of the decree. The Canons of Dort Article 1 makes the same distinctions.

This delineation is not without merit. The “elect” is always a positive designation in Scripture (e.g., Matt. 24:31; Titus 1:1), suggesting that election implies eternal life (though Rom 9:11 may be an exception to this rule). Predestination, on the other hand, can be used more broadly. Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and people of Israel, did to Jesus what God’s “plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). Indeed, all of our days are written in God’s book before one of them comes to pass (Psalm 139:16 ). Every form of prosperity and affliction comes to us not by chance, but from God’s fatherly hand (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 27). Or as Augustine put it, “The will of God is the necessity of all things.”

Does this mean we are “predestined” to marry so-and-so or take a certain job? In one sense, looking back at God’s providential care, we can say “Yes, that’s was God’s plan for my life.” And yet this notion of divine superintendence is not meant to undercut personal initiative and responsibility. Everything happens after the counsel of God’s will (Eph. 1:11), but this is no excuse to neglect the use of means, nor is it a reason to think every decision we make is automatically pleasing to God. God’s sovereign unalterable will of decree is not be confused with his violable will of desire.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"A man's decision about pornography is a decision about his soul"

Thanks to Justin Taylor for posting a link to an important address by Al Mohler to the male students of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can download the audio HERE or read the manuscript HERE.

Mohler first considers the man of sexual integrity:

The first picture is of a man who has set himself toward a commitment to sexual purity, and is living in sexual integrity with his wife. In order to fulfill his wife’s rightful expectations and to maximize their mutual pleasure in the marriage bed, he is careful to live, to talk, to lead, and to love in such a way that his wife finds her fulfillment in giving herself to him in love. The sex act then becomes a fulfillment of their entire relationship, not an isolated physical act that is merely incidental to their love for each other. Neither uses sex as means of manipulation, neither is inordinately focused merely on self-centered personal pleasure, and both give themselves to each other in unapologetic and unhindered sexual passion. In this picture, there is no shame. Before God, this man can be confident that he is fulfilling his responsibilities both as a male and as a man. He is directing his sexuality, his sex drive, and his physical embodiment toward the one-flesh relationship that is the perfect paradigm of God’s intention in creation.
Next, Mohler considers a very different kind of man:

This man lives alone, or at least in a context other than holy marriage. Directed inwardly rather than outwardly, his sex drive has become an engine for lust and self-gratification. Pornography is the essence of his sexual interest and arousal. Rather than taking satisfaction in his wife, he looks at dirty pictures in order to be rewarded with sexual arousal that comes without responsibility, expectation, or demand. Arrayed before him are a seemingly endless variety of naked women, sexual images of explicit carnality, and a cornucopia of perversions intended to seduce the imagination and corrupt the soul.

This man need not be concerned with his physical appearance, his personal hygiene, or his moral character in the eyes of a wife. Without this structure an accountability, he is free to take his sexual pleasure without regard for his unshaved face, his slothfulness, his halitosis, his body odor, and his physical appearance. He faces no requirement of personal respect, and no eyes gaze upon him in order to evaluate the seriousness and worthiness of his sexual desire. Instead, his eyes roam across the images of unblinking faces, leering at women who make no demands upon him, who never speak back, and who can never say no. There is no exchange of respect, no exchange of love, and nothing more than the using of women as sex objects for his individual and inverted sexual pleasure.

By logical consequence, he achieves sexual gratification at the expense of women who have been used and abused as commodified sex objects. He may imagine a sex act as he fulfills his physical pleasure, but he almost certainly does not imagine what it would mean to be responsible for this woman as husband and accountable to her as mate. He can sit in his soiled underwear, belching the remnants of last night’s pizza, and engage in a pattern of one-handed sexual satisfaction while he “surfs the net” and forfeits his soul.
In conclusion:

These two pictures of male sexuality are deliberately intended to drive home the point that every man must decide who he will be, whom he will serve, and how he will love. In the end, a man’s decision about pornography is a decision about his soul, a decision about his marriage, a decision about his wife, and a decision about God.

Pornography is a slander against the goodness of God’s creation and a corruption of this good gift God has given his creatures out of his own self-giving love. To abuse this gift is to weaken, not only the institution of marriage, but the fabric of civilization itself. To choose lust over love is to debase humanity and to worship the false god Priapus in the most brazen form of modern idolatry.

A Christian response to the normalization of homosexuality

It feels a bit hopeless at times. We are, in the words of one commentator, a "70/30 country." That is, we are a country where the majority of citizens (70%) are being ruled by an ideological minority (30%). These ruling elites mock, among other things, biblical sexual ethics. The most recent and public example of this is the overturning of Proposition Eight in California, the law declaring that the state will only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. The law was declared unconstitutional by an openly homosexual judge whose "findings of fact" were nothing more than cliched pro-homosexual bigotry.

That said, what is the church of Jesus Christ to do? It is true that we live south of heaven and should not be surprised by the continuing fruits of our fallen-ness. What is more, the kingdom of Christ is still not of this world. Those Christians on the political left and right should remember this. It is not our mandate to build God's kingdom on earth. And yet, when the laws of the land stand in open mockery of God's law Christians should not shrug it off as nothing more than a reminder that we live in a fallen world. This is true of course, but the redeemed people of God are to live as holy leaven in this fallen world. Jesus taught us to pray, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And, of course, one day this will come to pass. Until then we live in the shadow lands.

I was helped by a recent post by Kevin Deyoung. In it, DeYoung offers a list of suggestions for Christian action in a culture where the normalization of homosexuality seem inevitable.

1. We should not disengage. It’s tempting to say “We’re going to lose this one. So let’s just try to love people and not put up a fight” But laws do have consequences. Seeking the peace of the city means we defend marriage because we believe it is for the common good. We need thoughtful, winsome Christians engaging with this issue on television, in print, in the academy, in the arts, and in politics and law.

2. Pastors need to teach on sexuality, preferably in the regular course of expositional preaching. A special series on sex is needed at times, but that can look like special pleading. It’s better for congregations to develop a biblical view of sexuality as they go through Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, Genesis, and the Gospels (yes, Jesus did talk about homosexuality; see Mark 7:21).

3. We should assume that there are people in our churches right now struggling with same gender attraction. Leaders need to verbalize this (not specific names obviously) in sermon application and in pastoral prayers. We need to convey that the church is a safe place for those fighting this temptation. Second to Jesus Christ and his gospel, those struggling with same gender attraction need gospel community more than anything else.

4. Youth groups need to talk frankly about sex and sexual identity. The public school teachers I talk to tell me that teenagers are more and more likely to experiment with their sexuality. They’ll choose to be gay for a season just because they can. These issues will only become more prevalent.

5. We must not be afraid to talk about homosexuality. Don’t be silenced by Christians calling for umpteen more years of dialogue or those who say you need at least one gay friend before you can open your mouth. The Bible speaks openly about sexuality and we must not be embarrassed to open God’s word. BUT when we do speak we must do so with broken hearts not bulging veins. A calm spirit and a broken heart are keys to not being tuned out immediately.

6. Preaching and discipleship must exhort Christians to flee all kinds of sins. If churches take sin seriously and address specific sins all the time, it will be less jarring when homosexuality is brought up.

7. We must accept that no matter how hard we try, some people will conclude we are bigots, homophobes, and neanderthals for thinking homosexuality is wrong. Our goal must not be to stop people from viewing us in this way. We can’t control perceptions. Our goal is that those ugly perceptions do not match reality.

8. We need some of our best theological writers and thinkers to explore the nitty-gritty issues that perplex Christian families affected by homosexuality. How should Christian families relate to loved ones who are gay? If your homosexual friend gets “married” should you attend the ceremony? Should families welcome their relative’s partner in the house? In the same room together overnight? How should parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles talk about these issues with younger children? What should a Christian do if he or she is put together with a homosexual roommate in college? These are just some of the very practical questions that pastors and families need help considering.

9. No gay jokes. None. It doesn’t help our witness and they’re not funny. Plus, the more we laugh at sin the more it gets normalized.

10. We must be prepared to suffer. We must not revile when reviled. We must choose to love those who work at cross-purposes to God’s ways. We must be willing to be called names, discriminated against, or worse.

11. We must put away “hate the sin, love the sinner” and put homosexuality in the context of the Bible’s metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, re-creation. This is one issue just screaming for the bigger picture.

12. We must be people of hope not despair. We know the Lord and he knows us. This is not the worst crisis in the history of mankind. Homosexuality is sinful, but God specializes in sin. Look at what he’s done with us.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


One of the reasons I like hanging out with Carl Trueman is that he seems to have a reckless disregard for his reputation. What I mean is that he cares more about being truthful than he does about being liked.

I'm looking forward to the release of Carl's latest book, Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative published by P&R. The video below is an interview with Carl from the fellas at Christ the Center. Incidentally, Carl will be preaching at Church of the Saviour on September 5.

Endorsements of Republocrat:
“As Carl Trueman points out in his witty, provocative, and deeply well-informed way, the alliance of conservative Christianity with conservative (neoliberal) politics is a circumstance of our own context in U.S. politics—neither historically nor logically necessary. Tie the faith too closely to right-wing politics, and it’s no wonder that younger Christians think they have to check out of orthodoxy when they move left of center politically. Regardless of one’s own views, this book will delight, frustrate, and encourage healthy dis- cussions that we have needed to have for a long time.”
- Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

“The disturbing alliance of conservative theology and right-wing politics is faced head-on in this timely and brave treatment by renowned historical-theologian and social commentator Carl Trueman. Even if readers disagree with Dr. Trueman’s conclusions, the sharpness of his critique should disturb the most entrenched political consciousness, particularly if the foundations of convic- tion are shown to have little or no biblical support. Writing in a predictably provocative and forthright manner, Trueman pulls few, if any, punches. Republocrat is a timely and robust assessment of a vitally important issue and a cri de coeur for a reappraisal of the conservative church’s current political alliance.”
- Derek W. H. Thomas, John E. Richards Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

“What we really have here is a lonely thinker who longs for the truth of a better city that he cannot find on either side of the Atlantic. He lampoons the cherished political idols that dominate our political landscape. I couldn’t suppress chortles of laughter, alongside shocks of disdain and disagreement, all the while admiring Trueman’s unmasking of the well-camouflaged foolishness on all points of the political spectrum. This histo- rian-turned-pundit, with all the force of a prizefighter’s left jab and right hook, leaves the left, right, and center (or centre) reel- ing on the ropes. Therefore, I heartily recommend that you read this book, but you do so at your own peril. Its intensity, as well as its pointed, provocative, and persuasive prose, will force you to look at the Vanity Fair of politics from a pilgrim’s per- spective. It’s just possible that you, too, will begin to yearn for a better city.”
- Peter Lillback, President of the Providence Forum

I appreciate Dr. Lillback's observation. In addition to sounding the alarm about the uneasy wedding of religion with conservative politics, Carl is also no friend of the "religious left." In fact I know of few people who are as perceptive about the problems of the alliance between religion and leftist politics as Carl Trueman.

Inconsistent Pro-lifers...

Randy Alcorn is one of the most articulate pro-lifers I know of. He is also a man who has paid a high price (literally) for his commitment to the weakest, most vulnerable members of the human family. In an interview with Alcorn, Mark Driscoll asks if evangelical pro-lifers are inconsistent in voting for pro-abortion political candidates.

Check it out HERE.