In spring 2008, over 6000 assembled in Chicago to hear a counter-revolutionary call.
John Piper. Mary Kassian. Joni Eareckson Tada. Karen Loritts. Janet Parshall. Nancy Leigh DeMoss. These voices launched the call to return to biblical womanhood. Thousands of women responded. Now they are the voices heard in communities, churches, and ministries worldwide. The True Woman Movement began.
Experience the birth for the first time or relive True Woman ’08 with The Voices of the True Woman Movement.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Kevin DeYoung has posted, what I think, is a very worthy response to that question. So if you are a well-known evangelical who may end up on Larry King Live then please takes notes.
“You know, Larry, that’s a huge question. On one level it’s hard to answer because it feels like a trap. ‘Will he or won’t he condemn everyone to hell?’ Well, it’s not my place to give the final evaluation for anyone. And I don’t want to sit here and say that I deserve to go to heaven more than someone else.
“Because the fact of the matter is none of us can merit heaven. God is holy and we are not. No matter how sincere we are or how many good things we do, we can’t begin to approach the purity and perfection of God. So we need a Mediator, a go-between.
“The Bible teaches that God sent his Son to be our Mediator. He lived the life we couldn’t and died the death meant for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says he was counted as sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. This great exchange is only possible by faith. Even Jesus said that those who don’t believe in him stand condemned already.
“And not because they don’t believe. God doesn’t punish people for not hearing about Jesus. He punishes us for being sinful sinners, for twisting what he has revealed to us in creation and what our own consciences tell us we should do. Without Christ, there’s no bridge between God and man, there’s no hope for a personal relationship with God, there’s no chance of being forgiven.
“Look, I realize that’s offensive to many people. But our desire is not to exclude anyone. That’s why Christians believe in sharing their faith and starting new churches. We want everyone to put their faith in Christ and be his disciples. That’s what Jesus told us to do before he ascended into heaven. But I can’t accept that good Buddhists or sincere Hindus are doing just fine, because I don’t believe Jesus is someone’s personal God. I believe he is God. He is more than a personal Lord. He is the Lord over everyone and everything whether they recognize it or not. I can’t fully honor Christ if I pretend he is just one option among many. To say what I think your viewers want me to say would be to deny all that I believe is glorious, precious, and unique about Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him.
“See, the good news is Jesus is not just my personal Savior. He is the Savior of the world. That means he’s not my possession that I try to monopolize. No, he possesses everything and will gladly forgive all who turn to him in faith and repentance. Apart from Christ, no one can be right with God, no Hindus, no Buddhists, no Muslims, least of all this sinful pastor. There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved. But in Christ, there is salvation, joy, and new life for all who believe."
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Some who believe that the Bible is an inspired book go on to reject the idea that it is inerrant. But what does it mean to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture? How can sinful men produce a holy text without errors? What are we to do with some of the alleged contradictions in Scripture? Joining the panel for this discussion is Dr. R.C. Sproul, one of the founding leaders of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. The White Horse Inn: know what you believe and why you believe it.
Once while worshiping at a church in Africa, I heard a woman preaching the health-and-wealth gospel. If that wasn't bad enough, she was preaching from the book of Job. I feel similarly about the appeal for unity-without-truth in Christianity Today's negative critique of Together for the Gospel (T4G) . It's bad enough that the author, Bret McCracken, endorsed N. T. Wright's dictum that "nothing justifies schism" (on this, see Phil Johnson's excellent blog post) and relegated the doctrine of justification to the category of "theological minutia," commenting, "Paul, after all, speaks of justification only in a few places (Romans, Galatians, etc.)." This is bad enough, but did he have to make this argument from the book of Galatians?! When Wright and, by extension, McCracken base their appeal to unity without truth on Galatians 3:28, they, like the woman preaching the prosperity gospel from Job, fail to recognize the context. After all, Paul speaks of unity in Christ only after the apostle rejects those who differ on justification as anametha (1:9) and divides even with the apostle Peter over this matter of doctrinal "minutia" (2:11-14). This, then, is my prayer for today: Please, Lord, no more prosperity gospel sermons from Job and no more unity-without-truth appeals from Galatians!
Monday, April 26, 2010
Matthew 25 has become a favorite passage for many progressives and younger evangelicals. Even in the mainstream media it seems like hardly a day goes by without someone referencing Jesus’ command to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. And few biblical phrases have gotten as much traction as “the least of these.” Whole movements have emerged whose central tenet is to care for “the least of these” ala Matthew 25. The implications–whether it be increased government spending, increased concern for “social justice,” or a general shame over not doing enough–are usually thought to be obvious from the text.
But in popular usage of the phrase, there’s almost no careful examination of what Jesus actually means by “the least of these.” Even brilliant scholars are not immune to this oversight. In his important book To Change the World, James Davison Hunter argues at one point that Christ makes “our treatment of strangers” a “measure of righteousness.” He then quotes from Matthew 25:34-40, followed by this conclusion: “To welcome the stranger–those outside of the community of faith–is to welcome Christ. Believer or nonbeliever, attractive or unattractive, admirable or disreputable, upstanding or vile–the stranger is marked by the image of God” (245). Now, it’s certainly true that we all are made in God’s image. It’s also true, on other grounds, that dealing kindly with strangers, even those outside the church, is a good thing (Gal. 6:10). But it’s difficult to conclude this is Jesus’ point in Matthew 25.
So who are “the least of these” if they are not society’s poor and downtrodden? “The least of these” refers to other Christians in need, in particular itinerant Christian teachers dependent on hospitality from their family of faith.
In a word: yes. Bonhoeffer knew what was going on with the Jews. His family was well-connected, and he knew the worst stories of what was happening. He saw it as the plain duty of a Christian to protect the weak and the innocent. To sit back while this was going on, while he knew it was going on, was simply unthinkable. It would have been nothing less than cowardice. He felt that God Himself was calling him to act boldly, in faith. To step out and act. It was what his faith and his theology led him to do. That’s very important to understand, and if I’ve finally clarified that somewhat in my book I think I’ve done something very valuable.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Questions on Worship
•How does the average Christian pursue worship in spirit and truth? Part 1
•How does the average Christian pursue worship in spirit and truth? Part 2
•How does the average Christian pursue worship in spirit and truth? Part 3
Questions on Miraculous Gifts
•If we believe in the continuation of all spiritual gifts, should we pursue them?
•Tell us about being a “charismatic Calvinist.”
•Further thoughts on pursuing miraculous gifts…
Questions on Election and Predestination
•If God has already chosen who will be saved, why witness and pray?
•How did you begin to understand election?
•Does “foreknowledge” mean God looked into the future to see what we would do?
•What does it mean that God wants all people to come to repentance? Part 1
•What does it mean that God wants all people to come to repentance? Part 2
Questions on Various Issues of Ministry and the Church
•What are some encouraging things you see God doing in the church?
•What are some not-so-encouraging trends you see in the church?
•What is Biblical Theology?
•How can a pastor capture the power of the Bible’s metaphors without being unnecessarily crude?
•How should we give assurance to our children?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I’ve argued elsewhere that evangelicalism is like the village green in older parts of the country, especially New England. There may be two or three churches on the grounds, but the green itself is a wide open space where people from those churches can spill out in conversation and cooperation. Evangelicalism is not a church, though it often acts like one. It isn’t the big tent (more appropriate, given the history) that encompasses all of the churches on the green. It’s just…, well, the green. When it tries to adjudicate cases of faith and practice through conferences, press releases, and blogs, evangelicalism (including Calvinistic versions) exhibits its movement mentality.
My analogy echoes C. S. Lewis’s “mere Christianity”: a hallway in a large house where believers mix and mingle, often opening the door as non-Christians knock. But, as Lewis insisted, it’s in the rooms where people actually live as a family—where they sleep, are warmed by the fire, fed and clothed, and grow. We are formed in the family life of Christ’s body by particular churches, with their distinct confessions and practices. You can’t live in the hallway.
I’m not against evangelicalism as a village green or hallway. In fact, I think it’s a wonderful meeting place. However, when it acts like a church, much less replaces the church, I get nervous.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Darwinists like [Francis] Collins claim that evolution is a fact. They are not content to admit that it is a theory. Richard Dawkins posits, “no serious biologist doubts the fact that evolution happened, nor that all living creatures are cousins of one another.” Not only are all living creatures cousins of one another, but the Darwinian synthesis also argues that we can extrapolate how single-celled organisms came to produce human beings. Like Religion, science is not neutral, despite its claims. An inherent philosophical presupposition guides evolutionary thinking. And though disagreement exists among a number of leading evolutionists concerning the mechanisms of evolution, they are all in agreement that a supernatural being (i.e. God) must not be invoked to help out with the difficulties. For this reason, evolution is fundamentally atheistic. Professor of biology at Cornell University, William Provine, candidly admits that embracing evolution makes atheists of people: “One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.” The famous Harvard geneticist, Richard Lewontin, provides further evidence that fully naturalistic evolution is atheistic:
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
Lewontin makes these comments because of his a priori commitment to naturalism. Naturalists operate on the assumption that science would not be science if a non-matieral cause were invoked to explain any part of the theory. The influential American paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson insists that the phenomena of life “can be explained by purely naturalistic […] factors […] Therefore, man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.” Fully naturalistic evolution and God can only co-exist if God acted as a first cause who retired from activity after establishing the laws of nature and setting the natural mechanism in motion. Of course, on this model, even “God” would have been surprised by how things were turning out; after all, creatures developed from purely material forces without any purpose or goal.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
1.D.A. Carson Editorial: Perfectionisms
2.Carl Trueman Minority Report: The Importance of Not Studying Theology
3.Nijay Gupta New Commentaries on Colossians: Survey of Approaches, Analysis of Trends, and the State of Research
4.Martin Salter Does Baptism Replace Circumcision? An Examination of the Relationship Between Circumcision and Baptism in Colossians 2:11–12
5.Bill Kynes Pastoral Pensées: The Church: A Hidden Glory (1 Timothy 3:14–16)
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I found Dr. Enn's words troubling. Will the Bible ever put a student at odds with something he hears in his biology class? I imagine so. I also know that what that student learns in his biology class will put him at odds with what his parents learned in their biology class or what may be taught in the same class the following year. How about belief in the virgin birth or resurrection of Christ? Will that put our hypothetical student at odds with what they learn in biology? How about the substitutionary atonement or the necessity of faith in Jesus if one is to be saved? Will these put us at odds with what we learn at school? Will these beliefs put us at odds with our culture? This obsession with the approval of our cultured despisers always marks the slide into theological liberalism which leads to apostasy.
It does matter whether or not Adam was an historical person. Robert Strimple lays out the issue clearly in an article posted by Westminster California.
You see, biblical Christianity, over against all other world and life views, is unique in viewing human sinfulness as the result of a Fall. Other religions and philosophies – and myths – look to sin's origin elsewhere; e.g., in the very constitution of man as composed of a lower as well as a higher nature, or in man's evolutionary past and his natural tendency to revert to a more primitive stage, or in the fact that he has not yet evolved beyond such a stage in certain respects. (And it is evolutionary theory regarding man's origin, of course, which has caused many to deny the biblical teaching regarding man's creation as a holy being whose sin is the result of his own mysterious free act of transgressing God's law.)
Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, views human sinfulness as a Fall – an unnatural development, a lapse from man's proper state – and thereby asserts that to find sin's "explanation" in the original constitution of man is to slander the holy Creator – and thereby also assures man that there is hope: hope for restoration, hope for redemption, hope for Paradise Restored.
On other views of the origin and nature of sin, human sinfulness must be seen as really inevitable (Adam = all men = sinner; to be human is to be sinner); and therefore how can sin ever be remedied or removed? The Bible, on the other hand, gives grounds for hope because, as another has written, the Bible “represents the ills in which man is involved not as the necessary faults of a being low, earthy, and animal by his constitution but as (the) effects from the fall of a being made in the image of God.” (3)
The biblical pictures of fallen human nature are painted with very dark colors, speaking, e.g., of man's heart as “deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt” (Jer. 17:9 RSV). But we must never forget that what is so pictured is not man but fallen man – not man as God created him but man as he has turned his back on God – not man the co-laborer with God but man the rebel. And the hope of the Gospel is that through the accomplishment of the Second Adam and the power of the Creative Spirit, man may be all that he was meant to be.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Also, if you would like this material in seminar form it may be purchased in audio and DVD formats.
As a pastor I am always on the lookout for resources that embody both doctrinal precision and practical application. Paul Tripp is consistently faithful to both. This conference has been a blessing both to me and those I serve. Will our marriages be characterized by ministry or manipulation? Will my relationship with my spouse be an expression of worship to God or a casualty of idolatry? The truth presented in these sessions is not always easy to hear but it is profoundly good.
- Todd Pruitt, Teaching Pastor, Church of the Saviour, Wayne, Pennsylvania
"What I've come to expect from Paul Tripp is consistently deep, transparent, biblical, wise, practical, gospel-driven counsel. Rather than muddying the water with self-focused strategies designed to meet our ever-multiplying needs, Paul, as the seasoned soul-physician he is, correctly diagnoses our problems and provides the cure—humble faith in Jesus Christ. I wasn't disappointed. You won't be either."
- Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, author, Because He Loves Me and Comforts from the Cross
"Paul Tripp brings many years of counseling, growth as a husband, and deepening discovery of the liberating power of grace to this realistic and challenging guide to God's engagement in redeeming marriages that are threatened by complacency, misunderstanding, and selfishness. The Bible's message of the humbling and healing power of Christ's mercy and the powerful presence of his Spirit in our homes comes through loud and clear. The daily practicality of gospel doctrine is made crystal clear by Tripp's transparency about his personal missteps in becoming a Christ-reflecting husband and the many examples of couples who have discovered that they are sinners married to sinners. But that the third, divine Party in marriage gives hope and change when unrealistic expectations are shattered and when we confront our sin. But be warned: Tripp's diagnostic questions are downright uncomfortable. Even those with strong marriages by God's grace will find their deep tendencies toward self-coronation challenged!"
- Dennis E. Johnson, Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary California
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Seven thousand men, half of whom appear to be under 35, gathered together to sing traditional hymns and avow orthodox theology in lectures that would test a seminary student. What is it that gives this conference (T4G in Louisville, KY) such charisma -- no, not the presence of Sovereign Grace brothers (though, C J Mahaney's infectious personality is something to behold). It is a palpable sense that we really are committed about what the gospel is and how it should be proclaimed.
Al Mohler's address tonight -- in which he gave eight trajectories for an adjusted gospel, ranging from Bultmann to Brian McLaren-- was a tour de force. In fact, it may well be the best analysis of our own culture and how we got here that I've heard. I will try and post a link to it whenever I discover what that may be.
Oh, and good coffee houses abound -- a sign that this really is a reformed conference.
I could not agree more with Dr. Thomas' assessment of Al Mohler's address. Outstanding!
The recent comments by Professor Bruce Waltke, to the effect that Christianity risks becoming a cult, or at least being perceived as a cult, unless it embraces evolution, have provoked a storm of comment, pro and con. I do not wish to address Professor Waltke's comments directly; for the record, I have always enjoyed his writings (and found them helpful). He is a scholar and gentleman, and when Professor Waltke speaks, I listen, even when I disagree. Thus, what I want to reflect on here are not Professor Waltke's well-known and long-standing views on origins but the questions surrounding the claim that a Christianity which rejects evolution really does risk becoming a cult, and, if so, whether that is something about which we should worry...Read the entire article HERE.
To the first point, it is clear from the New Testament that Christian views, particular of the cross, were regarded as stupid and offensive by the wider world. I Corinthians 1 makes that point in dramatic fashion; and the various Jewish and Gentile persecutions of the church described in Acts would imply that the church was not only seen as holding silly beliefs but as doing so in a way that scared society - a hallmark of being regarded as a sinister cult. This continues in the post-apostolic period. Pliny, writing to Emperor Trajan ca. 112, describes how he broke up a local Christian group. He describes them as secretive and engaging in strange practices which reflected their strange beliefs. In other words, he seems to have regarded them as a cult. Historian Tacitus is much the same: when he alludes to the Neronic persecutions, he speaks of Christianity as `shameful and hideous.' Well, as I have said in this column before: if it's white and woolly and goes `Baaaa!' when you kick it, it's a sheep.
To the second point, every theological discipline has its own point of whackiness. Perhaps evolution is where Old Testamentlers feel the pinch. Homosexuality would be the hotspot for contemporary Christian ethicists. For me as a historian, it is the resurrection: my friends in the secular history world will always regard me as a mediocre, or, perhaps more charitably, methodologically inconsistent, historian because I believe the tomb was empty. I am guessing that scientists would probably regard that belief as ridiculous too: the empirical and theoretical evidence for bodies being resurrected after traumatic execution and days of decaying in a tomb is, to say the least, not very compelling. Let's face it: opposition to homosexuality and belief in the resurrection are whacky views in today's climate, enjoying little or no support from the scholarly scientific world. Do we therefore change our views on these in order to avoid being seen as a cult? Even more dramatic, perhaps, is the increasingly strident voice of the aesthetic atheists, of whom Hitchens and Dawkins are just the most famous. As aesthetic atheism gains ground, any form of theism will increasingly be regarded as idiotic and cult-like. What will we do then? Cultural acceptability is a cruel mistress...
The question of evolution is a tough one, but it is not to be determined by whether rejection of it leads those who despise Christianity as whole to regard us as a cult. That is an utterly irrelevant point. What I want to know is whether evolution is consistent with biblical teaching, particularly Genesis 3, Romans 5 and I Corinthian 15. Which form of evolution is it at which we are looking (there being significant disagreements even within the scientific community)? What about the scientific objections of men like Michael Behe? And how come some people, with little or no scientific training, and who spend their lives telling us how difficult it is to understand messy, written texts - texts designed to, ahem, communicate in a relatively direct fashion -- seem to think that scientific data is univocal, unequivocal, and perspicuous on this point? Funny how old Enlightenment views of science can be found alive and well in the most postmodern quarters, isn't it? Given the stakes in play, it is not unloving or divisive for me to ask for answers to
these questions; but whether I run the risk of looking like a cult member if I find the answers I am given to be inadequate and unbiblical is, frankly, a matter of sheer indifference to me. I may be destined to live life on the cultic fringe of society, but there are worse places to be.
Monday, April 12, 2010
I have checked around on some Christian blogs which are hostile toward the idea of biblical inerrancy and the conclusion is that Dr. Waltke was bullied and that those rascally fundamentalists will be the ruin of us all. But this is a gross mischaracterization.
Don Clements has written a very helpful article for the Aquilla Report that sets the record straight.
After viewing the video, Dr. Cannada [RTS President] contacted Professor Waltke via e-mail suggesting that he wanted to set up a time to talk to him about the video. In his return e-mail, Waltke immediately offered his resignation for the good of the seminary. He apparently knew by then that what he had said in the interview was problematic. This fact – Waltke’s offer of resignation at the very beginning of discussions with RTS – appears to be contrary not only to a number of blogs antagonistic to RTS but also contrary to a number of the secular media reports.Read the entire article HERE.
In their first phone discussions, Cannada told Waltke that he did not want to accept the resignation and that he had the hope that a detailed explanation might be possible to resolve the issues. Cannada did ask Waltke to request that BioLogos remove the videos from the web, which he did. Although BioLogos did not agree that they should be removed, they honored the professor’s request.
It was the desire of the RTS Administration, as well of Dr. Waltke, that every effort would be focused throughout the process on seeking peace for everyone involved, as well as maintaining the confessional integrity that is important to institutions like RTS that work so closely with and hire faculty from confessional based denominations.
Waltke himself was clear that the videos were misleading. He explained that he was used to writing his materials and that writing could be edited before publication, but in this case – his first venture at a video statement – he did not have the ability to edit it prior to it being published.
In asking that the video be removed, Waltke also wrote an explanation that BioLogos published. That statement was as follows:
I had not seen the video before it was distributed. Having seen it, I realize its deficiency and wish to put my comments in a fuller theological context:
· Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.
· Adam is the federal and historical head of the fallen human race just as Jesus Christ is the federal and historical head of the Church.
· I am not a scientist, but I have familiarized myself with attempts to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with science, and I believe that creation by the process of evolution is a tenable Biblical position, and, as represented by BioLogos, the best Christian apologetic to defend Genesis 1-3 against its critics.
· I apologize for giving the impression that others who seek to harmonize the two differently are not credible. I honor all who contend for the Christian faith.
· Evolution as a process must be clearly distinguished from evolutionism as a philosophy. The latter is incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.
· Science is fallible and subject to revision. As a human and social enterprise, science will always be in flux. My first commitment is to the infallibility (as to its authority) and inerrancy (as to its Source) of Scripture.
· God could have created the Garden of Eden with apparent age or miraculously, even as Christ instantly turned water into wine, but the statement that God “caused the trees to grow” argues against these notions.
· I believe that the Triune God is Maker and Sustainer of heaven and earth and that biblical Adam is the historical head of the human race.
· Theological comments made here are mostly a digest of my chapters on Genesis 1-3 in An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007).”
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Here’s the bottom line: the Bible simply does not generally use “calling” to justify everyday choices or big-life decisions. There are a few notable exceptions for a few biblical characters. The Bible, however, does not generally use “calling” in terms of vocations, college attendance, numbering children, whom to marry, house purchases, which city or neighborhood to live in, and so on. In fact, the Greek word for “calling” is only used in the New Testament around 11 times and its almost always in reference to a divine callings related to salvation or callings to live a holy life. This is what it means to “live in God’s will.” God’s “will” may have nothing to do with whether or not one should move to Seattle instead of Chicago but it does have something to do with what kind of person one will be in either Seattle or Chicago in whatever job one chooses while living in whatever neighborhood one desires.Bradley includes a helpful insight from Dr. James Meek:
Until Christians adopt better language we will continue to set people up for disappointment and theological crises when their “callings” don’t work out. You do not have to be “called” in order to choose something good. If your choice turns about out to be a disaster, it’s OK, God is sovereign.
Evangelicals have developed an unfortunate habit of seeking and claiming divine direction to a degree that Scripture does not appear to justify. We deceive ourselves by claiming that our wishes and hunches are divine instructions when we have no solid reason (biblical or otherwise) for believing them to be so. But once one person begins talking this way, it’s hard not to want to sound as 'spiritual.’
I think what we actually do is to baptize hunches and wishes in the mistaken belief that these represent divine guidance. It’s a way of thinking (and talking) that has simply become accepted in many evangelical circles.
Read the entire article HERE.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Also, for those of you who have been following the controversy of John Piper's invitation to Rick Warren to speak at the Desiring God National Conference, Phil Johnson and Trevin Wax offer some helpful insight.
Briefly, to be Gospel-centered is to understand that the message of Christ's perfect obedience, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection is the theological well spring and functional center of the Christian life and the church.
It seems like a no-brainer. And yet for many of us who grew up in conservative evangelicalism the Gospel was thought of simply as the abc's or something attached to evangelism. We loved the Gospel but it was a piece of the whole, not the central reality. I had never been given a vision of the Gospel as the very center of my life. What made the message so powerful (and as it turns out, lasting) is that it is biblical. A vision of the Gospel-centered life is the vision God gives us in His Word. For a man who had grown up in the never ending ebb and flow of evangelical fads, this was different. This wasn't higher life. It wasn't seeker sensitive. It wasn't purpose driven. This was not about prophecy seminars, power point, or vision statements.
Gospel-centeredness, I came to see, is a rock-ribbed, biblical vision for God's people. The Gospel illuminates the grand narrative of Scripture. The Gospel is the great theme for preaching. The Gospel is God's power for our efforts to evangelize. It is reality that brings wholeness to our brokenness. The Gospel provides the only satisfying rationale for Christ-like ethics like mercy and sacrifice. It is no wonder why Paul calls this message of the doing, dying, and rising of Christ "the matter of first importance" (1 Cor 15:3).
Dane Ortland has a helpful post addressing whether or not "Gospel-centered" is merely a fad.
There has been a wave of books, blogs, messages and movements in recent years calling, in various ways, for the church today to be (more) ‘gospel-centered.’
Publically, I think of Ray Ortlund, Zack Eswine, Tim Keller, Sovereign Grace, Acts 29, the Gospel Coalition, Jared Wilson, Joe Thorn, Jonathan Dodson, Paul Tripp, David Powlison, Jerry Bridges, Mike Bullmore, D. A. Carson, Graeme Goldsworthy, Covenant Seminary, Tullian Tchividjian, and many others (see e.g., here). Privately, I think of friends like Brian Martin, Nate Conrad, Dan Orr, and Jim Lane, who have personally helped me understand the gospel as the engine (keeping us going), not the runway (getting us off the ground at conversion and landing us in heaven at death but unnecessary in between), to life and theology.
In more recent days, though, some are raising the question of whether this is getting a bit out of hand, asking whether we can emphasize the gospel to the exclusion of other things, and, perhaps most of all, simply expressing a general cynicism about the current trendiness of being gospel-centered (whatever “gospel-centered” means — I use the phrase here to refer to viewing the gospel not as something beyond which Christians graduate but which rather remains the heartbeat of life, to be not only confessed doctrinally and evangelistically but also appropriated emotionally and psychologically, the non-negotiable of all non-negotiables, summed up best biblically in 1 Cor 15:3-4).
There are three possible responses to the current trendiness of being ‘gospel-centered.’
1.Uncritically dismiss it due to its trendiness
2.Uncritically absorb it due to its being embraced by others we know or respect; vicariously feed on others’ excitement without personally digesting it ourselves
3.Consider what it means, and whether it is biblical; ponder what istrue in it; ask why it is trendy.
The last option is the way of wisdom. Before either dismissing it or absorbing it, let’s consider it, test it, and, if we find that in fact deeper awareness of sin and sin’s healing in Christ is indeed the place to start and end every day happily and humbly, pass it on.
Remember, trendiness is not bad in itself. Justification by faith alone was suddenly trendy among significant church circles in the 1520s and 30s. Thank the Lord for all those who neither uncritically dismissed it nor uncritically absorbed it but personally wrestled with it, saw it in their Bibles, found fresh liberation, and passed it on.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Those who refer to themselves as theistic evolutionists need to be pressed on “the blind watchmaker thesis” that is so crucial to Darwinism. As noted in the previous chapter, Richard Dawkins has explained the idea of the “blind watchmaker” and its implications for how we view the theory of evolution: “Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view.” The blind watchmaker thesis explains the philosophical implications of evolution, which cannot in any way be squared with what the Bible says about creation and providence. Phillip Johnson claims that he has found it “very difficult to get theistic evolutionists to discuss the blind watchmaker thesis.” No wonder. How can a Christian, in any meaningful sense of the word, admit that life, generally speaking, has no purpose? Plus, to insist that God would choose natural selection as his undirected creative method seems to require more faith than the idea that God created animals of their kind (Gen. 1:24). Darwinian evolution cannot guarantee that humans would have come into existence. Of course, a theistic evolutionist could maintain that God intervened from time to time to provide the required mutations to ensure that humans would eventually evolve, but this becomes mere philosophical speculation, and technically not science. Indeed, this position is neither Darwinism nor Christian theism. Collins assumes the truth of Darwininsm and then he constructs his own form of Christianity that will not contradict his understanding of evolution.
Historically, Reformed theologians have addressed the relationship between science and theology by beginning with the idea that the God of the Bible is a personal God who knowingly and willingly decrees all events. In other words, they begin with God, not Darwin. Darwinism appeals to naturalists because, at present, it remains the most suitable explanation for explaining the diversity of life assuming that God had nothing to do with the process. That is a big assumption, of course. But the Christian can point to defects in the fossil record, the origin of life problem, the irreducible complexity of organisms, and many other problems in the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, to rest secure that Darwinian evolution has not provided a better alternative to the Bible in explaining how the present world came to be. Collins admits that modern science still cannot explain the origin of life, but “this is not the place for a thoughtful person to wager his faith.” Coming from a supposed theist this comment is interesting. Collins argues for God’s existence based on moral life (i.e. altruistic behaviour among humans), but he urges extreme caution for God having anything to do with creating life. Moreover, Collins finds the Darwinian explanation for the moral law unsatisfying and therefore bases his belief in God in part on the argument for moral law. Yet, his reasoning about the origin of life problem should be equally applied to his reasoning for the moral law. Perhaps Darwinians will one day provide a satisfactory explanation for a moral law? Indeed, a number of scientists have done their best to explain altruistic behaviour among animals (which, for them, includes humans).
In the end I expect that Darwinians will not find [Francis] Collins’ synthesis sufficiently convincing; nor do I expect Christians to be overly enamored with his various proposals. Theistic evolution is basically a contradictory worldview, and Collins’ synthesis should be rejected with fervor. And yet Bruce Waltke has explicitly embraced Collins’ version of evolution, which is Darwinian evolution, not evolution which can be empirically observed. Of course, Waltke has theological commitments that he cannot abandon. The problem for him, at least, is that he cannot maintain with any consistency his theological commitments and his appreciation for Collins’ work.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools? How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged? Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm. Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging. No one would suggest that he is a master of the art of oratory. What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Abortion is a moral catastrophe. The murder of the unborn is one of the greatest sins any society can tolerate, much less subsidize by taxation. The impact of the new “Obamacare” health care legislation is not yet fully clear, but the legislation lacks any adequate protection for the unborn. Immorality is added to immorality when the power of the government to tax and confiscate the funds of citizens is involved in such a catastrophe.
For this reason, Christian citizens should be involved at every level in the political process, seeking to use legitimate means to establish full protection for the unborn and for all other vulnerable persons. Elections have consequences, and this new legislation is a reminder of the power of government to do both good and evil.
But to refuse to pay taxes is to deny the legitimacy of the government itself, and to declare it beyond political remedy. Even to Christians suffering under the repressive, murderous, and dictatorial yoke of Rome, Jesus instructed the payment of taxes. Caesar, Christ knew, will one day face the judgment of Almighty God. Rome would one day be brought under his own feet and made subject to him.
We do not “render unto Caesar” because of our confidence in Caesar. We render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, because we are committed with our lives and confidence and consciences to render unto God that which is God’s.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.Martin Luther refered to Romans 3:21-26 as, "“the chief point, and the very central place of the epistle, and of the whole Bible.” There are three words in this text that ought to be a part of every Christian's personal lexicon.
- Romans 3:21-26
We are “justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v.24).
Redemption applies to our bondage to sin. It carries with it the notion of being purchased. In this case we have been bought back from slavery to sin. We are told in 1 Corinthians 6 that we have been “bought with a price.” The purchase price of our redemption was the death of God’s beloved Son. In 1 Corinthians 1 we’re told that Christ has “become our redemption.” In Titus 2:14 Paul tells us that Jesus, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
“…Whom God put forward as a propitiation, by his blood, to be received by faith” (v.25).
Propitiation applies to God’s wrath toward us as sinners and rebels. To propitiate is to turn away wrath. John Murray writes, "To propitiate means to placate, pacify, appease, conciliate.” Propitiation, the satisfaction of God’s wrath, is an idea that is attacked quite often. But it is essential to our understanding of ourselves, our understanding of God, and our understanding of what God has done to save us.
We will never understand the cross apart from a proper appreciation for God’s wrath. Graham Cole writes, “Wrath seems unworthy of God only if our own sense of sin has become so atrophied that we think that it is God’s business to forgive it” (74). James Denney in his classic The Death of Christ wrote:
“Christ’s death, we may paraphrase (Romans 3:25), is an act in which God does justice to himself…He would not do justice to himself if he displayed his compassion for sinners in a way which made light of sin, which ignored its tragic reality, or took it for less than it is. In this case he would again be doing himself an injustice.”
Christ’s atoning work on the cross fundamentally changed God’s attitude toward us. We moved from being “children of wrath” (Eph 2) to being children of mercy. This is why we sing, “In my place condemned he stood. Hallelujuah! What a Saviour!”
Justification applies to the reality of our guilt and the alienation that comes from that. Justification presupposes two realities: 1) God is our Judge and 2) our problem is that we are guilty. And just as people resist propitiation because it necessitates belief in God’s wrath, people resist justification because it necessitates belief that God is Judge.
Theologian Miraslav Volf, a Croation who experienced first hand the bloody war in the former Yugoslavia and was himself tortured helps us understand the importance of God as Judge:
To the person inclined to dismiss [divine judgment], I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone. Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: A Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: We should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent it will invariably die (Cole, 76).
We all need to be justified. We need to be made right. We need to be fit in such a way that we will not be obliterated the moment we appear before a God who is holy. To be justified means that we have received the pronouncement of “not guilty” from our Righteous Judge. And this extraordinary change from guilty sinner to justified saint all comes about by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Justification is both acquittal and acceptance. That is to say, it involves both the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the righteousness of Christ. God not only declares us "Not guilty!", he also declares us "Righteous!" Pardon alone would leave us spiritually naked with no righteousness. Pardon might save us from hell but it alone is not enough to bring us into the presence of God. For this we need the fullness of Justification.
Paul is amazed by God’s grace. He is not surprised that the God of the Scriptures is gracious. He is well acquainted with God’s grace throughout human history. What amazes Paul is that the God of grace shows His grace and bestows His grace in such a way that His justice is not compromised.
In Proverbs 17 God Himself had said, "Cursed is the judge who condemns the innocent and who acquits the guilty." But we are being told here that God, the Judge, does indeed acquit the guilty. And this is the thrilling reality of the gospel. Because in the gospel, God’s justice and His righteousness and His grace and His mercy are all displayed side by side, never warring against or contradicting one another. The cross is where the holy justice and tender mercy of God meet in a beautiful expression of God’s perfections.
On a Saturday long ago, our Lord Jesus was a corpse. This isn’t natural.
Problem is, death seems normal to us. Darwinian naturalism, along with most contemporary philosophies, assumes that death is the natural ending point to life. The Christian gospel insists otherwise, seeing death as an alien invader of the cosmic order, a curse from the Edenic fall, and a strategy of an enemy spirit to crush God’s image-bearing humanity (Heb. 2:14-15).
In Scripture, death is personified as itself an enemy, indeed the final enemy to be placed under the feet of a triumphant King Jesus (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
Death in all its forms, from animal predation to “natural” disasters to “old age” expiration, all point to the cold truth that God is not ruling the cosmos through his human mediators in the way he intended at the start.
In the present age, all people still grow old, get sick, and die. There is a sundering of the body from the soul, a violent act that tears at God’s original creational purpose of breathing his life into the man of the dust (Gen. 2:7). When a man dies, his flesh reverts back to the dust of the earth, a seeming contradiction of God’s creation.
There is one Man, however, who does not owe death as the wages of sin. He cannot be accused by the ruler of this age, because He alone has an untroubled conscience before the tribunal of God. He’s not a corpse anymore.
The resurrection of Jesus is the first wave of a counter-revolution that will turn back death’s tyranny and satanic rule forever.
Death isn’t natural at all.
Friday, April 2, 2010
The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the Gospel is the priority.
The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Paul points directly to the events of the cross and resurrection of Christ. He is not concerned with just any gospel, but with the only gospel that saves. This is “the gospel I preached to you,” Paul reminds the Corinthians. The same Paul who so forcefully warned the Galatians against accepting any false gospel reminds the church at Corinth that the very “gospel I preached to you” is the gospel “by which you are being saved.” Their stewardship of the gospel is underlined in Paul’s words, “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.”
Paul’s statement of priority is a vital corrective for our confused times. Without hesitation, Paul writes with urgency about the truths that are “as of first importance.” All revealed truth is vital, invaluable, life-changing truth to which every disciple of Christ is fully accountable. But certain truths are of highest importance, and that is the language Paul uses without qualification.
And what is of first importance? “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith. Without these, there is no good news — no salvation.