Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Does the Bible tell us to "ask Jesus into our heart"?

If you grew up in the typical evangelical church from Southern Baptist to Assembly of God then you have heard the phrase, "Ask Jesus into your heart" more times than you can count. But is this biblical? After all, in matters of salvation we had better get it right.

Dan Wallace has written an excellent post examing the biblical language in Revelation 3:20: "Behold I stand at the door and knock..."

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he [will dine] with me.” The crucial phrase for our purposes is “I shall come in to him.” This text has often been taken as a text offering salvation to a lost sinner. Such a view is based on two assumptions: (1) that the Laodiceans, or at least some of them, were indeed lost, and (2) that the Greek εισελεύσομαι πρό means “come into.”

Both of these assumptions, however, are based on little evidence. Further, the resultant notion is anything but clear. To invite Christ into one’s heart is hardly a clear picture of the gospel.

Regarding the idea that those in the Laodicean church were not believers, note that in the preceding verse, the resurrected Lord declares, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” Here φιλέω is used for “love”—a term that is never used of God/Jesus loving unbelievers in the NT. This φιλέω is applied to the Laodiceans here, for the verse concludes, “Be zealous, therefore, and repent.” The inferential ‘therefore’ connects the two parts of the verse, indicating that the Laodiceans are to repent because Christ loves (φιλέω) them!

The second assumption is that εισελεύσομαι πρό means ‘come into.’ Such an assumption is based on a less than careful reading of the English text. The ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, for example, all correctly render it ‘come in to.’ (Note the space between the prepositions.) The idea of ‘come into’ would be expressed with είς as the independent preposition and would suggest a penetration into the person (thus, spawning the idea of entering into one’s heart). However, spatially πρό means toward, not into. In all eight instances of εισοέρχομαι πρό in the NT, the meaning is ‘come in toward/before a person’ (i.e., enter a building, house, room, etc., so as to be in the presence of someone), never penetration into the person himself/herself. In some instances, such a view would not only be absurd, but inappropriate (cf. Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 16:40; 17:2; 28:8).

What, then, is this verse is affirming? First, it is not an offering of salvation. The implications of this are manifold. Among other things, to use this text as a salvation verse is a perversion of the simplicity of the gospel. Many people have allegedly “received Christ into their hearts” without understanding what that means or what the gospel means. Although this verse is picturesque, it actually muddies the waters of the truth of salvation. Reception of Christ is a consequence, not a condition, of salvation. Second, as far as the positive meaning of this verse, it may refer to Christ having supremacy in the assembly or even to an invitation (and, consequently, a reminder) to believers to share with him in the coming kingdom. Either way, it is not a verse about salvation at all, for the Laodiceans were already saved.

Does this mean that those who have come to faith in Christ via Rev 3:20 are not saved? This answer needs some nuancing...

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Sovereign Election and the Glory of God

9Marks at Southeastern - Biblical Theology: Session 2 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

From Beginning to End - The Storyline of Scripture

9Marks at Southeastern - Biblical Theology: Session 1 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sunday's Sermons

Last Sunday David Garner of Westminster Seminary delivered the morning sermon. It was entitled An Unfailing Map for the Directionally Challenged and was taken from Psalm 1.

Sunday evening at The Vine I preached a Message entitled From Generation to Generation. It was based upon Psalm 119:9-16 and deals with the question, "How can a young man keep his way pure?"

Monday, September 27, 2010

A letter from Nacy Guthrie to her pastors

There is nothing I can add to Nancy's words. She expresses my thoughts concerning clergy participation in the Glenn Beck rally better than I can...
Dear Pastors Benton, Filson, and Teller:

I know it has been a few weeks now since the big Glenn Beck rally in Washington. Most of the conversation about it has centered on Beck’s Mormon faith. But that is not what prompts me to write to you. What prompts me to write is a statement Beck made on August 30 in an appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show, when he cheerfully celebrated that “240 pastors, priests, rabbis, and imams on stage all locked arms saying the principles of America need to be taught from the pulpit.”

As I’ve continued to think about this statement, I’m moved to write today and say “thank you” for not being one of them. Thank you for your faithfulness in preaching Christ from the pulpit, not “the principles of America.” Thank you for leaving that to others and reserving the sacred desk at our church for preaching, in the last few weeks, about the once-for-all sufficient sacrifice of Christ, about the privilege we have to approach God in prayer as Father, about Christ as the Wisdom of God, about Christ as the most valuable Treasure in the universe, worth trading everything to have.

I love my country and certainly I have concerns about where it is headed. But I also know that “this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). I know—as you quote it week-by-week—that “all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever” (1 Pet. 1:24-25; cf. Is. 40:6-8).

So thank you for continuing to preach the word of the Lord and present the beauty of Christ, and for not being so short-sighted to preach the “principles of America.” You keep calling me to love Christ more than my country, more than anything, and this is the word I need most to hear.

Full Confidence Follow-Up

A wonderful weekend was had at Church of the Saviour. The Full Confidence Conference was a blessing. The opening address by David Garner was a powerful warning against allowing skeptical views of God's Word to take root in the church and its institutions. He rightly pointed out that often times the skeptics are well meaning and decent people who truly believe they are helping the church by lowering its views of the trustworthiness of Scripture. However, when this well-meaning error is met with too charitable responses from the orthodox the results are always devastating. As Dr. Garner said, "Undiscerning charity waters the seeds of future heresy." He went on to say that "the health of the church in each generation corresponds directly to its view of God's Word." How often do we have to see the tragic results of a skeptical approach to Scripture before we will stop making a place at the table for those who challenge the trustworthiness of God's Word? Dr. Garner's exposition of 1 Peter 1:16ff was outstanding.

Carl Trueman's two addresses focused on the historical roots of the Scripture's authority, inerrancy, and clarity. Anyone who believes church history is a dry topic has not heard Carl Trueman lecture. Dr. Trueman first made a convincing case against the idea that inerrancy was an innovation of Old Princeton. He showed quite clearly that the idea of inerrancy existed in the post-apostolic Fathers. He unpacked the early Father's approach to the Bible's inscripturation, inspiration, and purpose. Through it all, it became quite clear that the Scripture's inerrancy was not an innovation of Warfield and Hodge. In his second address Dr. Trueman dealt with the Scripture's clarity as presented and defended by Martin Luther. Special focus was given to Luther's debate with Erasmus. While Erasmus believed that Scripture is fundamentally obscure, Luther believed quite rightly that the Scriptures are fundamentally clear. That is, the Bible is clear enough that the average Christian lay person can understand the fundamentals of doctrine as held forth in the Bible.

Lane Tipton gave a stirring address on the Christ-centeredness of the Bible. In his opening statement he connected the Scripture's inerrancy with the Gospel: "Inerrancy serves the Gospel." In other words, denying the Bible's inerrancy always seems to go hand-in-hand with denying its Christ-centerdness. Dr. Tipton dealt with an issue of which most laypersons are probably unaware. That is, within evangelical circles it is becoming more common to dismiss the intrinsic Christ-centeredness of Scripture. These scholars and pastors hold that the apostles read Christ back into the Old Testament; that as originally written the Old Testament does not directly speak of Christ. Of course this denies the very hermeneutic of Jesus who taught us that the law and the prophets speak of Him (Luke 24). Dr. Tipton's address/exposition was outstanding and I am hoping it will be available soon for more people to hear. His central assertion is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the message of his dying and rising) is "trans-testamental." "The Gospel is foundationally embedded in the Old Testament...The Old Testament sets forth the same Gospel as did Paul." Excellent.

Over at Ref21 Carlton Wynne and Liam Goligher have posted articles relevant to Full Confidence.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Inerrancy and Authority

Kevin DeYoung has posted several excellent articles on biblical inerrancy. His post from September 24 I found particularly helpful because he points out the link between the inerrancy of the Bible and its authority.

Here is the entire post:

Perhaps you’ve seen the conversation among Tim Keller, Alister McGrath, Brian McLaren, and Dempsey Rosales-Acosta on biblical authority from the Q conference a few months ago. I’m not sure it’s worth 38 minutes of your time, but I found Tim Keller’s remarks around the 5-minute mark to be especially helpful.

The first topic discussed by the panel was inerrancy–What does it mean?, Is it a helpful term?, Where did it come from?, etc.

McGrath’s response was disappointing. He explained that he doesn’t like the term because it sounds too self-assured, like we have everything figured out and our interpretations are all correct. He prefers to speak of the Bible as “reliable and trustworthy.”

McLaren’s remarks were frustratingly predictable and predictably frustrating. After asserting that many people in the room will get fired if they don’t affirm inerrancy, McLaren went on to talk about the atrocities Christians have committed by using an “inerrant” Bible (e.g., slavery, killing Native Americans).

When it came time for Keller to talk (around 5:20) the discussion had already moved passed inerrancy, but he deliberately brought the conversation back to the term.

Just for the record: I have no problem at all talking about inerrancy. As a pastor if I actually say to someone, any layperson–if I believe in the authority of the Bible but not the inerrancy of the Bible, they’re going to say, “what’s the difference?” And as soon as I begin to explain it, their eyes glaze over. And they’re going to think of it as a distinction without a difference. If I say it’s not authoritative in all its parts and it’s not inerrant, they understand that. And if I say it’s authoritative and inerrant, they understand that. But to say it’s authoritative and not inerrant, I’ve never in 35 years of working with people been able to get that.

Keller is absolutely right. Most people in the pew assume that when we say the Bible is trustworthy and authoritative we don’t also mean it makes some mistakes. For them, inerrancy, whether they know the term or now, goes hand in hand with a reliable, authoritative Bible.

I remember several years ago having a conversation with a deacon at another church. He was asking me why I chose one seminary over another. I tried to explain that the seminary he was asking about (the one I didn’t attend) did not believe in
inerrancy. This was a smart man, a lawyer in fact, but he had never heard of the term. So I explained that inerrancy simply means the Bible, in the original manuscripts, doesn’t make any mistakes in anything it affirms. I’ll never forget his response: “Isn’t that what all Christians believe?” He grew up in the church and heard his whole life that the Bible was true, reliable, and authoritative. He was not familiar with the term inerrancy and yet he assumed that’s exactly what all those other words implied.

Here’s the bottom line: if we try to parse some fine distinction between infallibility and inerrancy or between reliability and inerrancy, the average churchgoer will think we’re just trying to avoid a label for some reason or just trying to hide something. And very often they’ll be right on both accounts.

Here is the entire series of posts:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Full Confidence Live Streaming...

From Justin Taylor:

If you want to watch and listen to some good lectures tonight and tomorrow on the doctrine of Scripture issues that are facing the church today, here are two for tonight:

•Friday, 7:00 PM — Dr. David Garner, “Thus Swayeth the Lord”
•Friday, 8:15 PM — Dr. Carl Trueman, “The Early Fathers and the Authority of Scripture”

And here are two for tomorrow:

•Saturday, 9:00 AM — Dr. Lane Tipton, “The Gospel of God’s Son in the Old Testament”
•Saturday, 10:15 AM — Dr. Carl Trueman, “Luther and the Clear and Certain Word”

All times are Eastern.

For those in the Philadelphia area, it’s at Church of the Saviour, and you can get tickets here.

Reformed Forum will be streaming the conference live on their site at

Full Confidence...

If you are in the Philadelphia area, consider attending Full Confidence at Church of the Saviour in Wayne.

Friday, 7:00 pm: Rev. Dr. David B. Garner, "Thus Swayeth the Lord"

Friday, 8:15 pm: Rev. Dr. Carl Trueman, "The Early Fathers and the Authority of Scripture"

Saturday, 9:00 am: Rev. Dr. Lane Tipton, "The Gospel of God's Son in the Old Testament"

Saturday, 10:15 am: Rev. Dr. Carl Trueman, "Luther and the Certain Word"

Question and Answer, moderated by Rev. John Currie, immediately to follow the final session

Sunday Worship Service, 8:15, 9:30, or 11:00 am: Rev. Dr. David B. Garner "An Unfailing Map for the Directionally Challenged," Psalm 1

Loving a church that is as flawed as I am...

The church is a messy place. All of the dysfunctions that are present in "the world" are present in one degree or another in the church. It is no use denying this. In fact, denying the flawed realities of the church is counterproductive to the work of advancing the Gospel. Too often people have been invited to 'get saved' and join the church because Jesus will repair their marriage, fix their kids, banish their depression, and give them better self-esteem. They bite on that shiny lure only to discover that they've been pulled into a reality that seems to be just as messy but less honest about it.
This is not to deny the reality of sanctification. God forbid (Rom 6:1)! But sanctification is often times maddeningly slow (Yours, of course, not mine). This means that you and I will have to worship with, serve with, learn with, and labor with people who are at least as sinful as we are. But of course this is by design. The Gospel is best proclaimed by men and women who are still as dependent upon the redeeming grace of Jesus as they were the moment they were converted. The radical justice and mercy of the cross is best displayed in the lives of saved sinners, a reality Luther referred to as simul iustice et pecator (simultaneously just and sinner). It is in the lives of the broken yet redeemed that grace still retains its beautiful aroma.

If the church was made up of fully sanctified people then how would the reality of the Gospel be put on display? No one would need to be forgiven and no one would need to forgive. If everything in the church were peachy then no one would need mercy or be required to show mercy. In the non-messy church there would be no need for patience, willing inconvenience, or sacrifice.

Gabriel Fluhrer over at Ref21 has written a helpful post on the reality of the church this side of heaven.

[The] church is made up of people like us: sinful, slow to do good, quick to speak and gossip, full of envy, strife, jealous and hatred. That is what we are apart from Christ.

However, we have been redeemed. We are united with Christ. And now, we can, by God's grace, begin to see the effects of this union in our daily lives. But we still sin and this shows up, perhaps most pointedly, at church.

Added to this great problem of our own personal sin is the fact that we live in an anti-church age. I passed a church here in Philadelphia the other day with these words on its sign: "Barely organized." Of course, that is hip these days. We don't want "organized religion" - we don't want "our daddy's church." When I saw the sign, I couldn't help but wonder, "How many of us would go to a doctor's office with the same words on its sign? "

But the church is the place where God has called us to have our souls doctored - hearing the Word preached, serving our fellow saints and speaking and doing good to those without. However, the church is not only God's means of Gospel proclamation, but a place where souls are restored. It is the place where we can find healing, perhaps in unexpected ways - like learning to get along with the people there who are not like us.

This is one reason I am very allergic to the burgeoning "house church" movement here in the U.S. Having the privilege of knowing suffering saints in actual house churches that meet in countries where saints are persecuted mercilessly, I find it almost laughable that we have such things here in the land of the free and home of the brave. It is indicative of the anti-church age in which we live, however.

I wonder, of ten, why are people, particularly young college students, drawn to these mysterious entities called house churches here in the U.S.? Not because of persecution. Rather, I think, it is because they are dissatisfied with the church. And I am sympathetic to them - barely. The church is a place where you can get hurt. It is full of people who are insensitive, unloving at times, insecure and socially awkward.

Here's the rub though: you are one of those people. The problem with the church is not the institution itself, for God has ordained it and sent his Son to die for her. No, we're the problem. So before you go running to a house church here in the free West, ask yourself: am I running to Jesus or running from sinners? You can only run to Jesus as you run with fellow sinners. If you run away from them, you'll be running in circles, not to Christ.
Read the entire post HERE.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A New Kind of Masculinity?

Al Mohler comments on the latest cover story of Newsweek:

The most interesting portion of the Newsweek cover story concerns the home front. The authors admit that the “New Macho” is “a path to masculinity paved with girly jobs and dirty diapers.”

American readers of the magazine are likely to note very quickly that Romano and Dokoupil seem quite enamored with Europe and its welfare and social policies. They highlight Sweden’s liberal parental leave policy as evidence of how government can act to redefine a reality as basic and ingrained as gender roles. In Sweden, “men are expected to work less and father more” and to see themselves as equally competent at child-rearing.

The message is plain — men will have to redefine masculinity as they take on “girly” jobs, transform themselves into nurturers, and celebrate a fully egalitarian society in terms of gender. Working for a female boss will become standard, as will the expectation that a stay-at-home father is as common as a stay-at-home mom.

On that point, Newsweek confidently points to a future that is not likely to happen quite as described. Americans may say that they are for services like paid parental leave, but when it comes to any tangible policy, economic factors are likely to scuttle the plan.

Of course, the call for men to be more engaged with their children is never wrong. Indeed, in this case, the political Left is picking up on themes long driven by the Right, and by conservative Christians in particular. The difference is that the Christian concern for asserting a man’s responsibility and fulfillment in fatherhood is not about social egalitarianism. Rather, it is driven by a biblical conception of true manhood as defined through the roles of husband and father.

Still, as much as we might complain about Newsweek’s rather predictable tip of the hat to the welfare state and the end of many gender distinctions, there is a sense in which the writers come very close to getting a big point just right.

They explain:

The truth is, it’s not how men style themselves that will make them whole again—it’s what they do with their days. The riggers, welders, and boilermakers of generations past weren’t wearing overalls to feel like men, as Susan Faludi, the author of books on both sexes, has pointed out. Instead, “their sense of their own manhood flowed out of their utility in a society, not the other way around,” she writes. “Conceiving of masculinity as something to be”—a part to play—“turns manliness into [something] ornamental, and about as ‘masculine’ as fake eyelashes are inherently ‘feminine.’?”

We may be surprised to find ourselves in agreement with Susan Faludi here, but she is absolutely right. Our fathers and grandfathers did not put on overalls to play dress up. They were headed for work. Faludi is profoundly right when she writes that “their sense of their own manhood flowed out of their utility in a society, not the other way around.”

A true masculinity is grounded in a man’s determination to fulfill his manhood in being a good husband, father, citizen, worker, leader, and friend — one who makes a difference, fulfills a role for others, and devotes his life to these tasks. Most of our fathers went to work early and toiled all day because they knew it was their duty to put bread on the table, a roof over our heads, and a future in front of us. They made their way to ball games and school events dead tired, went home and took care of things, and then got up and did it all over again the next day.

Today’s men are likely to be more nurturing, but they are also statistically less faithful. They may be changing more diapers, but they are also more likely to change spouses. Men must be encouraged and expected to be both faithful fathers and faithful husbands. Otherwise, any society is in big trouble.

The Newsweek cover story is an undisguised alert that the world is changing. A healthy masculinity should motivate men to find their way in this new world of changed economic realities and work opportunities, and to do this while remaining men. The unanswered question from Newsweek’s analysis is this: Will men change the new work of work, or will the new social realities change men?

Read Mohler's entire post HERE.

The issue of masculinity is important for the church to consider. After all, the church has lost many men over the last 30 years or so. The church ain't what it used to be, which is not all bad. However, evangelical Baby Boomer's insistence on getting rid of everything that had belonged to their parent's church led to the loss of a great many good things. Music lost its majesty as we began singing more "God is my girlfriend" songs. Sermons became less 'thus says the Lord' in favor of a kind of group therapy. Even the architecture of our churches changed. Gone were stone and steeples. In were low slung office park - type buildings filled with mood music and pastel colors.

Certainly, these are merely symptoms of something else. But those symptoms betray a deeper problem the church has with men. Instead of holding forth a biblical image of masculinity, the church began to parrot the same distrust and even mockery of maleness that was found in popular culture. Ray Barone became the de-facto representative head of all men. Sex was the wife's charitable service to her bumbling husband. Masculinity came to be seen as a disorder to overcome and the call to men was simple: be more like women.

I hope I don't sound misogynistic. Clearly, a biblical vision for manhood involves tenderness and sacrifice for one's family. It is never to be a cover for boorish behavior. But the sacrifices a man is called upon to make (Eph 5:22ff) for love of his wife requires a kind of strength and competence that are characteristic of genuine masculinity (and as far away from Ray Barone as imaginable).

Advances in Christian Broadcasting...

From "Rodney Trotter":
The following memo has turned up, leaked from a well-known coalition/alliance of gospel types:

Re: Christian Broadcasting

In light of the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28), and in reaction to the harsh, unloving and world-denying fundamentalism of a previous generation, the following suggestions for producing a series of Christian Life and Worldview programs should be considered:

Dancing with the Evangelical Stars. Contestants compete for the right to become worship leaders at a big church. Problem: no reformed women
celebs and, as we don't want to encourage `that sort of thing' (Eph. 5:3) , dancers must go solo. Could unfairly favour the Sovereign Grace guys, but their worship experience will be counterbalanced by their lack of any sense of rhythm.

Evangelical Idol: young pastors compete to be signed to a label that will give them a ministry named after themselves. Re. judges, Derek Thomas obvious choice for Simon Cowell part; Justin Taylor for Paula Abdul. Program title may need some work.

Evangelical America's Got Talent: ugly pastors of small churches perform their chosen `talent' before a celebrity panel. Possibly favours the guys who aren't shaving yet, as the "granny vote" can be decisive when it comes to the final round. Big prize: get a contract with Christian publisher to have a study Bible named after you.

The Reformed Apprentice: ambitious young pastors work for the chance to ride the coattails of a megapastor by performing difficult feats for said pastor such as managing the church stock portfolio, offshore accounts, and overseas investments. Not sure would lead this. Tim Keller obvious choice but Donald-Trump-You're-Fired! catchphrase `Brother, I want to affirm you in your God-given talents and stress that we have an every member ministry in Christ's church and I am sure that the Lord is calling you to be of great use to him in some alternative, but equally valid and biblical capacity' lacks a certain punch. Maybe just go with John MacArthur?

Looks like Christian TV will never be the same.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God and Caesar

From Collin Hansen:

Enjoying a sunny fall day, I walked around the National Mall on Saturday afternoon. Before visiting any other favorite sites, I ascended the temple steps where Father Abraham presides on his throne over American civil religion. Designed to recall the Greek Parthenon, this memorial secures Lincoln’s place in the American pantheon. If you champion a social cause and want to leave your mark on America, you must at some point make the pilgrimage to this hallowed ground. All the better if you can deliver a speech that incorporates elements of Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg Address.

Only three weeks earlier self-appointed political prophet Glenn Beck claimed Lincoln’s imprimatur by packing these same steps for a rally. But religious nationalists who invoke America’s greatest president never seem to understand the irony of his memory. The man who saved the Union understood that God transcends and judges it. God’s ways often surpass our understanding. We cannot manipulate him to baptize our pet causes. Read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a stunningly moving model of public theology written by a man whose true beliefs elude historians still today. No, actually read the speech and marvel at this man’s magnanimity after four years of shockingly bloody killing. He captured in this speech a mature political philosophy that shamed the many warmongers masquerading as pastors in both the North and South. Even today, the church cries out to God for him to raise up more pastors and theologians who can help the evangelical public understand that for all this nation’s blessings, Jesus Christ didn’t robe himself in an American flag.

My concern stems from experience working on Capitol Hill in partisan roles. When I struggled several years ago to distinguish between my theological beliefs and convictions on such matters as tax policy and federal bureaucracy, I needed an oasis where I could escape the withering heat of political campaigning. I found it in the community of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Only here did I associate with anyone from the other party. Only here did I hear a message that would endure forever, long after everyone had forgotten any press releases or speeches I wrote. And when I returned on September 16 for a 9Marks Weekender hosted by the church, I found here again a refuge from the arguments that the world invests with undue importance. Indeed, I heard from senior pastor Mark Dever the best sermon I know on Christianity and government. Thabiti Anyabwile, who formerly worked with Dever, described the sermon as “a biblical theology of Christians and the state, at once full of unction, intellectually challenging, and affecting the heart. I’ve heard a lot of Mark’s preaching, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him better.”
Read the entire post HERE.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Don't Follow Your Heart!

Faith is not the same as religious experience or pious activity. Rather, it is turning away from both in order to cling to Christ as he is clothed in his gospel. We live in a 'follow your heart' culture, where it is simply assumed that this will get us to the right destination. It is this philosophy that yields infidelity in marriage and friendships, because it is simply another way of following our immediate desires without any obligation to God or our neighbors. 'Follow your heart' equals 'Believe and do whatever you want, no matter what.' This idea that the deeper we go into ourselves the cleaner, purer, and truer things get is just a fantasy. If, as Jeremiah, Jesus, and the rest of Scripture teaches, our corrupt hearts are the wellspring of sinful actions, relationships, and structural systems that make us simultaneously victim and perpetrator, then this sentimental greeting card theology of 'follow your heart' will just not do...

The gospel transforms us in heart, mind, will, and actions precisely because it is not itself a message about our transformation. Nothing that I am or that I feel, choose, or do qualifies as Good News. On my best days, my experience of transformation is weak, but the gospel is an announcement of a certain state of affairs that exists because of something in God, not something in me; something that God has done, not something that I have done; the love in God's heart which he has shown in his Son, not the love in my heart that I exhibit in my relationships. Precisely as the Good News of a completed, sufficient, and perfect work of God in Christ accomplished for me and outside of me in history, the gospel is 'the power of God unto salvation' not only at the beginning but throughout the Christian life.

Michael Horton from The Gospel-Driven Life (pp. 75-77)

Reading Humpty Dumpty with N.T. Wright

Tom Wright Reads Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Clearly the writer is telling an Israel story, and here alludes to the Temple. This echoes other lines in early 2nd Nursery Literature, such as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard (the “storehouse” of the Temple) and the bone (resurrection life) which she sought for her dog (“Gentiles”). “But when she got there, the cupboard was bare and the poor little doggie had none.” The temple had nothing to offer the Gentiles, and they thus remained in their state of Adamic sin and decay.

So here, too, one should not be surprised to discover that the Temple and its “wall” are bankrupt. The next line, then, is not a shock, but an expectation:

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

Again, this is patently a forecast of the Temple’s destruction (and contra Crossan and Borg, an entirely possible historical forecasting). Doubtless this claim is intended to lead the reader to ponder the eschatological recreation of the Temple. Since Humpty stands for the Temple, he seems to be sharing in the divine identity, functioning as the locus of God’s presence, not outside of, but within creation.

Of course, this fall is an exile of sorts, the loss of God’s presence. The tension is palpable: how will humpty’s story not turn out dumpty? In other words, this line presupposes what I have called elsewhere the great metanarrative of humpty, not least the promise of resurrection.

But all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put humpty together again.

So the Temple will be built again, but not by human hands. Many have undertaken to suggest that this passage runs counter to a belief in resurrection. But this atomistic reading of the text lacks imagination. Of course, it is the king himself who will put humpty together again, and this great act will complete the metanarrative.

After all, Humpty is the place where the Creator God is resident with his creation. But the human inability to recreate Humpty does not negate all human effort for creation, which should be done in light of the proleptic nature of the king’s restoration of Humpty and all creation.

Written in Durham Cathedral, dedicated to Rowan Williams’s left eyebrow.

Preach the gospel always...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why Expository Preaching...

Good stuff from three of my favorite preachers - Mike Bullmore, Bryan Chapell, and David Helm:

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's message was part 42 in our current series through Hebrews. It is entitled "Disciplined as Sons" and is based upon Hebrews 12:3-13. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Friday, September 17, 2010

World Clarifies...

Well it appears that there has been a bit of a dust-up over at World Magazine concerning Adree Seu's brief article on Glenn Beck's mormon faith.

Mickey Mclean writes:

On Wednesday, our beloved columnist Andrée Seu wrote a column on her observations on Glenn Beck and his faith, which has drawn a lot of attention in the blogosphere. Our friend Justin Taylor wrote a thoughtful response at his Between Two Worlds blog, which we reprint below with Justin’s permission.

WORLD’s position: All of us need editing. Our website editing system failed in regard to Andrée’s post about Glenn Beck. The breadth of response points out confusion concerning Beck and where he stands. Rather than speculating further, we will push to interview him and ask hard questions. One of the hardest aspects of reporting is assessing hearts, so we try not to do it: We look at what individuals do and say rather than attempting to analyze their relationship with God.
Marvin Olasky writes:

Beck is syncretizing Mormon and Christian understanding in the service of a civil religion, but that's a radically unequal yoking for reasons WORLD has pointed out before (see "Ye shall be as gods," Feb. 16, 2002). Maybe the essence lies in the difference between two ditties: the traditional Christian one of "In Adam's fall, we sinned all," and the classic Mormon couplet, "As God once was, man is. As God is, man may become."

America's Founders did not believe in men becoming gods. They emphasized checks and balances in governance because they put no trust in princes. Remembrance of the persecution of Mormons in the 19th century has contributed to Utah's strong anti-Washington sentiment, but Mormon theology concerning the perfectibility of man does not give Latter-Day Saints an anchor to keep them from drifting with political currents as latter days arrive.

Furthermore, the sense that we become righteous not by imputation (Christ's obedience in God's sight replacing our failure) but infusion (we become godlike) often leads movements to ascribe godlike virtue to their leaders. Let's watch the Beck movement and pray that it does not become a cult of personality. Let Beck's rise remind us that Christians in past decades did not take advantage of cable TV opportunities in news and public affairs as Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch did with CNN and FOX: We complained but they built, and now we should do more than complain once again.
Read the entire article HERE.

Joe Carter over at Evangel makes a needed observation about Seu's strange assertion that Beck has articulated the Gospel more faithfully than she has heard in any church. Read Carter's post

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Evangelical Syncretism

I am a happy subscriber to World Magazine. I like the work they do. For those unfamiliar with World, it is a bi-monthly news journal from a conservative evangelical (largely Reformed) perspective. It is edited by Marvin Olasky for whom I have a lot of respect.

But I must confess my dismay at
Andree Seu's article on Glenn Beck, Christianity, and Mormonism. I enjoy reading Seu. She is normally insightful and often funny. But in her latest article she seems to get very near syncretism. If you are unfamiliar with the term, syncretism, it is the attempt to reconcile competing truth claims. Usually it refers to the attempt to reconcile religions which are hopelessly contradictory.

Describing her experience of listening to Glenn Beck Seu writes:

It was obvious to me that he was a new creation in Christ. I know he’s Mormon and all that. I also remember reading a book by Professor Harvey Conn decades ago that said that you have to be very careful when judging a person’s salvation—some people with lousy theology have their hearts right with God, and some people with impeccable theology are cold toward God.

Glenn Beck isn’t cold toward God. He is red hot. He is “a brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2). He knows what pit he was in—and he knows exactly who took him out of it. If I were his station manager I would be biting my fingernails every day, because the man just doesn’t hold back about Jesus, and I can say without hesitation that I have not heard the essentials of the gospel more clearly and boldly in any church than on his program.

I have heard all the criticisms, and I can find sympathy for them—about the Mormonism, about the dangers of religious syncretism, etc. But regarding the Mormon thing, I think we should regard Beck as an Apollos and pray for a Priscilla and Aquila in his life, to steer him better (Acts 18). I just don’t see how anyone can listen to the man for a solid week and not be as blessed as I am by his courage, his utter lack of fear of man, and his sharp and personal testimony of Christ’s transforming power.

"I know he's a Mormon and all that." Well, there is quite a lot in the "all that."

"Glenn Beck isn't cold toward God. He is red hot." Well, no duh. He's a Mormon. Of course "he is red hot." I have not met many Mormons who are not serious about their faith. Heck, their young men are required to spend at least two years on the mission field. If you're measuring faith by "hotness" then Mormons may well beat the average evangelical.

Seu is right in citing Conn: we need to be very careful about making judgments concerning another's salvation. However, that caution can easily become an excuse to ignore what Scripture clearly teaches about salvation. The sincerity of our faith is meaningless if it is invested in the wrong object. There were a lot of very sincere Baal worshiping, baby sacrificing pagans in the first few centuries B.C. Their theology was "lousy" and that makes all the difference. I would be curious to ask Seu how "lousy" she thinks our theology can be before it is clear that who we believe in is not the God who is there.

I am in favor of praying that Beck finds a Pricilla and Aquilla. Absolutely! But we can only assume that the Jesus in which Beck believes is the Jesus of Mormonism. The Jesus of Mormonism is not a Jesus who can save for He is not the Jesus who bore away our sins on the cross. Therefore we do Glenn Beck no favors in assuming he is born again because he says "Jesus saves." Every Mormon you will ever meet is happy to say that Jesus saves. But their Jesus is not the only begotten of the Father. He is not the second person of the Godhead. He is not God incarnate. What is more, for the Mormon God is simply one among many gods who has populated earth through sexual union with his celestial wives. Mormonism is as far away from biblical Christianity as is Hinduism. It is more dangerous however because Mormons operate from the same dictionary as Christians.

Now this all brings up the issue of evangelicalism in general. Evangelicals are largely knee jerk egalitarians. So long as someone "loves Jesus" it does not really matter what they believe.

Check out Justin Taylor's excellent post on this issue.

Science and Faith

Over the last two months or so I have posted a number of times on the relationship between science and faith. For the most part those posts have been in response to the errors of Biologos. The folks at Biologos, who are I am sure h0norable people, are not truly interested in reconciling science and faith. To the contrary. Their project is to subordinate God's revelation in Scripture to the word of contemporary scientific theory. Their approach to "reconciling" the creation account in Genesis to science is to simply say that the Word of God errs (and quite badly at that).

But all is not lost. There are some men out there who are doing some excellent work in the intersection of the Bible and modern science. Tops on my list is John Collins of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.

Dr. Collins has been trained in the sciences (MIT), theology, and biblical languages (Evangelical Lutheran Seminary & University of Liverpool). So Collins is able to comment as an insider on both faith and science.

I commend his books to you.

Also, Crossway is due to release Dr. Collins latest book which supports the historicity of Adam and Eve and the Fall.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does the Universe Need God?

In his newest book, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking finally clears up all the confusion over the existence of God. Well, actually his program is not quite so grand. Hawking concludes that the universe simply does not need God. But what Hawking proves in The Grand Design is that some scientists make poor philosophers. Richard Dawkins proved this embarrassingly so in The God Delusion.

Frank Tipler of Tulane University suggests that Hawking has actually proven the existence of God.

In 1966, Stephen Hawking published his first — completely valid — proof for the existence of God. Over the next seven years, he followed this with even more powerful valid theorems proving God’s existence.

So how did Hawking, who successfully proved God’s existence, remain an atheist? Simple. He simply denied that the assumptions he used in his proofs were true. As a matter of logic, if the assumptions in a proof are not true, then the conclusions need not be true. What assumptions did the young Hawking make? He assumed that the laws of physics, mainly Einstein’s theory of gravity, were true. In the summary of his early research, namely his book The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, Hawking wrote:

It seems to be a good principle that the prediction of [God] by a physical theory indicates that the theory has broken down, i.e. it no longer provides a correct description of observations.

Hawking then began working on quantum gravity, in hopes that God would be at last eliminated from the equations. Alas, it was not to be: God was even more prominent — and unavoidable — in quantum gravity than in Einstein’s theory of gravity. In his latest book, The Grand Design, Hawking has pinned his hope of eliminating God on M-theory, a theory with no experimental support whatsoever, hence not a theory of physics at all. Nor has it been proven that M-theory is mathematically consistent. Nor has it been proven that God has been eliminated from M-theory. There are disquieting signs (for Hawking and company) that He is also unavoidable in M-theory, as He is in Einstein’s gravity, and in quantum gravity.

In spite of what the atheist press is telling you, it’s looking bad for atheism today. And it is extraordinary the lengths an atheist like Hawking will go to avoid the obvious: God exists.

The alert reader will have noticed that in the above quote, Hawking did not actually use the word “God.” But this is what he really meant. To see this, let us recall just what the word “God” means.

Consider the opening words of the (original) Nicene Creed: “We believe in one God, the omnipotent Father, Maker of all things visible and invisible.” These words give the basic definition of “God” used by Christians and Jews: God is the Cause of everything, but He Himself has no cause. God is the Uncaused First Cause. In his Second Way, Thomas Aquinas proves the existence of the Uncaused First (efficient)Cause, and Aquinas concludes, “to which all give the name ‘God’ (quam omnes Deum nominant).”

So now let us return to the theorems of the young Hawking. By following the history of the universe back into time — in other words, by following the causes of the current universe back into time — Hawking proved that all of these causes had a common cause; a common cause that did not itself have a cause. This common cause was an Uncaused Cause that was beyond the control of the laws of physics, beyond the control of any possible laws of physics. Rather, the entire universe began at this Uncaused First Cause.

In exactly the same way that Aquinas used the word “create,” we can say that the Uncaused First Cause, whose existence was proven decades ago by Hawking, “created” the universe.

Hawking called this Uncaused First Cause a “singularity.”

But given the properties of this “singularity,” it is God. So I have replaced the word “singularity,” which Hawking actually used in the above quote, with what it really means according to Aquinas.

Read the rest HERE.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teaching the Bible to Children

If you are not familiar with David Helm then you should be. He is one of my favorite preachers and has also written The Big Picture Story Bible.

"As someone who tries (and succeeds, most of the time) to establish a regular pattern of family worship at the dinner table, I am always on the lookout for good Bible story resources to use with children of all ages. David Helm's Big Picture Story Bible is an excellent book to read with the youngest members of the covenant community. The book is written in a simple way that little children can understand. The pictures reinforce the meaning of the biblical text and often contain details that generate conversation and lead to a deeper understanding of the gospel. Even better, Helm's redemptive-historical orientation helps even the youngest Christians see the fundamental unity of the Bible and its single gospel message of salvation in Christ. As the title implies, it is an ideal book for helping little people get "the big picture."
- Phillip Ryken, Tenth Presbyterian Church

“The Big Picture Story Bible . . . presents the Bible as a unified story -- and this is so important, even when children are quite young. Children have keen narrative minds and active imaginations. They need to have those capacities respected and developed through hearing the stories of the Bible over and over again. At the same time, parents who read and tell these stories should help children to connect the dots and to learn of God's love and saving purpose from one story to the next.

"Children taught to see the big picture and to know the big story are in a good position to see that knowledge matured through deeper Bible study in years ahead. . . . great gifts for children and young families."
- R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Check out the following message from David Helm about how to teach children the storyline of Scripture...

Of Bikers and Barry Manilow

Good stuff from Carl Trueman's latest post at Ref21:

Here is a striking quotation from G K Chesterton, writing in the context of a discussion of Aquinas's criticism of the slippery medieval theologian/philosopher, Siger of Brabant:

"It is a fact that falsehood is never so false as when it is very nearly true. It is when the stab comes near the nerve of truth, that the Christian conscience cries out in pain."

In reading this, I was reminded of a comment a colleague made about Philadelphia and its sports teams a couple of years ago: "You need to understand that, in Philadelphia, to come second is good enough."

That's a bit like modern Christianity: if someone comes near the truth, we think they have done well, and they are thus welcome to a place at our table, a seat on our sessions, and even on occasion the right of succession to our pulpits, so frightened are we of excluding somebody or being excluded ourselves.

Of course, if we pause for a second and reflect, it will become clear that errors which are a million miles from the truth -- denial of the resurrection, say, or of the deity of Christ -- are unlikely to deceive most Christians or do much damage to the church. Errors which are nearly there, nearly true, nearly within the pale of orthodoxy, perhaps which even use the language of traditional orthodoxy in nearly the same way as the orthodox do, are much more difficult to discern and to handle; and Matt. 24:24 seems to indicate that the deadliest falsehoods are akin to this kind. What a shame that the modern evangelical aesthetic regards exposing and opposing such as distasteful, divisive, and about as welcome as a prize of a couple of Barry Manilow concert tickets in a raffle at a biker gang fundraiser.

It would be good, therefore, if those who turn to the likes of Chesterton for inspiration looked not only to the charm and wit of his prose, but also to the sound sense he repeatedly speaks about the doctrinal essence of true Christianity. Chesterton was Catholic, and proud to be so. We should not be ashamed of being who we say we are in our various creeds and confessions, whatever church it is to which we are committed. It is not necessarily arrogance that drives such; rather it may simply be a perception that truth, rather than some other criteria -- say, success, eloquence, or numbers -- really does matter.
Remember, that Carl will be one of the featured speakers at Full Confidence being held at Church of the Saviour.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday's Sermon

Last Sunday was Church of the Saviour's annual Celebration Sunday which is a glimpse into some of the encouraging ways God is blessing us. The sermon was taken from 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 and is entitled "Worth Celebrating." You can listen to or download it HERE.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Greg Beale's Convocation Message at WTS

This week Greg Beale, Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary preached the opening convocation message. Give it a listen HERE.

HT: Carl Trueman

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Evaluating Worship

From an article by Robert Godfrey:

To evaluate worship properly, you need to begin with yourself. You need self-evaluation. You need to ask the following of yourself:
How much do I know about what the Bible says about worship?
Who can help me learn more about biblical worship?
Do I want above all to draw near to God in worship?
Do I want to please God rather than myself in worship?
Do I understand my responsibility to worship God with his people regularly?
Will I seek God’s will in worship while avoiding a judgmental and legalistic spirit toward others?

You also need to ask these questions about the worship of any church you plan to attend:
Does this church love and believe the Bible?
Is the worship of this church filled with the Word of God?
How much of the service is given to the reading of the Bible?
How much of the service is given to biblical prayer?
How much of the service is given to singing that is biblical in content and character?
What is the content of the preaching?
Is preaching a substantial part of the service?
Is the Law of God clearly present in the service?
Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly expressed and central in the service?
What is the role of the sacraments in the ministry of the church?
Are there elements of the service that are more entertaining than biblical?
Are both joyful thanksgiving and reverent awe expressed and balanced in the service?

It's gonna be a hot time in Gainesville

It is extraordinary how a little church in Florida can gain the attention of the world with an old fashioned bonfire. When I was kid my Friday evenings were busy with the burning of KISS albums. People thought it was weird but the President never weighed in. Maybe in this case it is the sheer act of burning books that has caused such a stir. But surely, the fact that this little church will be gathering to burn copies of the Koran, is what is at the heart of the controversy. This ought not surprise given Islam's tendency toward perpetual outrage. They are an excitable bunch. If Islamists were gathering in, let us say, a small town in Pakistan to burn Bibles the world would not notice. There would be no Presidential press conferences, Papal announcements, or State Department meetings. There would be no warnings about marauding hoards of Christians killing indiscriminately or discriminatingly for that matter. But I digress.

The fact is, this little bonfire in Florida is nothing more than a vanity project for a hapless pastor from Gainesville. I'm not sure if it is un-American or not. After all, we have been assured that the construction of a victory mosque at Ground Zero is the very essence of America. So I confess my newly discovered ignorance concerning what is or is not American. What I do know is that the burning that will go on in Gainesville will do nothing to advance the Gospel and this ought to be uppermost in the minds and hearts of God's people.

The Gospel offends. Of this, there is no doubt. The Gospel turns everything upside-down. It reverses fortunes and calls out worldly notions of power and status and wisdom. What ought not offend are the personalities of those called to advance this stumbling block of a message. The message of the cross will do its job quite well. The Gospel is the power of God after all. It does not require that it's messengers act like the rear ends of horses.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Theology for kids...

Starr Meade has a proven track record of writing outstanding material for young readers. Her newest volumes are companions: God's Mighty Acts in Creation and God's Mighty Acts in Salvation.

PDF Sample pages of God's Mighty Acts in Creation

PDF Sample pages of God's Mighty Acts in Salvation

Publisher's Description for God's Mighty Acts in Creation:
Nature reveals majestic truths about God—truths that help us know him better. God’s Mighty Acts in Creation helps children recognize those wonders, and what they tell us about their Creator.

As Starr Meade, author of Mighty Acts of God, guides young readers through the six days of creation, she points to how creation displays the wisdom and power of God. She also helps readers explore and apply other references to nature in the Bible by answering questions such as: What did Jesus mean when he claimed to be the true vine? How is all flesh like grass, and how should that affect the way we live? What was God revealing about himself when he made the sun stand still for Joshua? Each reading includes a key verse, stimulating questions, and engaging activities, all geared toward elementary-aged children.

Publisher's Description for God's Mighty Acts in Salvation:
Long before we reach adulthood, the gospel ought to be shaping our lives. Paul taught the core truths of the gospel in his letter to the Galatians, and this collection of interactive readings for preteens applies those truths in understandable ways.

Each reading begins with a key verse and then highlights one element of the gospel in everyday terms, followed by questions and activities that reinforce Paul’s teaching. Meade guides young readers to a full picture of God’s saving work, as well as a real understanding of other doctrinal concepts such as justification by faith alone, the priority of Scripture, the requirements for apostleship, and the relationship between the old and new covenants.

The disastrous worldview of scientism...

In the past, Stephen Hawking has been rather ambiguous about his thoughts regarding the existence of God. However, in his newest book The Grand Design, Hawking states explicitly that there is simply no need for God in the universe. That is, there is nothing in the universe that requires the mind or hand of a Maker. Quite honestly, I have a difficult time distinguishing Hawking's view from that of Biologos. But that is another story.

Of Hawking's worldview and new book, Al Mohler writes:

The major thrusts of The Grand Design are the magnificence of the universe and the glory of theoretical physics. Hawking is committed to what he calls “M-Theory,” a “super-string theory” that encompasses a host of theories and predictions about the nature of matter and time. Most importantly, this theory allows Hawking and Mlodinow to advance Hawking’s theory that space and time have no boundary. If such a boundary did exist, Hawking allows that God might be a necessary or allowable theory of how all this began. But, if there is no boundary, there is no reason for God at all — the universe is self-explanatory...

Stephen Hawking’s worldview is based in positivistic scientism. He really believes that science holds all the answers. “Philosophy is dead,” he asserts in this newest book. Why? “Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.”

In his 1980 inaugural address, given as he was installed as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Hawking proposed that the great project of theoretical physics might be concluded by the end of the twentieth century. “By this I mean that we might have a complete, consistent, and unified theory of the physical interactions which would describe all possible observations.”

That statement speaks profoundly to Professor Hawking’s intellectual ambition — to explain the universe and all of its “possible observations.” That is nothing less than titanic in scale of ambition. Indeed, it is the quintessential audacity of a brilliant secular mind.

Professor Stephen Hawking is a remarkable human being. His courage and tenacity are an inspiration to all. His work on the theory of gravity has changed the way the field of physics is taught. But, when he crosses that border from science to theology, his worldview leads him into abject disaster. The Grand Design is yet another attempt to celebrate the universe’s breathtaking design, while denying the existence of a Designer. It will not be the last.
Read Mohler's entire article HERE.

James Anderson has a helpful post on Hawking's new book HERE.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Christians and Politics

There are two new books available on the relationship between Christianity and politics. Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem and Republocrat by Carl Trueman.

Politics According to the Bible
“If you read this year only one Christian book on politics, read Politics—According to the Bible. Wayne Grudem shows how we should approach more than fifty specific issues. His biblically-based good sense overwhelms the nostrums of Jim Wallis and the evangelical left. Wayne also shows why those seeking a vacation from politics need to rise up and go to work.”
- Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief, World, and provost, The King’s College, New York City

"Conservative and hard-hitting both biblically and culturally, Grudem’s treatise is essentially a giant tract for the times, covering the whole waterfront of America’s politi- cal debate with shrewd insight and strong argument. This book will be a valued resource for years to come, and right now no Christian can afford to ignore it. An outstanding achievement!"
- James I. Packer, Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver

“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

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday's Sermons

This morning Church of the Saviour had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Carl Trueman to the pulpit. He preached a challenging and encouraging message from Judges 6. It was a challenge to carefully consider how we recognize the guidance of God. It was also an encouraging word to the church about the grace of God in using flawed people for His purposes.

This evening I preached from Exodus 19 on the glory and transcendence of God.

You can download or listen to both messages HERE.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Roger's Version

Try as he might, Roger Olson specifically and Arminian theologians in general cannot adequately make an argument for the presence of evil. That is, Arminians cannot explain the presence of evil in a way that 'rescues' God's reputation as they seek to do.

Steve Hays over at Triablogue dismisses quite easily another caricature of Calvinism by Dr. Olson.
Olson’s basic error is that he only sees the problem of evil in terms of God’s involvement in evil. And if we can disassociate God from evil, that’s exculpatory.

But, of course, that doesn’t solve the problem. It simply relocates the problem. For there’s a sense in which God ought to be responsible for whatever happens.

I think one of his problems, and this is a problem with Arminians generally, is that they treat evil as if it were a ritual impurity, like a contaminant or infectious disease, and the way to remain pure is to avoid physical contact. As long as God wears latex gloves, that exonerates him.

And this this is subconsciously reflected in the legalism I sometimes run across among Arminians, where holiness is a matter of avoiding certain physical activities, like drinking or watching R-rated movies.

Read the entire post HERE.

The weightless god of evangelicalism...

The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace too ordinary, his judgment too benign, his gospel too easy, and his Christ is too common.

David Wells from God in the Wasteland, p. 30

Thursday, September 2, 2010


That is the subject of the latest issue of the Nine Marks Journal.


Pastoral Perspectives on Hell

Mark Dever, Pastoral Fearmongering, Manipulation, and Hell
Our culture sneers at fear, as if there really is nothing to fear but fear itself. Yet Jesus told people to fear hell, and pastors today should do the same.

Kevin DeYoung, There’s Something Worse than Death
The doctrine of hell is ballast for our ministries, which will help us sail straight toward our most urgent task: proclaiming the gospel.

Sinclair Ferguson, What Then Shall We Preach on Hell?
Hell is an awful and overwhelming reality. Yet where Scripture speaks, pastors must not be silent. Here’s some practical help for this demanding calling.

Hell in Biblical and Theological Perspective

Greg Gilbert, Why Hell Is Integral to the Gospel
Some think that by minimizing or ignoring hell, they are making God more glorious and more loving. Far from it! The horror of what we have been saved from only intensifies the glory and wonder of our salvation.

Andrew David Naselli, Hellfire and Brimstone: Interpreting the New Testament’s Descriptions of Hell
The New Testament graphically and horrifically describes hell, which raises a thorny question: how should we interpret those dreadful images?

James M. Hamilton Jr., How Does Hell Glorify God?
Hell glorifies God by vindicating his holiness and faithfulness to his word, demonstrating his infinite worth, and magnifying his mercy and love toward the redeemed.

Gavin Ortlund, An Annotated Bibliography on Hell

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Disturbing words from a prominent Southern Baptist...

Richad Land was interviewed on NPR concerning the Restoring Honor gathering in Washington D.C. Dr. Land is one of the most influential leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. His commendation of the rally highlights what troubles me about the same event. As you will see, Dr. Land seems to have no trouble gathering together with Mormons, Roman Catholics, Jewish Rabbis and Muslims for a religious event (You'll notice Land's insistance that the event was not political). "The answer is spiritual renewal and rebuilding a civil society one person, one family, one church, mosque, synagogue, temple, and one community at a time." Is this what Christians are called to pray for? How does Dr. Land propose that Christians pursue "spiritual renewal" with Muslims, Mormons, and Jews? It seems to me that Dr. Land is unwittingly demonstrating how such an event can distort the nature of God, the gospel, and the purpose of the church.
Dr. RICHARD LAND (President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention): Well, thank you. It’s good to be with you.

SIEGEL: Let me ask you about that rally: a very partisan political figure, a man who has accused president Obama of being a racist, then questioned his Christianity, holds a big rally with, among others, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Is the message here that God wants the Republicans to win in November?

Dr. LAND: Well, that certainly would not be the message you got from the rally. Therally did almost everything it could to not be political and to be as ecumenical as possible.

We had rabbis praying. We had Catholic priests praying. We had Muslim imams praying and participating. We had Protestant Christians. And he kept saying over and over again this is not a political event, and politics is not the answer. The answer is spiritual renewal and rebuilding a civil society one person, one family, one church, mosque, synagogue, temple, and one community at a time.

SIEGEL: Are you concerned about what Glenn Beck has said, for example, on “FOX News Sunday,” yesterday, more pointedly than from the podium on Saturday, that Americans do not recognize President Obama’s brand of Christianity? And you share that belief, by the way.

Dr. LAND: Oh, I recognize it. To me, he’s a very typical, mainline, liberal, Protestant Christian. I know lots of people like the president and who have been deeply influenced by liberation theology.

I think liberation theology is wrong. I reject collective salvation as an oxymoron.

SIEGEL: And Mr. Beck’s assertion that most Americans wouldn’t recognize the kind of Christianity that President Obama practices obviously you would disagree with. You say we know what that is.

Dr. LAND: Well, I do. I do know what it is. And I disagree with it. But, you know, it’s a free country, and that’s one reason we have freedom of religion. There were lots of differences of religion that were present at the rally. I mean, you know, you had Jewish rabbis, and as you can imagine, I would have some differences of opinion with Jewish rabbis and with Muslims and with Catholics.

But we were all there together talking about the fact that we need we believe that America needs a return to a greater faith in God, that this country is in trouble, and it’s in trouble at a very basic level. And it’s going to have to be rebuilt at a very basic level and that politics is not the answer.

SIEGEL: Glenn Beck is a Mormon. Is that brand of Christianity as distant or more so from yours than the National Council of Churches mainline Protestantism you…

Dr. LAND: Probably more so.

SIEGEL: More so.

Dr. LAND: And look, Glenn knows this. He said, look, I’m a Mormon. Most Christians don’t think that I’m a Christian. And so, you know, I’ll quote the pope, when he’s talking about liberation theology.

I do not think Mormonism is an orthodox Christian faith, with a small O. I think perhaps the most charitable way for an evangelical Christian to look at Mormonism is to look at Mormonism as the fourth Abrahamic faith.

SIEGEL: Not a Christian faith.

Dr. LAND: Not a Christian faith. (Online source)