Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 7 in our series God's Great Story. It is entitled The All-Wise God and is taken from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Psalms. You can listen to or download it HERE.

I know. I know. But you really ought to read this one...

Kevin DeYoung has written what is the most helpful post I have read on the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and the promotion of his new book. You ought to read it when you get a chance.

In case you are wondering why I have been posting on this, the answer is easy: Rob Bell has influence. He is an internationally known pastor, preacher, and writer. Not long ago some evangelicals were calling him the next Billy Graham. His books and Nooma videos have been and continue to be enormously popular among Christians. Therefore, his continued drift away from historic Christian orthodoxy on issues like the Bible's reliability, the atonement, the resurrection, the judgement, and the eternal state rightfully concern many pastors.

Men used to be willing to die for the truth...

The dust up over the promotional materials for Rob Bell's newest book has been interesting. Justin Taylor has been excoriated for expressing (in a relatively gentle way) his concerns over Bell's clear compromises with Biblical truth. That criticism reflects what seems to be the new mainstream of evangelicalism which disdains the identification of error and those who promote it. Indeed, it seems that the only heresy within evangelicalism is the notion of heresy itself. It leaves me wondering if there is any more evidence needed to finally declare evangelicalism deceased.

From Phil Johnson:
I'm not looking for crass watchbloggers or anti-intellectual zealots for whom every disagreement is an excuse for insults and a shouting match. We are up to here with people like that. They are a tiny minority, I think, but a noisy one. They represent one extreme out there on the evangelical fringe: people who can't tolerate any difference of opinion.

But the other extreme seems to be a much larger, more pervasive problem (and this is the trend currently pushing the most evangelicals off the edge): people whose "tolerance" is bent in favor of distorted and unorthodox teachings. They despise unvarnished criticism. They especially hate it when a critic suggests this or that heresy is truly damnable. Evidently there is no doctrine so important that they are willing to fight for it—much less die for it. [emphasis mine]

Both our Lord and His apostles told us plainly that we would need to defend the faith against false prophets, vicious wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15), minions of Satan disguised as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-14), and corrupters of doctrine who arise within the church (Acts 20:29). Why is it that the average Christian today flatly refuses to take those warnings seriously?

As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, American evangelicalism is clearly confused, fragmented, and frighteningly vulnerable to false teaching. Evangelicals are too worldly-minded and untaught to be able to recognize all the deadly errors that have made themselves at home within the movement. Evangelical leaders are far too tentative and timid in denouncing those errors—up to and including the damnable ones. Rank-and-file evangelicals won't stand for it if their leaders do point out false doctrines, especially when the error is being peddled by a slick celebrity. [emphasis mine]

These problems are serious. What we commonly refer to as "the evangelical movement" is actually no movement at all anymore. It has morphed and melted down into a variegated, muddled, incoherent swamp—without any meaningful boundaries. And we are sending to the world a message that is as garbled and bewildering as this ersatz movement.
Read the entire post HERE.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Propriety of Public Rebuke

In a recent interview by the Dean at Point Looma Nazarene College Rob Bell responded to Mark Driscoll's pronouncement that Bell is a heretic:

Nelson: Time Magazine, a year or two ago, called you the next Billy Graham. And then you’ve got a pastor at another Mars Hill church calling you a heretic.

Bell: Well, uh, if I were to read the gospels for the first time, and I was stuck in a motel room, and I opened up a Bible and I read the story of Jesus for the first time, and then somebody asked me, “Well, what’s this story about?” One of the things I might say is, “Huh, seems like the sinners and the tax collectors and the prostitutes loved this guy, but it seems like the religious establishment was scared to death of him.” (laughter) So, uh, that’s what I think about that. (laughter and applause). I don’t know what, um, ok, let me give you concrete answers: In the Sermon on the Mount…no, in Matthew 18 actually, Jesus says if you have a problem with your brother or sister you go to them.

Rob's call for private meetings from those who speak up against his errors is a fundamental misunderstanding of Matthew 18. Those of us who publicly challenge Rob Bell are not responding to a personal offense but to this man's very public ministry. There have been people within Bell's church who have made known their grave concerns about his errors. Nevertheless, Bell has pressed on. Prominent evangelical pastors and theologians have called upon Bell to repent of his false teachings but still he persists. He preaches, writes books, and travels the world on speaking tours. He dismisses biblical orthodoxy with a wave of his postmodern hand and is then surprised when someone objects? His protests are disingenuous at best.

Rob Bell preaches another Gospel. This is a serious charge, I know. But Bell proclaims that salvation has nothing to do with sinners being saved from the just wrath of God. Of course, this puts him at odds with Jesus himself who warned about the coming wrath. The New Testament clearly proclaims that Jesus is our propitiation; one who took upon himself the wrath we deserved that we might have peace with God. Rob Bell, on the other hand, says that there is no wrath from which we must be saved. Jesus proclaimed that the way of salvation is narrow and few will find it. Rob Bells says this is not true. He denies that we are justified before God through faith in Christ claiming that all people regardless of faith will be saved. This once again puts him squarely at odds with the Lord Jesus who proclaimed, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18).

This is why I say that Rob Bell proclaims another Gospel. And in case you were wondering whether or not this is a big deal:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10).

Al Mohler at Westminster

Al Mohler will be giving the Gaffin Lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary on Wednesday morning March 2 at 10:30 in Rust Auditorium. If you are in the Philadelphia area please try to attend.

Rob Bell sets himself against God...

So, we've known for a while that Rob Bell was going to release a book denying the doctrines of Hell and the final judgement. It's a sentimental message that will certainly resonate with many contemporary evangelicals who cannot cope with any notion of exclusion. These are the same folks who loved Velvet Elvis wherein Bell states that Christ need not be resurrected and that Christian doctrines are like springs on a trampoline - disconnect some of them and you can still enjoy a rather satisfying jump. Rob Bell, Brian MacLaren, Tony Jones and the like are giving less discerning Christians a reason to reject the very words of Scripture. Sadder still, these men are giving unbelievers a reason to be comforted in their unbelief.

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Rob Bell denies that we are saved from the wrath of God by grace through faith in Jesus. He denies the reality of hell. He denies the very words of Jesus that few find the way of life. And yet this is exactly what the Scriptures teach:

Matthew 5:22 - "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."

Matthew 2:29 - "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell."

Matthew 7:13-14 - "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Matthew 10:28 - "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Matthew 13:40 - "Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age."

Matthew 23:33 - "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"

Matthew 25:41 - "Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"

Luke 3:9 - "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Luke 3:17 - "His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 12:5 - "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!"

Luke 12:49 - "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!"

Luke 13:23-27 - "And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'"

John 3:36 - "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."

John 15:6 - "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned."

Romans 1:18 - "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth."

Romans 2:5 - "But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed."

Romans 3:5 - "But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?"

Romans 5:9 - "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."

Romans 9:22 - "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction..."

Ephesians 2:3 - "...among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

Hebrews 10:26-27 - "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries."

1 Thessalonians 1:10 - "...and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come."

2 Thessalonians 1:5-8 - "This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."

2 Peter 2:4-10 - "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority."

Revelation 6:16-17 - "...calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

It is a grievous sin to deny the very Word of God. This is precisely the project of Rob Bell and others within the dwindling emergent movement. Woe to those who speak falsehood and call it the gospel.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The error of assuming error

B.B. Warfield the great biblical scholar and defender of the Bible's inerrancy challenged skeptics to give the New Testament the same benefit of the doubt that secular texts were given:
It is not enough to point to passages difficult to harmonize; they cannot militate against verbal inspiration unless it is not only impossible for us to harmonize them, but also unless they are of such a character that they are clearly contradictory, so that if one be true the other cannot by any possibility be true. No such case has as yet been pointed out. Why should the New Testament harmonics be dealt with on other principles than those which govern men in dealing with like cases among profane writers? There, it is a first principle of historical science that any solution which affords a possible method of harmonizing any two statements is preferable to the assumption of inaccuracy or error—whether those statements are found in the same or different writers. To act on any other basis, it is clearly acknowledged, is to assume, not prove, error. We ask only that this recognized principle be applied to the New Testament.

—B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (p 439).

Worth the read...

"The Gospel & Personal Evangelism," Mark Dever from 9Marks on Vimeo.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism

"What Does God Want of Us Anyway?" Mark Dever from 9Marks on Vimeo.

What Does God Want of us Anyway?

Just for Fun

HT: Tim Challies

Enforcing Laws, Defending Marriage...

In what can only be described as a cynical political move, the Obama Administration informed Congress that they will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]. That means that any challenge to DOMA in the courts will not be countered by the Administration even though the President and Attorney General took oaths to defend the law of the United States. Of course, this is an egregious violation of the Executive's responsibility to enforce the laws passed by Congress. The President and Attorney General simply do not have the power to act as the judiciary and decide which laws are or are not constitutional. What is more, this happened while hundreds of United States citizens are unable to escape an increasingly dangerous situation in Libya. How can it possibly be a Presidential priority to attack the historic and, yes, biblical understanding of marriage during a time of profound challenges in foreign policy?

The Defense of Marriage Act provides much needed protection for states by allowing them to deny the legitimacy of homosexual marriage. For instance, if two homosexuals get married in San Francisco or Boston, Pennsylvania is not required to recognize that marriage. DOMA was passed by congress, signed by President Clinton and upheld by the courts. President Obama's decision to not defend DOMA in the courts all but guarantees that homosexual marriage will become the law of the land. There is now nothing protecting Pennsylvania or Texas or Iowa from having to accept as legitimate the marriage of two homosexuals married in San Francisco.

Scripture makes clear that homosexuality represents the lowest forms of human foolishness and degredation as man drifts farther away from honoring God as God (Romans 1:18ff). The state is not the church. However, any nation which celebrates or honors what God has clearly condemned as an abomination stands under His condemnation.

Al Mohler writes:

Clearly, the President believes that he has sufficient political support to make this move. While gay rights groups have been pressuring the administration for this kind of action, in the first two years of his term, the President clearly felt that such a move would be too politically expensive and risky. No longer.

Is the President right in thinking that he will not be hurt politically by this action? The game played by many liberal politicians in general, and by Democratic politicians in particular, is to say that they are personally opposed to same-sex marriage, even as they work to remove all defenses against it. The political game played by many conservatives, by the way, is to pose as defenders of marriage without taking any action that would draw political risk. Remember that when conservative politicians now call for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as exclusively the union of a man and a woman. Where were they when such an action would have required courage but was politically viable and clearly needed?

In the press briefing, Jay Carney said that the President’s personal position on same-sex marriage is “distinct from this legal decision.” Last December, President Obama told reporters that his personal position on same-sex marriage is “constantly evolving.”

Well, there may be issues in which the distinction between the legal and the moral arguments makes a real difference, but this is not one of those issues. To suggest that President Obama does not personally support same-sex marriage is to posit a dualism within him that is nothing less than Gnostic. Mr. Carney would do better to stick with his argument that the President’s support of the gay rights movement is consistent. It is not credible for the President now to play Hamlet on the question of his own position on same-sex marriage.

The most immediate meaning of this announcement is two-fold. In the first place, it means that the constitutionally appointed defender of the nation’s laws, the Attorney General of the United States, has now been ordered to cease defending this single law in the courts. That alone is almost surely sufficient to spell the doom of DOMA in short order.

In the second place, this announcement means that President Obama and his advisers now believe that the full legalization of same-sex marriage is both inevitable and without major political risk to the President and his plans for re-election. That, in itself, represents a moral earthquake. The President clearly believes that a sufficient number of Americans will either support or accept same-sex marriage — and this comes just a few years after a majority of the states passed constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage, and most by huge margins.

The President has made his decision. The Attorney General has now made his announcement. Mark your calendars for yesterday. That day now represents a tragic milestone in the betrayal of marriage.
Read the entire post HERE.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A clash of worlds in Iowa

It seems odd that anyone would have to explain why it is inappropriate for a boy to wrestle a girl. But such is the world in which we live. You have probably heard about the Iowa high school student Joel Northrup who graciously refused to wrestle a female student in a state tournament. In what can only be described as moral ineptitude and lack of common sense Sarah Spain and Rick Reilly, both of ESPN, offer only criticism of young Northrup. They seem unable to understand how a high school boy could possibly consider it odd, uncomfortable, or wrong to wrestle a girl.

Al Mohler weighs in:

This is insanity masquerading as athletic competition. The controversy over the Iowa state wrestling tournament reveals the fact that this debate represents a clash of worlds and worldviews. In one world — the world the increasingly demands the total erasure of distinctions between men and women — Joel Northrup is considered to be a religious nut. In this world, it makes sense that girls wrestle against boys and that society should celebrate this new development as a milestone in the struggle to free ourselves from the limitations of all gender roles. As if to make this point impossible to miss, Bill Herkelman, Casey’s father, said: “She’s my son. She’s always been my son.”

In the other world, Joel Northrup is seen as a young man of brave and noble conscience — a boy who forfeited a match rather than violate his conscience. The statements offered by Joel and his father are seen as moments of temporary sanity in a world going increasingly mad. The chivalry demonstrated at great personal cost by this boy athlete is to be celebrated and affirmed, and acknowledged as being deeply rooted in his Christian convictions — convictions about gender, modesty, the treatment of girls and women, propriety, decorum, and sexual purity.

Read the entire article HERE.

Always Preach the Gospel

Non-Christian listeners need instruction in the truths of Scripture, particularly concerning Christ and his redeeming work, if the preacher’s call to “believe” is to be meaningful to them. Christians likewise need instruction in the truths of Scripture, if preaching is to achieve its objective to edify them. Apart from the truths of the gospel of grace, preaching to edify sinks into moralism, for imperatives ungrounded in the indicative of God’s gracious initiative breed in hearers either self righteous hypocrisy or self-condemning despair.
Dennis Johnson, Him We Proclaim

Do you own your job?

A thoughtful yet direct post from Douglas Wilson on whether or not Christians should support collective bargaining:
Just a quick note about "collective bargaining." The real question for those who would understand the nature of unions is the question of ownership. Say there is a particular job at the office building, or at the factory, or in the shop on Main Street. Who owns that job?

The assumption behind collective bargaining is that the one who holds the job owns the job. The biblical understanding is that the one who offers the job owns the job (Matt. 20:15). This is not the same as saying that the employer is a great guy. No, the owners of jobs are frequently evil, and they abuse their position of ownership (Jas. 5:4).

Labor/management disputes often fall into a false good guy/bad guy dichotomy, and it betrays a false understanding of the antithesis. In the Bible the owners are often the bad guys. But that does not mean they are not the owners of the jobs they offer. Bad guys can own things. And the commandment does not say, "Thou shalt not steal, except from bad guys."

So there is absolutely nothing wrong with employees collectively deciding that conditions on the job are horrendous, and deciding en masse that they don't want to work there anymore. And there is no problem with them negotiating with the owner from that collective position. Say they are asking for a raise, or for safer working conditions. That is fully legitimate as well. What is not legitimate is for them to lock up the job they have abandoned as though they are the owners of it. To refuse to work a job that you simultaneously lay claim to is a claim of ownership, which in this case is a false claim.

This sin (and it is a sin) is in evidence when strikers attack what they call "scabs." Scabs are workers looking for employment, and the horrendous conditions on the abandoned job would, in their instance, be an improvement.

In other words, collective bargaining is nothing but extortion, and Christians should do everything in their power to have nothing to do with it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Conference on Science and Faith

Westminster Theological Seminary is hosting their second annual conference on the relationship between science and faith. Last year the theme was "Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?" This year the theme is "God and Materialism."

When? April 8-9, 2011

Where? WTS campus

Registration: HERE

From Westminster:
Rev. Dr. Vern Poythress, professor of New Testament interpretation
Rev. Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of apologetics and systematic theology
Rev. Dr. Peter Lillback, President of the seminary, and professor of historical theology
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Jue, associate professor of church history
Rev. Dr. Brandon Crowe, lecturer in New Testament

From the Discovery Institute:
Dr. John West, social scientist, author of Darwin Day in America
Dr. Guillermo Gonzales, co-author of The Priviledged Plant
Dr. Jonathan Wells, molecular and cell biologist, co-author of The Design of Life
Dr. Paul Nelson, philosopher of biology
Dr. Jay Richards, editor of God and Evolution

The Divine ordering of salvation

Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race of man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed. "He must needs go through Samaria," said Election; and Salvation must go there. Then came Predestination. Predestination did not merely mark the house, but it mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house, Predestination ordained every step of the great army of Salvation, it ordained the time when the sinner should be brought to Christ, the manner how he should be saved, the means that should be employed; it marked the exact hour and moment, when God the Spirit should quicken the dead in sin, and when peace and pardon should be spoken through the blood of Jesus. Predestination marked the way so completely, that Salvation doth never overstep the bounds, and it is never at a loss for the road.
Charles Spurgeon from his sermon Things That Accompany Salvation


"That God normally operates the universe consistently makes science possible; that he does not always do so ought to keep science humble."

- D.A. Carson

Exciting release from Crossway...

Crossway has released the highly anticipated The Four Holy Gospels featuring the art of Makoto Fujimura.

Makoto Fujimura - The Art of "The Four Holy Gospels" from Crossway on Vimeo.

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's message was part five in the series God's Great Story. It is entitled "The Reigning God" and is taken from 1 & 2 Samuel. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Great price on a new book...

WTS Bookstore is offering Tim Keller's new book King's Cross for only $14.27 (45% off).

All sins are not created equal

Growing up in American evangelicalism I know a thing or two about sentimentality. Statements like, "God loves everyone the same" and "God's love is unconditional" are just a part of the landscape. Another one of those phrases was something along the lines of "All sins are equal" or "No sin is worse than any other." In one respect that is true enough I suppose. After all, our sins are all a product of the corruption and deceitfulness of our hearts. Our sins without exception are expressions of the sinfulness which condemns us before a holy God.

However, there is a sense in which all sins are clearly not equal. And by "not equal" I mean that not all sins are as readily forgivable within the body of Christ. Forgiveness does not mean, nor should it mean immediate or easy restoration. For example, ask the average wife which of her husband's sins would be easier to forgive: harboring lust in his heart once or committing adultery once. I dare say the results would be overwhelmingly one-sided.

Carl Trueman, in a helpful article for Ref21 suggests that to deny sentimental ideas about forgiveness and restoration remain the one great heresy in the evangelical church.

Trueman writes:

I might speak disrespectfully to my wife at some point, and that is unacceptable; but if I do it repeatedly as a means of belittling her, or if I strike her with my hand, then a fundamental bond has been broken. Further, in the case of illicit sex, one who has joined his body to that of another who is not his wife has committed a sin of special heinousness; and that has permanent consequences, both in the marriage and the church. The sin does not put the person beyond the range of the forgiveness of God, but it disqualifies him from ever again meeting the criteria Paul sets forth for office-bearing in the church. I may be forgiven; but I will always be the man who beat his wife or cheated on her. My relationship with my wife is permanently changed; and my public reputation is permanently damaged.

That was essentially what underlay my criticism of the sudden reappearance of Haggard as a pastor -- and that not even as Pastor Nobody, quietly working away in Nowhereville, but as Pastor T.V. Celeb of the Parish of Satellite Channel. A simple, non-controversial point, I assumed; though apparently somewhat offensive and unbiblical in the context of a culture where the Great Heresy is to claim that forgiveness does not mean a limitless number of second chances at anything, as if the past had simply never happened.

Still, I want to suggest that the Great Heresy has more significance than simply ruling out of office certain men because of certain post-conversion actions. We might hate to acknowledge it, but Christian forgiveness should never be confused with the possibility of second chances. Forgiveness with God is absolute, and no matter how heinous the crime, God's grace is never withheld from those who look to him for mercy. Yet actions here on earth always have consequences. We do people no favours by pretending otherwise. The gospel is not about how you can beat your wife to a pulp on Tuesday and make love to her on Wednesday as if nothing had happened. That is teaching of a kind which is so ruthlessly propagated in a myriad of sitcoms and movies. In these, casual violence and illicit sex never seem to have any real or lasting impact on anybody, as if they were as inconsequential as one's choice of breakfast cereal or brand of coffee. On the contrary: God may forgive; but we must understand that part of the inherent tragedy of the fallen human condition is that we still live with the consequences of our sin.
Trueman also points out the important pastoral and theological implications of a proper understanding of sin and forgiveness.

It is vital that the gospel is not confused with sentimental second chances. This is important, both pastorally and theologically. Pastorally, it should make us compassionate towards those who struggle with the hangover of previous actions. It allows us to understand why the Christian who lived a homosexual lifestyle before conversion may continue to wrestle with such tendencies till the day he dies. Grace is not a wiping of the slate in the sense that one return to the start and begins all over again with a blank sheet. Rather, it is divine forgiveness despite who we have been and what we still are. That is very good news. Think of the church in Corinth, a small gathering of people, many of whom had probably worked in the sex trade. The amazing thing there was not that the church was being torn apart by immorality - that is what one would expect from a group of people wrestling with their past; rather, it was the fact that there was any church there in the first place.

On the other side of the balance sheet, however, this should lead us to have a high view of Christian behaviour. We must not confuse forgiveness with the idea of the past simply disappearing as if it had never happened. The gospel is not a magic bullet which continually returns us to Year Zero in every aspect of our lives. If I beat my wife, I am a wife beater, and there will be consequences. If, as a Christian, I beat my wife, I am a Christian wife beater and to be subject to the appropriate discipline and exclusions that apply. Sorry is not a magic formula which wipes the slate clean in every sense, and neither is God's grace. There is a difference between, on the one hand, forgiveness and restoration to fellowship, and, on the other, going back to the way things were. Some actions so fundamentally change relationships, reputations, and even personalities that there is no going back. We lie to our people if we tell them otherwise.

Theologically, the insidious sentimentality of the gospel-as-limitless-second-chances brigade is also subversive of a biblical understanding of exactly who God is and what salvation looks like. Remember: as Christ was hanging from the cross, the Disney redemptionists, the pragmatists, and the sentimental were out in force. Indeed, the religious leaders, the soldiers, and the first thief all called out to Christ and told him that, if he was truly king and messiah, he should immediately come down from the cross. They could only conceive of a gospel that simply wiped the slate clean and that ignored the consequences of human actions. Only the second thief understood the real point of what was happening that day: he saw clearly that Christ's kingdom was not be inaugurated in glorious and stubborn defiance of death, but rather by going through death and utterly subverting its power. Interestingly enough, he also rebuked his dying colleague, pointing out that, yes, he did deserve to die; that, humanly speaking, there was to be no second chance for him; and that this was only right and just. [emphasis mine]
Read the entire article HERE.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pray for our brother Said Musa

Imprisoned in Afghanistan, Said Musa faces execution for converting to Christianity.

The Daily Mail reports:

An Afghan physiotherapist will be executed within three days for converting to Christianity.

Said Musa, 45, has been held for eight months in a Kabul prison were he claims he has been tortured and sexually abused by inmates and guards.

Mr Musa, who lost his left leg in a landmine explosion in the 1990s, has worked for the Red Cross for 15 years and helps to treat fellow amputees.

He was arrested in May last year as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy following a crackdown on Christians within Afghanistan.

He claims he was visited by a judge who told him he would be hanged within days unless he converted back to Islam.

But he remains defiant and said he would be willing to die for his faith.

He told the Sunday Times: 'My body is theirs to do what they want with.

'Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell.'

Defence lawyers have refused to represent him, while others have dropped the case after receiving death threats.

Mr Musa was arrested after a TV station showed western men baptising Afghans during secret ceremonies.

There are political realities to consider. The United States can place pressure on the Afghan government on behalf of Mr. Musa. Astonishingly, President Obama has remained silent.

Paul Marshall comments:

If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Matter of Conscience

Some good news came out of the House of Representatives this week. The Pence Amendment passed which assures that federal funds will not be given to Planned Parenthood. This is a good thing.

However, there are those in Washington who are intent on advancing a pro-abortion agenda. Health care workers in the U.S. have been protected by a conscience clause from having any participation in abortions. But on Friday the Obama administration made great strides to
rob health care workers of this protection. This is truly an outrage that ought to concern every American.

Al Mohler comments:
The Obama administration has revoked nearly all of the conscience protections put in place by the administration of President George W. Bush. The policy change came just today, and was released as a new rule from the Department of Health and Human Services. As Rob Stein of The Washington Post reports, “The Obama administration rescinded most of a federal regulation Friday designed to protect health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on personal or religious grounds.”

In this case, “most” means almost all of the previous rule has been rescinded. Stein described the action by stating that the Obama administration had “eliminated nearly the entire rule.” All that remains are protections put in place previously covering medical personnel who object to abortion or sterilization. Gone are all protections for those who object by conscience to abortifacient drugs and “emergency” contraceptives, the treatment of gay men and lesbians, and prescriptions for birth control sought by single women. In these cases, medical personnel have objected that their conscience and understanding of medical ethics do not allow them to facilitate acts and behaviors that are both immoral and unhealthy.
Read the entire post HERE.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Read the Bible for Life

In light of the current sermon series at Church of the Saviour, I thought George Guthrie's new book could be of interest to many of you.

Reading the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God's Word

From Publisher's Weekly:

As a Bible scholar at Union University, one of the oldest American universities in the Southern Baptist tradition, Guthrie has tracked the decline in biblical literacy with consternation. With earlier books (The Structure of Hebrews and Biblical Greek Exegesis) best suited for academia, Guthrie has switched gears to produce a reader-friendly, digestible, biblical literacy study program that includes this book as well as a participant's workbook, study leader's CD-ROM, and three DVDs for group use. Anyone touched by the English language or Western culture, argues Guthrie, should be conversant in biblical literature. Through informal kitchen-table conversations with evangelical scholars, Guthrie guides the reader through a study of historical context, differences in Bible translations, varieties of literary genres, and finally a heartfelt devotional on how to read the Bible in a postmodern world.

Carl Trueman at Eastern University

Our friend Carl Trueman will be speaking at Eastern University this afternoon at 3:00. His topic will be "The Reformed View of Life and Learning."

The Public Forum is a lecture that is open to the entire Eastern University community and surrounding communities. The public forum is a time to nurture community, as well as intellectual and spiritual development. The forum consists of a lecture and question and answer period.
The event is being held at McInnis Auditorium. If you are able, I would encourage you to attend.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Christ in the Old Testament...

The Gospel Coalition has launched what looks like a helpful new site: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

But don't let the title fool you. It seems to me that all believers, not just preachers, will benefit from these resources.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's sermon was part 4 in our current series: God's Great Story. It is entitled "The Law-Giving God" and is an overview of Exodus 20-Deuteronomy. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God?

Check out the latest edition of the White Horse Inn.

What is the relationship between Christianity and other “Abrahamic faith traditions”? Is Abraham really the father of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and if so, does this mean that each of these religions are legitimate ways to God? What are we to do with Abraham himself and with the other Old Testament patriarchs? Since they didn’t have explicit faith in Christ, how can Jesus be the only way of salvation? White Horse Inn: know what you believe and why you believe it!

Taking "self-regard up to eleven"

I was listening to Bad Company and Pink Floyd yesterday and grieving that rock-n-roll is dead. Pop music is a wasteland of bad taste and even worse music (or is it the other way around?). Who could have watched the Black Eyed Peas at this year's Super Bowl and not missed the Who's somewhat off key performance of a year ago? But, I digress. What turns so many of us off about the modern music scene is the insufferable self-importance of the artists (it hurts to use that word). But is this any worse than my own insufferable self-importance? Granted, I'm a bit more subtle than Lady Gaga but sinful none-the-less.

Carl Trueman weighs in on modern pop and our all too common self-regard.

Neil Strauss has a fascinating article over at the WSJ about the number of top pop stars who think that their careers are specially anointed by God as part of his higher purposes. I guess it is indicative of the overall decline in rock music over the years: when I was young, graffiti declared that Clapton was God, not simply used by him to accomplish the world's destiny.

Despising the modern pop scene, and having more important things to do on Sunday evening, I did not see the Grammys, though I was struck yesterday when I saw a clip of this ghastly Lady Gaga person (she with the central role in God's cosmic plan: see Strauss above) being carried on to stage in one of those plastic pods that were apparently left over from the set of This is Spinal Tap. I laughed at the latter; indeed, I laughed at the former -- until the portentous arty commentary indicated that LG was making an artistic statement, not sending up the inane self-importance of the pop establishment. Indeed, looks like she had very much taken self-regard it up to eleven, as they say.

Yet vacuous pop stars are soft targets when it comes to mocking the theologising of self-importance. They look and sound ridiculous because we can all hear what they say, see what they wear (`You'd be beaten up in Chingford is you showed up dressed like that!!'), and smirk at their assumption that, because they can entertain, what they have to say about everything is somehow important, unique, and, indeed, coherent. My guess, however, is that more than a few of us in the church also fall for the `God has a special purpose for my life' line. This is often simply a way of saying `I believe myself to be uniquely important and indispensable.' Actually, we are not; none of us are. There is always somebody else who could do our jobs better; and let us not kid ourselves -- there is probably somebody else who could have married our spouse and made them just as happy, if not more so. God's love for us is exceptional, not because we are unique, but because we are not so; not because he needs us; but because he does not need us at all. [emphasis mine]

God calls us all by name; he cares for us. But make no mistake: he could quite easily do without us. Just as, frankly, we could quite easily do without some skinny bleached bimbo in a sequined dress jumping our of a plastic carton and giving us the definitive statement on gay rights, global warming, and, y'know, isn't it all that other stuff, yeah?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Soon to be released...

The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John by Greg Beale.
Okay, so it probably won't sell as many copies as Your Best Life Now. But Dr. Beale is one of the better scholars to read when it comes to understanding the New Testament's use of the Old Testament. What is more, Beale is particularly skillful in dealing with apocalyptic texts of Scripture. Given the fact that the visions and prophecies of Daniel are routinely misinterpreted and misapplied by leading evangelicals, this new volume promises to fill an important need.

Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time by Paul Helm
"Paul Helm presents a new, expanded edition of his much praised 1988 book Eternal God, which defends the view that God exists in timeless eternity. This is the classical Christian view of God, but it is claimed by many theologians and philosophers of religion to be incoherent. Paul Helm rebuts the charge of incoherence, arguing that divine timelessness is grounded in the idea of God as creator, and that this alone makes possible a proper account of divine omniscience."

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson
"We live in a culture obsessed with the idea of "tolerance." Any viewpoint must be accepted —unless it rejects other viewpoints — and whoever is most earnest wins. This idea of tolerance must be thoughtfully challenged, argues D. A. Carson, both for the good of the church and for the good of the broader culture. Otherwise, poorly defined tolerance drifts ironically toward true intolerance."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Carl don't know football...

I love reading Carl Trueman. He makes me laugh. He makes me think. But it is clear that my project to 'Americanize' him are failing badly. Carl's latest post at Ref21 betrays a fundamental lack of understanding regarding the game of football (and by "football" I mean the real sport played by large men, not the game with skinny guys kicking a round ball back and forth).

That said, Carl still comes up with great lines like, "trousering too much dosh." I have no idea what that means but it is deliciously British.

However, after Carl's near unforgivable slandering of football he proceeds to tamper around with my heart a bit. I hate when he does that...

Why the obsession with the commercials? Yes, some of them are funny; but is it not sad that it appears that the cleverest minds, and so much money, are focused on such things? And that the population spend so much time talking about them? Do these people have no lives? No homes and families to go to? We worry (or at least some of us still do) about explicit violence and pornography on television -- but what about the pornography of acquisition, the million brain-changing signals from the flat screen in the corner that tell us that we are what we buy, and that happiness is just one or two purchases away?

Finally, how many Christians would never turn out for a Sunday evening worship service because they had their fix on Sunday mornings, but would rearrange all manner of things to make sure they could see the Superbowl? Watching overpaid spandex-clad blimps playing catch, then running for, oh my, at least 5 seconds and six yards before taking a five minute breather, and as a result trousering too much dosh -- or meeting with the living God who gave his Son for us, hearing his word proclaimed, and humbly bowing before him in adoration -- not much of a choice is it, really? The spandex and hilarious commercials win every time.

Love and the Ten Commandments...

This Sunday I am preaching on the subject of God as the Giver of the law. In studying, I ran across a helpful restatement of the 10 Commandments by D.L. Moody.

1. Love to God will admit no other gods.
2. Love resents everything that debases its object by representing it by an image.
3. Love to God never will dishonour His name.
4. Love to God will reverence His day.
5. Love of parents makes one honour them.
6. Hate, not love, is a murderer.
7. Lust, not love, commites adultery.
8. Love will give, but never steal.
9. Love will not slander or lie.
10. Love's eye is not covetous.

Sunday's Sermon

Last Sunday's sermon was part 3 in our series entitled God's Great Story. It is entitled "The Covenant God" and is taken from Genesis chapters 12, 15, 17, and 22. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Doctrine is doxological"

Recently, Carl Trueman was interviewed by Michael Reeves on the subject of doctrine. Take time to give it a listen HERE.
I think as Christians we are exhorted by Paul to study the Scriptures, to pay heed to the form of sound words that is being passed on. So, clearly Paul understands the Christian faith to have a strong doctrinal component. I think when doctrine is correctly taught and correctly understood, it should terminate in doxology. Hearing the great truths of God proclaimed Sunday by Sunday, reflecting upon them as we hear the Bible read, or as we read it for ourselves, should ultimately drive us to our knees. Doctrine tells us who God is and who we are in his presence, and that has a most practical result: worship. The early church doctrine is in some ways is the development of the the early church's reflection on the cry of praise: "Jesus is Lord;" a reflection upon the baptismal formula of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, doctrine is doxological.
- Carl Trueman from his interview with Michael Reeves


Friday, February 4, 2011

When shall these things come to pass?

According to Harold Camping, Jesus will rapture his church on May 21, 2011. That event, according to premillinial dispensationalists will touch off a seven year Great Tribulation which will be followed by the return of Christ and his 1,000 year earthly reign. Many who have thankfully tuned out the foolishness of Mr. Camping have nevertheless fallen prey to "newspaper eschatology" - the practice of reading biblical prophecy into current events. This became especially popular among evangelicals in the 1970's with the popularity of men like Hal Lindsay and his Late Great Planet Earth. But is this a proper way to read biblical prophecy?

Old Testament scholar Richard Pratt wrote an outstanding article in 1993 addressing this very issue. Are we able to observe current events and make accurate predictions concerning the last days?

Pratt writes:
The last half of our century has witnessed an explosion of interest in what biblical prophecies say about our future. Record sales of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth (3 million), and John Walvoord’s Armageddon: Oil and the Middle East Crisis (1.4 million),1 indicate that many English speaking evangelicals read the Bible to find out what will happen in the future and how current events fit within that chronological framework.

Recent events have only encouraged enthusiasm for this hermeneutic. Moral decay in western culture has raised fears of cataclysmic divine retribution. Political troubles in various parts of the world have been interpreted as the initial stages of history’s grand finale. As a result, evangelicals have developed nothing less than a monomania in the interpretation of biblical prophecy. More than anything else, they try to discover God’s plan for the future and what role events today play within that divine program.

Our study will challenge this widespread hermeneutical orientation by exploring the role of historical contingencies intervening between Old Testament predictions and their fulfillments. As we will see, events taking place after predictions often directed the course of history in ways not anticipated by prophetic announcements. Sometimes future events conformed to a prophet’s words; sometimes they did not. For this reason, neither prophets nor their listeners knew precisely what eventualities to expect. If this proposal is correct, it indicates that the emphasis of many contemporary interpreters is misplaced, and that we must find other hermeneutical interests in biblical prophecy.
Read the entire article HERE.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And the hits just keep on comin...

Yet another little problem for Planned Parenthood. This time it is a clinic in Virginia that is extending its benevolence to a pimp and his "girls."

Don't have faith in your good works

There is always a danger that when we begin to see fruit in our lives, we’ll subtly begin to rely on that fruit for our salvation, instead of on Christ. Guard against that temptation, Christian. Realize that the fruit you bear is merely that — the fruit of a tree already made good by God’s grace in Christ. To rely on your own Christian fruit to secure God’s favor is ultimately to shift your faith from Jesus to yourself. And that is no salvation at all.
Greg Gilbert from What is the Gospel?

Our doctrine of Scripture matters...a lot

Peter Kreeft (Roman Catholic):

Most Protestants reject all Catholic doctrines they cannot find explicitly in Scripture–for example, Mary’s Assumption into heaven–because they believe sola scriptura: that Scripture alone is the infallible authority. This is the fundamental reason behind all the differences between Protestant and Catholic theology. (Catholic Christianity, 20).

Gary Dorrien (Liberal Protestant):

The essential idea of liberal theology is that all claims to truth, in theology as in other disciplines, must be made on the basis of reason and experience, not by appeal to external authority. Christian scripture may be recognized as spiritually authoritative within Christian experience, but its word does not settle or establish truth claims about matters of fact. (The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity, 1900-1950, 1)

Michael Horton (Evangelical Protestant):

Ultimate authority always resides outside the self and even outside the church, as both are always hearers of the Word and receivers of its judgment and justification. The church is commissioned to deliver this Word (a ministerial office), not to possess or rule it (a magisterial office). Thus, the authority is always transcendent. Even when it comes near us, it is never our own word that we hear (Ro. 10:6-13, 17). (The Christian Faith, 194)
HT: Kevin DeYoung

John Piper on Abortion...

More selective outrage from pro-abortionists...

It seems that Ms. magazine has a problem with the reason some babies are aborted in India. That's right, that paragon of feminist empowerment has an issue with "the why" behind abortions in another country. You see, it is rather in vogue these days for Indians to kill female babies, er remove fetal material not possessing a y chromosome. Anyway, it seems rather odd that pro-abortion fanatics like the folks at Ms. would be troubled at the reasons offered for some abortions in India when they have fought so hard to have the right to abort babies for no reason at all.

Al Mohler comments:
Their feminist ideology does not even allow them to acknowledge that sex-selection abortions are perfectly legal in the United States, and that feminists have insisted that any woman has a right to an abortion at any time for any reason or for no stated reason at all. The pro-abortion ideology is so extreme that any opposition to the targeting of girls by sex-selection abortion is undermined by the movement’s enthusiasm for unfettered abortion rights.

The moral bankruptcy of their situation is revealed by the tepid language employed in the article and the lack of moral outrage. But how can Ms. muster any genuine outrage about sex-selection abortions in India when it has demanded unfettered abortion access in our own country? It cannot, and it does not. This monumental tragedy is described only as “the problem.”

The moral collapse of their position is seen in the fact that this murderous rampage against female babies cannot be described in the language moral sanity demands. The only morally sane response to this tragedy is outrage against the killing of all babies — followed by the affirmation of the sanctity and dignity of every human life.

We can only pray that embarrassment over this article might force some readers of Ms. magazine to rethink the entire question, for, as tepidly expressed in the closing words of the article, “People need to feel the magnitude of the problem.”
Read the entire article HERE.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Planned Parenthood: Fighting for women's rights...

From Denny Burk:
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S. Their business is death, and their abortion mills are a moral outrage. Lila Rose’s “Live Action” group has released more than a dozen hidden camera videos from ten states that show the alarming trend of illegal Planned Parenthood activity: cover-up of sexual abuse of minors, the skirting of parental consent laws, citing unscientific and fabricated medical information to convince women to have abortions, and Planned Parenthood’s willingness to accept donations earmarked to abort African-American babies.

The video above shows a Planned Parenthood manager in New Jersey coaching a man and a woman posing as sex traffickers how to secure secret abortions, STD testing, and contraception for their female underage sex slaves, and make their whole operation “look as legit as possible.”

Is anyone surprised that Planned Parenthood covers up the abuse of the young girls it claims to serve? They have a financial interest in hiding the abusers from the light of day. Why should we expect anything less from those who make their living destroying innocent human lives? Lila Rose is right:

“Time and time again, Planned Parenthood has sent young girls back into the arms of their abusers. They don’t deserve a dime of the hundreds of millions they receive in federal funding from taxpayers. Congress must cease funding and the Department of Justice should investigate this corrupt organization immediately.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Adam matters... a lot

Specifically, it matters that Adam was a genuinely historical figure.

On Sunday I preached a message dealing with Genesis chapters two and three. One of the things that becomes quite clear is that Adam and the fall are, indeed must be historical realities. This is confirmed by Paul in Romans five. If Adam and the fall are mere metaphors then the gospel itself must be reformulated.

Little wonder then why liberal Bible scholars and emergent's like Brian McLaren who deny the historicity of the fall also diminish Christ and His cross. They deny the atonement because if there was no fall then there need be no sacrifice for sins.

H. Richard Niebuhr's summation of liberal protestantism still rings true:

"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

Check out this helpful article on the importance of Adam to Paul's epistle to the Romans.


What do you most want in a church? from 9Marks on Vimeo.

"Reverberation," Jonathan Leeman from 9Marks on Vimeo.