Friday, April 29, 2011

"The Path of No Resistance"

The deadly combination of unchallenged liberal presumptions and casual intimidation of dissenters is probably at its worst in the most prestigious universities, which set the tone for the rest of the country, on this issue as on many others. But in all except the most resolutely religious colleges, there is no doubting that the default position of the American academy is to dismantle the institution of marriage and remake it on a new basis. The result is a good deal of self-silencing—self-exile into the “new closet” on issues involving sexuality—not just by students but by faculty, too. The path of least resistance turns out to be the path of no resistance. For institutions that claim to be homes of diverse views and free inquiry in the pursuit of truth, this creeping orthodoxy is a sign of wounded institutional integrity and failed leadership.

- From Same-Sex Marriage and the Assault on Institutional Integrity « Public Discourse

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Easter Sunday I preached part 11 in our series God's Great Story. It is entitled "The Death-Defying God" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Let Few of You Be Teachers

I recently read with interest an article by Donald Miller in which he blames "teachers and scholars" for the divisions within evangelicalism. He is almost certainly wrong.

Miller makes a classic error in pitting "practitioners" against teachers and scholars. His argument runs something like this: Practitioners are good because they do. Teachers are trouble because they argue over details that don't matter too much.

Simplistic? Immensely so. Historically reliable? Not at all. What about Jesus who declared the imperative of belief in the truth? What about Paul? Other than Jesus has there ever been a man who more beautifully wed scholarship and practice? Augustine? Athanasius? What can we say about Luther, Calvin, or Knox? These were men committed to the right proclamation and practice of the truth. Miller's sloppy approach to the topic is inexplicable.

Owen Strachen has a thoughtful response to Miller

I do wonder if Miller, himself something of a bardsman-theologian, bites off a bit more than he can chew in his essay. His heart for Christian unity is commendable, but his understanding of ecclesial division seems characteristically youthful. Scripture is the Word of God; it demands careful handling (2 Tim. 2:15). From the birth of the church, Christians have given their time, their energy, even their very lives to nourish the church and keep it from error. We see this in countless historical examples: Athanasius suffering at the hands of his detractors to champion the then-fragile doctrine of the Trinity, Martin Luther risking his very life to promote the final authority of Scripture, Charles Spurgeon heroically fighting the down-grade in post-Victorian England. Courageous defense, nuanced discernment, necessary separation from false teachers—these traits don’t necessarily play well in postmodernia. They do, however, sustain and strengthen the church by God’s grace (see Rom. 12; 2 Tim. 1; 2 Pet. 2).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Tomb is Empty

In an article posted today at the White Horse Inn Michael Horton makes the case for the Resurrection of Jesus as a necessarily historical event.

Read it HERE.

Look forward to seeing many of you in the morning.

He is risen indeed!

Is Easter a "borrowed" pagan holiday?


Read more about it HERE.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Did Jesus Die?

When I was serving as a youth pastor in Oklahoma I took a group of high school seniors to one of the early Passion conferences in Austin, TX. What I was unprepared for was the message that would be preached by John Piper. His message to some 6,000 students was not how to date in college or how to deal with stress. Piper stood before the gathered students, who were not supposed to have strong attention spans or care much about doctrine, and preached on Jesus' motive in the cross. That's right. He preached on the doctrine of the cross. And I have never been the same since.

That is no exaggeration. It was at that point where I began to vigorously question some of the theological assumptions of my upbringing. It sent me into a stressful but glorious period of diligent study and prayer. What I came to see was that my God was too small, too man-centered, and too sentimental. I came to see that my view of the cross made it little more than an affirmation of my value. God used that message to shatter me and set me on a course that became, for me, like a second conversion.

Take time to listen HERE.

The Power of the Cross

Behold the Lamb of God

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spending Conference Money Wisely

Okay, so I continue to think about Carl's post on mega-conferences with famous pastors.

His warnings about a party spirit and idolatry of certain personalities will always be relevant and important.

That said, I am less persuaded with his suggestion that the content of a conference is what matters, not the speakers. I am not suggesting that Carl says the speakers are unimportant. Clearly no one, least of all Carl Trueman would see any virtue in hosting conferences led by incompetent men. But if I have no idea who the speakers are, then how am I to know? I run the danger of wasting both the time and money the church affords me to attend conferences.

If John Piper or R.C. Sproul or Al Mohler or Carl Trueman are speaking at an event then I know it will be money and time well spent. For this reason I am persuaded that attending a conference based upon the persons speaking/preaching is not only practical (good use of money) but wise (the content will almost certainly be rich).

How to avoid sinning in our mega-conferences...

So Carl Trueman is a bit of a cynic. This is not to criticize the man. I count Carl as a friend. What is more, Carl is the first to acknowlege his tendency toward cynicism. He is a Brit after all and our friends from across the pond consider cynicism to be a virtue. Still, Carl is fun over lunch and a pint and because of his accent sounds smart reading a phone book. Also he uses words like "tosh" which makes me smile.

Carl has not exactly hidden
his feelings about the mega-conferences for pastors which have been popping up over the last number of years. Now, Carl's diagnosis of this largely American phenomenon may offend a few of my fellow yanks but don't take it personally. Carl, for all his qualities, still does not "get" American football so we ought to be patient with him.

Still, I must say that
Carl's latest post at Ref21 has me thinking. He offers some rather radical ideas which probably ought not be radical. He looks at our conference going practices and wonders if we have not fallen into a Corinthian-like party spirit ("I am of Piper," "I am of Sproul," etc).

First, market conferences on the basis of content not speakers. Send a clear signal - from the design of the webpage to the wording of the fliers - that it is what is to be said, not who is saying it, that is important. Indeed, maybe one could be really radical: do not even let people know who is speaking; just tell them the titles of the talks. "Ah, but then no-one will come!", you say. Well, if that is true, then the case for saying that conferences are all about idolising celebrities would seem to be irrefutable. For me, I believe many people would still attend. They will want the encouragement and the fellowship and the battery recharging. If your organization has a reputation for excellence, people will know that you will have assembled a great team even if you do not tell them the names.

Second, why always bring in the unrepresentative guys from the huge churches? Instead, bring in at least 50% of your speakers from churches of, say, 300 people or less. They do, after all, represent the majority of churches in the country. OK, nobody will ever have heard of them and, by worldly standards, they may look like failures and losers - but remember: you are not telling people who is speaking any way, so there is no need to worry about how to market this.

In fact, the great genius of the anonymity of the conference speakers frees you up to bring in nobodies. These nobodies, of course, will have experiences of pastoral ministry that really connect with most of the audience. I preach and sit on session in a church where I know everybody's name and I am aware of pretty much all the pastoral issues in the congregation. My preaching takes account of my audience in a way that the man preaching to an anonymous ten thousand does not. That man cannot answer the questions I want to ask about pastoral ministry because he simply does not have the categories to understand my world. In fact, the megapastor can probably not tell me anything I could not just as easily get from a book. The man struggling to get the church to make budget, counsel a couple in marriage difficulties, put together an order of worship each week, mediate between warring personalities in his congregation, preach twice on a Sunday, and be available for any pastoral crisis that might erupt - that man can speak directly to the experience and the world of most pastors of whom I am aware.

Third, do everything you can to make the speakers just people in the crowd. No special seats for them, no special dining arrangements. Just let them melt back into the masses once they have spoken.

Ok, we all know none of this is going to happen. But it should, if we are really serious about both providing good conferences for people to attend and not encouraging the celebrification of the church. And, of course, reflecting on why it won't happen might in itself be a very instructive exercise.
What do you think?

There is a friendly and thoughtful exchange on Carl's post HERE and HERE.

I agree with Carl's overall point that mega-conferences can unintentionally create a party spirit. I also believe that Thabiti's point about showing honor to those who have blessed us is biblical and therefore good. Carl, of course does not disagree with this and his warnings about the dangers are appropriate. Also, I am one who has been blessed to have attended all three of the Together for the Gospel conferences in Louisville. Those events for me have been like fresh air. I have been encouraged by the messages and in important ways also rebuked. In an indirect way the two churches I have served as pastor have been blessed by those well-known preachers and scholars from whom I have learned so much.

That said, I very much appreciate Carl's point about the "unkown" pastors who labor faithfully every week but are never sought after to speak at events. This has been true in my own experience. When I moved to Kansas in 1999 to pastor a new church with barely 100 people, I was basically invisible. However, when the church began to grow rapidly the invitations to speak at regional events came in. I don't fault the people who invited me. I just worry about our one-sided definition of success.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't Know Much About Heaven

In reading Love Wins there are times when I cannot help but almost feel sorry for Rob Bell. Almost.

His use of the Scriptures is either incompetent or purposely misleading. But I don't know when the last time was that I read a book which was guilty of so many fallacies in biblical interpretation. It makes the reading very laborious because one has to stop consistently and shout at the page.

Anyway, Michael Bird has been taking his time reviewing Love Wins. In his review of chapter two he takes Bell to task for his egregious mishandling of what the Bible teaches about Heaven.

"Sometimes when Jesus used the word “heaven” he was simply referring to God, using the word as a substitute for the name of God. Second, sometimes when Jesus spoke of heaven, he was referring to the future coming together of heaven and earth in what he and his contemporaries called in the age to come. And then third—and this is where things get really interesting—when Jesus talked about heaven he was talking about our present eternal, intense, real experiences of joy, peace, and love in this life, this side of death and the age to come" (Love Wins, 58-59).

Taking these points in turn. First, only Matthew has Jesus do such a thing; in other words in none of the other Gospels does Jesus replace “God” with the term “Heaven”. This may just have been Mathew’s preference and not much can be assumed than from this about Jesus’ usage. It is true that Matthew uses “heaven” this way. Second, while this is somewhat true. Ancient Jews and early Christians still maintained the distinction between heaven and earth. When saints died they went to heaven from where they will return with Jesus at the end of the age. Collapsing the distinction between heaven and earth to the extend Rob does is unbiblical. If Paul is right “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” then there is a heaven somewhere else at least until the time of Jesus second coming. Jesus did pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, but that has yet to occur. Third, this category of heaven is an illusion. Neither Jesus nor any biblical writer defines heaven this way.

So what is the final word on Love Wins and heaven?... I'll say only here that God’s ultimate place for humans is a renewed earth. God is going to make all things new (Rev 21) and the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven to earth. As I make this point, I am surprised that Rob didn’t discuss Revelation 21-22 in the chapter. It’s absence startling.

Heaven is a complex biblical idea however. There is a heaven that is distinct from the earth. They are not the same place. Right now God is in heaven and at the time of his choosing he’ll turn the eschatological calendar sending Jesus to finish the work. Yet, in the meantime because of Jesus’ resurrection life and the gift of the Spirit in the church, heaven can be enacted in this time and in this place through the work of the church. Where the church steps, heaven’s footprint is left.

This finally brings us to the question of who is in heaven. First, it needs to be said that Jesus does call people to "enter heaven", although we need to define that term appropriately. The story of the Rich Young Ruler itself shows this. Second, the saints in both the Old and New Testament times are in heaven right now. When we die, if we have entrusted ourselves to Jesus [if we follow Jesus], we’ll be in heaven immediately. This however is not the last word and it might not have been what Jesus the the young man were discussing as Rob points out. Heaven will unite with a renewed earth and it’s this harmony that the Bible foresees as the final state, eternal life. Eternal life is both a quality of life (Rob’s point) and a quantity of life (forever).

Read the entire post HERE.

The Four Holy Gospels

I've been trying to figure out an excuse to buy Crossway's beautiful collector's edition of the Gospels. It is illustrated by renowned artist Makoto Fujimura. I generally appreciate representational art. But Fujimura's work is extraordinary. It is luminescent. It defies description. What is more, Fujimura pursue his art as a means of doxology.

The Four Holy Gospels is not cheap but wtsbooks is offering it at 43% off.

You can find more information on The Four Holy Gospels HERE.

"A High Sanctuary of Authority"

There are uninformed individuals who hold that the doctrine of the Bible's inerrancy is an invention of "Old Princeton" (Warfield and the Hodges); the fruit of modernist categories. This is simply not true, of course.

The following two statements are from Augustine, the 5th century Bishop of Hippo:

"I have learned to yield this [total] respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture. Of these alone do I most firmly believe that their authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me to be opposed to the truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it...Concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error"

"It seems to me that most disastrous consequences must follow upon our believing that anything false is found in the sacred books; that is to say, that the men by whom the Scriptures have been given to us and committed to writing did put down in these books anything false...For if you once admit into such a high sanctuary of authority one false statement as made in the way of duty, there will not be left a single sentence of those books which, if appearing to anyone difficult in practice or hard to believe, may not by the same fatal rule be explained away, as a statement in which, intentionally and under a sense of duty, the author declared what was not true."

What ever happened to inspiration?

That is what I wonder when I read Karl Giberson and the other folks at Biologos. The mission of Biologos is to help the church embrace theistic evolution. Part of that project is to reject the historicity of Adam and Eve, the fall, the flood and a great many other events recorded in the Bible. Of course, this cannot be done apart from a diminished view of the Bible's inspiration. To help this along, last year Biologos ran a series of articles by Kent Sparks savaging the doctrine of the Bible's inerrancy. The message is clear: "We love the Bible, but only the true bits. Those parts of the Bible that are intellectually unsatisfying for us must be rejected."

Al Mohler comments on a recent article by Dr. Giberson published by CNN's Belief Blog and a new book coauthored by Francis Collins and Giberson entitled The Language of Science and Faith.

In his new book, The Language of Science and Faith, written with Francis S. Collins, readers will find this strange paragraph:

Biblical interpretation falls short without an understanding of biblical inspiration, of course, as we do not suggest that the Bible is simply another book to be interpreted. But we do a great disservice to the concept and power of inspiration when we reduce it to mere factual accuracy, as though God’s role were nothing more than a divine fact checker, preventing the biblical authors from making mistakes. A dead and lifeless text, like the phone book, can be factually accurate. The inspiration of the Bible is dynamic and emerges through engagement with readers.

That paragraph is, quite simply, one of the most ridiculous statements concerning the Bible one might ever imagine. Who has ever argued that the divine inspirationof the Bible is reduced to “mere factual accuracy”? Giberson’s dismissive language about God as “nothing more than a divine fact checker” is sheer nonsense. Who has ever made such a proposal?

The conclusion of the paragraph is an embarrassing non sequitur. It is patently untrue that only a “dead and lifeless text, like a phone book” can be factually accurate. Giberson and Collins reveal their true understanding of biblicalinspiration when they locate it, not in the authorship of the text at all, but in the modern act of reading the text.

As they make their argument for theistic evolution, Giberson and Collins embrace a form of Open Theism and argue, quite consistently with arguments common to BioLogos, against the historicity of Adam and Eve.

They end the book with their own version of “The Grand Narrative of Creation.” This is their climactic conclusion of the narrative:

Eventually, the most advanced of the life forms on the planet, human beings, become deeply religious. Throughout the history of our species belief in God or gods has been close to universal. Abstractions like right and wrong, the meaning of life, the where everything came from have become critically important questions. The religious impulse developed into one of the deepest aspects of our complicated understanding of ourselves.

They conclude: “And God saw that it was good.”

Here is their own rendering of what it looks like when the “Book of Nature” trumps the Bible. Just compare their “Grand Narrative of Creation” with Genesis.
Read the entire post HERE.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Desiring God" - 25 Years Later

Recently a 25th anniversary edition of Desiring God was released. I remember my first reading of Desiring God as a new seminary student. It was a disorienting experience because Piper's basic thesis was something brand new for me. At first I completely rejected what Piper was suggesting. However, after much reading and arguing in my mind and a few fellow students I came to embrace the central theme of Desiring God as reflecting a thoroughly biblical paradigm. If you have not read Desiring God I would strongly suggest you do so.

Also, when you get a chance take time to listen to a two-part interview of John Piper conducted by Mark Dever in 2003. It's well worth hearing.

Sunday's Sermon

This week's sermon was part 10 in our series God's Great Story: How the Gospel Changes Everything. It is entitled "The Self-Sacrificing God" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Kindness and Severity of God

This week the Gospel Coaltion's national conference featured a message from Don Carson entitled "God: Abounding in Love: Punishing the Guilty." You can download the audio HERE.

Dr. Carson's message was followed by a panel discussion on the love of God and the reality of Hell. Take time to listen HERE.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where does good come from?

Take time to check out the debate between Christian philosopher William Lane Craig and atheist Sam Harris. The debate is centered on whether or not an atheist has a reasonable foundation for morality.

One is almost embarrassed for Sam Harris. Dr. Craig dismantles him. Harris provides no support for his contention that morality makes sense in a universe without God. All he can do is attack Christianity. It is the same error that Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins make. It's just that Dawkins and Hitchens sound more eloquent.

Rob Bell in Time

So now Time Magazine gives Rob Bell a cover story. Jon Meacham writes the story concerning Bell's new book Love Wins. Intense controversy has followed the release of Love Wins. Since then Bell has been on the defensive. He has been busily denying that he is a universalist which seems to contradict that which he proclaims in his new book. Even those who are supportive of Bell's project know that he is advancing what can only be understood as a kind of universalism. Meacham writes:
The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises "eternal life" to "whosoever believeth in Him." Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, "for us and for our salvation came down from heaven ... and was made man." In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell. Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book's subtitle puts it, "every person who ever lived" could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be.
But Bell has reassured his church in a recent congregational meeting that he is thoroughly within the tent of historic Christian orthodoxy. But this seems to be at odds with what Bell writes in Love Wins. And Meacham knows this. Bell even stated in an interview by Meacham, "I have long wondered if there is a massive shift coming in what it means to be a Christian" [emphasis mine]. The vision of Christianity held forth by Rob Bell is clearly not in keeping with what was proclaimed and passed on by Jesus and the apostles. He is indeed advancing a new vision of "what it means to be a Christian." I just wish he would be honest about it.

Commenting on the Time cover story Denny Burk makes an observation that I hope will give Rob Bell (or at least his congregation and readers) a reason to pause:

Every year during Easter season, the news weekly’s like to feature stories that tweak traditional Christian belief (for example, The Gospel of Judas, the tomb of Jesus, etc.). For these publications, Holy Week has become heresy week. I think it says something that Bell’s book has now taken a place next to these kinds of stories.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"The Cost of Conviction"

If you have never heard the story of the turn around of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary it is fascinating and encouraging. It is also, quite simply, one of the most important events in the history of the church in the 20th century.

Al Mohler, the man at the center of this historic event told the story to C.J. Mahaney at the 2003 Sovereign Grace Leadership Conference.

Do yourself a favor and take a listen.

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I continued the series God's Great Story. It was part 9 and is entitled "The Loving God." You can listen to or download it HERE.

I never cease to be amazed at how God uses the sermon preparation process toward my sanctification. I had been wrestling with love all week: my lack of love and the corresponding feeling that God could not love me because of how unloving I felt. It was a proverbial vicious circle. Even as I drove to church Sunday morning the accuser all but convinced me that God could not possibly love me as much as I was getting ready to proclaim.

But God is gracious. Even as I preached God used His Word to comfort me with the knowlege of His strong love for even me: a duplicitous, double-minded, and doubting pastor.

Take and Read

As Good Friday approaches...

Cross Words by Paul Wells

The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahey

Outrageous Mercy by William Farley

Pierced For Our Trangressions by Jeffery, Ovey, & Sach

Will the Insiders keep the outsiders outside? 2

Apparently, the Insider Movement is a loose coalition of some who are involved in Christian outreach to Muslims. Those within the Insider Movement claim that since Muslims are offended by language that proclaims God as Father and Jesus as the Son, efforts to reach them ought to eliminate that familial language.

In response to the Insider Movement the Reverend Scott Seaton of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Arlington, VA has introduced "Overture 9." Overture 9 calls for PCA presbyteries to pull funding from any missionaries or missions agencies which alter the familial language found within the Scriptures.

You can read Overture 9

Will the Insiders keep the outsiders outside?

Just recently I have become aware of a particular movement to make evangelism to Muslims more effective. Now, who in their right mind or heart would oppose good efforts to reach Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? But the movement to which I refer is proving to be controversial, and that, for good reason.

This group (?) is known as the Insider Movement. The reason they are causing so much heart burn is that they believe that in order to best reach Muslims, all references to Jesus Christ as God's Son must be removed from any Bible or Gospel presentation offered to them. The rationale behind such a move is that Muslims do not have a category in which God could have a Son apart from sexual intercourse with a woman.

This raises issues about the nature and importance of Christ's sonship. It also begs the question, "How far do we go to accomodate the false ideas of unbelievers?" When does evangelistic zeal become Gospel-distorting accomodation? Just how flexible is our message?

I am going to take some time with this issue. So, over the next few days and weeks I'll be addressing in on my little 'ol blog.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Is this a legitimate approach to evangelism? How central is the sonship of Jesus to the Gospel? How central is the sonship of Jesus to His very identity?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gospel Coalition Messages...

Watch the messages from the 2011 Gospel Coalition HERE.

Don't know much about historical theology?

Zondervan is close to releasing a new volume by Greg Allison entitled Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine.

In the introduction
Dr. Allison explains the benefits of knowing the history of Christian doctrine:
1. It helps to distinguish orthodoxy from heresy.
2. It provides sound biblical interpretations and theological formulations.
3. It presents stellar examples of faith, love, courage, hope, obedience, and mercy. 4. It protects against the individualism that is rampant today among Christians.
5. It not only helps the church understand the historical development of its beliefs, but enables it to express those beliefs in contemporary form.
6. It encourages the church to focus on the essentials, that is, to major on those areas that have been emphasized repeatedly throughout the history of the church.
7. It gives the church hope by providing assurance that Jesus is fulfilling his promise to his people.
8. As beneficiaries of the heritage of doctrinal development sovereign overseen by Jesus Christ, the church of today is privileged to enjoy a sense of belong to the church of the past.
From the Publisher:
Most historical theology texts follow Christian beliefs chronologically, discussing notable doctrinal developments for all areas of theology according to their historical appearance. And while this may be good history, it can make for confusing theology, with the classic theological loci scattered throughout various time periods, movements, and controversies.

In Historical Theology, Gregg Allison offers students the opportunity to study the historical development of theology according to a topical-chronological arrangement, setting out the history of Christian doctrine one theological element at a time. Such an approach allows readers to concentrate on one tenet of Christianity and its formulation in the early church, through the Middle Ages, Reformation, and post-Reformation era, and into the modern period.

The text includes a generous mix of primary source material as well, citing the words of Cyprian, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, and others. Allison references the most accessible editions of these notable theologians’ work so that readers can continue their study of historical theology through Christian history’s most important contributors.

Historical Theology is a superb resource for those familiar with Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology or interested in understanding the development of Christian theology.
HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, April 8, 2011

The REAL horror of Communism...

"A substitute for Gospel ministry"

That is how Al Mohler describes Florida pastor Terry Jones' now infamous act of Qur'an burning.
Pastor Jones is not wrong to see Islam as a way that leads millions of people away from the message of the Gospel and thus to spiritual death. But he did not reach out with the Gospel message; he simply staged a theatrical stunt intended to draw attention to himself and his church. The way he toyed with the media and major public figures earlier this year was an indication of the game he intended to play — and now he has played it out.

He put human lives at jeopardy for a publicity stunt. Those who responded to his actions with murder have blood on their hands, and they demonstrated a key distinction between Islam and Christianity. Christians are not called to defend the honor of our Savior or of the Bible. The Islamic sense of honor leads to what are even called honor killings. Those who would kill for honor thus dishonor their cause. What belief system would justify murder in response to being offended?

There is a crucial distinction between being willing to die for a cause, as Christians are called to do, and being willing to kill for a cause. That distinction is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who did not kill his enemies, but died for them.

Christians are not called to burn the books of other religions. We are not called to publicity stunts that put lives at risk and subvert the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Such actions deserve only the most severe condemnation. But even the condemnation serves its purpose — to gain publicity.

Read the entire article

Thursday, April 7, 2011

In The Crosshairs

Not long after we moved to the Philadelphia area my wife and I began a tour of some of the small groups in our church. During one of our visits my wife was asked how she felt about being married to the pastor. Her reply was simple and insightful: "I feel like my husband has a target on his back." By "target on his back" my wife meant the crosshairs of the enemy's weapon. Any pastor is a fool who is not regularly aware of Satan's designs against him.

In his classic The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter writes:

"Take heed to yourselves, because the tempter will more ply you with his temptations than other men. If you will be the leaders against the prince of darkness, he will spare you no further than God restraineth him. He beareth the greatest malice to those that are engaged to do him the greatest mischief. As he hateth Christ more than any of us, because he is the General of the field, the Captain of our salvation, and doth more than all the world besides against his kingdom; so doth he hate the leaders under him, more than the common soldiers: he knows what a rout he may make among them, if the leaders fall before their eyes. He hath long tried that way of fighting, neither against great nor small comparatively, but of smiting the shepherds, that he may scatter the flock: and so great hath been his success this way, that he will continue to follow it as far as he is able. Take heed, therefore, brethren, for the enemy hath a special eye upon you. You shall have his most subtle insinuations, and incessant solicitations, and violent assaults. As wise and learned as you are, take heed to yourselves, lest he outwit you. The devil is a greater scholar than you, and a nimbler disputant; he can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive: he will get within you, and trip up your heels before you are aware: he will play the juggler with you undiscerned, and cheat you of your faith or innocency, and you shall not know that you have lost it; nay, he will make you believe it is multiplied or increased, when it is lost. You shall see neither hook nor line, much less the subtle angler himself, while he is offering you his bait. And his bait shall be so fitted to your temper and disposition, that he will be sure to find advantages within you, and make your own principles and inclinations betray you; and whenever he ruineth you, he will make you the instruments of ruin to others. O what a conquest will he think he hath got, if he can make a minister lazy and unfaithful, if he can tempt a minister into covetousness or scandal! He will glory against the Church, and say, ‘These are your holy preachers! See what their preciseness is, and whither it brings them.’ He will glory against Jesus Christ himself, and say, ‘These are thy champions! I can make thy chiefest servants abuse thee; I can make the stewards of thy house unfaithful.’ If he did so insult God upon a false surmise, and tell him he could make Job curse him to his face, what will he do if he should prevail against you? And at last he will insult as much over you, that he could draw you to be false to your great trust, and to blemish your holy profession, and to do so much service to him that was your enemy. O, do not so far gratify Satan; do not make him so much sport; suffer him not to use you as the Philistines did Samson, first to deprive you of your strength, and then to put out your eyes, and so to make you the matter of his triumph and derision."

Al Mohler on confessional integrity (and other stuff too)

Ligonier's Table Talk Magazine has published a breif interview with Al Mohler that is worth reading. The first question deals with the historic turn around of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary which occured under the leadership of Dr. Mohler.
TT: In 1993, shortly after your appointment as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, there was substantial faculty fallout and a sharp move in an orthodox direction. Would you give us a glimpse into that time for you and how a seminary could do an about-face in such a short span of time?

My election as president of Southern Seminary came in the course of a larger movement within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) — a movement that was specifically an attempt to bring the denomination back to its theological roots and especially to ground the denomination and its schools in a very clear affirmation of biblical inerrancy. The seminaries of the SBC had drifted considerably to the left over the previous half-century to the point that, in many ways, they were almost indistinguishable from mainline Protestant institutions. My election in 1993 did not occur in a vacuum. It was very much a part of this effort, and everyone knew what was at stake. I think I was elected, at least in part, because I had a very clear plan for how to bring a theological correction to an institution like Southern Seminary, the mother seminary of our denomination. It would be costly, it would be controversial, and it would be extremely difficult. But the only way to reform an academic institution and to bring it back to a clear affirmation of biblical orthodoxy was to make clear that we were a confessional institution that held to those doctrinal parameters.

It was indeed a very difficult time. The controversy and the conflict were, in human terms, almost unbearable, but it was clear to those who love biblical truth that it would be far better for the institution to die than for it to continue in the direction that it had been headed for several decades. Those of us who undertook this task understood it was a great risk, but we also understood that it simply had to be done. Institutions move left progressively, inch by inch. They move in a more liberal direction compromise by compromise. But you cannot correct an institution the same way. Confessional integrity is not something that can be accommodated to a progressive timeline. There is no way to say, “We are tolerating less and less heresy and false teaching.” If confessional integrity is to mean anything, it must stand as an absolute standard. For that reason, we went through five or six years of very intense controversy, and on the other side of it, we were able, by God’s grace, to emerge with a very clear confessional identity. We have a faculty of incredible scholars who are committed to teach within our confessional statement, and thousands of students have come to Southern knowing exactly where we stand.
Read the entire interview HERE.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ancient New Testament Fragment

Prenatal Development

Rome Sweet Home?

Over at Ref21 Carl Trueman suggests serveral reasons why Protestants convert to Roman Catholicism:
1. A sense of awe and liturgical tradition in much (not all) Roman Catholic worship that is lacking in evangelical Protestantism.

2. A disillusion with the lack of ecclesiology in much of evangelicalism.

3. A lack of confidence among evangelicals in the traditional Reformation formulations of justification by grace through faith, specifically in terms of imputation.

4. The attraction of Apostolic Succession.

5. A lack of confidence in the clarity or perspecuity of Scripture.

6. A perception that evangelical Protestantism has failed on pro-life and moral issues.

This is an important issue. I have met converts to Rome who left their evangelical churches for one or more of the reasons listed above. Primarily, my experience has been that Protestants leave for Rome (and Eastern Orthodoxy) because of the lack of reverence and historical rootedness within most evangelical churches.

Tempted and Tried

Justin Taylor Interview - Russell Moore, "Tempted and Tried" from Crossway on Vimeo.

Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore

HT: Justin Taylor

Christ and the Qur'an

Helpful post over at Desiring God:
Christian faith must go on being translated, must continuously enter into vernacular culture and interact with it, or it withers and fades.

Islamic absolutes are fixed in a particular language, and in the conditions of a particular period of human history. The divine Word is the Qur’an, fixed in heaven forever in Arabic, the language of original revelation.

For Christians, however, the divine Word is translatable, infinitely translatable. The very words of Christ himself were transmitted in translated form in the earliest documents we have, a fact surely inseparable from the conviction that in Christ, God’s own self was translated into human form.

Much misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims has arisen from the assumption that the Qur’an is for Muslims what the Bible is for Christians. It would be truer to say that the Qur’an is for Muslims what Christ is for Christians. (The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, 29)
Read the entire post HERE.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Concerning the fate of those who do not believe...

From Sam Storms:
In a recent interview with Sally Quinn of The Washington Post, Rob Bell again muddied the waters over the question of the fate of those who’ve never heard about Jesus. In doing so he also greatly misrepresented the evangelical answer to this question. Here are his words:

“If, billions and billions and billions of people, God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who never heard about Jesus are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of – then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

Bell is responding to evangelicals who purportedly believe that people “are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of.” Let me say this as clearly as I can: No one will ever suffer for any length of time in hell or anywhere else for not believing in the Jesus they never heard of. Should I say that again or is it enough to ask that you go back and read it again?

Bell and others who make this sort of outrageous claim have evidently failed to look closely at Romans 1:18ff. Here we read that the wrath of God revealed from heaven is grounded in the persistent repudiation by mankind of the revelation God has made of himself in the created order. In other words, there is a reason for God’s wrath. It is not capricious. God’s wrath has been deliberately and persistently provoked by man’s willful rejection of God as he has revealed himself...

Paul’s point here in Romans 1 is that this revelation is sufficiently clear and inescapable that it renders all without excuse (see Rom. 1:20). Consequently, there is no such thing as “an innocent native in Africa” any more than there is “an innocent pagan in America.”

What does Paul mean when he says that all humanity is without excuse? “The excuse that is banished,” notes R. C. Sproul, “the excuse every pagan hopes in vain to use, the excuse that is exploded by God’s self-revelation in nature is the pretended, vacuous, dishonest appeal to ignorance. No one will be able to approach the judgment seat of God justly pleading, ‘If only I had known you existed, I would surely have served you.’ That excuse is annihilated. No one can lightly claim ‘insufficient’ evidence for not believing in God” (Classical Apologetics, 46).

The problem is not a lack of evidence. The problem is the innate, natural, moral antipathy of mankind to God. The problem is not that the evidence is not open to mankind. The problem is that mankind is not open to the evidence.

Read the entire article

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't talk about the zit...

Robbed Hell - C.A.S.T. Pearls Presents from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

HT: Doug Wilson

Something old but nothing at all new...

The Daily Caller is running David Lee's review of Love Wins. Lee concludes that Rob Bell is not really saying anything new. He is simply repeating the same sort of theological liberalism of the 19th and early 20th centuries that robed the cross of its power and turned Christianity into a collection of timeless universal principles.
Bell’s book is causing such a stir because it strikes at a fundamental debate: Is Christianity a revealed religion, one that rises or falls on its objective truth? Or is it merely an expression of timeless spiritual truths, perhaps one among many religions that capture the inner longing of mankind?

Bell’s side in this debate is illustrated by a curious omission. In a book about the love of God, Bell fails to mention one of the most profound and mysterious claims the Bible makes about the subject:

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us.” (1 John 3.7)

This verse at once offends and amazes. It offends, because as revealed religion it claims that we don’t even know what love is, apart from God revealing it to us. It amazes by suggesting that this revelation of God’s love took place on a cross, an international symbol of suffering, criminality, and folly. Weird, strange stuff. Exactly what you get in revealed religion.

And it’s not a throw-away line. “God is love,” the Apostle John tells us a few lines later, in one of the most famous, most quoted lines about God’s love. But he continues: “And in this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be a sacrifice for our sins.” “God is love” only makes sense in the light of the cross.

Explain how the death of a Jewish man on a cross illustrated God’s love, and you explain Christianity. Bell’s book not only fails to do so, it barely makes an attempt.

Read the entire article

The Lord's Prayer and the Purposes of God

Church of the Saviour was privileged to have Michael Oh fill the pulpit yesterday. He preached on the Lord's Prayer. Specifically, he called attention to the fact that the way Jesus taught us to pray involves the grand purposes of God in the world.

I love the way he dealt with the petitionary portion of the prayer. When we come to the portion of the prayer that begins with the request that God give us our daily bread we learn a few things about the purpose of God's blessings be they daily bread, employment, or anything else.

We must view God's gifts...
1. Theistically - May we enjoy every gift as from God, not as a god.
2. Doxologically - May God's giftss be the cause of magnifying His glory.
3. Missionally - May God's gifts be employed to maximize the number of people who worship God.

Do you want to love the Old Testament?

One of the great joys that a Christian can experience in the Scriptures is the discovery of the Christ-centered nature of the Old Testament. But unfortunately many Christians miss this joy because of the difficulty in finding truly great resources on interpreting the Old Testament.

One of my favorite preachers is Dale Ralph Davis. Dr. Davis is a pastor and former professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary. Don't ever think that an academic cannot be a truly warm and engaging preacher.

The first time I ever heard Davis preach was at the Basics Conference (an annual pastor's conference at Parkside Church where Alister Begg serves as pastor). He blew me away with his insight, warmth, and passion.
His commentaries are among the most helpful in my library. What is more, Dr. Davis writes with the layperson in mind. His commentaries are not highly technical. They are intended to be used by pastors and laypersons alike for the building up the church.

If you desire to study the Old Testament for your personal growth or if you are looking for resources to help in your teaching ministry then you simply must get acquainted with Dale Ralph Davis.

Check out his commentaries

Check out his preaching audio

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Great deal on a new book...

Westminster Bookstore is offering 50% on a new book entitled Thriving At College.

From the Publisher:

Filled with wisdom and practical advice from a seasoned college professor and student mentor, Thriving at College covers the ten most common mistakes that college students make—and how to avoid them! Alex leaves no stone unturned—he discusses everything from choosing a major and discerning one’s vocation to balancing academics and fun, from cultivating relationships with peers and professors to helping students figure out what to do with their summers. Most importantly, this book will help students not only keep their faith but build a vibrant faith and become the person God created them to be.

In a nutshell, the book is about how college students can launch into responsible, fruitful adulthood for the glory of God against the backdrop of a young adult culture that often values perpetual adolescence and the avoidance of responsibility. It explores topics such as loving God with all your mind, growing in character and maturity, striving for academic excellence, balancing work and recreation, finding your calling, establishing godly friendships, handling the transition from high school to college, time management, financial discipline, and honoring parents while pursuing functional/economic independence.

New book on leadership

I am finding a new book on leadership to be very helpful. It is entitled Christian Leadership Essentials and is edited by David Dockery. The contributors come primarily from the world of Christian university leadership. Dr. Dockery's opening chapter is worth the price of the book. Thus far into my reading Christian Leadership Essentials is biblical and filled with sound theological reflection.

Publisher's Description: "Christian Leadership Essentials"finds university president David S. Dockery assembling a great wealth of tried and true insights on the distinctive methods of leading Christian organizations and institutions. No matter how much experience a faith-based leader may already have, there are plenty of fresh thoughts and indispensable guiding principles here on topics including finance and budget planning, mission and vision, employee relations, theological foundations, mentoring, crisis management, and more.

The end of the world as we know it?

As May 21, 2011 approaches we will certainly hear and see more warnings from Harold Camping and his followers. Camping has declared that the Bible "guarantees" May 21 this year as the day Jesus will return. The sad strange story of Harold Camping is that of a man who isolated himself from the church of Jesus Christ and thus became his own authority. In the first of a series of articles, Robert Godfrey helps us understand the impact of this isolation on Harold Camping's understanding of the Bible.
After Camping began to work full-time with Family Radio, he spent much time studying the Bible. His knowledge of Bible verses is impressive indeed. But his study of the Bible was undertaken in isolation from other Christians and theologians. He adopted a proud individualism. He did not really learn from Bible scholars. He studied the Bible in isolation from the church and the consensus of the faithful. As a result his understanding of the Bible became more and more idiosyncratic. No one could help, direct, or restrain him. He was really an autodicdact, that is, someone who teaches himself. He never really submitted his ideas to be challenged and improved by others. He was truly his only teacher. He has repeatedly said that he would be glad to change his views if he is shown that he is wrong from the Bible. But this humble statement covers a very arrogant attitude, because no one can ever show him that he is wrong. He alone really understands the Bible.

Read the entire article HERE.

Read Part 2 HERE

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sin, Suffering, and the Gospel

The Groaning Cosmos: Interview with Matt Chandler from Assoc. of Biblical Counselors on Vimeo.

Light and Heat

The messages from the 2011 Ligonier Ministries National Conference are now available:

War on the Word by Steven Lawson

Why the God-Man? by Sinclair Ferguson

Defending the Faith by R.C. Sproul

Almighty Over All by R.C. Sproul Jr.

Ministry Reflections with John Piper & R.C. Sproul

Pleasing God by Robert Godfrey

Another small step in the right direction...

Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed into law a state-wide ban on all abortions based on gender or race.

Read the story HERE.

A few thoughts:

1. It should tell us something about the "pro-choice" folks that they would find this law controversial.

2. Some of you are surprised that Americans can have their unborn babies killed simply because they are the "wrong" gender.

3. It is a lie that our elected officials cannot truly impact the reality of abortion.

4. Elections impact abortion so it matters who we vote for.

Helpful lessons from the "Love Wins" debate...

Tony Reinke suggests 16 lessons learned from the broo-ha-ha over Love Wins.

Do the demons know your name?

When you get a chance, take time to listen to this great message from Al Mohler.