It seems inevitable that organizations will become either more narrow and sectarian or more mainstream and secular, which will lead to fundamental realignments within the evangelical world. Those institutions that cherish their place at the cultural table will have to accept the legitimacy of homosexual relationships and to abandon a fully Pauline gospel of salvation predicated on a historical Adam. Those institutions wishing to maintain a traditional orthodoxy on these points will have to accept their status as marginal figures in the broader world, objects of scorn and not serious contributors to the public square...Carl Trueman from The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
It is likely that the coming cultural storms will be best weathered by evangelical organizations and institutions with more precisely defined doctrinal statements, particularly statements that are close to, or identical with, historic creeds and confessions. The last one hundred years of evangelicalism has shown that minimal doctrinal bases do not provide real resistance to heterodoxy and the downgrading of doctrine. Of course, no creed can safeguard orthodoxy alone; fidelity and integrity on the part of leaders and gatekeepers are also required. But without a strong and complete doctrinal confession, gatekeeping becomes nearly impossible, even for well-intentioned and faithful leaders. [emphasis mine]
Monday, January 31, 2011
- Robert George from an interview with Al Mohler
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thanks to Kevin DeYoung for his post "Cautions for Mere Christianity."
Let me highlight two significant problems.
Atonement, But How?
The first caution to raise concerns Lewis’ view of the atonement. Lewis believed Jesus died on the cross for sin, but he didn’t think it was important to understand the particulars of what Christ accomplished on the cross.
Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem quite so immoral and silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor an other is Christianity. The central belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter: A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. (57-58 [pagination varies by edition)
Later Lewis says that “Christ was killed for us” and “His death has washed out our sins” but “any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary” (59). This impatience of careful thinking about the atonement is bad enough, but then Lewis goes on to make clear that he rejects the understanding of the atonement evangelicals (and the Bible I would say) find most central and most glorious.
The one most people have heard is the one I mentioned before–the one about our being let off because Christ had volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. (59)
Pay careful attention to what Lewis says in that paragraph. He does believe in a substitutionary theory of the atonement, but he rejects penal substitution. He admits that penal substitution is not quite as silly as it once sounded, but he still does not accept it. Instead, he argues that Christ pays a debt (which is true), but not as a punishment for our sakes.
Lewis’ theology of the atonement is confusing (see for example this helpful Touchstone article), but I would argue his view is more like Christus victor or ransom to Satan than penal substitution. Aslan’s death, you may recall, was a sacrifice to the Witch and was explained rather ambiguously as “deeper magic.” This is not the place to defend the critical importance of penal substitution. My point is simply that Lewis does not teach it in Mere Christianity, and in fact undermines it.
An Early Inclusivist
The second problem with Mere Christianity is Lewis’ inclusivism. Evangelicals believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Further, they believe that conscious faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation (assuming we are talking about sentient beings; all Christians allow that infants and the mentally disabled may be in a different category). Lewis, by contrast, believed in what we might roughly call “anonymous Christians.” That is, people may be saved through Christ without putting explicit faith in Christ.
There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. (178)
No matter how much we may like Lewis, this is simply a profound misunderstanding of the Spirit’s mission (and a rejection of John 14:6). The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Christ by taking what is his–his teaching, the truth about his death and resurrection–and making it known. The Spirit does not work indiscriminately without the revelation of Christ in view. Arguably, the Holy Spirit’s most important work is to glorify Christ, and he does not do this apart from shining the spotlight on Christ for the elect to see and savor. Again, we see the inclusivist Lewis at the end on Narnia where Emeth, a worshiper of Tash, is accepted by Aslan for following him all along without knowing it.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The first message is entitled The Creator God and covers Genesis chapters one and two. You can download or listen to it HERE.
From beginning to end the Bible tells one story, God’s great story. It is the story of God’s glorious work of redeeming a people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This story includes creation, human sin, the fall of all creation, God’s covenant with his people, the redemptive work of Jesus, and the coming new creation. It is the story that shapes all of history and defines our lives.
This 14 week series of messages will take a bird's eye view of the entire Bible. Specifically these messages will seek to magnify God's redemptive work in Christ through the unfolding of redemptive history.
“Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
- George Orwell
Al Mohler weighs in:
The sex acts portrayed on “Skins” pretty much cover the waterfront of modern sexuality. There is no question that MTV will draw an audience. The big question confronted by the network is whether the show will draw child pornography charges as well.
David Carr, author of “The Media Equation” column at the Times, explained that “the series is meant to provoke.” He suggests, plausibly enough, that MTV executives did not “set out to make child pornography,” but they clearly did not set out not to make child pornography, either.
Evidently, the concerns are rather urgent at MTV’s headquarters. As Brian Stelter reported last week:
It is unclear when MTV first realized that the show may be vulnerable to child pornography charges. On Tuesday, a flurry of meetings took place at the network’s headquarters in New York, according to an executive who attended some of the meetings and spoke only on the condition of anonymity. In one of the meetings, the executives wondered aloud who could possibly face criminal prosecution and jail time if the episodes were broadcast without changes.
It should tell you just about everything you need to know that MTV executives “wondered aloud” if they might do jail time for child pornography by broadcasting the series. Have you ever worried about that at your office or place of work?
Read the entire article HERE.
In every church there will be those who are not particularly grateful, who normally communicate with you only in the form of criticism. And to some degree this is the norm for every pastor.Read the entire post HERE.
If you are a pastor you will be criticized. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually you will feel the sharp sting of critique.
Those within your church may criticize you, those who leave the church may criticize you, and even complete strangers may criticize you. The criticism will come from enemies and from friends. Some of the criticism will be true, some of it will be false, and some may be outright malicious. But it’s coming—if it hasn’t already arrived.
And there are many reasons why we can expect criticism:
•A pastor can expect criticism because of his own sin, which will inevitably be present in his heart and service, no matter how mature or well meaning he is (James 3:2).
•A pastor can expect criticism because there are limitations to his gifting, meaning there will always be weaknesses in his leadership.
•A pastor can expect criticism because we often preach below-average sermons. (After one sermon, a guy asked me, “So where do you work during the week?” My sermon apparently gave him the impression that preaching wasn’t my vocation.)
•A pastor can expect criticism because people can be proud and ungrateful.
•A pastor can expect criticism because, well, it is a sinful and fallen world.
But we as pastors often forget one more important reason:
•A pastor can expect criticism because it is part of God’s sanctification process—a tool that he uses to reveal idols and accelerate the pastor’s growth in humility.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Can we honestly claim any longer that there is no direct connection between the people we elect, the policies they enact (and judges they appoint) and the devestating evil of abortion?
Monday, January 24, 2011
Dr. Bauder demonstrates clearly that Paul's words have a very specific application - that we avoid doing anything that would unnecessarily offend those around us. So, for the one who is offended by meat sacrificed to idols, Paul will not eat meat. For the one who is not offended by meat sacrificed to idols Paul will eat for "an idol is nothing."
Read Dr. Bauder's article HERE.
So there it is folks. Context is king. Let us not use Paul's words to justify silliness or worse in evangelism.
As he concluded his brief statement, the President said: “And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”Read the entire post HERE.
That paragraph is just a recitation of the feminist argument that was enshrined in Roe v. Wade — that women, no more than men, should be encumbered by the professional and personal limitations required by a pregnancy. That logic is enshrined as orthodoxy within the Democratic Party, and President Obama is one of its most ardent defenders.
Ever since Barack Obama emerged on the national political scene, he has been promoted and protected by a corps of preachers and religious leaders who have tried their best to explain that he is not so pro-abortion as he seems. Nevertheless, his record is all too clear — as is this most recent statement. There was not one expression of abortion as a national tragedy, even as a report recently indicated that almost 60 percent of all pregnancies among African American women in New York City end in abortion.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.I am left a bit speechless. I know this is not a new view from our President but I am shocked at the lack of moral clarity displayed in that statement. All of us, including (especially?) our leaders must have the moral clarity to oppose, not champion such an unmitigated evil.
I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.
And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.
HT: Justin Taylor
Saturday, January 22, 2011
This is Abortion
The abortion industry thrives on remaining in the dark, behind closed and (usually) sanitized doors.
The following video is very graphic, but it depicts the reality that is happening in our neighborhoods, at the rate in the U.S. of:
•1.37 million unborn children killed every year.
•3,700 unborn children killed every day.
•1 unborn child killed every 23 seconds.
When you stop to realize that the US only accounts for 3% of abortions worldwide, you realize that there is a relentless global slaughter underway. May God exercise both his mercy and judgment, and may Christ return quickly.
Pro-Life Aplogetics for the Next Generation
A helpful post from Scott Klusendorf on four ways Christian leaders can help the next generation think clearly about the most pressing moral issue of our day:"My Embryo Your Eyes Saw"
1.Clarify the nature of moral reasoning.
2.Clarify the one question that really matters.
3.Clarify the scientific and philosophic case for life.
4.Clarify the path to forgiveness.
Read the whole thing.
Bruce Waltke’s translation of Psalm 139:16.
An Interview with Robert George on Roe v. Wade
Friday, January 21, 2011
Michelle Malkin writes:
In the City of Brotherly Love, hundreds of babies were murdered by a scissors-wielding monster over four decades. Whistleblowers informed public officials at all levels of the wanton killings of innocent life. But a parade of government health bureaucrats and advocates protecting the abortion racket looked the other way —until, that is, a Philadelphia grand jury finally exposed the infanticide factory run by abortionist Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D., and a crew of unlicensed, untrained butchers masquerading as noble providers of women’s “choice.” Prosecutors charged Gosnell and his death squad with multiple counts of murder, infanticide, conspiracy, abuse of corpse, theft, and other offenses...Yes, it does matter who we vote for. It does matter if the men and women we vote for are pro-life or not. They write and enforce policy that either increases or decreases the numbers of abortions. Let us not kid ourselves any more that we can support pro-abortion politicians with a clear conscience. When a politician publicly supports and even champions the death dealers like NARAL and Planned Parenthood, the reverberations are devastating.
Already, left-wing journalists and activists have rushed to explain that these abortion atrocities ignored for four decades by abortion radicals and rationalizers are not really about abortion. A Time magazine writer argued that the Philadelphia Horror was “about poverty, not Roe v. Wade.” A University of Minnesota professor declared: “This is not about abortion.”
But the grand jury itself pointed out that loosened oversight of abortion clinics enacted under pro-choice former GOP governor Tom Ridge enabled Gosnell’s criminal enterprise — and led to the heartless execution of hundreds of babies. Mass murder got a pass in the name of expanding “access” and appeasing abortion lobbyists.
As the report made clear: “With the change of administration from [pro-life Democratic] Gov. Casey to Gov. Ridge,” government health officials “concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.”
Deadly indifference to protecting life isn’t tangential to the abortion industry’s existence — it’s at the core of it. The Philadelphia Horror is no anomaly. It’s the logical, bloodcurdling consequence of an evil, eugenics-rooted enterprise wrapped in feminist clothing.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
If you lack the conviction or the courage to stand up and say to your church, who you are accountable to lead, “It is wrong to kill unborn babies, God hates it and God will judge it,” then you should not be a pastor. If you don’t have the guts to say “These are children—we must stop killing them” then you need to do something that doesn’t even pretend to take on a biblical and prophetic mantle.
- Randy Alcorn
HT: Justin Taylor
Evangelicalism—in the Reformed camp or elsewhere—is not exactly overflowing with models of how to preach exegetically faithful, powerfully prophetic, culture-engaging, hope-giving, gospel-centered sermons on the politically charged and personally painful topic of abortion. But for the past twenty years John Piper has been doing just that. In this chapter I want to survey Piper’s sermons and writings on abortion as an encouragement and a model for preachers—and all believers—to honor God and defend the defenseless by proclaiming God’s Word and engaging the world on the issue of abortion.Read the entire chapter HERE.
In order to let Piper speak as much as possible, I’ll quote and paraphrase him extensively in what follows. I begin with a bit of biographical overview, sketching Piper’s development as a pro-life pastor. I’ll then attempt to summarize the main exegetical arguments in his pro-life sermons, since expositional preaching on abortion is a challenge. Finally, I will suggest some application lessons that pastors can learn from Piper’s pro-life preaching.
Check out Piper's sermons on abortion HERE.
HT: Justin Taylor
These two cases illustrate the pattern of moral confusion found among the public. News of the “house of horrors” in Pennsylvania brings prompt moral outrage, and understandably so. But is the abortion clinic on the corner, established for the purpose of killing unborn children, any less a house of horrors?Read the entire article HERE.
The couple in Australia openly admitted aborting their twin boys because they want a daughter. Millions around the world seem outraged by their decision, but having accepted the basic logic of abortion, they are hard-pressed to define when any abortion demanded by a woman might be unjustified and thus illegal.
The Christian revulsion over abortion and the destruction of human life is based in the knowledge that God is the Author of all life and of every life, without exception. Abortion is the business of death, and it is the great wound that runs through the nation’s conscience. These shocking accounts may sear their way into the nation’s collective conscience, but unless the basic logic of abortion rights is overturned, such accounts will erupt again and again.
Once we buy into the logic of abortion, there is no end to the trail of tears. In the case of the Australian couple, a professor of medicine commented that they should be able to select the gender of their baby after aborting the twin boys. “I can’t see how it could possibly hurt anyone,” he said.
What about the twins?
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The idea for this series was sparked by D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There. I owe the outline of the series to Dr. Carson’s wonderful book. I am also indebted to such books as According to Plan by Graham Goldsworthy, God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts, and God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by James Hamilton.
What Does God Want Of Us Anyway?
By Mark Dever
“Dever examines the general narrative of God's Word to answer the question, "What does God wants of us anyway?" Readers looking for a panoramic view of Scripture will be reminded of the faithful, persistent love of God and find themselves drawn into a broader, but deeper, understanding of the maker and keeper of promises.”
What is the Gospel
By Greg Gilbert
“Beginning with Paul's systematic presentation of the gospel in Romans and moving through the sermons in Acts, Gilbert argues that the central structure of the gospel consists of four main subjects: God, man, Christ, and a response. The book carefully examines each and then explores the effects the gospel can have in individuals, churches, and the world. Both Christian and non-Christian readers will gain a clearer understanding of the gospel in this valuable resource.”
The Great Work of the Gospel
By John Ensor
“Forgiveness is God's Great Work because sin is the greatest of problems, the cross is the most excellent of solutions, and grace produces the most extreme changes. It is all-inclusive and everlasting. In this book, John Ensor helps us grasp the reality and human experience of God’s ongoing, outworking, wonderful grace.”
Living the Cross-Centered Life
By C.J. Mahaney
“This book is packed with powerful truth that will grip your heart, clear your mind, and invigorate your soul. Chapters include "Breaking the Rules of Legalism," "The Cross Centered Day," and "Assurance and Joy." Get ready to behold a breathtaking view of what God intends to accomplish in and through you every day.”
And now a genuine house of horrors has been discovered in my own city. Of course, this is nothing new. This child-killer's crimes had been known for some time. But as is often the case, the crimes committed in abortion clinics are often ignored for political reasons.
A doctor who gave abortions to minorities, immigrants and poor women in a "house of horrors" clinic was charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, made millions of dollars over 30 years, performing as many illegal, late-term abortions as he could, prosecutors said. State regulators ignored complaints about him and failed to inspect his clinic since 1993, but no charges were warranted against them given time limits and existing law, District Attorney Seth Williams said. Nine of Gosnell's employees also were charged.
Gosnell "induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord," Williams said.
Patients were subjected to squalid and barbaric conditions at Gosnell's Women's Medical Society, where Gosnell performed dozens of abortions a day, prosecutors said. He mostly worked overnight hours after his untrained staff administered drugs to induce labor during the day, they said.
Early last year, authorities went to investigate drug-related complaints at the clinic and stumbled on what Williams called a "house of horrors."
Bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses "were scattered throughout the building," Williams said. "There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose."
The clinic was shut down and Gosnell's medical license was suspended after the raid.
Gosnell and four workers were charged with murder, while five others were charged with controlled drug violations and other crimes. None of the employees had any medical training, and one, a high school student, performed intravenous anesthesia with potentially lethal narcotics, Williams said.
Read the entire story HERE.
Monday, January 17, 2011
On Sunday evening I preached a message entitled "Evil, Disaster, and the Justice of God." It was taken from Luke 13:1-5.
You can listen to or download both messages HERE.
A movement that cannot or will not draw boundaries, or that allows the modern cultural fear of exclusion to set its theological agenda, is doomed to lose its doctrinal identity.He warns about the trend within evangelicalism toward making "conversation" an end rather than agreement on biblical orthodoxy.
[When] conversation rather than content becomes what is truly important, something critical is lost. Thus, as theology becomes a "conversation," traditional notions of truth face the danger of assuming less importance than mere aesthetics or modes of discourse. Indeed, doctrinal indifferentism can creep forward in a way that ends only with the sidelining or even repudiation of orthodoxy in any meaningful sense.The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind is an important book. It is brief and highly readable. Carl provides a clear and convincing call for evangelicals to soberly consider our future in light of our troubling present. This is especially important for those of us who are a part of churches that are non-denominational or which have rather minimal statements of faith. Highly recommended.
2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.
3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.
4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.
5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.
6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.
7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.
8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.
9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.
10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.
11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.
12. The outcast and the disadvantaged and exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.
13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.
14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.
15.Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
"We think not. Perish the popularity which comes by any doctrine but the truth, or by any means but that of solemn, earnest well-doing! Empty sensationalism perishes like the green herb, and heresy dies like a noxious weed; but the faithful preacher of the word shall be had in everlasting remembrance."
Friday, January 14, 2011
Over at Ref21 Carl Trueman helpfully points out the difference between genuine shame and the shamelessness of profiting from that which is shameful. Of course, part of our problem is that we tend to think shame is an inherently bad thing. But shame plays an essential role if we are to be healthy people. Do you really want to live next door to someone who has no sense of shame? Do you want that person teaching your children, preparing your food, or leading your church?
Anyway, kudos to Carl for this paragraph particularly:
It is, of course, great that Ted Haggard's family seems to have survived intact, despite all that he inflicted on his wife and children. But I am left wondering if there is any shame or sense of basic decency left in this world; and are there no limits to the American `If you've got lemons, make lemonade' mentality? Are forgiveness and redemption really appropriate contexts for the marketing of oneself? Does everything in America have to be celebrified in a manner that would even make Liberace's PJs look tasteful? [emphasis mine]
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Christianity Today, which has previously reported on the troubles in the house that Schuller built has included another article, this time with the provocative sub-title: "Why we are better off letting God make the Gospel relevant." It's a good enough article. I am happy to see CT reaching some of these conclusions given the fact that they were all excited about the church growth movement not too long ago.
My quibble with the article is in the following statement:
Some are tempted to hit the man while he is down, but this is unwise. Robert Schuller is not the problem—contemporary evangelicalism is. Schuller was only leading the parade of those who believe they are responsible for making the gospel relevant. The lesson is not that Schuller got it wrong or that his theology is out-of-date; it is not that we just need to find a better, more current point of cultural contact. The lesson is that our attempts to find and exploit a point of cultural contact inevitably end in bankruptcy.There is a lot right in that paragraph. However, while Schuller is not "the" problem he certainly has been a part of the problem. Evangelicalism is an abstract, an idea. It is people who define it. Robert Schuller was indeed near the front of the sad parade of modern evangelicalism and therefore shares responsibility in its vaudevillian shenanigans.
Also, the problem is not that Schuller's theology is "out-of-date", though, it surely is. His shtick sounds like some 1970's encounter group meeting. However, the real problem with Schuller's theology is that it is woefully lacking in adherence to the full counsel of Scripture. Not least of those elements absent from Schullerism is any mention of sin. For Schuller, sin is simply a failure to love yourself well enough. Plus, any mention of sin will only make people feel bad about themselves. Therefore, Schuller never mentioned it. This however dramatically shrinks the gospel. No sin? No need for grace. God, then, becomes utilitarian. He exists to restore my image of myself, to fill me with great thoughts of who I am. This is no small failure. This is not the Gospel.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to ful"ll many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a prior adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
I cannot read such a letter without asking myself some difficult questions. I am a pastor and father of three. My children are healthy and seem to be well adjusted. But I am a sinner with many deep flaws. So I ask myself, to what extent will my sins and flaws impact my children both now and in the years to come? I don't mean to sound pessimistic or fatalistic. God is unimaginably gracious. He covers over a multitude of sins. What is more, God loves my children even more than I. But the reality of my falleness most certainly impacts my kids.
So here are few questions I ask myself as I think about Bill Zeller's sad letter.
1. Am I aware of signs of sadness or feelings of isolation in the hearts of my children?
2. Have I nurtured a relationship with my children such that they feel the freedom to tell me about their pain?
3. Do my children see inconsistencies in my preaching and the way I live?
4. Do I place unrealistic expectations on my children because they are "the pastor's kids"?
5. Do my children perceive that I overemphasize God's holiness to the neglect of His love?
6. Have I helped my children to understand the realities of God's judgment in a way that does not undermine their confidence in His abundant grace for sinners?
7. Does my commitment to the church and ministry appear to my children to be greater than my commitment to them?
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I have no doubt Loughner is messed up, crazy, off his rocker, and out to lunch. It seems that he’s needed help for a long time. But why jump to conclude that this is a “Tragedy of Mental Illness”? To be sure, mental illness is real but it does not honor those who endure it to rush a diagnosis and start naming disorders every time an anti-social, nihilistic, solipsistic young man with guns and grudges sins in the worst possible ways. Where have all the active verbs gone?Read the entire post HERE.
Words Have Meaning
Unfortunately, pundits shy away from explicitly personal and moral categories in precisely the moments we need them most (9-11 may be the one exception). Whenever a public tragedy like this occurs everyone on the right and the left struggles to find some cause, and that cause is almost always outside the self—video games, strange novels, mistreatment by friends, a culture of hate, the second amendment, heated political rhetoric. And when an internal cause is suggested it almost always points away from personal responsibility to some element of us that doesn’t really belonging to us—like a mental disorder or our own personal demons.
We instinctively resort to passive speech, unable to bear the thought (let alone utter the words) that a wicked person has perpetrated a wicked crime. The human heart is desperately sinful and capable of despicable sins. Of course, no one commends the crime, but few are willing to condemn the criminal either. In such a world we are no longer moral beings with the propensity for great acts of righteousness and great acts of evil. We are instead, at least when we are bad, the mere product of our circumstances, our society, our upbringing, our biochemistry, or our hurts. The triumph of the therapeutic is nearly complete.
Monday, January 10, 2011
"To us ministers the maintenance of our power in the pulpit should be our great concern, we must occupy that spiritual watch-tower with our hearts and minds awake and in full vigor. It will not avail us to be laborious pastors if we are not earnest preachers.
"We shall be forgiven a great many sins in the matter of pastoral visitation if the people’s souls are really fed on the Sabbath-day; but fed they must be, and nothing else will make up for it.
"The failures of most ministers who drift down the stream may be traced to inefficiency in the pulpit. The chief business of a captain is to know how to handle his vessel, nothing can compensate for deficiency there, and so our pulpits must be our main care, or all will go awry."
- C. H. Spurgeon, from Lectures to My Students: Second Series (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1877), page 146
But chances are that Loughner’s motives will prove as irreducibly complex as those of most of his predecessors in assassination. Violence in American politics tends to bubble up from a world that’s far stranger than any Glenn Beck monologue — a murky landscape where worldviews get cobbled together from a host of baroque conspiracy theories, and where the line between ideological extremism and mental illness gets blurry fast.Read the entire article HERE.
This is the world that gave us Oswald and Bremer. More recently, it’s given us figures like James W. von Brunn, the neo-Nazi who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in 2009, and James Lee, who took hostages at the Discovery Channel last summer to express his displeasure over population growth. These are figures better analyzed by novelists than pundits: as Walter Kirn put it Saturday, they’re “self-anointed knights templar of the collective shadow realm, not secular political actors in extremis.”
This won’t stop partisans from making hay out of Saturday’s tragedy, of course. The Democratic operative who was quoted in Politico saying that his party needs “to deftly pin this on the Tea Partiers” was just stating the obvious: after a political season rife with overheated rhetoric from conservative “revolutionaries,” the attempted murder of a Democratic congresswoman is a potential gift to liberalism.
But if overheated rhetoric and martial imagery really led inexorably to murder, then both parties would belong in the dock. (It took conservative bloggers about five minutes to come up with Democratic campaign materials that employed targets and crosshairs against Republican politicians.) When our politicians and media loudmouths act like fools and zealots, they should be held responsible for being fools and zealots. They shouldn’t be held responsible for the darkness that always waits to swallow up the unstable and the lost.
We should remember, too, that there are places where mainstream political movements really are responsible for violence against their rivals. (Last week’s assassination of a Pakistani politician who dared to defend a Christian is a stark reminder of what that sort of world can look like.) Not so in America: From the Republican leadership to the Tea Party grass roots, all of Gabrielle Giffords’s political opponents were united in horror at the weekend’s events. There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
The first question posed to Dr. Wells was, "Besides the Bible, what has been the most influential book you have read this past year?" Now, when a man like David Wells is asked that question, my ears perk up. Wells responded:
The book I would love to see become the year’s most influential is J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett’s Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way. It argues that our churches should be catechizing because this kind of teaching, especially of our young, preserves doctrine. Biblical doctrine is what makes the church the church. We are stumbling in passing on the doctrinal core of the faith, and that goes to the heart of the church’s weakness today.I reviewed Grounded in the Gospel for the Gospel-Coalition earlier in 2010. You can read that review HERE.
Dr. Wells was also asked, "How can the church maintain an effective witness as we move into a decidedly post-Christian era in the West?" Wells answered:
We need a little perspective here. Our situation in the U.S.A., relative to Christians elsewhere, is not unusually difficult. It is true that we are now moving away from a time when Christianity has had some cultural acceptance. After all, consider how popular it has been to be “born again.” But let us remember that outside the U.S.A., there are Christians who live under tyrannies, such as from Islam, or in extreme poverty, or surrounded by horrible political corruption, or are subject to rampant crime. Our situation is really not that bad! What it requires is that we have some conviction about biblical truth, some savvy about the culture in which we are living, and the spine to preserve our identity as believers. It is a temptation to think that by being nice and accommodating we can make the Christian gospel seem like a great little addition to everyone’s life. But the gospel is not a great little addition. It is a soul-shaking, costly, demanding reality. The church cannot hide this fact! The gospel is not about self-therapy. Despite our pressured, taut, nervejangling age, the Christian message is not there just to make us feel better about ourselves or more able to cope. It is about coming before our great God and Savior, confessing our sins, entrusting ourselves to Him, and surrendering our claim upon ourselves to Him. What is most needed, and what is most lacking in the church, is a little character in differentiating its message from self-help therapies and marketing strategies. Our deficiency is not that we lack the right technique. It is that we often don’t have a real alternative. [emphasis mine]Indeed!
Friday, January 7, 2011
For me, the season also brought the usual Christmas accusation by email from somebody with time on their hands that I am a false teacher. Now, the world is full of people whom I regard as false teachers; but, given the choice of using two minutes of my finite life to send them an email decrying them for blasphemy and cursing their children to the fifth generation, or simply pouring myself a glass of wine, putting Mark Knopfler on the stereo, and stretching out on the sofa with a good book, I have to say the choice for me is clear. Yet the world is obviously full of more than a few people with no taste for wine, no Knopfler back catalogue, and no comfy sofa; so what better way to spend their time than firing off the odd heated email to somebody who has no clue as to who they are? For me, sufficient to the denomination and institution are the problems contained therein; so these days it takes a lot for me to engage on a personal level with a false teacher outside of my denominational or institutional patch.Along the way, Dr. T. makes some important points about the gravity of the teaching office and the necessity of being accountable. I suggest you take time to read it.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Dr. Johnson (B.A., Westmont College; M.Div. and Th.M., Westminster Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) has taught at Westminster Seminary California since 1982. He previously pastored Orthodox Presbyterian churches in Fair Lawn, New Jersey and East Los Angeles, California.Opening Meeting
After teaching New Testament for 16 years, he now teaches primarily preaching and ministry courses, applying his background in biblical studies to the issues of ministry, the church, and the culture. He is Associate Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Escondido, California. Dr. Johnson has preached and taught internationally in Africa, Asia, and Europe. He is the author of Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation; Let’s Study Acts; The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption; and Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, as well as numerous articles and reviews. Dr. Johnson and his wife, Jane, have four married children, whose families are scattered from Florida to Asia.
2 Samuel 16:5-14
Dr. Dennis Johnson
Defining and Defending Apostolic Christocentric Homiletics
Dr. Dennis Johnson
Substructures and Strategies for Apostolic Christocentric Homiletics
Dr. Dennis Johnson
From Biblical Text to the Sermon Manuscript
Dr. Greg Beale
Why Johnny Mustn’t Preach: Anemia in the Pulpit, Anarchy in the Pew
Dr. David Garner
The Prophetic Message: Preaching to the Heart of Imagination and the Imaginations of the Heart
Mr. Mike Kelly
Bright Stars in a Dark Sky
Dr. Dennis Johnson
Check it out HERE.
HT: Justin Taylor
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Will we ever be able to show the followers of Albert Mohler, John MacArthur and others that Christian theology doesn’t stand or fall on how we understand Genesis 1 or the question of whether Adam and Eve were the sole genetic progenitors of the human race? These are extremely critical issues to many and the task of showing in a convincing manner that evangelical theology doesn’t depend on the age of the earth, and it doesn’t depend upon whether Adam was made directly from dust will likely take decades before it will be convincing to all.
So, Dr. Falk sees the task as that of convincing us that evangelical theology “doesn’t depend” upon affirmations about the age of the earth or the historicity of Adam as “made directly from dust” — but Falk envisions this task as lasting decades “before it will be convincing to all.” With all due respect, I think he will need a longer calendar. Most frustratingly, Dr. Falk’s statement does not acknowledge the fact that the arguments published by BioLogos go far beyond even these important concerns. Articles at BioLogos go so far as to suggest that the Apostle Paul was simply wrong to believe that Adam was an historical person. A recent BioLogos essay argues that Adam and Eve were likely “a couple of Neolithic farmers in the Near East” to whom God revealed himself “in a special way.” There is a consistent denial of any possibility that Adam and Eve are the genetic parents of the entire human race. The BioLogos approach also denies the historical nature of the Fall, with all of its cosmic consequences. BioLogos has published explicit calls to deny the inerrancy of the Bible. The concerns do not stop here.
The Bible reveals Adam to be an historical human being, the first human being, and the father of all humanity. Adam is included in biblical genealogies, including the genealogy of Jesus Christ. If the arguments offered thus far by BioLogos for resolving the “theological challenges” associated with “evolutionary creation” are any indication of what is likely to come in the future, Dr. Falk and his colleagues will wait a very long time indeed for evangelicals to join their club.
Monday, January 3, 2011
"This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after, so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally unprotected, and so frequently destroyed."