Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Check out the following titles:
Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer
Should Christians Embrace Evolution? Norman Nevin ed.
Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews
Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson
Redeeming Science by Vern Poythress
Monday, January 30, 2012
In October of 2011, I was invited to participate in The Elephant Room 2. The invitation followed Mark Dever’s decision to pull out. James MacDonald called me and asked me to take his place. He also informed me of the controversy at that time surrounding the invitation to Jakes and Dever’s decision to pull out, and that Crawford Loritts had agreed to fill in. I knew James MacDonald only indirectly, and I had only recently heard of the Elephant Room.
Initially, it sounded like a very good idea to “pin Jakes down” on the Trinity. My area of emphasis in my theological training is Evangelism/Apologetics. Moreover, I addressed Jakes’s modalism in my first book in 2004, so I am well aware of the issues in question, and believed I could make a contribution. Also, to my delight, James indicated that Jakes had abandoned Oneness Pentecostalism, rejected Modalism, and, he believed, Jakes would make that clear at ER2.
I called my fellow elders to make them aware of the invitation (we usually meet monthly to review and consider invitations, but this was an urgent matter, and MacDonald had asked for a decision by the next day). We agreed that I should 1) find out more about the Elephant Room (specifically, was this an apologetics forum, or a forum that would assume Jakes’s orthodoxy), and 2) find out why Dever had backed out.
After investigating the matter, I decided to decline the invitation. My decision was based on four major areas of concern (Note: I voiced these four concerns to James MacDonald during our phone conversation the next day):
1.T.D. Jakes has a history of holding to, teaching, and associating with modalism, and ER2 was a forum wherein he would be assumed to be a “brother”.
I was already on record concerning Bishop Jakes’s modalism (see: The Ever Loving Truth, LifeWay, 2004), and I have kept up with the matter. Jakes had never repudiated Oneness Pentecostalism. Nor had he come out with an unambiguous, credal/confessional statement on the doctrine of the Trinity. There was absolutely no basis for me to assume that Jakes was suddenly orthodox, and therefore, no basis for me to welcome him as a brother.
2.The “Word of Faith” gospel he preaches is heterodox and harmful.
Even if Jakes had come out with a statement on the doctrine of the Trinity, it would not have done anything to change the fact that he preaches “another gospel.” (Gal 1:8–9) Having studied the “Word of Faith” movement, and seen the devastation it leaves in its wake, I was disinclined to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the man who has been this country’s most popular purveyor of this heresy in the past two decades (Note: James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll had both preached against the Word of Faith movement and called it heresy, so I did not believe I was informing James of anything he did not know already).
3.Jakes’s influence in the Dallas Metroplex has been negative, at best.
My wife is from Dallas, and my in-laws still live there (her parents and five siblings). I have preached in Dallas on many occasions, and at numerous churches, and have many acquaintances in the city. I know firsthand what kind of influence T.D. Jakes has had on the evangelical community, and broader Christian witness there. Suffice to say that he has not brought greater gospel clarity and fidelity. He has, however, brought a charismatic, theatrical, excessive, “Word of Faith” flavor to the city that permeates many churches (especially black churches).
4.Bishop Jakes is an example of the worst the black church has to offer.
One of the goals of ER2 was to address the issue of “racial” unity. Thus, Bishop Jakes was there (at least in part) as a representative of the “black church.” In light of the aforementioned issues, I was disinclined to participate in such an event. You see, Jakes was an invited guest; an invited ‘black’ guest. If he were mistreated, he had the race card; if he was accepted, he had entree into a new audience. It was a win-win for Jakes, and a lose-lose for evangelicalism. Obviously, he was not going to spout unadulterated modalism. Nor was he going to repudiate his roots (remember, this is his “heritage,” both ethnically and theologically). He had a perfect opportunity to find a middle ground and show “humility” in an environment that would be portrayed as “hostile” even though hostility was forbidden in light of the unwritten rules surrounding his blackness. Thus, his opponents had to choose between outright defeat and pyrrhic victory.
Moreover, I rejected the invitation because I did not want to give even the appearance of tokenism. The participants in the Elephant Room (and ER2), though they disagree methodologically on how we “get there,” are all virtually identical in their general profile. They are all successful mega-church pastors who have leveraged innovative and/or controversial methodologies to grow their churches, media empires, and/or pare-church ministries. I, on the other hand, am a pastor serving at a church with less than five hundred members; I’m not on television or radio; and my books aren’t best sellers. I don’t fit the profile! Whether MacDonald meant to or not, he was painting a picture of tokenism. If he meant it, I didn’t want to be used, and if he didn’t mean it, I didn’t want to be the source of misunderstanding.
While Pastor MacDonald said he “respected” my decision, he made it clear that he did not agree with me. We agreed to disagree and he moved on. At this time, I made two important decisions. First, I decided not to get involved in the public furor over ER2. I had spoken my piece to James, and saw no advantage in getting involved any further. There were others who were making many of the same points, and I did not want to pile on (James White, Phil Johnson, Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony Carter, and others were pressing the issue, and bringing the pertinent points to light). I do not regret this decision. My second decision, however, is another story altogether. My second decision was to move forward with the scheduled Men’s Conference. That was unwise.
Read the entire article HERE.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
RB: Assuming the best and that Jakes now affirms the orthodox view of the Trinity, if you were Mark Driscoll would you have asked him if he was going to publically recant for teaching damning heresy for so long?
JD: Yes. If he truly affirms an orthodox view of the Trinity, he must repent of his former teaching. The two views are totally incompatible.
RB: Elaborate on the practical implications of moving from modalism to the orthodox view in terms of Jakes’ church and world-wide impact. In other words, what would you do if you were T. D. Jakes and you now hold to the orthodox view of the Trinity after confusing so many people for such a long time?
JD: If I were Jakes, I would start to teach the Bible. That may sound like an oversimplification but men like Jakes may use the Bible every Sunday but don’t really teach it. I would start there.
RB: Comment on the following tweet I saw the other day: “The way Jakes played MacDonald & Driscoll, you could say Bishop took two pawns.” Why do you think the tweeter said that?
JD: Jakes quickly neutralized their objective questions with a bit of reverse psychology. MacDonald and Driscoll, who came to ER2 thinking the issue was doctrine, were very quickly routed by the Bishop, and before long they were talking about unity. It is always tempting to abandon our pursuit of doctrinal purity for church unity.
RB: On your Face Book page, you said, “Jakes’ chair was certainly no hot seat for he is an expert in vagueness and unfortunately they were charmed by his charisma.” Explain what you mean.
JD: He has capitalized on his cult of personality. His speaking skills, social diplomacy, and celebrity status can be overwhelming. He is a master at saying a lot without saying a lot. He is also a very likable fellow and the 30,000 Texans who make up his congregation are proof that theological ambiguity can fill a church building. I have been to conventions where he was the main speaker and have seen multitudes swoon over him. Driscoll and MacDonald were easy pickings.
RB: What would you say to folks who may be confused about ER2 and the discussion with Jakes?
JD: It may come as a surprise but men like T. D. Jakes are not epistemologically self-conscious. By that I mean that they spend so much time on motivating speech and platitudes that they’ve given very little time or thought to expound why they believe what they believe. They have reduced their doctrinal expressions to harmless sound-bytes intended to offend the least amount of people possible, and this is why he could neither call himself a Trinitarian nor fully renounce Oneness.
Read the entire interview HERE.
I must say that I am very concerned about the consequences of the Elephant Room. Driscoll, MacDonald and the other participants now affirm T.D. Jakes as orthodox. It is clear from Jakes' own words that he now desires to identify himself as Trinitarian while still holding on to modalist language. Driscoll and MacDonald should have called him on this. By failing to do so they diminished the importance of this central doctrine of biblical Christianity. By failing to mention, much less confront Jakes on his prosperity preaching, they failed further.
The clean bill of doctrinal health given to Jakes by Driscoll and MacDonald will only mean greater confusion within the church. It will mean pastors such as myself will need to be increasingly vigilant. Of course pastors expect this. What we do not expect is for false teachers to be given entree by influential evangelicals.
Resources on Presuppositional Apologetics:
Carl Trueman affirms this reality:
Thanks to the great and the good (both the vocal and, more worryingly, the strangely silent), I am sure many pastors of churches will now have to waste a lot of valuable time reading the works of T D Jakes in order to help their congregations understand why there is concern not simply about his doctrine of God but also his understanding of how the Lord blesses his people. You can probably skip the diet book; his nutritional advice is not, as far as I know, a matter of heated debateI have, on a number of occasions, warned my congregation about the dangers of prosperity teaching. In response, several have voiced to me their dismay. From their perspective, "We don't struggle with that." What these good brothers and sisters have not understood however is that there are renewed efforts to "mainstream" these false teachers. The most recent Elephant Room proves the point. Whose more "mainstream" than James MacDonald? Even Southern Baptists like Ed Young Jr. and Stephen Furtick have enthusiastically endorsed and partnered with T.D. Jakes.
Justin Taylor has brought my attention to a very helpful survey of his writings at 9 Marks. This may well help to save some time which could then be spent on other things, like pastoral care and preparing sermons.
One thing in all this is very puzzling: few evangelical leaders have hesitated to warn in the past against Joel Osteen. Jakes' theology of prosperity seems little different yet there is comparative silence in those same quarters on this man. Is Osteen simply a soft-target? Or is it just that he does not hang in the right crowd these days? There is no doubt who is going to be being read in more evangelical congregations in the coming weeks and months.
What is more, these errors regarding the nature of God, the nature of faith and how God blesses his people snake their way into the church in ways more subtle than the vaudevillian antics of Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Ultimately, in the deepest sense, for Paul “our good works” are not ours, but God’s. They are his work begun and continuing in us, his being “at work in us, both to will and to do what please him” (Phil. 2:13). That is why, without any tension, a faith that rests in God the Savior is a faith that is restless to do his will.Richard Gaffin from By Faith, Not By Sight
In 1 Corinthians 4:7 Paul puts to the church those searching rhetorical questions, “Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV). These questions, we should be sure, have the same answer for sanctification as for justification, for our good works as well as for our faith. Both, faith and good works, are God’s gift, his work in us. The deepest motive for our sanctification, for holy living and good works, is not our psychology, not how I “feel” about God and Jesus. Nor is it even our faith. Rather, that profoundest of motives is the resurrection power of Christ, the new creation we are and have already been made a part of in Christ by his Spirit.
Concern was voiced by some of MacDonald's fellow council members at the Gospel Coalition. Mark Dever, who was involved in the first Elephant Room discussion, withdrew from further involvement. Thabiti Anyabwile, another Gospel Coalition council member, wrote a moving and eloquent article explaining how the inclusion of Jakes in such a forum would undermine those black pastors who, seeing the damage done by prosperity preachers, have labored to build churches on sound doctrine. Even some pastors from within the Harvest network of churches expressed their deep concern over the inclusion of Jakes.
But now the event is over and nothing has changed. Not really. Jakes was asked about his beliefs regarding the Trinity. His answers, while satisfying to those in the Elephant Room, we actually not nearly as clear as some claim. Glaringly absent were any questions about Jakes' continued propagation of the abhorrent prosperity and word/faith heresies. These are every bit as troublesome as his ambiguity on the Trinity.
Carl Trueman and Frank Turk have both written worthwhile posts on this whole affair.
This request that we ask hard questions in the right venue, and consider the ER to have signally failed in this regard, will no doubt evince cries of `Hey, hater!' from some quarters. That is apparently the standard reaction now when anyone questions the actions of a successful pastor of a large church. If, however, we take true doctrine seriously, then surely we will see false teaching for what it is: soul destroying. Reflect on a parallel situation for a moment: let us say that, week after week, I see a congregant's wife with a black eye and an arm covered in cuts and bruises; eventually I ask her husband, `Did you do that?' to which he says `No, I abhor violence and despise the sort of people who beat their wives'; in such circumstances, is it unloving, Pharisaical or hateful of me to press the question a little further? I think not. Indeed, failure so to do would be moral delinquency of the highest order. To press the matter is actually responsible pastoring. The same thing applies with those whose public teaching seems to be deviant. It is not hateful to press the hard questions, and to do so with appropriate competence and in a suitable context; rather, it is right and necessary.
- Carl Trueman
Monday, January 23, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
"...the scientific evidence we have for human origins and the literary evidence we have for the nature of ancient stories of origins are so overwhelmingly persuasive that belief in a first human, such as Paul understood him, is not a viable option." (P.122).
"Admitting the historical and scientific problems with Paul's Adam does not mean in the least that the gospel message is therefore undermined. A literal Adam may not be the first man and cause of sin and death, as Paul understood it, but what remains of Paul's theology are three core elements of the gospel: 1. The universal and self-evident problem of death 2. The universal and self-evident problem of sin 3. The historical event of the death and resurrection of Christ. These three remain; what is lost is Paul's culturally assumed explanation for what a primordial man had to do with causing the reign of sin and death in the world." (123-124).
I am stunned by the arrogance that casts aside the very clear teachings of Scripture. I have to wonder where else Dr. Enns believes Paul leads us astray. Of course the unavoidable conclusion is that Jesus also erred in his conclusion that man was the special creation of God and not the outcome of natural selection from a common ancestor. Enns is simply wrong to say that denying an historical Adam has no implications regarding the gospel. Unless, of course, he is planning on re-writing Romans.
You may want to check out Dr. Jack Collins' book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Kevin DeYoung recently posted a helpful article on the identity of the 144,000 mentioned in chapter seven of Revelation. DeYoung offers a model of sound biblical interpretaion.
And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Rev. 7:4)
Many sincere Bible-believing Christians would understand the 144,000 like this: The church is raptured prior to the great tribulation. During the time when the church is gone, a remnant of 144,000 ethnic Jews is converted (12,000 from each tribe). These Jewish converts, in turn, evangelize the Gentiles who make up the great multitude in white robes in v. 9. That’s one understanding of Revelation 7. A lot of godly people hold that understanding. Let me explain why I understand the 144,000 differently.
The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant, and certainly not an Anointed Class of saints who became Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1935. The 144,000 represent the entire community of the redeemed. Let me give you several reasons for making this claim.
First, in chapter 13 we read that Satan seals all of his followers, so it makes sense that God would seal all of his people, not just the Jewish ones.
Second, the image of sealing comes from Ezekiel 9 where the seal on the forehead marks out two groups of people: idolaters and non-idolaters. It would seem that the sealing of the 144,000 makes a similar distinction based on who worships God not who among the Jewish remnant worships God.
Third, the 144,000 are called the servants of our God (Rev. 7:3). There is no reason to make the 144,000 any more restricted than that. If you are a servant of the living God, you are one of the 144,000 mentioned here. In Revelation, the phrase “servants of God” always refers to all of God’s redeemed people, not just an ethnic Jewish remnant (see 1:1; 2:20; 19:2; 19:5; 22:3).
Fourth, the 144,000 mentioned later in chapter 14 are those who have been “redeemed from the earth” and those who were “purchased from among men.” This is generic everybody kind of language. The 144,000 is a symbolic number of redeemed drawn from all peoples, not simply the Jews. Besides, if the number is not symbolic then what do we do with Revelation 14:4 which describes the 144,000 as those “who have not defiled themselves with women”? Are we to think that the 144,000 refers to a chosen group of celibate Jewish men? It makes more sense to realize that 144,000 is a symbolic number that is described as celibate men to highlight the group’s moral purity and set-apartness for spiritual battle.
Fifth, the last reason for thinking that the 144,000 is the entire community of the redeemed is because of the highly stylized list of tribes in verses 5-8. The number itself is stylized. It’s not to be taken literally. It’s 12 x 12 x 1000—12 being the number of completion for God’s people (representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of the Lamb) and 1000 being a generic number suggesting a great multitude. So 144,000 is a way of saying all of God’s people under the old and new covenant.
And then look at the list of the tribes. There are over a dozen different arrangements of the twelve tribes in the Bible. This one is unique among all of those. Judah is listed first because Jesus was from there as a lion of the tribe of Judah. All twelve of Jacob’s sons are listed—including Levi who usually wasn’t because he didn’t inherit any land-except for one. Manasseh, Joseph’s son (Jacob’s grandson), is listed in place of Dan. So why not Dan? Dan was left out in order to point to the purity of the redeemed church. From early in Israel’s history, Dan was the center of idolatry for the kingdom (Judges 18:30-31). During the days of the divided kingdom, Dan was one of two centers for idolatry (1 Kings 12:28-30). And there is recorded in some non-Biblical Jewish writings that the Jews thought the anti-Christ would come out of Dan based on Genesis 49:17. The bottom line is that the number and the list and the order of the tribes are all stylized to depict the totality of God’s pure and perfectly redeemed servants from all time over all the earth. That’s what Revelation means by the 144,000.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Does modern biology support or undercut human uniqueness? Are the discoveries of brain research compatible with personal responsibility? What does it really mean to be “created in the image of God?” And what are the social and ethical implications of our view of the human person? Explore these vital questions and more at the third annual Westminster Conference on Science and Faith to be held on April 14, 2012 at the ACE Conference Center in the greater Philadelphia area. Conference sessions will run from 8:45 am-5:15 pm and examine scientific evidence for human uniqueness, evolutionary claims about human origins, theological views of the image of God, the “blame it on the brain” mentality, and current conflicts over animal rights, euthanasia, and abortion.
Speakers will include psychologist Edward Welch, author of Blame It on the Brain; physician Michael Emlet, author of CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet; biologists Richard Sternberg and Ann Gauger of the Biologic Institute; biologist Ray Bohlin of Discovery Institute; Discovery Institute bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, author of A Rat Is A Pig Is A Dog Is A Boy; Biblical scholar C. John Collins, author of Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?; theologians Vern Poythress, K. Scott Oliphint, William Edgar, and David Garner of Westminster Theological Seminary; and social scientist John West of Discovery Institute, author of Darwin Day in America.
This event will be of special interest to seminary students, college students, and pastors and other church leaders. The conference is sponsored by Westminster Theological Seminary and Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Before I say anything else, let me say Jefferson Bethke seems like a sincere young man who wants people to know God’s scandalous grace. I’m sure he’s telling the truth when he says on his Facebook page: “I love Jesus, I’m addicted to grace, and I’m just a messed up dude trying to make Him famous.” If I met him face to face, I bet I’d like Jefferson and his honesty and passion. I bet I’d be encouraged by his story and his desire to free people from the snares of self-help, self-righteous religion.
And yet (you knew it was coming), amidst a lot of true things in this poem there is a lot that is unhelpful and misleading.
This video is the sort of thing that many younger Christians love. It sounds good, looks good, and feels good. But is it true? That’s the question we must always ask. And to answer that question, I want to go through this poem slowly, verse by verse. Not because I think this is the worst thing ever. It’s certainly not. Nor because I think this video will launch a worldwide revolution. I want to spend some time on this because Bethke perfectly captures the mood, and in my mind the confusion, of a lot of earnest, young Christians.
Read the whole post HERE.
"Are Christians Religious?" by Burk Parsons
Thursday, January 12, 2012
1 – Servants, Saints, and the Savior (1:1-2)
2 – Gospel Partnership (1:3-8)
3 – A Knowing and Discerning Love (1:9-11)
4 – Capturing Calamity for Christ (1:12-14)
5 – So Long as Christ is Preached (1:15-18)
6 – How to Live When Dying is Gain (1:18b-26)
7 – Living Worthy of the Gospel (1:27-30)
8 – Have This Mind (2:1-11)
9 – The Song of the Savior (2:5-11)
10 – Of Working and Willing (2:12-13)
11 – The Fruit of Paul’s Labors (2:14-18)
12 – Worthy Ministers (2:19-30)
13 – Rejoice in the Lord (3:1)
14 – When Loss is Gain (3:2-11)
15 – Restful Striving (3:12-16)
16 – Following the Right Example (3:17-4:1)
17 – The Agreement That Trumps Division (4:2-3)
18 – Living in Light of the Nearness of God (4:4-7)
19 – What Do You Think? (4:8-9)
20 – Strengthened for Contentment (4:10-13)
21 – Gospel-Driven Giving (4:14-23)
The following are some excellent resources for those of you who may want to study further:
Frank Thielman's commentary on Philippians in the NIV Application series is outstanding. Thielman is a noted New Testament scholar but this commentary is quite accessible.
For a more scholarly commentary, Gordon Fee's volume in the NICNT is excellent. Another commentary that fits the scholarly (but not ridiculously inaccessible) sort is Moises Silva's volume in the Baker Exegetical series.
I love the IVP series The Bible Speaks Today. They are written for a popular audience but are grounded in solid scholarship. Alec Motyer's volume on Philippians is excellent for individual or group study.
Sinclair Ferguson is the author of the Philippians volume from the Let's Study series from Banner of Truth. This is perfect for small group study.
•J.I. Packer, “What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution“
•Francis Schaeffer, “A Day of Sober Rejoicing“
•Thomas Chalmers, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection“
•R. V. G. Tasker, “The Biblical Doctrine of the Wrath of God“
•Martin Luther, “Two Kinds of Righteousness“
•George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”
•J. Gresham Machen, “The Good Fight of Faith"
•Jonathan Edwards, “The Most High, A Prayer-Hearing God"
•John Chrysostom, “Homily 21, On Ephesians 6:1-4"
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Idolatry is all manner of seeming holiness and worshipping, let these counterfeit spiritualities shine outwardly as glorious and fair as they may; in a word, all manner of devotion in those that we would serve God without Christ the Mediator, his Word and command.
In popedom it was held a work of the greatest sanctity for the monks to sit in their cells and meditate of God, [solitude] and of his wonderful works; to be kindled with zeal, kneeling on their knees, praying, and having their imaginary contemplations of celestial objects [meditation], with such supposed devotion, that they wept for joy.
In these their conceits, they banished all desires and thoughts of women, and what else is temporal and evanescent. They seemed to meditate only of God, and of his wonderful works.
Yet all these seeming holy actions of devotion, which the wit and wisdom of man holds to be angelical sanctity, are nothing else but works of the flesh. All manner of religion, where people serve God without his Word and command, is simply idolatry, and the more holy and spiritual such a religion seems, the more hurtful and venomous it is; for it leads people away from the faith of Christ, and makes them rely and depend upon their own strength, works, and righteousness.
Martin Luther from his Table Talk
1. Holiness and God’s Creation Purpose
2. Holiness and Sexuality in the Pauline Writings
3. Same-sex Unions and Romans 3
Take time to read these helpful essays.
HT: Justin Taylor
Monday, January 9, 2012
The notion that evangelicals are naïve and squeamish about sex and don't discuss it openly enough is a myth. Evangelical sex manuals have been all the rage as long as I have been a believer, going back to the early 1970s. You had Marabel Morgan's The Total Woman in 1972, which generated tons of evangelical sex-talk. (Marabel was known for—among other things—a kinky suggestion involving the use of Saran Wrap as a dressing gown.) You had Ed Wheat's book Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment just five years later. It has sold multiple millions of copies. Even Tim Lahaye wrote a surprisingly candid sex manual, The Act of Marriage in the mid-1970s. Having sold more than two and a half million copies, that book is still in print.Read the entire post HERE.
Yet evangelicals have been complaining for decades that we don't talk enough or hear enough teaching about sex. From the point of view of many non-evangelicals, sex is about the only thing evangelicals have demonstrated a serious and sustained interest in for the past 40 years. As early as 1977, Martin Marty, a liberal religious scholar, referred to the trend as "Fundies in their Undies."
So the premise that evangelical churches are in desperate need of more and more explicit instruction on sex techniques is a risible falsehood.
But evangelical leaders who aspire to be at the vanguard in this trend have to keep looking for even kinkier ways to contextualize their Kama Sutras and their "sexperimentation." Ed Young, Jr., for instance, announced this weekend that he and his wife "will spend 24 hours in bed on the church roof next week and stream themselves live on the Internet to encourage married couples to see firsthand the power of a healthy sex life"...
This trend toward increasingly explicit sex-talk and more deviant practices is a bad one for the church. The ease and speed with which evangelicals have embraced the trend is troubling. Just a couple of decades ago (and in every era of church history prior to that), shenanigans like Ed Young's rooftop exhibition would have been roundly and universally condemned by evangelical leaders. The silence (or weak, accommodating response) of most Christian leaders today in the face of such an obvious sea-change is deeply troubling.
It's yet another sign of evangelicalism's growing conformity to worldly values and worldly behavior. The various evangelical coalitions and young Reformed movements that looked so encouraging five years ago have done more to encourage and enable this kind of exhibitionism than to challenge it. These things ought not to be.
How bad will it have to get before true leaders in the church and in the various gospel-centered movements find their voices and start calling the church—and some of these out-of-control exhibitionist preachers—to repentance? I for one hope we get an answer to that question before very long. I pray for it every day.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
1. Philippians is Christ-saturated.
This letter drips Jesus. Specifically, it focuses on Christ’s redemptive work on the cross – the message we call “the gospel.” As always, Paul’s overarching concern in this letter is the gospel of Jesus. In fact, Paul uses the word gospel more times in Philippians than in any other letter. Paul never thought it appropriate to “move on” from the gospel. He never saw the gospel as something we “get” and then may assume from that point on. Even to this congregation of faithful, maturing believers who brought Paul deep joy, he deems it necessary to refer repeatedly to the gospel of Jesus Christ; to ground everything in the Gospel.
2. Philippians is filled with expressions of love.
There is a high concentration of loving, friendship language in this letter. The Philippian church was Paul beloved friends. He loved all the congregations he minister to but there is a kind of joy in his relationship with the Philippian church that seems to be unique. We know there were times when Paul, as a faithful pastor, had to rebuke those he loved. Read 1 and 2 Corinthians. Read Galatians. Read Romans. Paul loved them but he had to rebuke them for sin and doctrinal error. But not so with the Philippian church. They were faithful to Christ and the gospel. And they were faithful friends to Paul. They were his partners in the gospel. And they made him very joyful.
3. Philippians is a model of and call to joy in the midst of great difficulty.
What a model Paul is! He is writing from prison and yet he radiates joy. And he calls his readers to the same kind of joy in the midst of suffering. Philippians is a letter to Christians in the midst of a hostile community under a threatening regime and yet Paul is not shy about calling these brothers and sisters to be full of joy. Paul uses the word joy or one of its derivatives more in Philippians than any other letter and he is in prison writing to Christians under the fist of pagan Rome. Surely we have much to learn from this.
4. Philippians is the overflow of a man for whom the world had lost all fascination.
The world had lost its grip on Paul. Everything he had accomplished (and he had accomplished much) was rubbish to him. He saw his worldly achievements as a net loss. He no longer loved the world and its offers of status. He was not impressed with anything he had done. He was not impressed with the world’s power and wealth. And this was no doubt important to model for the church in Philippi.
5. Philippians is a call for gospel-centered unity.
Philippians is a call for brothers and sisters in Christ to agree; to avoid quarrelling. Repeatedly Paul grounds us in Christ’s work on the cross to not only assure of us of our salvation but to give us a pattern to follow of humility and service to one another. We are united Christ and therefore to one another. It is the cross which has accomplished this. This is not sentiment. It is a call for robust, Christ-purchased, Gospel-centered unity.
This is how the message of Christ’s death creates unity between brothers and sisters – not by enforcing unity but by creating servants.
6. Philippians is a call to remain undiluted from outward threats and doctrinal confusion.
Paul warns the Philippians, not about errors currently happening within their church, but about threats and doctrinal confusion that were sure to come. They would be threatened by Roman authorities. They would be threatened by Pagan religionists. And they would be threatened by doctrinal error from within. So Paul urges them to be on guard.
Friday, January 6, 2012
The inerrancy of Scripture simply means that all of the Bible, in its original manuscripts, never asserts anything that is contrary to fact or in error, but always speaks the truth on every matter it discusses. Scripture, and all of Scripture, is free from falsehood, fraud, and deceit. While the Bible does not inform us of every fact on any particular subject, nevertheless, in what it does address on any subject it is true and without fabrication (2 Pet 1:21). One of the best definitions of inerrancy comes from Paul Feinberg when he writes, “Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences” (Inerrancy, 294).Read the entire issue HERE. Read it in PDF form HERE.
Unfortunately, many opponents of inerrancy grossly misunderstand its meaning. Feinberg, whose work dates back to 1980, outlines several misunderstandings of inerrancy (299). However, many, if not most, of these misunderstandings of inerrancy prevail today.
1. Inerrancy does not demand strict adherence to the rules of grammar.
2. Inerrancy does not exclude the use either of figures of speech or of a given literary genre.
3. Inerrancy does not demand historical or semantic precision.
4. Inerrancy does not demand the technical language of modern science.
5. Inerrancy does not require verbal exactness in the citation of the Old Testament by the New.
6. Inerrancy does not demand that the Logia Jesu (the sayings of Jesus) contain the ipsissima verba (the exact words) of Jesus, only the ipsissima vox (the exact voice).
7. Inerrancy does not guarantee the exhaustive comprehensiveness of any single account or of combined accounts where those are involved.
8. Inerrancy does not demand the infallibility or inerrancy of the noninspired sources used by biblical writers.
Each of these is worth further investigation, but for our purposes I only wish to highlight one, which crops its head up relentlessly in every generation. Inerrancy does not mean that there must always be semantic and historical precision. One can be truthful without being totally precise. If someone asks where I was born, I would likely answer California. Have I been untruthful since, to be precise, I was born in Southern California, and not just Southern California but Glendale, California, which is a city within Los Angeles, and not just in Glendale but in a hospital, room 452 to be exact? It should be obvious that my original answer was adequate, and therefore truthful in every way. No error was committed. Similarly, the Bible is not in error should it estimate, round up, give an average, or speak in generalities at times. The authors of Scripture are situated culturally and utilize simile, parables, hyperbole, metaphor, and many other forms of speech just as we do. None of these preclude the Bible’s ability to speak truthfully. Too often we impose our assumption that to be truthful there must be absolute technicality, when in reality we live in a world where reliability does not necessarily require meticulous exactitude. As The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy observes, “Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.”
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Have evangelicals lost their discernment? Have they lost the stomach to ask critical questions? Are they able to ask, "Is this biblical?" and back it up with adequate knowledge from the Scriptures?
Last week while I was minding my own business in Barnes and Noble I was visually assaulted by the latest edition of Heaven Is For Real. This one was extra big and entitled Heaven Is For Real For Kids! What's amazing is that the first edition does not qualify as being "for kids." But I digress. Anyway, as I maneuvered around the case of books I noticed yet another "I went to Heaven but God sent me back because I'm too important for his purposes" book.
As I have pointed out before (here and here) one of the reasons I am so troubled by these books, and others like them, is that they undermine confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture. Why do we need Sarah Young's less inspired and potentially errant words directly from Jesus when the Bible gives us the fully inspired and inerrant Word of God? Why do we need Todd Burpo to assure us that Heaven is for real when the Bible already does?
Someone with whom I am close recently had a conversation with a precious saint. This wonderful person has been a Christian for many years. And yet, having been so captivated by Heaven Is Real she assured my friend that we will have wings in Heaven because the Burpo kid says so.
Brothers and sisters, we can do better than this. We must do better than this. It does not honor God, who gave us His Word and two thousand years of faithful witnesses, when we gather to ourselves tellers of tall tales and mystic guides. For God's sake and our own good let us do better.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Someone asked me recently why I seem so alienated from what appears to be the cutting edge in American conservative evangelicalism.Frankly, I have stopped regarding myself as an evangelical over here, in a way that I do back home. Why? Well, at a time when Christian leaders in the USA are apparently writing explicit sex books, when there are confused signals on the Trinity, when art and cultural transformation and social justice are increasingly the talking points and the kind of themes and priorities I learned from Drs. Packer and Lloyd-Jones are at best assumed, at worst eclipsed by such things - frankly, it is very hard not to feel alienated, and an alien, in such circumstances.Read the whole post HERE.
Re-reading Packer and Lloyd-Jones is a delight. Just basic Christian priorities laid out with no frills, no spin, no soul patches, no Barnum and Bailey pyrotechnics. For someone well into his forties, such reading perhaps provokes the occasional Charlie Kane 'Rosebud' moment; but it is a delight nonetheless. Almost thirty years on, I still have an awful lot to learn from these men, and my debt of gratitude can never be repaid.
As you age, starting to sound like your dad is bad enough; sounding like your grandad is even worse, but here goes: I am glad I am not young today. Who knows what I might be told to read?
But like all of us, Mark Driscoll is a bit of a mixed bag. He is a very public figure who has stirred up no small amount of controversy. Some of that controversy has been the result of his faithfulness to the Gospel, biblically prescribed gender roles, and biblical sexual ethics. However, much of the controversy has been due to some rather unfortunate behavior and statements on his part. All of us have said and done things that we would like to take back. But for an internationally known "rock star" pastor, author, and church network leader the margin for error is precariously thin.
With the release of Mark and Grace Driscoll's new book, Real Marriage, there is fresh conversation about the pastor's tendency to preach, teach, and write about sex in frank, and, some would argue, inappropriate ways. Others are weighing in on this matter helpfully (Carl Trueman [here and here], Denny Burk, Tim Challies). I hope that Driscoll will listen to and learn from these brothers. I won't, at least for now, seek to add to their comments.
But I offer a plea to Mark Driscoll. It is a plea that flows from concern over his repeated claims to receive direct revelations from God. It all began, according to Mark, when his conversion to Christ, his call to be a pastor, to be a mentor to men, and to marry Grace came to him via the audible voice of God. Specifically, my plea is for Mark Driscoll to stop making claims of direct revelation from God.
My concern is four-fold:
1. It seems arrogant.
History is somewhat spare of those to whom God spoke directly. There was Adam and Eve. There was Noah, Abraham and, later, Moses. There were the prophets that followed. Later, the apostles received direct revelation as they recorded the Scriptures we call the New Testament. But even in their case we do not have any evidence that God spoke to them in an audible voice (except of course through the incarnate Christ). And now we have...Mark Driscoll? Is it wise to repeatedly claim to have heard the audible voice of God? What purpose does this serve? Is it important to broadcast the reception of continued, direct revelation? Those few men who truly did receive revelation from God suffered on account of it. Paul points out that because of the revelations he received (the purpose of which was for the writing of Scripture) God gave to him a thorn in the flesh that he might not become proud (2 Corinthians 12:5-9). It seems arrogant for a preacher in our moment of redemptive history to repeatedly make claims to receive direct revelation from God. It places one in rarefied air indeed.
2. It is pastorally unwise.
It seems that every cult and man-made religion begins with someone claiming divine revelation: "God speaks to me," "I am a conduit of the divine," or "I found these golden tablets that only I can interpret!" I am not accusing Mark Driscoll with being a cult leader. I do not believe he is. Again, I am grateful that he proclaims the gospel. But his claims to direct revelation can easily lead to a cult-of-personality. Who can argue that this has not already happened?
Don't misunderstand. A pastor ought to be the best educated man in his congregation in regard to the Scriptures and doctrine. It is right to honor such a man (1 Timothy 5:17). However, claims to direct revelation and hearing the audible voice of God can easily lead to a kind of elitism that goes well beyond healthy honor. It can create a sort of hierarchy in which the pastor is placed on a super-spiritual plane the average parishioner will never reach.
On the other hand, a pastor's claims to direct revelation can create within parishioners an expectation to experience the same phenomena. We don't have to imagine the sorts of confusion and chaos this sort of expectation can cause. We need look no further than some of the titles being released by Christian publishers where the fanciful and fantastic is valued over that which is biblical. Or simply tune in to Trinity Broadcasting Network to see a whole motley parade of men and women who claim to speak for God.
The claim to direct revelation begs the question why? What is missing in the Bible that Mark Driscoll, or anyone esle for that matter, can provide? Given the contemporary church's notorious biblical illiteracy, why should we be seeking additional revelation or words from God? I fear that Driscoll's claims will seriously undermine his congregation's confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture.
3. It is, at least, potentially blasphemous.
As a preacher I know what it is like to have words placed in my mouth. People routinely "hear" me say things from the pulpit that I never said. The consequences are potentially severe of misquoting a person or, worse, fabricating statements that were never said. Even if the words are innocent or inconsequential, none of us want to be given credit for statements we never made.
It is bad enough when that happens to me or you or anyone else. But when God is misquoted or entire statements are mistakenly (or intentionally) attributed to Him then the consequences are grave. The Bible reserves some of its harshest condemnations for false prophets who do not speak God's words but their own vain imaginings cast as God's words. It is no small sin when we say, "God said," when God did not say.
Mark Driscoll has claimed from the pulpit of his church and in the pages of his new book on marriage that God reveals to him, in vivid detail, the sexual sins of others. Please understand, Driscoll's claim is not that God makes him aware of certain sinful patterns in other people's lives. That would be odd enough. Rather, his claim is that God runs in his mind, movie-like, graphic images of sexual sin that others have committed (including those of his wife in the days before they were married!). This is troubling, not least of all because it makes God responsible for projecting sexually graphic images in Driscoll's mind. But what if Mark is wrong? What if God is not running these disgusting images in his mind? Can it be anything less than blasphemy to falsely attribute these revelations to the work of God?
4. It is almost certainly not true.
Now, before anyone freaks out, let me explain. God is alive and powerful. He is a personal God who speaks to his people. And, no, I do not believe God spoke audibly to Mark Driscoll. Why? Because God no longer speaks to men in this way.
I can hear the protests. "Aha! You're just an anti-supernaturalist who is trying to put God in a box!" But this could not be further from the truth. I am not trying to limit God in any way. I am only suggesting that we believe what God himself has said about the way He speaks:
"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV).
God has spoken supremely through the Son. And where do we find this word of the Son? In the Scriptures of course. All of the Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, points us to the Christ. Jesus himself taught the disciples to read the Bible this way (Luke 24:25-27).
The days of the prophets and apostles are over. Direct revelation is closed by God's own design. The Scriptures are complete. God's plan is on the move just according to His design. Rather than listening for a voice in our heart, from the sky, or along a river bed we are promised something far better. God promises to speak to us through His inscripturated Word which never goes forth without accomplishing His purpose. No need to rely upon mystical experience. No unclear impressions required or ever warranted; just God's clear, powerful, and sufficient Word faithfully and lovingly recorded for us through the Spirit's work of inspiration.
The newly united brothers and sisters whom God formed into the first church at Jerusalem were "devoted," not to mystical experience or discerning a voice (audible or otherwise), but to "the apostle's teaching" (Acts 2:42). It is that very same teaching that we have today in the form of the New Testament. This, along with what we know as the Old Testament, continues to be the blessed means by which God graciously speaks to His beloved people.
So, I plead with Mark Driscoll to stop relying on and proclaiming these extra-biblical revelations. It is pastorally unwise and could imperil the souls of the men and women with whom he has been entrusted.