Friday, July 29, 2005
Meanwhile, it looks like the guys at the Reformation 21 Blog are starting to figure out the whole blogging thing, so give them a look if you're interested.
Pastors John and Tom:
When I first came to Bethlehem in 1998, I did not yet know either of you. But I certainly knew of you. I knew that you were both godly men who trembled at the Word, passionately pursuing God and helping others to do the same. This has only been confirmed in all of my interactions with you over the past seven years. What has surprised and impressed me the most since that time, however, is your deep humility. You have different personalities and temperaments. But because you both are passionate about seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and being conformed to his image, your eye is ultimately always upon Another. You have followed the motto of John the Baptist: Christ must increase, I must decrease. For as long as I live I will remain eternally grateful for the gifts that both of you are in my life—and for the fact that you humbly and confidently point all us to Jesus Christ, our great Lord, Savior, and Treasure.
And here are some more words of encouragement and honor for these two servants of the Lord.
* * *
Dear John and Tom,
The following verse from sacred Scripture seems particularly appropriate for those who have the joy of honoring you on this special occasion:
"We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work." 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
You two men are most worthy of the "high esteem" described in this passage. And because of your example you make it easy to obey this command from God. So thanks for serving one local church for 25 years and thanks for serving this church together for 25 years. What a compelling example of friendship and servanthood you have provided for pastors across the country and around the world. I esteem you both highly because of your example and for your labor on behalf of Bethlehem and the body of Christ. I am honored to communicate publicly the high esteem in my heart for you both.
As you celebrate the kindness and faithfulness of God on this evening I pray you are deeply affected by the appreciation of many for your service to the Savior and for the church. And most important I pray you are aware of the pleasure of God in your service to the Savior and for the church he purchased “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
* * *
As one who has known and applauded your ministry at Bethlehem almost from the time it began, I am delighted to send you my congratulations and to join with you and your colleague and your people in praising God for all that has been accomplished during the past 25 years. Long may the good work continue!
* * *
I am honored to join with so many others in thanking God for the ministries of John Piper and Tom Steller at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Twenty-five years represents a signal hallmark of ministry, and John and Tom are rightly to be honored for giving themselves so completely to this great ministry for a quarter of a century. Yet, time is only a backdrop to eternity. Bethlehem Baptist Church has made an impact of eternal significance over these years, and from this local church a ministry of global dimensions has emerged -- all centered in the supremacy of Christ. Christ is glorified when His servants are rightly honored. I am privileged to honor Christ today by honoring John Piper and Tom Steller.
Soli Deo Gloria.
* * *
To: Pastors John Piper & Tom Steller
Congratulations for a ministry that has reached far beyond the local church, indeed into the whole world awakening people to the sweetness and excellence of God. I have great admiration for pastors who remain devoted to a particular congregation over a period of time as they obey Christ’s call on their lives. This is clearly the direction of your ministry. May you continue steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the LORD, knowing that your labor is not in vain.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Although I had not attempted to contact Dr. Carson before the Cornerstone Festival, I have attempted to contact him since, and I'm glad to say that he responded promptly and has expressed willingness to converse further. I am hopeful that these conversations will remove misunderstandings and make points of agreement and disagreement more clear. . . .
In order to post this correction, I need to offer a rating. I've given the book 3 stars because, although I believe the book misinterprets my friends and me on some important points, it opens up important space for dialogue - and it offers some criticism which will be constructive and helpful. The book concludes with the hope that those of us in the emergent conversation will be open to correction, and I hope readers will be assured that we welcome critique, and will seek to learn from it all we can.
Despite winning 14 Best Picture Awards at film festivals, it lacked a major distributor and few have heard of it. By the way, one interesting fact about the film is that it was filmed in less than a month, in Utah, for under $1 million. Many of the actors in the opening sequence are reenactors who traveled to Utah at their own expense. But as Michael Medved has said, this is “a gritty independent film with more soul and substance and more thrilling combat scenes than big studio projects.”
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
These are the stories of five ordinary women—Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare—who trusted in their extraordinary God as he led them to do great things for his kingdom. Noël Piper holds up their lives and deeds as examples of what it means to be truly faithful. Learning about these women will challenge readers to make a difference for Christ in their families, in the church, and throughout the world.
Another helpful article is Kay Hymowitz's The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies, which examines the the 40-year legacy of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Department of Labor report--“The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”--which warned that the ghetto family was in serious disarray. As Hymowitz explains, this "prophetic report prompted civil rights leaders, academics, politicians, and pundits to make a momentous—and, as time has shown, tragically wrong—decision about how to frame the national discussion about poverty." She surveys four decades of unhelpful liberal response that only made matters worse.
But she then points to three thinkers that shook the establishement from "ideological paralysis": "Charles Murray, Lawrence Mead, and Thomas Sowell—though they did not always write directly about the black family, effectively changed the conversation about it."
First, they did not flinch from blunt language in describing the wreckage of the inner city, unafraid of the accusations of racism and victim blaming that came their way. Second, they pointed at the welfare policies of the 1960s, not racism or a lack of jobs or the legacy of slavery, as the cause of inner-city dysfunction, and in so doing they made the welfare mother the public symbol of the ghetto’s ills. (Murray in particular argued that welfare money provided a disincentive for marriage, and, while his theory may have overstated the role of economics, it’s worth noting that he was probably the first to grasp that the country was turning into a nation of separate and unequal families.) And third, they believed that the poor would have to change their behavior instead of waiting for Washington to end poverty, as liberals seemed to be saying."
I agree with much of what Ms. Hymowitz says in this helpful survey piece. The thing left unsaid--and the thing I would highlight--is the essential role of the gospel and the church in the restoration of the inner-city family. We must go beyond bemoaning fatherless families, but instead work with young men to show them that there is a better way. One of the things that we can do is to support programs like Campus Crusade's Here's Life Inner City and Moe Leveritt's Desire Street Ministries.
My wife and I once went with a single mom from our neighborhood to a seminar sponsored by a rural church. The seminar was a free, simple, non-intimidating introduction on how to make a budget and stick to it. The church also offered a program where members of the church would help you get your car fixed for very cheap labor. I wish that more churches would follow this sort of model: building relationships; meeting some very real, felt needs; and opening the door to talk about their deepest need: a Savior.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Here is an excerpt:
Where there is a shallow doctrine of sin, we can expect a shallow doctrine of the atonement. The expectation is not disappointed. Chalke is weary of the Evangelical obsession with preaching "Christ crucified", regards the idea of penal substitution as immoral ("a form of cosmic child abuse") and sees the cross exclusively as a symbol of love. There, Jesus absorbed all the forces of hate, just as Carol, the victim of an unfaithful husband, saved her marriage by taking all the pain to herself and granting her husband full pardon. The cross is a demonstration of just how far God as Father and Jesus as His Son are prepared to go to prove their love.
It is astonishing how such a doctrine has survived from the days of Abelard till now despite all its flimsiness. How can the cross be a mere demonstration: a gesture? If death is the wages of sin (as it surely is) and if Christ died, then the cross is penal in its very nature. His penal suffering is not a theory, but a fact, and the resulting theory adds not a single iota to the horror of what he endured. The narrative is that he suffered what sin deserved.
We shall never understand the cross unless we see it first and foremost not as an action of Christ the Son, but as an action of God the father. How can the sacrificing of His only Son demonstrate the Father’s love? Suppose we, for no reason, did it to ours; would that demonstrate our love? The cross cannot be a demonstration of the divine love unless there is something in the relationship between God and man to which the death of His Son was the only answer. With all the power of his soul, Jesus prayed that the cup might pass from him. With all the ardour of his being, the Father wished he could grant that prayer. Both were constrained by a self-imposed necessity. The Son of Man must suffer. "Die he, or justice must."
The lost message of Jesus? More like the familiar message of the liberal establishment, garnished with half-forgotten heresies.
- Phil Ryken offers some of his Windows on the World.
- Derek Thomas provides some counsel in Understanding the Times.
- And Carl Trueman--whom Melvin Tinker says "has the wit of a modern day evangelical Chesterton, the prophetic insight of a Francis Schaeffer and the accessibility of a John Stott"--offers his reflections on The Wages of Spin.
The Reformation 21 blog is now also up and running.
Here is his conclusion:
So, to all who are looking for an even-handed, academically rigorous, evangelically committed, pastorally sensitive, culturally engaged treatment of the postconservative platform, you have found it. But more than that, you have found a proposal with an unchanging center, an immovable core, a place of genuine permanence. And for those of us who engage in a world without a center, that is a welcomed refuge indeed.
First off, the main theme of the issue is the so-called New Perspective on Paul.
Ligon Duncan provides an overview, along with some recommended reading if you're new to the discussion.
Rick Phillips has a three-part series on the historical background and the NPP's teachings on justification and imputation.
Guy Waters reviews Carson/O'Brien/Seifrid's Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 2.
Jeremy Smith reviews Guy Waters' Justification and the New Perspective on Paul.
The Ref21 archives offer some sermons on justification by Bonar, Calvin, Spurgeon, and others.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Here's an excerpt:
If a church wants to start taking church discipline seriously, what would you suggest?
My basic advice is not to do it—that is, do not do church discipline until your church membership is meaningful.
With most evangelical churches today, the membership is fairly meaningless. And it would be weird to have two deacons turn up on your front doorstep to confront you about adultery or gossip, because there's been no natural conversation about your spiritual life. Not only should we be talking about football and the weather after worship, but also about our own self-denial or lack thereof, our response to the Word just preached, the way we choked up at that older member's testimony, how we've cared for a distressed family, about our concern to evangelize Muslims in the area, and so on.
When it's natural to have serious conversations about real life with each other, that's when you can start practicing corrective discipline. And once you start doing these other things, once you see the culture of the congregation changed where it really is the shape of your discipleship and the center of your life, church discipline is as natural as can be.
Read the whole thing. You can also visit Dever's website, 9Marks.org, and get his book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Also watch for his new book, co-authored with Paul Alexander, The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel. It is an excellent book, due out in September from Crossway. If every pastor were to read and apply the principles in The Deliberate Church to their ministry, the evangelical landscape would be transformed.
I think that theologians need to take advantage of the Internet and especially the blogosphere to fulfill their role of "informing the laity." Journals are an excellent way for them to stay up on current thought but it needs to trickle down into the pews.Well, just a few minutes ago the the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals launched a new e-zine: Reformation 21, which I hope will accomplish what Joe is calling for.
The Alliance is a group of confessional evangelicals: Eric Alexander, Paul Helm, Alistair Begg, C.J. Mahaney, Gerald Bray, John McArthur, Jerry Bridges, Al Mohler, Iain Campbell, Rick Phillips, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Mark Dever, Phillip Ryken, Ligon Duncan, Derek Thomas, Sinclair Ferguson, Carl Trueman, Robert Godfrey, Gene Edward Veith, John Hannah, and David Wells. Here's their description of the new venture:
Reformation 21 is an online magazine (ezine) created to serve, edify, and educate Christians by presenting an authoritative reformed perspective, while embracing various denominational positions, on a variety of relevant historic matters, current issues, and thoughtful positions that inform, inspire, and challenge Christians to think and grow biblically.
The ezine, under the editorial control of Derek Thomas, will be updated monthly, thought individual features will be updated more regularly. They have also started a blog, for which I'm pleased to be a contributor.
Later I'll provide links to the various features. I had a chance to read the whole issue this weekend, and it is excellent, edifying material.
Most liberal analyses of race in America tend to attribute "the problem" to historical and contemporary white racism/insensitivity/injustice, and "the solution" to white repentance/sensititivity/affirmative action.
In fact, the Seymour Institute isn't above such rhetoric. For example, a paper on their site reads:
Republicans are the ones who have always been most intent on punishing unwed mothers, cutting programs for the poor, trashing our cities, limiting educational opportunity, weakening anti-discrimination law, and pursuing a "prisons first, justice last" program of civil peace. It’s to Republicans that we can first look for policies that have retarded black economic progress, and that now account for the record rates of black incarceration and persons of color on death row. Between the two major parties, surely, the Republicans have done the most to make black life nasty, brutish, and short. And so, for blacks, the question of which party to vote for has pretty much answered itself.
But this wasn't their message at a recent gathering. Rasberry comments:
The absence of fathers means, as well, that girls lack both a pattern against which to measure the boys who pursue them and an example of sacrificial love between a man and a woman. As the ministers were at pains to say last week, it isn't the incompetence of mothers that is at issue but the absence of half of the adult support needed for families to be most effective.
Interestingly, they blamed the black church for abetting the decline of the black family -- by moderating virtually out of existence its once stern sanctions against extramarital sex and childbirth and by accepting the present trends as more or less inevitable.
According to an open letter released by the Seymour Institute:
"Every black Christian man and woman must take seriously the charge to live in a sexually responsible manner, honoring the sacred nature of sexual intimacy," the letter states. "By their fidelity to each other, parents must provide an environment of trust and emotional security in which to raise their children and teach them by example and precept to respect and honor their bodies."And they define marriage as a "permanent, exclusive, inviolable bond, between one man and one woman, that fosters the realization of each partner's potential in all areas of life, that provides the deepest levels of companionship, fidelity and unselfish love, that furnishes order and structure for daily life, that creates emotionally safe space for the rearing of children and for the transmission of core moral and spiritual values to the next generation."
You can order the booklet here.
They didn't say -- but might have -- that black America's almost reflexive search for outside explanations for our internal problems delayed the introspective examination that might have slowed the trend. What we have now is a changed culture -- a culture whose worst aspects are reinforced by oversexualized popular entertainment and that places a reduced value on the things that produced nearly a century of socioeconomic improvement. For the first time since slavery, it is no longer possible to say with assurance that things are getting better.
As the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a slightly different context, "What began as a problem has deteriorated into a condition. Problems require solving; conditions require healing."
How to start the healing? Rivers and his colleagues hope to use their personal influence, a series of marriage forums and their well-produced booklet, "God's Gift: A Christian Vision of Marriage and the Black Family," to launch a serious, national discussion and action program.
In truth, though, the situation is so critical -- and its elements so interconnected and self-perpetuating -- that there is no wrong place to begin. When you find yourself in this sort of a hole, someone once said, the first thing to do is stop digging.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
It was 19 September 1933. A new school year had begun in England. A seven-year-old boy had just started to attend the National School in the English cathedral city of Gloucester. He was shy and uncertain of himself in his new surroundings. He was already being bullied. Another boy chased him out of the school grounds on to the busy London Road outside. A passing bread van could not avoid hitting him. He was thrown to the ground with a major head injury. The young boy was taken to the Gloucester Royal Infirmary and rushed into an operating theatre. He was discovered to have a depressed compound fracture of the frontal bone on the right side of his forehead, with injury to the frontal lobe of the brain. It was potentially very serious.
Now fast forward four years:
Every schoolboy of the period longed for the day when he would own a bicycle of his own. Usually around the age of eleven, at the point when a schoolboy would enter senior school, parents would mark their son's 'coming of age' by giving him a bicycle as a birthday present. Packer dropped heavy hints that he expected to receive the cycle, like all his friends. However, his parents knew that they could not yet allow their son to have a bicycle. If he were to have any kind of accident, the earlier injury could lead to something much more serious, and potentially fatal. but what could they give their son instead?
On the morning of his eleventh birthday, in 1937, Packer wandered down from his bedroom to see what present awaited him. The family had a tradition of placing birthday presents in the dining room of the house. He expected to find a bicycle. Instead, he found an old Oliver typewriter, which seems to him to weigh half a ton. It was not what Packer had asked for; nevertheless, it proved to be what he needed. Suprise gave way to delight, as he realized what he could do with this unexpected gift. It was not more than a minute before he had put paper into the machine, and started to type. It proved to be his best present and the most treasured possession of his boyhood. (pp. 6-7)
To this day, Packer types all of his material on an old-fashioned typewriter! Thank you, God, for giving an 11-year-old Packer what he needed, not what he wanted!
Friday, July 22, 2005
Has anyone ever criticized (E)mergent (capital E) and been received? That is, has McLaren or Tony Jones or anyone else who officially speaks for (E)mergent (capital E) ever said--"...You know, that's a good word-- something we need to work on. I think you missed it in a few places, but that is a place where we're flawed--Thanks"
I admit that I have not read much of any of these men's work. However, it just rings kind of strange to me that in the face of critique, your response is that you were caricatured, or misunderstood, or misinterpreted.
Here's my take on Emergent responses to criticism:
Someone who viewed his battles from a long-term perspective was the great Christian abolitionist and parliamentarian William Wilberforce. This perspective enabled him to take setbacks—and there were plenty—in stride. If he lost one skirmish over the abolition of the slave trade, he would learn from it and return better prepared.And Wilberforce never lost sight of the need to persuade those outside the seat of power. That's why he distributed literature all through England. So, by the time Parliament banned the slave trade, the people of England were in agreement with him. And Wilberforce would never have allowed the excesses of the twenty-four-hour news cycle to get to him, even if the reported setbacks were real. Neither should we.
For an excellent biographical sketch of Wilberforce, see John Piper's Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals, and the Political Welfare: Reflections on the Life and Labor of William Wilberforce.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
The conference will follow on the heels of the annual Evangelical Theological Society meeting.
Week 1 Introduction, Orientation & Doctrine
Week 2 Lesson One: The Scriptures
Week 3 Lesson Two: God
Week 4 Lesson Three: Creation & Sin
Week 5 Lesson Four: Salvation
Week 6 Lesson Five: The Missional Church
Week 7 Lesson Six: Financial Stewardship
Week 8 Lesson Seven: Stewarding your Gifts
Week 9 Membership Covenant Overview
Week 10 Party and Membership Interviews
To plant a church that honors God a man must preach and teach the Bible with all of the strength and fortitude of an ox that can pull a multitude of people in his wake (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Satan routinely sends heretics, nutjobs, and false teachers of all kinds into a church plant because it's systems are yet fluid, it's leadership is yet unsettled, and it's relationships are yet uncultivated. Therefore, you must ensure that sound doctrine regularly proceeds from your lips and pen so that love for Jesus and love for others (Christians and non-Christians alike) are the marks of health in your church plant.
To plant a church that honors God a man must fight like a dependable soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Throughout his letters Paul continually admonishes Timothy to fight a good fight. And with the world, the flesh, and the devil conspiring to thwart your work you must do likewise. Soft men who are prone to avoid conflict or crumble under pressure will end up like an acquaintance of mine whose church plant collapsed as he lay on his living room floor crying like a baby while Hymenaeus and Alexander proceeded to take over.
To plant a church that honors God a man must train and compete with the precision of a skilled athlete (2 Timothy 2:5). Lazy men who adore their hobbies rarely plant much of a church because they end up wasting time, wasting energy, and being undisciplined with everything from their Bible to their fork as they tend to read too little and sleep and eat too much.
To plant a church that honors God a man must sweat at his labor like a farmer (2 Timothy 2:6). Many young men are attracted to ministry because, as one pastor said, it's a job indoors that does not require any heavy lifting. But, when done rightly, ministry in general and church planting in particular, is work. Like the farmer who owns his own land no one will wake you up in the morning, set your schedule, or give you a performance review to let you know how you are doing. So, like the hard working farmer you will need to simply get yourself up every morning and work hard gathering people, studying and teaching, raising money, locating facilities, building systems, and the like.
The sad truth is that there are seemingly few men who are qualified to hold the title of pastor/elder, let alone be the founding pastor of a church plant. Jesus said as much and commanded us to pray for God to raise up workers and send them into the harvest and so we do.
(Found at the Acts 29 church-planting site. Because it's a fancy-Flash site, though, I can't link directly to the article.)
Update: Steve McCoy helped me out. Here is a link to the article.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Hats off to Supreme Court nominee John Roberts (and President Bush, too) for remaining focused last night!
While President Bush was announcing the nomination, Roberts' little boy broke free from his mom and decided to dance a jig in front of the presidential podium! The live network cameras didn't show it.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
See the SCOTUS-Blog for Roberts' profile.
Judge Roberts believes that Roe should be overturned, arguing there is no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution for the legal reasoning of Roe.
Expect a nasty fight. And pray for justice and peace and orginalism to prevail.
Update: I'll posting random tidbits and info as I'm able.
One advantage Roberts has is that the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed him for the DC Circuit Seat in May of 2003. A ltter, signed by more than 150 members of the D.C. Bar--inluding Lloyd Cutler (who served as the White House Counsel to both Presidents Carter and Clinton) and Seth Waxman (who was President Clinton’s Solicitor General)--wrote::
“Although as individuals we reflect a wide spectrum of political party affiliation and ideology, we are united in our belief that John Roberts will be an outstanding Federal Court of Appeals Judge and should be confirmed by the United States Senate. He is one of the very best and most highly respected appellate lawyers in the Nation, with a deserved reputation as a brilliant writer and oral advocate. He is also a wonderful professional colleague, both because of his enormous skills and because of his unquestioned integrity and fair-mindedness.”
Jonathan Adler calls Roberts truly the "best available" nominee. "Setting aside ideology — and he has a sterling conservative reputation despite the relative lack of a paper trail — he is close to the Platonic ideal of what a Supreme Court nominee should be."
Roberts' wife has served as Executive Vice President for Feminists for Life.
Update: Hugh Hewitt:
A home run for the president, the SCOTUS, and for the United States.
Judge John Roberts may be the smartest lawyer I have known, and he combines that intellect with a graciousness and good humor that will make it hard for any except the most extreme ideolouges to oppose him. Here's his bio, but it cannot fully convey the great intellectual force which Justice Roberts will bring to the SCOTUS.
A couple of decades ago in the Reagan White House, John Roberts and I had adjoining offices, and we've kept in touch, in a desultory way, ever since. What can I tell you about him? That he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. Devout but light-hearted, a devoted husband, and the doting father of two adopted children.... We'll all have to wait for the slicing and dicing of John's legal work to form views of his judicial philosophy, but I can tell you from personal knowledge that what we have here is a thoroughly marvelous human being.
Here is a summary of the series, which was the opening part of the latest sermon:
First we stressed that all authority is from God and that the existence of civil authority and civil order is good for us. Verse 4: “He [the civil magistrate] is God’s servant for your good.” Anarchy, mob rule, vigilante justice is terrifying not comforting.
Second, we talked about why Paul spoke with such sweeping unqualified terms when he described the goodness of government, especially in verse 3: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” He knows there are exceptions to that. We answered: because he wanted Caesar and all authorities to know what ought to be, and he wanted us to lean hard toward submission and not rebellion.
Third, we looked at biblical examples of civil disobedience and what it should look like if it must be.
In this fourth and final part I believe we should focus on the way Romans 13 relates to our positive engagement with government in a country like ours where in a certain sense the government is us. That is, we should ask: How does submission to civil authority work when the ones submitting have created what they submit to? Or what does Romans 13 teach us about responsible Christian involvement with the processes of government in America?
There are at least two teachings in this passage that prompt the reflections I will share. First, is the teaching of verses 1-2 and the question of submission. And, second, is the teaching of verses 3-4 and the question of bringing the moral law to bear on legislative and judicial action.
Here are the complete manuscripts:
- Subjection to God and Subjection to the State, Part One
- Subjection to God and Subjection to the State, Part Two
- Subjection to God and Subjection to the State, Part Three
- Subjection to God and Subjection to the State, Part Four
Will it be Judge Edith Clement of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans? (Pictured left.) We'll soon see.
(By the way, even though it looks like a longshot, I'll just stick with my prediction that the President nominates Janice Rogers Brown.)
In his sermon last Sunday at Bethlehem Baptist Church, John Piper completed a short series on submission to the governing authorities. In it he discussed the issue of the Supreme Court and originalist judges. As you read his short explanation, why not pray that God would mercifully grant a dignified confirmation process, and that whoever is confirmed to the Supreme Court would faithfully discern the intended meaning of our Constitution, for the promotion of liberty and justice? Here is Piper:
[I]n America, submission to “governing authority” is first submission to a constitution. This has significant implications for the way the constitution is interpreted and applied—which is a weighty issue in American life at the present time. One implication is that a constitution (or a contract or a lease or a statute or a Bible) cannot have authority over us if we can make it mean whatever we want it to mean. In other words, if you don’t believe that there are objective, original intentions of the authors of the Constitution that define and control its meaning, then you will give to it your own meaning, and that is the opposite of submission to it. So one great implication of saying that God calls us to submit to the Constitution (including its due process for amendment) is that it implies that the Constitution has a fixed, objective meaning.
In the days to come, as appointments to the Supreme Court are put forward, we will be hearing much about how judges interpret the constitution. I am saying that implied in Romans 13 and in the Bible as a whole is the truth that documents can have authority no further than they have objective unchanging meaning. And the Constitution should have authority and therefore it should be interpreted according to the objective meaning given by the authors, along with all the proper applications of those meanings which the authors may not have foreseen.
Hard-line Islamic clerics in a northern Indian village have declared that a woman's 10-year-old marriage was nullified when her father-in-law raped her -- and ordered the mother of five to marry the rapist....
Meanwhile, Bill Kristol shows that "A Good Woman Isn't Hard to Find." In addition to Jones, Clement, Owen, and Corrigan, Kristol also lists Janice Rogers Brown (among a few others). Here are some profiles:
Tom Golstein at the Supreme Court Nomination Blog earlier predicted that Owen would be the nominee, and he's standing by that prediction.
Update: Over at NRO's The Corner:
SCOTUS [JPod]Update: The buzz seems to be centering around Clement.
Bet the house on one of three names: The two Edith, Jones or Clement -- or the daring and exciting one, Janice Rogers Brown. Of course, there's always Miguel Estrada in the back pocket...
Posted at 09:00 AM
WATCH BENCH MEMOS [K. J. Lopez]
Today feels like the day for a SCOTUS announcement... I'd make sure BM is bookmarked.
Posted at 08:55 AM
Monday, July 18, 2005
Indeed, the most powerful line of the film is when the protagonist is asked by a reporter why now he is winning in the ring when previously he could win for "neither love nor money." Russell Crowe's character replies that now he knows what he is fighting for: "milk." This comes on the heels of scenes in which the mother pours water into the milk jug to try to feed the family's small children against the ravages of Depression-era poverty.
This, along with a scene in which Crowe's character gives his helping of meat to his hungry daughter right before he is to go to a fight, struck me as deeply meaningful. They also indicate precisely why the film is so, well, odd to most moviegoers. It is patriarchal in the most biblical sense of the word.
In this film, there is no wise-cracking nine year-old boy with a heart of gold to correct the bumbling parents. There is no cherubic four year-old girl who alone knows that the real meaning of life is within. Instead, there is a dad who understands that it is up to him to provide for his wife and his children. And there is a wife and children who love him for it.
It seems to me that if our culture could understand something of the world behind "Cinderella Man," we might be able to grasp better the meaning of the gospel. After all, Jesus compares life in Christ to a father who would never give his son a stone when he asks for bread (Matt 7:9). This is especially significant since Jesus himself refused to turn stones into bread, opting instead to trust in the provision of a Father who promises to feed all his sons with the Bread that comes down from heaven (Matt 4:4). Only by taking on the Evil One and offering up his life under the curse of the law is the Righteous One able to usher us into the presence of a messianic banquet.
It seems to me that if one were to ask the crucified Jesus of Nazareth what he was fighting for, his answer might be: "bread."
That is servanthood. But it is also headship. It is patriarchy. We don't remember it, and that's a shame.
When we returned, I sent off a note to Sally Michael, Minister for Parenting and Discipleship at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Now Sally has very high standards when it comes to books on parenting. She is not easily impressed. So I was surprised when she was so enthusiastic about this book. In fact, she said she would now rank it in the top 3 of books she's read on parenting. (On her list, #1 is Shepherding a Child's Heart, and #2 is Teach Them Diligently.)
Since I don't yet have the book, I asked Sally if she'd consider writing a blurb of the book to post here. This is what she sent me:
Author Tim Kimmel has written a book that helps parents navigate the dangers of two extremes in parenting—legalism and permissiveness. He clearly describes a style of parenting that preserves the need for boundaries, obedience, respect, and discipline but which also appropriately considers “the three driving needs” of children—a need for security, a need for significance, and a need for strength. He does this by focusing in on the climate in the home. He accurately observes that there is a place for rules and strictness in the home, but how they are presented makes “all the difference on how they are received.”
Kimmel observes that much of the parenting of Christians is based on fear—fear of the world and the deteriorating culture, fear of other parents, and fear of the opinions of the church. This in turn encourages parents to focus on behavior rather than on the heart of their children. Kimmel instead encourages parents to parent their children as God parents His children—with grace. “Grace-based parenting mirrors God’s love, reflects His forgiveness, and displaces fear as a motivator for the choices we make.”
Grace-Based Parenting points out the fallacy of basing our parenting on the desire to raise “safe Christian children” by depending on the control of the environment around our children in order to shape them. He calls this a “disaster in the making” and warns that this effort “will produce shallow faith and wimpy believers.” Instead, Kimmel urges us to raise strong children and to move beyond outer problems and address the inner problems of our children.
One of the most critical strengths of this book is the atmosphere of grace in the home that Kimmel portrays as well as the matter-of-fact, yet gracious manner in which he notes that parents and children are sinners and must be dealt with as sinners. Consider these comments from the chapter, "The Freedom to Make Mistakes":Dr. Tim Kimmel has effectively and winsomely written a much-needed message to Christian parents.
“Legalistic parents maintain a relationship with God through obedience to a standard. The goal of this when it comes to their children is to keep sin from getting into their home. They do their best to create an environment that controls as many of the avenues as possible that sin could use to work its way into the inner sanctum…. It’s as though the power to sin or not to sin was somehow connected to their personal will power and resolve…. These families are preoccupied with keeping sin out by putting a fence between them and the world.
The difference with grace-based families is that they don’t bother spending much time putting fences up because they know full well that sin is already present and accounted for inside their family. To these types of parents, sin is not an action or an object that penetrates their defenses; it is a preexisting condition that permeates their being. The graceless home requires kids to be good and gets angry and punishes them when they are bad. The grace-based home assumes kids will struggle with sin and helps them learn how to tap into God’s power to help them get stronger.
It’s not that grace-based homes don’t take their children’s sin seriously. Nor is it that grace-based homes circumvent consequences. It isn’t even that grace-based homes do nothing to protect their children from attacks and temptations that threaten them from the outside. They do all these things, but not for the same reasons. Grace-based homes aren’t trusting in the moral safety of their home or the spiritual environment they’ve created to empower their children to resist sin…. They assume that sin is an ongoing dilemma that their children must constantly contend with.
[Children in a grace-based family] are accepted as sinners who desire to become more like Christ rather than be seen as nice Christian kids trying to maintain a good moral code. Grace is committed to bringing children up from their sin; legalism puts them on a high standard and works overtime to keep them from falling down.
Grace understands that the only real solution for our children’s sin is the work of Christ on their behalf…. Legalism uses outside forces to help children maintain their moral walk. Their strength is based on the environment they live in. Grace, on the other hand, sees the strength of children by what is inside them—more specifically, Who is inside them.”
Sunday, July 17, 2005
For what it's worth, if more emergent-type pastors and churches were like Driscoll and Mars Hill, there wouldn't be much to complain about. Theologically sound and missional minded. Why is that so hard?
Here is a profile on Mark from a couple of years ago in the Seattle Times Magazine.
Update: Here is an email from Driscoll to fellow pastors in his network, encouraging them to stay on mission and not become bitter Calvinists, despite his frustration at those who are "drinking from the emergent church toilet." For more, see this post by Steve McCoy.
Update: See also www.reformission.com.
Friday, July 15, 2005
One interesting observation: "Almost half of the top 50 churches, and seven of the top 10, are still led by the founding pastor."
Thursday, July 14, 2005
In early March, 2005, the four of us had the rare opportunity to be together--this time in Louisville, KY. We sat down in Al Mohler's office at Southern Seminary for an hour-long interview, led by Mark Dever, to discuss our goals and hopes for this conference. The conversation ranged from how our doctrinal differences still find unity in the gospel to many quick-witted jokes at each other's expense. This is a preview of the conversations, the humor, and the fellowship we expect to enjoy at the conference itself.
Below you will find six video clips from this interview. In these discussions, we talked about why we wanted to host this conference even though we have some differences in our doctrines and practices, why we invited our three special guests, and what we believe will be beneficial about this conference to pastors hailing from various denominations.
Here is what they discussed:
- The Background of the Conference (4:00 minutes)
- The Format and Goals of This Event (4:04 minutes)
- The Benefits to Pastors...Especially Those from Various Denominations (9:39 minutes)
- On R.C. Sproul's Model of Teaching Big Ideas (2:21 minutes)
- On John MacArthur, His Preaching, and His Civil Rights Protest Arrest (2:53 minutes)
- On John Piper and His Passion for the Glory of God (2:21 minutes)
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
THOUGH HE DEFENDED Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against conservative critics, President Bush now appears highly unlikely to nominate Gonzales to replace retiring Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Nor is Gonzales expected to be chosen to fill a second vacancy on the high court should Chief Justice William Rehnquist or another justice steps down in the near future.
The president, of course, could change his mind and pick Gonzales. But a better bet now is that he will choose a woman, an option recommended by First Lady Laura Bush. Judge Edith Brown Clement of the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals is considered a possibility. Bush, who met with Senate leaders yesterday to discuss the court vacancy, is expected to announce a nominee by the end of July.
Read the whole thing.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
While Mirengoff lays out the arguments against the NAACP's new version, David Horowitz sets forth ten arguments against reparations in general:
- There is no single group clearly responsible for the crime of slavery.
- There is no one group that benefited exclusively from its fruits.
- Only a tiny minority of white Americans ever owned slaves, and others gave their lives to free them.
- America today is a multi-ethnic nation and most Americans have no connection (direct or indirect) to slavery.
- The historical precedents used to justify the reparations claim do not apply, and the claim itself is based on race not injury.
- The reparations argument is based on the unfounded claim that all African-American descendants of slaves suffer from the economic consequences of slavery and discrimination.
- The reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African-Americans into victims. It sends a damaging message to the African-American community.
- Reparations to African Americans have already been paid.
- What about the debt blacks owe to America?
- The reparations claim is a separatist idea that sets African-Americans against the nation that gave them freedom.
To see Horowitz's reasoning and arguments, read the whole thing.
To see Horowitz's reasoning and arguments, read the whole thing.
In their new book, The Truth About Tolerance: Pluralism, Diversity and the Culture Wars, Brad Stetson and Joseph Conti seek to resurrect the classical notion of tolerance, showing its compatibility with and dependence on truth.
Stetson and Conti critique both soft-headed hypertolerance (tolerating what ought not be tolerated) and narrow-minded intolerance (failing to be tolerant when we should). Instead, they argue for critical tolerance (which returns to the historic, classical understanding of the concept which contains two poles: both allowance and critique).
The classical understanding of tolerance looks an evil, or a generally reviled action, and determines that its legal suppression would create an even greater evil.
They argue that “true tolerance is not the province of the secular liberalism that so strongly favors American life, and that unfettered debate about traditional moral conviction—especially religiously grounded ones—is ironically imperiled by what passes for tolerance today.”
They summarize ten basic principles which comprise the Judeo-Christian conviction regarding the operation of true tolerance in a largely secular and pluralistic society as follows:
- Tolerance, rightly understood, is a patience toward a practice or opinion one disapproves of.
- The practice of tolerance must have limits.
- Tolerance allows for prudent moral criticism and strongly held individual belief.
- There are important distinctions to be made within the concept of intolerance and between the concepts of intolerance and nontolerance.
- Tolerance is a moral tool that allows for the construction and maintenance of civic order.
- Tolerance is rightly applied only to people’s conduct and expressions of opinion.
- Tolerance is inconsistent with philosophical indifference.
- Tolerance is consistent with a strong confidence in the truthfulness of one’s own beliefs and experience.
- Since tolerance is inevitably connected with disagreement and moral evaluation, it helpfully compels us toward a philosophical confrontation with competing and irreconcilable perspectives about the good.
- We should always be conscious of the various contexts in which tolerance is exercised.
For one of the chapters in the book, see The Truth About Truth (chapter 5).
In this chapel address at Wheaton College, entitled Redemptive Curveballs, he not only recounts his personal story, but also his theological-philosophical journey in embracing the sovereignty of God in all things. Highly recommended.
Monday, July 11, 2005
You can now download the incredible Google Earth for free:
Google Earth – Explore, Search and Discover
Want to know more about a specific location? Dive right in -- Google Earth combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips.
|Fly from space to your neighborhood. Type in an address and zoom right in.|
|Search for schools, parks, restaurants, and hotels. Get driving directions.|
|Tilt and rotate the view to see 3D terrain and buildings.|
|Save and share your searches and favorites. Even add your own annotations.|
Let no man seek his own, St. Paul says. This is an essential part of discerning the Lord’s body. We are to discern the Lord’s body, among other ways, in one another.
As you partake of the Supper, do not close yourself up into a little private spiritual room. Feel free to look around at your brothers and sisters. Think of them, pray for them, consider how you might seek their best interest. In doing this, ask God to bring to mind ways that you might bring a blessing to them. Look around you in faith, and if you do, then you will see Jesus Christ.
Too often we view the Supper negatively. Of course it is important to put away all malice or envy. But do not stop there. Consider how to seek another man’s well-being. Doing him good is not the same thing as not doing him evil. In turning away from sin as we approach the Supper, as we ought to do, let us be careful not to set the standard too low.
At the last day, Jesus will commend those who saw Him in the prisoner, in the hungry, in the ill-clothed. He will reject those who rejected Him in these same people. Do not be like those who are willing to defend and excuse and demand explanations, while standing before the Maker of heaven and earth, and to do this moments before their condemnation. If that kind of moral stupidity is to be avoided then, the best course is to avoid it now. Look to your neighbor -- and don’t ask who is your neighbor -- and take this food to nourish you for the pleasant task of loving one another.
JT: It seems all but inevitable that Chief Justice Rehnquist will resign very soon. Much will be written about him in the days ahead, analyzing his legacy on the court. But you were in a unique position to know him personally and to work for him professionally, clerking for him from 1996-1997. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? What is the Chief Justice like as a person?
RG: Working for the Chief Justice was a wonderful experience. He is a top-shelf lawyer, an excellent judge, a gifted administrator, and a decent and down-to-earth person. It’s not really possible, in a few sentences, to explain what he’s like “as a person,” and I don’t imagine that I know him any better than hundreds of others who’ve worked with him over the years. For me, what sticks in my memory about the Chief is his even keel, his complete lack of snobbery or pretension, his balanced and “long view” attitude toward the Court’s work and his own decisions, and the care he took to teach, and not merely to supervise and command, his law clerks. I have a great job, and I owe a great deal of my professional happiness to the Chief.
JT: How do you think history will judge the Chief Justice?
RG: I think he will be viewed as one of the great Chief Justices: He has run the Court well and efficiently, and enjoys the respect and affection of all the Justices with whom he has worked. He has been an effective administrator of the Judicial Branch generally, and of the Judicial Conference. I think he has been an effective advocate for the judiciary, and for the rule of law, in Congress and in the public square. He’s done a valuable service to the education of Americans generally about the Constitution, and our history, through his popular history books (All the Laws But One, Centennial Crisis, etc.). In terms of the Court’s doctrine, he not only contributed to, and presided over, important developments in criminal procedure and habeas corpus, religious freedom, federalism, state action, and federal Indian law, he also—more generally—helped to fundamentally transform our conversations about the Constitution, by re-introducing important premises about enumerated powers, state sovereignty, and originalism that had been forgotten, or pushed to the margins, during the 1960s.
JT: Seven of the justices on the current court were nominated by Republican presidents. Of those seven, it seems that conservatives have only really been happy with Rehnquist and Thomas. [Ed.—I inadvertently left Scalia out of the question here.] Why has there been a failure to appoint genuinely conservative justices?
RG: Conservatives have been happy with Justice Scalia, too, of course. (That said, many conservatives probably did not appreciate Justice Scalia’s view that flag-burning is protected by the First Amendment, or that the use of a heat-detector on a house constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.). My first point would be to warn about labels like “liberal” and “conservative.” Justice Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist, for example, differ markedly on First Amendment matters; Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas have different views about the “privileges or immunities” and “necessary and proper” clauses; etc. Next, “conservatives” should remember that Justices Kennedy and O’Connor have been—in the vast majority of cases—fairly consistently “conservative” Justices. (Obviously, their votes in some of the culture-war and social-issue cases have frustrated some conservatives).
As for the “failure,” I just don’t know. I suspect that the hearings on the nomination of Judge Bork so poisoned the process that—at least for a time—Republican administrations felt safer going with easier, unknown nominees like David Souter and Anthony Kennedy.
JT: Do you believe opposition-party senators have an obligation to support a nominee if they believe he is qualified, even if they disagree with his ideology?
RG: No. That is, I don’t think they have an “obligation” to support a nominee whose ideology they oppose. Generally speaking, though, it seems to me that minority-party senators should understand that elections matter, and that the President’s nominees will, almost by definition, have views that differ from minority-party senators’. I do think there is an obligation to be honest, and to not use ridiculous epithets like “extremist” or “reactionary” or “radical” to describe nominees who are simply “conservative” or “constitutionalist.”
JT: Do you think a filibuster of President Bush’s nominee will be likely?
RG: No, I don’t. The interest groups will cause a great deal of noise—because this helps to raise money—and some Senators will make a scene (getting ready for the 2006 and 2008 elections), but I do not believe there is any plausible Bush nominee who would trigger a sustainable filibuster. I suspect there are enough Democrats who realize that a filibuster would almost certainly trigger the “constitutional option.’
JT: I suspect that in the days ahead, we’ll be hearing a lot about “originalism” and “strict constructionism.” Can you explain those terms and how they differ?
RG: That’s pretty hard, in this space! Both of these terms are sometimes used more as symbols, or codes, than as technical terms about interpretation. One important distinction, of course, is between “original intent” (i.e., what those who drafted, passed, and / or ratified the law or provision in question “intended” for it to achieve or mean) and “original meaning” (i.e., what the relevant text and words would generally have been understood to mean at the relevant time). By “strict construction,” I suppose a fair definition might be something like this: “An approach to legal texts that avoids, to the extent possible, relying on judges’ policy preferences, or judgments about the wisdom of laws, or guesses about the texts’ deeper ‘purposes,’ and that proceeds instead in a way that is meaningfully constrained by the forms and rules laid down.”
JT: And how would you define “The Living Constitution”?
RG: This is also tricky, and I apologize in advance for oversimplifying. The “living Constitution,” I think, connotes an approach to constitutional interpretation that candidly refuses to be bound by a provision’s “original meaning” (assuming it is knowable) and that instead assumes that a provision’s meaning should be understood and developed against a backdrop of evolving understandings of the fundamental values thought to be embodied in the Constitution and the changing needs and structure of society.
JT: Will Roe play a major role in the nomination proceedings? How would you counsel a nominee to answer the question: Would you vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?
RG: In my view, nearly all of the turmoil and controversy surrounding Supreme Court nominations—or judicial nominations generally—is attributable to Roe v. Wade and to our divisions concerning abortion. I do not believe a nominee should answer, or should be expected to answer, the question, “Would you vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?” I believe, though, that everyone should respect a nominee’s view that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided (as it certainly was).
JT: With the retirements of Rehnquist and O’Connor, do you think President Bush will be tempted to “split the baby,” i.e., nominate one “conservative” and one “moderate”?
RG: As your “scare quotes” suggest, these labels are misleading; Justice O’Connor’s current status in the press as a “moderate” overlooks how conservative she has been in so many areas. Putting that aside, it seems to me that President Bush will take seriously the promises he made during two campaigns to appoint conservatives to the Court. This does not mean, though, that he will not nominate Attorney General Gonzales (who is, after all, almost certainly a “conservative” in nearly every respect). I would not expect him, though, to consciously “split the baby” in order to please the press or his political opponents.
JT: It’s well-known that President Bush has a strong friendship with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and does not appreciate conservative criticism of Gonzales. On the other hand, President Bush has expressed his desire to appoint a “strict constructionist,” and says that he would like a Justice most like Scalia and Thomas. Which pole—I’m tempted to say “friendship and loyalty vs. principle”—will win out in the end?
RG: I simply do not know whether or not the Attorney General’s critics are correct in assuming that he is not, in fact, a “strict constructionist.” I do not believe, though, that President Bush would nominate Alberto Gonzales merely for reasons of friendship and loyalty; if he does nominate him, it will—I believe—be because the President has confidence that Gonzales actually is a “strict constructionist.”
JT: Would appointing Gonzales be bad for the country, given that Gonzales would presumably have to recuse himself on cases related to affirmative action, terrorism, partial-birth abortion, etc.?
RG: I have not studied the matter as carefully as some, so I do not know if, in fact, the Attorney General’s recusal obligations would be as sweeping as some have concluded. That said, it does seem to me that it would be undesirable for a new Justice to be recused from many high-profile cases.
JT: Do you think it is more likely that President Bush will elevate someone already on the Court to the role of Chief Justice, or that he’ll look outside the Court?
RG: In my view, the most likely internal candidate is Justice Scalia. Justice Scalia would certainly be confirmed, though the Democrats and the activist groups would certainly have a field day criticizing him. I guess my hunch is that the President will nominate someone from outside the Court to replace the Chief Justice.
JT: Conservatives have mentioned a number of judges they would like to see nominated: Mike Luttig, Mike McConnell, John Roberts, Emilio Garza, Edith Jones, Miguel Estrada, Janice Rogers Brown, and others. Whom would you most want to see picked?
RG: No comment! All of these judges are top-tier jurists and very good people. From that list, the President could not go wrong. (Some would, I suppose, cause more political turmoil than others, though.)
JT: Final question: what is your prediction? Who will President Bush nominate?
RG: Any prediction I might make would almost certainly be wrong, and so is not worth your time.