Friday, March 31, 2006
(HT: Al Mohler)
If you want an introduction to the study of textual criticism--and at this unique point in the cultural discussion, it seems important that we all get caught up to speed--Paul D. Wegner's new book looks like an excellent investment: A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History, Methods and Results.
The publisher, InterVarsity Press, writes: "In plain language and with ample illustration, Paul D. Wegner gives you an overview of the history and methods, aims and results of textual criticism. In the process you will gain an appreciation for the vast work that has been accomplished in preserving the text of Scripture and find a renewed confidence in its reliability."
Here are two endorsements by two of the world's leading OT scholars:
"Here, at last, is a well-written, succinctly stated, wisely selected history and wonderfully illustrated textual criticism guide that covers both testaments in one volume. Where others have often made this science sound arcane and obtuse, Paul Wegner has skillfully described textual criticism in plain but ample and interesting ways. I highly recommend it to all serious Bible students, but especially to seminary faculty who must juggle book budgets and who up to now have had to order a separate text in this area for each testament."
"No introductory textbook to textual criticism of the Bible measures up to A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible. It uniquely combines Old Testament and New Testament textual criticism into one handy, delightfully illustrated volume. Paul Wegner writes for students, successfully guiding them through the text's long and complex journey by his clear style, objectivity and arresting photographs. General readers of the Bible will appreciate this introduction to the textual notes in their Bibles."
Students may also want to keep an eye on the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog, with contributions by a number of excellent evangelical scholars.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
The first question is this -- Would anyone watching his television program, or sitting in his vast church facility, hear in Mr. Osteen's message a clear and undiluted message of Gospel proclamation? Would this person have any reason, based on hearing Mr. Osteen's message, to know himself as a sinner and to understand how the cross of Christ is the only ground of his salvation? Would he come to know that Jesus the Christ is fully human and fully divine, and that He came in order that we might have everlasting life -- not just a good parking space?
Two years ago at the American Enterprise Institute annual dinner, Krauthammer delivered an address entitled, Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World.
I found it to be a very helpful overview of some major schools of thought in foreign policy. I found his explanation of the foreign-policy principles and presuppositions guiding the Democratic Party to be more coherent than anything I have heard from the Democrats themselves!
Here is a summary of some of his key points.
Krauthammer starts with our utterly new situation, which has not been seen since the time of the Roman empire, namely, "a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe."
So the question questions revolve around what role the unipower should have and what actions it shoudl take.
There are four basic answers, or four schools of thought. The first three are rejected by Krauthammer: (1) isolationism--a marginalized idealogy of fear that hoards the power and advocates retreat (e.g., Pat Buchannan); (2) liberal internationalism--an idealism that favors multilaterialism with the intent of constraining power and with the hope of creating a truly international community (e.g., the Democratic Party and the foreign-policy elite); (3) realism--a conservative view that sees true stability only coming through the overwhelming power and deterrent effect of the US, achieved through preemption and unilaterialism.
Krauthammer then describes his position, favored by the so-called "neoconservatives": (4) democratic globalism--a conservative alternative to realism that defines the national interest not as power but as values, specifically, the overriding value of freedom (e.g., Bush and Blair).
The biggest problem with democratic globalism is its universalism. Which is why Krauthammer proposes a criterion called democratic realism: "We will support democracy everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity--meaning, places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom."
The great security problem we face today is the problem of 9/11 and the roots of Arab-Islamic nihilism. The two greatest problems for the next generation are (1) "the inexorable rise of China" and (2) "the coming demographic collapse of Europe." Both of these, Krauthammer suggests, "will irrevocably disequilibrate the international system." But America will never even face these problems in the mid-21st century if we do not first deal with our problem.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
He has just been denied tenure at Baylor University. See here and here.
Joseph Bottum writes:
(HT: Hugh Hewitt)
In the end, an appeals process exists, and Beckwith may end up getting tenure at Baylor. But either way, his career is badly damaged. If he manages to stay in Waco, he remains at a place that has very clearly informed him it doesn’t like him, and if he leaves, he will have real trouble landing any respectable position. If you’re one of those senior professors brought to Baylor to jazz the place up—if you are, say, someone like Rodney Stark— how can you recruit young faculty to carry forward the 2012 plan?
If I were one of these professors, I’d be forced to advise my protégés to take other offers and pass on Baylor. Academic careers are fragile things: They don’t easily survive a firing, for whatever reason, and young professors shouldn’t take the chance that the mess of an institutional meltdown will ruin their professional life.
In certain ways, the case of Francis Beckwith is merely one example of a general trend worth noticing. In his fascinating book The Dying of the Light, James Burtchaell laid out the pattern by which America’s religious colleges changed their spots, but there are some new elements in the latest episodes.
In each case, the college has an old faculty generally contented with the school’s regional and religious standing. And for some years it has been hiring new faculty who, if not opposed outright to the school’s affiliation, are at least embarrassed by it. These newer teachers came with impressive credentials out of premier graduate programs—but the tightening of the academic job market forced them into positions at lower-tier colleges, and they always believed, in one way or another, that their new schools should take places like Yale and Harvard as their models.
Now, along comes somebody with a vision for the school: a realization that the religious identity is necessary to ensure a steady supply of students and that the nation actually has a set of distinguished senior faculty who want to teach a religiously serious place and want to build up a genuine Christian university. So the school starts to make its move, and the faculty (and often the school’s board of directors) rebels.
The weird part—the new pattern worth noticing—is the common cause made by the secularists and the old religious believers to fight the college’s transformation. You’d think they’d be natural enemies, but it turns out that they both have something at stake in preventing the school from becoming known as a first-rate research university for religiously motivated scholars.
Liberal-vs.-conservative politics does, in fact, form part of the struggle. The old faculty members often poised themselves as liberals (over against what they thought of as the troglodyte, non-Ph.D. members of their own denominations), while the newer, secular-trained faculty usually held the default leftist politics of the American academy. Is it a surprise that none of them much liked the religious faculty suddenly appearing on campus—all of whom, given the play of religion in national politics these days, look like conservatives?
Another part of the problem, as Richard John Neuhaus has noted, has to do with a shared notion of the separation of belief and knowledge. The newer secularized faculty, naturally, wanted—as James Burtchaell might put it—to see the school’s old Christian light do even more dying. And though the older religious faculty wanted to keep the religious tone of the school, they also held the idea that this should somehow continue without a whole lot of explicit intellectual commitment. “Under the old regime,” Neuhaus observed, “devout Bible-believing Christians operated with a ‘two spheres’ approach to education. Science and reason were in one sphere, faith and piety in another, and there was an agreement that neither sphere would be allowed to interfere with the other.”
Other factors could be mentioned. From John Silber’s experiences at B.U. to Lawrence Summer’s at Harvard, the Boston area alone has provided reason to think the American university is at the moment nearly ungovernable: An air of resentment for authority pervades the place, and a university president is the handiest local authority figure on whom to take out that resentment.
And then there are the ecumenical troubles. The religiously informed figures brought to campus are scattered across America’s denominational divisions. Some of them, like the philosopher Thomas Hibbs (dean of Baylor’s honors college), are Catholics. Others are northern evangelicals (like the literary scholar David Lyle Jeffrey, provost of Baylor until fired by the new administration after Robert Sloan was forced out as president). All of them are participants in a new style of intellectual ecumenism, in which serious Catholics and serious Protestants join in the work of unfolding a Christian understanding of academic disciplines. But modern radicalism and old-fashioned Protestantism share a distaste both for Catholicism and—interestingly—for evangelicalism, since the old denominational Baptists always thought of the Southern Baptist Convention as distant from the northern evangelical churches.
The combination of all this is deadly. Many thoughtful observers of American academics have been uncomfortable with the attempt—at Ave Maria University, for instance—to build new religious schools: Wouldn’t the money be better spent financing scholars at established universities than starting up new, uncredentialed institutions? Of course, the pattern Burtchaell noted in The Dying of the Light is proof that American colleges are masters at taking donations for one purpose and converting them to another. But the new development of semi-associated institutes like Robert George’s James Madison Program at Princeton University suggests that there may be genuine ways to influence the nation’s premier colleges.
As it happens, these new, semi-affiliated institutes have their own problems, one of which is their submission to the idea that the university is an inherently politicized place. This is what an undergraduate education is supposed to teach?
To watch Baylor University’s apparent collapse, however, is to think that the American college is not, in its present form, capable of being saved. For all their problems, the new, uncredentialed but genuinely religious schools might be the superior option. For all their awkwardness, more prestigious colleges with a religiously serious institute nearby might be the better choice.
Think about it: If you were a young, high-powered academic with ambitions for a Christian school that matched the new intellectual excitement of the American ecumenical endeavor, why would you risk your career at a place like Baylor? You can buy the same kind of trouble at a better price by taking whatever offer you get from an openly secular college.
For that matter, if you were a parent interested in your children’s obtaining intellectually rigorous Christian education, why would you pay the tuition at Baylor University? Indeed, if you were one of those bright, young Christian students, why would you want to go to Baylor in the first place?
Dutchman Johan Huibers is building a working replica of Noah's Ark as a testament to his Christian faith.
The 47-year-old from Schagen, 45km (30 miles) north of Amsterdam, plans to set sail in September through the interior waters of the Netherlands.
Johan's Ark is a fifth of the size of Noah's and will carry farmyard animals. Mr Huibers, who plans to open the vessel as a religious monument and zoo, hopes the project will renew interest in Christianity in the Netherlands. Although Mr Huibers has tried to remain true to the ark described in the Bible, Johan's Ark is constructed with American cedar and Norwegian pine, rather than "gopher wood".
Click here to read more and see a picture.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
The Emerging Church - Vol. 3, Issue 2 
From the Editor
– by R. Alan Streett
Interview with Brian McLaren
– by R. Alan Streett
"Narrating the World Once Again: A Case for an Ancient–Future Faith"
– by Robert Webber
"An Ecclesiological Assessment of the Emergent Church"
– by John S. Hammett
"Mountain or Molehill? The Question of Truth and the Emerging Church"
– by David Mills
"Some Suggestions for Brian McLaren (and his Critics)"
– by R. Scott Smith
"A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church"
– by Mark Driscoll
"A Selective Bibliography of the Emergent Church Movement"
– by Andrew D. Streett
Monday, March 27, 2006
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I agree with his conclusion: "Too much is at stake for us to fail to understand the plight of these young men."
(HT: Al Mohler)
Saturday, March 25, 2006
I don't have immediate plans to post again on this topic, but those interested in digging deeper might want to check out some of Jim's articles:
“The Messianic Music of the Song of Songs: A Non-Allegorical Interpretation”
“The Virgin Will Conceive: Typology in Isaiah and Fulfillment in Matthew”
“The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham”
For what it's worth, here's an idea-challenge for some of you to consider: start a group blog solely devoted to the issue of the OT in the NT, with the goal of turning it into a book. It would take someone with the motivation and knowledge to facilitate it. It would be a good chance for younger scholars and old scholars to collaborate. And I think it would serve the church--if it's pitched at a level that has some accessibility. If someone can get it rolling, I'll plug it.
(HT: Michelle Malkin)
You can also listen online to the late Dr. Johnson preach at Believers Chapel in Dallas. The online audio--available for free downline--is an extensive collection of his audio. You can also find a set on the Psalms and a set on Proverbs by Bruce Waltke.
(HT: Stephen Shields via Scot McKnight)
Friday, March 24, 2006
"A toy rabbit decorating the entrance of the St. Paul City Council offices went hop-hop-hoppin' on down the bunny trail Wednesday after the city's human rights director said non-Christians might be offended by it."
It's hard to parody the political correctness movement anymore, because fact has become much funnier than fiction!
Oh, and note that this was is the St. Paul City Council, which is in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the report was in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Looks like the city's human rights director has his work cut out for him!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The passage is Hosea 11:1, given here in both the ESV and the NET:
ESV When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
NET When Israel was a young man, I loved him like a son, and I summoned my son out of Egypt.
And here is Matthew 2:14-15, where the Hosea passage is quoted:
ESV And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt  and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."
NET Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt.  He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: "I called my Son out of Egypt."
Is Matthew taking the Hosea passage "out of context"? Is this a direct verbal prophecy being fulfilled? Was the Hosea passage originally referring to the Messiah? How does "fulfillment" language function in Matthew? Is there typology involved?
Those are some of the questions that come to mind.
Have at it!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I blogged on plagiarizing in the pulpit last year. Over the past few years, I've had to confront some pastors regarding this sin of theft, as well as counsel those sitting under the ministry of plagiarizing pastors. It's dificult to do, but must be done. May God grant grace and repentance to these brothers.
You can watch a video of Rahman here. Quote: "I believe in the Injil (New Testament) and love Jesus Christ." Let's pray for our brother.
(HT: Michelle Malkin)
Moises Silva: "If we refuse to pattern our exegesis after that of the apostles, we are in practice denying the authoritative character of their scriptural interpretation--and to do so is to strike at the very heart of the Christian faith."
Greg Beale: "If the contemporary church cannot exegete and do theology like the apostles did, how can it feel corporately at one with them in the theological process?"
Beale: "The use of the OT in the NT is the key to the theological relationship between the testaments.'
In the introduction to his edited volume, The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (unfortunately out of print), Greg Beale raises the million-dollar question: "Did Jesus and the apostles quote the Old Testament texts with exegetical respect for the broader context? This matter is at the heart of the book and is crucial for any study of the Old Testament in the New" (p. 7). This book contains a collection of essays--all previously published--that offer both positive and negative answers to that question.
Part 7 is called "Should the Exegetical Methods of the New Testament Authors Be Reproduced?" Richard Longenecker says no. Beale says yes. I would venture to say that Beale is in the minority on this question (even in the scholarly evangelical world), though I think he is correct--and that his essay alone is worth the price of the book.
I'll try to summarize some of the key points from Dr. Beale's insights.
The starting point for much of the discussion is the idea that Jesus and the apostles--like their Jewish contempories--used non-contextual hermeneutical methods. That is to say, Jesus and the apostles (it is argued) interpreted the OT with a method that served their purpose but took those verses out of context. One of the purposes of Beale's essay is to suggest that such an idea is incorrect, and to propose a better alternative in its place.
Beale cautions against the simplistic categories of "contextual" and "non-contextual." A number of passages could be considered "semi-contextual." Some passages have an ironic or polemical function. Others may be unintentional or unconscious allusion being made to an OT passage.
The heart of Beale's argument is that "Jesus and the apostles had an unparalleled redemptive-historical perspective on the Old Testament in relation to their own situation" (p. 391). "This perspective involved a framework of five hermeneutical and theological presuppositions:
- the assumption of corporate solidarity or representation;
- that Christ is viewed as representing the true Israel of the OT and true Israel, the church, in the NT;
- that history is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to the latter parts (cf. Matt. 11:13-14);
- that the age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ;
- as a consequence of (3) and (4), the fifth presupposition affirms that the latter parts of biblical history function as the broader context to interpret earlier parts becuase they all have the same, ultimate divine author who inspires the various human authors, and one deduction from this premise is that Christ as the centre of history is the key to interpreting the earlier portions of the OT and its promises." (p. 392)
This final pressuposition is worth elaborating. While advising against the use of the term sensius plenior (=full meaning), Beale thinks it is possible that the OT authors "did not exhaustively understand the meaning, implications, and possible applications of all that they wrote." The NT therefore expands the meaning of the OT by giving it new implications and applications. Beale adds:
"I believe, however, that it can be demonstrated that this expansion does not contravene the integrity of the earlier texts but rather develops them in a way which is consistent wiht the OT author's understanding of the way in which God interacts with his people--which is the unifying factor between the Testaments. Therefore, the canon interprets the canon; later parts of the canon draw out and explain more clearly the ealrier parts" (p. 393).
The whole article repays careful reading and rereading. Here are some more quotes:
"Changes of application need not mean a disregard for OT context. Given the viability of the presuppositions, although the new applications are technically different, they nevertheless stay within the conceptual bounds of the OT contextual meaning, so that what results often is an extended reference to or application of a principle which is inherent in the OT context" (p. 397).
"I remain convinced that once the hermeneutical and theological presuppositions of the NT writers are considered, there are no clear examples where they have developed a meaning from the OT which is inconsistent or contradictory to some aspect of the original OT intention" (p. 398).
"We are also concerned with divine intention discernible from a retrospective viewpoint, which is fuller than the original human intention but does not contradict its contextual meaning" (p. 400).
"If we are concede that God is also the author of OT Scripture, then we are not concerned only with discerning the intention of the human author but also with the ultimate divine intent of what was written in the OT, which could we transcend that of the immediate consciousness of the writer" (p. 401).
"The canonical extension of the context of a passage being exegeted does not by itself transform the exegetical procedure into a non-exegetical one. Put another way, the extension of the data base being exegeted does not mean we are no longer exegeting but only that we are doing so with a larger block of material" (p. 401).
"We today cannot reproduce the inspired certainty of our typological interpretations as either the OT or NT writers could, but the consistent use of such a method by biblical authors throughout hundreds of years of sacred history suggests strongly that it is a viable method for all saints to employ today" (p. 402).
Hopefully sooner rather than later we will see the publication of a new major reference work: A Commentary on the Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, edited by D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, forthcoming).
Craig Blomberg, in an article summarizing some of his contribution to this volume, writes: "Employing Richard Hays's categories of quotation, allusion, and echo, [the Beale-Carson book] is designed to be a fairly comprehensive analysis of the meaning of each major NT reference to the Old and, for full-fledged quotations, an assessment of the OT passage in its original context, its pre-Christian Jewish history of interpretation, the text-form used by the NT writer, and a categorization of the hermeneutic employed in its NT context."
There will be eleven contributing authors, and will be approximately 1,100 pages.
I don't have a list of all the contributors, but here are some of them. (If you know of more, feel free to send me a note and I'll update this list.)
- Craig Blomberg on Matthew
- Ekhard Schnabel and David Pao on Luke
- Andreas Kostenberger on John
- I. Howard Marshall on Acts
- Brian Rosner on 1 Corinthians
- Moises Silva on Galatians
- Frank Thielman on Ephesians
- G.K. Beale on Colossians
- G.K. Beale and Sean McDonough on Revelation
Here are their core values:
"Delighting in God’s glory as our highest aim, we passionately embrace these core values in all we do:
- The functional centrality of the gospel
- The great commandment of wholehearted love for God
- The pursuit of holiness motivated by grace
- The priority and profitability of sound doctrine
- The active presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit
- The expression of our dependence on God through prayer
- The eager cultivation of relationships marked by honesty, humility and joyful servanthood
- The proclamation of the gospel to our families, community and the world
- The demonstration of God’s redemptive mercy through compassion to our community"
I haven't yet seen the commentary, but when I do, I may try to post a review. Some readers may recall that last year I posted a lengthy entry on how I view the creation narrative in Genesis. My thoughts were-and still are--largely dependent on Collins' exegetical work.
According to material on the web, Collins' commentary
follows a literary-theological method informed by contemporary discourse analysis, in order to arrive at an integrated reading of each segment. In order to explore the connections of the Bible's parts I look at how the passages from Genesis have shaped subsequent material--especially in the OT, Apocrypha, and NT.Here are some blurbs:
“What does it mean to be human? Why are we here? What’s wrong with us and our world? How can things be made right? And what’s God got to do with the whole business? Collins demonstrates that the opening chapters of Scripture are crucial in answering these worldview questions, and thus essential to a faithful engagement with life in God’s world. He gives us a commentary that is both exegetically exacting and theologically relevant for the modern church.”
-Michael D. Williams
“From every standpoint—methodological and theological, structural and syntactical, linguistic and literary, apologetic and worldview—this expository survey is a model of ‘good reading’ of the text. Here you have a landmark treatment of Genesis 1-4 as canonical communication from God, a work of detailed scholarship that no serious student or honest teacher will henceforth be able to ignore.”
-J. I. Packer
“Jack Collins is a most promising candidate to provide wise guidance in the interpretation of Genesis 1-4. He brings to the discussion a background in science and text-linguistics, advanced degrees in theology and the languages and literatures of the Bible, and a long-standing involvement with the early chapters of Genesis. The result is a clearly written and insightful treatise on this crucially important part of the Bible.”
-V. Philips Long
You finally have that opportunity to explain the gospel to that co-worker who has been asking a few questions of late. She tells you that one of the things that keeps her from taking religion seriously is that each one claims absolute, final truth. Obviously, they can't all be right, since they contradict each other at key points. Can a Japanese Buddhist really be held accountable for accepting Christianity if Buddhism has been his only frame of reference? How then can we continue to say that Jesus is the only way? How can we say that God cannot be truly known, at least in a saving way, unless one has been exposed to the Christian Scriptures somehow? Religion all seems hopelessly naive and impossible. More than that, it seems to fuel the religious strife that drives intolerance around the world. As a result, your co-worker has simply adopted the cultural dogma of tolerance that assumes a pragmatic view of religion. Buddhism "works" for one person, Islam for another, and Christianity for still others. The belief that religion is therapy more than truth seems pervasive, in evangelicalism as everywhere else.
Read the article for his answers.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Update: I changed the link since this other one was getting bogged down. Thanks to Matt Reimer for the help.
The chief feature of this volume is that it makes available in convenient form the "Notes on Biblical Exposition" which Dr. J. Gresham Machen published in the earlier 'Christianity Today' from January 1931 to February 1933. Students at Westminster Theological Seminary have made profitable use of these Notes on Galatians 1:1 - 3:14 by following them, with minor inconvenience, through bound periodical volumes; but for many others who might greatly benefit from them, they have long been inaccessible.
Here you will find a master exegete opening up important and essential meterial to help undertsand the import of the great Apostle on this vital portion of Scripture.
"One of the hidden jewels of Machen's outstanding contributions to Christian literature. His exegetical insight and theological sturdiness provide wise and careful guidance for a new generation of Bible students." - Dr. Sinclair Ferguson
Update: Joe Carter has more on this issue. Joe ends his article like this:
Sadly, the blogosphere also failed to express concern over our nation helping to build an Islamic theocracy. The deafening silence continued months later when President Bush and the U.N. were praising the adoption of the new constitution. Even astute political pundits like Ed Morrissey failed to recognize the threat, repeating the claim that “there will be no mullahs passing supreme judgment on government and no Shari'a.” Rahman would beg to differ.
Did American troops give their lives removing the repressive Taliban government only for us to replace it with Taliban-lite? Will we once again remain silent as a government we helped to install executes a man for his religious beliefs?
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil,” said Edmund Burke, “is that good men do nothing.” We did nothing to stop the adoption of a theocratic constitution, believing at the time it was a “necessary evil.” Will we continue to do nothing and allow evil to triumph?
Monday, March 20, 2006
Al Mohler points to Nicholas Kristof's proposed plan to combat genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Mohler also looks at the plight of black men, highlighting John McWhorter's analysis. (Readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of black conservative writers like McWhorter, Steele, Sowell, et al, and that I've often lamented that evangelicals have not appreciated and appropriated their writings, so I'm quite glad to see this blog entry.
Steve McCoy points to Kathy Keller's article regarding Redeemer Presbyterian's new policy regarding missional ministry in the age of media.
C.J. Mahaney blogs about preparing his son for Sunday-morning worship at Covenant Life Church.
Tim Challies blogs about his experience of meditating on some selections from John Piper's God Is the Gospel.
Gene Veith suggests a technological tool for those who enjoy some aspects of TV but are bothered by its tyranizing effects.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
For those interested in exploring this issue in more depth, I'd highly recommend Greg Beale's article, "Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine From the Wrong Texts? An Examination of the Presuppositions of the Apostles' Exegetical Method," Themelios 14 (1989), 89-96; reprinted in The Right Doctrine From the Wrong Texts? Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, ed. G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 387-404.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
What would it have been like to sit in Spurgeon's classes? I hope this book gives a sense of what a student would hear Spurgeon say about preaching if Spurgeon were to speak with them in the hall, from the pulpit, or on a walk down the streets of London. Thus, the purpose of this book is to enable preachers to "apprentice" with Spurgeon for a season in order to learn from him about preaching. It is hoped that such an internship will prove valuable for contributing to preachers as they mine resources for gospel relevance and power in the twenty-first century. But how could Spurgeon help?
The twenty-first century preacher in the West will recognize some profound similarities with Spurgeon and his times. It is true that postmodernism and Enlightenment Rationalism are very different philosophies. But their results are similar in that they promote wide spread scepticism and doubt regarding the authority of the Bible. The debates about the use of art and sermon length at the turn of the twenty-first century are no different in substance than those found in England at the turn of the twentieth. The effect of attention span and the need for story to accompany logic are not new topics of discussion for preachers. In addition, pressures that reduce time for sermon preparation and engender the temptation for shallow or borrowed sermons are nothing essentially new.
- Worked seven consecutive NCAA Final Four tournaments from 1988 to 1994 and again in 1996 and 2002
- Naismith Division I Men’s College Basketball Official of the Year (1992)
- National Association of Sports Officials’ Gold Whistle Award (1995)
- Inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1998)
But he is also firmly community to public education. He once turned down an offer to be an NBA ref in order to focus on his job as district superintendent. Here are some of his roles and recognitions:
- Superintendent of the Edwardsville (Illinois) Community Unit School District #7
- Illinois Principal of the Year Award (1993)
- National Distinguished Principal’s Award (1993)
- Master’s and specialist’s degrees from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville
- Doctorate in education administration from St. Louis University
I used to think that refereeing was fairly easy--you just call 'em like you see 'em. That's until I did some volunteer officiating during high school. (For those Chicago Bulls fans out there, I refereed some games in which Kirk Heinrich played when Kirk was in 8th grade--his dad was my high school coach.) Anyway, I quickly discovered that it is extremely difficult. You receive no praise for doing well and lots of viciousness when you do poorly!
So during this "road to the Final Four," hats off to Ed Hightower for serving college basketball so well and fulfilling his vocation with consistency and excellence.
'Dr Culver is a veteran teacher in the classic evangelical and Reformed stream of Christian understanding, and this wide-ranging, well-directed, sharp-sighted textbook is his magnum opus. Within the group of recent conservative systematic theologies this one stands high as a demonstration of the biblical rationality of the Reformed faith.'
J. I. Packer, Professor, Regent College, Canada
'Culver's Systematic Theology is biblically grounded, edifying and thorough. As a theologian, he writes with the worshipful reverence of a Puritan, the stirring exhortation of a prophet, the logical precision of a philosopher, and the wise guidance of a pastor. His desire to ground all our theology in Scripture is obvious throughout.'
K. Erik Thoennes, Professor, Biola University, California
'Here is a bold, comprehensive, and faithful systematic theology. This work is based clearly upon a biblical foundation and is marked by genuine scholarship, doctrinal clarity, and historical insight. This new Systematic Theology should be warmly received by evangelical pastors, laypersons, and students.'
R. Albert Mohler Jr. President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kentucky
Friday, March 17, 2006
“The O’Reilly Factor” airs at 8:00 PM (EST) on the Fox News Channel and repeats at 11:00 PM (EST).
Serious Christians ought to be developing an entire library of books intended to apply the Christian worldview to every area of life, thought, study, and culture. Total Truth will be an important part of that library, and may also be the catalyst for other good books that will follow. In the meantime, quickly get a copy for yourself and send another to a young college student. In so doing, you just might be sending an intellectual life preserver to someone about to drown in a sea of secularism. Never underestimate the power of the right book put in the right hands at the right time.
But not it appears that the conservatives have self-diagnosed another disease, which may also be labeled BDS: Bush Disillusionment Syndrome.
The official prognosis is offered by Peggy Noonan--former speechwriter for President Reagan, wonderful wordsmith, and volunteer aid to the Bush campain--in her article in today's Wall Street Journal, "Hey, Big Spender."
She succintly sums up the conservative worldview with regard to the size of government: "Money is power, more money for the government is more power for the government. More power for the government will allow it to, among many other things, amuse itself by putting its fingers in a million pies, and stop performing its essential functions well, and get dizzily distracted by nonessentials, and muck up everything. Which is more or less where we are."
About President Bush in particular, she writes: "If I'd thought he was a big-spending Rockefeller Republican--that is, if I'd thought he was a man who could not imagine and had never absorbed the damage big spending does--I wouldn't have voted for him."
So in light of that, Peggy Noonan has some questions for the President:
Did you ever hold conservative notions and assumptions on the issue of spending? If so, did you abandon them after the trauma of 9/11? For what reasons, exactly? Did you intend to revert to conservative thinking on spending at some point? Do you still?
Were you always a liberal on spending? Were you, or are you, frankly baffled that conservatives assumed you were a conservative on spending? Did you feel they misunderstood you? Did you allow or encourage them to misunderstand you?
What are the implications for our country if spending levels continue to grow at their current pace?
What are the implications for the Republican party if it continues to cede one of the pillars on which it stood?
Did compassionate conservatism always mean big spending?
Sowin identifies two problems in modern society: (1) the lack of real communal interaction; and (2) the lack of quality isolation. He writes:
A good life needs a healthy balance of communion and isolation. When these are not in balance, both community and inner life suffers. We have replaced true community with virtual interaction, and true isolation with distraction. What we need is a revival of both true community and true isolation.
Regarding isolation in particular, Sowin writes:
...Like community, isolation from others is a healthy activity that should be practiced frequently. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The isolation we do experience is usually a time of boredom to fill with distraction and entertainment instead of being a quiet time to think, read, and pray. These activities are impaired when music, cell phones, and other gadgets distract us. Yet we cannot seem to leave them behind. The truth is, we must always be entertained. We do not want to be left alone with our thoughts, for fear of what that may bring. Blaise Pascal (1623 — 1662) made this observation centuries ago, and it is worth quoting at length:I have often said that the sole cause of a man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room…. The only good thing for men therefore is to be diverted from thinking of what they are, either by some occupation which takes their mind off it, or by some novel and agreeable passion which keeps them busy, like gambling, hunting, some absorbing show, in short by what is called diversion.
That is why gaming and feminine society, war and high office are so popular. It is not that they really bring happiness, nor that anyone imagines that true bliss comes from possessing the money to be won at gaming or the hare that is hunted: no one would take it as a gift. What people want is not the easy peaceful life that allows us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the burdens of office, but the agitation that takes our mind off it and diverts us. That is why we prefer the hunt to the capture.
That is why men are so fond of the hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible. That, in fact, is the main joy of being a king, because people are continually trying to divert him and procure him every kind of pleasure. A king is surrounded by people whose only thought is to divert him and stop him thinking about himself, because, king though he is, he becomes unhappy as soon as he thinks about himself.
Silence is not merely the absence of noise; it is being laid bare before our conscience and thoughts. We see who we really are, and we don’t like it. The fact is, we never think about what really matters in life. We never think about God. We are selfish, wasteful, have little self-control, do few good works. So we go to great lengths to distract ourselves so we do not have to be alone and condemned by our conscience.
To achieve true community and quality isolation, Sowin calls for a revival in (1) family, (2) place, (3) church and private religion.
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
I've just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. After some further tests, we'll discuss treatment next Monday, and it seems likely I'll be soon for surgery.
Perhaps you saw John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Cancer" that he recently posted. I've added a paragraph of my own to each of his 10 paragraphs, doubling it in length. It is in light of this that I hope for prayer, for healing, for growth in faith and love, and for this latest news to be spread! I pray especially for God to work the spiritual grace of 'endurance,' that holy, vibrant bearing up under weaknesses. A body whose fragilities continually reveal a lack of physical endurance and resilience provides a God-designed proving ground for me to learn the true inner endurance, that I too often lack, and that I long for the Spirit to teach me.
Feel free to share whatever of this note seems to you to be constructive. I value so much the love of the brethren.
You can download the new edition of "Don't Waste Your Cancer" here. Please remember to pray for David.
(HT: Girl Talk Blog)
I approve of "American Idol." In the judging phase, at least, it reinforces the notion that there are, indeed, objective aesthetic standards. No, you are not good just because you try real hard or are sincere or have a dream or think you are. Simon shoots down that subjectivist mindset with commendable force. The competition is rigorous, and--though the judgments are turned over to the masses who do have their heartthrobs and subjective sympathies--at the end of the game, the best artists so far have indeed risen to the top.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Steele was recently interviewed by American Enterprise. Here are some quotes from the interview--but I encourage you to read the whole thing in order to see the context and the fuller expression of these ideas and arguments:
". . . the goodwill of America finally did do to us what slavery and segregation failed to do. It destroyed our family, destroyed our character, and now black America is in a struggle."
"I think affirmative action is the worst cruelty blacks have endured since slavery."
"Political correctness is an outgrowth of white guilt. It’s a way for guilty-feeling whites to constantly indicate that they’re not racist, not colonialists, not imperialists, not warmongers, and so on."
"White guilt, which I think defines liberalism, is a response to the stigma that white Americans bear for practicing racism for four centuries. Whites live with this constant pressure of having to demonstrate to the world that they’re not bigots, and this manifests itself in many facets of American life."
"I’ll give you my bottom line: We’ve done worse in freedom than we did in segregation. It’s abominable that we made more advances between 1945 and 1965 than we have since, but it’s the truth."
"No one wants to say the problem with black America is a lack of responsibility for ourselves. If you say that and you’re white, you’re going to be called a racist. If you say that and you’re black, you’re going to be called an Uncle Tom. But that’s the truth."
Steele's new book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, is due out in May.
Update: Here's the full interview. I apologize for neglecting to link to this earlier. Those who had a negative response to Steele's quotes will want to see the fuller context and argumentation.
HHS issues a comprehensive update on H5N1 preparations in the U.S. It begins:
We are in a race. We are in a race against a fast moving virulent virus with the potential to cause an influenza pandemic. In November when President Bush announced the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus was confirmed in birds in 16 countries. It was known to have infected 122 people and 62 – half of those infected – died.
Today, four months later, H5N1 has spread to 37 nations on three continents; 175 people have been infected and 96 of them have died. To date, most of those people were exposed to infected poultry. Fortunately, there has been no sustained human-to-human transmission of the disease, but the rapid spread of H5N1 is reason for concern.
We are in a race, a race against a quick changing virus, for H5N1 has not only spread, it has evolved. There are now two main variants, or clades, of H5N1 and it is this second, newer clade that is spreading across western Asia into Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This second clade has killed over 60 percent of those it is known to have infected.
Read the whole thing.
Update: Should an influenza pandemic occur, here is a checklist for churches to use in order to prepare. (HT: Robert McDowell)
My passion for my son as he plays sports is that he would please and glorify God. I want him to grow in godliness, not simply athletic ability. You see, Chad will never play professional sports. His participation in sports is temporary and meant to be preparatory. Like his father, he will inevitably grow old and only be able to walk for recreation or play golf poorly. But, by the grace of God, sports can help him grow in godly character and prepare him for manhood. His participation in sports can equip him to fulfill his calling as a man to humbly and courageously serve and lead in the home, church and culture. But for that to happen, a father must teach his son to discern and adopt biblical priorities and practices while playing sports.
Make sure to read the whole thing.
One of the most interesting avenues of research suggests that, statistically, the more older brothers a male has, the more likely he is to be gay. You can read the article to find out why scientists think that's the case.
(Please note that I post this without firsthand knowledge about the subject. If any of the diverse blog readers out there have knowledge about the nature of this research, feel free to weigh in.)
From a Christian worldview, it doesn't really matter the precise secondary causation of homosexuality (whether that be genes, hormones, absence of fathers, etc). Like other distorted desires, the focus must be on the sin itself and not where it came from.
Though I have not yet read it, I'm told that this book by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse is the best book yet on the use of scientific research on the origins of homosexuality:
Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate
Audio: Way of the Master Radio had an interview of sorts with Mark Dever last week. Listen to him discuss the gospel and conversion and actually interview the host. It's great stuff! (You may have to make your way to the broadcast from March 10).
Monday, March 13, 2006
(HT: Lig Duncan)
Update: Link fixed. Here are some of the topics:
Was the reformation a mistake? What are some differences between American and British evangelicals? How is our reason affected by the fall, and how should that impact our evangelism? From the value of incorporating the Psalms in our corporate worship to the dangers of privately administering baptism and the Lord's Supper, this conversation is sweeping! There's much to learn across the board.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Ronald H. Nash, a great evangelical philosopher and apologist, died early this morning in Florida. Nash was a longtime professor at Western Kentucky University, Reformed Theological Seminary, and, until a stroke last year, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was an heir of the theological tradition of Carl F.H. Henry, and was an lifelong admirer and student of Augustine of Hippo, his favorite philosopher.
You can read the whole thing here.
Friday, March 10, 2006
And begged Him for a priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, "But Lord, this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift that Thou hast given me.
He said, "My child, I give good gifts and give my best to thee."
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore;
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added Grace.
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.
"The Thorn," by Martha Snell Nicholson
In this German-made movie, Julia Jentsch plays the role of a valiant 21-year-old hero who stood up against the Nazis, and who boldly proclaimed her faith in Jesus Christ even as she denounced Hitler as a liar. Watch her stand strong against the relentless, ferocious challenges of Nazi interrogator Robert Mohr, played with similar intensity by Alexander Held. If the real Sophie Scholl was anything like the character played by Jentsch here—and the extensive research performed by director Mark Rothemund and screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer indicates that she was—then she deserves a place alongside history's most revered and celebrated Christian women.
Read the whole review, which ends with this line: "It's one of those rare and wonderful films that offers a vivid portrayal of faith without compromising standards of excellence."
Greg Graffin is frontman, singer and songwriter for the punk band Bad Religion. He also happens to have a Ph.D. in zoology and wrote his dissertation on evolution, atheism and naturalism. Preston Jones is a history professor at a Christian college and a fan of Bad Religion's music. One day, on a whim, Preston sent Greg an appreciative e-mail. That was the start of an extraordinary correspondence.
For several months, Preston and Greg sent e-mails back and forth on big topics like God, religion, knowledge, evil, evolution, biology, destiny and the nature of reality. Preston believes in God; Greg sees insufficient evidence for God's existence. Over the course of their friendly debate, they tackle such cosmic questions as: Is religion rational or irrational? Does morality require belief in God? Do people only believe in God because they are genetically predisposed toward religion? How do we make sense of suffering in the world? Is this universe all there is? And what does it all matter?
In this engaging book, Preston and Greg's actual e-mail correspondence is reproduced, along with bonus materials that provide additional background and context. Each makes his case for why he thinks his worldview is more compelling and explanatory. While they find some places to agree, neither one convinces the other. They can't both be right. So which worldview is more plausible? You decide.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Here's the end of Frame's view.
Lindbeck tries very hard to show how on his theory doctrines may be regarded as superior to others, even infallible. I don't think he succeeds. Lindbeck offers us "rules," but doesn't offer us any adequate means of judging which ones we ought to use. I do think, however, that once we accept, as Lindbeck does not, an orthodox view of scripture, then we can learn much from his theory. He has, in effect, presented what is to most of us a new, and in any case interesting, perspective on the nature of doctrine which in my view complements, rather than replaces, the other two which he mentions. Doctrine is all three things: propositional truth-claims, expressions of the inner experience of regeneration, and rules for the speech and conduct of God's creatures. No one of these is prior to the others. Lindbeck's book is an excellent exploration of the third perspective, which is, undoubtedly, the one most neglected in present-day theology. We can learn from Lindbeck that, indeed, the purpose of doctrine is not to be simply repeated, but also to be "applied"--to be used for all of God's purposes in the world. And if we cannot use it, we cannot in any serious sense claim to "understand" it.
I've often wondered what the postconservatives would make of Frame's writings, which I think shatter many of their stereotypes about Reformational philosophical theology. Perhaps one of the reasons I find the postconservative description of evangelical theology so foreign is due to the influence of Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God upon my own thinking.
It would also be interesting to see Frame's take on The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer--a former student of Frame's.
As to the object of your affections, in a special manner, let it be the cross of Christ, which has exceeding efficacy toward the disappointment of the whole work of indwelling sin: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). The cross of Christ he gloried and rejoiced in; this his heart was set upon; and these were the effects of it—it crucified the world unto him, made it a dead and undesirable thing. The baits and pleasures of sin are taken all of them out of the world, and the things that are in the world—namely, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” These are the things that are in the world; from these does sin take all its baits, whereby it entices and entangles our souls. If the heart be filled with the cross of Christ, it casts death and undesirableness upon them all; it leaves no seeming beauty, no appearing pleasure or comeliness, in them. Again, says he, “It crucifies me to the world; makes my heart, my affections, my desires, dead unto any of these things.” It roots up corrupt lusts and affections, leaves no principle to go forth and make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. Labor, therefore, to fill your hearts with the cross of Christ. Consider the sorrows he underwent, the curse he bore, the blood he shed, the cries he put forth, the love that was in all this to your souls, and the mystery of the grace of God therein. Meditate on the vileness, the demerit, and punishment of sin as represented in the cross, the blood, the death of Christ. Is Christ crucified for sin, and shall not our hearts be crucified with him unto sin? Shall we give entertainment unto that, or hearken unto its dalliances, which wounded, which pierced, which slew our dear Lord Jesus? God forbid! Fill your affections with the cross of Christ, that there may be no room for sin. The world once put him out of the house into a stable, when he came to save us; let him now turn the world out of doors, when he is come to sanctify us.[Lightly edited for punctuation and spelling.]
A school in India is reportedly teaching its students to use both their hands to write on different subjects simultaneously All 72 pupils of the Veena Vadini School at Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh use both their hands “with equal ease”, reports Asian News International. The school set up in 1999, for children aged between four and eight, holds its classes outdoors. Principal Virangat Sharma said: "All the children here can write on different subjects and in different languages. "Not just that, these children can use both their hands to write in two different languages on two different subjects at the same time." One student, Kamla, said: "I know six languages - Hindi, Urdu, English, Roman, Sanskrit and Arabic. I can write in two languages at one time."
"#420 Podcast Hack -- Podcast search engine PodZinger lets you search podcasts as if they were text files, allowing you to see what’s inside the podcast. When you type in a word or terms, PODZINGER not only finds the relevant podcasts, but also highlights the segment of the audio in which they occurred. By clicking anywhere on the results, the audio will begin to play just where you clicked. There are also controls that let you back up, pause, or forward through the podcast. Or you can download the entire podcast. (HT: LifeHacker)"
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
He basically encouraged me to cheat on my taxes in order to get a better return. (And no, I'm not going to have my taxes done with him.)
He then added: "I do taxes for about 20 pastors in the area"--that is, in Wheaton--"and every single one of them cheats on his taxes."
You’re enduring some struggles, and if you hear one more coffee-mug platitude, you’re going to explode!
As a kid, author Michael Horton would run up the down escalator, trying to beat it to the top. As adults, many of us seek salvation the same way. Misled by the claims that we can be happier, healthier, wealthier, smarter, and more successful if we just “give Jesus a chance,” we fixate on a theology of glory and try climbing by our own power. But if God blesses the faithful with material wealth, what does that say about the sick, or the poor, or you and me in our times of trouble?
The answer is too good to be true. Michael Horton gives meaning to our suffering by replacing pop evangelical culture with the theology of the cross. God climbed down through thorns and splinters and nails and went to the cross for us. He wants to say, “I don’t condemn you. You don’t need to climb; I’ll come to you.” Too Good to Be True allows us to face the tragic side of life in order to rekindle our excitement about the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
Nearly 265 years after her legendary fire-and-brimstone forebear delivered his historic sermon warning of hell's horrors, a Squirrel Hill clergywoman is under church scrutiny for joining two women in marriage.
The Rev. Janet Edwards, 55, likens performing the ceremony to her famously orthodox ancestor, Jonathan Edwards, preaching to the Mohicans in the 18th century, when racism made Native Americans the object of scorn and fear.
"I would say his acceptance of the Mohicans of the time is similar to my inclusion of gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered people now," Janet Edwards said....
"If the point of (Janet Edwards') analogy is that he followed his conscience and so did she, and that they both went beyond some boundary or other, that's not enough," religious historian and retired University of Chicago professor Martin Marty said.
But Jonathan Edwards scholar Amy Plantiga Pauw, a doctrinal theology professor at Louisville (Ky.) Presbyterian Seminary, calls Janet Edwards' argument persuasive.
"There is a kind of parallel -- Jonathan Edwards was not afraid to challenge so-called respectable Christians of his time," Pauw said.
Born in 1703, Jonathan Edwards is best known for his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," with its fiery warning to the unrepentant: "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over a fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath burns towards you like fire."
Edwards' sixth-great granddaughter remembers him for an activism that still inspires her own.
"Marriage is a sacred union of two people who are committed to each other, without regard to gender," Janet Edwards said. "I do not feel I have done anything wrong. On the contrary, I felt I was holding up the vows of my ordination."
Monday, March 06, 2006
Romans 8:18 says that we can consider our present sufferings not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. I have shared this before, but I must say it again. For I sure hope I can bring this wheelchair to heaven. Now, I know that’s not theologically correct. But I hope to bring it and put it in a little corner of heaven, and then in my new, perfect, glorified body, standing on grateful glorified legs, I’ll stand next to my Savior, holding his nail-pierced hands. I’ll say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and he will know that I mean it, because he knows me. He’ll recognize me from the fellowship we’re now sharing in his sufferings. And I will say, “Jesus, do you see that wheelchair? You were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that thing was a lot of trouble. But the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. It never would have happened had you not given me the bruising of the blessing of that wheelchair.”
- Perspectives on Worship: Five Views, ed. Matt Pinsor (Broadman & Holman) [Dever]
- Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views, ed. Bruce Ware (Broadman & Holman)
- Three Views on Baptism, ed. David Wright (IVP) [Ware]
- Fives Views on Election, ed. Chad Brad (Broadman & Holman) [Cottrell, Ware]
- The Warning Passages in Hebrews: Four Perspectives, ed. Herbert Bateman (Kregel)
- Four Views on the Atonement, ed. James Beilby and Paul Eddy (IVP) [Schreiner, Green, Boyd]
Sunday, March 05, 2006
The first installment was an excellent essay by Michael Horton: How the Kingdom Comes.
The latest addition is from Frederica Mathewes-Green, entitled, Loving the Storm-Drenched.
The heart of Mathewes-Green's perspective on church and culture is summed up, I think, in this paragraph;
The culture, then, is like the weather. We may be able to influence it in modest ways, seeding the clouds, but it is a recipe for frustration to expect that we can direct it. Nor should we expect positive change without some simultaneous downturn in a different corner. Nor should we expect that any change will be permanent. The culture will always be shifting, and it will always be with us. God has not called us to change the weather. Our primary task as believers, and our best hope for lasting success, is to care for individuals caught up in the pounding storm.
She goes on to also discuss how we as believers are also affected by the weather:
But we must regretfully acknowledge that we, too, are shaped by the weather in ways we do not realize. Most worryingly, it has induced us to think that the public square is real life. We are preoccupied with that external world, when our Lord's warnings have much more to do with our intimate personal lives, down to the level of our thoughts.
So, when Christians gather, there's less talk about humility, patience, and the struggle against sin. Instead, there's near-obsessive emphasis on the need for a silver-bullet media product that will magically open the nation to faith in Jesus Christ. Usually, the product they crave is a movie. Now, I'm delighted that Christians are working in Hollywood; we should be salt and light in every community that exists, and so powerful a medium clearly merits our powerful stories. But it's telling that the media extravaganza so eagerly awaited is not a novel or a song, something an individual might undertake, but a movie: something that will require enormous physical and professional resources, millions of dollars, and, basically, work done by somebody else.
This focus on an external, public sign is contrary to the embodied mission of the church. Christ planned to attract people to himself through the transformed lives of his people. It's understandable that we feel chafed by what media giants say about us and the things we care about, and that we crave the chance to tell our own side of the story. It's as if the world's ballpark is ringed with billboards, and we rankle because we should have a billboard too. But if someone should actually see our billboard, and be intrigued, and walk in the door of a church, he would find that he had joined a community that was just creating another billboard.
Finally, I also think it's worth highlighting another area where she sees the church following the culture: in the tone of our interaction:
More serious, however, is a tone of voice we adopt from the culture: sarcastic, smart-alecky, jabbing, and self-righteous. We feel the sting of such treatment and give it right back; we feel anger or even wounded hatred toward those on the "other side." But God does not hate them; he loves them so much he sent his Son to die for them. We are told to pray for those who persecute us and to love our enemies. The weight of antagonistic and mocking big-media machinery is the closest thing we've got for practicing that difficult spiritual discipline. If we really love these enemies, we will want the best for them, the very best thing we have, which is the knowledge and love of God.
Smart-alecky speech doesn't even work. It may win applause, but it does not win hearts. It hardens the person who feels targeted, because he feels mocked and misrepresented. It increases bad feeling and anger. No one changed his mind on an issue because he was humiliated into it. In fact, we are misguided even to think of our opponents in the "culture wars" as enemies in the first place. They are not our enemies, but hostages of the Enemy. We have a common Enemy who seeks to destroy us both, by locking them in confusion and by luring us to self-righteous pomposity.
The whole essay is worth reading.