Wednesday, May 31, 2006

New Attitude Audio

The seven main sessions from the New Attitude Conference are now available for (cheap: $7!) purchase at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Store.

The breakout sessions should be available by the end of next week.

Mistaken Identity

A while back I posted on the four Taylor University students who were killed in an auto accident. One of the girls in the car survived but went into a coma.

Now Taylor University has issued this statement:

This morning, we learned from the Grant County Coroner's Office that there has been a case of mistaken identity involving two of the young women involved in the accident. We had believed that Laura VanRyn was airlifted to Parkview Hospital and has recently begun to emerge from the coma she was in since the night of the accident. The Coroner's office has notified us that Laura was instead one of the five people who died that evening and that it was Whitney Cerak who was airlifted to Parkview and is today convalescing at a hospital in Grand Rapids, MI.

One can only imagine what impact this new development has had upon the VanRyn and Cerak families as they process this information. Taylor University is cooperating fully with the Coroner's Office.

We ask that prayers be offered for the VanRyn and Cerak families, and also for the families of Laurel Erb, Monica Felver, Brad Larson, Betsy Smith, as well as the Taylor Community including students, faculty, staff and administrators deeply affected by this development.

The family of Laura has been keeping a blog, providing updates. This afternoon, they posted this entry:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." - Hebwrews 13:8

What may come to us as a shock, does not shock the One who made us. We have some hard news to share with you today. Our hearts are aching as we have learned that the young woman we have been taking care of over the past five weeks has not been our dear Laura, but instead a fellow Taylor student of hers, Whitney Cerak. There was a misidentification made at the time of the accident and it is uncanny the resemblence that these two women share. Their body types are similar, their hair color and texture, their facial features, etc. Over the past couple of days, as Whitney had been becoming more aware of her surroundings, she'd been saying and doing some things that made us question whether or not she was Laura. Yesterday, we talked with a Spectrum staff member and began the process of making a positive ID. We now know without a doubt, that this is Whitney.

The Cerak family came down from Gaylord and we had the privelege of meeting with them this morning. While we discussed some of the action steps that will need to take place over the next couple of days, we were also able to share with them some of the great things we have seen Whitney accomplish over the past month. It is a sorrow and a joy for us to learn of this turn of events. For us, we will mourn Laura's going home and will greatly miss her compassionate heart and sweetness while knowing that she is safe and with her King forever. We rejoice with the Ceraks, that they will have more time on this earth with their daughter, sister, and loved one.

We also want to thank you for your prayers for our family as well as the other families during these past few weeks. Your love and support have been amazing. It is our hope that the Cerak's would continue this blog in Whitney's name so that we may continue to pray with them for Whitney as she recovers. Please continue to check this site and we will let you know about this possibility.

We will also use this site to communicate our plans for a memorial service for Laura. Hopefully, this service will take place this coming Sunday.

Thanks again for the support that you've been. Please continue your prayers. Our God is good and continues to be our help, our guide, our comfort.

We love you Sweets.

Posted by Lisa, for the Van Ryn family.

Please pray for these families--both going through different emotions of deep joy and deep sorrow.

The Fort Wayne newspaper has a fuller story on how this happened.

The families have issued a joint statement.

Complementarians, Old and Young

Mark Dever writes:

Lig and I were recently at a gathering of 40 or so pastors. We had a great time there. Wonderful fellowship. Much theological agreement. However, when the question of complementarianism--there are gender roles in home & church that are culturally expressed, but some gender roles are actually rooted in and mandated by Scripture--when this question came up, though there was large agreement on theological substance, there was dramatic disagreement on strategy for presentation.

The core of this blog entry is simply this-->it is my observation that those older than me who are complementarian generally want to downplay this issue, and those younger than me want to lead with it, or at least be very up front about it.

To see Dever's suggestions for why there is this difference between the younger and the older, see his entire thoughtful entry on the topic.

Emerging Church Talk

For those who might be interested at my talk at the New Attitude breakout session on the emerging church movement, Brent Thomas--teaching pastor of Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, Texas--provides a helpful summary and review.

Desiring God

If you're interested in helping Desiring God complete two major goals--(1) putting all 26 years of John Piper's sermon on the web for free, and (2) launching a completely redesigned website in July--here's how you can help.

The Valley of Vision

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive
that the valley is the place of vision.

LORD, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

(You can purchase the book Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Poems and Devotions here, and you can listen to Max McLean read this prayer here.)

Remembering for the Future

At the T4G blog Mark Dever recounts the moving story of our Christian brother, James Smith, a civil war slave. Dever encourages us "to see the faith of my African-American brothers and sisters, even as they labored under the terrible persecution of slavery, sometimes even from those who were members of the same church. This is not simply material for a cultural 'Black History' month; this is OUR history as Christians--as sinners saved by grace." Read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Half Truths, Whole Truths, and Complete Untruths

J.I. Packer once wrote this great truth: "a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth."

Emerging vs. Emergent

Dan Kimball provides a very helpful two-part review (part 1; part 2) regarding the origin of the terms "Emerging" and "Emergent" church, and what the difference is between them.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ascol on Paul's Accommodations

Tom Ascol has some helpful thoughts (here and here) on Paul's principle of accommodation in 1 Corinthians 9.

Here are a couple of good distinctions he makes:

"I would make a sharp distinction between compromising what God has revealed in His Word and accommodating others where we can for the sake of gaining a hearing for the Gospel."

"It is vitally important to distinguish between the essence of our liberty before God, and the exercise of that liberty before men. There is an important difference between Christian liberty and the use of Christian liberty."

The Christianity Today Book Awards 2006

Announced here.

Understanding the Emerging Church

I finally got around to reading Walter Henegar's piece, More than a Fad: Understanding the Emerging Church. I think it's both fair and insightful--well worth reading.

I'll be doing a breakout session this Monday on this topic at the New Attitude Conference in Louisville. Speaking of the NA Conference, they've launched a blog. You can follow it this weekend.

Ultimate MP3 Sermon CD

Justin Childers is offering (for free) a great collection of MP3 sermons by Piper, Dever, Mahaney, Sproul, MacArthur, Sam Storms, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Da Vinci Code and Left Behind

Al Mohler approvingly reprints some interesting excerpts from an editorial in Christian Century regarding the popularity of The Da Vinci Code and the Left Behind series: "both trade on a fundamentally gnostic premise: that most of the church has been duped and that the real Christian belief is a secret that will now be divulged to the privileged reader."

Confession and Repentance

Here is a prayer of repentance by Philip Ryken, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Consider not just reading it, but praying it:

Father, we have sinned. We confess that we do not listen to your Word. We read it and hear it, but we do not obey it. We say, “That was a great sermon!” but it doesn’t make a difference, because we are not willing to change.

We confess that we do not worship you the way you deserve to be worshiped. We are more concerned about what we get out of it than what we put it into it. We are often distracted. Our lips keep moving, but our hearts are cold and still.

We confess that we do not love one another very much. We do not want to be bothered with other people’s problems. We think the worst about others, rather than the best.

We confess that we do not always fulfill our responsibilities to one another. We are harsh when we should be gentle, and when we need to be firm, we lack the courage to say or do what is right.

We confess that we are not willing to pay the high cost of discipleship. We try to be as worldly as we think we can get away with. We prefer to squeeze our faith in around the edges of life, rather than to let you stand at the center to control everything we are and have.

We confess that we lack passion for evangelism. We think of missions as something someone else does, somewhere else, rather than something you have called us to do right here and now. We lack the courage to proclaim the gospel. We are afraid to talk about spiritual things, for fear of what others will think.

We confess that we lack compassion. We think it is important to help the poor, provided that someone else actually does the helping.

In the name of Jesus, we ask forgiveness for these and all our sins.

More on "Red Mountain Music"

I posted yesterday about Red Mountain Music. Below are some audio clips from their albums if you want to hear them for yourself.

  1. O the Delights
  2. Pearly Gates
  3. What Solemn Tidings
  4. Poor Wayfaring Stranger
  5. Streams of Living Water Flow
  6. Soon and Very Soon
  7. There Forever Stay

The Gadsby Project

  1. Dearly We’re Bought
  2. Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart
  3. Jesus Whispers
  4. Jesus Is Our Great Salvation
  5. We Love Thy Holy Name
  6. Jesus, I Long For Thee
  7. Christ, Or Else I Die
  8. Will The Lord Indeed Appear?
  9. No Sweeter Subject
  10. King Of Saints
  11. Friend Of Sinners
  12. Twelve
  13. It Is Finished
  14. Jesus’ Precious Blood
  15. Come Boldly To The Throne Of Grace

Depth of Mercy
  1. Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour
  2. Jesus, Lover of My Soul
  3. Depth of Mercy
  4. Narrow Little Road
  5. Wedding Dress
  6. Jesus Cast a Look on Me
  7. Seven
  8. He Rescued Me
  9. My Jesus, I Love Thee
  10. Satisfied
  11. Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts
  12. There is a Fountain Filled with Blood
  13. Thirteen

Info on how to buy these CDs can be found here.

What Is Humility?

G.K. Chesteron, writing nearly 100 years ago, pinpointed some distinctions regarding humility that we need to hear these days. He wrote:

"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert--himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it's practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." (Orthodoxy [Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1957], pp. 31-32)

This quote is cited in a short, helpful article by John Piper entitled What Is Humility?

Piper offers the following theses from the Bible in answer to his question:

1. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ.

2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got.

3. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary.

4. Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing.

5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it; but also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others.

To see the full article and the biblical support, see the article. See also C.J. Mahaney's book, Humility: True Greatness.

Over-Presenting the Facts on Global Warming

Here is Al Gore explaining his own methodology with regard to presentations on global warming: “I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.”

Gore's new movie is being fact-checked, a climate scientist has a few questions for Gore, and a new study (summarized here) calls into question a number of Gore's premises.

Pat Robertson

You may have seen this already, but Pat Robertson is claiming that he can leg press 2,000 lbs. Why is he telling us this? Because he wants you to buy his age-defying protein shake.

One problem with this:

"That would mean a 76-year-old man broke the all-time Florida State University leg press record by 665 pounds over Dan Kendra. 665 pounds. Further, when he set the record, they had to modify the leg press machine to fit 1,335 pounds of weight. Plus, Kendra's capillaries in his eyes burst. Burst. Where in the world did Robertson even find a machine that could hold 2,000 pounds at one time? And how does he still have vision?"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Old Hymns in New Ways

I've recently been listening to Red Mountain Music (out of Red Mountain Church in Birmingham). They have excellent new arrangements of old hymns. Here they explain their philosophy and answer the question: "Why hymns?"

"This question seems to come up a lot, so I will try to give a brief but thorough answer. First, it is certainly not because we are against any other type of music. Clearly there is a large body of music in the church today, and strong arguments can undoubtedly be made as to the validity of various types and styles of music and texts. At Red Mountain, it is simply that we are overwhelmingly excited about the way hymns have affected our people. We are drawn to hymns because of the impact they have had on our church. Second, I often hear discussion about worship styles being “contemporary”, “traditional”, or “blended.” I believe that I accurately represent my peers when I say that these terms seem vague and poorly defined. For example, many songs considered “contemporary” were written more than 25 years ago. Many of us at Red Mountain feel like we’ve found a perfect blend: traditional text with truly contemporary music. It’s important to add that when we play songs that already have beautiful and familiar melodies, we rarely change them, and we enjoy the original tunes. Examples of this would be songs such as “Come Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace.” However, many of the hymns we sing do not have familiar music, so we’ve reworked them and, in a sense, re-introduced them to the church. Third, hymns connect us with our past. It is wonderful to think of all the people who have gone before us who have sung these songs. Singing hymns promotes the idea that a Christian is part of a historic family of believers, and they remind us that God’s gospel transcends time and place. Fourth, hymns ring true in a way that many modern songs simply do not. At times, it seems our ancestors had a stronger command of the language than we do. Their words drip with truth and paint pictures of the kingdom that make believers long for heaven. I cannot begin to describe what reading through these old hymnals has done to encourage the spirits of the musicians that play here. We find ourselves continually able to rest in the truth of these great lyrics, always with a sense that we are part of something much bigger than us or our little church. We are excited about this time in the church, and we are thrilled about this music. "

Brian T. Murphy
Red Mountain Music

Their albums are here.

An Introduction to Systematic Theology

John Frame's Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (360 pp.;' $24.99) is due out from P&R next month. I'm working my way through it in pre-publication form, and hope to have a review in due course.

Here's a blurb from Westminster Theological Seminary professor William Edgar: “John Frame is not only one of the most productive theologians of our day, he is also one of the most lucid. Deceptively so, for behind every sentence in this extraordinary volume lies deep reflection. It is at once vigorously orthodox and sweetly pastoral. We can be grateful for such a powerful and clear exposition of the whole range of theology.”

I couldn't agree more. It is an excellent volume: biblically faithful, and written in a very conversational, accessible tone. I will be highly recommending it.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Throwing Driscoll Under the Bus

The Jollyblogger (David Wayne) has some good thoughts on throwing Mark Driscoll under the bus.

Urban Legends about the Iraq War

Here's a very helpful debunking of several urban legends that are popular these days concerning the war in Iraq--myths such as:

  • the president misled the country in order to justify the Iraq war
  • the administration pressured intelligence agencies to bias their judgments
  • Saddam Hussein turned out to be no threat since he didn't possess weapons of mass destruction
  • helping democracy take root in the Middle East was a postwar rationalization

Monday, May 22, 2006

Christian T-Shirts

My former roommate Zach Nielsen--keyboardist in Matthew West's band--has an update on the painful reality of Christian T-Shirts.

Has Marc Heinrich of Purgatorio fame done a post on this yet? If not, Marc, you have an assignment.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Couple of Thoughts on Driscoll

Tim Challies has caused a bit of a stir within the blogosphere with his review--and extended quotation--from Mark Driscoll's book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. I think Tim's post was fair and raised legitimate issues--though I do wish that his extended quotation (which is causing all the heat) had been set in context more than it was.

Thus far Tim's review has garnered 174 comments--a number of them committing the sin of Graceless Slander Under the Guise of Discernment and Doctrinal Fidelity. I hope that folks read Mark Lauterbach's post on the subject as well.

I don't intend to defend Mark's language or to enter into the fray of the debate. But I do pass along a couple of quotes for your consideration.

First, a few months back Mark wrote some pretty sharp words in response to the views of Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt on homosexuality. He later penned an apology, which reads in part:

A godly friend once asked me an important question: “What do you want to be known for?” I responded that solid theology and effective church planting were the things that I cared most about and wanted to be known for. He kindly said that my reputation was growing as a guy with good theology, a bad temper, and a foul mouth. This is not what I want to be known for. And after listening to the concerns of the board members of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network that I lead, and of some of the elders and deacons at Mars Hill Church that I pastor, I have come to see that my comments were sinful and in poor taste. Therefore, I am publicly asking for forgiveness from both Brian and Doug because I was wrong for attacking them personally and I was wrong for the way in which I confronted positions with which I still disagree. I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way I chose to address the disagreement. I pray that you will accept this posting as a genuine act of repentance for my sin.

In the end, I do not want my tone and style to get in the way of important discussions and kingdom work. So, my intention is to lean into God’s empowering grace to become a holy man who demonstrates greater self-control. In the future, my prayer is that I could continue to speak with pithy edginess and candor that is also marked by grace and appropriate words. I obviously failed this time. Please forgive me and pray for me.

Secondly, I think we would all do well to listen to the wise counsel of J.C. Ryle, from his book on Holiness:

Above all, I want all Christians to understand what they must expect in other believers. You must not hastily conclude that a man has no grace merely because you see in him some corruption. There are spots on the face of the sun, and yet the sun shines brightly and enlightens the whole world. There is quartz and dross mixed up with many a lump of gold that comes from Australie, and yet who thinks the gold on that account worth nothing at all? There are flaws in some of the finest diamonds in the world, and yet they do not prevent their being rated at a priceless value. Away with this morbid squeamishness, which makes many ready to excommunicate a man if he only has a few faults!

Let us be quick to see grace, and more slow to see imperfections! Let us know that, if we cannot allow there is grace where there is corruption, we shall find no grace in the world.

Thanks to Mark Lauterbach's blog, where I first saw this quote.)

Justification by Faith Is the Answer: What Is the Question?

The apostle Paul claimed that we are "justified by faith, not by the works of the law." What question was this claim answering? The traditional, "Augustinian," "Lutheran" claim is that the question is: "How can a sinner find a gracious God?" Krister Stendahl, in his infamous essay, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West" (1963) suggested that the real question is something along the lines of: “On what terms can Gentiles gain entrance to the people of God?” The former option--we can call it the Augustinian or Lutheran Monk position, has been radically called into question by the Stendahl Revisionists, those who are often loosely united under the label of “the New Perspective on Paul.”

This is the basis for Stephen Westerholm's excellent essay, Justification by Faith is the Answer: What Is the Question?, delivered at the 2006 Concordia Exegetical Symposium (where Seifrid's address was also given).

Before offering a few quotes from the paper, I should say that I regard Westerholm to be one of the most insightful writers working today on the law and gospel issue. This area of study is filled with complexity and a proliferation of opinion. But Westerholm has a unique fog-clearing ability to summarize fairly and concisely and exegete the text convincingly. When I read Westerholm, my response is usually along the lines of: "Yes, yes! This is clearly what Paul meant. Why is it so hard for others to see this?"

Here is the purpose for Westerholm's paper:

My purpose in this paper is not to further review the contemporary debate, but to ask quite simply whether Stendahl & Co. have correctly identified the question Paul addressed in saying that justification is by faith. Did he mean that faith alone, not the observance of distinctively Jewish works of the law, is required for Gentiles to be included in the people of God? Or was his point that sinners are declared righteous by faith alone, apart from the righteous deeds that the law requires? “Justification by faith” is the answer; what is the question?

Westerholm briefly examines the issue in Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles, James, Thessalonians, and Corinthians, before moving to discuss Galatians and Romans.

I'll quote just one paragraph of his survey, as Westerholm seeks to unpack the thrust of the book of Galatians:

But this minimalist interpretation must ignore or explain away the whole argument of Galatians. The Galatians’ new teachers may have assumed that the Sinaitic covenant remains in place as the framework within which God’s people are to live; but that is the very point at which Paul attacks them. Circumcision (he argues, in effect) is not to be required of Gentiles, not because this part of a still valid Mosaic economy is inapplicable in their case, or even because the whole of a still valid Mosaic economy is not meant for Gentiles, but because the Mosaic economy itself has lost its validity. Its day has past. At the best of times righteousness was simply not achievable by means of the Mosaic economy. Lacking the means to justify sinners, it could only curse and enslave them. In the plan of God the covenant and laws of Mount Sinai played an important but temporary role as guardian of God’s people until Messiah should come and deliver them. For Gentile believers in Christ to be circumcised now would be a disaster, not because they would be unnecessarily taking on requirements binding only on Jews, but because they would be abandoning Christ, whose death is the sole means by which Jews and Gentiles alike can find righteousness; and they would be embracing life under a covenant that can only condemn them. Such is the thrust of Galatians.

Westerhom concludes his essay in this way:

How, then, can sinners find a gracious God? The question is hardly peculiar to the modern west; it was provoked by Paul’s message wherever he went. But Paul was commissioned, not to illuminate a crisis, but to present to a world under judgment a divine offer of salvation. In substance though not terminology in Thessalonians; in terminology though not prominently in Corinthians; thematically in Galatians and regularly thereafter, Paul’s answer was that sinners for whom Christ died are declared righteous by God when they place their faith in Christ.

This is an essay well worth reading.

A Still Fresher Reading of Paul

A few months ago, at the 2006 Symposium on Exegetical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), Mark Seifrid--professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary--delivered an importance address critiquing N.T. Wright's narrative approach to theology and his exegetical and theological conclusions on justification, entitled, The Narrative of Scripture and Justification by Faith: A Still Fresher Reading of Paul.

Though I disagree with--and/or don't fully understand--Seifrid on some aspects of justification or exegetical decision, I nevertheless think this is an important critique to consider. I don't recall having yet seen a fellow exegete-biblical theologian make these criticisms of Wright's narrative theology. And, it seems to me, this is precisely the point where Wright's devotees are approaching him most uncritically.

(BTW, here I will insert the disclaimer that Wright has many good things to say and things to offer evangelicalism.)

Below I've reproduced Seifrid's outline, as well as some key quotes that stood out to me:

1. Introduction: A Fresher Reading of Paul
2. Wright’s Reading of Scripture and Justification
2.1. Narrative and Interpretation
2.1.1. The Necessity of Explanation
2.2. “The Covenant” and Idealism
2.2.1. The Covenant: Conditional or Unconditional?
2.2.3. The Covenant: Exclusive or Universal?
2.3. Wright’s Reading of Justification
3 . Justification Still Fresher Yet: Paul’s Witness in Romans
3.1. God’s Righteousness Through Faith From the Crucified and Risen Christ
3.2. Theses on Justification


Fresh questions demand still fresher answers. I intend to offer a relatively lengthy critique of Wright’s reading of Paul, concentrating on his recently published, Paul in Fresh Perspective, followed by a brief reading of Romans 3:21-26, from which several theses emerge, which offer, I believe, a still fresher and yet faithful reading of Paul.

Wright’s reading of Paul ultimately entails a nearly Platonistic moral idealism.

There is something to be appreciated in the current narrative approaches to theology and to the interpretation of Scripture, in so far as they illuminate the life-setting(s) of doctrinal propositions in outline. Yet it would be false to imagine that the narrative approach is free from the temptation to radical systematization, the attempt to reduce the message of Scripture to a single, unified vision of God and God’s dealings with the world. The narrative approach can be in its own way just as radically systematic as any doctrinal outline. It is worth reminding ourselves that just as the Scripture has not been given to us as a dogmatic outline, neither has it been given to us as a single, unified story. It is a collection of narratives, which not only complement one another, but also overlap and stand in tension with one another.

As appropriate as it is to insist on the narrative unity of Scripture, the laying out of a story-line does not constitute an interpretation of Scripture. Interpretation is completed by the form of explanation which accompanies that narrative. In Wright’s work the drive for a unified interpretation leads to an idealistic interpretation of the text, which overruns the radically and irreducibly different ways in which God encounters humanity in and through the Scriptures.

Those who adopt this sort of reading generally appeal to an implicit narrative which informs the statements which appear in the text. The text stands in constant danger of being overrun by the imagination of the interpreter, rather than being illuminated by a story to which it alludes.

Moreover, there is a substantial difference between detecting an allusion to a biblical narrative in a brief statement or phrase in Paul’s letters and proposing a sweeping narrative sequence which shapes the interpretation of the whole of Paul’s letters. The larger claim demands stricter and more careful application of the criteria. A further “criterion of explicit markers” suggests itself: the more extensive the claim, the more interpretive power which the interpreter accords to it, the more the interpreter is obligated to locate explicit words, phrases and statements within the text that may be demonstrated to express the proposed theme or narrative sequence.

This loss of assurance and of the knowledge of our Creator go largely unnoticed in Wright’s scheme because through the lens of his moral idealism he views salvation primarily as a corporate reality, and substantially overlooks divine judgment as an essential element of the saving event. That you and I must die alone and stand before God alone hardly comes into his view at all. We therefore return to Paul for a still fresher reading of justification.

(HT: Michael F. Bird)

Friday, May 19, 2006

"Have You Heard of a Dictionary?"

Few people can tell amusing, true anecdotes like William Buckley, who writes in his latest column:

Some years ago I was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a creepy fascistic outfit (they are now out of business), and the question before the jury was whether I and the magazine I edited were racist. The attorney had one weapon to use in making his point, namely that we had published an editorial about Adam Clayton Powell Jr. when he made a terminally wrong move in his defense against federal prosecutors. The editorial we published was titled, "The Jig Is Up for Adam Clayton Powell Jr.?" On the witness stand I argued that the word "jig" could be used other than as animadversion. The feverish lawyer grabbed a book from his table and slammed it down on the arm of my chair. "Have you ever heard of a dictionary?" he asked scornfully, as if he had put the smoking gun in my lap. I examined the American Heritage College Dictionary and said yes, I was familiar with it. "In fact," I was able to say, opening the book, "I wrote the introduction to this edition." That was the high moment of my forensic life. And, of course, the dictionary establishes that the word “jig” can be used harmlessly.

Christian Theologies of Scripture

Those who would like an introduction to the spectrum of proposals on a Christian theology of Scripture will likely profit from the new book, Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction (New York University Press), edited by Justin Holcomb (lecturer in the the Religious Studies and Sociology department at the University of Virginia, lecturer at RTS, and blogger at Common Grounds Online).

While one might wish for more attention to recent evangelical engagements with the doctrine of Scripture, this book will likely fill a historical and ecumenical gap in our studies.

NYU has posted Holcomb's introduction on mapping the theologies of Scripture. You can also view the table of contents, and read an interview with Holcomb regarding the project.

The Top 10 (Superficial) Issues Facing Today's Family

Here's Andreas Kostenberger, responding to a recent LifeWay survey on the top 10 issues facing today's family:

If all those “Top 10 Issues Facing Today’s Family,” then, are merely symptomatic, what is the primary root cause of the failure of Christian marriages today? In my judgment, it is people’s lack of grounding in biblical teaching on marriage and the family. As we try to lay out in our book God, Marriage & Family, the current cultural crisis surrounding marriage is really symptomatic of a deeper spiritual crisis that can be remedied only by a return to the biblical foundation, that is, the scriptural teaching on marriage and the family.

Clearly, it is not for lack of good intentions that Christian marriages fail. Nor is it lack of Christian resources. These are aplenty. What is lacking is the right kind of resources, plus the recognition that marriage and family are at the heart a divine institution that is the target of intense spiritual warfare. For this reason good intentions or superficial remedies are not good enough. Rather, people must once again be taught God’s plan for marriage and the family, and they must commit themselves to live out this teaching as part of their Christian discipleship and as an expression of their witness to Christ in this world.

May I suggest, therefore, that we substitute for the “Top 10 Issues Facing Today’s Family” the one issue that is truly foundational for the recovery of Christian marriages and families in our day: the need of Christian men and women to rediscover the biblical teaching on marriage and the family on a profound, spiritual level, and to commit themselves to live by this teaching in the midst of those other issues. I believe that what we will find is that once the root issue is addressed, these other issues will be reduced to mere gnats yapping at our heels.

On Learning to Write Well

If you want to become a better writer, Scot McKnight offers some good advice.

Desiring God National Conference

Registration to the Desiring God National Conference is now open. You can read John Piper's invitation to the conference.

Quote from Piper: "We think the post-propositional, post-dogmatic, post-authoritative 'conversation' is post-relevant and post-saving."

Gender Roles and Pastoral Ministry

Here's a helpful interview with Ligon Duncan (see part 1 and part 2) regarding gender roles and the pastoral ministry.

Debunking the Debunkers

Joseph Laconte writes in the Wall Street Journal this morning about how C.S. Lewis might respond to the Da Vinci Code, debunking the debunkers.

Laconte cites a 1959 essay by Lewis entitled Fern-Seed and Elephants (originally titled "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism")--which is probably worth reading afresh.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Leadership in the Happiest Place on Earth

If you want to download for free C.J. Mahaney's talk on "Leadership in the Happiest Place on Earth," (which explores the relationship between church members and their leaders), here's how to do so:

To download the MP3 file, visit the Sovereign Grace Store and add the message MP3 to your shopping cart. During the checkout process, enter the promotional code FREEDOWNLOAD to bypass credit-card payment. (Note: at the Order Preview page, please verify that you are being charged $0.00 before you click on "Place Order.") After the checkout process completes, you will see instructions for downloading the MP3 file. This code is good for this item only and will expire June 2.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Da Vinci "Othercott"?

Andreas Kostenberger explains why he thinks Barbara Nicolosi's idea of "othercotting" the Da Vinci Code is a really bad idea.

My Daydream

This video pretty much captures how I feel today about my computer.

Da Vinci Impact

If you're wondering about the impact of the Da Vinci Code on people's beliefs, here's are the results of surveys conducted in the US and in the UK.

(HT: Gene Veith)

Veith to Henry

Gene Veith has become the new academic dean at Patrick Henry College.

God, Marriage, and Family

Al Mohler reviews the excellent book, God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger and David Jones.

Against Affirmative Action

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, wrote an excellent, nuanced summary of the case against affirmative action and against discrimination in today's Wall Street Journal. (The longer, fuller statement can be read here in PDF.) Here's a good quote:

America is becoming an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic society. That can be a source of great strength, but it can also be a source of division if people know that they aren't all being held to the same standards. The only way to enforce the antidiscrimination laws in our multiracial, multiethnic society is by playing no favorites.

(For an empirical study of affirmative action around the world and the effects it has had, see Thomas Sowell's Affirmative Action Around the World : An Empirical Study.

Racial Polarization, Collective Guilt, and Collective Revenge

I've avoided any commentary thus far on the rape-charges case at Duke University involving their lacrosse team and a stripper. But Thomas Sowell cites a quote that is worth noting and lamenting:

The worst thing said in the case involving rape charges against Duke University students was not said by either the prosecutor or the defense attorneys, or even by any of the accusers or the accused. It was said by a student at North Carolina Central University, a black institution attended by the stripper who made rape charges against Duke lacrosse players.

According to Newsweek, the young man at NCCU said that he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted, "whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past."

This is the ugly attitude that is casting a cloud over this whole case. More important, this collective guilt and collective revenge attitude has for years been poisoning race relations in this country.

It has torn apart other countries around the world, from the Balkans to Sri Lanka to Rwanda. Nor is there any reason to think that the United States is exempt from such polarization.

At one time, the black civil rights leadership aimed at putting an end to racism, and especially to the perversion of the law to convict people because of their race, regardless of guilt or innocence.

Today, this young man at NCCU represents the culmination of a new racist trend promoted by current black "leaders" to make group entitlements paramount, including seeking group revenge rather than individual justice in courts of law.

This attitude poisoned the O.J. Simpson case and it is now polarizing reactions to the Duke University case. Racial polarization is a dangerous game, especially dangerous for minorities in the long run.

Abortion Quotes

Without googling it, I wonder if any reader can come up with the two American politicans who expressed the following views in the 1970s:

"I was born out of wedlock (and against the advice that my mother received from her doctor) and therefore abortion is a personal issue for me. . . . If one accepts the position that life is private, and therefore you have the right to do with it as you please, one must accept the conclusion of that logic. That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside of your right to be concerned. . . . What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience?"

"While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. . . . When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception."

(Cited in Ponnuru's The Party of Death)

Update: The correct answers are (a) Jesse Jackson and (b) Teddy Kennedy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Adrian Warnock

Adrian is giving away some free Christian books to those bloggers willing to meet his challenge.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

This is a very amusing story.

The white bearded man on the left is Guy Kewney, an IT journalist who is the editor of The African man beneath is Guy Goma, a local taxi driver a graduate who moved to the UK from the Congo.
After Apple Computers won a court case against Apple Corps (the record label for the Beatles), the BBC wanted to interview Guy Kewney, as he's an expert on issues related to music downloading on the web.

Guy Goma--the local cabbie-- was waiting for a client at the BBC Television Centre in West London. For some reason, his visitor name tag said "Guy Kewney." (How? I don't know. Was he waiting for Kewney? Did he find a nametag with his same first name? Don't know.)

A BBC studio manager approached him and asked if he was Guy Kewney and he said yes. "Confused but co-operative," they rushed the cabbie him into the studio where they put a mic on him and turned on the camera. The real Guy Kewney was sitting in a reception area waiting for someone to come and get him.

So the interview went on the air live. You can watch the video here. The shocked look on the Goma's face as they introduce him as the editor of is absolutely priceless.

As David R points out in the comments section below, the BBC misreported that Goma was a cab driver. He was actually at the studio for a job interview for an open position as a data support cleanser. So not only did the BBC put the wrong guy on the air, but then in their apology, they misreported his occupation!

Monday, May 15, 2006

John Piper Video Interview

Desiring God recently interviewed John Piper about the forthcoming DG National Conference on Christ in a postmodern world. It can be viewed here:

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Gene Veith has a balanced article here on the environmentalism, Christians, and conservatives.

Though I'm not sure his argument works to the effect that because God created each species, therefore their existence is his will.

His point is well taken that Darwinists should care less about extinction. But from a theological viewpoint, perpetual existence is obvious not God's sovereign will [whereby everything comes to past.] And it doesn't seem to be his revealed will [which we are commanded to obey.] Since "is" doesn't automatically entail "ought," I'm not convinced. For example, can we really say "It was God's will that dinosaurs not be extinct?"

If you have an informed opinion on the issue, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

Update: As Jeff and Josh have pointed out in the comments section below, Mike Bullmore (former TEDS professor and now pastor at Crossway Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin) has an article that may be relevant to this discussion about Christians and environmentalism: The Four Most Important Passages for a Christian Environmentalist (TrinJ).

Just to clarify my provisional position: it seems right to have a general disposition to preserve the species God has created. I want to be careful, however, to avoid our common impulse to create new rules or to go beyond what God has commanded. E.g., if one thinks it is an absolute requirement, then one could conceivably destroy an entire human community in order to preserve one spotted owl.

Peter Jones Interview

Here's another interview with Peter Jones on gnosticism--this time conducted by Marvin Olasky.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Tim Challies has an important post on Accountability Through Visibility. Closing lines:

And so this is my challenge to bloggers and to those who comment on blogs: make yourself accountable through visibility. Commit yourself to purity of heart and to only speaking or writing what is honoring to God. And then ensure that there are people who know you, who read your words, who will lovingly exhort and correct you when you do not keep this commitment. In this way we can honor God and maintain a focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I've written on this topic here. Please read it if you haven't before, and please take this challenge to heart if you comment on this or other blogs.

How to Mark a Book

Scot McKnight has a helpful post on how to mark a book when you read it.

See also Mortimer Adler's more detailed essay on How to Mark a Book, which begins in this way: "You know you have to read 'between the lines' to get the most out of anything. I want to persuade you to do something equally important in the course of your reading. I want to persuade you to write between the lines. Unless you do, you are not likely to do the most efficient kind of reading."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The McLaren Code

In a recent interview with Sojourners, Brian McLaren wondered “why the vision in Dan Brown’s book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church.”

Tim Challies' answer: "That's because they hate the Jesus of the Bible, Brian!"

Adam Omelianchuk has a very thoughtful post in response to some of McLaren's musings, especially about the so-called "Religious Right." I'm glad someone is raising this issue, as McLaren's caricatures--not unlike Andrew Sullivan's war against the "Christianists"--is becoming quite tiresome.

Peter Jones on Paganism

Here's an interview that Modern Reformation did with Peter Jones which provides some helpful insights into the modern rediscovery of gnosticism and paganism, as exemplified by the popularity of the Da Vinci Code materials.


Here's a page from the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, MS website that contains a number of interviews. Here are some that I think look interesting:

Gene Veith pt. 1
Gene Veith pt. 2
Gene Veith

Sinclair Ferguson pt. 1
Sinclair Ferguson pt. 2

Carl Trueman pt.1
Carl Trueman pt. 2

David Wells pt. 1
David Wells pt. 2

Mark Noll

Thabiti Anyabwile

Capitol Hill Baptist has a profile here of Thabiti Anyabwile, an elder at CHBC.

Mark that name, because you'll be hearing much more from him in the days ahead. I expect to see a fruitful writing and preaching ministry from Thabiti, and thank God for his transforming grace.

(HT: Jim Hamilton)

Peace Only unto Those Who Follow the True Path

The New York Sun editorializes that Iranian President Ahmadinejad's recent etter to President Bush, which many has interpreted as an overture for peace, is in fact a declaration of war:

The key sentence in the letter is the closing salutation. In an eight-page text of the letter being circulated by the Council on Foreign Relations, it is left untranslated and rendered as "Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda." What this means is "Peace only unto those who follow the true path."

It is a phrase with historical significance in Islam, for, according to Islamic tradition, in year six of the Hejira - the late 620s - the prophet Mohammad sent letters to the Byzantine emperor and the Sassanid emperor telling them to convert to the true faith of Islam or be conquered. The letters included the same phrase that President Ahmadinejad used to conclude his letter to Mr. Bush. For Mohammad, the letters were a prelude to a Muslim offensive, a war launched for the purpose of imposing Islamic rule over infidels.

McLaren Interview

Here's a transcript of a recent interview with Brian McLaren. (You can listen here and here.) It covers a fair amount of ground, starting with universalism and hell. Amy Hall has been blogging on it here and here.

The Logic of Infanticide

From Ramesh Ponnuru's The Party of Death:

“[P]erhaps most terrible about these apologias for child-murder is that they have a point. They are not correct about the justifiability of infanticide; but they are correct that if abortion is justified, so is infanticide. People who first hear of Singer’s views are apt to respond that he is simply crazy. But if the philosophers of infanticide are insane, it is only in the Chestertonian sense: They are not people who have lost their reason, but people who have lost everything but their reason. They are reasoning from deeply flawed premises that they share with people who avoid endorsing child-killing only by reasoning poorly from them….

“It is easy, in advance, to imagine that our sensibilities will set limits on moral innovation. We will liberalize abortion laws, but only for the hard cases….We will create human embryos for the purpose of experiments, but only up to the fourteenth day of life….But crossing those limits is not so difficult once we have breached the principles that forbade all such actions. All it takes is a simple question: What’s the difference…? What changes at the fifteenth day? A Supreme Court justice may tell us one day that killing should be permitted until birth, and on another day forget why he once thought birth mattered. And there will always be Peter Singers to form the advance guard of a movement to erase the remaining limits.”

(HT: The Corner)

American Pessimism

Joe Carter has a thoughtful post this morning entitled The Pessimism Plague: Why America's Gloomy Self-Perception Doesn't Match Reality.

Joe points out that despite the fact that we continue to experience an economic boon in the United States (see his post for some of the statistics), people remain perpetually pessimistic about how things are going. Why? Unfortunately, Joe doesn't seem to answer this question. (I'd be very interested to hear what he thinks causes this outlook.)

I'm sure some of it comes from the fact that the media thrives on simplicity and negativity. I'm sure another big piece of the puzzle is the vast ignorance about the basics of economics. (For example, only 13% of Americans approve of how President Bush has "handled" the high gas prices!)

Related to the ignorance-of-sound-economics explanation is the false picture that most have concerning how money works in an economy. It seems like the default position is that our resources and money are like one giant pie. The bigger my piece of the pie, the smaller your piece. So my gain becomes your loss. (This seems to be the idea behind the old canard that "the rich get richer while the poor get poorer," whereas the actual facts show that the rich get richer and the poor get richer.)

Behind all of this may be a new sense of guilt. Just as the word "humility" has undergone a conceptual transformation from not thinking too highly of oneself to having epistemic uncertainty about everything, so I think we are experiencing a similar transformation of the concept of guilt. What used to be a moral sense that we had done something wrong now becomes conflated with compassion and is a sense that we should feel "guilty" and pessimistic if others are worse off than us. So, for example, if you were to ask American Joe on the Street "How are you doing financially?" he might say that he's doing just fine, sales are up, just got a raise, etc. But if you ask him how the American economy is doing, he has this sense that others are doing worse than him, he feels guilty about it, and therefore offers a guilt-driven pessimistic answer to the question. I'm not sure Joe really feels guilty for doing well, but rather that he would feel guilty for giving the optimistic answer.

That's my provincial hypothesis at least. I'd be interested to hear your take on the matter.

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan offers a different answer, though I don't think it necessarily contradicts the one I've offered:

If you are a normal person with the normal amount of political awareness, you might see it this way:

The Republicans talk about cutting spending, but they increase it--a lot. They stand for making government smaller, but they keep making it bigger. They say they're concerned about our borders, but they're not securing them. And they seem to think we're slobs for worrying. Republicans used to be sober and tough about foreign policy, but now they're sort of romantic and full of emotionalism. They talk about cutting taxes, and they have, but the cuts are provisional, temporary. Beyond that, there's something creepy about increasing spending so much and not paying the price right away but instead rolling it over and on to our kids, and their kids.

So, the normal voter might think, maybe the Democrats. But Democrats are big spenders, Democrats are big government, Democrats will roll the cost onto our kids, and on foreign affairs they're--what? Cynical? Confused? In a constant daily cringe about how their own base will portray them? All of the above.

Where does such a voter go, and what does such a voter do? It is odd to live in the age of options, when everyone's exhausted by choice, and feel your options for securing political progress are so limited. One party has beliefs it doesn't act on. The other doesn't seem to have beliefs, only impulses.

What's a voter to do? Maybe stay home, have the neighbors over for some barbecue, and then answer the phone when a pollster calls asking for a few minutes to answer some questions. When they get to the part about whether America is on the right track or the wrong track, boy, the voter knows the answer.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Haykin Historical Biographies Audio

If you want to hear a good lecturer on historical theology, there are few guides better than Michael Haykin. Here are some free audio files for your edification:

Worship God Live

If you'd like a chance to review on your blog the Sovereign Grace "Worship God Live" CD--and if you meet the qualifications--head over to Bob Kauflin's blog today.

Mohler on the Factor

Dr. Mohler is scheduled to appear tonight on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor.” Mohler will discuss controversial comments by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Australia in which he said the Koran is riddled with “invocations to violence” and indicated that Islam is an intolerant religion. “The O’Reilly Factor” airs at 8:00 PM (EST) on the Fox News Channel and repeats at 11:00 PM (EST).

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"The Bible, the Da Vinci Code, and the Christian"

Here is Al Mohler preaching last Sunday at Covenant Life Church on The Bible, the Da Vinci Code,
and the Christian
. (The link is to a streamed version; for download, click here--11.1 MB.)


Here is C.J. Mahaney's sermon from last week at Bethlehem Baptist Church on encouraging one another in love.

The Scripture-Engaging Lincoln

Mark Noll highly recommends Richard Carwardine's new book on Abraham Lincoln.

Why, in the never-ceasing torrent of books on Abraham Lincoln, should readers pause for this one? Yes, it is by the Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University, and it has been awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize. But the answer is not in the accoutrements but in the volume itself.

Carwardine's portrait of Lincoln as a political leader is marked by unusual insight into the man—his ambitious guile as well as his charitable self-restraint—in combination with unusual wisdom about his circumstances—the demands of party politics as well as the realities of brutal warfare.

Although this book does not concentrate on religion as such, Carwardine provides a perceptive account of Lincoln's lifelong engagement with Scripture and his trust in mysterious Providence that grew during his years in the White House. He also explains better than any other historian why Lincoln's not-quite-Christian personal beliefs fit so well with the evangelical Protestant energy of the Whig and Republican parties that put him into power. The result, taken in the round, is the best book on Lincoln since Allen Guelzo's superb Redeemer President (1999). These two are simply as good as it gets.

Can Hillary Be Stopped?

For you political junkies who are already wondering about 2008, here's an interview with John Podhoretz who has done a lot of thinking about the forthcoming candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

Two Ways to Live

D.A. Carson, writing in The Gagging of God (pp. 501-504):

At the risk of oversimplification, most evangelistic tools in the Western world are subsets of systematic theology. By this I mean that they tend to ask atemporal questions, and give atemporal answers… There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this pattern, as long as the people to whom it is presented have already bought into the Judeo-Christian heritage…

But if you present these atemporal outlines of the gospel to those who know nothing about the Bible's plotline, and who have bought into one form or another of New Age theosophy, how will they hear you? . . .

In short, the good news of Jesus Christ is virtually incoherent unless it is securely set into a biblical worldview. . . . In the last few years, several evangelistic tools have been created that are far more sensitive to the Bible's "story line."

The first of these to be prepared is still one of the most effective: Two Ways to Live presents Christ in six steps, the six steps offering, in contemporary English, something of the Bible's plot-line as the necessary framework in which to understand the gospel.

If you want to see the Two Ways to Live gospel presentation--which Mark Dever has called his favorite evangelistic tool--you can do so here.

There is also a Two Ways to Live tract for kids, called Who Will Be King?

Walking from East to West

Ravi Zacharias has a new book out: Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows. Here's a description of it:

Walking from East to West is Ravi’s life story, a deeply personal journey into his past. Dr. Zacharias invites you back to the southern India of his early childhood, and into his troubled youth in the sophisticated capital city of Delhi. He recalls the importance of a mother’s love and his difficult relationship with his father. He tells about his long search for truth in wrestling with Eastern thought and the newer ideas of Christianity, the cry for help in a dark moment when he tried to take his own life—and the dramatic turning point that led to a life lived for Christ. Zacharias recalls his early days as a new convert, what it was like to find a new life in the Western world, and the eventual birth and growth of a worldwide ministry.

This is a story about an amazing man. Yet it is also everyone’s story about belief—how it begins, how it grows, and the struggles associated with it. Walking from East to West is a heartfelt personal story of one man’s discovery that God is the author of our destinies, no matter how dark the shadows that hide the light.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Preaching as Expository Exultation for the Glory of God

You can now read online John Piper's Preaching as Expository Exultation for the Glory of God--delivered at the Together for the Gospel Conference. His opening words provide an overview of the message:

"There are four parts to this message. First, I will reflect on the kind of preaching that I long to see God raise up in our day—the kind that is shaped by the weight of the glory of God. Second, I will try to portray the glory of God which affects preaching this way. Third, I will offer my biblical understanding of how people waken to this glory and are changed by it. Finally, I will explain how all of this calls for a kind of preaching that I call expository exultation."

Read the Gospel of Judas

Craig Blomberg, from his review of The Gospel of Judas in the Denver Journal:

"What is really sad are the Christians who tell others not to read books like the Gospel of Judas at all (or to see movies like The Da Vinci Code). What a wonderful opportunity for believers to become informed and share intelligently with their non-Christian friends whose interest has been sparked in Christian origins in ways that pure scholarship alone seldom accomplishes. Censorship merely reinforces the stereotypes that we truly do have something to hide, makes Christians look ignorant at best and repressive at worst, and actually makes it harder for certain personality-types to come to the Lord at all. Read the Gospel of Judas, and the other apocrypha and Gnostic writings for that matter. You’ll have no difference sensing in a heartbeat the entirely different philosophical context and worldview in which these documents were written. Your confidence that the church made good choices in its process of canonization will be bolstered. Your faith will be based on your own investigation and you won’t have to just take the word of others, including me. God won’t betray you in the process!"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ehrman vs. Hays

Denny Burk posts:

Two eminent scholars of the New Testament recently debated questions raised by The DaVinci Code. The debate was held at the new chapel at Duke Divinity School, and the discussion was meant to address questions raised by the bestselling book, soon to be released as a film. So Bart Ehrman and Richard Hays went at it for an hour and forty-six minutes. The reliability of portrayals of Jesus in the Bible and other ancient texts was among the topics addressed. Hays is definitely the more conservative of the two, though perhaps not conservative enough for some. In any case, this one will definitely be worth the time to download.

You can download it by clicking the following link:

MP3 recording of the April 25 discussion by professors Richard Hays and Bart Ehrman on “The Da Vinci Code”

(HT: Ben Witherington)

Together for the Gospel Statement

As many of you know, the Together for the Gospel brothers wrote a statement that Al Mohler (the primary author of the document) read at the conference. It was signed by Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and C.J. Mahaney. Transcribed versions have appeared at various blogs, though the version you've read has not been the final version. After some consultation there were some tweaks.

The final version (in PDF) has now been made available at the T4G website.

One of the things I appreciate about this document is that it contains both affirmations and denials. Evangelicalism today tends to swim in ecumenically motivated affirmations--but rarely gets around to what it denies. I commend these brothers for not only laying their cards on the table regarding what they believe--but in also clarifying the concomitant denials.

I'm sure we'll continue to hear more about this statement in the days ahead. For example, Adrian Warnock and others plan to blog through the different articles. I may also have more information on the statement in the days ahead.

Christ and the Postmodern World

Here's the new promo video for the Desiring God National Conference, which will be in the fall of 2006.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

May God Raise Them Up

Arnold Dallimore:

"[It is our desire]…that we shall see the great Head of the Church once more . . . raise up unto Himself certain young men whom He may use in this glorious employ. And what manner of men will they be? Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace. They will be men who have learned what it is to die to self, to human aims and personal ambitions; men who are willing to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake’, who will bear reproach and falsehood, who will labor and suffer, and whose supreme desire will be, not to gain earth’s accolades, but to win the Master’s approbation when they appear before His awesome judgment seat. They will be men who will preach with broken hearts and tear-filled eyes, and upon whose ministries God will grant an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit, and who will witness ‘signs and wonders following’ in the transformation of multitudes of human lives."

Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, vol. 1 (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), p. 16--cited by John Piper in his address at T4G

Update: Thanks to the anonymous commenter for the corrections to the above quote.

The Purpose-Driven Puritan?

If ever you could categorize an anecdote as both sad and amusing, this would probably qualify.

The Da Vinci Opportunity

If you want a helpful FAQ on the Da Vinci Code--how to respond, the opportunities it presents for Christians, recommended resources, etc--check out the work by Mark D. Roberts.

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

"Wolves don’t come with business cards that say 'Wolf.' They dress up like sheep, talk like sheep, and are published by sheep publishers."
--Mark Dever, @ T4G

(HT: Adrian)

Josh Harris Interviewed

Gary Shavey interviews Josh Harris.

Google: The Hypocrisy of Authentic Capitalism

Andrew Keen closes his Weekly Standard article about the ethics and philosophy of Google in this way:

So, is Google good or is Google evil?

Perhaps the best answer is the Nietzschean idea of being beyond good and evil. The ethic of authenticity, known to philosophers like Charles Taylor as radical moral relativism, is the new new-thing in Silicon Valley. Google's moral self confidence, its eagerness to do its own thing, whether in Africa, China, or outer space, makes it a pioneer of authentic capitalism. Google's moral code, its sense of right and wrong, its definition of justice, is what it says it is.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Party of Death

Joe Carter reviews Ramesh Ponnuru's Party of Death, and closes this way:

It is difficult to praise Ponnuru’s work too highly. In fact, the effusive praise the book has received can, in itself, be misleading. Our culture has become so saturated with superlatives that readers become reflexively dismissive of hype. What then can be said about a book that is, by turns, prophetic, illuminating, and devastatingly witty? The highest praise I can give The Party of Death is that, like Tiffany’s treatise, it will eventually go unread. Recognition of human dignity will inevitably prevail, and when it does, no one will need Ponnuru’s book to destroy the absurd and ridiculous views of the “party of death.”

Sanctifying Scholarship

A good post here on the calling of Christian scholars, by Professor Carl Trueman.

White Guilt and the Western Past

Shelby Steele, in yet another compelling essay, connects white guilt (which is "a vacuum of moral authority visited on the present by the shames of the past") with the inability of US leaders to do what is truly necessary to solve difficult problems--like war, race relations, education, and immigation--for fear of losing their legitimacy. It is well worth the read.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"Jesus' Blood and Righteousness"

You'll have to wait till this fall to get Brian Vicker's forthcoming book, Jesus' Blood and Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation. To whet your appetite, here are the blurbs:

"The historic Reformational doctrine of imputation is under serious duress in our day. Interestingly, it is often evangelical Protestant Biblical Studies scholars who have the doctrine in their sights. The critiques come from different angles but almost all suggest that we’ve read imputation back into Paul, and that it’s high time we understood and articulated Paul’s theology more biblically
which means, they say, rejecting the Protestant confessional formulations of imputation (which reflect the dreaded bane of systematic theology!). Brian Vickers comes to our aid in this important discussion. He gives us a helpful survey of the trajectory of the doctrine in history—from Luther to N.T. Wright—and then engages in a vigorous exegetical and biblical theological defense of imputation. Arguing that imputation is not merely a possible, but a necessary synthesis of Paul’s teaching, Vickers thoroughly analyzes the key passages of Romans 4:1-8 and 5:12-21, and 2 Corinthians 5:21. He counters a reductionist/minimalist reading of those texts and articulates instead a strong Pauline, biblical theological argument for what we would call the traditional view of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. The book is accessible to any intelligent reader with an interest in theology, exegesis, and doctrine, but especially helpful to pastors, teachers and seminarians. For all of us who are servants of the Word, we can ill afford indifference to this debate. It is the very stuff of the Gospel, if our evangelical forebears were right in their understanding of the Bible’s teaching on the gracious and just divine salvation of sinners. Vickers says they were, and does a yeoman’s service in this volume showing why."
--Ligon J. Duncan

"One rarely reads a book anymore that displays knowledge of church history, systematic theology, and biblical exegesis. Brian Vickers's book on imputation is a sterling exception, showing that the best biblical exegesis is informed by, but never captive to, historical and systematic theology. Too often discussions on imputation produce quarrels rather than understanding, but here we have a work that furnishes an exegetical basis for the Pauline teaching on imputation.
--Thomas R. Schreiner

"Unfortunately, the Reformation doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the spiritual bank account of believing sinners is today a matter of debate, even among evangelicals. Brian Vickers, therefore, has performed a valuable service for the church by affirming imputation in Jesus’ Blood AND Righteousness. With great clarity Dr. Vickers bases his theological conclusions on careful, contextual study of the Scriptures. (This is so important today, when theology and exegesis often go their separate ways.) He correctly situates justification as a subset of union with Christ. Wisely, he does not overreach the evidence but makes a cumulative case for imputation based on a synthesis of the teaching of three passages—Romans 4:3; 5:19; and 2 Corinthians 5:21. In my judgment, his case succeeds. And he does all of this with a gentle spirit that refuses to demonize those who disagree with him. I heartily commend this volume as a needed, constructive, and helpful piece of theological exegesis."
--Robert A. Peterson

"Careful exegetical study and refined theological reflection ought always to be wedded by biblical scholar and theologian, alike. Sadly, this union is less common than one might expect. But in Brian Vickers's Jesus' Blood and Righteousness, we see a careful and clear biblical exegesis joined to a richly refined theological reformulation displayed with beauty and grace. Vickers's work is surely to be one of the most significant contributions to the ongoing discussion of the nature both of the imputation of Christ's righteousness and of God's justification of the believer in Christ. The reader will be informed of the broad range of scholarly proposals on these issues, and he will be served well by the judicious judgments Vickers offers. While upholding a fully "Reformational" understanding of imputation, his defense is altogether fresh, at times surprising, and everywhere filled with insight. For the sake of one's own soul, and for richer biblical and theological understanding, I commend to Christians that they read with care this excellent work.
--Bruce A. Ware

The Great Work of the Gospel

John Piper writes of John Ensor's book, The Great Work of the Gospel: How We Experience God's Grace:

The Great Work of the Gospel is God-centered good news. It is the kind of message that will make deep, strong people and deep, strong churches. It will release people from the self-absorbed rationalizations that keep us from the fullest engagement in the global cause of God.”

For more information:

Remarriage After Divorce

If you're looking for a helpful book on the topic, Zondervan's new three views book on Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church may prove helpful. Here are the three contributors and their views: Gordon J. Wenham (No remarriage after divorce); William A. Heth (Remarriage [two grounds]); Craig S. Keener (Remarriage [variety of reasons]).

Must-See Movie

Gene Veith writes on the film Akeelah and the Bee, which he calls "one of the best films I've seen in a long time."

Compassionate Conservatism

Marvin Olasky--editor-in-chief of World magazine and the man who coined the phrase "compassionate conservatism"--explains in a new article what it means and doesn't mean. A couple of helpful quotes:

Republicans and others needed to understand that the welfare state was not extravagant but stingy. The welfare state gave the needy bread and told them to be content with that alone. The welfare state gave the rest of us the opportunity to be stingy also. We could salve our consciences even as we scrimped on what many of the destitute needed most—challenging, personal, and often spiritual help.

One compassionate conservative goal was to encourage average citizens to help the poor directly, instead of handing off all the responsibility to government officials. Another goal was to end government discrimination against faith-based groups that were often the most effective poverty-fighters. Those goals were both expenditure-neutral: They suggested neither bigger nor smaller budgets, but a different way of spending.

Absolute Certainty

It's popular these days--even among evangelicals--to cast doubt on the concept of "asbolute certainty." John Frame's entry on "Certainty" in the IVP Dictionary of Apologetics is a helpful antidote to these doubts. Frame reviews the basic philosophical objections, surveys the biblical evidence (arguing that absolute certainty is the appropriate response to God's revelation), then asks how the Word gives certainty.

Expositional Listening

We have heard a lot these days about the importance of expositional preaching. But rarely do we hear about expositional listening. Thabiti Anyabwile, an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, explains that one of the marks of a healthy church member is to practice expositional listening.

For more on how to listen to a sermon, see John Piper's sermon Take Care How You Listen.