Thursday, November 30, 2006
Galli also points to an article by CT editor-at-large Ed Gilbreath, who writes on Kramer's Sins--and Ours. And even in the seemingly simple task of pointing to this article, Galli acknowledges struggling with "the confusion and awkwardness of race."
I appreciate his honest perspective, join him in the fog, and echo his prayer: "Lord, have mercy."
Title: Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice
Author: Francis J. Beckwith
List Price: $65.00 (hardcover) / $23.99 (paperback)
Page count: 272
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Pub Date: September 30, 2007
Book Description: Defending Life is the most comprehensive defense of the prolife position on abortion ever published. It is sophisticated, but still accessible to the ordinary citizen. Without high-pitched rhetoric or appeals to religion, the author offers a careful and respectful case for why the prolife view of human life is correct. He responds to the strongest prochoice arguments found in law, science, philosophy, politics, and the media. He explains and critiques Roe v. Wade, and he explains why virtually all the popular prochoice arguments fail. There is simply nothing like this book.
Here are some notes from one of the sections on how to rebuild your talk so that it runs along the dual rails that God has designed--one rail called God's glory, the other rail called your neighbor's good.
1. Don't give in to regret. We should not become paralyzed by "if onlys." Remember that God is the Wonderful Counselor, the universe's best teacher; therefore, instead of regret we need to rest in his sovereign wisdom. Also remember that the God who forgives also restores, rebuilds, and reconciles.
2. Embrace gospel hope. While our sin confounds us, it never confounds the Savior. Trouble does not mean that God has forsaken us. And God not only forgives, but he also empowers.
3. Examine your fruit. "What is the fruit produced by your communication? Do you leave others encouraged, hopeful, and loved? Do your words lead to forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace? Does your communication impart wisdom and encourage faith? Or do your words lead to discouragement, division, condemnation, bitterness, and foolishness?"
4. Uncover your roots. Word problems always point to heart problems (Luke 6:45). People and situations do not cause us to speak the way we do. They are simply the occasion for the heart to express itself. Our heart controls our words.
5. Seek forgiveness. "Seeking forgiveness is like weeding a garden. It leaves the soil of the soul free to grow the new life of obedience. The weeds of unconfessed sin choke out the life of the soul. A major part of rebuilding your world of talk is to ask yourself the question, What specific sins of communication (both heart and mouth--see Luke 6:46) is the Lord calling me to confess to him or to others?"
6. Freely grant forgiveness. There are two aspects: (1) judicial, vertical forgiveness (willingness to let go of another's offense before God; Rom. 12:19); (2) relational, horizontal forgiveness (willingness to forgive anyone who comes seeking it; Eph. 4:32). There is no greater impediment to change than the unwillingness to seek and grant forgiveness.
7. Change the rules. What is God calling you to change in your communication? What new ways of speaking must replace the old ways? After the obedience of forgiveness, you must make a specific commitment to a new way of speaking. "The 'put off' of confession and repentance must be followed by the 'put on' of a specific, practical commitment to a new way of talking."
8. Look for opportunities. "This is not so much a change of direction as it is a change of perspective. Those situations that were the source of difficulty, those moments where unkind, selfish, and ungodly words were spoken, those situations you once dreaded, now become opportunities to experience the enabling grace of the Lord and exercise newfound character and obedience."
9. Choose your words. We must think before we speak, weighing our answers (Prov. 15:28), not speaking in haste like a fool.
10. Confess your weakness. The awareness of weakness is a sign of maturity. We will never outgrow our need for God's moment-by-moment supply of grace.
11. Don't give the Devil an opportunity. Two things shut the door to Satan and his cruel work: (1) commitment to the courage of honesty and loving truthfulness; and (2) commitment to the humility of approachability.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
(HT: Doug Wilson)
By the way, if you are an editor--or just happen to hate editors--you may be interested in reading Thomas Sowell's blistering essay entitled Some Thoughts on Writing. I'm just thankful I can enjoy Sowell's writings without editing them!
Update: Here's an email exchange Tony and I had today, reprinted with permission:
Hope you're doing well.
Just wanted to let you know that I regret posting the little thing about consistency on my blog. I think it may still be a legitimate point, but it came across as trying to pick a fight rather to engage in constructive dialogue. So I ask for your forgiveness for that.
One of my unwritten rules for blogging is that if I'm frustrated at something and intend to post an insta-response but have a moment of self-doubt about it, I should sleep on it first. Obviously it'd be better if I started practicing my own rules!
Hope all's well in Edina.
Thanks, Justin. I have the same rule, though I sometimes break it. I'd be happy if you removed the post and/or told the blogging world about the mistake. As with Brett, I think it's essential that our friendship be in the forefront.
- Carolyn Mahaney, "Homemaking Internship"
- Nicole Whitacre, "Future Homemakers"
- Carolyn McCulley, "When You Don't Have a Better Half: Encouraging Biblical Roles as a Single Woman.
My family and I attended a media screening for The Nativity Story last night. Here is my instant review -- the movie is in season and on message. In other words, the movie faithfully presents the main thrust of the Christmas story. That is no small achievement.
Read the whole insta-review.
...The new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, [is] the first woman to run a national division of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Kate gave an interview to the New York Times revealing what passes for orthodoxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a simple enough question: "How many members of the Episcopal Church are there?"
"About 2.2 million," replied the presiding bishop. "It used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations."
This was a bit of a jaw-dropper even for a New York Times hackette, so, with vague memories of God saying something about going forth and multiplying floating around the back of her head, a bewildered Deborah Solomon said: "Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?"
"No," agreed Bishop Kate. "It's probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion."
Is population control a problem in the West? Should Christians seek to have less children in order to be good stewards of the earth? In light of these questions we should examine some of the statistics about what is happening to demography in the Western world.
Last night I started reading Mark Steyn's new bestselling book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. (It's the only book I know of that carries a blurb on the cover mocking the author: "The arrogance of Mark Steyn knows no bounds."--Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the United States.) Steyn's thesis is that "much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive the twenty-first century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most European countries" (p. xiii). "This book is about . . . the larger forces at play in the developed world that have left Europe too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia and that call into question the future of much of the rest of the world, including the United States, Canada, and beyond. The key factors are: (1) demographic decline; (2) the unsustainability of the advanced Western social-democratic state; [and] (3) civilizational exhaustion" (pp. xv-xvi).
Now, keeping Jefferts-Schori's quote in mind, consider some quotes by Steyn with regard to what is happening to demography:
"...the salient feature of Europe, Canada, Japan, and Russia is that they're running out of babies. What's happening in the developed world is one of the fastest demographic evolutions in history" (p. xvi).
"The single most important fact about the early twenty-first century is the rapid aging of almost every developed nation other than the United States: Canada, Europe, and Japan are getting old fast, older than any functioning society has ever been and faster than any has ever aged" (p. 2).
In order to have a stable population (no growth, no decline) you have to have a fertility rate of 2.1 live births per woman. Here are the current rates:
- America: 2.11
- Ireland: 1.9
- Australia: 1.7
- Canada: 1.48 (all-time low)
- Europe as a whole: 1.38
- Japan: 1.32
- Germany and Austria: 1.3
- Russia and Italy: 1.2
- Spain: 1.1
"So Spain's population is halving with every generation. Two grown-ups have a total of one baby. So there are half as many children as parents. And a quarter as many grandchildren as grandparents. And an eighth as many great-grandchildren as great-grandparents. And after that there's no point extrapolating, because you're over the falls and it's too late to start paddling again" (p. 10).
What, you ask, is the
"Islam has youth and will, Europe has age and welfare" (p. xix).
"I wonder how many pontificators of the 'Middle East peace process ever run this number: the median age in the Gaza Strip is 15.8 years. Once you know that, all the rest is details."
"Big government depends on bigger population. . . . The progressive Left can be in favor of Big Government or population control but not both. That mutual incompatibility is about to plunge Europe into societal collapse. There is no precedent in human history for economic growth on declining human capital--and that's before anyone invented unsustainable welfare systems" (pp. 2-3).
"...demography is an existential crisis for the developed world, because the twentieth-century social-democratic state was built on a careless model that requires a constantly growing population to sustain it" (p. xix).
"The tax revenues that supporter the ever-growing numbers of the elderly and retired have to be paid by equally growing numbers of young and working. The design flaw of the radically secularist Eutopia is that it depends on a religious-society birth rate" (p. 12).
"It's not the economy, stupid. It's the stupidity, economists--the stupidity of thinking you can ignore demography" (pp. 4-5).
"Given the plummeting birth rates in Europe, Russia, Japan, etc., a large chunk of the world has evidently decided to take pre-emptive action on climate change and opt for societal suicide. The crisis we face today is the precise opposite of 'overpopulation': the developed world's population is shrinking faster than any human society not in the grip of war or disease has ever shrunk" (pp. 8-9).
"In the fourteenth century, the Black Death wiped out a third of the Continent's population; in the twenty-first, a larger proportion will disappear--in effect, by choice. We are living through a rare moment: the self-extinction of the civilization which, for good or ill, shaped the age we live in. One can cite examples of remote backward tribes who expire upon contact with the modern world, but for the modern world to expire is a turn of events future anthropologists will ponder, as we do the fall of Rome" (pp. 3-4).
Update: Thanks to the alert readers who told me I was confusing birth and fertility rates with regard to Afghanistan. I never did do well in statistics in college!
Monday, November 27, 2006
As a linguist, I get a letter or message about once a month asking me what the best way is to learn a foreign language at home. I always answer "The Magic Books," by which I mean the wonderful Assimil series. I've been giving people Assimil sets for 20 years now. It's the With Ease series you may have seen -- Russian with Ease, Dutch with Ease, and so on.
These are some of my favorite Christmas gifts because they're the only self-teachers I know that work. In just 20 minutes a day -- if you do exactly what they tell you to with the books and accompanying recordings -- then presto! You will be talking like, roughly, an unusually cosmopolitan three-year-old. No, you won't be "conversing like a native" the way the ad copy says, unless you already are one, which would presumably make one's use of the set somewhat peculiar. And, they can only give you so much vocabulary. But the magic is that you will be able to carry on a decent conversation, instead of just being able to count to 100 and say things like "My uncle is a lawyer but my aunt has a spoon."
Read the whole thing.
And here's Andrew Sullivan, conducting an investigation into the kind of religious underwear worn by Mormons.
(HT: Dean Barnett)
Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Purpose
Volume 23, New Studies in Biblical Theology
By Paul R. Williamson
Pub Date: March 2007
Paul R. Williamson looks at the role of the covenant concept in Scripture and the meaning of this terminology. He then sets the idea of covenant in the context of God's universal purpose, and traces the idea through Noah and the patriarchs, the nation of Israel and the kingship of David. Lastly, he shows how the new covenant is anticipated in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.
Williamson offers new insights into key texts and issues related to the theme of covenant. He is not afraid to challenge established positions. One example is his dual-covenant approach to God's dealings with Abraham.
His robust scholarship will be appreciated by scholars, lecturers and students in theology, ministers and all who have a serious interest in the covenant concept.
1. Biblical Theology and the Covenant Concept
2. Covenant and God's Universal Purpose
3. God's Universal Covenant with Noah
4. God's Programmatic Covenants with the Patriarchs
5. God's National Covenants with Israel
6. God's Royal Covenant with David
7. God's New Covenant anticipated by the Prophets
8. God's New Introduction Inaugurated through Jesus
"Few will be the readers who will not learn a great deal . . . and who will not appreciate the firm but respectful way Dr. Williamson disagrees with his dialogue partners. And perhaps some of those who are much too indebted to atomistic exegesis, unable to see how the Bible hangs together, will glimpse something of the comprehensiveness and wholeness of God's self-disclosure in Scripture, and find their worship of the covenant-making God enhanced."
—D. A. Carson
Hugh Hewitt's 256-page book on Romney--A Mormon in the White House? 10 Things Every Conservative Should Know about Mitt Romney--is due out in March 2007. Here's the publisher description:
A Mormon in the White House? is the first book on Mitt Romney, his unusual faith story, and his viability as a Republican presidential nominee. Inside are exclusive interviews with the governor, his family, and closest associates, mixed with candid conversations with some of the country's shrewdest political observers and Christian leaders. Radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt sets out to explain Romney, his faith, and the importance of that debate in a headline-making and election-shaping opening shot in the campaign before the campaign.
And Time Magazine has an article this week entitled Can a Mormon Be President?
Here's an interesting statistic: "A poll conducted in June by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg found that 35% of registered voters said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for President. Only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate, the poll found."
Saturday, November 25, 2006
-- Milton Friedman
William Buckely has some further reflections.
For background, here's the Wikipedia entry on John Daker.
So without further ado . . . here's John:
It repays multiple viewings.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Dates: February 5-7, 2007
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Venue: Hilton Minneapolis
Keynote Speaker: R. C. Sproul
Pastoral Speaker: Thabiti Anyabwile
Missions Speaker: William Mackenzie
Biographical Speaker: John Piper (on Andrew Fuller)
Learn more about the speakers.
Read John Piper's invitation.
Listen to Piper talk about the conference.
Register to attend.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
"Fear of man is such a part of our human fabric that we should check for pulse if someone denies it."--Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small.
In order to fear God, not man, here are the steps Welch sets forth in his book, which I've just started and would warmly commend:
Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.
Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.
Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.
Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.
Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.
Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.
Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
For an introduction to the history and beliefs of Mormonism, a helpful place to start reading might be Richard and Joan Ostling's Mormon America: The Power and the Promise. Richard John Neuhaus recently reviewed it, and along the way he provides a helpful primer in his own right.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I don't think these clips from an NBC news expose are new, but they are still instructive.
(HT: Bob Hyatt)
You can read online J. I. Packer's Introduction.
Here are a few of the endorsements:
"This is a fascinating overview of the life and labors of one of the America's most gifted evangelical theologians. Drawing deeply from the wells of Reformation theology in the tradition of Calvin, Bunyan, Owen, Edwards, and Bavinck, Roger Nicole has set forth a compelling vision of theology as a discipline in the service of the church. And he has done so with grace, wit, insight, passion, and the kind of wisdom evangelicals need more of today. Though I never took a class with Roger Nicole, I am certainly one of his students and I commend this telling of his story to all who care about the Bible's God, the church's faith, and the world's need for the gospel of grace."
-Dr. Timothy George
"Here is a review of one of the most interesting Reformed theologians of the last seventy years. Roger Nicole's life has been spent in training ministers. Most of his students have known him only behind a lectern or in a brief meeting; here is much more of the story from WWI Germany to pre-War Paris, to Canada and beyond. Read and be encouraged to give your all in service to Christ."
- Pastor Mark Dever
"This is a moving tribute to one who has been valiant for the truthfulness of God's Word throughout his whole life. Not only is the measure of the man included, but amazing story here is the way Dr. Nicole's life has intersected with almost all the major events of the evangelical world in the past three-quarters of a century. It is a vivid reminder of the faithfulness of God and the bold necessity of ever speaking the truth in love both to those both who are part of the household of faith and those who are not."
- Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
"Awesome for brain power, learning and wisdom, endlessly patient and courteous in his gentle geniality, and beloved by a multitude as pastor, mentor and friend, veteran Reformed theologian Roger Nicole comes beautifully to life in this warm-hearted biographical tribute. Thank you, David Bailey."
- Dr. James I. Packer
"The biography, based as it is on lengthy personal interviews with Dr. Nicole, has been both thoroughly researched and is well written. Between his Preface and Conclusion Bailey takes us in the eleven intervening chapters from Dr. Nicole's paternal grandfather's professorship in Greek language and literature at the University of Geneva and his father's pastoral ministry in Germany and Switzerland through his childhood and education and his teaching and pastoral ministry both in Europe and America up to the present. More, much more, could be written about this biography of Dr. Nicole's life and legacy but space constraints will not allow it. So I will close by stating unequivocally that anyone who takes the time and makes the effort to read it will be richly rewarded. He will be moved many times, as I was, both by Dr. Nicole's encyclopedic knowledge of the entire theological terrain and by his deep personal Christian humility. I can only hope and pray that through this biography more people will come to know and appreciate what a choice gift God has given to his church in the person of Roger Nicole."
- Dr. Robert Reymond
(HT: Keith Plummer)
I have listened to the ECM’s response to criticism and have attempted to be a well-informed, fair, balanced, and humanizing voice within the conversation. In turn, I hope my voice is thoughtfully considered and not quickly dismissed. Conversely, I am open to correction. If I have mischaracterized a position or been unfair to a view, I desire the same correction I humbly attempt to offer.
I'd encourage you to read it. Brett's concerns and perspective line up with my own, except that he is able to express it more clearly, persuasively, and with greater documentation.
This post contains a four step process that could transform your life by, quite literally, changing your mind.This post is written for those people.
After reading the entire post the vast majority of readers will snicker at such a hyperbolic claim and never implement the method I outline. A smaller number will consider the advice intriguing, my assertion only a slight exaggeration, and will also never implement the method. A tiny minority, however, will recognize the genius behind the recommendation and apply it to their own life. This group will later say that my claim was an understatement.
Here are the four steps:
- Choose a book of the Bible.
- Read it in its entirety.
- Repeat #2 twenty times.
- Repeat this process for all 66 books of the Bible.
I am pleased that the society decided to amend the bi-laws so that the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” will become the norm for defining inerrancy in the ETS. Now that this motion has passed, the ETS has an official guideline for evaluating whether theological views (like Open Theism) are compatible with a belief in inerrancy. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Clark Pinnock spoke in favor of the bi-law change.Update: To be more precise and to clarify, Dr. Ware was elected as vice-president for the year ahead. He'll then be program chairman in 2008, then president in 2009.
The members of ETS elected Bruce Ware as the next President of ETS. Dr. Ware is a fine scholar and an articulate theologian. The ETS selected one of its finest in elevating Dr. Ware to this position.
He's also part of a hip-hop group called CHRISTCENTRIC. Here's part of their self-description:
CHRISTCENTRIC is a collection of ministers, gifted in the art of hip-hop, and called by God to passionately preach, teach, and defend the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. CHRISTCENTRIC is distinct in that they purpose not to entertain but to minister and this primarily to professing believers within the hip-hop culture. Coming to help spur (the saints) on toward love and good deeds and ground them in sound doctrine they seek to dynamically impact the lives of believers for the building of Gods Kingdom. Through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs they powerfully bring the mercies of God in full view calling saints to greater commitment to Christ and unbelievers into a right relationship with God.
The ultimate aim of CHRISTCENTRIC is simply to bring glory to the mighty name of Jesus Christ. So that first in their lives and then the lives of the hearers at all times and in all things Jesus might have the preeminence.
CHRISTCENTRIC, centered in Germantown, MD (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) began in the mind and prayers of Evangel and Q-D.O.G. in 1996. Growing up in the hip-hop culture and loving to rhyme they both one day aspired to be professional hip-hop artists. While separately on their quests in the world to make it in the hip-hop industry, each of them on a path of prodigal living, God took a hold of their lives, brought them together, and changed their vision. Seeking now to use their lyrical gifts to build the Kingdom of God there was only one thing they lacked: a producer. They began to pray. God answered on their heart The Apologist who was a close friend and formerly Evangel's producer in his worldly hip-hop endeavors. Evangel and Q began to pray fervently for his repentance and faith in Christ. God powerfully answered their prayers and in 1997 Will got saved! More than that, he joined with great fervor and zeal for the LORD, specifically, to do something with his gifts in hip-hop! Thus the three began to pray and in 1998 CHRISTCENTRIC was born! Endeavoring only to build the Kingdom of God for His glory and not blow-up for their own, they committed to using their spiritual gifts to proclaim the greatness of God and truths of His word through hip-hop and to patiently allow God to build the ministry.
Their official CHRISTCENTRIC site is here. They also have a MySpace site.
Q graciously gave me a copy of their CD Reformation. It starts with a track containing excerpts from sermons/readings by RC Sproul, John Frame, Max Mclean, Charles Baile, John MacArthur. (Hey, it's not everyday that you can hear Sproul and MacArthur with a good beat behind them!)
Their lyrics are thoroughgoingly Reformational--think of it as a contextualized catechism.
For example, here is their refrain for the song The Sufficiency of Scripture:
"Sufficiency of scripture/ how it used to be a fixture, now it's swirled into a world mixture/ Expose the fallacy of this mentality/ Lord, restore Your word to its centrality!"
Here's a further sample from the song:
Amen! So if you're into hip-hop and want to soak your mind in sound doctrine, I'd encourage you to check them out!
The church today is on the downgrade/ cause the Word today is getting downplayed/ This was the message that Spurgeon urged when/ men compromised doctrine for ecumenical merging/ Searching for innovations to relate/ to make their congregations more acceptable to those skeptical/ Cuz preaching the whole counsel’s ineffectual/ at keeping those who are peeping Christ…they need a spectacle/ But the question is thus/ for all matters of life and conduct, are the Scriptures enough? (well)/ God is calling your bluff/ only your doctrinal thesis believes this…certain pieces you snuff/ Such, as total depravation, predestination/ true salvation means repentance is a mark of regeneration/ or revelation’s cessation/ not believing only certain men had inspiration’s ordination/ They seek a direct word, this is blasphemous/ holy men died so the Word could be passed to us/ this is “tragedous”, you need to apologize/ instead of the Word, you prescribe and psychologize/ Beloved, its hazardous treating the Word with such deficiency/ but at His coming we’ll see His sufficiency!
You can also check out Quincy's blog here: www.truthintheinnermost.blogspot.com.
Monday, November 20, 2006
New Attitude 2007: 25 Free Registrations This Week
The New Attitude conference for singles and young married couples returns May 26–29, 2007, in Louisville, Kentucky. A special five-day early registration window (including 25 free registrations!) starts this week.
The 2007 conference will focus on examining our lives through the lens of God's Word—from doctrine to culture, and from our hearts to our call as Christians—because humble orthodoxy takes discernment. Joshua Harris, Mark Dever, Albert Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Eric Simmons, and John Piper will teach main sessions.
Now, about the free stuff: The conference may be six months away, but we're giving away 25 free registrations this week, during temporary early registration. November 22–26, five registrants every day will be randomly selected to have their registration fee refunded in full. That's five early Christmas presents a day. More details are coming soon at www.NewAttitude.org.
In introducing Campolo, Hansen adds a detail I didn't know, namely, that Campolo is a national representative for Compassion International.
Meanwhile, Mark Oestreicher has posted a note on the YS website regarding their removal of the article:
If you came looking for the article, "The Limits of God's Grace", I'm sorry to tell you I've asked our staff to pull it from our Website. YS likes to ask good questions—we think questions have great value in our spiritual growth. And we applaud the author, Bart Campolo, and the publisher, Journal of Student Ministries, for being willing to honestly wrestle with tough questions. But people often confuse articles on our Website as statements from Youth Specialties, as endorsed position papers. And without a strong lens of understanding as to why the questions raised by the article are worth talking about, or a counter-argument by someone else, we were concerned that the article could be more damaging than helpful. Thanks for understanding.
The mind is like a muscle. If it is not exercised regularly and strenuously, it loses some of its capacities and strength. We modern evangelicals often feel small and without influence in the public square. We must recapture our intellectual heritage if we are to present to our brothers and sisters, our children, and a post-Christian culture a version of Christianity rich and deep enough to challenge the dehumanizing structures and habits of thought of a society gone mad. To do this, we must change our reading habits; indeed, we must alter our entire approach to the life of the mind as part of Christian discipleship." (p. 87)
In order to do this, reading Moreland's book would be an excellent first step.
Here's an exercise you can try. Read When Religion Loses Its Credibility, an editorial in today's USA Today written by Oliver “Buzz” Thomas, a Baptist minister and author of an upcoming book, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).
Identify his thesis (what's the main thing he's trying to argue). Next identify his arguments (composed of premises that lead to conclusions). Then evaluate his arguments. Are his arguments valid (that is, do they logically follow and are they free from fallacious reasoning)? Then finally ask: Are his arguments true (that is, how well do they match up with a Scriptural view of God, world, and self)?
The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing by Leonard G. Goss and Carolyn Goss
The Little Handbook to Perfecting the Art of Christian Writing: Getting Your Foot in the Publisher's Door by Leonard G. Goss and Don M. Aycock
The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White, and Roger Angell
Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (2nd Edition) by Joseph M. Williams
On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (On Writing Well) by William K. Zinsser
Sunday, November 19, 2006
We've come a long way since 1964, when the late civil rights hero Hubert Humphrey stood on the Senate floor and told his colleagues that if the civil rights bill contained "any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there."
Four decades later, supporters of racial preferences imposed by government agencies are blocking legal efforts to establish the color-blind society that Martin Luther King envisioned. Dr. King's dream is alive in Michigan, and in other states, but a large number of people seem interested in stirring up a nightmare of massive resistance. Such efforts are likely not only to only fail, but to harden the public's opposition to divisive racial quotas.
Third, what does unbalanced reporting really mean? We all harp that the media — specifically, the wire services, network television, and the international stations like the BBC and CNN — all focused on Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the carnage left by IEDs and suicide bombers, and the allegations against the Marines at Haditha, and neglected entirely the damage we did to the terrorists and Islamic fascists, or the singularity of seeing parliaments in places like Kabul and Baghdad.
But the important question left unspoken is Why? Was the unbalanced converge, in the case of leftwing elites in the American media, a simple effort to embarrass Republican policy, allowing more sympathetic Democrats to regain power? In the case of the envious European media, was it to take down the Americans a notch or two to remind us that we are not as powerful as we think?
Or is the bias a more general result of a Western elite so deeply conflicted about its own culture, and so fundamentally unable to define its own civilization, that it either doesn’t care whether it wins, or in fact wishes that the West lose in Iraq?
One can grasp that generic hypocrisy by reviewing all the journalists’ charges leveled against Gulf War I — too much realpolitik; too much pay-as-you-go war thinking; too much Colin Powell and James Baker and not enough Paul Wolfowitz; too much worry about stability and not enough about millions of poor Kurds and Shiites; too much worry about empowering Iran. Then compare those charges to those leveled against Gulf War II — too much naïve idealism; too much expense in lives and treasure; not enough Colin Powell and James Baker and too much Paul Wolfowitz; too little worry about regional stability and too much given to ungovernable Iraqis; and too little thought about empowering Iran.
The one common denominator? Whatever the United States does is suspect; and journalists without responsibility for governance, either for setting policy or for its implementation, are always brighter than generals, politicians, and policy planners saddled with it.
The truth is that wealthy Western elites in the media have evolved beyond worry over the basics of their civilization. They are so insulated, even after September 11, that they don’t believe there is much connection between liberty, freedom, consensual government, freedom of expression, and the everyday mundane things they depend on — whether excellent medical care, clean water, nice cars, neat electronic gadgets, eating out, or safety in their streets. A nuclear Iran, a missile-laden North Korea, a theocracy in oil-rich Iraq, an unleashed terrorist-sponsoring Syria, and an emboldened Hezbollah — all these still could still never quite take away their good life, so strong is the assurance of their never-ending comfort zone that they could not conceive of ever losing it.
And thus the most vehement and angry critics find it possible, even desirable, to nibble away at their own civilization’s efforts, on the understanding that a loss in Iraq would be only an apparent loss. That defeat would not entail any material detriment to themselves, but surely would enhance their own sense of contrarian self-righteousness and self-worth, as they boldly caricature the very culture that so empowered them.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
In what N. T. Wright has dubbed a “Fresh Perspective” (FP) on Paul, this new strand of scholarship holds as axiomatic at least two assumptions, with a third assumption being increasingly advocated in the literature. First, it is assumed that the Roman imperial cult was pervasive in Paul’s missionary context. Second, Paul’s gospel is, therefore, both theopolitical and counterimperial in that it offers an explicit repudiation of the Roman empire. Third, “Paul’s gospel [therefore] confronts all imperial systems, and especially the new American empire of global consumerism and military might.” In this new movement, the analogy between America and Rome is so direct, that Pauline repudiations of the “powers” of his day imply a direct confrontation of American imperial power in our own day. Thus the FP on Paul confirms the critique of American empire that political liberals have been lodging against the United States’ economic and foreign policies.
Here are Dr. Burk's aims in this paper:
What I hope to show is that the counter-imperial, post-colonial interpretations of Paul are not so much motivated by a “fresh” and more accurate understanding of Paul as they are being motivated by the desire of some to find in Paul an endorsement of their own political and cultural biases. I suggest that while evangelicals may debate the pro’s and con’s of empires, this eisegetical hermeneutic does not produce a better understanding of Paul or a more faithful application of his message to the contemporary political scene. Regardless of how one evaluates the historical claims of the fresh perspective, reading a counterimperial (and thus anti-American) bias into Paul’s gospel is not a helpful way for evangelicals to approach Paul’s letters.
Friday, November 17, 2006
A DVD of the debate is now available for purchase.
And so, in a time of extremism -- for extremism is to the 21st century what totalitarianism was to the 20th -- how can people engage in a conversation about faith and its implications in a way that sheds light rather than generates heat? At The Washington Post and Newsweek, we believe the first step is conversation-intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation-among specialists and generalists who devote a good part of their lives to understanding and delineating religion's influence on the life of the world. The point of our new online religion feature is to provide a forum for such sane and spirited talk, drawing on a remarkable panel of distinguished figures from the academy, the faith traditions, and journalism. Members of the group will weigh in on a question posed at least once a week, perhaps sometimes more often, depending on the flow of the news. We encourage readers to join the conversation by commenting on what our panelists have to say, offering their own opinions and suggesting topics for future discussions.
From the nature of evil to religious reformation, from the morality of fetal stem-cell research to the history of scripture, from how to raise kids in multi-faith households to the place of gays in traditional churches -- of the asking of questions, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there shall be no end. We think that the online world, with its limitless space, offers us a unique opportunity to carry on a fruitful, intriguing, and above all constructive conversation about the things that matter most.
The inaugural question is: "If some religious people believe they have a monopoly on truth, then are conversation and common ground possible? If so, what would be the difficulties and benefits of such a conversation?"
Al Mohler is among the participants. You can read his response here. Answers from the rest of the panelists can be read here.
Protests have also been planned at Mars Hill Church, where Driscoll pastors.
Driscoll has now responded to the criticism about his Haggard post: Thank You, Critics. I'm thankful for his response, which is more mature and measured than I would have been able to offer in response to these attacks.
Budziszewski pens an essay examining the thinking of "the [four] premier influences on American evangelical political reflection": (1) Carl F. H. Henry ("pricker of the evangelical conscience"); (2) Abraham Kuyper ("preceptor of the neo-Calvinist magisterium"); (3) Francis Schaeffer ("sentinel at the secularist border"); and (4) John Howard Yoder ("student of the war of the lamb").
There are then four response chapters: (1) David Weeks (Azusa Pacific University) on Henry; (2) John Bolt (Calvin Theological Seminary) on Kuyper; (3) William Edgar (Westminster Theological Seminary) on Schaeffer; and (4) Ashley Woodiwiss (Wheaton College) on Yoder.
I may blog through at least the first chapter of this book, in which Budziszewski observes that despite the presence of evangelicals in the public square, "they have never developed a clear, cohesive, and Christian view of what politics is all about" (p. 15). I'll save it for another post to explain why Budziszewski thinks this is the case and what he thinks can be done about it.
For now, it may be helpful to highlight the following ten general principles that Budziszewski finds in Scripture regarding the nature of government:
- God is the true sovereign; he ordained all human government for the good of man, whom he made in his image (Ps. 22:28; Rom. 13:1, 3-4; Gen. 1:27).
- Although God originally chose only one nation, he desires ultimately to draw all nations into the light of his Word (Isa. 49:6; Rom. 10:12; Rev. 21:23-24).
- He disciplines the nations according to their deeds (Jer. 18:7-10; Jer. 5:28-29).
- He also disciplines their rulers (Dan. 2:20-21; Jer. 25:12; Dan. 4:27).
- In general, disobedience to human government is disobedience to God; indeed, government deserves not only obedience but honor (Rom. 13:1-2, 7).
- But there are exceptions: Any governmental edict that contradicts the commands of God must be disobeyed (Acts 5:29; Dan. 3:18; Ex. 1:17, 20-21).
- The just purposes of human government include the commendation of good, the punishment of evil, the maintenance of peace, and the protection of the oppressed (1 Pet. 2:13-14; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Isa. 10:1-2).
- In pursuance of these purposes, God authorizes human government to use force on his behalf and in grave cases even to take life, though never deliberately to take the life of the innocent (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:3-4).
- Yet human government cannot fully or permanently redress wrong, because it cannot uproot sin from the human heart; this can be done only by the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ (Jer. 17:9; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:22-25).
- Moreover, the community of redemption is not the state but the church. No matter how much respect is due to the state, the church is never to be identified with it (John 18:33-36; Acts 20:28).
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I don't often link to "bad theology" articles in order to bash them, but I'm making an exception here. It is rare for a writer to be this honest about the functional sovereignty of his own mind in determining the object of his worship. In other words, Bart Campolo is an idolater of the first-order. (Something tells me, though, that there won't be any "protests" planned against his views.)
Here's an excerpt:
Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about such stuff [like God's sovereignty, wrath, hell, etc.], remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, then God might as well send me to Hell. For better or worse, I simply am not interested in any God but a completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving One who is powerful enough to utterly triumph over evil. Such a God may not exist, but I will die seeking such a God, and I will pledge my allegiance to no other possibility because, quite frankly, anything less is not worthy of my worship.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that I don’t get to decide who God is. What I do get to decide, however, is to whom I pledge my allegience. I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.
May God grant Campolo repentance for disdaining the only true God, exalting himself, and hating his neighbor (by refusing to tell them the gospel of Jesus but only the deceitful and untrue Gospel According to Bart). And may God likewise grant YS repentance for publishing such nonsense.
Ms. Sataline does a good job of summarizing what has been happening, and the perspective of each side. The fact that sermon plagiarism is so rampant--meriting a front-page story in one of the nation's leading newspapers--is an embarrassment to the cause of Christ. Ray Van Neste, who is quoted in the article, highlights an important issue: the matter of integrity. Dozens of sins accompany the sin of plagiarism, like laziness, deception, pride, and spiritual second-handing. The fact that such sin is not just practiced but defended and encouraged (cf. Rom. 1:32) is doubly shameful.
Matt Perman and I attempted to define plagiarism and provide some guidelines in this brief article.
Monday, November 13, 2006
See also Greg Koukl's brief counsel on The Ambassador and the Waitress.
Prof. Gagnon has also posted online his answers to some questions by an AP reporter.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
(To do this in Internet Explorer 7.0, see this post.)
Update: Just so the rest of your aren't jealous, I downgraded the 20.0 version in the headline to 2.0.
By the way, one very helpful feature of the ESV page is that you can listen to any verse--or any passage--of Scripture with a simple click. This is a great aid to memorization--not only saying the verse(s) out loud, but hearing someone read it to you.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Click here to download a 5.9 MB file containing the indexes to The Works of John Owen (16 volumes).
Basically, I'm glad the Republicans lost and sad the Democrats gained power!
What went wrong for Republicans? Dean Barrett, in his post on An Overdue Reckoning, makes a number of good points that I concur with in the main.
See also Fred Barnes' Weekly Standard column: "This one is pretty easy to explain. Republicans lost the House and probably the Senate because of Iraq, corruption, and a record of taking up big issues and then doing nothing on them. Of these, the war was by far the biggest factor." Later Barnes writes: "Republicans cast themselves as the party of reform, but they didn't reform anything. And heaven knows, the public is eager for a lot to be reformed, starting with Congress itself and moving on to taxes and entitlements."
Senator Tom Coburn (R, Oklahoma) issued a statement that reads in part: “The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government. . . . This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism. . . . Our short-term, politically-expedient, bread and circus governing philosophy has failed. Iraq is an important issue in the minds of voters but it is not the only issue. Our majority was severely weakened by a long series of decisions that pre-date the public’s current concern about Iraq. Republicans oversaw a seven-fold increase in pork projects since 1998. Republicans increased domestic spending by nearly 50 percent since 2001, increased the national debt to $9 trillion, passed a reckless Medicare expansion bill and neglected our oversight responsibilities. While some of these decisions may have helped secure specific seats in the short-term the totality of our excess did not secure our majority, but destroy it.
It's interesting, as John Podhoretz has noted, that President Bush hasn't been on the losing side of an election since his unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1978. (He was elected governor in 1994 and reelected in 1998, elected President in 2000 and reelected in 2004. And of course the Republicans won the midterm in 2002.) It will be interesting to see how he responds.
Nancy Pelosi will be the speaker of the House of Representatives. Donald Rumsfeld is now longer SecDef. Former CIA director Robert Gates has been nominated to head the Defense Dept.
I'm glad Tim Pawlenty is still the governor of Minnesota. Pawlenty proves that the concept of "virtuous politician" is not an oxymoron or a laugh line.
I'm also very glad that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative passed--a major decision against racial discrimination--despite a concerted disinformation campaign against the initiative.
Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin all approved state constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. Arizona rejected such an amendment.
South Dakota rejected a law that would ban virtually all abortions.
Missouri approved a proposition that protects human cloning and allows for the destruction of embryos in stem cell research.
Today is the unofficial start of the 2008 elections. Well, I've got to run and start making phone calls for the '08 Romney-Pawlenty presidential campaign!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
As you may know, the sessions from the conference are being compiled into Preaching the Cross, a book that will be published by Crossway in 2007. In the days following the scandal involving Ted Haggard, it seemed appropriate to provide this chapter to others. Though the book has not yet been edited and published, Crossway was kind enough to provide special permission to Tim Challies and me to post this chapter. It is Copyright © 2006 by Crossway (used by permission; all rights reserved) and will be available here for only a limited time. While you are free to link to this post from your web site or to download the document for personal use or, we ask that no one else upload the file to their own web server.
So here is your first glance at the forthcoming title Preaching the Cross. The chapter written by C.J. Mahaney is entitled "The Pastor's Priorities: Watch Your Life and Doctrine." We strongly urge you to consider making this chapter available to your pastor and leaders, either by forwarding the link or printing a copy. The wisdom of Paul, relayed through C.J., is timeless, but seems especially timely today.
The chapter headings include:
- Our Two-Fold Task
- Watch Your Life
- Sound Doctrine Is Not Enough
- The Consequences of Neglect
- The War Within Never Ends
- We Can't Fight the War Alone
- A Model for Your Consideration
- Watch Your Doctrine
- Watch the Savior Work
The Consequences of Neglect
Sound doctrine is not enough, because according to Scripture, the fundamental qualification for pastoral ministry is godly character. Neither skill, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, nor reputation, nor personality, nor apparent fruitfulness of public ministry will suffice. Scan 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and you will encounter a profile of personal piety.
Yes, the pastor must be able to teach. Certainly, he must handle the Word of truth accurately and skillfully. But the foundational assumption of Scripture--both for appointment to or continuation in ministry--is that the pastor provide a godly example. Not a perfect example, but an authentic example. As Spurgeon exhorted his students in "The Minister's Self-Watch," "Our characters must be more persuasive than our speech."
If we neglect the command of 1 Timothy 4:16--if we fail to watch our life closely, carefully, and uncompromisingly--negative consequences are inevitable, for ourselves, our family, our pastoral team, and our church. A marked or prolonged inattention to personal holiness in a pastor is a grave matter that must be addressed.
In Sovereign Grace Ministries, here is how we have sought to apply this passage in relation to the pastors of our local churches.
We believe that the biblical requirement for a pastor is not flawless character but mature character. We are all progressively growing in godliness. A pastor who recognizes an area of immaturity, and takes specific action towards change, demonstrates close attention to his life and doctrine. Likewise, if a particular instance of non-disqualifying sin occurs in a pastor's life, but he genuinely repents before God and the appropriate individuals, this also honors the passage we are examining.
There are, of course, some sins that are particularly serious, both in the effect they have upon others and what they reveal about the condition of the heart. Even a single instance of such sins--sexual immorality, financial impropriety, violent behavior, etc.--would automatically disqualify a man from pastoral ministry. Beyond such grave instances of sin, however, a serious ongoing pattern of disobedient deviation from biblical requirements in the life of a pastor can also be disqualifying.
For example, a single lustful look, quickly confessed and repented of is part of growing maturity. However, a pattern of pornography could be disqualifying. Similarly, an isolated instance of lying speech, promptly brought into the light, is evidence of ongoing sanctification. Repeated examples of deceptive behavior, on the other hand, call into question a pastor's trustworthiness. Likewise, an outburst of irritation, immediately regretted and repented of is proof the Holy Spirit is at work. But a reputation for anger is not consistent with the biblical requirements for a pastor.
Where such patterns of sin exist, we believe that genuine care for a pastor and church involves a corrective process. Of course, this must be administered with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Occasions requiring the loving confrontation of a pastor in sin have been among the most difficult and painful of my ministry experience. But in the end, the corrective process has normally produced God-glorifying and fruitful outcomes in a pastor's life, family, and church.
The document is available is PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format. You can download it here.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
"The focus of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics is not word studies but 'Word study': a sustained reflection on the priority and centrality of the good news concerning Jesus Christ as the distinct way that Scripture interprets Scripture and, indeed, all of reality. Goldsworthy's attention to the role of biblical theology in biblical interpretation is particularly welcome, providing a refreshing contrast to what often gets produced by the contemporary hermeneutics industry. And by highlighting the gospel of Jesus Christ, he puts the evangel back into evangelical hermeneutics." —Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
While there are many books on hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy's perception is that evangelical contributions often do not give sufficient attention to the vital relationship between hermeneutics and theology, both systematic and biblical.
In Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Goldsworthy moves beyond a reiteration of the usual arguments to concentrate on the theological questions of presuppositions, and the implications of the Christian gospel for hermeneutics. In doing so, he brings fresh perspectives on some well-worn pathways.
Part I examines the foundations and presuppositions of evangelical belief, particularly with regard to biblical interpretation.
Part II offers a selective overview of important hermeneutical developments from the sub-apostolic age to the present, as a means of identifying some significant influences that have been alien to the gospel.
Part III evaluates ways and means of reconstructing truly gospel-centered hermeneutics.
Goldsworthy's aim throughout is to commend the much-neglected role of biblical theology in hermeneutical practice, with pastoral concern for the people of God as they read, interpret and seek to live by his written Word.
You can access his work online at www.robgagnon.net.
I would recommend starting with this interview, which gives an overview and defense of his position.
Those who want something more in depth may want to look at a 112-page review written by Prof. Gagnon, available here.
Readers will find treatments here of every major issue in the debate, including discussion and analysis of:
- The different hermeneutical scales or interpretive grids used by proponents and opponents of homosexual practice (pp. 19-25).
- The difficulty in neutralizing Scripture for a pro-homosex agenda (pp. 25-30).
- The nature argument (pp. 30-46).
- The relevant biblical texts and the arguments used to limit their relevance for today's debate: Old Testament (pp. 46-54) and the New Testament (pp. 54-85), including Jesus (pp. 56-62) and Paul (pp. 62-85).
- The three main "new knowledge" arguments for dismissing the biblical witness against homosexual practice: the exploitation argument (pp. 65-76), the orientation argument (pp. 77-79), and the misogyny argument (pp. 80-82).
- Whether homosexual practice is the diet and circumcision issue of today (the Gentile inclusion analogy; pp. 86-90).
- The alleged analogies to slavery, women's roles, divorce/ remarriage and other changes to marriage over the centuries (pp. 90-97) vs. analogies to incest, polysexuality, and pedosexuality (pp. 98-101).
- Manipulative rhetoric in the church debates about homosexuality (pp. 103-114).
- The science side of the debate (pp. 114-30), including the question of the moral relevance of congenital influences and claims to an unchanging orientation (pp. 116-19), the question of whether culture can affect the incidence of homosexuality (pp. 120-25), and the question of whether "gay marriage" is good for society (pp. 125-30).
For my gay readers:
Please know that you are welcome here. I wish we could sit down and talk, rather than communicate through this blogging medium--which is great for quick information but not necessarily conducive for meaningful dialogue and loving expression of concern.
I would encourage you to consider read this testimony by Joe Hallet. (Joe died from AIDS in 1997.) I'd also encourage you to consider visiting Exodus International. It is a place where many have found hope and healing.
I thought it might be helpful to provide an extended quote from Al Mohler, first addressing homosexuals, and then addressing the church. (You can listen to or watch this message online.)
We must also admit that sin has enduring consequences, even in this life. An analogy might be useful at this point. Consider a man who has sinned by driving under the influence of alcohol. One night, sinfully drunk and recklessly irresponsible, this man gets into his car and drives it right into a wall at high speed. His body is broken, but his life is saved as he is taken to the hospital and receives emergency treatment. He recovers from the accident, but he will forever walk with a limp. Throughout his life, he will drag an injured leg, which can heal to a point, but will never be fully restored.
Let us follow this man as he comes to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He becomes a wonderful trophy of God’s grace, as the grace of God transforms him, reordering his affections right down to the fact that he gains victory over alcoholism. Regeneration has produced a new man, even as sanctification is demonstrated in his growth in grace. Old things have passed away and behold all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17)—but he still walks with a limp.
The work of the Holy Spirit in his life is evident, even as his limp continues as a part of his experience. He will limp all the way to the grave. He has become what only God could make him as a demonstration of God’s glory in the salvation of a sinner. But until the day of his glorification, this man will limp.
That limp does not become a disqualification for this man’s ability to display the glory of God. As a matter of fact, he may begin to see his limp as a way of explaining to people, “I want to tell you who I was in order to tell you who I now am by the grace of God. You see, this limp is a part of my story. I do not exult in this limp, but this limp is an important part of telling my story about how I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and how he changed my life.”
In reality, every one of us limps. Throughout our lives until the day of our glorification, every one of us will limp. We must look to the moment of our glorification as the moment of our release from every limp. On that day, every tear will be wiped away, every injury will be fully restored, everything will be made right, and everything will be made whole. Everything and every redeemed person will then perfectly display the glory of God. We are the people with the theology adequate to explain this, and thus, we can offer the only genuine means of personal transformation.
We know better than to say that people cannot change. We also know better than to believe that people can change themselves. As Jonathan Edwards made clear, we sin in our affections, and we do not even understand ourselves in terms of why we love the things we love and desire the things we desire. This is why we are so dependent upon the work of Christ in our lives and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in reordering our affections. This is no easy process, but it is real and it is enduring.
Is our purpose to make homosexuals into heterosexuals? The answer to that question must be both yes and no. We must urgently urge all sinners to repent and abandon their sin, but convincing homosexuals to think of themselves as heterosexuals is not tantamount to salvation. We must be honest about the sinfulness of homosexuality in order that we can show homosexuals their need for salvation and the transforming power of Jesus Christ in their lives. We can promise that this power of transformation will, by the grace of God, lead to a reordering of their lives and require a turning away from the sins of their past. As Christians, coming for whatever our individual background in sin may be—we come under mutual accountability to the Word of God and his command in all things—including our sexuality.
I want to speak honestly to those who are struggling with homosexual affection. You must know that this is sin, and you must recognize that your affections are corrupted by sin. Even in your own heart, you can probably never even separate your desires and impulses in terms of inner motivation and affection. Like all of us, you are a sinner in the midst of a sinful world, but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t change. Becoming heterosexual is not salvation, but the miracle of regeneration and sanctification will produce, by God’s grace, the right affections in your heart and desire. Knowing what God has declared to be objectively right and objectively wrong, we must direct ourselves—whether our sinful sexual profile be heterosexual or homosexual—toward the objective glory of God as revealed in his Word. We must claim the promises of God and seek God’s glory in every dimension of our being.
Do we want homosexuals to find heterosexuality? Yes, as much as we want liars to become tellers of the truth and adulterers to be faithful; as much as we want the disobedient to become obedient to parents and the proud to be humble. God’s glory is in seeing that God’s command is accompanied by God’s provision so that we, by his grace, can be transformed so that we will even desire what he wills for us to desire.
This is what the church is all about. We are the people who gather together to exalt in the grace of God and to proclaim the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ as the answer to human sinfulness. We come together to hold each other accountable to the Word of God and to rejoice in what God is doing in us until the very day that we die. We come together in the assurance of the resurrection that is to come and the glorification that will be God’s gift. Like the apostle Paul, we are convinced that “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
And here is one of his words to the church:
We must be the people who love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality. This is a tough challenge. We have to be the people who, because we are possessed by a passion to see God’s glory in his creation, love homosexuals more than they love their sin. This means that our love has to be a tenacious love. This will also require that we come to know and establish relationships with those struggling with homosexuality. Armed with an awareness of both the problem and God’s provision, we have no right to consider that homosexuals are beyond the grace of God or that any individual is beyond the hope of redemption and transformation. Compassionate truth-telling is deeply rooted in Christian love, and this means that we must love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality.
Every sinner loves his sin, but the church must love sinners more than sinners love their sinfulness. This is precisely how Christ has loved us, and we must love other sinners even as Christ has loved us.
We cannot allow a homosexual to reduce his identity to being a homosexual. This is a tough message, but we live in an age of identity politics when people say, “What I do in my sex life is who I am—period!” We are the people who know that this is nonsense. Sex is a part of who we are—a vitally important and powerful part—but it is only a part of the total human being. Our sexual desires and sexual practices are genuine pointers to our inner reality and our relationship to God, but sexuality is not the end of the story.
Christians must be the people who refuse to put the period at the end of the sexual sentence. We cannot allow homosexuals to be isolated as a class of persons who are beyond the grace of God and exist in some special category of human sinfulness. We must be the people who say to homosexuals, “I am going to love you even more than you love your sin, because in this same way I was loved until I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone loved me more than I loved my sin, and this is how I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.”
Our doctrine of salvation must be accompanied by a strong doctrine of the church. The ecclesia—the purchased people of God—are a covenanted community gathered in mutual accountability to the Word of God. In the bonds of Christ, we are to love each other even more than we love ourselves. Even in the process of church discipline, our purpose is not only to protect the integrity of the people of God, but to love persons into obedience and conformity with the Word of God. The common life of the church is really all about this mutual accountability, mutual encouragement, and exhorting each other to faithfulness unto the authority of the Word of God. The church sins when we deal with these issues wrongly, unscripturally, and superficially.
It is easy to detect a sense of fatigue setting in among Christians in America who are tired of arguing, debating, and speaking the truth about homosexuality in the midst of a fallen and rebellious culture. This fatigue is evidence of sin, even as it is an understandable response to the difficulty of our task. We are now coming to a point of cultural crisis, and the church is called to faithfulness as we must declare God’s truth with a boldness never summoned before. The church must demonstrate even more candor, more courage, and more truth-telling. We must demonstrate more genuine compassion, even as we reach out to a civilization that is literally falling from within. Even as civilization falls, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ must stand as the People of God, determined to keep its wits even as it shows the love of God and seeks the glory of Jesus Christ, in season and out of season.