Monday, March 31, 2008

Top 10 April Fools' Pranks for Nerds

I link, you prank.

How to Engage in Politics without Losing Your Soul

Andy Jackson offers 10 biblical guidelines on how Christians can engage in politics without "losing their souls."

Young, Restless, and Reformed

Tim Challies reviews Collin Hansen's new book, which is now available from Amazon.

Moo on Colossians/Philemon

From New Testament Perspectives:

Over on the Eerdmans site, a late July date (the 29th to be exact) will welcome the latest in the Pillar Commentary Series, The Letter to the Colossians and Philemon. This will mark the second commentary Moo has written in this series, the other being The Letter of James, and the third he has published with Eerdmans overall when you include his highly regarded Romans commentary, in the NICNT series, which by the way, he eventually plans on revising. Moo is currently working on a Galatians commentary for the Baker Exegetical Series, but that will probably will not come for some time now.

(HT: James Grant)

Phillips on the Enns Suspension

Rick Phillips offers his take on the suspension of Professor Enns from WTS.

Phillips references (but does not link to) Richard Pratt's critique and Enns's response. It can be found online at Enns's website.

Why Pastors Should Consider Blogging

Excellent advice--in my opinion--from Abraham Piper.

No Laughing Matter

Ezra Klein has an important and sobering op-ed in the LA Times on prison rape.

For more on this issue and what can be done about it, see the section at Prison Fellowship's website.

Pro Life and the GOP

Andrew Bacevich:
. . . only a naïf would believe that today’s Republican Party has any real interest in overturning Roe v. Wade or that doing so now would contribute in any meaningful way to the restoration of “family values.” GOP support for such values is akin to the Democratic Party’s professed devotion to the “working poor”: each is a ploy to get votes, trotted out seasonally, quickly forgotten once the polls close.
Ross Douthat responds:
You hear this sort of thing frequently from pro-lifers who have grown disillusioned with the GOP, and there's some truth to it: A lot of Republican leaders could care less about Roe and would prefer, if anything, to see it upheld, and even if Roe were overturned abortion would remain legal in most of the country. Nonetheless, it remains the case for all the pro-choice sympathies of leading GOPers, the Republican Party nearly succeeded in overturning Roe v. Wade fifteen years ago, and would have if one man - Anthony Kennedy - hadn't changed his mind about the issue at the last minute. It also remains the case that the Bush Administration has seemingly brought to Supreme Court within a single vote of undoing what Kennedy wrought in 1992. It further remains the case that while overturning Roe wouldn't magically restore us to some Ozzie-and-Harriet wonderland, returning control over abortion law to the hands of the voting public remains a necessary goal for any pro-life, socially-conservative politics that takes itself seriously as a change agent in American life. And it further remains the case that to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 is to give up on overturning Roe for at least a decade, probably for two, and possibly for all time. These realities may not require pro-lifers to vote for John McCain, but they deserve more serious consideration that Bacevich affords them.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Band of Bloggers @ T4G

Registration is closing soon.

And over at the blog, Timmy is listing books that will given away for free to attendees.

Do the math--and sign up!

The Best Archaeological Guide to Israel

Todd Bolen:
The best archaeological guide to Israel is now out in its fifth edition. The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor is the best companion for a trip to ancient sites anywhere in Israel. The section on Jerusalem is especially lengthy (150 pages in the 4th edition), and the whole is accurate and readable. Don't expect to find out about hotels or restaurants - this is a guide to archaeological sites only! The 4th edition came out in 1998, so while I haven't yet seen the new edition, I expect it will have significant updates. The author has lived in Jerusalem longer than I have been alive.

Should We Really Call It a "Quiet" Time?

A guest post from David Powlison, with further thoughts in response to my post on Hearing, Praying, and Speaking the Word.

Many years ago I worked through the psalms looking for the vocal cues. By my count, more than 95% of the psalms portray or invite audible words directed to God. You "hear" what is written, because so much of it is out loud: crying out, the sound of my voice, songs, shouts, the tongue and lips, asking God to listen, groaning, roaring, seeking, calling on, making requests, and so forth. In the mere handful of psalms with no vertical verbalization, the psalm speaks about people in relation to God (e.g., Ps. 1), or speaks from God (e.g., Ps. 110), or speaks to other people (e.g., Ps. 49). An audible response is then the most natural thing in the world.

In the verbal actions of the psalms—rejoicing, asking for help, and expressing thanks (cf. 1 Thess. 5:16-18)—we talk to someone else, in this case, God himself. It's fair to say that having a "quiet time" is a misnomer. We should more properly have a "noisy time." By talking out loud we live the reality that we are talking with another person, not simply talking to ourselves inside our own heads. Of course "silent prayers" are not wrong—1 Samuel 1:13, Nehemiah 2:4, and, likely, Genesis 24:45—but they are the exception. And even in such silent prayers, the essentially verbal nature of prayer is still operative, though the speaking is "subvocal." Words could be spoken out loud if the situation warranted or the state of mind allowed.

In Jesus' teaching and example, a praying individual seeks privacy so he or she can talk out loud with God. "Go to your room and shut the door" (Matt. 6:6). That's so other people won't hear you, so you can talk straight, rather than being tempted to perform. Jesus "went up on the mountain by himself to pray" (Matt. 14:23). He "would withdraw to desolate places and pray" (Lk. 5:16). He's talking out loud. And when Jesus walked off into the olive grove that Thursday night in order to pray, his disciples could overhear his fervent, pointed words (Matt. 26:36-44).

We can do the same sort of thing: close the door, take a walk, get in the car—and speak up. Of course, in group contexts throughout the Bible, in public gatherings, God's people naturally pray and sing aloud, just as they hear the Bible aloud. We naturally do the same in corporate worship, whether in liturgy, in led prayers, or in small-group prayer. And even moments of silent confession and intercession, though subvocal, remain essentially verbal in character and content.

So the standard practice for both public and private prayer is to speak so as to be heard by the Person with whom you are talking. Prayer is verbal because it is relational.

I've known many people whose relationship with God was significantly transformed as they started to speak up with their Father. Previously, "prayer" fizzled out in the internal buzz of self-talk and distractions, worries and responsibilities. Previously, what they thought of as prayer involved certain religious feelings, or a set of seemingly spiritual thoughts, or a vague sense of comfort, awe, and dependency on a higher power. Prayer meandered, and was virtually indistinguishable from thoughts, sometimes indistinguishable from anxieties and obsessions. But as they began to talk aloud to the God who is there, who is not silent, who listens, and who acts, they began to deal with him person-to-person. It's no gimmick or technique (and there are other ingredients, too, in creating wise, intelligent, purposeful, fervent prayer). But out loud prayer became living evidence of an increasingly honest and significant relationship. As they became vocal, their faith was either born or grew up.

What about teachings on "centering prayer" or "the prayer of silence" or "contemplative prayer" or "listening prayer," or the notion that God is most truly known in experiences of inner silence? Or what about the repetition of mantras, even using Bible words, attempting to bypass consciousness, seeking to induce a trance state or mystical experience? The Bible never teaches or models prayer either as inner silence or as mantra. That's important to notice: "The Bible NEVER teaches or models these ideas or practices." On the surface, such teachings align with Buddhist and Hindu conceptions and practices, and are designed to evoke oceanic experience. The god of silence has no name, no personality, no authority, no stated will, makes no promises, and does not act on the stage of history. Such private spirituality can produce inner ecstasies and inner peacefulness (I experienced that first hand in the years before coming to faith). But it does not create interpersonal relationships—with God, with others—of love, loyalty, need, mercy, honesty, tears, just anger, forgiveness, purpose, and trust. It is a super-spirituality, beyond words. Jesus and Scripture speak and act in sharp contrast. The Word in person and in print expresses a humanness that walks on the ground and talks out loud. Jesus gives a richer joy and a richer peace than the unnamed gods of inner silence, inner ecstasy, and inner tranquility.

Of course, God tells us to be quiet and be still. But it's not that I learn techniques to access an inner realm of silence where I transcend my sense of self and experience a god-beyond-words. The true God quiets us so we notice him. This God is profoundly and essentially verbal, not silent: "God said . . . and it was so. . . . In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." So we listen to him. We take the time to hear his words of grace and truth. We consider Jesus. And we pay attention to what's going on in our lives, seeing the world and ourselves in truer colors. Then we can pray more intelligently and more candidly. And we can think straight and feel honestly and choose well. There is great benefit in turning off the noise machines, the chatter, the music, the crowd noise, the busy, busy, busy, talk, talk, talk—whether it's playing inside your head, or all around you, or both. When this is what "centering prayer" actually accomplishes for a given person, then he or she is moving along Christian paths, not down the paths of wordless silence. But turning off the distractions is not actually prayer to the living God. It's not how to know Jesus deeply, or how to relate to our Father, or how to "experience" the Spirit. Do be quiet, and for the right reasons: so you can notice and listen, so you can learn to talk. This living God is highly verbal and listens attentively. He made us in his image, but as dependents. We learn to listen to audible Scripture, and so learn to speak audible prayers.

He wants to catch your ear in order to awaken your voice. When you have your "quiet" time, or as you walk outdoors, or during your commute, may the decibel level rise to joyful noise and cries of needand may God listen to the sound of your voice!

Kimball on "Why We're Not Emergent"

Dan Kimball shares some thoughts on the new book, Why We're Not Emergent.

(HT: Z)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Enns and WTS Links

I'm not going to make this blog a clearinghouse for All Things Enns, but I'll try to link to items that I find especially helpful:

1. R. Scott Clark (Westminster Seminary California) offers A Word to Students in the Midst of Controversy. Conclusion:
For the moment, in this situation, seminary students are like the congregation but it will not always be so. Before students poke indignant fingers into the chest of faculty or administration members whom they perceive to be in the wrong, pause for a moment and consider that not too many years hence the shoe will be on the other foot and that they too will be doing their prayerful and tearful best before God and his church. Then, when hair is gray (or gone) and they have been up late for yet another painful meeting, they will understand these sorts of processes in a way that they cannot now. Between now and Tuesday a lot of seminary students have an opportunity to save themselves an occasion for remorse in later years. Let us hope that the wisdom, self-restraint, and discretion which will be required of them very soon is sufficiently formed in them in time.

2. Andrew Compton offers some good suggestions on what to read the books/documents involved in the controversy and how to read them. Upshot: "What is crucial is that readers do everything in their control to learn what is actually being said in the discussion." (Trevin Wax is trying to do that, and has sought to discern from the writings what people have found problematic in Enns's work.)

3. Jim West (a more moderate Baptist pastor-scholar whom no one will accuse of being a "TR") writes:

Westminster was well within its rights to dismiss Peter Enns. That statement may come as a shock to some, but as a simple matter of fact, institutions are within their rights to establish boundaries. Just as Enns stepped outside those boundaries in the exercise of his academic freedom (and he had every right to do so!) WTS had the same right to take action to preserve its own standards.

Too often these days ‘individual rights’ are seen as the summit of all truth and the exercise of personal beliefs the standard by which everything else is judged. But I maintain that institutions have both a right and a responsibility to preserve their own standards. . . .

WTS was well within its rights. Enns knew what it stood for before he joined the faculty. He knew their viewpoints and he decided to disagree with them. He could, and should, if he felt compelled, speak his mind. But he should not be surprised (and no one should) when WTS asked him to leave.

Again, Enns can say and write what he wants. And - my point is - so can Westminster Theological Seminary. Divorce is sometimes the only avenue when two parties come to a clear parting of the ways and there are irreconcilable differences. No one has the right to be outraged at Westminster any more than anyone has the right to be angry at a wife whose husband has cheated on her and she decides on divorce. Enns cheated. Westminster wants a divorce.

More to come, no doubt.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tactics in Defending Your Faith

From one of my favorite ministries: "STR has a new feature - a 14-week series of short lessons on 'Tactics in Defending the Faith' that will be delivered to your email inbox. It's a free and practical resource from STR's most popular topic."

Be on the lookout this September for Greg Koukl's new book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Zondervan). Koukl is not only a great thinker, but also a wise and winsome communicator.

Check out a number of videos of him answering objections to the faith on YouTube.

Radio Silence

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway writes today in the Wall Street Journal about the odd case of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod canceling its popular, nationally syndicated radio program "Issues, Etc."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hearing, Praying, and Speaking the Word

In listening to an old lecture recently by J. I. Packer, he made the comment that it was not until after the 17th century (as far as he could tell) that people started doing silent prayers and reading as opposed to praying and reading out loud.

For most evangelicals, silence represents the vast majority of our reading and praying. But I wonder if that's to our detriment. One of the great enemies to Bible reading and praying is a wandering mind--and one of the great ways to make your mind wander is to do everything in your mind without involving your voice and ears!

With regard to reading the Word, one thing I've found helpful is to hear and read the audio at the same time. For example, in the ESV you can go to Psalm 1. Notice that next to the chapter reference there's a little button where you can listen (for free) to Max McLean read whatever portion of Scripture you've selected.

Here's something else to consider: the entire Bible on audio is usually about 75 hours (or 4500 minutes). If you commute to work 5 days a week, that's about 260 days a year. And if it takes you, say, 17 minutes to commute each way to work--and if you listen to the Bible on audio during your drive each way--you'll get through the entire Bible twice in a year. That's a good start on Psalm 1:2.

Thabiti on Deacons

Good thinking and teaching on the biblical office of deacon is rare these days. Here's an insightful post by Thabiti Anyabwile on the topic.

Reformed Blacks on Black Liberation Theology, Wright, and Obama

Anthony Bradley of Covenant Theological Seminary was recently on Glenn Beck's TV show on the Headline News Network to answer some brief questions on black liberation theology:

Eric Redmond was interviewed the other day on this issue by Al Mohler, and you can also read online a partial transcript. (Speaking of Redmond, but sure to check out his forthcoming book, Where Are All the Brothers?: Straight Answers to Men's Questions about the Church.) And don't miss Rev. Redmond's pre-primer on Black Liberation Theology.

Finally, Thabiti writes (and I agree): "This is probably the best review and interaction with Obama's speech on race that I've read from someone opposing Obama's basic political philosophy and outlook. It's 'fair and balanced' in a way that most reviews are not."

An Interview with Tom Schreiner

Adam Cheung interviews Tom Schreiner about his forthcoming book, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ.

Peter Enns of Westminster Theological Seminary Suspended

News has just been made public regarding yesterday's special meeting of the Board of Trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), which met to address "the disunity of the faculty regarding the theological issues related to Dr. Peter Enns' book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament." The Board decided to suspend Professor Enns at the close of the school year, with a process in place to consider whether he should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary.

Here is the letter from the Chairman of the Board:
March 27, 2008

Thank you very much for your prayers for the special meeting of the Board of Trustees that was held on March 26 to address the disunity of the faculty regarding the theological issues related to Dr. Peter Enns' book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. After a full day of deliberation, the Board of Trustees took the following action by decisive vote:
"That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary. Further that the IPC present their recommendations to the Board at its meeting in May 2008."
In order to provide the entire Westminster community with a more complete understanding of the Board's decision and to offer an opportunity for questions and dialogue, the Chairman and Secretary of the Board will join the President on campus for a special chapel on Tuesday, April 1 at 10:30 am. Students and staff are encouraged to attend and participate. Following that special chapel, they will hold a separate meeting with the faculty.

Our concern is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ and assure a faithful witness for Westminster for years to come. To that end, please pray for everyone involved during the next two months.

Jack White
Chairman of the Board
(HT: Sibboleth)

No matter where you stand on the issues (for a review of the debate over Enns's book, see this post), this is a difficult day for Westminster Theological Seminary, and I would encourage prayers for all involved.

Update: More links about the book here.

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

Lee Irons: "John Fonville (of Gospel Driven Blog) has created some very helpful chapter-by-chapter outlines of Walter Marshall’s 1692 book The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, using the modern English version edited by Bruce McRae. I highly recommend this book as well as these tools enabling us to access its contents more readily. Do you desire to grow in sanctification? Are you tired of legalistic, law-driven approaches? Let Walter Marshall show you the way as he points you to Christ and your union with him in his sin-killing death and life-giving resurrection. See also my three lectures on sanctification that draw heavily on Marshall."

Life and Preaching with Kent Hughes

The latest 9Marks interview: "Proud to be a Protestant? R. Kent Hughes, pastor emeritus at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, discusses with Mark Dever his 40 years of pastoral ministry."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why You Shouldn't Worry About Jeremiah Wright, and Why You Should

Russell Moore weighs in.

Mohler Tumor Not Cancerous

The Baptist Press reports. Praise to God.

HT: Denny Burk

Why We're Not Emergent

I've mentioned the book Why We're Not Emergent a number of times. It's now available from Tim Challies reviews it today.

You can go to the book's website and read the first chapter and see the endorsements.

Sproul Interviews Ben Stein

Ligonier has posted a video of R.C. Sproul interviewing Ben Stein, whose new documentary, Expelled (on Darwinism and intelligent design), opens April 18.

I would also recommend reading Sproul's book on related issues: Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology.

(HT: Challies)

Monergism Interview with Tim Keller

A new interview here, where Keller is asked "a few questions about his ministry and understanding of communicating the gospel, and then a few questions from a skeptics' perspective to see how he would answer."

An Interview with Craig Blomberg

The following is an interview I conducted with Craig Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary.

Can you tell us a bit about your own personal experience in coming to embrace the historical reliability of the gospels? Was there a period of time in your life when you seriously doubted the historical integrity of the gospel accounts?

I was raised in a fairly liberal branch of the old Lutheran Church in America, before the merger that created today’s ELCA. I vividly remember being very puzzled in confirmation class when I was taught/shown how the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper contradicted each other as an illustration of how our doctrine of Scripture should focus on the main points and basic thoughts of the text but allow for contradictions in the details. Even in junior high, it seemed to me that there were plausible ways of combining the texts into a harmonious whole and seeing each as a partial excerpt of a larger narrative, but our pastor didn’t countenance that option.

In college, at an LCA school, all five of our religion department professors were ordained Lutheran ministers but not one of them believed that Jesus said or did more than a significant minority of the things attributed to him in the canonical gospels. Our Campus Crusade for Christ director on campus, however, pointed us to a lot of good literature that presented credible scholarly alternatives to the skeptical views on numerous subjects that the religion department promoted. Our college library also included quite a large volume of more conservative religious scholarship from a slightly older era because, until the 1960s it had housed a seminary as well as an undergraduate college, and the real move toward liberalism didn’t hit the Lutherans until the 1960s, just one decade before I was in college. So I realized that things weren’t nearly as cut and dried as I was being taught in class.

I also discovered that a disproportionate number of the more evangelical works of the 1970s, at least among those written in America, came from profs at Trinity in Deerfield, which is one of the main reasons I went there for seminary. That was a wonderful time as I encountered so many more credible responses to skeptical approaches that I had been interacting with in junior high, senior high, and college. And credible evangelical scholarship has only blossomed in pretty amazing quantities ever since.

One can easily find blogs and websites claiming that Jesus never existed. Even if we didn’t have the New Testament, what would we know about Jesus from non-Christian sources?

The best source here for a book-length answer is Robert van Voorst’s Jesus outside the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2000). Here is my composite summary:
Jesus was a first-third of the first-century Jew, who lived in Israel, was born out of wedlock, whose ministry intersected with that of John the Baptist, who became a popular teacher and wonder-worker, who gathered particularly close disciples to himself, five of whom are named (though some of the names are a bit garbled), who consistently taught perspectives on the Law that ran afoul of the religious authorities’ interpretations, who was believed to be the Messiah, who was eventually crucified under Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator in Judea (which enables us to narrow the date for that event to somewhere between A.D. 26 and 36), and who was allegedly seen by many of his followers as bodily resurrected from the dead. Instead of dying out, the movement of his followers continued to grow with each passing decade and within a short period of time people were singing hymns to him as if he were a god.
What are some of the major categories of alleged gospel contradictions?

Theological distinctives, numerical discrepancies, similar events that may actually reflect separate episodes or teachings in his life, partial excerptings from longer events, approximations that would not have been seen as inaccurate by the standards of the day, occasional tensions with extra-biblical data, and the like.

Could you give us a couple of examples of alleged contradictions that have plausible solutions?

Did the centurion come to Jesus right off the bat and ask him for his servant to be healed (as in Matthew 8) or did he first send some Jewish elders as an embassy to ask on his behalf (as in Luke 7)? Probably, the latter, since to act on behalf of another person could have been reported as acting oneself. We have the same convention when the media report that “the President today announced. . .” when in fact it was his press secretary.

Did the Sanhedrin condemn Jesus to be sent on to Pilate for execution during a nighttime trial (as in Luke) or first thing after dawn in the morning (as in Matthew and Mark). Probably both. It was illegal to come to a capital verdict at night, but in the flurry of events and eagerness of the authorities to do away with Jesus, it is hard to imagine them not beginning to interrogate him during the night and come to provisional conclusions. But to create the aura of legality, a quick rubber-stamp formal hearing involving the legal essentials, first thing in the morning, is equally likely.

Let me ask about one in particular, because it has been highlighted by Bart Ehrman as being decisive in his journey from evangelical to agnostic. It began, he says, after writing a graduate paper attempting to harmonize the fact that Mark 2:26 has Jesus saying that David entered the temple to eat the bread of the Presence in the days of Abiathar the high priest—but in point of fact, 1 Samuel 21 clearly says that Ahimelech was the high priest during this episode. How would you respond? Was Jesus mistaken?

The Greek here is very unusual. The construction is a two word prepositional phrase, epi Abiathar, which literally means “upon Abiathar.” Obviously, some kind of idiom is being used. One possibility is “in the days of A.” But in Mark 12:26, Mark uses the same construction, epi tou batou (literally, “upon the bush”) where most translations render it something like “in the account of the bush” or “in the passage about the bush”. This makes very good sense of Mark 2:26 as well. Jesus could very well have been saying, “in the account/passage about Abiathar.”
The next question, then, is what Jews in Jesus’ day would have considered an “account” or “passage.” We tend to think today in terms of fairly small chunks of text, but ancient Jews read all of the Torah annually straight through in weekly synagogue readings and the rest of the Old Testament in a triennial cycle of readings. To do so required multiple chapters to be read during worship each week. Each of these multiple-chapter accounts had names to help identify them, sometimes as short as one word. Often the names were the names of a key character in the text. Unfortunately no list of all the names used for the passages has survived. The only ones we know of are those that are mentioned sporadically in the rabbinic literature in the context of some other kind of discussion. But it is hardly implausible to imagine that Abiathar might have been the name given to a multiple-chapter segment of 1 Samuel that included chapter 21 and the details about Ahimelech, since Abiathar appears in the very next chapter of 1 Samuel and became the better remembered of the two figures in Jewish history. I might add that John Wenham set all of this out in a brief article in the Journal of Theological Studies way back in 1950.

Ehrman, in his introduction to Misquoting Jesus, tells the story of writing a paper at Princeton in which he defended a resolution to this problem, though he doesn’t tell us what it was. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was something along these lines, since the article would already have been well known when he was a student. Ehrman goes on to describe how it was his professor’s response (asking him why he did not just say that Mark made a mistake) that revolutionized his attitude toward Scripture. And it was all down hill for him from there.

There are a lot of things I would like to say in response to Ehrman’s autobiographical reflections. But I’ll limit myself here to saying two things. First, if one was prepared to abandon all pretense of Christian faith on the basis of one apparent error in Scripture, one’s faith must not have amounted to much in the first place. I have no problem with accepting as Christian the approach that allows for minor historical mistakes in the Bible but still acknowledges the main story line. That’s not the approach that I take, but I know far too many solid believers who do opt for such an approach to dismiss it as not an option for a genuine Christian. But second, I wonder what else made Ehrman reject his original paper and/or an approach like Wenham’s. I have yet to hear anyone give me a good reason why it is improbable.

Are there certain mistaken hermeneutical presuppositions made by conservative evangelicals that play into the hands of liberal critics?

Absolutely. And one of them follows directly from the last part of my answer to your last question. The approach, famously supported back in 1976 by Harold Lindsell in his Battle for the Bible (Zondervan), that it is an all-or-nothing approach to Scripture that we must hold, is both profoundly mistaken and deeply dangerous. No historian worth his or her salt functions that way. I personally believe that if inerrancy means “without error according to what most people in a given culture would have called an error” then the biblical books are inerrant in view of the standards of the cultures in which they were written. But, despite inerrancy being the touchstone of the largely American organization called the Evangelical Theological Society, there are countless evangelicals in the States and especially in other parts of the world who hold that the Scriptures are inspired and authoritative, even if not inerrant, and they are not sliding down any slippery slope of any kind. I can’t help but wonder if inerrantist evangelicals making inerrancy the watershed for so much has not, unintentionally, contributed to pilgrimages like Ehrman’s. Once someone finds one apparent mistake or contradiction that they cannot resolve, then they believe the Lindsells of the world and figure they have to chuck it all. What a tragedy!

The first edition of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels was published over 20 years ago, and I know that it has been instrumental for many in recovering a basic belief in the reliability of the gospel accounts. The following question might be difficult to answer, but could you give any generalizations about the ways in which perceptions have changed—positively and negatively—in the last 20 years, in the academy, in the pew, and in the marketplace of ideas?

I am very encouraged by most of the developments of the last twenty years. Scholars of all stripes far more often engage evangelical scholarship today than they did two decades ago. Whether or not they engage my book directly, they certainly engage many of the writings of the scholars I rely on most heavily. The so-called third quest of the historical Jesus, which really began in earnest in mid-1980s, continues unabated and is strikingly more optimistic about what we can recover from the canonical texts about the historical Jesus. It is a pity that what has dominated the average American’s attention during this period includes primarily the Jesus Seminar (during the 1990s) which was a largely non-representative and idiosyncratic slice of the scholarly world and now increasingly (during this decade) whatever makes it to the Internet rather than whatever represents the best scholarship even if available only in hard copy form.

The democratization of information that the Internet has created is a very mixed blessing. Without the peer-review process that academic publishers require, anybody can say anything, however, outrageously skewed or downright false, and far too many people read Internet publications far too gullibly. Indeed, if I hadn’t written the peer-reviewed works that I have that people can consult, they shouldn’t necessarily be believing me on this blog! Who knows whether I’d be telling the truth or not?

With regard to the marketplace of ideas, what can evangelicals be doing better to engage the culture on these issues? Evangelical scholars have done an outstanding job of producing top-notch books that defend truth. But what role, if any, do you see new media playing in the next phase of the defense of the faith?

Boy you’ve arranged these questions well. Each one seems to follow from the previous one! In my opinion, the answer has to be both-and. We must continue to publish peer-reviewed works, even if for awhile that still means they will not be Internet accessible. But we must co-operate with each other, even as you and I, Justin, are doing on this blogposting, so that people who ill-advisedly choose not to read anything that can’t be accessed with a split-second Internet connection will find solid scholarship disseminated, and popularized, in the media they are employing. An excellent, new example of this, to which I am contributing, is the brainchild of Darrell Bock at Dallas Seminary and is called Prime Time Jesus. It can be accessed at A dozen North American evangelical historical Jesus scholars take turns posting blogs related to new developments in research and responding to new stories and media events that are making news. No one is overworked, we can all interact with each other, no one can pontificate idiosyncratically without some checks and balances, and anyone in the world can have quick access to the fruits of the best scholarship on this continent germane to the issues at hand.

Finally, what books are you currently working on?

Although my Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey been in print for only eleven, rather than twenty, years, Broadman & Holman have asked me to do an updated version, which will, Lord willing, come out some time in 2009. Because the book, to my delight (and somewhat to my astonishment), has been widely adopted all around the world as a textbook, it is more crucial to keep it up-to-date. It won’t be revised nearly as much as Historical Reliability was, but all the literature and footnotes will be made much more current, small additional sections are being added, and the text is being reworded slightly in places where I realize that very recent scholarship requires it.

Thank you for your time, and for your many years of studying and writing in order to serve the church and to be a faithful witness.

You’re very welcome. Thank you for the invitation to participate in this blog.

Greek New Testament Manuscripts Discovered in Albania

Dan Wallace writes about new NT manuscripts that have now been discovered.

Blomberg on How Historians Can Know Jesus and Why It Matters

Andy Naselli writes:
The second essay in Christ on Campus Initiative’s series was released this morning: Craig Blomberg’s “Jesus of Nazareth: How Historians Can Know Him and Why It Matters.” The CCI essays are (1) by evangelical scholars, (2) geared for campus evangelism, and (3) edited by D. A. Carson.
This is an excellent essay, well worth reading and making available.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

D. A. Carson

Andreas Kostenberger has posted a helpful biographical sketch of D.A. Carson. I believe this was originally published in Bible Interpreters of the 20th Century: A Selection of Evangelical Voices, ed. Elwell and Weaver (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), pp. 423-433.

Do Hard Things: #8 at

The Harris Brothers' book, Do Hard Things, is currently ranked #8 overall at As I've mentioned before, especially if you're a parent or teen, this is a book well worth reading.

McKnight on "Stories with Intent"

Scot McKnight on Klyne Snodgrass's massive new book, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus:
... a book comes along and you make a decision about its importance. This book, you decide, ends the need for a dozen or so other books on your shelves. You go to your shelf, pick up those books, put them in your "To Sell" (or "To Give Away") stack, and put that one book on your shelf that replace the others. Yes, I've got such a book for you:

Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, is such a book. If you purchase this book, you won't need another book on parables for at least a decade. It's available on Amazon right now for almost 40% off. Sure it's a big book, about 800 pages, but there are 32 parables ... and he's got solid chps on interpreting parables, on parables in the ancient world, and a few charts at the back.

I know Klyne; he's been at this book for 20 years. He wrote this book for you: for those who want to study parables. It's not a theory, it's a handbook. If you want to know:

The parable type
The issues for interpretation
The helpful primary source material (Bible, Jewish sources, Greco-Roman, early Christian, later Jewish -- much of it cited right there)
The parallels to this parable (if in the Gospels)
Textual features worth noting
Cultural information worth knowing about
Explanation of parable with options and decisions on the issues
Adapting the parable

It's all here. Helpful, concise, accessible.

Did I say I like it?

I have a shelf of books on parables; I will keep them for one reason. I may have to write something that requires citing a variety of books on the parables. But, I'm not kidding you, this may be the only book on parables a pastor or a student ever needs.

Walking with God

Tim Challies reviews John Eldredge's latest book.

Monday, March 24, 2008

ESV Study Bible

This fall Crossway Bibles will be releasing an all-new major study Bible, called The ESV Study Bible. As some of you may know, I have the privilege of being the managing editor on this project.

A website has been set up,, where you can sign up to receive updates about it. Look for more information on April 15, 2008.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Trueman on Luther on Words That Hurt and Harm

I try not to over-use the label, "must read," but sometimes it's virtually inevitable when commending Carl Trueman's writing. Here he looks at what Luther's practice and theology can teach us about "the problems caused by words that create hurt or are spiteful, words that reshape our realities in ways that do us harm on numerous levels." Read the whole thing.

Peter Jones on "Pagan Christianity"

Peter Jones reviews Viola and Barna's Pagan Christianity. Here's the conclusion:
The apostle Paul gives the best definition of paganism (and do we ever need it in today’s world!), namely, the worship and service of the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Here is an explicit comparison of biblical theism and pagan monism, of the truth and the lie, of the truth of the Creature/creature distinction and of the lie of the divinity of Nature preached by the prophets of the New Spirituality. Of this true paganism, Viola seems dreadfully or naively ignorant. What could have been a significant book, as the title ambiguously suggests, by containing a solemn warning about the inroads of neo-paganism into the culture and the Church today, will alas succeed in doing the very opposite. By evacuating from the term "pagan" any real theological content, and by failing to identify the re-emergence of ancient idolatry in the form of modern mystical spirituality, this book, with the name Barna emblazoned on the front cover, will simply ensure that many will be inoculated from seeing the real thing, namely, the invasion of real "Pagan Christianity," which, as the next great impending apostasy, will threaten the Church to its very roots. From that, Viola’s "liver quiver" gatherings will not save us.

Hurtado in Slate on the Resurrection

Larry Hurtado, Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at Edinburgh University Divinity School, has a short essay in on The Curious Idea of Resurrection.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Andreas Kostenberger posts a helpful chart showing the 11 recorded post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in the NT.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Passion Week Geography and Harmony

Here is something you might find fruitful while contemplating the events leading up to our Savior's death and resurrection: an attempt in Google Earth to show the locations of the major events (to the best of our knowledge) along with descriptions and biblical passages describing those events:

Visit Google Maps to see this map.

The KML file lets you interact with this map in Google Earth, allowing you to rotate the view and zoom in from various angles.

On-the-Go Devotionals

Crossway has just published a couple of "on the go" devotionals by Lydia Brownback that I would recommend for women of all ages. Here's the description:
An easy-to-carry “pocket book” that steers women away from the world’s weak remedies for anxiety and fear and points them to their security in Christ.

While fear-provoking headlines fill our days, and struggles with anxiety are a fact in a fallen world, Scripture says fear does not need to be a fact of life for Christians. This little carry-along “pocket book” for women focuses on the Bible’s great truths about what lies beneath their fears and the means to overcome them—for those who worry just a little, those who suffer a gnawing, controlling fear or actual panic attacks, and every woman in between.

. . . On-the-Go Devotionals easily tuck into a purse or gym bag and make great gifts. Each lesson is self-contained, with Scripture and a paragraph or two of teaching that will steer women away from worldly coping techniques, away from themselves and their circumstances, and onto God and their security in Christ.

The two published volumes are Trust: A Godly Woman's Adornment and Contentment: A Godly Woman's Adornment.

You can read for free online one of the book's Contents and the Introduction and Four Devotions.

Here are some blurbs for the series:

“Skillful devotionals for those who face the challenge to ‘fit it all in.’ Biblically rigorous and deeply perceptive. Godly insights from a godly sister.”
Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life

“A ready resource for keeping our thinking focused on God himself. The devotionals helped me understand my fear or discontent and our Heavenly Father’s provision.”
Barbara Hughes, author of Disciplines of a Godly Woman and, with her husband, Disciplines of a Godly Family

“Lydia Brownback calls Christian women to lift their eyes upward and find security, rest, and peace in a sovereign God whose promises never fail!”
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author and Revive Our Hearts radio host

Gheen Lectures by Millard Erickson

Millard Erickson recently delivered the Gheens Lectures at Southern Seminary:

USA Today: Is Sin Dead?

USA Today has an article today asking, "Is sin dead?" The answer: "No, not by a long shot. Yet as Easter approaches, some pastors and theologians worry: How can Christians celebrate Jesus' atonement for their sins and the promise of eternal life in his resurrection if they don't recognize themselves as sinners?

Among those quoted in the article: the Pope, Al Mohler, Joel Osteen, Michael Horton, Tim Keller, and Mark Driscoll.

Thabiti Interviewed on Black Liberation Theology

Collin Hansen has a must-read interview with Thabiti Anyabwile, author of The Decline of African American Theology and The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors, about the appeal of black liberation theology.

Blomberg's "Jesus and the Gospels"

I've been spending some time working on a harmony of Holy Week (which I may link to later). In working on it, I was reminded again of an outstanding resource: Craig Blomberg's Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey. If I could only own one book on the topic, this would be it. (Written over 10 years ago, I hope there will be a forthcoming updated edition.)

From Blomberg's introduction:
This book is designed to be a "one-stop shopping" textbook for courses on the Gospels. It is hoped that it will be of interest to thoughtful laypersons who desire to deepen their biblical roots, as well as to pastors and scholars looking for a current summary of the state of a wide swath of scholarship. But the book is written first of all with theological students in mind. . . . As I have studied on the Gospels first as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student, and as I have taught similar courses at both levels, I have discovered five topics that lecturers consistently want to introduce: (1) a brief history of the period between the Old and New Testaments as a historical backdrop for studying Jesus and first-century Israel; (2) the critical methods that scholars use to study documents like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; (3) an "introduction proper" to each Gospel, that is, a discussion of who wrote it, when, where, to whom, with what kind of structure, under what circumstances, and with what distinctives; (4) a survey of the life of Christ, with comments on Jesus' primary teachings and actions; and (5) a synthesis of the major issues surrounding the historicity and theology of Jesus himself. But I am aware of no textbook that sets out systematically to treat all five of these topics. . . .

As a result, I committed myself to writing out word for word everything I most wanted my students to know--in other words, to writing this book. Now I tell my classes that if they master nothing other than this one book, they still will have the heart of a very solid introduction to the four Gospels.
Again, I would highly recommend this book.

On the Physical Death of Jesus

Written over 20 years ago and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this article goes into graphic detail about the physical pain that Jesus would have endured in his beatings and crucifixion--which pales, of course, to the spiritual and emotional pain of bearing the wrath of his Father on behalf of God's children.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spurgeon on Preaching Christ

"I believe that those sermons which are fullest of Christ are the most likely to be blessed to the conversion of the hearers. Let your sermons be full of Christ, from beginning to end crammed full of the gospel. As for myself, brethren, I cannot preach anything else but Christ and His cross, for I know nothing else, and long ago, like the apostle Paul, I determined not to know anything else save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. People have often asked me, "What is the secret of your success?" I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel,—not about the gospel, but the gospel,—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news. Preach Jesus Christ, brethren, always and everywhere; and every time you preach be sure to have much of Jesus Christ in the sermon. You remember the story of the old minister who heard a sermon by a young man, and when he was asked by the preacher what he thought of it he was rather slow to answer, but at last he said, "If I must tell you, I did not like it at all; there was no Christ in your sermon." "No," answered the young man, "because I did not see that Christ was in the text." "Oh!" said the old minister, "but do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, 'There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.'" "Well," said the young man, "but suppose you are preaching from a text that says nothing about Christ?" "Then I will go over hedge and ditch but what I will get at Him." So must we do, brethren; we must have Christ in all our discourses, whatever else is in or not in them. There ought to be enough of the gospel in every sermon to save a soul. Take care that it is so when you are called to preach before Her Majesty the Queen, and if you have to preach to charwomen or chairmen, still always take care that there is the real gospel in every sermon."

-CH Spurgeon, The Soul Winner.

HT: Michael Miesen

T4G Registration

Mark Dever: "Registration will be open until March 30, 2008. However, there are only about 300 registration spots left. Registration will close when all the spots sell out, so be sure to register soon if you plan to attend."

Register here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

John McWhorter on Obama's Speech

At the New Republic blog.

John Adams Miniseries: A Pop Culture Miracle

Michael Medved:
When a TV network offers new programming that’s entertaining, inspiring and substantive it’s enough to renew our faith in miracles. HBO’s epic eight hours on John Adams is precisely that sort of pop culture miracle: a lovingly-rendered tribute to the most misunderstood, most under-rated of our founding fathers. Aside from admirable attention to historical detail, the HBO miniseries offers perfect casting—with Paul Giamatti as an Adams who’s simultaneously brave, pompous, and selflessly patriotic. The luminous Laura Linney captures Adams’ wife Abigail, with dialogue based frequently on actual letters, providing a singularly moving portrait of a romantic, richly functional, lifelong marital partnership. The series also stresses the nobility of politics – without which, even battlefield heroism could come to naught. David Morse is appropriately noble, charismatic and dignified as George Washington while Tom Wilkinson enjoys the role of Ben Franklin nearly as much as Franklin himself enjoyed his long life. Every American over the age of ten should see this rewarding piece of work – while prepared to see brief, disturbing glimpses of war time violence. The John Adams miniseries runs on HBO every Sunday night through April.

When Ordinary Is Extraordinary

Owen Strachan:
This is one of the best books you will ever read about the Christian ministry.

That is a dramatic claim. Right now, you're asking yourself if it's true. After all, this book written by New Testament scholar D. A. Carson and published by Crossway Books in 2008 is just shy of 160 pages; it doesn't treat a figure of major historical significance; it doesn't claim to be an exhaustive primer on the Christian ministry. Indeed, it's rather paradoxical in nature--it's written by the preeminent evangelical New Testament professor of the current day, and yet it's a professedly humble little book. Why, then, the rather breathy claim that the just-published Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor is an excellent book? The answer is very simple: it's a straightforward reflection on everyday ministry written by a godly critical thinker, himself involved in the work of ministry. Those who read it will come away with a realistic picture of Christian ministry, an accomplishment rarely achieved with such accessibility and clarity.
Read the whole thing.

The 2008 Christianity Today Book Awards

CT: "This year, 49 publishers nominated 359 titles published in 2007. CT editors selected the top books in each category, and then panels of judges — one panel per category — voted. In the end, we chose 10 winners and gave 11 awards of merit to the books that best shed light on people, events, and ideas that shape evangelical life, thought, and mission. Selections from judges' comments are below." Here's the annotated list.

Ferguson on Owen on Saving Faith

Tony Reinker on Sinclair Ferguson's talk at the Ligonier conference:
He said John Owen’s book, The Doctrine of Justification By Faith, Through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated, is one of the best treatments on the topic of justification (vol. 5 of Works).

Ferguson especially centered his attention on chapter 15 (“Of Faith Alone”). Owen here makes the following observations about the nature of saving faith:

1. That faith whereby we are justified is most frequently in the New Testament expressed by receiving.

2. Faith is expressed by looking.

3. It is, in like manner, frequently expressed by coming unto Christ.

4. It is expressed by fleeing for refuge.

5. It is a leaning on God, or casting ourselves and our burden on the Lord.

I would recommend reading the (surprisingly short) chapter here.

For a few more days you can watch for free the video of Ferguson's talk on The Substitutionary Atonement of Christ.

Sovereign Grace Leadership Interviews

Tony Reinke:
The Sovereign Grace Leadership Interviews feature a roundtable discussion among C.J. Mahaney (president of Sovereign Grace Ministries), Jeff Purswell (dean of our Pastors College), and Joshua Harris (senior pastor of Covenant Life Church). The three gather on a regular basis to discuss a wide array of theological and practical leadership issues.

In the second episode, the topic turns to care for the pastor’s own soul. Harris’ opening question sets the stage:
Pastors are obviously called to care for the souls of others, and yet today we want to turn the focus and ask: How does a pastor make sure that he is caring for his own soul? What does it look like for a man to pursue his own personal relationship with God and make sure he is growing spiritually?
The full hourlong podcast, “The Pastor and His Soul,” can be downloaded here.

Obama to Give Major Speech

Update: Here's the text of the speech.

Barack Obama is scheduled to give a major address this morning (10:15 E.T.) on race and religion and unifying the nation. I think this is the right move.

I suspect it may be carried live on the web at

Jonah Goldberg
highlights the sort of issues that Obama should address (but undoubtedly won't):
Obama righteously deplores "divisiveness." And yet he literally worships at the altar of division. He wants to transcend race, but his black nationalist church and his liberation theology pastor consider race permanent and central issues.

Obama claims that he's a different kind of politician, but his "repudiation" of Wright last week is traditional pol-speak and nothing more. To listen to Obama, you'd think he was the only person in Chicago not to know that his minister is a hatemonger. Either Obama is the worst judge of character in living memory or he's not the man he's been portraying himself as.

Or there's a third option. Perhaps Obama didn't hear Wright's bilious rhetoric because it blended in with the chorus around him. This is the fact that Obama really needs to address if the "Obama movement" is about more than getting the junior senator from Illinois elected. . . .

Obama preaches unity. Well, real unity requires real truth-telling and the ability to tell right from wrong, and Wright from right. . . .

Obama's power base is made up of black voters and the upscale left-wingers who condescend to them. Well, it is time he spoke truth to that power. If the eloquent, self-proclaimed truth-teller and would-be first black president can't manage that, he should go straight from would-be to never was.
Thomas Lifson has a more plausible prediction.

More thoughts from Ross Douthat.

Joe Carter weighs in.

Update: Quick reaction, for what it's worth: a very good speech; I can't imagine one better given the circumstances. But not perfect, for I still think it's a walking contradiction for Obama to be a post-racialist candidate while investing deeply for 20 years in a deeply racialist church. Obama didn't choose his grandmother; he did choose his church.

Good commentary here from Douthat.

Update: Video here:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rev. Wright and Obama

Just a quick post here on Barack Obama and his spiritual adviser/former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The Obamas have been members of his church in good standing for 20 years; Rev. Wright married them; he baptized their children; he inspired the title for Obama's The Audacity of Hope; he was serving on Obama's African American Religious Leadership Committee, etc.

Here's the story that set off the firestorm:

In short, this is a major, major, major problem for Obama. If it doesn't cost him the Democratic nomination, I think it may very well cost him the general election.

Obama has denounced and repudiated these statements, saying that he wasn't in attendance when they were made.

You would expect conservatives to see this as a problem.

Here's Victor Davis Hanson (the whole post is well worth reading):
So the question will simply be left to the American voter:

EITHER: 'Obama probably knew what was going on at Trinity, but, given the complex circumstances and Obama’s other strengths, it doesn’t matter enough to affect my vote;'

OR: 'Obama’s attendance and his feeble reaction to the criticism of Wright provide a valuable warning of why someone so inexperienced and yet so familiar with extremists should not be President of the United States next year.' It's left to the electorate, as it should be.
But liberals are seeing it as a big deal, too. Here's Michael Crowley, the senior editor for the left-of-center The New Republic:
There are two separate issues here. One is political, and that one's not too ambiguous: This is really bad news for Obama, both in the primary and if he makes it to the general. He's worked successfully to escape the image of the "angry black man," and here he is linked to that image in the most emotionally searing way.

The second issue is how we should feel, normatively, about the fact that Obama maintained ties with Wright, even after presumably realizing that he held views Obama now calls deplorable. I'm not prepared to render judgment on that here. But I do worry that this lays bare a very grim truth: That even middle-class black American culture is more angry and alienated than most whites understand, and that our country is simply not yet at the point where even an ostensibly post-racial black candidate can escape that dynamic entirely. (Indeed not only was Wright perfectly acceptable to Obama and his Chicago circle, but it seems likely that it would have been difficult for Obama to separate himself from the preacher had he wanted to, lest he be accused of not being an "authentic" member of the south side black community.) In other words, what's happening here is far bigger than the particulars of Obama and Wright, it's about cultural dissonance that was going to bubble up one way or another. And as a colleague put it to me today, in terms I hope are too pessimistic: "It makes me think it's going to be at least another generation before we see a black man elected president." If Obama can prove him wrong then he really may be a world-historical figure.

And here is Obama supporter Gerald Possner, writing at the Huffington Post:
If the parishioners of Trinity United Church were not buzzing about Reverend Wright's post 9/11 comments, then it could only seem to be because those comments were not out of character with what he preached from the pulpit many times before. In that case, I have to wonder if it is really possible for the Obamas to have been parishioners there -- by 9/11 they were there more than a decade -- and not to have known very clearly how radical Wright's views were. If, on the other hand, parishioners were shocked by Wright's vitriol only days after more than 3,000 Americans had been killed by terrorists, they would have talked about it incessantly. Barack -- a sitting Illinois State Senator -- would have been one of the first to hear about it.

Can't you imagine the call or conversation? "Barack, you aren't going to believe what Revered Wright said yesterday at the church. You should be ready with a comment if someone from the press calls you up."

But Barack now claims he never heard about any of this until after he began his run for the presidency, in February, 20007.

And even if Barack is correct -- and I desperately want to believe him -- then it still does not explain why, when he learned in 2007 of Wright's fringe comments about 9/11 and other subjects, the campaign did not then disassociate itself from the Reverend. Wright was not removed from the campaign's Spiritual Advisory Committee until two days ago, and it appears likely that nothing would have been done had this story not broken nationally.

Come on, Barack. I'm backing you because you are not 'one of them.' You have inspired me and millions of others because you are not a typical politician. You tell it like it is, don't fudge the facts, and don't dodge and weave with clever words to avoid uncomfortable truths.

Tell it straight. Was Reverend Wright so radical that his post 9/11 comments did not cause a stir at the Church, and you never learned about them until 2007, nearly 6 years later? Why, when you did learn about them, did you not ask Revered Wright to step down from his role in your campaign?

Give us the plain truth. You won't lose us by being brutally honest. You only risk shaking our faith in you if you seem like so many other politicians that crowd the field.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Count Your Surprises

J. I. Packer pens a delightful article about the happy surprises that God has brought into his life. His closing line summarizes his point well: "Look for the happy surprises, for they will help you to keep expressing proper gratitude to God all your days."

Keller at UC Berkeley

(HT: Steve McCoy)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Amazon Book Bomb

Alex and Brett Harris--whose forthcoming book, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, I recommend--are doing an innovative experiment in book marketing. They're calling it the Amazon Book Bomb. The idea is to solicit commitments to order the book on March 25 in order to drive up the sales ranking. If you've planned on purchasing the book, consider signing up at their site.

T4G Conference/Book Title?

The four fellas are looking for some help.

If your entry is selected, you'll be listed as one of the co-authors of the book.

(Not really--but check out the contest anyway.)

Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel

Yesterday Jim Hamilton a lecture at Southern Seminary on The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel. (The link takes you to the manuscript; audio is not yet up.)

Google Sky

Google has now launched Google Sky. Here's some info about it:
Traveling to the stars has never been easier To help you explore the far reaches of our universe, we have teamed up with astronomers at some of the largest observatories in the world to bring you a new view of the sky. Using Google Maps this tool provides an exciting way to browse and explore the universe. You can find the positions of the planets and constellations on the sky and even watching the birth of distant galaxies as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

We are particularly excited about the ability to view the universe at different wavelengths, to see how it would look if our eyes worked in the x-rays or infrared. As you explore these new layers, play with the transparency to blend between the different wavelengths and see how different parts of the universe light up at different wavelengths.

If you are interested in what's happening on the sky tonight or over the next few months then check out the podcasts from Earth and Sky or search for the position of your favorite planet.
HT: Matt Reimer

TVs in the Kids' Rooms

An important post here by Al Mohler, referencing a recent NY Times article on the topic, as well as a sermon by Cornelius Plantinga.

Reason for God: #7 on NYT Bestseller List

Tim Keller's The Reason for God will be at #7 next week on the NY Times Bestseller List (for non-fiction). Which, of course, means that more than just evangelical Christians are buying it--a good thing indeed.

Ligonier Conference

I know the announcement is a bit late, but note that the Ligonier Conference (going on now) is being live-streamed, simulcast in Spanish, and live-blogged.

Tyndale Toolbar for Biblical Scholars

Speaking of Tyndale and David Instone Brewer, he writes:

Time is too short to keep opening programs or hunting for web pages for simple things
like looking up a Bible text or finding bibliography.

So I wrote the Tyndale Toolbar to save time. It works in Firefox on PC & Mac, and in IE on PCs.
It isn't the prettiest toolbar on the planet, but for Biblical scholars it is the most useful.
You can download it here.

(HT: James Grant)

Tyndale House: Website Design Competition

Tyndale House in Cambridge (where many of the finest evangelical scholars in the world travel to do their research and writing) is asking for help in redesigning their webpage. Here's David Instone Brewer:
You are probably familiar with Tyndale's webpages. Informative but not inspiring.

At least, that's what I'm told. I'm not good at this visual stuff. So I need your help.

If you produce an inspired design, you could be on every page ("page design by....).

It might be the start of a new career!

Simply copy the page at and redesign it.

So get out your Photoshop or whatever program makes you feel the most creative,
or even Word or Publisher if you wish, and send me a mock up of the web page.

You don't need to produce any code or stylesheets or working menus. I'll do that.

Your contribution is the design - the colors, layout, font, graphics, menu position etc
Please include colours for Hover over and Visited links (if these are different).

Send your entry to me, attached to a reply email. Closing date: May 1st.
The best will go on show and the winner will be famous.

I will be one of the judges, so let me tell you what I like and don't like:

I like usability
e.g. having a full menu always available so you can go anywhere from anywhere
(many websites send you to the home page or obscure part of the page to find the full menu)

I like clarity
e.g. using a plain background which doesn't interfere with reading the text, and using fonts which can be rescaled by the user (using the menu View: Text size)
(many sites use CSS with fixed font sizes so you have to zoom the whole page)

I like easily updated pages
Personally, I hand-craft html, php & MySQL, but most people prefer WYSIWYG.
Unfortunately CMS (Content Management Systems) are often too limiting, so if you propose one, make sure it is very flexible - ie you can add code easily and put anything anywhere. GooglePages are a good compromise, so I integrate these into the site for pages which other people need to update - e.g. staff pages. See mine at
So the design has to allow for this kind of integration of pages within a frame.

Actually, most of this doesn't apply to your design. I'm just getting it off my chest.
So let your imagination go! And show me what you've come up with.
Don't worry about the technical side of things. If it looks good, we can probably find a way to make it work. Attach it to an email to me.
I hope so will take the up the challenge. (For more info on their important work, see the interview I did last year with Peter Williams. For those who want to consider supporting this ministry financially, see here.)

Instructing a Child's Heart

Tedd and Margy Tripp have co-authored a new book, Instructing a Child’s Heart, which is a sequel to his book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

You can watch a 3-minute video clip about the book, as well as read the table of contents and the preface.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Logos: Owen's Works (including Latin)

Great news here from our friends at Logos:
Note: For a limited time, we are offering The Works of John Owen at the incredibly low Pre-Pub price of $174.95. On Friday, April 4, the price will be adjusted to $224.95. Lock in now to take advantage of this special introductory offer! And spread the word to others!

John Owen counts as one of the most influential and inspiring theologians of the seventeenth century. His works capture the essence of theological inquiry in Puritan England, and have shaped and influenced theological reflection ever since. Owen was a proficient writer, composing numerous theological treatises, meditations, discourses, and sermons. His reflections are made more compelling by the context of political turmoil and religious persecution in which he wrote. God still speaks, says Owen, when the world is in flux and the church finds itself in seeming peril—words as important to his original audience as they are to contemporary readers. His writings and teachings spoke to the struggles in his time, and have continued to inspire the generations that have followed.

Logos is pleased to offer the Goold edition of John Owen’s works, with the original Latin treatises completely retained in portions of volume sixteen and the entirety of volume seventeen. Unlike modern reprints of Owen's work, which leave out the Latin, this edition offers Owen's original, untranslated works. That makes the Logos edition of The Works of John Owen a vital tool for research on Owen’s original writings and the preeminent academic standard for Owen scholarship.

Enduring to the End

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." (1 Cor. 9:24)

"The one who endures to the end will be saved." (Mark 13:13b)

Here's a sad clip that may provide a mental image to help us remember the truths above:

Why (Many) Europeans Refuse to Reproduce

Peter Robinson:
With just a single exception, the non-Muslim population of every country in Europe now has a birth rate at below replacement levels. (The exception is Malta, and God bless it.) Why, I ask Bruce Thornton today on Uncommon Knowledge, do Europeans so steadfastly refuse to reproduce?

Because, replies the author of Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide, “children are expensive. They require you to sacrifice your time and your interests and your own comfort. If your highest good is pleasure, if your highest good is a sophisticated life, then children get in the way. Why would you spend so much money and so much energy on children if your highest good is simply material well-being? That's sort of the spiritual dimension of the problem."

“The spiritual dimension of the problem.” There are so few children in Europe, in other words, because there are so few believers.

There’s more. (Look for Chapter 4 of 5).

The Sad Tale Of Eliot Spitzer, and What it Tells Us (and What it Doesn't)

Owen Strachan looks at two angles: (1) a response to an evolutionary biologist who weighed in on Gov. Spitzer's adultery through prostitution; and (2) a reminder for all of us (esp. men) to be diligent in pursuing holiness.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?

Kevin DeYoung passed along today an excerpt from chapter 2 of Timothy Tennent's book,
Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology (p. 48):
This study has sought to clarify many of the issues that lie behind the question, "Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?"

First, I pointed out the importance of differentiating between those predicates about God that we share with Muslims and those predicates about God that are distinctively Christian. We observed not only how crucial the distinctively Christian predicates are to Christian identity, but even how a truly Christocentric perspective transforms the shared predicates.

Second, I attempted to demonstrate that the long and sustained use of the word "Allah" by Muslims has altered its connotation such that, for Muslims, it has become a name for the Islamic God, not just the Arabic equivalent of the English word "God" as it is used by Arabic speaking Christians and Jews. For the Muslim, the word "Allah" is becoming more like the equivalent of the Jewish Yahweh (YHWH) than the more general words el or theos, which, like the English word "God," have a broader application.

Finally, we reflected briefly on the pastoral and evengelistic implications of our question, since this issue has major ramifications for large communities of people who follow the "God of Muhammad" and the "Father of Jesus" respectively.

The result of this survey has concluded that although "Allah" and "God" are etymological equivalents and, as monotheists, we only believe in one God, it would fragment our very identity as Christians to accept the statement that the Father of Jesus is the God of Muhammad.

The reason is that the statement is not essentially an etymological or an ontological statement, but an attempt to identify the predicates associated with the Islamic and Christian use of the words "Allah" and "God" respectively. The phrases "God of Muhammad" and "Father of Jesus" are spoken by communities of faith with important books of revelation that provide hundreds of predicates, all helping to set forth the full context for the meaning of thee two phrases. From the perspective, I must conclude that the Father of Jesus is not the God of Muhammad.

"That Man Should Sail"

A thought-provoking and helpful article here by Gilbert Meilaender, Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University: Vocation: Divine Summons. (Originally published in the Nov. 1, 2000 issue of Christian Century).

Meilander draws from Virgil and Augustine and Dante and Herbert and Lewis to look at the the meaning and significance of God's summons upon our lives and our vocation.

Meilaender's article was recently cited in an article by John Ortberg in Leadership Journal. Ortberg's piece, God's Call Waiting, is also worth reading.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

1 in 4 Teens Have an STD?

A new CDC study suggests that at least one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. "The study by CDC researcher Dr. Sara Forhan is an analysis of nationally representative data on 838 girls who participated in a 2003-04 government health survey. . . ."

I'd be interested in any comments by anyone with expertise in this area, or in the area of statistics. (If you just have a guess or an opinion, no need to comment.)

I don't want to be naive, but this has just doesn't sound right to me. 1 in 4 have an STD??

I confess that I've been suspicious of teenage sex surveys ever since middle school, when guys in my class were eagerly filling in the bubbles indicating multiple partners when, in reality, they were still trying to get up the nerve to actually go and first talk to a member of the opposite sex.

Resurgence Audio

Resurgence is now putting the audio from their recent conference online.

HT: Canvas of Constancy

J. I. Packer to Be Suspended from the Anglican Church of Canada

In June of 2002, the synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster (in Vancouver, Canada) voted to authorize a service to bless same-sex unions. J. I. Packer was among the synod members who walked out in protest, and he explained why in an article for Christianity Today. The lede summarized his rationale: "Why did I walk out with the others? Because this decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth."

On Feb. 13, 2008, Packer's church, St. John’s Shaughnessy in Vancouver (at 760 members, the largest church in the Anglican Church of Canada), voted to leave the ACC and to align with a more orthodox branch in Argentina: the Province of the Southern Cone.

On Feb. 22, 2008, Michael Ingham, Bishop of the New Westminster Diocese, sent a letter to Packer (who has been an honorary assistant at St. John's for over 20 years) and other clergy serving a Notice of Presumption of Abandonment of the Exercise of the Ministry under Canon XIX, based on (1) publicly renouncing the doctrine and discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada; and (2) having sought or intending to seek admission into another religious body outside the Anglican Church of Canada.

If they do not dispute these facts by April 21, 2008, their authority as ministers of the Word and Sacrament (conferred at their ordinations) will be revoked.

Ted Olsen
writes: "Frankly, this story isn't terribly newsworthy in the traditional sense. It's predictable, and any suspension would be irrelevant. Packer will continue his ministry just as he has been doing since he left the diocese." Olsen continues: "The possible suspension of Packer may create a bit of a problem for both the Archbishop of Canada and the Archbishop of Canterbury given the reaction that could be expected from many parts of the Communion. It also has potential to make non-Anglican evangelicals worldwide more interested in the Anglican crisis. "

St John’s put together a DVD (perhaps an hour and a half in length) for their congregation to explain what has happened and why. Journalist Susan Martinuk interviews the rector, Rev. David Short, and Dr. Packer.

The DVD has been broken into 10 parts and posted on YouTube (you can view all of the videos here.)

Because, frankly, I have not been very familiar with the Anglican structure and the ins-and-outs of the controversy, I took a few notes on Rev. Short's interviews, which may be helpful as a kind of Anglican Reallignment Crash Course for Dummies:
All the different Anglican churches in an area gather in a diocese; over the diocese the head pastor is a bishop. In a geographical area (like British Columbia) a group of dioceses form together, and one of their bishops is elected to be archbishop. Canada together is called a province, and one of the archbishops is elected to be a primate. Each province has a primate. The primates meet once every two years. The Archbishop of Canterbury is “first among equals” and calls together the Lambeth Conference.

The Anglican Communion is a global body made up of 38 interdependent provinces (i.e., national churches). (Canada is a province; the US is a province; Kenya is a province; England is a province; New Zealand is a province; etc.) The global communion is, at it were, 38 ships that are all chained together in the historic faith that we have received in the Scriptures, that is expressed in the creeds, in the formularies of the Anglican Church. We are a flotilla of 38 ships sailing toward, say, England. Since 2002, two of the independent provinces [US and Canada] have decided that we are going to sail in a different direction, say, Australia. So the chain that binds all these provinces together is being stretched and stretched. The ships are calling on two of the ships—Canada and the US—to turn around and head in the historic direction that the church has been heading.

In 2003, the primates said that if Canada and the US continued, they will have torn the fabric, broken the chains—so much so that many of these provinces have said we are going to have to cut the chains and allow those two ships to go their own way. The polite Anglican language to speak about that is “to walk apart.”

Many of us in Canada and the US don’t want to go to Australia. We believe that the direction set for us in the Scriptures and in the historic church is the right direction and God has not changed his mind. We want to be part of the global communion, sailing in this direction.

What’s happening now is that a number of orthodox groups are being forced out of their provinces in Canada and the US, and the other provinces are coming along and saying, “You belong to us”—building links and chains, saying “We will take you with us.” A little bit like a rescue option. It’s unprecedented. Never before have two provinces sought to move away from the communion theologically, and never before has there been a rescue mission for those who want to belong to the rest of the church.

In the view of the majority of the communion, schism has taken place. 22 of 38 have indicated “completely broken” or “impaired” communion with Canada and the US. The reason it’s taken 5 years to fall out is because the global communion has (rightly) wanted to be as patient and gracious and careful as possible, calling for moratoriums on same-sex unions. There is still the possibility that the churches in Canada and the US would turn back.

Same-sex unions is really an iceberg issue. 19/20 of the iceberg is below the water. Several issues rise above the water (same-sex blessings; the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ; etc.) What drives this disagreement is a different view of God, of the Bible, of what Jesus came to do, of what the church is all about. That’s below the surface of the water. It’s not so much interpretation of the Bible; it’s the authority of the Bible—how the Word of God functions in the life of the ordinary believer.

Here are the clips from the interview with Packer:

Same-Sex Blessing

First-Order Issues

Implications for the Church

The Future of the Church