Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sean Lucas

Sean Michael Lucas--Chief Academic Officer and Associate Professor of Church History at Covenant Seminary in St Louis--has been elected senior minister at First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

How Children Come to Faith in Christ

Ryan Kelly:

In an earlier post I pointed to some resources for wrestling through the issues of the gospel, conversion, and assurance with our kids. One of the best resources I’ve found is the the Family Life Today radio interviews with Jim Elliff, “How Children Come to Faith in Christ.” You can purchase the series on audio CDs here, which I already mentioned. However, in addition I discovered that six of the sessions are available online for free:

1. Genuine Salvation: More Than a Prayer

2. How Children Come to Faith in Christ

3. Taking Our Children to Church: Is That Enough?

4. How to Deal With Doubt

5. Observing Salvation in Your Child: What Does It Look Like?

6. The Family: No Better Place to Come to Know Christ!

Transcripts are also available at the bottom of each of these pages’ links.

I cannot recommend these talks enough to any parent wanting to be thoughtful, careful, and prayerful in the salvation of their children.

HT: Z

Be What You Are, Are Becoming, and Will Be!

Michael Bird, Introducing Paul (p. 136):
I have found it common for preachers to say that Christians have two natures, spiritual and carnal, and then to liken these two natures to fighting dogs. Our duty, so it goes, is to ensure that we feed one dog and starve the other. But this is not quite true, since Christians have one true nature: the new creation. The process of sanctification (growth in holiness, godliness, and love) is about becoming who and what we truly are, cracked vessels that have been transformed into precious vases. When sin affects Christians, it is not because a civil war is raging within our bodies and we have somehow temporarily yielded to our carnal as opposed to spiritual nature (this is based on a bad reading of Rom. 7). Instead, it is more like we have failed to be and act as we truly are: new creations. A better analogy to use in order to exhort Christians to stop indulging in sin is perhaps more along the lines of urging us to stop trying to lay LPs on a CD player: play CDs on a CD player. Stop trying to load old software onto new hardware. Be what we are, be what we are becoming, and be what we will be on the final day of Christ Jesus!

The Bookends of the Christian Life

Tim Challies reviews The Bookends of the Christian Life, a new short book by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. Here's the conclusion:
In The Bookends of the Christian Life Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington look at the Christian life through a wide-angle lens, examining the framework that supports, stabilizes and secures the believer’s life in Christ. They teach elements of a distinctly biblical worldview, leaning upon the righteousness of Christ on one hand and upon the power of the Holy Spirit on the other. This is a deeply pastoral book that constantly encourages the reader to look to Christ and to depend on the Holy Spirit. I have read it twice and have benefited from it both times. A wise and powerful book, it is one I heartily recommend.
Read the whole thing.

Parallel Bible: Luther's German / ESV

The ESV German/English Parallel Bible is now available.

Here's the description:

German and English are two of the most-spoken languages in the world. This German-English Parallel Bible is ideal for native speakers, bilingual readers, and those who are learning either language. This Bible positions two columns of Scripture on each page: the widely used Luther 1984 German text on the left, and the ESV English language text alongside it on the right. It also features textual notes for both translations in the back and is contained in a durable hardcover format.

  • Size: 5.5" x 8.5"
  • 2,432 pages
  • Double-column, verse-by-verse layout with German and English side by side
  • Textual notes in both languages
  • Black letter text

Monday, March 30, 2009

Zinsser's "On Writing Well": 33 Years Later

William Zinsser's classic On Writing Well was first published in the spring of 1976 (just a few months before I was born). It's now sold nearly 1.5 million copies.

In the latest cover story for The American Scholar the 86-year-old author-teacher reflects on how the book came about and how it has changed over the past three decades.

Zinsser, "liberated from E.B. White" (he explains in what sense) needed a new model: "a writer I would emulate not for his subject but for his turn of mind, his enjoyment of what he was teaching. His model for On Writing Well was American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950, published in 1973 by the composer Alec Wilder. Zinsser writes, "His pleasure was to praise. That connected with my own principle of not teaching by bad example. I may cite some horrible example of jargon or pomposity to warn against the prevailing bloatage, but I don’t deal in junk. Writing is learned by imitation, and I want my students to imitate the best.

The whole piece is worth reading. Here are a few snippets that stood out to me:
  • "I learned to delete every word or phrase or sentence that told readers something they had already been enabled to know or were bright enough to deduce. I also tried to stop using phrases like of course and adverbs like surprisingly, predictably, understandably, and ironically, which place a value on a sentence before the reader has a chance to read it. Readers, I learned, are not as dumb as the writer thinks; they must be given room to play their role in the act of writing—to discover for themselves what’s surprising or predictable or understandable or ironic. They don’t want that pleasure usurped." (Cf. C.S. Lewis's principles on how to become a better writer, point #4.)
  • "The hard part of writing isn’t the writing; it’s the thinking."
  • "[C]cut every word or phrase or sentence or paragraph that isn’t doing necessary work. That, finally, is the life-changing message of On Writing Well: simplify your language and thereby find your humanity."

Lloyd-Jones Sermons

Many are probably unaware that many of Martyn-Lloyd Jones's sermons are available for free at OnePlace.com.

They need some help to keep this going and to expand the sermon collection. From an email from Jonathan Catherwood, President of MLJ Trust:
The purpose of the MLJ Trust is to raise funds in the United States to pay for my grandfather’s works to be broadcast on Christian websites such as Oneplace.com, and, if we aremljtrust.org/donations.html) and your VeriSign secured contribution will be processed by Groundspring, a member of Network for Good.

If you do not feel that a donation can be part of your tithes and offering for 2009, please know that we completely understand. . . . We do hope that you will still visit Oneplace.com, however, as my grandfather’s sermons are currently still there and can be downloaded for free!

Arkes and Kmiec Debate: Lincoln, Abortion, and Slavery

In February 2009 Professor Hadley Arkes (Amherst College) debated Professor Douglas Kmiec (Pepperdine Law School) during a session of a conference on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln at Villanova University. Each video below is about an hour in length.





HT: Moral Accountability

Lebron

Not too shabby:

Ten Questions to Ask to Benefit from a Conference or Special Event

Good suggestions from Don Whitney. " Having invested hours or days of my life in this way, I want to know that it's been time well spent. To better ensure good stewardship of the opportunity, I have developed these ten questions."

HT: Mary Eady

An Interview with Peter Jones

Mark Driscoll interviews Peter Jones, executive director of truthXchange. (In addition to biblical and cultural insights on paganism and the "new spirituality," you also get to learn that Jones was friends with John Lennon growing up!).

Fireproof

Doug Wilson on Fireproof:
If I set myself to think of couples in marriages that I think would be greatly helped by watching this movie, I would run out of fingers inside of a minute. I can also think of Christians who would be offended by the schlock, but many of them would be those who know more about how a movie ought to be made than about how a woman ought to be treated. And they would rather watch a movie about a woman being abused so long as the movie was made right than to have the woman treated right in a movie that offended their refined sensibilities. So which is the altar and which is the sacrifice?
Read the whole thing.

What J.I. Packer Would Say to a New Christian

From Mike Anderson at Resurgence:


JI Packer Speaks To New Christians from Mike Anderson on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Notre Dame and the Controversy over Inviting President Obama as Commencement Speaker

Sarah Pulliam interviews Francis Beckwith about it.

Richard Mouw (President of Fuller Theological Seminary) and David Dockery (President of Union University) also weigh in.

Red River Rising

Thirty photos of the efforts to hold back the waters of the Red River near Fargo, ND. The river runs along the Minnesota-North Dakota border.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Welcome to College

J.P. Moreland on Jonathan Morrow's new book, Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower's Guide for the Journey:
Wow! What a book!! Quite frankly, this is the book I’ve been waiting for the last forty years to give to college students. It is the single best volume I have ever read for preparing students for how to follow Jesus and flourish as his disciple in college. Welcome to College is very readable, the chapters are short yet filled with content, it covers apologetic, biblical, social and moral issues, and it provides critical information that is right to the point. Every parent with a child in or going to college should read this book. Adults should give it as a high school graduation present to every young believer they know. Youth directors need to know the content of this book and recommend it widely. And parachurch ministries like Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, and Navigators should make this a top priority for all staff and students to study. Morrow is to be thanked for writing Welcome to College for such a time as this.
For more info see the author's website.

HT: Brett Kunkle

Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice

A new book by Bryan Chapell, being published by Baker Academic in August 2009.

David Hart on the New Atheists

R.R. Reno has a post about David Hart's new book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Yale University Press).

A couple of quotes from Hart's book:

“By comparison to these men [Hume, Gibbon, Neitzsche] today’s gadflies seem far lazier, less insightful, less subtle, less refined, more emotional, more ethically complacent, and far more interested in facile simplifications of history than in sober and demanding investigations of what Christianity has been or is.”

“Atheism that consists in vacuous arguments afloat on oceans of historical ignorance, made turbulent by storms of strident self-righteousness, is as contemptible as any other form of dreary fundamentalism.”

Who Were the Puritans and What Can They Teach Us?

A new lecture by Sinclair Ferguson at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids) upon the opening of their new Puritan Resource Center.

HT: Tony Reinke

Fred Winters's Widow Testifies to Christ



HT: Denny Burk

Frame on McGowan on Scripture

As John Frame works on his fourth and final volume in the Theology of Lordship series--this one on the Doctrine of the Word of God--I expect that we'll be seeing more of his reviews of key contemporary books on Scripture (which are being published these days in droves). For example, in the past couple of years he has reviewed N.T. Wright's The Last Word and Peter Enns's Inspiration and Incarnation.

His latest review is of a book by his friend Andrew McGowan: The Divine Spiration of Scripture: Challenging Evangelical Perspectives (which is published in North America with a significantly different subtitle: The Divine Authenticity of Scripture: Retrieving an Evangelical Heritage).

The review is detailed and lengthy--over 12,000 words. But here's the upshot:
I would recommend that McGowan give much more attention to the effects of divine spiration on the text of Scripture. So far as I can tell, McGowan regards that text as like any other human book. It is spirated, but that spiration does not make it true. I confess that this absence of attention to the nature of the text seems to be a trend in evangelical theology these days. The same serious flaw, in my judgment, occurs in N. T. Wright’s The Last Word and in Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation. I hope that future writings in this field will discuss this important issue.
In a separate note, Frame also publishes an annotated list of his four favorite books on Scripture.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Paul Tripp on Imagination

Five talks:

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Piper: “The most important prayer is that the most important person in the universe do the most important act in the universe.”

Read the whole thing.

Driscoll on MacArthur

An appreciation.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jesus, Interrupted

Darrell Bock offers some initial thoughts in response to Bart Ehrman's latest book.

Philosophical Word of the Day

Readers may already know about the free Theological Word of the Day program (run by Reclaiming the Mind Ministries and Christians in Context).

Now Chris Reese, an editor at Moody with a philosophy background, has started a "Philosophical Word of the Day" feature at his relatively new blog, Cloud of Witnesses.

The whole blog is worth bookmarking, focusing on theology, writing, culture--and of course philosophy.

Which U.S. City Has the Highest Murder Rate Per Capita?

The answer will surprise you.

Driscoll on Nightline

Mark Driscoll will be on Nightline tonight, debating the existence of Satan.

But you can already watch the whole show online.

Amy Letinsky was at the event live, took notes, and provided some thoughts.

Mars Hill Pastor Jamie Munson writes 8 Things to Know About Nightline’s Satan Debate:

Truths that Transform, Doctrines that Damn

Good blog series here by Kevin DeYoung on "truths that transform" and "doctrines that damn":
Kevin sees the Pastorals giving four categories of passages that speak to the core of apostolic doctrine:
  1. The Trustworthy Sayings (1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9-10; 2 Tim. 2:11-13; Titus 3:4-8)
  2. Creedal Sayings (1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5; 3:16; 6:15-16; Titus 2:11-15)
  3. Doctrines Associated with False Teaching (1 Tim. 1:8-11; 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:18; Titus 1:16)
  4. Truths Associated with the Gospel and Sound Doctrine (2 Tim. 1:8-10; 2:8; 3:14-17)
See the fourth post for his conclusions.

Reynolds on Faith and Science

Last week John Mark Reynolds delivered the Norton Lectures (on “Science and Philosophy in their Relations to Religion”) at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here they are:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pastor-Theologians Preaching

Here are sermons you probably haven't seen yet online:

Sam Storms, now preaching as the pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City

Tom Schreiner, preaching at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville

Theology of Vocation

Gene Veith, writing in Tabletalk:
Do you want to know how Christians can influence the culture? How to have a strong family? Do you want to know the meaning of your life? Do you want to know how authority works? Then attend to the Reformation doctrine of vocation.

This strangely neglected doctrine has to do with how God providentially governs the world of human beings. It also constitutes the theology of the Christian life.

The article is a great summary of Veith's book, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, which I found very helpful.

Veith views God at Work as a simplified retelling of Gustaf Wingren's book, Luther on Vocation, which opened his eyes, changed his paradigm, and helped him to see the Christian life in a whole new way.

A Spiritual Biography of Darwin

I haven't yet seen this book, but the subject matter is certainly interesting:

Charles Darwin's Religious Views: From Creationist to Evolutionist


Anyone here read it yet?

HT: Andrew Fuller Center Blog

Flannery O'Connor

She would have been 84 years old today. But she died nearly 45 years ago from lupus, at the age of 39.

Ralph Wood, observing that "it is almost impossible to read O'Connor without revulsion," explains the key to understanding her life and work:
The key to comprehending Flannery O’Connor’s life and work is to remember that, in her lexicon, divine grace is never synonymous with human graciousness. On the contrary, it is often abrupt and rude and disrespectful of ordinary proprieties, for the skin of human resistance is exceedingly thick. When asked why her characters meet such violent self-awakenings, O’Connor replied that it’s because their heads are so hard. Grace must wound before it can heal, she declared, and her fiction is filled with both woundings and healings. O’Connor wittily consoled readers that, while a lot of folks get killed in her fiction, nobody gets hurt. In her unsentimental reckoning, there are states of thriving but damnable life far worse than a grisly but saving death. Thus is O’Connor’s fiction comic in a precise Dantesque sense: It does not close down toward tragic and final defeat, but opens out toward drastic, even eternal, hope — often at the threshold of total ruin. And this is why, though lean and angular, her fiction will endure.
Read the whole thing.

Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age

I really like the new book out by Steve Nichols and Eric Brandt: Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age. It's short yet just meaty enough. It informs theologically and gives us the history of an important and disputed doctrine in a narrative format. And most importantly, it provides readings from across the spectrum. So it "shows," not just "tells."

The book is centered around three important words related to the doctrine of Scripture:
  • inspiration (ch. 1: "Sacred Word in the Modern World");
  • inerrancy (ch. 3: "Battling for the Bible in the Modern World");
  • interpretation (ch. 5: "Finding Meaning in the (Post-) Modern World").
The in-between chapters provide select readings related to these three issues.

The book closes with three appendices: (1) doctrinal statements on Scripture; (2) key biblical texts on the doctrine of Scripture; and (3) a guide for further reading.

You can read the introduction and chapter 1 online for free.

Derek Thomas says, "This book deserves careful reading even by those who are familiar with the plotlines of the issue. It would be difficult to exaggerate the timeliness of this book." And Phil Ryken says that this is now "the best, clearest, and most reliable historical overview of the doctrine of Scripture for a contemporary audience.

Blogging Worldliness

Jonathan Leeman recently blogged through the book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, edited by C.J. Mahaney: HT: Crossway Blog

Holiness of God Conference

The videos from the Ligonier Conference on God's holiness are now online.

HT: Challies

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oxford University Press Apocrypha

Earlier this year Oxford University Press published an edition of the ESV along with their own revised version of the Apocrypha (available from Amazon.com for $16.50).

For those who are interested, here's some more information from the preface:
This Oxford University Press (OUP) translation of the Apocryphal Books, which is included here along with the canonical books of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible, is not completely new. It draws, in fact, on the mainstream of classic translations extending over the last five centuries; and, most recently, it takes the 1971 Revised Standard Version (RSV) Apocrypha as its starting point. The OUP edition of the Apocrypha represented here also contains the books of the Expanded Apocrypha (1977), including the additional books of 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151.

Except for these three additional books, the Apocryphal Books translated here are those books and portions of books which appear in the Latin Vulgate. With the exception of 2 Esdras, these books also appear as part of the Greek Septuagint, though they were never included in the Hebrew Canon of Holy Scripture. Because the Apocryphal Books were included in the Latin Vulgate, however, they were often read by the church throughout the medieval period along with the canonical books of Scripture.

In Luther’s German translation of the Bible (1534) the Apocrypha stand between the Old Testament and the New Testament, with the title: “Apocrypha, that is, books which are not held equal to the sacred Scriptures, and nevertheless are useful and good to read.” Coverdale’s English translation of the Bible (1535) gave the books of the Apocrypha the same position, with the title: “Apocrypha. The books and treatises which among the fathers of old are not reckoned to be of like authority with the other books of the Bible, neither are they found in the Canon of the Hebrew.” The Apocrypha also had a place in all the sixteenth century English translations of the Bible, and in the King James Version (1611).

As with the Expanded Apocrypha of the RSV, the following edition of the OUP Apocrypha also includes those books from the Septuagint that are in use among Orthodox Christians.

While the entire text was examined for faithfulness to the original languages, the main points of interaction included updating archaic language, clarifying obscure words, removing inaccuracies, and bringing punctuation up to current American English standards. Three scholars well versed in the ancient language worked through assigned portions of the Apocrypha, namely: David A. deSilva, Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Ashland Theological Seminary; Dan McCartney, Professor of New Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary; and Bernard A. Taylor, Loma Linda University. The whole was then edited by David Aiken (Ada, Michigan) to achieve consistency throughout.

The Göttingen Septuagint
served as the textual base for all of the books except 4 Maccabees (which was translated from Rahlfs’s Septuagint) and 2 Esdras (which was translated from the 1983 Vulgate published by the German Bible Society).

We are pleased to offer this version of the Apocrypha to all those readers who wish to explore these ancient writings, which provide additional insight into the history and thought of the Jewish people during the centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Translation Committee for the Books of the OUP Apocrypha

An Interview with David Powlison

C.J. Mahaney has a fascinating interview here with David Powlison:
Perhaps most interesting is part 3, where he describes why being "efficient" and "task oriented" doesn't work well for him.

Here's part of his answer. Read the whole thing to see the rest:
I’ve had to learn how I work best, and it’s not the cultural ideal of tightly scheduled efficiency. For me, effective and productive often operate in ways that seem quite “inefficient.” I’m more “third-world” in my use of time: event-oriented and person-oriented, rather than time-conscious and to-do-list-conscious. I operate with an inner gyroscope tuned to whether or not any particular experience or interaction is complete – not to how long it takes or whether it fits the schedule. I’m attuned to whether or not any particular thought is actually finished thinking, rather than whether the product is done on time. So I tend to take the time it takes to get something right—whether that “something” is the close attentiveness of getting fully engaged in this conversation of consequence, or how to craft this sentence and paragraph, or whether I’m stopping and actually noticing the hawk flying overhead right now.

My way of working—of living—means that I’m not very “efficient” in my use of time because I tend to take the time. I am the world’s worst when it comes to multi-tasking and to checking off to-do list items. It can be a fault for which I must repent; it’s my greatest strength, because I’m fully engaged. I usually forget the clock and the list when I’m working best because I become absorbed in free-form exploration and in qualitative aspects of work-in-progress. We seek to compensate for the shortcomings in my way of operating by getting support from more organized and efficient people who can field incoming requests and help me prioritize.

I admire people who seem able to use every moment productively. But I’ve found that I simply do not work well that way. A certain kind of “wasting time” has proven to be absolutely essential to my fruitfulness. (I’m not recommending my way to others, but simply describing what I’ve learned about how I work. Perhaps some readers also work this way, and can find freedom from trying to live up to an ideal—the so-called “Protestant ethic”—that ill suits how God has made them to function.)

Taking Chance

Mark Hemingway, whose judgment I trust, writes about the new film based on a true story, Taking Chance:
I cannot for the life of me think of another piece of popular entertainment that I would recommend every American watch, let alone recommend it so enthusiastically. It's a remarkably humble little film, and I think the humility is precisely what makes it so powerful. There's not a single battlefield scene, but the film probably does more to drive home the sacrifices the American military makes — both big and small — than just about anything I can think of. . . . Go see it. You won't be sorry.
It's on HBO right now, and the DVD is currently available for pre-sale, with a release date of May 12. (On the Amazon page you can also watch an interview with Kevin Bacon and the man he portrays.)

Here's the trailer:

Collision Movie

This past weekend I blogged about the screening of the movie Collision, which I enjoyed very much.

Here's the official website where you can sign up to receive updates when it gets distributed and is available.

Fanny Crosby

American hymnwriter Fanny Crosby was born on this day in 1820. She became blind as a young child, was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church, and composed nearly 8,000 hymns throughout her life.

Here is a video overview of her life from Mars Hill Church:



You can read her autobiography here: Fanny J. Crosby: An Autobiography.

In 2005 Eeerdmans published a biography of her in their Library of Religious Biography Series: Her Heart Can See: The Life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby, by Edith L. Blumhofer.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Did Obama Allow for Human Cloning? George vs. Kmiec

U.S. News publishes (with permission of course) a vigorous email debate between Roman Catholic law professors Robert P. George and Douglas Kmiec.

I also recommend Klusendorf's chapter on this in The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture, entitled, "Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex"?

Here's a quick FAQ using some of the material from that chapter:

What are stem cells?

Fast-growing, unspecialized cells that can reproduce themselves and grow new organs for the body. All 210 different types of human tissue originate from these primitive cells.

So why are scientists excited about the potential for stem cells?

Because if you could successful introduce healthy stem cells into a patient with damaged organs, there's the potential to grow new nerves, bones, muscles, etc. So stem cells have the potential to help those with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc.

What is embryonic stem cell research?

ESCR is the process of securing early cells from embryos, which have an abundant supply of stem cells.

So what's the problem?

In order to get the cells you have to destroy the embryo.

What is "reproductive cloning"?

This is when a human embryo is cloned and then allowed to live. (President Obama deeply opposes this. See more below.)

What is "therapeutic cloning"?

It's a cloning process called "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT). It involves creating an embryo that is a genetic clone of the patient and then using that embryo as a source for stem cells. But remember, if you want to get the stem cells from an embryo, then you have to destroy the embryo. So with "therapeutic cloning" you create a human being for research but then kill him before he can be born. This is what President Obama is going to have the government fund and support.

Why is the distinction between "therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning misleading?

Because all cloning is reproductive. The process and the result--a human being is cloned--is the same, the only difference is that in "therapeutic" the embroyo is destroyed and in "reproductive" the clone is allowed to live. President Obama proposes "therapeutic cloning" and opposes "reproductive cloning," saying that the latter is "dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society." So the irony is that in President Obama's worldview it is moral and welcome to clone a human and kill him--but if you clone him and let him live it is deeply immoral.

Much more can be said of course!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Roger Nicole on the Gospel

In the post about Carson's essay on the Gospel, Mike Francis posted this summary by Roger Nicole, from his seminar on the atonement at RTS. I thought it was worth reprinting here:
Moved by His incomprehensible love for mankind, the Triune God was pleased not to abandon our rebellious and corrupt race to the misery and hell that it justly deserved, but to undertake to save a great multitude of human beings who had absolutely no claim on His mercy.

In order to bring this plan into execution, the second Person of the Godhead, the Son, took unto himself a full human nature, becoming in all things like his brethren and sisters, sin excepted. Thus he became the Second Adam, the head of a new covenant, and he lived a life of perfect obedience to the Divine Law.

Identifying with his own, he bore the penalty of human sin on the cross of Calvary, suffering in the place of the sinner, the just for the unjust, the holy Son of God for the guilty and corrupt children of man.

By his death and resurrection he has provided the basis
  • for the reconciliation of God to humans and of humans to God;
  • for the propitiation of a righteous Trinity, justly angry at our sins;
  • for the redemption of a multitude of captives of sin whose liberty was secured at the great price of His own blood.
He offered himself as an expiatory sacrifice sufficient to blot out the sins of the whole world and secured the utmost triumph over the enemies of our soul: sin, death, and Satan.

Those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ are thus to be absolved from the guilt of all their sins and are adorned with the perfect righteousness of Christ himself. In gratitude to him they are to live lives of obedience and service to their Savior and are increasingly renewed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This good news of salvation by grace through faith is to be proclaimed indiscriminately to mankind, that is to every man, woman, and child whom we can possibly reach.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Carson on "The Biblical Gospel"

Last week I posted from an article by D.A. Carson, highlighting a section on the relationship between the gospel and social issues.

The whole article is now online in PDF at the Gospel Coalition site.

Here's a summary of what Carson attempts to do in this chapter from 1996:
Historically, evangelicals have been concerned to preserve and promulgate the gospel. But precisely what is this gospel? All sides recognize that it is ‘good news’ in some sense. But what is the content of this good news?

Although it is worth saying something about the ‘gospel’ words in the NT, the issue cannot be answered by mere word studies. Some NT books, eg John’s Gospel, never use the word ‘gospel’, even though from a thematic perspective they obviously have as much ‘good news’ to tell as books that abound in the ‘gospel’ word-group. In the pages that follow, therefore, after some observations on the relevant words, I outline some of the broader considerations that must be taken on board if we are to grasp what the biblical gospel is. And, finally, I outline the primacy of the gospel in all Christian thought and mission over against competitors and would-be usurpers.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. Regarding the relationship betweenthe "gospel of Jesus Christ" and the "gospel of the kingdom" (which some separate), Carson observes: "The point is that all of God’s sovereignty is mediated through the resurrected and exalted Jesus (1 Corinthians 15)." Further, "King Jesus 'reigns from the cross,' as early patristic writers put it." Therefore, "There is no conflict between these two designations ["gospel of the kingdom," "gospel concerning God's Son"], and both drive us to focus on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King, whose utterly extraordinary mission was to die the odious death of an accursed wretch, in fulfilment of OT patterns and pictures and prophecies of sacrifice."

By the way, a good exercise for everyone would be to attempt to write a single paragraph putting the gospel into the storyline of Scripture. Here's how Carson does it:
Thus the gospel is integrally tied to the Bible’s story-line. Indeed, it is incomprehensible without understanding that story-line. God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath. But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects. In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

Hybels on Keller's "The Prodigal God"

In the video on this page Bill Hybels explains how Tim Keller's latest book, The Prodigal God, "wrecked him afresh." Keller will be speaking at their Leadership Summit in August.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Collision

Tonight at the Chrisitan Book Expo I attended a screening tonight of the film Collision, featuring the debates and conversations of Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens.

Mad props--as the kids say (or used to say--haven't checked)--to director Darren Doane of level4.tv for his excellent work.

A few quick thoughts/observations:
  • Hitchens believes that "vicarious atonement" (one man taking the sins of another) is deeply immoral. It powerfully reinforced to me the truth of 1 Cor. 1:23-25: the gospel of Jesus Christ cruficied and risen is simply foolish to the world; in reality Jesus Christ is "the power of God" and he is "the wisdom of God"; and God's "foolishness" is wiser than men, and God's "weakness" is stronger than men.
  • I really liked that there was no "voice of God" narration. Which means that virtually the entire film consists of Hitchens and Wilson talking--making arguments, asking questions, responding, trading favorite P.G. Wodehouse lines, etc. The result is that you get to hear a lot of arguments--something very rare.
  • The editing is evenhanded. It seemed to me that both mean essentially got "equal time."
  • It was good to see the friendship between Wilson and Hitchens that has developed through their time traveling together and debating each other. One senses that Wilson is one of the few Christians that Hitchens actually respects.
  • The music throughout is simply great.
I don't really know the plans for the film (distributor, going to DVD, etc.). But if you get a chance to check it out, Id recommend it.

Also check out the book form of their debate, Is Christianity Good for the World? I'd also recommend Wilson's little book, Persuasions: A Dream of Reason Meeting Unbelief --it's kind of like Pilgrim's Progess written by Van Til (except that it can be understand by most people!).

Here are a couple of trailers for the film:



Carson on Complementarianism

Two talks by D.A. Carson at the CBMW's Different by Design 2009 conference in Minneapolis, co-sponsored by CBMW and the Fidelis Foundation:Brent Nelson highlights these quotes:

Be very strong and clear on what the Scripture says. Try to work out the applicability fairly and even-handedly within the context of your local church. But don't turn that into the new legal structure for all Christians such that this is where you draw your line of demarcation. In other words: get the center right and think center-bounded set. Don't fudge on what the Bible says!

. . . If you come to the conclusion that that best articulated and sophisticated, knowledgeable exegesis of Scripture, carefully thought-through, can be graced with the word "complementarian"; if you come to that conclusion--stop apologizing for it. In other words, at some point you have to say, "This is for your good, it is for my good, it is for the church's good, it is for the culture's good. . . ."

God knows the design. He knows what he is doing. And so you cannot use your culturally-located questions to become a back-door way of saying that you're uncomfortable with exegesis. That it seems to me, leads to distortion in every domain.

Wheaton College Presidential Search

Wheaton College's Board of Trustees has announced that President Duane Litfin will retire from his position in mid-2010. Dr. Litfin, installed in 1993, was Wheaton's seventh president.

More information on the presidential search is available here.

Presidencies of Christian colleges are obviously strategic and significant, so pray that God would provide the right man for the job.

Barnes on Church Planting in WSJ

Political commentator Fred Barnes writing in the Wall Street Journal:
In 2007, my wife Barbara and I left The Falls Church, which we had happily attended from the time we became Christians a quarter-century ago. It's a 277-year-old church in northern Virginia well-known for its popular preacher, the Rev. John Yates, its adherence to traditional biblical teachings and its withdrawal in 2005 from the national Episcopal church. Our three grown daughters and their families stayed behind at The Falls Church.

We didn't leave in anger. We didn't have political or theological anxieties. Rather, we left for a new church because our old church wanted us to. The Falls Church has become entrepreneurial as well as evangelical. It's in the church-planting business. And we were encouraged by Mr. Yates to join Christ the King, the church "planted" near our home in Alexandria. We were a bit ambivalent about the move, but when Christ the King opened its doors in September 2007, we were there.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Scott Lamb

Liveblogging Ligonier: On Calvin and On Holiness

Tim Challies and Alex Chediak have all the notes for the conference now under way.

You can also watch it live via webcast.

Below is an overview of the talks and the schedule:

MINI-CONFERENCE:
John Calvin (1509–2009) — Celebrating a Legacy
In 2009, we celebrate the 500th birthday of John Calvin. It is only appropriate at this time to reflect on his legacy. In the mini-conference, four participants will discuss Calvin’s impact in several aspects of the church’s life and thought. There will be four lectures followed by a Question & Answer time:


1. R. Albert Mohler – John Calvin: Preacher and Teacher
(Thursday, March 19, 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.)
John Calvin was one of the most important figures in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Today, five hundred years after his birth, his influence continues to be felt. In this message, Dr. Mohler will reflect on the life and work of Calvin, focusing in particular on his role as a preacher and teacher of the Word.

2. Ligon Duncan – Calvin and the Christian Life
(Thursday, March 19, 10:45 – 11:45 a.m.)
John Calvin is sometimes perceived as a dry and dusty academic whose writings deal only with abstract theological topics. To read Calvin, however, is to read one who was devoted to seeing God’s Word impact the lives of Christian people everywhere. In this message, Ligon Duncan will explore some of Calvin’s most practical wisdom for those who seek to follow Christ.

3. Sinclair Ferguson – The Doctrines of Grace
(Thursday, March 19, 1:15 – 2:00 p.m.)
Much of the significance of the Protestant Reformers such as John Calvin is found in their rediscovery of the biblical doctrines of grace. After having been buried for centuries under unbiblical doctrines and traditions, their rediscovery and proclamation turned Europe upside down. In this message, Dr. Ferguson will look at Calvin’s formulation of these crucial doctrines and explain why they are no less significant today.

4. Steven J. Lawson – The Legacy of John Calvin
(Thursday, March 19, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.)
The modern history of the church and of the world would be entirely different without John Calvin. The influence of his thought has been felt not only in the teaching and worship of the church, but also within politics, economics, and the wider culture. In this message, Dr. Lawson will look at the legacy of Calvin, explaining what we can learn from him today.

Questions and Answers
(Thursday, March 19, 3:45 – 4:45 p.m.)
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Ligon Duncan, Dr. Steven Lawson, Dr. Al Mohler

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MAIN SESSIONS:
The Holiness of God
The angels declare that God is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Without a proper grasp of God’s holiness we do not understand who He truly is, nor do we understand who we truly are. Once we begin to grasp the true meaning of God’s holiness, our lives and our worship will be forever changed. In this conference, prominent Reformed Christian teachers will expound and reflect upon what the Bible says about God’s holiness and ours. The main sessions will consist of eleven lectures:


1. R.C. Sproul – I Am the Lord, There is No Other
(Thursday, March 19, 6:40 – 7:30 p.m.)
Before he discovered the Gospel, contemplation of God’s holiness and his own sinfulness drove Martin Luther to despair. What did he grasp about holiness that most of us do not? In this lecture, Dr. Sproul will introduce the topic of the conference by explaining the meaning of the biblical concept of holiness.

2. R.C. Sproul, Jr. – Train Up Your Children: Family Worship of the Holy God
(Thursday, March 19, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.)
The worship of our sovereign God is not to be relegated to a mere hour or two each Sunday. Instead, our worship of Him should pervade every aspect of our lives. In this lecture, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. will exhort believers to worship God as a family, providing encouragement and practical instruction.

3. Sinclair Ferguson – Hallowed Be Your Name: The Holiness of the Father
(Friday, March 20, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m.)
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructed His disciples to acknowledge the Father’s holiness and to adore Him in their every prayer. He is the one whom the seraphim adore, singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!” In this lecture, Dr. Ferguson will explore what the Bible teaches us concerning the holiness of our Father in heaven.

4. Steven J. Lawson – The Holy One of God: The Holiness of Jesus
(Friday, March 20, 9:40 – 10:40 a.m.)
The disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ referred to Him as “the Holy One of God.” In doing so, they said something not only about His character, but also about His relationship to the Father. In this lecture, Dr. Lawson will look at what the Bible teaches us about the purity and sinlessness of Christ.

5. Alistair Begg – The Breath of the Almighty: The Holy Spirit
(Friday, March 20, 11:30 a.m. – 12:35 p.m.)
The third person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit, the one whom Job refers to as “the breath of the Almighty.” His work includes conforming believers to the holy image of Christ. In this lecture, Dr. Begg will look at the person and work of the one person of the Trinity whose very name includes the adjective “holy.”

Questions & Answers
(Friday, March 20, 2:30 – 3:25 p.m.)
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Steven Lawson, Dr. Alistair Begg, Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. Moderated by R.C. Sproul

6. Thabiti Anyabwile – Cosmic Treason: Sin and the Holiness of God
(Friday, March 20, 4:05 – 5:05 p.m.)
The sinfulness of sin is not grasped in our day because the holiness of God is not grasped. Sin will only be understood for what it is when God is understood for who He is. In this lecture, Rev. Anyabwile will explain the true sinfulness of sin in the light of the holy and pure character of God.

7. D. A. Carson – A Holy Nation: The Church’s High Calling
(Friday, March 20, 7:15 – 8:00 p.m.)
The history of redemption reveals God calling a people out of the world to be a holy people. In this lecture, Dr. Carson will examine why God has called His people in both the old and new covenants to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, and he will explain what this means for us as believers today.

8. Robert Godfrey – Wounded for Our Transgressions: The Holiness of God and the Cross
(Saturday, March 21, 8:30 – 9:40 a.m.)
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This is the universal problem faced by all men, a problem requiring a solution man cannot provide. In this lecture, Dr. Godfrey will examine why the holiness of God required an atonement for sin and how Jesus fulfilled that requirement for us.

9. Derek Thomas – Be Ye Holy: The Necessity of Sanctification
(Saturday, March 21, 9:40 – 10:30 a.m.)
According to Scripture, we are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Yet our Lord calls those who have been so justified to a life of holiness. In this lecture, Dr. Thomas will explain the importance and necessity of individual sanctification as well as the means God has provided for it.

Questions & Answers

(Saturday, March 21, 11:25 a.m. – 12:25 p.m.)
Dr. Donald Carson, Dr. Derek Thomas, Dr. Robert Godfrey, Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile Moderated by Dr. R.C. Sproul

10. R.C. Sproul – A Consuming Fire: Holiness, Wrath, and Justice
(Saturday, March 21, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Christian Book Award Winners

Tonight was the Christian Book Awards at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas.

Here were the winners (links take you to the book at Amazon.com) in six categories:

1. Bibles

ESV Study Bible

2. Children & Youth

Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice, For Young Men Only: A Guy's Guide to the Alien Gender

3. Christian Life

John Piper, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ

4. Bible Reference & Study

Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings

5. Inspiration & Gift

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional (compiled by Thomas Womack)

6. Fiction

Susan Meissner, The Shape of Mercy: A Novel

Book of the Year

ESV Study Bible

The Dallas Morning News has a bit more info on the top prize.

Dever and Bird on Baptism and Sin

Is practicing paedobaptism a "sin"? Mark Dever says yes. Mike Bird wants to slap him in the face with a soggy fish, calling this statement "theologically irresponsible, pastorally insensitive, and ecclesially arrogant." (Irony alert!) Dever calmly responds.

Update: Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California explains why he doesn't see the big deal, and thinks that the WCF (28.5) refers to the refusal to practice paedobaptism as sin.

The Cross and Criticism

Ten years ago Alfred Poirier (PCA pastor and Board Chairman for Peacemakers) wrote a great article on The Cross and Criticism for The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and it's now available online. It is very much worth your time to read, digest, and apply.

Some excerpts below, but you'll want to read the whole thing.

Definition:
I'm using criticism in a broad sense as referring to any judgment made about you by another, which declares that you fall short of a particular standard. The standard may be God's or man's. The judgment may be true or false. It may be given gently with a view to correction, or harshly and in a condemnatory fashion. It may be given by a friend or by an enemy. But whatever the case, it is a judgment or criticism about you, that you have fallen short of a standard.
Key Point:

"A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ's crucifixion."

In other words, in Christ's cross I agree with God's judgment of me and I agree with God's justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.

Application:
  1. Critique yourself.
  2. Ask the Lord to give you a desire to be wise instead of a fool.
  3. Focus on your crucifixion with Christ.
  4. Learn to speak nourishing words to others.
How to give criticism in a godly way:

  • I see my brother/sister as one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11; Heb. 13:1)
  • I come as an equal, who also is a sinner (Rom. 3:9, 23).
  • I prepare my heart lest I speak out of wrong motives (Prov. 16:2; 15:28; 16:23).
  • I examine my own life and confess my sin first (Matt. 7:3-5).
  • I am always patient, in it for the long haul (Eph. 4:2; 1 Cor. 13:4).
  • My goal is not to condemn by debating points, but to build up through constructive criticism (Eph. 4:29).
  • I correct and rebuke my brother gently, in the hope that God will grant him the grace of repentance even as I myself repent only through His grace (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Case for Life

Readers of this blog know that I mention lots of books that I have found helpful or think that you will find helpful. I usually try to avoid "hard sells" (e.g., You have to buy this book! It's a must-read!) As John Piper once pointed out to me, there's only one Book that's really a "must read"!

But I do sometimes make an exception and say that I think such-and-such is a book that I hope many, many people read. The latest example for me is Scott Klusendorf's new book, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture.

The book is divided into four parts:
  1. Pro-Life Christians Clarify the Debate
  2. Pro-Life Christians Establish a Foundation for the Debate
  3. Pro-Life Christians Answer Objections Persuasively
  4. Pro-Life Christians Teach and Equip
Pastors will be especially interested in chapter 16, "Equip to Engage: The Pro-Life Pastor in the Twenty-First Century."

Here are a few of the blurbs:
The Case for Life is a veritable feast of helpful information about pro-life issues, the finest resource about these matters I have seen. It is accessible to the layperson, and it lays out a strategy for impacting the world for a culture of life.”

J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University; author of Kingdom Triangle

“Scott Klusendorf takes the insights and methods for defending the right to life he so effectively communicates in his teaching presentations into a book that provides a clear and cogent biblical rationale for the sanctity and dignity of life, born or unborn. This is a great tool for the layman who knows he or she is pro-life, but doesn't understand the presuppositions on which his or her beliefs are based or who doesn’t feel equipped to defend or discuss the issue with others.”

Chuck Colson
, founder, Prison Fellowship

“Scott Klusendorf has produced a marvelous resource that will equip pro-lifers to communicate more creatively and effectively as they engage our culture. The Case for Life is well-researched, well-written, logical, and clear, containing many pithy and memorable statements. Those already pro-life will be equipped; those on the fence will likely be persuaded. Readers looking to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves will find much here to say. I highly recommend this book.”

Randy Alcorn
, best-selling author
For a taste of Scott's style and substance, check out the interview he just did with Zach Nielsen, as well as the interview he did last week on embryonic stem cell research with the Crossway Blog. Readers may also recall that I interviewed him at the end of last year about pro-life politics in light of President Obama's victory. You can also check out his work at the Life Training Institute.

With Calvin in the Theatre of God


Registration for the next Desiring God National Conference--"With Calvin in the Theater of God"--is now open. Here's the lineup:
Julius Kim, “At Work and Worship in the Theater of God: Calvin the Man, and Why I Care”

Douglas Wilson, “The Sacred Script in the Theater of God: Calvin, the Bible, and the Western World”

Marvin Olasky, “The Secular Script in the Theater of God: Calvin on the Christian Meaning of Public Life”

Mark Talbot, “The Broken Stage in the Theater of God: Sin and Suffering in Calvin’s World”

Sam Storms, “The Final Act in the Theater of God: Calvin on the Joy of the Last Resurrection”

John Piper, “Jesus Christ as DĂ©nouement in the Theater of God: Calvin and the Supremacy of Christ in All Things”

Union with Christ

Phil Gons has put together a very helpful bibliography on the crucial topic of union with Christ.

HT: Andy Naselli

Charlotte Elliott

On this day in history, in 1789, the English poet and hymn writer Charlotte Elliott was born. She is best known for her hymn, "Just As I Am, Without One Plea." Here's a little overview from Mars Hill:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why the Time Magazine Trumpeting of New Calvinism Is a Bad Thing

Thabiti has some good words of caution.

Peter Singer: The Rare Intellectually Honest Atheist

Dinesh D'Souza gets it exactly right:
Some of Singer's critics have called him a Nazi and compared his proposals to Hitler's schemes for eliminating those perceived as unwanted and unfit. A careful reading of his work, however, shows that Singer is no Hitler. He doesn't want state-sponsored killings. Rather, he wants the decision to kill to be made by private individuals like you and me. Instead of government-conducted genocide, Singer favors free-market homicide.

Why haven't the atheists embraced Peter Singer? I suspect it is because they fear that his unpalatable views will discredit the cause of atheism. What they haven't considered, however, is whether Singer, virtually alone among their numbers, is uncompromisingly working out the implications of living in a truly secular society, one completely purged of Christian and transcendental foundations. In Singer, we may be witnessing someone both horrifying and yet somehow refreshing: an intellectually honest atheist.

Read the whole thing here.

Keep the Fast, Keep the Feast: A Lenten Lifestyle in Imitation of Jesus

As a colleague of mine is wont to say, "Wowsers." This piece by Peter Leithart on fasting and feasting is superb. A great example of Christocentric biblical theology married with practical theology. Excerpting it won't do justice to it, but here are a few pieces of gold:
  • Feasting is the beginning and the goal, but Adam could enjoy the full feast—truly enjoy it—only by first keeping the fast.
  • Fasting is not gnostic. On the contrary, refusing to keep the fast is gnostic. Adam was the first gnostic.
  • Impatience is always incipiently gnostic, because it assumes that nothing can be bettered by time. It is not gnostic to prefer roasted meat to raw. Fasting is not a renunciation of creation; rather, it celebrates and honors the goodness of that most basic and pervasive of all creatures: time.
  • Little by little, piece by piece, waiting and not grasping, saving ahead of borrowing: That is Lenten economics.
  • Sex is so pleasurable, so obsessively delightful, that we have to have our senses trained before we can handle it well. Abstinence is the fast that prepares us for the feast of marriage. Lenten sexuality honors creation by insisting we take time to get ready.
  • Everywhere we turn, the world tells us not to keep the fast. Everywhere we turn, the world tempts us to be Adam. Our culture is devoted to stoking up our appetites and convincing us that we need to have it all, and to have it all yesterday. We are fooling ourselves if we think we don’t participate in that culture.
  • Fasting looks like an enemy to life, but the opposite is true. We live abundantly only if we know how to fast—which is to say, only if we are disciplined to wait until the feast is ready.
And his section on Jesus is worth quoting in full:

Jesus is the Last Adam because He keeps the fast. He enters a world that is no longer a garden, but a howling waste, and in that wilderness Satan tempts Him to break the fast, to be an Adam: “You’re hungry; eat this now. You deserve the accolades of the crowds; you can have it now if you jump off the temple. You want all authority in heaven and on earth, but your Father won’t give that to you unless you suffer an excruciating, shameful death; you can have it all now, no cross or self-denial required. It’s yours, and you only need to do a bit of bowing. Life, glory, power, everything you want, everything you deserve—you can have it all now.”

Jesus refused, and refused, and then refused again, and in so doing broke the power of Adamic sin. Jesus kept the fast; he waited, labored, suffered, died, and then opened his hand to receive all the life, glory, honor, authority, and dominion that his Father had to give Him. He kept the fast and as a result was admitted to the fullness of the kingdom’s feast—because by that time both it and he were ready. And by resisting the devil, Jesus sets the pattern of true fasting and reveals a Lenten way of life.

Read the whole thing.

Never Let the Gospel Get Smaller in Your Heart

A great exhortation here from John Piper.

9 Things the Media Messed Up about the Obama Stem Cell Story

Josh Brahm names names and provides details.

HT: Z

Interpreting the Constitution

Peter Robinson has interviewed Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the video program "Uncommon Knowledge," and they are posting them in chapters throughout the week.

The one for today is on interpreting the Constitution. Justice Scalia argues for a "dead" Constitution, not a "living" one. It's about 8 minutes in length and is worth your time. After admitting that "originalism" is not perfect and that there are some difficult issues, he also says:
The originalist has easy answers for many things, especially the most controversial things in modern times. [Does] the equal protection clause require that states permit same sex marriage? That is not a hard question for an originalist. Nobody ever thought that is what the equal protection clause meant. . . .[Is there] a right to abortion? For Pete’s sake, it was criminal in every state for 200 years. . . . So I have easy answers to a lot of stuff. Whereas, for the "living constitutionalist," there are no answers.
(For more on this, readers might be interested in a blog interview I did a few years ago with Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett, where we covered things like defining “originalism,” “strict constructionism, ” and “the living Constitution”).

Also relevant is a lecture delivered by Clarence Thomas on these issues:
Let me put it this way; there are really only two ways to interpret the Constitution — try to discern as best we can what the framers intended or make it up. No matter how ingenious, imaginative or artfully put, unless interpretive methodologies are tied to the original intent of the framers, they have no more basis in the Constitution than the latest football scores. To be sure, even the most conscientious effort to adhere to the original intent of the framers of our Constitution is flawed, as all methodologies and human institutions are; but at least originalism has the advantage of being legitimate and, I might add, impartial.
Finally, if you want a well-researched, conservative guide to the Constitution, it's probably hard to improve upon The Heritage Guide to the Constitution.

Update: For any lawyers out there, this new book looks like a good one: Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, by Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner (author of the famous reference work Garner's Modern American Usage--a new edition comes out in August).

9Marks: Practical Advice for Young Pastors

The latest 9Marks eJournal (available also in PDF) is now available online. It's devoted to young pastors, and seeks to answer four questions: (1) Where do you begin? (2) What did you inherit? (3) How do you lead change? (4) How do you persevere?

Here's the table of contents:

Editor's Note


Young Pastors: Where Do You Begin?
A Pastor's Priorities For Day One

So you're a brand new pastor. What do you do when you show up at the office on Monday?
By Bob Johnson

The Goals and Benefits of an Installation Service
More than a formality, an installation service gives you a chance to set the tone for your pastorate and begin the work of shepherding.
By Aaron Menikoff

Young Pastors: What Did You Inherit?
8 Steps for Dealing with Difficult Leaders
What do you do when influential members of your church are—shall we say—less than helpful?
By Ken Swetland

Dealing with Bad Documents
You're the pastor now, but the church constitution is clunky and the statement of faith is almost heretical. What do you do?
By Greg Gilbert

Young Pastors: How Do You Lead Change?

Is This a Hill Worth Dying On?
Some pastors make every dispute a hill to die on; others wouldn't fight to save their grandmother's life. Schmucker offers some guidance.
By Matt Schmucker

What I CAN and CANNOT Live With as a Pastor
What issues are worth fighting—or leaving—over? Are there any criteria?
By Mark Dever

Love the Church More than its Health
Pastors need to love the people in their church more than their dream of a healthy church.
By Jonathan Leeman

Should Pastors Change Anything in the First Year?
An old maxim says, "If you don't change something in the first year you never will; and whatever you change in the first year will be a mistake." Is that right?
By Phillip Jensen

One from the Vault: Mark Dever's classic article from 2000, How to Change Your Church

Young Pastors: How to Persevere
WWJD—What Would Jim Do?
James Montgomery Boice's successor shares a few lessons he learned from watching a master.
By Philip Graham Ryken

Shepherding and Trust
A church doesn't learn to trust its pastors overnight; he better be in it for the long haul.
By Robert Norris

A Pastor For Now
Why Mark loves the pastorate, but will be happy to proceed to what’s next.
By Mark Dever

Miscellaneous Book Reviews
Book Review: Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace, by Harvie M. Conn
Reviewed by Greg Gilbert

Book Review: Jesus the Evangelist, by Richard D. Phillips
Reviewed by Byron Straughn

Book Review: The Heart of Evangelism, by Jerram Barrs
Reviewed by Geoff Chang

Book Review: Vibrant Church, by Thom S. Rainer & Daniel L. Akin
Reviewed by Jonathan Leeman

Book Review: Simple Church, by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger
Reviewed by Graham Shearer

Writer's Rooms

Tim Chester points to this audio slideshow on the BBC site:
In a new exhibition, award winning photographer Eamonn McCabe, draws together a selection of works from his project illustrating the working environments of novelists, biographers and poets.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Really Reducing Abortion

A good editorial from CT on President Obama's rhetoric and his call for reducing abortion.

Key point: "If Congress and the White House really want to reduce the abortion rate, we will welcome their suggestions. So far, their specific proposals are doing the exact opposite."

American Degree of Confidence in Social Institutions

Nate Silver looks at the numbers regarding which institutions (press, organized religion, executive branch, military, etc.) Americans trust most and least.

HT: Ross Douthat

People in the Hands of the Redeemer

From Paul Tripp's excellent book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (p. 35; my emphasis):
The central work of God's kingdom is change. God accomplishes this work as the Holy Spirit empowers people to bring his Word to others.

We bring more than solutions, strategies, principles, and commands. We bring the greatest story ever told, the story of the Redeemer.

Our goal is to help one another live with a "God's story" mentality.

Our mission is to teach, admonish, and encourage one another
  • to rest in his sovereignty rather than establishing our own;
  • to rely on his grace rather than performing on our own; and
  • to submit to his glory rather than seeking our own.
This is the work of the kingdom of God: people in the hands of the Redeemer, daily functioning as his tools of lasting change.