Thursday, April 28, 2005

Throwing Out the TULIPs

Timothy George has proposed that we think not of TULIPs but instead of ROSES instead:

Radical depravity

Overcoming grace

Sovereign election

Eternal life

Singular redemption

Roger Nicole, on the other hand, must not like flowers, for he opts to define Calvinism by using a GOSPEL acronym:


Obligatory grace

Sovereign grace

Provision-making grace

Effectual grace

Lasting grace

A Response to the Five Points of Arminianism

In 1958, J. I. Packer paid homage to his historical hero by writing an Introduction to Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ. It is, to my knowledge, one of the most famous introductions in history. In fact, it is much more popular and more widely read than the book itself! More than just an introduction to Owen’s book, it is also a wonderful introduction to the debate on Calvinism vs. Arminianism.

Most people don’t know that before there were the “five points of Calvinism” (TULIP), there were the five points of Arminianism—set forth in a document called the Remonstrant Articles. The five points of Calvinism—expressed in the Canons of Dordt in 1618-1619—were actually a response to the five points of Arminianism.

Here is how Packer summarizes the five points of Arminianism and the five points of Calvinism.

The Five Points of Arminianism

(1) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by his foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift): what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost.

The Five Points of Calvinism

(1) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him. (2) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith, and brought to glory. (3) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect. (4) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object. (5) Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory.

I believe Packer is right when he then comments:

Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content.

One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God who enables man to save himself.

One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, all who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that man’s salvation is secured by any of them.

The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man;

one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation;

one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.

Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the ‘five points’, as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the areas in which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.

For those in the Minneapolis area, I will be teaching a weekend seminar on TULIP: The Pursuit of God’s Glory in Salvation, June 24-25 at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Feel free to join us as we wrestle with and work through these issues.

A Great Question to Ask

When someone asks, “Are you against abortion?” respond with a question: “Do you mean the sort of abortion that protects the child or the sort that does violence to the child?”

Steve Wagner explains.

Remembering to Change

A while back I highlighted the work of David Powlison. He is one of the contributors for our forthcoming book, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ. In my opinion, his chapter—“Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken"--is worth the price of the book. (You can still listen to the original audio online.)

Here is an excerpt of practical counsel by Powlison for living coram Deo (before the face of God):

What one thing about God in Christ speaks directly into today’s trouble? I gave an example earlier from Psalm 25. Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible “verses” aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.

Here’s a simple example. God says, “I am with you.” Those are his exact words. How does taking that to heart utterly change the script of your sexual darkness? What if you are facing a temptation to some immorality? For starters, nothing is private, no secrets are possible: “I am with you.” “I . . . am . . . with . . . you.” Say it ten different ways. Slow it down. Speed it up. Say it out loud. Say it out loud back to him: “You are with me, Lord.” You’ll probably find that you immediately need to say more, like “Help me. Have mercy on me. I need you. Make me understand that you are with me.” You will find that the competing voices, sly and argumentative, will become more obvious. To the degree that you remember that your Lord is with you, then what those other voices have to say will sound devious, tawdry, hostile to your welfare. How did they ever sound so appealing?! The contrast, the battle of wills, the battle between good and evil, will be more evident. Your immediate choice—which voice will I listen to?—will become stark. Remembering what’s true does not chalk up automatic victory. It’s not magic. It’s life. It’s not easy. Your battle will heat up. But we only do secretive things when we’re kidding ourselves. Every time you remember that you are out in public, then you live an out-in-public life. “I AM WITH YOU” means you’re always out in public. In order to sin, you’ll have to drown out the voice of reality, put your fingers in your ears, and switch channels to the fantasy channel, the lie channel, the death channel. And even if you switch channels and sin by high-handed choice, you will still be in broad daylight before God’s searching eyes. You can shut your eyes and plug your ears, he’s still right here. You’ll never get away. And you only have to open your eyes, listen, and turn around in order to find help. After all, he who loves you says, “I am with you,” mainly to encourage you. You have some degree of shame and secrecy attached to your sexual sin, unless you are a brazen, sleazy advocate for your fornications (not yet even fighting enemies at Level 1, but still committed to adore your enemies). Sin can’t stand to be out in public where everybody knows and everybody’s watching. “I am with you” means that the person who can help you right now knows and is watching. In fact, he is watching over you to protect you. He will help you escape darkness, because he has transferred you into the kingdom of the Son whom he loves.

What if you face a different struggle today? What if you feel overwhelmed with aloneness and fear, buried under your hurt, abandoned and betrayed by people? “I am with you.” “I am with you.” Again, when you really hear that, and take it to heart, you know you are not alone. You are safe. Manipulative or violent lust betrayed you; steadfast love never betrays you. Or what if you’re overwhelmed by the grime of past failures? “I am with you.” God is not shocked by the ugliness of your real-time evils. He came to die for “the worst of sinners” (as Paul twice refers to himself—1 Timothy 1:15f). Whatever your struggle, “I am with you” changes the terrain of battle. You now see a fork in the road. A good road runs uphill toward the light, where previously you only knew to hurl yourself down a bobsled run into the abyss.

The Last Word and the Word After That

Melinda Penner has some thoughts on the rhetorical device Brian McLaren employs in his latest book, The Last Word and the Word After That.

Prepare to Die!

John Owen once wrote the following. (As Packer recommends, Owen is often best understood by being read aloud.)

To have the eternal glory of God in Christ, with all the fruits of his wisdom and love while we ourselves are under the full participation of the effects of them, immediately, directly revealed, proposed, made known unto us, in a divine and glorious light, our souls being furnished with a capacity to behold and perfectly comprehend them,—this is the heaven which, according to God’s promise, we look for. (Works VII.338f)

Packer, in his essay “The Spirituality of John Owen” (which we will soon be posting onto, writes:

Sustained by such a hope, the believer can and should face the last enemy squarely and get ready to take death in stride when it comes; and such preparation of heart and mind for passage out of this world into the immediate presence of God was, in fact, a major theme of all Puritan spirituality.

How Owen had prepared himself appears from his deathbed reply on the morning of 24 August 1683 to the news which a fellow minister, William Payne, had brought him that his last work, entitled appropriately enough Meditations and Discourses of the Glory of Christ, was now in the press. ‘I am glad to hear it,’ said Owen, ‘but O brother Payne! The long wished for day is come at last, in which I shall see that glory in another manner than I have ever done, or was capable of doing, in this world.’ He knew that he was dying, and before the day ended he was gone. Right to the end Owen’s lumbering Latinised linguistic precision stayed with him, so that what was almost his last utterance was phrased like a public address, and that was, to say the least, quaint—but I ask you, leaving the stylistic question aside, was there ever a lovelier or sweeter or indeed nobler exit line?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Abraham Kuyper

When principles that run against your deepest convictions

begin to win the day, then battle is your calling,

and peace has become your sin;

you must, at the price of dearest peace,

lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy,

with all the fire of your faith.

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)

[Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate the source of the quote. If you know of it, let me know in the comments. Thanks. JT]

(HT: DavidBlackOnline)

Steve Chalke

You may recall that last week I quoted from Don Carson’s new book—Becoming Conversant with Emergentregarding his conclusion after analyzing the writings of Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke:

“I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the gospel” (186).

I had never heard of Chalke before. Well today Al Mohler offers a review Chalke’s book, which he describes as follows:

Has the message of Jesus been lost? That is the claim made by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann in their now-controversial book, The Lost Message of Jesus. Chalke is a well-known figure among British evangelicals. He founded the Oasis Trust and Faithworks and established his reputation through his broadcast ministry and publishing. Mann is his researcher and collaborator. Together, they have produced a book that has ignited a firestorm in Great Britain that is almost certain to spread to the United States. Put simply, these authors claim that evangelicals have misunderstood, misconstrued, and mispresented the meaning of the cross and the doctrine of atonement.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sowell Food

Thomas Sowell—an African-American economist who serves as Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute—is a national treasure. He is a prolific intellectual with extraordinary research skills, and yet he is also known for his clarity, his concision, and his common sense. I wish everyone who cares about race in America would consider reading his writing.

In an editorial for this morning’s Wall Street Journal, Sowell writes:

For most of the history of this country, differences between the black and the white population—whether in income, IQ, crime rates, or whatever—have been attributed to either race or racism. For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race—that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people. The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites.

Three decades of my own research lead me to believe that neither of those explanations will stand up under scrutiny of the facts.

What, then, is the explanation? Read the article to find out.

Sowell’s new book—Black Rednecks and White Liberals: And Other Cultural and Ethnic Issues—is being released this week. According to the book description, this is “the capstone of decades of outstanding research and writing on racial and cultural issues by Thomas Sowell.”

Monday, April 25, 2005

Plagiarizing in the Pulpit

A couple of years ago my friend Matt Perman and I wrote an article called What Is Plagiarism? for the Desiring God website. As you can imagine, it is not uncommon at our ministry for us to receive letters from pastors confessing that they have plagiarized from John Piper, or for us to inadvertently discover the plagiarism online.

Coty Pinckney, pastor of Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., wrote an excellent article on this issue in light of the fact that the pastor of the largest church in Charlotte recently resigned because of sermon plagiarizing.


It all sounds so familiar.

Glenn Wagner, senior pastor at one of the largest churches in Charlotte, resigned recently, admitting that he has preached sermons from others without attribution.

Early last year I was informed by a member of a church in another state that his pastor was re-preaching my sermons without attribution. Listening to tapes of this unknown man was eerie—particularly when he told one of my personal stories, saying he was quoting “a missionary”—but then, after saying “end quote,” he continued to speak my very words. I felt violated—just as if someone had broken into my house and rifled through my possessions.

Why would a pastor do such a thing? Glenn says he felt “tired and discouraged,” “devoid of any creative ability.” The other pastor said he was burned out. Both had tried to resign prior to the plagiarism, and both had been convinced to stay by others in the church.

But tiredness and a lack of creative energy are not fundamental to this problem. When feeling burned out, both pastors could have sought permission to re-preach others’ sermons, and then given attribution. But both men chose not to do so. Why?

There is only one answer, and it is an ugly one: Pride. For a pastor to admit to his congregation that he cannot compose a sermon is a statement of weakness, of inadequacy. And most church members do not want inadequate pastors.

Can you imagine a pastor confessing, “I am burned out. I need your prayers.

My time in the Word is dry. So I’m going to preach for you a fine sermon another man wrote. May God bless you through it.” Would you respond, “How unprofessional! If I acted that way in my job, I would be fired!”

Guess what? Every pastor is inadequate for the task. Every pastor is incompetent for the ministry. As Paul says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 3:5). So how much of a pastor’s impact on his congregation comes from him?

Nothing—nothing that is of any ultimate importance. We are not adequate to consider anything as coming from ourselves! But Paul continues, “But our adequacy is from God.” Pastors must be called and empowered by God to accomplish God’s work in God’s church. Then—and only then—will they be adequate, competent, sufficient for God’s task.

Charles Spurgeon admitted, “I scarcely ever come into this pulpit without bemoaning myself that ever I should be called to a task for which I seem more unfit than any other man that ever was born.” If we preachers speak before our congregations with any other attitude, we too will be subject to the bane of pride.

So what can you do? What attitude should you have toward your pastor?

First, expect weakness from him. Expect brokenness from him. Know that he struggles with pride and many other sins, and that he needs to be held accountable before others.

Second, speak to him about the temptation of plagiarism. Tell him that if he ever feels burned out and dry, you will support him. Remind him that he is personally inadequate for his task—but that God will make him adequate, in part through the prayers of His people. And commit yourself to praying for him.

Finally, examine your heart. Is your pride wrapped up in the status of your pastor? Do you brag to others about his skills and leadership? That’s part of the problem. So many of us put our pastors on a pedestal, and then we pastors feel we must live there, pretending we are perfect, pretending that all is going well, plastering a smile on our faces, effectively lying to our congregations, thinking that if we admit our problems we will damage our peoples’ faith in God.

God has entrusted pastors with a magnificent ministry—but He wraps this ministry in the inadequate, weak, easily-broken jars of clay that we are.

And “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). May the glory of God shine through the weakness of pastors, so that all might know that whatever our churches may accomplish, all results from God’s power, and not from our professionalism.

New Comments Policy

Untill now, I have resisted instituting anything like a "comments policy." In general, I let it just happen. There have been some good dialogues, some clarifications, good questions, etc. One of the things I appreciate about the blogosphere is that, in distinction from the mainstream media, the readers actually have a voice. If the blogger gets his facts wrong, makes a bad argument, is unfair, etc., he can be called on the carpet immediately and publicly. I appreciate, therefore, everyone who has taken the time to weigh in.

This weekend I read a blog post by a noted evangelical mocking another evangelical's scholarly work as Sunday-school material. I was sorely tempted to leave a comment on the site--anonymously--giving the author a piece of my mind. This reveals two weaknesses of mine: (1) a desire to respond too quickly; and (2) a desire to use my harshest rhetoric when I can have electronic anonymity.

This, combined with the wise counsel from a friend, leads me to institute a new policy for this blog: no anonymous commenting. I would like to see this blog be a forum whereby, as Paul says, we can have "an open statement of the truth" (2 Cor. 4:2). If your comment is of such a nature that you are uncomfortable signing your name to it, then don't make the comment.

My final exhortation--and I certainly include myself in this!--is to recognize that the beauty of the blogosphere is also its bane, namely, its instantaneity. But the lesson I am learning is that it is usually wise, before commenting, to reread the post or comment, make sure you understand precisely what it is and is not saying, and then consider whether it is wise and edifying for you to respond.!



Sunday, April 24, 2005

Doug Wilson on Roman Catholicism

Doug Wilson is starting a new series on the Roman Catholic Church in the form of letters to a friend who is thinking of returning to Rome. (HT: Cawley)

Test Your Poetic Sensibilities

Kris Lundgaard suggests "a simple test to determine whether you have a poetic imagination."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Teaching Your Children Spiritual Truth

Phil Johnson writes a great little article on “Teaching Your Children Spiritual Truth.” If you’re like me, you'll not only find it encouraging and enlightening, but also hilarious (see the conversation with Holly). Here is Phil’s outline:

1. Understand that children can grasp the essence of almost any truth.

2. Avoid figurative language and unexplained symbolism.

3. Clearly separate reality from fantasy.

4. Find out what your children are thinking.

5. Don’t expect them to get the lesson the first time.

Read the whole thing.

On Writing Well

Do you need some tips on good writing? Andreas Kostenberger—in an editorial for JETS a couple of years ago—provided some advice:

1. Always avoid the apt art of alliteration.

2. Avoid clichés like the plague.

3. Never, ever generalize.

4. Do not be redundant or use more words than necessary.

5. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

6. Don’t use contractions.

7. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

8. Foreign words are usually not apropos.

9. The passive voice is to be avoided.

10. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

For tips on becoming a better writer, see Marvin Olasky’s The Write Stuff and Andree Seu’s On Writing. Also worth consulting is R. Scott Clarks On the Writing of Essays.

At a minimum, everyone should own Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. (If you don’t own it, repent and order it.) More detailed and more helpful in some ways is Zinsser’s On Writing Well. If you would have titled this book On Writing Good, this may be one for you to consider.

13 Marks of Biblical Manhood

Al Mohler completes his series on the thirteen marks of biblical manhood:

7. Ethical maturity sufficient to make responsible decisions.

8. Worldview maturity sufficient to understand what is really important.

9. Relational maturity sufficient to understand and respect others.

10. Social maturity sufficient to make a contribution to society.

11. Verbal maturity sufficient to communicate and articulate as a man.

12. Character maturity sufficient to demonstrate courage under fire.

13. Biblical maturity sufficient to lead at some level in the church.

Mohler concludes:

When does a boy become a man? I'm glad I was asked this question, and this series represents my attempt to provide an answer that will be both faithful to Scripture and applicable to the real-life challenges faced by men today. More urgently, it was good for me to think through this question and articulate these hallmarks as I seek to show my own son how to grow into biblical manhood. I am absolutely sure that there is more to be thought and more to be said, but this may help us all to see the challenges before us.

Dads, you are absolutely crucial to the process of man-making. No one else can fulfill your responsibility, and no one else can match your opportunity for influence with your son. By word and by example, we are teaching our sons the meaning of manhood. May God make us faithful as we seek to lead our boys to become true Christian men.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

13 Marks of Biblical Manhood

Al Mohler asks the question, “When does a boy become a man?” The answer, he argues, must go far beyond biology and chronological age.

As defined in the Bible, manhood is a functional reality, demonstrated in a man's fulfillment of responsibility and leadership. With this in mind, let me suggest thirteen marks of biblical manhood. The achievement of these vital qualities marks the emergence of a man who will demonstrate true biblical masculinity.

  1. Spiritual maturity sufficient to lead a wife and children.
  2. Personal maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father.
  3. Economic maturity sufficient to hold an adult job and handle money.
  4. Physical maturity sufficient to work and protect a family.
  5. Sexual maturity sufficient to marry and fulfill God's purposes.
  6. Moral maturity sufficient to lead as example of righteousness.

Part two, tomorrow, will offer seven more marks of biblical manhood.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

As I mentioned a while back, Josh (from the blog Fire and Knowledge) has been helping me create a website devoted to John Owen's life and thought. It's now up and running:

Steven Curtis Chapman and Adoption

A nice article about Chapman and the adoption of some of their children.

One of my favorite quotes on adoption is by J.I. Packer (whose three children are adopted). He writes in Knowing God, "Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption" (p. 202).

There are 34 million orphans in the world right now. Consider what you might do to obey this verse:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

You can visit the Chapman's foundation, Shaohannah's Hope.

More Reasons Not to Love Starbuck

The latte effect and the Starbucks effect.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only twentysomething in America who doesn't love Starbucks. Any others out there?

(Kevin Cawley is prohibited from commenting on this post.)

More Thoughts on Andrew Jones and Carson

Andrew Jones is frustrated that Don Carson hasn’t entered into a dialogue with him about Emergent. One of the reasons, I would suggest, is that Jones has thus far demonstrated either an inability or an unwillingness to listen and respond charitably and accurately.

Here is one of the things that Jones wrote on his blog—and repeated in recent days:

"Regarding the accusation that emerging church people do not believe in truth or moral absolutes and that they tolerate everything, my response is this . . .
1. That is not true.
2. That is not right.
3. I will not tolerate it.
4. Because of answers 1-3, either Carson's description of someone in the emerging church is not correct, or I am not a part of the emerging church."

There’s just one small problem—well, actually three small problems: (1) Carson didn’t say that emerging church people don’t believe in truth; (2) Carson didn’t say that emerging church people don’t believe in moral absolutes; and (3) Carson didn’t say that emerging church people believe in everything.

Am I wrong on this? If I am, bring forth quotes from Carson’s lectures to this effect. If I am right, I call upon Jones to issue a public apology to Carson.

Carson, in this section, is not talking about emergent beliefs. He is talking about secular postmodernism and describing its characteristics. This is couched in the broader category of his complaint that Emergent is not sufficiently critiquing these elements within postmodernism. He doesn’t say that Emergent abandons truth and morality and substitutes in its place total toleration.

Upshot: I regret to say, but can come to no other conclusion than that Andrew Jones has deeply misunderstood Carson and failed to listen charitably or to respond wisely.

Or let’s take another example:

I can’t comment on all these right now, but the one on slavery bugs me. Last weekend at the Roundtable for Global Emerging Church, we decided to collaborate together to end human trafficking (modern day slavery) and some of the people are already working on the web site. I should really go to sleep now . .

Again, this is just sloppy thinking. Carson is offering a reductio ad absurdum. He is showing that a result of the way McLaren downplays the categories of “right and wrong” makes it more difficult to say that slavery is wrong. The argument doesn’t suggest that Emergent folks think slavery is fine. Rather, the argument depends on the supposition that Emergent folks detest slavery. It’s an argument of logical consistency, not an observation. So for Jones to come back and say that this argument bugs him because Emergent is working to end human trafficking is to deeply misunderstand what Carson is saying.

A related matter: in his Open Blog Post to Carson, Jones asks Carson four questions. One of them has to do with whether Carson is willing to present a positive alternative—a model—for how church is to be done in a postmodern context.

In my blog post in response, I wrote:

It’s a legitimate question, but I find it surprising, given that Carson already answered this in his lectures. The church he held up as a model is Redeemer Presbyterian Church, pastored by Tim Keller, in the heart of Manhattan. They are ministering not mainly to disenfranchised evangelicals, but to secular postmodenists in the city. Their purpose: “Seeking to Renew the City Socially, Spiritually & Culturally.” Emergent folks might be interested in Keller’s articles on The Missional Church and Preaching in a Post-modern City; Part 2.

Jones responded in the comments section, but he ignored this point of mine. So far as I can tell, he hasn’t issued a correction or clarification on his site. If the point of his Open Blog Post to Carson was not just to embarrass Carson but was also a genuine desire to seek information, I suggest that he either withdraw the question or issue a correction.

Emergent folks continually ask for dialogue and conversation over these matters. I think such can often be good and wise. (Though I think that they are elevating “conversation” too highly, as if we would all agree if we just sat down and hashed things out. Again, I think it can often be wise and helpful, but I see quite a few examples in the NT of responding to critics—both in the church and outside the church—without first sitting down to have a cup of coffee with them.)

Jones makes it very explicit in his open post to Carson that Jones is a significant blogger, a significant consultant, and a significant leader within Emergent. He then bemoans Carson’s unwillingness to dialogue with him. But, frankly, I don’t blame Carson. Jones so misunderstands Carson’s words that I’m not sure a conversation would be all that fruitful.

Here’s one of the reasons I’m bothered by all of this. There are thousands of people who have never heard Carson’s lectures and yet are convinced that Carson deeply misrepresented and misunderstands Emergent. Perhaps this is the inevitable fruit of the blogosphere with its instant reactions and real-time analysis. But I don’t think it is very helpful or fair.

I know that it looks like I’m picking on Jones here. I have nothing against him personally. If I’m wrong in my analysis of him, I’m open to correction—and if I can be shown that I’m wrong, I’ll retract and apologize. I just hope that he’d be willing to do the same if he reads this post and concludes that I’m right.

One final note: some might conclude that I’m just picking on Jones because he disagrees with Carson. But that’s not true. Consider Scot McKnight, who is blogging on Carson’s book over at JesusCreed. Precisely because McKnight—who is a former colleague of Carson’s and yet sympathetic to Emergent—has listened thoughtfully and carefully to Carson’s arguments, I believe he has earned a right to be listened to in his critique and in the questions he is asking.

Update: Andrew Jones and I have had (what I regard to be) a helpful exchange in the comments section to this post. Please refer to it for further clarification, apologies, and explanation. Thanks. JT

A Good Challenge to Reformed Theologians

John Frame, after surveying 22 contentious controversies within Presbyterian over the past 70 years, presents what he calls "An Unrealistic Dream." Let's hope that it's not. Here it is:

That Reformed thinkers continue to have bright, fresh ideas, but that they present these ideas with humility and treat with grace and patience those who are not immediately convinced.

That Reformed thinkers with bright ideas discourage the rapid formation of parties to contend for those ideas.

That those initially opposed to those bright ideas allow some time for gentle, thoughtful discussion before declaring the bright ideas to be heresy.

That these opponents also discourage the rapid formation of partisan groups.

That those contending for various doctrinal positions accept the burden of proof, willing to bear the difficulty of serious biblical exegesis.

That we try much harder to guard our tongues (Jas. 3:1-12), saving the strongest language of condemnation (e.g., 'denying the gospel') for those who have been declared heretics by the judicial processes of the church.

That Reformed churches, ministries and institutions be open to a wider range of opinions than they are now — within limits, of course.

That we honor one another as much for character and witness as we do for agreement with our theological positions.

That occasionally we smile and jest about our relatively minor differences, while praying, worshipping and working together in the love of Christ.

From Frame's essay, Machen’s Warrior Children.

Pope Benedict XVI--What Should We Think?

Al Mohler answers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Social Security in Black and White

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, Alphonso Jackson (the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development) explains why the partial privatization of social security would benefit black America.

As it stands today, black seniors are disproportionately more dependent on Social Security, but they receive less benefit from the system. While approximately 20% of white Americans depend entirely on Social Security for their retirement income, the figure doubles for blacks.

But blacks receive far less in return for their Social Security contributions. One in three will get no benefit at all because he will die before he is eligible to collect benefits. After a lifetime of paying into Social Security, nearly 30% of black seniors are left in poverty, compared to 7% of white seniors. And while the average black male lives to age 67.8--after collecting less than one year of Social Security--the average white male will collect seven years of benefits. In effect, black workers are subsidizing the retirement of whites. The inevitable results of not reforming Social Security--raising payroll taxes or reducing benefits--would only worsen the situation for blacks.

ESV Blog

The English Standard Version (ESV) has a blog now: For all you bloggers out there, check out their Blog Bible Giveaway. They are sending out free compact ESVs to the first 100 bloggers who add them to their blogrolls.

Carson on McLaren

Readers might be interested in Scot McKnight’s new blog. McKnight is a respected NT scholar who taught for many years with D.A. Carson. In his new blog——he is going through Carson’s book on Being Conversant with Emergent chapter by chapter. McKnight comes from an interesting viewpoint, as he respects Carson and is friends with him, and yet is also sympathetic to Emergent. With regard to Carson’s analysis of McLaren, McKnight writes:

No one who reads Brian McLaren or who finds him to be a significant theologian can afford not to read the seventh chapter of DA Carson’s book. Here’s what I mean: if DA Carson is right, McLaren’s book is seriously problematic and not just in a pedantic or miniscule way: if DA Carson is right, McLaren is seriously wrong.

Here are Carson’s conclusions on McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy:

“Every chapter of this book succumbs to the same elementary analysis. Every chapter has some useful insights, and every chapter overstates arguments, distorts history, attaches excessively negative terms to all the things with McLaren disagrees (even when they have been part of the heritage of confessional Christianity for two thousand years), and almost never engages the Scriptures except occasionally in prooftexting ways” (180).

“Sadly, I find just about every step of McLaren’s argumentation at this point either factually questionable or frankly manipulative” (135).

“I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the gospel” (186).

McLaren endlessly employs false antitheses to set up his point. So I was especially happy to see Carson forcefully deal with this issue:

“Damn all false antitheses to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ” (234).

Monday, April 18, 2005

Interview with Douglas Gresham

NarniaWeb snagged an exclusive interview with Douglas Gresham about the upcoming Narnia movies. (HT: CTMag).

Why I Want to Be Left Behind!

Many of us know the lyrics to the song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”:

A man and wife asleep in bed

She hears a noise and turns her head he’s gone

I wish we’d all been ready

Two men walking up a hill

One disappears and one’s left standing still

I wish we’d all been ready

…There’s no time to change your mind

The Son has come and you’ve been left behind

(Larry Norman wrote the song in 1969. DC Talk revived it on their 1996 album Jesus Freak.)

The lyrics are based on Matthew 24:40-42:

Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Now Greg Koukl offers the wise counsel to Never Read a Bible Verse—instead, he says, read Bible paragraphs. The other bit of advice I would offer is: Interrogate the Text. Don’t be a passive reader. Rather, ask questions of the text. Discern the terms and discover the arguments.

The most obvious question we should ask for this text is:

“What does it mean to be taken, and what does it mean to be left? Which one is good, and which one is bad?”

Let’s look at the verse immediately prior to vv. 40-42. Verses 37-39 read as follows:

As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Simple observations: Being “swept away” is bad, for it is being swept away unto judgment.

Now let’s read the verses immediately following vv. 40-42. Verses 43-51 read as follows:

42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Simple observations: The obedient servant is allowed to say and is put in charge of the master’s possessions. The wicked servant is put out with the hypocrites in a place of punishment.

The conclusion, I would submit, is obvious. We should desire to be left behind. The “one who is taken” is not being caught up in the rapture of the Lord—rather, he is being swept away to judgment and to hell!

That's why I say with confidence: I want to be left behind--to worship, to serve, and to reign with our Lord Jesus Christ in the new heavens and the new earth. Maranatha!

The Baptism of Disciples Alone

In my opinion, the best book on baptism is Fred Malone's The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism Versus Paedobaptism. While a bit repetitious at times, I find Malone's arguments exegetically sound and insightful. I highly recommend it. Here are a couple of endorsements:

“Fred Malone has written one of the most important books on baptism to appear in at least the last two hundred years—and every thoughtful Christian will find The Baptism of Disciples Alone to be an essential guide to thinking through the debate between what Dr. Malone rightly identifies as the ‘paedobaptists’ and the ‘credobaptists.’ The Lord Jesus Christ set baptism at the center of Christian worship and as the defining mark of Christian identity. Dr. Malone is a scholar and pastor who argues with biblical passion and instructs by personal testimony. He presents his case with the skill of an attorney, the conviction of a theologian, and the care of a faithful pastor—and he is right! We are all in his debt.”

—R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Fred Malone presents the best case I have seen for believers’ baptism from a covenantal perspective. This outstanding book deserves to be widely read and studied by everyone involved in the baptism discussion.”

—Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Executive Editor, Christianity Today

Reformation Study Bible

There is now a new webpage devoted to the Reformation Study Bible.

Unskilled, Unaware, and Positively Reinforced

Greg Koukl asks a good question this morning: Are You Smart?

A smart person is smart enough to know he's smart. A dumb person often is too dumb to know he's dumb, so he thinks he's smart. So both of them think they're smart, but only one is really smart and the other is dumb.

So here's my question: Do you think your smart? If you do, are you really smart, or are you too dumb to know you're dumb?

Koukl’s point is that internal psychological confidence is insufficient; outside evidence is also required. That's why we don't just speak of "faith," but also of "convictions."

Koukl’s observation about self-assessment of intelligence has been confirmed by numerous studies. 70% of Americans consider themselves “above average” in intelligence.

For one of these studies, see: Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1999). Here is the abstract:

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

If you ask me, one of the culprits for this has to be what some are now calling TMPR—Too Much Positive Reinforcement.

TMPR parents pump up their child's self-esteem into an enormous vacuum. The kid feels great, but she has done nothing in particular to feel great about. . . . “The self-esteem movement gained a lot of momentum just in the last decade, where it was a big deal in schools and in the workplace to praise people for their efforts,” Murphy said. “There were all these happy-face signs and ‘good jobs’ and they would get trophies for everything. This is what a lot of experts are saying has gotten berserk.” Meanwhile, our popular culture looks like a TMPR triage area.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ward Connerly

Ward Connerly--one of the most tireless and passionate spokesmen for a colorblind government and the fruition of Marin Luther King's dream--reflects on his life's work and why he considers it to be of value.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Becoming Conversant with Emergent

Don Carson’s new book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, is due out next week. Zondervan has posted onto their website an excerpt, containing the table of contents, the intro, and part of chapter one. Here is a helpful excerpt:

I have tried to avoid too much technical discussion. The flavor of the lecture series has not been entirely removed. In reality that means this book will probably frustrate some readers in opposite ways: some will find the treatment of postmodernism to be too elementary, and perhaps others will find parts of it heavy going. The notes will help the former, and I hope that rereading will help the latter. But the book is several times longer than the manuscript of the lectures. The brevity of the latter meant that I could not indulge in detailed documentation or introduce a lot of nuances and exceptions. Owing not least to the fact that some emerging church leaders have criticized the lectures, in various blogs, for such omissions, I have tried in this book to fill that gap as much as possible.

Whenever a Christian movement comes along that presents itself as reformist, it should not be summarily dismissed. Even if one ultimately decides that the movement embraces a number of worrying weaknesses, it may also have some important things to say that the rest of the Christian world needs to hear. So I have tried to listen respectfully and carefully; I hope and pray that the leaders of this “movement” will similarly listen to what I have to say.

Ironically, just the other day, one of those bloggers—Andrew Jones—wrote An Open Blog Post for Don Carson 1.0. Instead of waiting for the book to appear and allowing Carson the public opportunity to offer clarifications and further nuance, he wrote the open post with a number of points in questions. This weekend, I wrote a paragraph-by-paragraph interaction with the whole thing, but decided to scrap it. Instead, I’ll highlight just two things that may be of interest to others.

Jones begins his open letter like this: “Hi Don.” Even though I’m probably younger than Jones, I’m still from the “old school” where you don’t address a research professor of international acclaim whom you don’t know in this way. I’m sure Jones intended no disrespect—he even writes “Please do not assume disrespect in this blog posting.” But I’d encourage him to read Stephen Carter’s CT article, Rudeness Has a First Name: Instant Informality Actually Sabotages True Friendship.

In response to Carson’s Cedarville lectures Jones writes:

We admit that some of our churches suck. And there are thousands of them around the globe, many of them brand new, immature, unwise and adolescent, so finding the ones that suck is not that difficult. But you have not yet given us a good model of church to compare ourselves to, or a direction to take if we choose NOT to start emerging churches out of our new believers instead of traditional churches. Please bear in mind that many of us in global ministry are starting churches in VERY non-Christian countries, and often with no budget or support, and therefore buying a building or renting one is not always an option – neither is paying a full time pastor, or paying for a seminary education. So . . .
before we tell our emerging house churches to look for real estate, and
before we tell our front line missionaries to leave the drug addicts on the streets and return to the suburbs, and
before we shut down our web-sites and move back to books and articles, and
before we retool our simple church training at festivals and drum up funding to rent conference centers and hotels, and
before we take ministry out of believers homes and place it in an A-Frame building with a big parking lot . . .
please tell us about the local church you give leadership to and why you think it would make a better model than the churches we are starting.

It’s a legitimate question, but I find it surprising, given that Carson already answered this in his lectures. The church he held up as a model is Redeemer Presbyterian Church, pastored by Tim Keller, in the heart of Manhattan. They are ministering not mainly to disenfranchised evangelicals, but to secular postmodenists in the city. Their purpose: “Seeking to Renew the City Socially, Spiritually & Culturally.” Emergent folks might be interested in Keller’s articles on The Missional Church and Preaching in a Post-modern City; Part 2.

Why I Am Not an Armenian

A movie came out recently entitled My Son Shall Be Armenian. It’s the gripping true story of one man’s journey to go to any length to ensure that his oldest boy will not succumb to the temptation to become a 5-point Calvinist.

Ok, I’m joking. The movie is real; my description isn’t. But I do it tongue-and-cheek to illustrate a common mispronunciation. After all, the Armenians are “a nation or ethnic group, originating in the Caucasus and eastern Asia Minor.” The Arminians, on the other hand, are Christians who believe in libertarian free will and believe that divine election is based upon divine foreknowledge.

So while some Armenians may be Arminian, and some Arminians may be Armenian, just because you are an Armenian doesn’t make you an Arminian and just because you are an Arminian doesn’t make you an Armenian. So don’t call Arminians Armenians and don’t call Armenians Arminians.

This has been a public service announcement from Between Two Worlds.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Who Were the Puritans?

Historian Thomas Babington Macaulay once famously wrote, “The Puritan hated bear-baiting not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.And journalist H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy.”

But C.S. Lewis was not as historically naïve. In the Screwtape Letters he has Screwtape claim credit for the caricature: “The value we have given to that word [Puritanism] is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years.”

If the only picture that comes to mind when you hear the Puritan label is a Salem Witch trial or a cranky Calvinist, then you might want to check out The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Randall C. Gleason. (Both of the editors did their doctoral dissertations on my historical hero, John Owen.)

Each chapter contains an exposition of a Puritan classic by a scholar. For example, Leland Ryken writes on Paradise Lost, J.I. Packer unpacks Pilgrim’s Progress, and Sinclair Ferguson looks at The Mystery of Providence.

So who were the Puritans? No one definition is sufficient. It can be narrowly defined, but then certain Puritans don’t quite fit the label. Or it can be so broadly defined that it loses its distinctiveness. Kapic and Gleason rightly choose to focus upon “a cluster of characteristics that describe the overall ethos that united the various theological, political and ecclesiastical streams of Puritanism.” Here are the seven characteristics they identify:

  1. Many understand Puritanism as a movement of spirituality.
  2. Puritanism, at its heart, lays stress on experiencing communion with God.
  3. Puritans were united in their dependence upon the Bible as their supreme source of spiritual sustenance and guide for the reformation of life.
  4. The Puritans were predominantly Augustinian in their emphasis upon human sinfulness and divine grace.
  5. The Puritans placed great emphasis upon the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.
  6. The Puritans were deeply troubled with sacramental forms of Catholic spirituality fostered within the Anglican church.
  7. Puritanism can also be understood as a revival movement.

The entire introduction—Who Were the Puritans?—can be read online.

Kapic and Gleason write that “it seems fair to suggest that one of the tasks of a scholar is to read widely, find some of the very best literature and then suggest a distilled list of texts worthy of the layperson’s time.” I love that vision of the academy serving the church.

Take up and read!

Jonah Goldberg

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there love it when Jonah Goldberg is cranky and insightful at the same time?


Melinda Penner and Greg Koukl both provide some excellent thoughts this morning on McLaren's new book, The Last Word and the Word After That.

TNIV Sales

Interesting discovery: despite having what is probably the largest advertising campaign in church history, the TNIV is only ranked #14 out of the top 15 Bibles sold this month, according to the EPCA. I'm surprised.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Public Philosophical Interrogation, Street Theatre, and Marital Nihilism in All Its Glory

I know blogging is supposed to be cutting edge, commenting on the latest article to appear and what not. I’m also aware that my blogging credentials might be revoked for highlighting an ancient article (from 2004). But I’m willing to take that risk. Here’s an excerpt of a great article by Francis Beckwith, published at National Review Online. It was written in light of the situation when the mayor of San Francisco decided to start granting marriage licenses to gay couples in defiance of state law. I’d love to see some creative conservatives try this!

I believe . . . that given present circumstances that the best strategy is to take the mayor at his word and employ “street theatre” in a provocative way in order to force the other side to defend their marital nihilism in all its glory. Here’s the plan: Have about 50 folks go to San Francisco city hall and request marriage licenses, but not for gay marriages, rather, for other sorts of “unions” that are also forbidden by the state: three bisexuals from two genders, one person who wants to marry himself (and have him accuse the mayor of “numberism,” the prejudice that marriage must include more than one person), two married couples who want a temporary “wife-swap lease,” a couple consisting of two brothers, two sisters, or a brother and a sister, an adult mother and son, and a man who wants to add a second wife and a first husband in order to have a “marital ensemble,” etc., etc. Let’s see if the mayor will give these people “marriage” licenses. If not, why not? If not, then the jig is up and the mayor actually has to explain the grounds on which he will not give licenses to these folks. But what could those grounds be? That it would break the law? That marriage has a nature, a purpose, that is not the result of social construction or state fiat? If so, then what is it and why?

This is the sort of public philosophical interrogation that has to occur if the social conservatives really want to win. All their legal and social-science posturing — i. e., their appeal to what the majority of citizens want, etc. — will be for naught unless they can press the other side to account for their point of view. For this is not a dispute about “policy.” It is a battle over the nature of who and what we are and whether we can know it. It is philosophical combat over metaphysical turf with no Switzerland to which one can flee for asylum.

The street theatre I am suggesting will show that once marriage is defined merely as a contract between consenting adults rather than as an institution grounded in our natures as men and women, recognized and honored by the wider community, then marriage simply does not exist. According to the mayor of San Francisco, marriage is not something we enter; it is something we create or undo by our willfulness. It is not part of the order and nature of things that we honor and preserve by subjecting ourselves to its moral grandeur; rather, it is like the colors of traffic signals, diplomatic immunity, or the dollar amount of parking fines, arbitrary rules created by governments in order to facilitate safe travel, economic transactions, international relations, state funding, and/or public peace. Ironically, that means that gays who are forbidden by the state to marry each other are not being treated unfairly or unjustly, since, according to their own view of things, marriage is a creation of the state and there is no standard of marriage with which the state’s definition must be consistent in order to be considered “just” or “unjust.” Consequently, the premises that ground same-sex marriage put in place ideas that are consistent with, and will likely lead to, the unraveling of marriage itself.

Lego and Let God

Those who want a picture of how to labor to carefully build a church may be interested in this.

Joel Osteen

Here is an excerpt from CT’s review of Joel Osteen—the “Smiling Pastor”—and his new book Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living Your Full Potential:

One of the finest chapters shows how Christians should aim for excellence and integrity. The book undercuts the emphasis on integrity, however, by suggesting trivial examples of God's favor to the faithful: faster seating in restaurants, a last-second opening of an excellent parking space, being upgraded to first class without seeking it, and enjoying a personal exemption from an airline's baggage policy.

Osteen tells of not wanting to check an expensive television camera on a flight to India. The counter clerk insists that the airline’s policy strictly forbids him from it carrying on, and Osteen asks if he can talk to someone else. A pilot walks up and offers to stow the camera behind the cockpit.

“The woman behind the counter glared at me and shook her head, clearly aggravated,” Osteen writes. “I just smiled and said, ‘Sorry, ma’am; it’s the favor of God.” Or was it simply that an observant pilot intervened to prevent an unnecessary conflict (which some planning on Osteen’s part could have prevented) from escalating?

God and College Students

For some reason, a spate of studies are coming out all at once on the religious/moral/spiritual lives and beliefs of college students.

The first is a book called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by sociologists
Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. Andy Crouch at CT writes:

have good news for the sainted souls who serve on youth minister search committees at churches across the land. Your job just got easier.

To identify promising candidates, you only need to ask two questions. First, “Have you read Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers?”

If the answer is no, politely move on to another interview. If the answer is yes, your second question should be, “What are you going to do about it?”

Crouch writes: “The results overturn nearly every piece of conventional wisdom about teens and faith.” Some examples include the finds that (1) there is no generation gap; (2) teens like church; and (3) teens are not “spiritual seekers.”

But Al Mohler also picks up on a troubling trend:

…if most of the teenagers reflected conventional beliefs and practices, very few were able to offer even a rudimentary explanation of what these beliefs and practices mean. These teenagers were remarkably incoherent and inarticulate in speaking of their own convictions…. American teenagers are very religious, with a vast majority indicating a belief in God. Yet the God in whom many of these teenagers believe bears virtually no resemblance to the God of the Bible.

Mohler’s article concludes with this summary and encouragement for us to be missiologically aware:

In the main, the researchers found that the contours of adolescent belief--across all institutional and denominational boundaries--can be reduced to what they called “moralistic therapeutic deism.” This “de facto creed” was found most commonly among mainline Protestant and Catholic youth, but this profile was also visible among some conservative evangelicals. According to “moralistic therapeutic deism,” God's main concern is that individuals be happy, good, moral, and pleasant. In the main, this religion is “about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents.”

This important new study offers a wealth of sociological analysis. Soul Searching is a thoughtful and credible investigation of adolescent beliefs and practices. We must recognize that sociology has its limits, and the response of the Christian church should be based in theological conviction rather than sociological strategy. Nevertheless, this research project should serve as a catalyst for careful Christian thinking, and as an impetus for missiological awareness as we consider the vast mission field represented by America's teenagers.

For those who want more, Books & Culture recently interviewed Christian Smith—Stuart Chapin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill—one of the authors of the study.

Another new study out is called OMG! Generation Y is Redefining Religion, Identity and Community—a comparing the identities of young Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims and their relationship to both religious identity and institutional religion. The survey, conducted by a Jewish group called Reboot, opens their survey as follows:

A word about the title of this survey: OMG! is one of the most popular expressions used by communicating by email, instant message, or cell phone text messaging. In order to minimize of keystrokes, writers use OMG! as shorthand for Oh My God! If you needed this explanation, not know what instant messaging is, you probably should give this report a close read.

You can read a summary of their findings here.

Also just released is the study Spirituality in Higher Education: A National Study of College Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA. They surveyed 112,000 students attending 236 four-year colleges and universities. You can read an article about it here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Phil Johnson, Michael Spencer, and N.T. Wright

An interesting letter from Phil Johnson to Michael Spencer on the subject of N.T. Wright, making some helpful and necessary points.

Desiring God Sale

Desiring God is currently experiencing a significant financial challenge. (You can read a letter about it here.)

In response, they are having a major sale: 40% off of all audio products, and 25-40% of selected book titles. (The book prices are already low.)

So if you've never bought a Piper book or audio resource, or if you want to stock up or give some away, this would be the time to do it! Here is their online store.

Sinclair Ferguson on the Promises of God

Ferguson writes some helpful reminders here.

Hanegraaff Sues

Hank Hanegraaff, radio's "Bible Answer Man," is suing Chrisitan blogger Wiliam Alnor. You can read the details at CT.

On why CRI is taking a fellow believer to court, Hanegraaff told CT that Christians should never do so in an arbitrary fashion, but, "At some point, you have to say, 'Enough is enough.' Truth and justice do matter."

Hanegraaff added, "If you don't respond, people think there may be something to it."

Read that last line again, and then read Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?


CT provides a roundup of reactions to Grenz and his legacy.

You Heard It Here First

Exclusive--must cite Between Two Worlds!--Hillary Clinton will never be elected president.

Two reasons: (1) There is not a person on the planet--well, Michael Moore doesn't count--whose candidacy will inspire and motivate the Republican base like Hillary's. (2) She is a very poor public speaker. Her style is eerily robotic. (For those who doubt this, you can listen online to a speech she gave in Minnesota the other day.)

Bill Clinton, for all his faults, had two things going for him: (1) He was a charmer; (2) He was a very smart politician. Hillary, on the other hand, is charm-free. And while I know it must be a minority position, I happen to agree with Jay Cost: "The plain fact is that Hillary Clinton is actually one of the worst politicians in national politics today."

So there you have it. Remember, you heard it here first.


Joshua Claybourrn gives a positive plug forthe new six-hour series "Revelations" which is set to premier Wednesday, April 13 (9-10pm ET) on NBC. Claybourn writes that it's imperative for Christians to support this sort of thing in the the mainstream media.

Four More Days! Four More Days!

“The Tax Foundation announced this morning that Tax Freedom Day—the day each year when Americans stop working to pay taxes and begin working for themselves—falls on April 17 in 2005. This year's Tax Freedom Day is two days later than 2004's but much earlier than 2000's April 30.”

(HT: WorldMagBlog)

Bush, Carter, and the Pope

After President Bush failed to invite Jimmy Carter in the American delegation for the pope's funeral, I'm very happy to see that Bush is reaching out to Carter with this important assignment.