Friday, September 30, 2005

Sinclair Ferguson on the New Perspective on Paul

Here's an address by Sinclair Ferguson on the New Perspective on Paul.

(HT: Weyland Leach)

Pagitt on John 14:6

Greg Koukl looks at Doug Pagitt's take on John 14:6. This is a great post to read if you're interested in Emerg-ent/ing stuff. And it's also a helpful contrast between clear thinking and sloppy reasoning.

$100 Laptops

Here's an interesting story about the guy who is working on producing durable $100 laptops that will include a hand crank for electricity. Like the GodPod, I think there could be a great potential in using this technology on the mission field.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Homers and the Eight Myths of Homeschooling

Blogger Dan Edelen--who studied educational theory and plans to homeschool his own kids--recently did a provocative series on The Myths of Homeschooling (four parts: 1, 2, 3, 4). Here's a key quote to express one of his burdens:

Homeschooling is being increasingly used as a ruler by which to measure people and judge their fitness as parents. If you don't see that, then count yourself lucky that you live in a place where people don't do that. I don't live in that place. Despite living all over the Midwest and California, I've never lived in a place where homeschooling wasn't used to judge people.

If you homeschool or know people who do, you'll also want to make sure to read Douglas Wilson's superb piece on Homers. He makes a crucial distinction between humble homeschoolars and radical home-centered "Homers" that look down on anyone who sees things differently.

But back to Dan Edelen. What follows are his eight myths. I think he makes a number of helpful points, though I don't agree with everything (especially his downplaying of the value of a classical education and his emphasis on agrarian education!).

Myth #1: If you don't homeschool your kids, you're not a good parent

Myth #2: Homeschooling more actively involves parents in their children's educations

Myth #3: The educational methodology behind most homeschooling curriculum is superior to the methodology used in public schools

Myth #4: The ________________ method is by far the best way to homeschool kids

Myth #5: A parent is a child's best teacher

Myth #6: It is "more Christian" to homeschool

Myth #7: Homeschooling protects our children

Myth #8: Homeschooled children are smarter than their peers

(HT: Challies)

Stand to Reason

I had the privilege today of going to lunch and attending a staff meeting with the folks at Stand to Reason. If you aren't familiar with Stand to Reason's website and blog, I encourage you to check them out. They do an excellent job of equipping the church to become ambassadors for Christ.

Three Winners, Three Losers

Lots of retrospectives are being penned now that the hurricanes seem to be over. Marvin Okasky--as usual--does an excellent job of summarizing the big picture. He writes: "Here's hoping that our run of major hurricanes is over -- and here's an opportunity to examine which people, institutions and concepts won or lost credibility this month."

His three big losers:

1. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who jumped to erroneous conclusions and cast blame like confetti.

2. National media that served as megaphones for hysteria and propaganda.

3. The federal bureaucracy.

His three big winners:

1. The U.S. military.

2. Faith-based groups.

3. The importance of individual preparedness

Together for the Gospel

On Al Mohler's radio program on Monday he interviewed Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and C.J. Mahaney. For those interested in going to the Together for the Gospel Conference--featuring Mohler, Dever, Duncan, and Mahaney (along with R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and John MacArthur)--the early bird registration expires at noon on Friday, Sept. 30.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ashley Smith

I'm on the road this week, hence the light blogging.

Quick question: remember Ashley Smith, the woman who was abducted by a serial killer, but was released after his heart was touched by her spirit. She cooked him breakfast, talked about her daughter, and read him portions of Rick Warren's A Purpose Driven Life.

Well at the CBS New Blog, Public Eye, they write:

Maybe Nichols let her go because of what she said about her daughter. Maybe he let her go because of what she read from Warren’s book. Maybe he let her go because she gave him crystal meth. We’ll likely never know the answer with certainty. (my italics)

Yep. Smith didn't tell the public that not only did she read Warren's book to Nichols, but she gave him some of her crystal meth!

Ignoring for a minute the irony of CBS News dealing with journalistic integrity and ethics, they ask some good questions:

The question is, when presented with stories like this that are so clearly engaging, when the characters fit so perfectly into the profiles that make a story interesting -- or inspiring -- do reporters stop asking the important questions, leaving potentially important details behind? If a reporter had somehow uncovered Smith’s recent disclosure back in March, would that have changed the story’s angle? Probably. Smith’s account might have been discredited, or at least questioned more than it was at the time. She might have never had that book deal.

Many stories that seem simple at first almost always end up being far more complicated. What seems like a perfect story is likely full of all kinds of messy complications that don’t fit in with the narrative, because it’s not just a story – it is real life.

Not unrelated to these questions, Jonah Goldberg looks at the exagerrations and rumors propagated by the media in the last few weeks as the hurricanes hit.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Write Your Own Caption

Our daughter, Claira:

You Might Be a Minnesotan If...

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through l8 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by.

If you're proud that your state makes the national news 96 nights each year, because International Falls is the coldest spot in the nation.

You were delighted to get a miniature snow shovel for your 3rd birthday.

Your birthday was in April, and you still got to use the shovel right away.

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March, you might live in Minnesota.

If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't work there.

You have ever apologized to a telemarketer.

If your dad's suntan stops at a line curving around the middle of his forehead, you might live in Minnesota.

If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in Minnesota.

If your town has an equal number of bars and churches, you might live in Minnesota.

If you know how to say Wayzata, Mahtomedi, Edina, Shakopee, Winton and Ely, you might live in Minnesota.

If you think that ketchup is a little too spicy, you might live in Minnesota.

You measure distance in hours.

You laugh out loud every time you see a news report about a blizzard shutting down the entire East Coast.

You think of SPAM as a quality, all-purpose meat product whether served with eggs for breakfast, in a sandwich at noontime, or in a hot-dish for supper.

You know several people who have hit deer more than once.

You often switch from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day and back again.

You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.

You see people wearing hunting clothes at social events.

You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend knows how to use them.

You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.

Down South to you means Iowa.

You find 0 degrees a little chilly.

(HT: Chris Nelson)

In Defense of (Terrorist) Profiling

Clifford D. May--a former New York Times foreign correspondent and currently the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (a policy institute focusing on terrorism)--pens a helpful column defending profiling. But not racial and religious profiling.

So if racial and religious profiling is not a good idea, what kind of profiling is? Terrorist profiling -- which simply means utilizing all the knowledge that has been gathered over recent years about those who have committed acts of terrorism: what they've done, how they've lived, where they've been and how they've behaved.

On 9/11/01, America was attacked by 19 terrorists. Every one of them – a statistically significant 100% -- was male, young and from a country where influential elites support and encourage Militant Islamism.

Does that suggest that security officials should give more attention to a young man from Saudi Arabia than to a young woman from Denver? Should a retiree from Orlando be of less interest than a perspiring teenager whose British passport indicates a vacation in Afghanistan in 2000 followed by a visit to Chechnya?

If we had infinite resource and time, we could scrutinize all passengers equally. But we don't. Either we prioritize screenings on the basis of reliable data and rational risk analysis – or we kid ourselves and, sooner or later, sacrifice lives on the altar of “political correctness.”

Horton's "Covenant and Eschatology"

Here's a review by David Gibson (originally published in Themelios) of Michael Horton's Covenant and Eschatology. I'm surprised that the book hasn't gotten more attention, given the renewed interest in narrative theology.

Reformation 21

A new issue of the Reformation 21 e-zine is now online. It includes an essay on divine impassibility by Paul Helm, and a review by John Hannah of A God-Entranced Vision of All Things.

The Quandries of Roe v. Wade

From the latest "Public Square" by Richard John Neuhas in the print edition of First Things:

The quandries created by the regime of Roe v. Wade. In Lufkin, Texas, sixteen-year-old Erica had been trying by various measures to kill the twin babies with whom she was four-months pregnant. She finally asked her boyfriend Gerardo to stomp on her stomach, which he did, and the babies died. Gerardo, but not Erica, is charged with murder. The Associate Press reports, "The case has attornies on both sides questioning the fairness of a statute that considers one person's crime another person's consitutional right." According to Roe, Gerardo was helping Erica exercise her constitutional right to kill her babies. Unlike other abortionists, of course, he was practicing without a liscence, which is against the law in Texas.

(The Houston Press has a long article about the case.)

Bible Literacy

Adam Nicolson, author of God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, writes in the Wall Street Journal today about biblical illiteracy.

Do we need to know what it says in the Bible? Are we somehow illiterate if we don't? Up until, say, 100 years ago, biblical literacy would have been practically mandatory. If you didn't know what "the powers that be" originally referred to, or where "the writing on the wall" was first seen, or what was meant by "the patience of Job," "Jacob's ladder" or "the salt of the earth" -- if you didn't know what an exodus was or a genesis, a fatted or a golden calf -- you would have been excluded from the culture.

It might be said that a civilization consists, at its core, of these easily transmitted packages of implication. They are one of the mechanisms by which cultures can be both efficient and rich. You don't have to return to first principles every time you wish to communicate. You can play your present tune on a received instrument, knowing that your listener hears not only your own music but the subtle melodies of those who played it before you. There is a common wisdom in common knowledge.

But does this Bible-informed world still exist? I would guess that on the whole, and outside committed Christian groups, biblical literacy is a thing of the past. That long moment of Christian civilization is over. The lingua franca of modern, English-speaking people is not dense with scriptural allusion, just as the conversation of educated people no longer makes reference to classical civilizations. If you dropped the names nowadays of Nestor, Agamemnon or Pericles -- every one of which would have come trailing clouds of glory up to a century ago -- you would, I think, draw a near total blank from even educated listeners.

As Al Mohler comments:

Nicolson is concerned that our "long moment of Christian civilization is over." I am less concerned with the eclipse of civilization than with the ignorance of the church. Yes, it would be better if some level of biblical literacy could still be found among the inhabitants of the land. But our far greater concern should be the biblical illiteracy of too many Christians, for whom the church (and Christian parents) must take responsibility.

One of the purposes of Nicolson's artice is to highlight a new high-school textbook, The Bible and Its Influence, "an exceptionally well-executed introduction to the books of the Bible and the shaping effect that it had on the writers and artists of Western civilization. It is a scholarly, clear and richly illustrated amplification of the stories of the Old and New Testaments." It is published by the Bible Literacy Project.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Above All Earthly Pow'rs

David Wells' Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World--the fourth and final volume of the series that began with No Place for Truth--has just been published by Eerdmans. Here are the endorsements for it:

Mark A. Noll
This last of David Wells’s penetrating four-volume investigation of the Zeitgeist envisions a duel between the plague of postmodernism (by which he means hyper-consumerism, functional nihilism, and meandering egotism) and the power of the Christian gospel understood in the classic formulations of the Reformation. Readers will be challenged as they grasp why Wells wonders if evangelical churches can survive the test. They should be heartened to discover why he believes that the risen Christ will prevail.

D. A. Carson
David Wells’s singular examination of where America is going is grounded simultaneously in intellectual developments and sociological analysis. This merging of information from different disciplines provides many fresh insights, which become the focal points that prompt Wells to articulate the historic Christian gospel once again, with fidelity to the “givens” of revelation and with relevance to the declining splendor of Enlightenment gods. . . . Those who are serious both about the gospel and about thoughtful cultural engagement will not want to miss this book.

J. I. Packer
With masterful breadth and penetrating insight, David Wells here rounds off his four-volume demonstration of the inauthenticity of much professedly evangelical church life. Hard thought and humility are required to appreciate the critique, though the light Wells throws on our secular culture and on key Bible doctrines makes the effort well worthwhile. There is prophetic perception here that needs to be taken to heart.

Cal Thomas
The finest critique of culture I have read since the late philosopher-theologian Francis Schaeffer. David Wells brilliantly outlines the lay of the cultural land and offers a type of GPS system for navigating it if we are to arrive safely at our final destination. Every Christian should read and internalize what Wells says in this powerful book.

Timothy George
Over the past generation David Wells has offered a piercing analysis of the evangelical church, its seduction by consumerist, postmodern (read ultramodern) culture, and its temptation to negotiate the gospel in the interest of an ephemeral relevance. In this volume Wells is at his theological best as he extends his analysis to the central fact of Christian faith — the person and work of Jesus Christ. . . . An important book for everyone who cares about the integrity of the gospel and the missional future of the church.

WSJ on Porkbusters

The Wall Street Journal highlights and endorses Porkbusters.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Prophetic Untimeliness

Os Guinness:

By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance;
by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant;
by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lot not only our identity but our authority and our relevance.
Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant.

Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, p. 15.

On Cutting Spending

Fred Barnes:

By merely freezing discretionary spending--that means everything but entitlements--for a single year, $47.9 billion would be saved. Limiting the freeze to non-defense, non-homeland security spending would still save $36.2 billion, according to Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire. "If Congress simply put in place mechanisms to control the growth of discretionary spending at or near inflation, the two-year cost savings is well in excess of $20 billion," Sununu says.

"Pence on Fire:
The revolt of the small government Republicans" in The Weekly Standard

A New Kind of Hipster

Brett McCracken, writing in Relevant Magazine, pens a thoughtful piece on A New Kind of Hipster.

...But something started happening as the '90s lunged forward to the 21st century—Christians started recognizing that being in a “semi-cool Christian subculture” was not really all that cool at all. It became increasingly obvious that anything “new” that pop-Christianity came up with was at least three years after its secular counterpart. dc Talk tapped grunge (Jesus Freak) several years after Nirvana and Pearl Jam introduced it. Plus One wooed teen girls four years after *NSYNC relit the boy band fire. Case after case, Christian attempts to make their culture cool have flubbed in awkward imitation.

The new generation of “cool” Christians recognize that copycat subculture is a backward step for the Church, but unfortunately the alternative requires a creative trailblazing for which most are far too tepid. Thus, we’ve settled for a reactionary relevance—a state of “cool” that is less about forging ahead with the new than distancing ourselves from the old. We know we do not want to be the stodgy, bigoted, bad-taste Christians from the pages of Left Behind. We are certain we do not want to propagate Christianity through catch phrases and kitsch, and we are dead set against preaching a white, middle-class Gospel to the red-state choir. Perhaps most of all we are tired of burning records, boycotting Disney and shunning Hollywood. We know exactly what the relevant new Christianity must not be—boring, whitewashed, schmaltzy—but we feign to understand just what we should be instead.

The problem with the Christian hipster phenomenon is not as superficial as the clothes we wear, the music we download or the artistic movies we see, nor is it that we exist largely as a reaction against something else. No. The problem is that our identity as people of Christ is still skin-deep. That our image and thinking as progressives does not make up for the fact that we still do not think about things as deeply as we should. The Christian hipster pretends to be more thoughtful or intellectual than the Podunk fundamentalist, but are we really? We accept secular art and (gasp!) sometimes vote for a liberal candidate, but do we really think harder because we are “hip"?...

Read the whole thing.

(HT: Zach Nielsen)

Friday, September 23, 2005

The End of Big-Government GOPism?

Many people confuse the terms "conservative" and "Republican." Conservativism is the idealogy; Republican is the party. Not all conservatives are Republican; not all Republicans are conservative.

What we're seeing right now, I believe, is the beginning of a revolt of conservatives against the GOP. Blogosphere initiatives like Porkbusters is the latest salvo.

I find it ironic that when Christians write and speak about government, they usually do so either in the context of justice or compassion. But few consider fiscal irresponsibility something worth complaining about.

Here his how Tim Chapman begins his latest column:

Americans get it. A national crisis like Katrina requires sacrifice.

Since Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast over three weeks ago, Americans have donated over $1 billion in relief funds. At the rate of current giving, Americans are set to exceed charitable contributions donated after the September 11 attacks and the tsunami of 2004.

When Americans give their money, they give from what they have and they do with a little less. Those donating do not intend for their children or grandchildren to foot their bill. They are giving on behalf of themselves - it is an individual sacrifice to help their fellow Americans.

Now the question is: Is Congress willing to make similar sacrifices?

Having recently voted to appropriate more than $62 billion to fund Katrina recovery efforts and with a looming final price tag near $200 billion, Congress is now debating how to actually pay for all this spending.

The track record is not good. Federal spending currently tops $22,000 per American household; and since 2001, the federal government has expanded in size by 33 percent. Some estimates have the federal deficit topping $500 billion by 2008 and $873 billion by 2015. How much money is this?

According to budget analyst Brian Riedl of The Heritage Foundation, it is enough to "dump the largest debt in world history into the laps of the next generation. Within a decade, tax increases would need to reach $7,000 per household (a 37 percent tax hike) just to balance the budget."

But the real debate isn't happening in Congress as a whole - it is unfolding within the Republican Party. The debate will shape the future of the GOP. If Republicans - the one-time party of small government and fiscal restraint -- cannot support spending cuts now, then they will officially signal their abandonment of fiscal conservatism, a once valued part of the Republican platform.

I know I say this with everything I link to, but this time I really mean it: read the whole thing!

The Fury of the Wind, the Raging of the Sea

Pastor and blogger Eric Schumacher, back from ministering to Hurricane victims in Biloxi and meditating on the book of Job, has penned a new hymn, The Fury of the Wind, the Raging of the Sea. Check it out.

"Compassionate Conservatism"

Jonah Goldberg wonders whether this is the end of compassionate conservatism. Well worth reading.

Colson on Rome

Chuck Colson writes about the new HBO mini-series, Rome. Here are his opening and closing paragraphs:

You’ve probably heard about the new HBO series Rome. Costing more than $100 million, it’s the most expensive television production ever. Whether the producers succeeded at re-creating ancient Rome for the viewers or not, they have succeeded in doing something else: making the case for Christianity.

... By depicting what Rome before Christianity was really like, Rome, the TV series, makes a powerful, albeit unintentional, case for faith in what the film calls the “prosaic God” who tells us “how to behave.” Now, I don’t recommend you watch Rome—it is violent and pornographic. But you ought to know about it, because when you hear people denounce Christianity as the chief source of oppression, tell them that HBO has spent $100 million to prove that’s not the case.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Teen Bloggers

From Al Mohler:

The rise of young Christian bloggers --many in their teens -- is a welcome development in the blogosphere.

My guest on Tuesday's edition of The Albert Mohler Program was Agent Tim. Tim Sweetman is fifteen years old, and he writes a very fine blog, addressing issues of apologetics and Christian concern with great insight.

I asked Tim to recommend some other young Christian bloggers. You will want to check out Mission 3:6Teen, The Blogging Boy Scout, Spunky Jr., Rebelution, SmartHomeSchool, Virtue Magazine.

Agent Tim adds: The Account.

It Takes a Parent

National Review Online did a great interview with Betsy Hart, author of It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting Is Hurting Our Kids--and What to Do About It. Though I don't know anything about Ms. Hart, it seems clear that she believes in the sovereignty of God and the sinfulness of man--and this influences how she thinks about parents, parenting, and kids.

Joe Carter highlights what looks like a helpful program:

#201 Library Hack -- For years I've wanted to catalog all the books in my personal library (over 1000 volumes) but was too lazy to make the effort. Fortunately, my procrastination has paid off. LibraryThing is a web application that lets you add book titles by entering a title and viewing search results from the Library of Congress or Amazon. The program then adds the book’s card to your catalog with ISBN, publisher, year and an image of the book cover. You have space to add a book summary, tags, comments, and a review -- and can even see what other users also have each book in their library. You can enter 200 books for free or buy a lifetime membership for $10 (beta special).

"You Are Stuck on Stupid!"

General Honore delivers a great retort to a MSM reporter! (You can watch the video here.)

Susan Olasky provides the context.

Get Lost

Season Two of the television drama, Lost, premieres tonight. John Miller at National Review has an article on it. Like the Millers, my wife and I missed the first season on TV, but have now caught up on DVD.

Godly Jealousy

In the mailbox: a copy of Erik Thoennes' book, Godly Jealousy: A Theology of Intolerant Love (Christian Focus). Dr. Thoennes defines jealousy as "the ardent desire to maintain exclusive devotion within a relationship in the face of a challenge to that exclusive devotion," and examines both divine jealousy and godly human jealousy. It looks like an excellent book!

Here are a couple of blurbs:

This is an important book on a neglected subject! Erik Thoennes shows that God is pleased with those today who, like Phineas, David, Paul, and Jesus himself, are jealous for the honor of our great God in an age that increasingly disregards him and his commands. Carefully researched and clearly written, this book shows that there is a good kind of godly jealousy which will give background and courage to our Christian lives.
--Wayne Grudem

Because the virtues are mutually reinforcing and require the presence of other virtues to be developed fully, a life of character will remain elusive if a particular virtue is disregarded. Today, jealousy has a public relations problem: It is widely misunderstood and regarded as a vice. In this scholarly yet accessible book, professor Thoennes fills a huge void regarding godly jealousy. With skill and admirable familiarity with the relevant literature, he restores godly jealousy to its proper place in a life well lived. Those concerned about character development cannot afford to neglect this book.
--J. P. Moreland

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Breaking News

"Hurricane Rita expected to reach category 4 in the Gulf of Mexico by 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, forecasters say." (CNN)

We should pray for God's mercy.

Sign Us Up

Melinda Penner highlights a free software tool that churches can use to assist with volunteer management as they labor in the Gulf Coast.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Narnia Sneak Peeks

If you're a pastor or youth leader and you want to get a sneak peek at the Narnia movie, check this out.

Hugh Hewitt launches a new online group blog, which includes Al Mohler, Mark Roberts, and John Mark Reynolds:

Please also stop by my new online project:

During my 15 years of broadcast journalism, I have always been impressed with audience enthusiasm for good programming on the subject of God and the modern world. This is an underserved audience, though the GodBlogs listed to your left and a variety of other online sites are meeting the need for quality writing on a variety of God-related subjects.

At OneTrueGodBlog, I have enlisted the help of five scholars from a diverse set of theological backgrounds to participate in a conversaion about a variety of topics related to God and the modern world. I'll try and be the voice of th curious layman asking curious layman questions. The first topic, posted now, concerns the great box office success of the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose which has now passed $52 million in box office after just two weekends in release.

Tolle Lege

Historical-theologian Michael A.G. Haykin now has a blog up and running: Tolle Lege. Check it out. (You may recall that last week I linked to an article by Dr. Haykin on John Owen's life and piety.)

Hey Big Spender!

Stephen Moore has the distressing summation for political conservatives: in the category of federal spending, the Republicans have become virtually indistinguishable from the Democrats.

Here's how the article begins:

There's an old adage that no one in Washington can tell the difference between $1 million and $1 billion. Seldom has that Beltway learning disability been more vividly demonstrated than in the weeks since Katrina.

When President Bush announced last Thursday that the feds would take a lead role in the reconstruction of New Orleans, he in effect established a new $200 billion federal line of credit. To put that $200 billion in perspective, we could give every one of the 500,000 families displaced by Katrina a check for $400,000, and they could each build a beach front home virtually anywhere in America.

Read the whole thing.

Update: If you're concerned about overspending, here's a great practical way to get involved: Porkbusters!

John Bunyan and Baptism

For those who are interested, Mark Dever has now posted onto his church website the manuscript for his address, Let Us Not Divide: John Bunyan and Baptism.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

You Think You Have It Bad?

I'm at my in-laws right now watching The Best of Guy Penrod on TV. Seriously.

Friday, September 16, 2005


The Girl Talk gals know good humor when they see it!

New Postings at

[All files are in PDF format. Thanks to those who helped to transcribe these, and to Josh Sowin for getting them onto the site.]

What Is Racism?

Douglas Wilson proposes a definition with some analysis. I find it persuasive. What do you think?

Humorless Comedian Sues Blogger

Garrison Keillor issues a Prairie Home Cease and Desist Order.

Reaction to the President's Speech

An interesting post here about live reaction on ABC last night to the President's speech. I don't think this is what ABC was expecting to hear.

Hurricane Katrina and Race

Heather Mac Donald explains Why the Racism Charge Won't Wash.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reggie Kidd's "With One Voice"

Reggie Kidd--professor of NT and dean of the chapel at Reformed Theological Seminary--has written With One Voice: Discovering Christ's Song in Our Worship, a biblical-historical-practical theology of song, due out next month from Baker Books. Here are some blurbs for it:

"Some books on worship deal with biblical principles, others with the believer's experience of singing. Still others try to combine these in one way or other. But With One Voice is unique in the way it integrates these. It reaches deep into the history and theology of Scripture to show what it was like then to sing from the heart to God and how that experience can be ours today. In this volume, Kidd shows us 'why our relationship with God can be deepened through song.' This is a deeply moving book and an antidote to worship wars."--John Frame, professor of systematic theology and philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary

"Finally Reggie has put in print the doxological riches he has poured into his students over many years of faithful service as a seminary professor and skilled practitioner. My friend of three decades writes with credibility and creativity because he is a lead worshipper before he is a worship leader. Thank you, Reggie, for reminding us that Jesus is the center, song, means, and end of our most consuming and privileged calling--the worship of the living God."--Scotty Smith, senior pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, Tennessee; author, Objects of His Affection

"Here we have a thorough biblical theology of song--but far more. Dr. Kidd provides pastors, church musicians, and culture watchers with an insightful study of the many diverse voices that converge as the body of Christ finds its 'heart language' for singing the truth of the gospel as we respond to our Singing Savior. From Bach's Mass in B minor to U2, from the Gaithers to Caedmon's Call, from Anglican psalmody to the simplest of American folk hymns, from the sinner's lament to the exuberant praises of the redeemed, Kidd unfolds a vibrant, multi-colored tapestry of faith-building, life-shaping artistic expression. Like a docent at a fine museum, he explains the treasures from the archives, but also helps the reader to understand the message of today's innovators.
"With One Voice has helped me to understand more deeply that our songs of faith resonate most fully--most Christianly--when believing communities draw on the strengths of high culture, folk culture, and popular culture (Bach, Bubba, and the Blues Brothers). As I grow in intimacy with the Savior, I understand the joys and blessings of deferring to the needs and preferences of my brothers and sisters."--Carl Stam, director, Institute for Christian Worship, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Having spent many years of my life in the Christian music field, I am keenly aware of the need for scriptural context and wisdom in both the making of music and in its engagement in worship. Dr. Kidd makes us a great gift in this insightful book. He calls us away from the self-centeredness of our petty worship wars, from the narcissistic preoccupations that seem to afflict so much of today's worship; and he calls us to higher ground, to be swept up into the eternal Song of the Lamb. And he helps show us how. The riches he mines in Psalm 22 are alone worth the price of admission. I cannot think of a more valuable book for worship leaders, praise team members, composers of worship songs, or indeed anyone wishing to become a more thoughtful, focused and biblical worshipper."--Darrell A. Harris, chaplain, Institute for Worship Studies; president emeritus, Star Song Records

"Here is a true theology of praise, a real doxology. It is beautifully written, touching both our lamentations and our aspirations. Reggie Kidd makes the point that it is none other than Christ himself who is the ultimate worship leader. In short, the ministry of song is most faithful when it is inspired by Christ, for he above all is a 'Singing Savior.'"--Hughes Oliphant Old, Erskine Theological Seminary

"Here's a book that will deepen not only your appreciation for music, but also your love of God. Drawing from often unnoticed scriptural themes and contemporary cultural expressions, the book celebrates God's active role in redeeming creation and lavishing on us the remarkable gift of song. For any of us who are tempted to worship worship itself, here is a compelling call to let our music making point away from itself to the majesty, glory, and beauty of God."--John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

"Sometimes scholars do an excellent job of keeping the heart out of their writing, even if they're writing about worship. Reggie Kidd blends heart and mind beautifully. Reggie makes me seriously consider history and theology, but he also brings me to the core of worship, my heart before God. This is a great book."--Cliff Young, Caedmons Call

You can also visit Dr. Kidd's blog and website, which includes a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book.

Secretary Rice on Bush and Blacks

An interesting exchange here on Bill O'Reilly's show, The Factor:

O'REILLY: It's going to be fascinating to see how history unfolds on this. Now, 60 percent of black Americans, according to a new poll out today, say that race had something to do with the rescue effort in New Orleans, all right? Now you don't believe that...

RICE: No, I don't believe that.

O'REILLY: Right, obviously you don't. And I don't believe that either. But you know who Damon Wayans is?

RICE: I do.

O'REILLY: A very popular black actor and comedian. Comes out and blasts Bush. Kills him. All right. About Iraq and about a whole bunch of other things. I think that influences popular opinion in the African-American community against the president. Am I wrong?

RICE: Well, I do think that there is a lot being said out there that is being said without people questioning the assumptions. I think there is a lot being said out there that is just patently not true, particularly if you know this president. But it's also an emotional time and people say all kinds of things.

I happen to know this president. And I know how much he cares about equality in America. I know how much he cares that minority kids get a fair shake in the educational system. Many years ago I heard him say that he was concerned about the soft bigotry of low expectations and that he was going to do something about the fact that minority kids were in third grade not yet even reading at a third grade level. That's what he cares about. Because the president knows that we have had a history in which race has been sometimes a barrier to opportunity.

O'REILLY: But he doesn't directly address remarks to the African- American community. For example, last night on "Talking Points Memo" here on this program, I laid out on the screen how much more the Bush administration has spent on poverty entitlements, which directly influence poor African- Americans, than the Clinton administration. We had it on the screen. And it's indisputable.

But you don't hear Mr. Bush go out into Harlem or South Central and say here's what we're doing for you. Why don't we hear that?

RICE: This is a president who is going to do what he thinks is right.

O'REILLY: But why don't we hear that?

RICE: Well, he does talk about the need for minority home ownership. He has put enormous amounts of money into community colleges and historically black colleges.

I would hope, Bill, that people who report on issues would...

O'REILLY: You know they're going to hose you.

RICE: I would hope so.

O'REILLY: You know this is the most anti — the press is the most anti Bush press I've ever seen in any administration, perhaps with the exception of Nixon.

RICE: Well let me have my hopes that people are going to report this fairly. But let me just say right here that this is a president who has not only cared about minority empowerment, not only cared about equal opportunity for minorities, but he's done more than any president I can think of in recent years.

O'REILLY: He's certainly spent more money. I don't know if it's done...

RICE: For instance, standards for — so that school children are actually reading at the grade levels they're supposed to be at.

O'REILLY: No Child Left Behind.

RICE: No Child Left Behind. And I was asked a couple days ago, "Well, what do you say to foreigners who say, well, you have a race problem?" And I say, "Well, yes, indeed. We have long had a race problem. Everybody knows that."

But you can not lecture about race when you look at the United States. It has the most diverse cabinet in the world, the most diverse foreign service in the world, the most diverse business community in the world, the most diverse journalistic community in the world. This country has made enormous strides in race relations, and we've done it the right way.

O'REILLY: One more question on this. Does it hurt your feelings that most black Americans don't like the president?


O'REILLY: Do you take it personally?

RICE: I don't take anything personally, no. No. But I do like to have an opportunity to talk to people about what this president has meant for the empowerment of black Americans.

O'REILLY: Does it hurt your feelings when some anti-Bush people say that you're a shill for him and sold out your race?

RICE: Oh, come on. Why would I worry about something like that? Bill, the fact of the matter is, I've been black all my life. Nobody needs to help me how to be black.

The Pledge of Allegiance

For different takes on the implications and meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance being ruled unconstitutional, see Al Mohler's Is the Pledge of Allegiance Unconstitutional? and Joe Carter's Rousseau’s Allies: Civil Religion and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blog Search

If you want to do a search that only crawls through the blogs, Google has a new search engine:

African American Pastors Conference

I've posted some info at the Ref 21 blog on an upcoming conference in Miami (Nov. 10-12), for those who are interested.

Tony Campolo vs. the God of the Bible

I know this was published a week or so ago, but since I never highlighted Tony Campolo's attempted critique of the belief of God's omnipotence--Katrina: Not God's Wrath--or His Will--I'll quote from it here.

Perhaps we would do well to listen to the likes of Rabbi Harold Kushner, who contends that God is not really as powerful as we have claimed. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures does it say that God is omnipotent. Kushner points out that omnipotence is a Greek philosophical concept, but it is not in his Bible. Instead, the Hebrew Bible contends that God is mighty. That means that God is a greater force in the universe than all the other forces combined.
Contrary to Campolo...

Scripture is clear that God can do whatever he pleases:

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." (Psalm 115:3)

Scripture is clear that God ordains all things:

God "works all things according to the counsel of his will." (Ephesians 1:11)

Scripture is clear that God ordained all of our days:

"In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." (Psalm 139:16)

Scripture is clear that that God ordains seeminly random things:

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." (Proverbs 16:33)

Scripture is clear that God ordains disasters:

"Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?" (Amos 3:6)

Scripture is clear that God controls the winds and the rains:

"He called for a famine upon the land; He broke the whole staff of bread" (Psalm 105:16).
"Even the wind and the sea obey Him" (Mark 4:39, 41).
"He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers" (Psalm 104:4).
"He makes lightnings for the rain, [He] brings forth the wind from His treasuries" (Psalm 135:7).
"He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow . . . Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word" (Psalm 147:18; 148:8)

Charles Spurgeon expresses the biblical worldview of God's abilities and actions:

I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes--that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens--that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence--the fall of . . . leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.

Bad Cops

Joe Carter at WorldMagBlog posts:

According to New Orleans police Captain Eddie Hosli, only 30 out of his 120 officers reported for duty the day after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. The AWOL officers only began trickling back to work after being promised five expenses-paid days in Las Vegas, prompting Hosli to tell them, "You've got your own demons to live with. I'm not going to judge you." Mayor Ray Nagin, when asked why nearly 60 percent of the force was going to be relaxing in Sin City rather than searching for survivors, responded: "New Orleans is a party town. Get over it."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Keller on Reformed Theology and Ministering to the Post-Everythings

I find Tim Keller's writings to be consistently helpful and provocative. (Steve McCoy has a complete list of his online writings.) I recent read his article, "The Post-everythings" (PDF). Writing to the PCA denomination, he wrestles with the question: "How do we, as a denomination, do renewal and outreach in the emerging post-everything United States culture?"

The “Post-everything” people, Keller writes, "are those who are now in their teens and twenties – and they are our future." Here are some excerpts:

…I think that a) if we have the humility to admit that we are not doing the job, but b) at the same time (in a non-triumphalistic way) advance the answers Reformed theology especially provides, then there is great hope for our church. We must first give high priority to finding ways to minister in three areas: universities, big cities and ethnically diverse situations. University towns are incubators where we can learn how to address the ideas of the rising culture. The new world usually emerges in the big cities and if we learn to face it and engage it there, we will be able to do the same in the rest of the country. In short, we must go to the ‘leading edges’ of our society and learn how to preach, model, and sing the gospel in ways that both challenge and attract (rather than merely confusing) people.

… we are not presently forced to think about the post-everythings because there are so many traditional people that our churches can still grow and, thus, we feel that we are doing a fine job. Still, we must go to the university towns, big cities, and the ethnically diverse places because there we will learn to understand and reach America’s future. The next thing we must do is use the Reformed resources that God has especially granted this church to minister to the emerging culture in the following ways:

First, remember that post-everything people like narrative and story. They tend not to like the older kind of preaching that simply enunciated doctrinal principles. Neither are they excited about the newer user-friendly sermons of seeker-churches on “How to Handle Fear,” “How to Balance Your Life,” etc. So, do we throw overboard everything we have done? Absolutely not. We turn to Geerhardus Vos who says that every single part of the Bible is really about Jesus. If you know how to do Christ-centered preaching, then you turn every single sermon into a kind of story. The plot of the human dilemma thickens, and the hero that comes to the rescue is Jesus. Christ-centered preaching converts doctrinal lectures or little how-to talks into true sermons. Post-everythings who are interested in narrative are reached by such preaching that is deeply Reformed.

Second, remember that post-everythings are experientially oriented. They do not just want intellectual propositions. For them life’s meaning is grounded in what they experience. Of course, as Reformed Christians we are very word-centered, and we know that eternal truth is not based on our subjective experience of it. But Reformed preachers have a tremendous resource for an experience-oriented generation in Jonathan Edwards. Edwards taught that a sermon should not only make truth clear, but also should make truth real. In Edwards we find ways to preach that are Reformed, committed to objective truth and, at the same time, deeply experiential.

Third, remember that post-everythings are very much against moralism and self-righteousness. But Reformed preachers have Martin Luther to help with this concern. Traditional gospel presentations assume that the people want to be “good.” But our kids’ generation wants to be “free.” Luther said, “Look, you want to be free? Good. It’s good to be free. But you’re not. You are living for something and, whatever that something is, it enslaves you.” If a person lives for reputation, then he is a slave to what people think. If a person lives for achievement, then he will be a workaholic. As did Luther, we should tell such people, “You want to be free? Fine. But you’re not going to be free unless Jesus is your salvation.” When post-everythings rejected Christianity they thought moralism and Christianity were the same thing. But we can show post-everythings that the two are not the same, and that freedom really is in Jesus.

Fourth, take note of post-everythings’ concern for social justice. They innately sense that the church is not credible without care for mercy and justice. We can address these concerns with the wisdom of Hermann Ridderbos and other Reformed theologians who stress the coming of and the presence of the Kingdom. The Reformed understanding of salvation is not simply that God is rescuing individual souls out of the material world, but rather he is also redeeming all of creation. God is going to bring complete healing and shalom to the material world eventually. This makes Christianity (as C.S. Lewis says) “a fighting religion” against poverty, hunger, and illiteracy. We must bring this Kingdom message of Reformed theology to post-everythings.

Fifth, recognize that post-everythings love art because they love the material world. Abraham Kuyper’s understanding of Reformed theology enables us to say to post-everythings, “Christianity is not just a way for you as an individual to get peace, love and groovy vibes in Heaven. Christianity is a comprehensive worldview. You can be a Christian artist, dancer, manager, or minister and these are all ways of living out the gospel.” When post-everythings hear that, they get extremely excited. They have never considered that Christianity embraces the whole of life.

Finally, remember that post-everythings are not strongly swayed by evidences and proofs. If you start to present evidence for the deity of Christ or the proofs of God, post-everything eyes will glaze over. But the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til can work with post-everythings. I think Reformed theology provides us with tools for our culture that Josh McDowell’s kind of evidential apologetics does not.

I see people who are desperately trying to reach the post-everythings who in their desperation are trying to throw out essential elements such as the substitutionary atonement, forensic justification, imputed righteousness, the Sovereignty of God, or the inerrancy of Scripture. Many of them are probably over-adapting to the post-everything situation. But while they do not have our theological resources, often we do not have their level of engagement with the people of the emerging society. To correct this, let us confess that we really have failure across all our parties to reach the coming society, and let us resolve to use the premier resources of Reformed theology. If we can make these changes, then we may really start to see renewal and outreach, and we might actually be a resource for the broader body of Christ in this culture.

The Supremacy of Christ in an Age of Terror

Last Sunday John Piper's sermon was entitled The Supremacy of Christ in an Age of Terror. (You can listen to it here.)

After surveying some of the evil and tragedy in the world, he asked why the world is the way that it is. His first two answers were negative:

  1. The reason this terrorized and troubled world exists is not because God is not in total control.
  2. The reason this terrorized and troubled world exists is not because God is evil or unjust.

He then offered four positive reasons for why this world exists.

  1. The reason this terrorized and troubled world exists is because God planned the history of redemption and then permitted sin to enter the world through our first parents, Adam and Eve.
  2. The reason this terrorized and troubled world exists is because God subjected the natural world to futility. That is, God put the natural world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in diseases and calamities would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is. In other words, natural evil is a signpost pointing to the horrors of moral evil.
  3. The reason this terrorized and troubled world exists is so that followers of Christ can experience and display that no pleasure and no treasure compares to knowing Christ. That is, the loss of every good thing in this world is meant to reveal that Christ himself more than compensates for all losses.
  4. Finally, the reason this terrorized and troubled world exists is to make a place for Jesus Christ the Son of God to suffer and die for our sins. The reason there is terror is so that Christ would be terrorized. The reason there is trouble is so that Christ could be troubled. The reason there is pain is so that Christ could feel pain. This is the world God prepared for the suffering and death of his Son. This is the world where God made the best display of his love in the suffering of his Son.

President Bush Takes Responsibility for Federal Response Problems

President Bush this morning: "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government and to the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

Radical Reformission

Tim Challies plugs away at his lengthy review of Mark Driscoll's Radical Reformission:

Blog for Books: CJ Mahaney's Humility Book

Sovereign Grace Ministries is offering a free copy of C.J. Mahaney's Humility: True Greatness to the first 50 bloggers who agree to review the book:

If you are a blogger, we'd like to invite you to participate in our blogs-for-books effort. To obtain a PDF file of this book to review, please email us. When you've reviewed the book and posted it on your blog, send a link with your mailing address back to us to receive a free copy of the book when it is published. This is open to the first 50 bloggers who respond.

I was able to read a pre-pub version of it, and can testify that it is a superb book.

Multnomah has posted a sample chapter. Yesterday Tim Challies posted a preview of the book. He writes:

Humility: True Greatness is a truly great book. I do not know of a person who shows no pride in his life, and thus I do not know of a person who would not benefit from reading it. I highly and unreservedly recommend this book. I pray that it will be widely-read, that humility may be widely-practiced.

[Link to the email address has now been fixed.]

Monday, September 12, 2005

John Roberts

It sounds like it was a pretty good first day for the Roberts' nomination, leaving media observers impressed.

FEMA Director Resigned

Glad to hear that Mike Brown, the head of FEMA, has resigned. "The White House picked a top FEMA official with three decades of firefighting experience as his replacement."

Doug Wilson on Skinism

Doug Wilson has written a very thoughtful post on racisim:

I take it as a given that any conservative Christian who addresses cultural issues at all is not worth his salt if he does not get himself accused of racism. I am convinced that unless we are drawing that charge somehow, some way, then we are not doing our part to threaten the prevailing multi-cultural hoohah. It is therefore important to incur the charge of racism. It is equally important that the charge be a slander and a falsehood.

I encourage you to read the whole thing. I'd be curious to hear what you all think. (By the way, I'm not interested in hearing what you think about Wilson's historical view of slavery--just what he says here. So if you comment, please stay on topic. Thanks.)

(HT: Phil Johnson)

Start a Revolution in Your Family

Miriam Weinstein writes: "What if I told you that there was a magic bullet--something that would improve the quality of your daily life, your children's chances of success in the world, your family's health, our values as a society? Something that is inexpensive, simple to produce and within the reach of pretty much anyone?" To find out what she's talking about, read Al Mohler's commentary today.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Cost of Delaying Marriage

Al Mohler calls Danielle Crittenden's article, "The Cost of Delaying Marriage," a must-read.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Scripture In-Souls

One of the sad things about modern evangelicalism is that it is becoming hard to parody--for the reality is often worse than any parody we could dream up!

See Exhibit A.

(HT: Eric Schumacher)

Mark Dever on Bunyan, Baptism, and Open Membership

For those who are curious as to what Mark Dever thinks about the notion of Baptists allowing principled paedobaptists to join their churches, you may want to listen to Dr. Dever's address from 2002 at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: "The Spiritual Church, John Bunyan and Baptism."

Dr. Dever does a great job of summarizing Bunyan's position on baptism and church membership. He finds himself powerfully attracted to Bunyan's position and confesses that nothing pains him more than turning away paedobaptists from membership. Nonetheless, he thinks that Bunyan was seriously mistaken on this, and argues that we must retain conceptual categories to have space between the "essential" and the "unimportant."

During the last 10 minutes of the audio, Al Mohler asks Dr. Dever some clarifying questions.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

An Interview with J. P. Moreland

Peter Hastie interviews J. P. Moreland on creation, evolution, and intelligent design. (See pp. 4-8.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Baptism and Membership at Bethlehem

Over at the Ref 21 Blog I've put up two posts attempting to summarize the long 85-page document on baptism:

  1. A Bunyanesque Proposal on Baptism
  2. The Relationship Between Baptism and Membership (Proposed at Bethlehem Baptist Church)

The reason I called the proposal Bunyanesque is because it reflects some of the convictions of the great Puritan preacher and writer, John Bunyan. Here are a couple of Bunyan quotes on this:

  • “What greater contempt can be thrown upon the saints than for their brethren to cast them off, or to debar them from church-communion?”
  • “I speak not this, because I would teach men to break the least of the commandments of God; but to persuade my brethren of the baptized way, not to hold too much thereupon, not to make it an essential of the gospel of Christ, nor yet of communion of saints.” Then later he adds, “God also doth thus with respect to his worship in the church, he commands all and every whit of his will to be done, but beareth with our coming short in this and that, and another duty.”

Red Cross Blocked

Seems to me like a pretty significant story (via Hugh Hewitt):

The Fox News Channel's Major Garrett was just on my show extending the story he had just reported on Brit Hume's show: The Red Cross is confirming to Garrett that it had prepositioned water, food, blankets and hygiene products for delivery to the Superdome and the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but were blocked from delivering those supplies by orders of the Louisiana state government, which did not want to attract people to the Superdome and/or Convention Center. Garrett has no paper trail yet, but will follow up on his verbal confirmation from sources at the highest levels of the Red Cross.

Baptism and Church Membership

The 85-page document prepared by John Piper and the elders of Bethlehem is now available, proposing to the congregation on believer baptism and membership.

Kanye West, Bush, and Blacks

Jonah Goldberg weighs in on rapper Kanye West's statement during the NBC telethon that George Bush doesn't care about blacks.

Gay Marriage

The California Legislature has voted to change the legal definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to "a civil contract between two persons." Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signaled that he will veto the bill. (HT: Al Mohler) For more, see the LA Times.

On another but related note, Jeff Jacoby wrote an interesting article last week called Trying to Outrun Lawrence. He discusses the case of Allen Muth (age 45) and Patricia Muth (age 30), who were convicted of a sexual felony, resulting in a prison term of eight years for Allen and five years for Pat, in separate maximum-security prisons, 25 miles apart.

But Allen and Patricia Muth are not gay. They were convicted of incest. Although they didn't meet until Patricia was 18 -- she had been raised from infancy in foster care -- they were brother and sister, children of the same biological parents. They were also strongly attracted to each other, emotionally and physically. And so, disregarding the taboo against incest, they became a couple and had four children.

After looking at the language of the 2003 Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas, Jacoby concludes:

There is simply no principled escape from the logic of Lawrence: If the Constitution forbids the states to criminalize private sexual conduct between consenting adults, lovers who happen to be siblings can no more be considered lawbreakers than lovers who happen to be men.

It may seem unthinkable now to legalize incest, but there's no doubt in my mind that such debate is ahead of us.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

An Interview with C. J. Mahaney

I recently had the privilege of interviewing C. J. Mahaney about his upcoming book Humility: True Greatness. For those who don’t know who C. J. is, here is a brief description:

C. J. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries in its mission to establish and support local churches. After 27 years of pastoring Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, C.J. handed the senior pastor role to Joshua Harris on September 18, 2004, allowing C.J. to devote his full attention to Sovereign Grace. He serves on the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and on the boards of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. He is author of The Cross Centered Life; Christ Our Mediator; and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know. This month, Multnomah Publishers will publish his latest book, Humility: True Greatness. C.J. and his wife Carolyn have three married daughters and one son. They make their home in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

JT: C. J., it’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to interview you about your new book, Humility: True Greatness. Thanks for making time to do this. Before I ask any questions, let me first say, on behalf of everyone who knows of you and your writing, that we so deeply appreciate your cross-centered ministry of writing, preaching, and discipling countless pastors.

You start your book in this way:

Writing about humility is a humbling experience. Who wants to volunteer to write on this subject? Not me. There’ve been countless times while completing this book when I’ve been inspired to think, You idiot! Why did you agree to do this? And I could entertain you for hours relating the comments and facial expressions of those who discovered I was authoring a book with this title. I understand their reaction. If I met someone presuming to have something to say about humility, automatically I’d think him unqualified to speak on the subject.

So the question has to be asked: Why did you write a book about humility? And doesn’t authoring a book on humility disqualify you from writing it?

CJ: Well, I think writing the book only confirms I am an idiot! But I certainly didn’t write the book because I consider myself humble. I am not humble. I am a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God. The book is not based on my personal example of humility. I could not and would not have written the book if it was dependent upon my example. The book is written to remind the reader of the following astonishing promise: “God…gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Though I can think of many who would be better guides for this study and subject, I hope what I have written will position the reader to experience the grace promised to those who humble themselves before God.

JT: How do you define “humility,” “pride,” and “true greatness”?

CJ: Humility is honestly evaluating ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. John Owen wrote, “Two things are needed to humble us. First let us consider God in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority. Second, let us consider ourselves in our mean, abject, and sinful condition.”

Pride is an attitude of self sufficiency in relation to God and self righteousness in relation to others. My favorite definition and description of pride is from the pen of the Puritan Charles Bridges:

Pride lifts up the heart against God. It contends for the supremacy with him. How unseemly moreover is this sin. A creature so utterly dependent, so fearfully guilty, yet proud in heart.

True greatness according to the Savior is serving others for the glory of God (Mark 10:43-45).

JT: Many would agree with you up to this point. They would agree that humility is essential, and that looking to Jesus is essential. They would argue that what we need most from Jesus is his personal example of humble service. Do you agree with that?

CJ: Nope. We desperately need more than his personal example of humble service. Actually what we need is the ultimate expression of his humble service. We need his death. We need forgiveness through his substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for our sins. We need to be ransomed or liberated from the corruption of sin and our captivity to sin by his atoning death. Any and all humility and servanthood that is present in the life of a Christian is the effect of his death on the cross and should draw attention to our crucified and risen Lord who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

JT: One of the recurring themes in your book comes from a quote by John Stott: “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” How do you cultivate humility in your own life?

CJ: I love that quote by Stott. And because I am convinced that pride is my greatest enemy and humility my greatest friend I have searched the Scriptures over the years for practices that would enable me to weaken pride and cultivate humility each day. And I devote much attention to practical application in the book because I am convinced that one does not grow in godliness apart from the grace motivated application of truth. So in the book I present a list of practical ways I seek to weaken pride and cultivate humility each day. My recommendations begin with practices for weakening pride and cultivating humility as each day begins, practices for throughout each day and as each day ends. These practices would involve everything from studying the attributes of God to playing golf as much as possible (for there is no more humbling or humiliating sport). There are 17 practices I recommend, but for me the most important is to daily survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died. When Dr. Don Carson interviewed the late Dr. Carl Henry and asked him how he had remained humble for so many decades, Dr. Henry responded, “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?” I want to stand as close to the cross as I possibly can, because it’s harder for me to be arrogant and easier for me to be humble when I’m there.

JT: You have sections in the book on sleep and laughter. What do they have to do with humility?

CJ: Surprisingly a lot! Sleep is a sweet gift from God but it is also a daily reminder that we are not God. Only God “neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121:4). Each night as I confront my need for sleep I am reminded that I am a totally dependent upon God. Sleep is a gift but it’s a humbling gift. Don’t just fall asleep tonight but seize the moment before you fall asleep to weaken pride and cultivate humility by acknowledging you are not self-sufficient, you are not the Creator. Sleep is a daily humbling reminder that we are completely dependent upon God.

As for laughter, well, don’t get me started on that neglected subject. At some point I want to teach a series on this often misunderstood and misused gift. But now is not the time or place. I learned a lot about laughter as a means of weakening pride and cultivating humility from my Dad. He taught me to laugh at myself and he was skilled in pointing out all the material that was present in my life that was truly humorous and humbling. And reading C.S. Lewis has increased my understanding and appreciation for this gift as a means of weakening pride and cultivating humility. In his book Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis author Terry Lindvall writes the following inspired by the example of Lewis:

Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego.

There is a chapter in this book titled “Humor and Humility” that I particularly enjoy. So I would encourage the appreciation and the appropriate cultivation of this gift as a means of putting to death pride and cultivating humility. I would encourage us to laugh, really laugh, because funny stuff is happening all around you and often because of you.

JT: C. J., you have been a wonderful encourager in my own life and in the lives of many. You are intentional about uncovering and praising “evidences of grace” in the lives of others. How do you offer encouragement to others and yet at the same time not encourage pride in their hearts?

CJ: You ask great questions Justin! My challenge is trying to be concise and brief. That is very difficult when it comes to this topic. The following is my attempt to be concise. In my every encounter with every Christian I do seek to discern evidences of God’s grace in their life. I know God is at work (Phil. 2:13) in their life and I try and discern how he is at work, draw their attention to how he is at work, and celebrate his work in their lives. Biblical encouragement is God-centered not man-centered, it is God-glorifying not man-exalting. I am drawing attention to God’s grace not human achievement. I hope by my encouragement to leave behind a humble, edified soul who is more aware of God’s grace in their life and less aware of themselves.

JT: The apostle Paul told the churches that they were to be imitators of him (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). Is that something only an inspired author of Scripture can say, or should pastors be saying the same thing today to their congregations?

CJ: Well, pastors should be able to say this but I wouldn’t recommend they proclaim this too often! But clearly biblical leadership is derived from authentic personal example. Obviously our example will not be flawless but it must be a genuine example of godliness to qualify for pastoral ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Modeling precedes teaching. Teaching involves explaining to those we serve what they already observe to some degree in our lives. And we must provide not only an initial qualifying example for pastoral ministry but a progressive and growing example (1 Tim. 4:15) that is obvious to those we serve.

JT: Switching subjects a bit: next April, you join Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and Mark Dever in hosting a conference called Together for the Gospel. Why did you guys decide to pull this conference together?

CJ: This conference is the fruit of Mark Dever’s initiative and leadership; the friendship between the four of us and our desire to serve pastors regardless of their denominational affiliation or lack thereof.

JT: After watching the promo videos, it’s obvious that there is a great friendship and camaraderie among the four of you. How did the four of you become friends—and how is it that a Presbyterian, two Baptists, and a Charismatic can get along so well?

CJ: What you see on those videos is no act or performance. What you see on those videos is what happens each time we are together. Mark, Al and Ligon were already friends and they kindly adopted me as a new friend. I suspect they viewed this as some form of outreach. I view their friendship as an expression of the humility that is present in their lives. They have served me as friends and teachers. And I am deeply grateful for their friendship and mentoring. And we get along so well because we have all been humbled by the gospel. We are all deeply and profoundly grateful for the Savior’s substitutionary sacrifice for our many sins. And we agree on the centrality of the gospel, reformed soteriology, the importance of sound doctrine, and the priority of the local church. For me it is a pure joy to spend time with these men, learn from them, and laugh together.

JT: Your wife and daughters are now blogging. Your friend Lig Duncan is blogging at two blogs. When he’s not leading a seminary, appearing on Larry King Live, teaching classes, reading a book a day, and writing an 800-word column a day, Al Mohler blogs. So everyone wants to know: when is C. J. Mahaney going to start blogging?

CJ: I think that all the gifted folks you have listed above should be blogging. And add your name to that list my friend. I love your blog and read it each day. I am honored so many have asked when I am going to begin to blog. But I am not convinced I have anything unique to add to the blogging world. What I would love to do is begin a blog providing a biblical perspective on professional and college football, basketball (I am a passionate U of Maryland fan), and baseball. I have asked Al Mohler to bring his world-class discernment to these areas but he shows no interest. Most of the really smart guys I know have little or no interest in the world of sports. And truth be told, most of them aren’t coordinated. Watching them throw a ball is not a pretty sight. It’s obvious they have devoted themselves to the academic world and neglected any athletic development. And for their devotion to the Savior, the Scriptures, scholarship, and the church I am deeply grateful for I have benefited immeasurably from their example, teaching, and writing. I just wish they were more athletic.

JT: C. J., thanks for making time for this interview.

CJ: Justin, this has been a joy and an honor!

I encourage everyone to get a copy of Humility: True Greatness. I also encourage you to get his next book, Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, coming in February, which will be a combined, reworked edition of The Cross Centered Life and Christ Our Mediator.