Friday, July 28, 2006

Gone Fishing and Guest Blogger

Starting this afternoon I'll be on a weeklong vacation.

This blog will go dark for a few days, but next Tuesday it will be in the capable hands of a new friend, Greg Gilbert.

Here is a brief bio:

Greg currently serves as the director of theological research for the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Having graduated B.A. from Yale in 1999 and M.Div from SBTS in 2006, he intends to complete a PhD and then pastor.Greg is an elder at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and a writer for 9 Marks Ministries. He and his wife Moriah have two sons, Justin and Jack.

Owen Quote of the Day

"While men are talking, and writing, and studying about religion, and hearing preaching, it may be with great delight (as those in Ezek. 33:32), [but their] conscience, unless thoroughly awake and circumspect and furnished with spiritual wisdom and care, will be very well pacified, and enter no rebukes or pleas against the way that the soul is in. But yet all this may be nothing but the acting of that natural vanity which lies in the mind, and is a principal part of the sin we treat of. And generally this is so when men content themselves, as was said, with the notions of truth, without laboring after an experience of the power of them in their hearts, and the bringing forth the fruit of them in their lives, on which a decay must needs ensue."

John Owen, Indwelling Sin, chapter 14

Interview with Michael Gerson

Colin Hansen has a great interview with former Bush speechwriter and adviser Michael Gerson "on how evangelicals should comport themselves in the public square."

Dershowitz on Bolton

Alan Dershowitz on the nomination of John Bolton to represent the US at the UN:

As a liberal Democrat, I listened carefully to the opposition voiced by many Democratic senators to the nomination of John Bolton as our chief representative to the United Nations. Mr. Bolton has been representing us at the United Nations since August. During the current Middle East crisis, I have been able to listen for myself to what Mr. Bolton has been saying at the United Nations.

On the basis of his performance, I have become a Bolton supporter. He speaks with moral clarity. He is extremely well prepared. He is extraordinarily articulate. He places the best face on American policy, particularly in the Middle East during this crucial time.

. . . I have observed Mr. Bolton's performance with regard to Israel and its conflicts with Hezbollah and Hamas. On many other fronts he has proved himself a staunch advocate of freedom and human rights — specifically in Sudan, North Korea and Cuba. Some critics have argued that Mr. Bolton is better in his public role as advocate than in his behind-the-scenes role as conciliator. But at this point in history, the United States needs a public advocate who can further its case in the court of public opinion. No one does that better than John Bolton.

Roger Overton reviews the (beta)

Christian Retailing

Russ Moore interviews sociologist Alan Wolfe about Christian retailing.

Moral Equivalency

Charles Krauthammer has an important editorial in today's WaPo regarding the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and the moral equivalency arguments we've been hearing: 'Disproportionate' in What Moral Universe? (HT: Joshua Scheiderer)

Russ Moore also explains why evangelicals support Israel, even if some (like me) don't think that the biblical prophecies refer to the physical land of Israel or foretell a restoration of the Israelite theocracy.

Quote of the Day

"For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ."

--Robert Murray McCheyne, (1813-1843), Minister of St. Peter's Church, Dundee, Scotland.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Desiring God National Conference Blog

The folks at Desiring God have started a blog ( in connection with their 2006 National Conference on the supremacy of Christ in a postmodern world.

Owen Quote of the Day

"Every act of sin is a fruit of being weary of God."

John Owen, Indwelling Sin, chapter 4

Pilgrim's Progress

Anthony Carter has collected and linked to a number of helpful resources for studying John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What Is President Bush's Political Philosophy?

In her latest column Peggy Noonan asks what President Bush's political philosophy is:

"William F. Buckley this week said words that, if you follow his columns, were not surprising. And yet coming from the man who co-fathered the modern conservative movement, carrying the intellectual heft as Reagan carried the political heft, the observation that President Bush is not, philosophically, a conservative, had the power to make one sit up and take notice.

"I have had reservations in this area since Mr. Bush's stunning inaugural speech last year, but Mr. Buckley's comments, in a television interview last weekend, had the sting of the definitional. I agree with Mr. Buckley's judgments but would add they raise the question of what Bush's political philosophy is--I mean what he thinks it is. It's not 'everyone should be free.' Everyone in America thinks everyone should be free, what we argue over is specific definitions of freedom and specific paths to the goal. He doesn't believe in smaller government. Or maybe he 'believes' in small government but believes us to be in an era in which it is, with the current threat, unrealistic and unachievable? He believes in lower taxes. What else? I continually wonder, and have wondered for two years, what his philosophy is--what drives his actions.

"Does he know? Is it a philosophy or a series of impulses held together by a particular personality? Can he say? It would be good if he did. People are not going to start feeling safe in the world tomorrow, but they feel safer with a sense that their leaders have aims that are intellectually coherent. It would be good for the president to demonstrate that his leadership is not just a situational hodgepodge, seemingly driven and yet essentially an inbox presidency, with a quirky tilt to the box. Sometimes words just can't help. But sometimes, especially in regard to the establishment or at least assertion of coherence, they can. And it's never too late. History doesn't hold a stopwatch, not on things like this."

Ms. Noonan asks a good question, and I think there's a good answer at least for the domestic policy side of things: President Bush, as Fred Barnes has argued, is a "big-government conservative." Big-government conservatives, Barnes argued, "simply believe in using what would normally be seen as liberal means--activist government--for conservative ends. And they're willing to spend more and increase the size of government in the process."

But surely it is a significant weakness of the President that someone like Ms. Noonan--who temporarily left her job in order to volunteer as an advisor and speechwriter during his reelection campaign--still can't figure out the nature of his political philosophy.

"For the Love of God" CD

"The second album from popular theologian D. A. Carson. Carson worked with well-known Emu Music song writer and pastor Rob Smith to create this album. It’s a wonderful match: Carson’s skill with words and theology shine through in the lyrics, and are given life by Rob Smith’s stirring arrangements, designed for easy congregational use."

You can hear sample audio here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Leon Morris (1914-2006)

New Testament scholar Leon Morris died on Monday afternoon in Melbourne after hip surgery, aged 92. His funeral will be at Holy Trinity Doncaster, Melbourne, on July 31 at 10.30 am.

The following is from his Wikipedia entry:

"Leon Morris (19142006) was a New Testament scholar. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England on the subject which became his first major book, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. He served as Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge (1960-64); Principal (university) of Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia (where they have named a library in his honour); and Visiting Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

"He has published several theological works and commentaries on the Bible, notable among which are The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance, New Testament Theology, and The Gospel According to John (part of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series)."

Thank you, God, for your faithful servant and for the way in which he has helped the church to understand your Word and to glory in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Influential Bloggers

Tim Challies, like a number of others, has been thinking about what makes a blogger and his or her blog influential, and has posted some good thoughts on the topic.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Quote of the Day (Second Installment)

NOBEL peace laureate Betty Williams displayed a flash of her feisty Irish spirit yesterday, lashing out at US President George W.Bush during a speech to hundreds of schoolchildren.

"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence', because I don't believe that I am non-violent," said Ms Williams, 64.

"Right now, I would love to kill George Bush." Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.

Yes, you read the first three words correctly. And yes--this was directed to schoolchildren!

(HT: Powerline)

What Thabiti Has Learned While at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Thabiti Anyabwile will soon take a pastorate at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, and he's been posting on the things that he has learned at Capitol Hill Baptist Church:

Update: The series continues:

Quote of the Day

Southern Baptist pastor Dr. Jerry Vines:

"The case against the use (not just the abuse) of alcohol is easy to build. Physically, socially, domestically, influentially, and yes, biblically, total abstinence is the only way to go for a Christian who takes Bible [sic] separation seriously. . . . To think that there are now pastors of churches, leaders of youth groups and members of boards of SBC entities who are promoting moderation rather than total abstinence shows just how far down the road to apostasy we have traveled."

The Da Vinci Descendant

Kathleen McGowan--a 43-year-old American mother of three who claims to be a direct descendent of the physical union between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene--will publish her novel/autobiography with Simon & Schuster. S&S has paid her a seven-figure sum, sold the rights in more than 20 languages, and plans a 250,000 copy first print run.

(HT: Kevin Cawley)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Reformation Trust Publishing

Ligonier Ministries has launched a new book publishing imprint, Reformation Trust Publishing.

Orlando, Fla., July 7, 2006 — Reformation Trust Publishing, a new book publishing imprint, will produce theologically solid, practical books true to the historic Christian faith from Dr. R.C. Sproul and the best of today’s contemporary authors and theologians. An imprint of Ligonier Ministries, Reformation Trust will publish Dr. Sproul’s newest title on principles of worship, A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity, this month. Next in line to release this fall is Foundations of Grace, by Dr. Steve Lawson. This book is the first in a series of five titled A Long Line of Godly Men, which will trace the unbroken line of men throughout history who have taught the foundational truths of God’s sovereign grace.

. . . Stating the purpose of Reformation Trust, Director of Publications Greg Bailey points out, “Reformation Trust, in accordance with the highest standards in publishing, will seek to be a trusted resource for pastors and laypeople as they seek to build their libraries of essential Christian literature. Our goal is that Reformation Trust books, true to everything Ligonier is known to represent, will be written at an accessible level, will be beautifully designed and produced, and will have a long shelf life.” Scheduled for a Christmas release, Dr. Sproul’s latest children’s book, The Lightlings, is a delightful allegory with beautiful illustrations that tells the story of the fall of man and the redemption of God’s people by Jesus Christ.

I'm also glad to see that some of the Soli Deo Gloria books--like this Gospel Life Series by Jeremiah Burroughs--is getting a new facelift.

Primer on Amillennialism

Kim Riddlebarger here offers a short, helpful primer on amillennialism and the biblical two-age (this present age and the future age to come) model of eschatology.

For more, see Riddlebarger's Case for Amillennialism and his new book on the Antichrist.

Arminian Theology

Roger Olson, Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has penned a volume Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, to be published this fall by IVP

Here is the table of contents:

Introduction: A Primer on Arminianism
1. Myth 1: Arminian Theology Is the Opposite of Calvinist/Reformed Theology
2. Myth 2: A Hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism Is Possible
3. Myth 3: Arminianism Is Not an Orthodox Evangelical Option
4. Myth 4: The Heart of Arminianism Is Belief in Free Will
5. Myth 5: Arminian Theology Denies the Sovereignty of God
6. Myth 6: Arminianism Is a Human-Centered Theology
7. Myth 7: Arminianism Is Not a Theology of Grace
8. Myth 8: Arminians Do Not Believe in Predestination
9. Myth 9: Arminian Theology Denies Justification by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone
10. Myth 10: All Arminians Believe in the Governmental Theory of the Atonement
Conclusion. Rules of Engagement for Evangelical Calvinists and Arminians

You can read the endorsements here.

Readers of my introduction to the book Reclaiming the Center may recall that Prof. Olson serves as Exhibit A for a method of theological engagement that calls for irenicism all the while distorting and labeling and poking at "the other side." I honestly hope this book is different and that we will find this to be a reliable, accessible textbook on classical Arminian theology--which should be welcomed by Arminians and Calvinists alike.

See also Jerry Walls's and Joseph Dongell's Why I Am Not a Calvinist.

Check out site that features "audiobooks, lectures, and courses in digital download, MP3 CD & CD format."

For more on audiobooks in general, see the recent article in CT.

Vanhoozer Responds to Helm

Kevin Vanhoozer responds to Paul Helm's critique of his take on Charles Hodges's theological method. Since I linked to Helm's original post but just reproduced his conclusion, I'll do the same with Vanhoozer, encouraging you to read the whole thing.

In conclusion, my essay is not primarily about Hodge nor is it intended to be the definitive judgment on his theology taken as a whole. All I am really saying is that we can do better with regard to how we construe and use the Bible for the purposes of doctrinal theology than what Hodge's analogy with inductive science suggests ("a picture held us captive").
Just as Helm thinks that it is wrong to use a distorted and partial account of Hodge to advance my own cause, I hope that readers will not use Helm's account of my only-slightly-more-than-parenthetical description of Hodge as an excuse not to engage the substance of my own constructive proposals. Nevertheless, I take Helm's words as a mid-career wake-up call whose still painful sting will no doubt keep me from falling asleep at the wheel again for some time. And for this, I am grateful.

Professor Vanhoozer's response is, in my view, a model of humble scholarship that seeks to respectfully engage the arguments.

Helm will have the last word (next Monday).

A Hezbollah Primer

Iranian commentator Amir Taheri's article in The Sunday Times, entitled God's Army Has Plans to Run the Whole Middle East, is an excellent primer on Hezbollah and Iran.

Gene Veith has a short, helpful post on the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Milton and Rose Friedman

The Wall Street Journal's Tunku Varadarajan profiles Milton Friedman--the 96-year-old "Nobel laureate in economics in 1976 and among the five or six most consequential thinkers of the 20th century"--and his wife Rose.

Luther Is My Homeboy

The T-shirts are coming:

Friday, July 21, 2006

LA Times on ICRS

Here's an article in the LA Times about the International Christian Retail Show. (HT: Brian Howard)

You'll read about:

  • Christian perfume ( "It should be enticing enough to provoke questions: 'What's that you're wearing?' " Hobbs said. "Then you take that opportunity to speak of your faith. They've opened the door, and now they're going to get it.")
  • Stuffed animals wearing "Jesus Loves You" T-shirts
  • Camouflage baseball caps with red crosses
  • Golf balls with John 3:16 printed on them ("a great golf ball with a greater purpose")
  • Christian health clubs
  • Christian insurance agencies
  • Christian tree trimmers (who advertise in Christian business directories)
  • Christian gangsta rap
  • Christian shoot-'em-up video games
  • Christian sweatbands
  • Christian playing cards
  • Christian scrapbook supplies
  • Christian children's pajamas
  • Life of Faith dolls (like American Girl, expect "the dolls come clutching Bibles; their stories, sprinkled with Scripture, describe how the girls find sustenance in their faith")
  • Scripture Candy

It seems to me that these folks have inverted Jesus' idea of being "in, not of" the world (John 17:14-18) so that they are of the world but not in it.

Political scientist Al Wolfe gets it right.

The effect of such products, according to political scientist Alan Wolfe, is to create almost a parallel universe, one that allows Christians to withdraw from the world instead of engaging it as Christ commanded.

"It's as if they're saying the task of bringing people to Jesus is too hard, so let's retreat into a fortress," said Wolfe, who directs the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College.

"Evangelism is about reaching out and converting the unsaved," Wolfe said. "This is about putting a fence around people who are already saved. It strikes me as if they're giving up."

Sorry, folks. The world is not impressed.

"More Smart, Less Grace"

(My blog post title steal Joe Carter's excellent description!)

Here is CNN host Nancy Grace interviewing Elizabeth Smart. Grace isn't very smart and Smart carries herself with grace!

It's hard to tell if this is a SNL parody or the real thing, but unfortunately it's the latter.

Update: Link fixed, from which you can access the video. BTW, I thought of a good term for someone like Nancy Grace: emotional voyeurist.

Good Quotes

A couple of good quotes spoted on Doug Groothuis's blog:

George Orwell: "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

From a letter by C.S. Lewis: "What is the point of keeping in touch with the contemporary scene? Why should one read authors one doesn't like because they happen to be alive at the same time as oneself?" (6 Jan 1951)

Response to Chalke

The Jesus Gospel: Recovering the Lost Message, a new book by Liam Goligher published in the UK, responds to the work of Steve Chalke.

A couple of endorsements:

Dr Liam Goligher’s enviable gifts as a communicator and his astute theological mind here combine in his new book, The Jesus Gospel. Its exposition of the Bible’s basic plot-line help us to answer a fundamental question on which Christians today are often confused – What is the Gospel of Jesus?’

Sinclair B Ferguson, Westminster Theological Seminary

‘Accurate, wide-ranging canonical exposition of Scripture at a non-technical level here displays salvation through penal substitutionary atonement as central to the message of the Bible as a whole and to Christ’s own understanding of his Father’s plan. Goligher covers this familiar ground in a gloriously head-clearing, heart-warming way.’

J I Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College

(HT: Adam)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" Movie

Here is Cal Thomas's reaction to the new Oliver Stone movie on the World Trade Center:

I have a long list of favorite patriotic movies, including “Victory at Sea,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Sands of Iwo Jima,” but Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” is right up there with the best of them. It is one of the greatest pro-American, pro-family, pro-faith, pro-male, flag-waving, G-d Bless America films you will ever see. . . . Whatever one thinks of Oliver Stone, the man knows how to make movies. This is one of his best. It deserves an Oscar in so many categories. It also deserves the thanks of a grateful nation. Go and see it beginning Aug. 9 and make him a large profit so he might consider inspiring us again, as his predecessors so often did during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

(HT: The Corner)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Scandal of a Changed Mind

Al Mohler explains why he used to be an egalitarian--going so far as to lead a protest against an SBC resolution on women in ministry--and how a question by Carl F. H. Henry caused him to investigate the matter and change his mind.

(HT: Russell Moore)

"God Gave C2H6O"

I've tried to pull back on posting about the SBC and alcohol, but if you're interested in the topic--and I think we all should be, given what this has revealed about functional views of Scriptural sufficiency and sound hermeneutics--then check out these posts by the Thirsty Theologian.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Tailenders

On July 25 PBS will air a documentary entitled The Tailenders, featuring the missionary organization Global Recordings:

"The Tailenders explores the history, techniques and philosophy of a remarkable organization that has recorded Bible stories in over 5,500 of the world’s 8,000-plus languages and dialects, and made those recordings available in the most remote regions through inventive, ultra-low technology. The company has reached out to the 'tailenders'—those who are among the last to see missionaries and whose languages and ways of life are disappearing under globalization’s sweep.... This dedication to amplifying Christian proselytizing with technology has led to signal achievements, including an archive of over 5,400 spoken languages and dialects—the worlds’ largest—many of them extinct or on the verge of extinction, and some of them perhaps preserved nowhere else. The inspired amateur 'techs' of Global Recordings also tackled the problem of bringing the recorded voice to backward regions with delightful ingenuity and artistry, creating a museum’s worth of cheap, durable, hand-powered record and tape players and transistor radios. Archival photos and footage show GRN missionaries astounding native listeners with the boxes that tell stories in their own dialects."

(HT: World Mag Blog)

"A Blook and the Blogosphere"

Mark D. Roberts is writing a blog-to-book--or blook--on the reliability of the gospels, and is looking for feedback from the blogosphere.

Heaven on Earth

Marvin Olasky interviews Steve Nichols about his new book, Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards's Vision of Living in Between.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace

Joseph Williams's excellent handbook, Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace, rests on two principles: "it is good to write clearly, and anyone can." He seeks to address these questions:

  • What is it in a sentence that makes readers judge it as they do?
  • How can we diagnose our own prose to anticipate their judgments?
  • How can we revise a sentence so that readers will think better of it?

I've reproduced below the main principles found in the book. Of course, you'll have to get the book itself to see these explained and illustrated.

Ten Principles for Writing Clearly

1. Distinguish real grammatical rules from folklore.

2. Use subjects to name the characters in your story.

3. Use verbs to name their important actions.

4. Open your sentences with familiar units of information.

5. Begin sentences constituting a passage with consistent topic/subjects.

6. Get to the main verb quickly.
  • Avoid long introductory phrases and clauses.
  • Avoid long abstract subjects.
  • Avoid interrupting the subject-verb connection.
7. Push new, complex units of information to the end of the sentence.

8. Be concise:
  • Cut meaningless and repeated words and obvious implications.
  • Put the meaning of phrases into one or two words.
  • Prefer affirmative sentences to negative ones.
9. Control sprawl.
  • Don't tack more than one subordinate clause onto another.
  • Extend a sentence with resumptive, summative, and free modifiers.
  • Extend a sentence with coordinate structures after verbs.
10. Above all, write to others as you would have others write to you.

Ten Principles for Writing Coherently

1. In your introduction, motivate readers with a problem they care about.

2. Make your point clearly, usually at the end of that introduction.

3. In that point, introduce the important concepts in what follows.

4. Make everything that follows relevant to your point.

5. Make it clear where each part/section begins and ends.

6. Open each part/section with a short introductory segment.

7. Put the point of each part/section at the end of that opening segment.

8. Order parts in a way that makes clear and visible sense to your readers.

9. Begin sentences constituting a passage with consistent topic/subjects.

10. Create cohesive old-new links between sentences.

Helm on Vanhoozer on Hodge on Method

Paul Helm takes Kevin Vanhoozer to task for seriously misrepresenting Charles Hodges's theological methodology. Here is Helm's conclusion:

Unfortunately, Professor Vanhoozer's negative comments about Charles Hodge's systematic theological method are not novel. They are part of the retail trade of disparagement of Hodge and Princeton theology occurring more generally within current evangelical and Reformed theologizing. But that does not excuse their inadequacy. The comments are inaccurate at numerous points and unbecoming a serious scholar. Vanhoozer is of course fully entitled to develop his novel view of systematic theology as ‘theodrama’, a triangulation of Scripture, church and world, but it is wrong to use a distorted and partial account of Charles Hodge’s theological method to aid himself in that task. Hodge is not an untouchable icon: he shared in our common infirmities. But he is entitled to have his views fairly presented.

Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen

J. I. Packer on John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation:

"The greatest Christian writers are those who most powerfully project to spiritual readers the knowledge of God, of ourselves, and of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Among these are Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, and the Puritan John Owen, who ought to be better known than he is. The editors of this volume have worked hard to make Owen's unrivalled insight into the Christian's inner war with sin accessible to all, and the result is truly a godsend. Filled with classic devotional theology which, like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, needs to be read again and again to be properly grasped, we have in the three treatises presented here a companion for life."

--J. I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College

"How Liberals Injure Blacks"

Dennis Prager has a fascinating article on the fact that whites fear differing with blacks lest they be labeled racists:

I was recently shown a videotape of people reacting to radio talk shows. Organized by a firm that specializes in analyzing radio talk shows, the members of the listening panel were carefully chosen to represent all major listening groups within American society.

But I quickly noticed something odd -- I saw no blacks among the selected listeners. I asked why. And the response was stunning.

Blacks had always been included, I was told, but no more. Not because the firm was not interested in black listeners -- on the contrary, blacks are an important part of the radio audience. They were not invited to give their opinion about various radio shows because in its previous experience, the company had discovered that almost no whites would publicly differ with the opinions of the blacks on the panel. Therefore, once a black listener spoke, whites stopped saying what they really thought, if what they thought differed from what a black had said.

I believed that this was the reason -- not some racist animosity toward blacks -- since such companies are paid to give accurate reports on audience reactions to radio programs, and clearly their results would be skewed without input from black listeners. But I still needed to test this thesis. Do most whites really not publicly say what they believe, if what they believe differs from what a black believes -- even when the subject has absolutely nothing to do with race (i.e., reactions to a radio talk show discussing other subjects)?

So I posed to this question to my radio audience, and, sure enough, whites from around the country called in to say that they are afraid to differ with blacks lest they be labeled racist.

I could not imagine anything more detrimental toward abolishing racism and to enhancing black progress in America than such an attitude. But apparently it is the norm in American life to so fear being called a racist that individuals as well as institutions react to blacks as they would to children -- humoring them rather than taking them seriously.

This is another terrible legacy of the dominant liberal attitudes vis a vis America's blacks. For the liberal worlds of academia and media, as for the Democratic Party, blacks are not seen as individuals, the way members of virtually other minority and majority groups are. In the liberal mind, blacks are an oppressed group -- the ultimate oppressed group in America -- and there is little more about black Americans that one needs to know.

Therefore, in a mind-numbing non sequitur, blacks are not be judged, talked to, talked about or hired as other human beings are. I write "non sequitur" because even if one were to agree that blacks are an, or even the, oppressed minority, why would that obviate the need to judge, talk to, talk about or hire black human beings differently than anyone else? It would seem that anyone with equal respect for blacks would judge and talk to them just as they would all other people. But high schools and universities, newspapers and television, the Democratic Party and other liberal institutions have made it very difficult to do so.

Anyone who argues that standards should be identical for blacks -- in hiring and in college acceptance, for example -- is likely to be labeled a racist. And if the person making that argument is himself black, he becomes a member of the group liberals most hate, black conservatives -- "traitors" to fellow blacks.

Read the whole thing.

How to Start a Blog

If you've been thinking about starting a blog or are already blogging, Joe Carter has collected some great advice in his “How To Start a Blog” Series: Tips and Suggestions for Launching a Successful Blog.

I would especially commend his article on the 5/150 Principle:

If we truly want to have a bigger impact we need to start by thinking smaller.

If you have a blog that is read by more than a few dozen readers then you are making a bigger impact than you probably realize. If you have 50 people reading your blog then you have more people in your “classroom” than most professors at Harvard. If you have 90 readers then you have more people in your “pews” than most pastors have in their churches every Sunday. And if you have more than 1000 readers a month you have a larger “circulation” than most poetry and short story magazines.

But having a larger audience doesn’t necessarily translate into having more influence. As Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book The Tipping Point, the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship is about 150. In blogging terms, this means that when your readership grows, you’re ability to have a true one-on-one relationship with them decreases significantly. This is not to say that you should attempt to limit your readership to 150 readers, turning people away when that number is reached. What it means is that if you want to maximize your personal influence you would focus on establishing strong bonds and deep interaction with at most 150 readers.

Now consider what would happen if each of these 150 readers read and thought about what you wrote on your blog for five minutes every day. Five minutes may seem insignificant but it has an exponential effect: with only 5 minutes every day, six days a week, every month, you will have the reader’s attention for more than one entire day – 26 hours – every year. With only 150 consistent readers you will have gained the equivalent “mindspace” of one person for one entire day for almost five straight months. This is what I call the "5/150 Principle": capturing the mindspace of 150 people for 5 minutes can create an astounding opportunity for influence.

The question then becomes how you will use the principle. Your audience is giving you two of their most precious possessions – their time and their attention. What are you doing with this gift? Are you using it to improve their life, influence their worldview, feed their mind? Or are you wasting it by giving them junk food, blather and trivia which provides a momentary amusement but has only a fleeting impact? What will this person gain in return for loaning you this treasure for 26 hours every year?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Grudem Is Getting Things Done

The following is from a private email from Wayne Grudem to some friends (posted with permission):

"Those of you who have ever seen my home study will probably remember that I’ve always had piles of paper on my desk – things waiting to be done. Now for the last 10 days I have had a completely clean desk for the first time in over 20 years. No piles of papers! And this is in the midst of a lot of demands on my time regarding some publishing deadlines and other responsibilities. How did this happen? It was the result of a remarkable new book by David Allen called Getting Things Done. I had heard of the book from several different sources and read through it about two weeks ago. I began to implement Allen’s remarkable system and all my papers are now either processed (those that take under two minutes Allen says to process immediately) or else put in a file and alphabetized, as well as being listed on a 'project list' that I now carry with me and can look at quickly and see everything at a glance. Allen has a number of other helpful procedures, such as creating a “next actions” list out of the project list, but I won’t try to reveal the whole book to you at once.

"Just let me say that I highly recommend it and it has marvelously increased my peace of mind, clarity of thought, and ability to concentrate on the task at hand as I sit at my desk each day. And I know it’s working because my desk stays clean as new items come in and I process them according to Allen’s system."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Theological Liberalism

"A God without wrath
brought men without sin
into a kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

H. Richard Niebuhr (d. 1962), describing theological liberalism in
Kingdom of God in America (1937), p. 193.

Packer on the the Influence of Owen

"I still think after thirty-five years* that Owen did more than anyone else to make me as much of a moral, spiritual, and theological realist as I have so far become. He showed me that there is far more than I had known both to indwelling sin in believers and to God's gracious work of sanctification. He searched me to the root of my being, bringing God awesomely close in the way that speakers and writers with unction are able to do. He taught me what it means to mortifiy sin and how to go about it. He made clear to me the real nature of the Holy Spirit's ministry in and to the believer, and of spiritual growth and progress, and of faith's victory. He told me how to understand myself as a Christian and live before God in a morally and spiritually honest way, without pretending either to be what I am not or not to be what I am. It is not too much at all to say that God used him to save my sanity. And he made every point by direct biblical exegesis, handling Scripture with a profundity that I had not met before, nor I think since save in Luther, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards."

J. I. Packer, "Introduction," Sin and Temptation, ed. James M. Houston (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1983, 1996), xxix.

* This was written in 1983.

Readers interested in Owen's work on this subject may want to check out the forthcoming, unabridged volume, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, with a foreword by John Piper. It's due out this fall.

Establishing Elder Government in a Church Plant

Mark Driscoll explains the Acts 29 Network's view on Establishing Elder Government in a Church Plant:

Part 1 – The Dude
Part 2 – The Other Dudes
Part 3 – Marks of a Dude (1 Timothy 3:1–7)
Part 4 – Dude Duties
Part 5 – Herding the Dudes

Gerv's Guide To Writing Good Propaganda

Gervase Markham shows us how to come up with some good propaganda.

Multnomah Publishers Is Selling

As reported on the CT weblog:

PW Daily, the online newsletter from Publishers Weekly, reports from the International Christian Retail Show in Denver: "Multnomah had a huge hit five years ago with The Prayer of Jabez, which sold over 8 million copies in 2001, more than any other book that year. Multnomah made ambitious expansion plans based on those sales, but eventually took heavy returns and was forced to reduce staff and title output. Still, the company remains well positioned in the Christian market."

Now the Christian publisher is selling. Rumors reported by PW Daily say it's going to Random House (which owns WaterBrook Press) and that "the acquiring publisher will absorb Multnomah's backlist, but close down its operations." An announcement, due Friday, will clarify the rumors.

Here's the link to the story in PW Daily.

Blogging the Bible

David Plotz--deputy editor of Slate--is a proud though not very observant Jew. He recently decided to start reading the Bible and blogging his way through it--starting at Genesis 1. You can follow along at: Blogging the Bible: What happens when an ignoramus reads the Good Book?

"Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend"

Michael Lawrence, associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has written a must-read article for single men entitled Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend. It's chock full of practical biblical wisdom. I encourage you to read the whole thing.

The most common question he hears from single Christian men is: "How do I know if she's the one?" But he rightly suggests this is the wrong question. The questions instead should be:

  • Am I the sort of man a godly woman would want to marry?
  • What sort of qualities should I be looking for in a wife so that my marriage will be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church?
Lawrence gives some good guidance with regard to how long you should date and the questions you should ask once you've begun dating:
  • Generally speaking, will you be able to serve God better together than apart?
  • Do you desire to fulfill the biblical role of a husband outlined in Ephesians 5:22-33 with this specific woman? Do you want to love her sacrificially?
  • Does this relationship spur you on in your Christian discipleship, or does it dull and distract your interest in the Lord and his people? Are you more or less eager to study God's word, and pray, and give yourself in service as a result of time spent together?
  • Do you think she will make a good discipler of your children?
  • What do other mature Christian friends and family members say about your relationship? Do they see a relationship that is spiritually solid and God-glorifying?

Again, read the whole thing.

50 Most Influential Churches in the US

The Church Report has released their latest list of 50 Most Influential Churches in the U.S. It's no surprise that Bill Hybels (Willow Creek: #1) and Rick Warren (Saddleback: #2) again top the list.

The list is as interesting s it is depressing. For example, Joel Osteen (Lakewood: #5) preaches a false, feel-good, no-sin, none-gospel, and T.D. Jakes (Potter's House: #8) denies the biblical, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

But there are some encouragements, like seeing the names of Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian: #16); Mark Driscoll (Mars HIll: #22); John MacArthur (Grace Community: #31); Harry Reeder (Briarwood Presbyterian: #35); Kent Hughes (College Church: #37); John Piper (Bethlehem Baptist: #42); and Tony Evans (Oak Cliff: #44).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Precious Blood

Sovereign Grace Ministries is offering a free download of the song "Precious Blood" (sung by Shannon Harris), from their new Valley of Vision CD. To listen to the song, just go through the process like you're purchasing it, except that it won't cost you anything.

I've copied the lyrics below:

The Precious Blood

Based on The Valley of Vision prayer, “The Precious Blood”

Words and Music by

Peter Gagnon

Verse 1

Before the cross I kneel and see
The measure of my sin
How You became a curse for me
Though You were innocent
The magnitude of Your great love
Was shown in full degree
When righteous blood, the crimson spill
Rained down from Calvary


Oh, the precious blood
That flowed from Mercy’s side
Washed away my sin
When Christ my Savior died
Oh, the precious blood
Of Christ the crucified
It speaks for me before Your throne
Where I stand justified

Verse 2

And who am I that I should know
This treasure of such worth
My Savior’s pure atoning blood
Shed for the wrath I’d earned
For sin has stained my every deed
My every word and thought
What wondrous love that makes me one
Your priceless blood has bought


A crown of thorns, pierced hands and feet
A body bruised, and Mercy’s plea

© 2005 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Ministries. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. North American administration by Integrity Music. International administration by CopyCare International. Used by permission.

Essential Truths About God

In their book on Praying, Packer and Nystrom offer eight headings by alliteration that they hope "will help to make these essential truths about God memorable and clear":

1. God is personal.
2. God is plural.
3. God is perfect.
4. God is powerful.
5. God is purposeful.
6. God is a promise-keeper.
7. God is paternal.
8. God is praiseworthy.

Allan's Reference ESV

J. Mark Bertrand writes that "The best Bible binding on the market is also the best modern translation available."

National Security Secrets

Hugh Hewitt points us to the testimony of Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Department of the Treasury before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, regarding the recent leaks and publications about the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program:

"Some observers have argued that the disclosure of the program did little damage because terrorist facilitators are smart and already knew to avoid the banking system. They correctly point out that there has been an overall trend among terrorists towards cash couriers and other informal mechanisms of money transfer – a trend that I have testified about. They also hold up as public warnings the repeated assertions by government officials that we are actively following the terrorists’ money.

"What we had not spoken about publicly, however, is this particular source. And, unfortunately, this revelation is very damaging. Since being asked to oversee this program by then-Secretary Snow and then-Deputy Secretary Bodman almost two years ago, I have received the written output from this program as part of my daily intelligence briefing. For two years, I have been reviewing that output every morning. I cannot remember a day when that briefing did not include at least one terrorism lead from this program. Despite attempts at secrecy, terrorist facilitators have continued to use the international banking system to send money to one another, even after September 11th. This disclosure compromised one of our most valuable programs and will only make our efforts to track terrorist financing --and to prevent terrorist attacks-- harder. Tracking terrorist money trails is difficult enough without having our sources and methods reported on the front page newspapers."

Lewis on How to Become a Better Writer

On June 26, 1956 C. S. Lewis responded to a child's letter that asked for advice on how to become a better writer. Here were the principles that Lewis suggested:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the clean direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Letter from June 26, 1956, quoted in Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, eds., The Quotable Lewis (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1989), 623.

"Kinsley, IVF, and Embryo Destruction"

Michael Kinsley (former editor of the LA Times editorial page, Slate, and the New Republic) writes on Science Fiction: What Pro-lifers Are Missing in the Stem-cell Debate. He suggests that pro-lifers are caught in an inconsistency, namely, they oppose embryonic stem-cell research but there is little controversy about in-vitro fertilization and test-tube babies. Key quote:

"In short, if embryos are human beings with full human rights, fertility clinics are death camps—with a side order of cold-blooded eugenics. No one who truly believes in the humanity of embryos could possibly think otherwise."

Al Mohler
and Joe Carter have both responded to Kinsley's piece--and both agree that he is correct with regard to this inconsistency.

"Inconsistency arguments" are routinely used in public rhetoric, and we should recognize them for what they are, namely, arguments that point out that it is incompatible to hold Position A while simultaneously holding Position B. But we should also recognize the limitations of such arguments, for the rhetorician is often trying to argue something more than that.

Let me explain, letting Position A stand for belief that "all abortion is evil." One could propose a number of things for Position B, for example, the belief that "the death penalty is just." All that the inconsistency argument can attempt to show is that given certain principles, it is logically incompatible to support both A and B.

But the argument doesn't in itself show that A is wrong, for (1) one could be wrong about A but right about B; (2) one could be right about A but wrong about B. (One could also show that the logical consistency is only apparent: for example, in the above case, the compatible principle between opposing abortion and supporting the death penalty would not be that "all taking of life is wrong" but "all taking of innocent life is wrong.")

Applying to the Slate article at hand, Kinsley suggests that if you oppose embryonic stem-cell research, you should also oppose things like IVF. That very well may be true, but it doesn't suggest in the least that pro-lifers are wrong about ESCR--only that they are wrong about IVF.

Tax Cuts

I know not everyone has received the memo, but it's pretty clear that the tax cuts have not only worked, but far exceeded expectations. Now if we can only cut the spending...

" Dr. King Is Not the Right Model for Black Preachers"

Thabiti Anyabwile thinks "it's well past time to reform the model of black pastoral leadership at play at the national and local church levels."

"The African-American church is in desperate need of biblically-qualified, gospel-preaching, Christ-treasuring, church-loving, evangelistic, intellectually-rigorous men to lead her, protect her, sacrifice for her, serve her, reform and strengthen her. We can not withstand another generation of Sharpton and Jackson-like preachers who give more attention to politics (liberal or conservative) than they give to feeding the Lord's sheep and watching over the flock of God entrusted to their care. This world is fading away and people are perishing. I shudder to think of that stricter account we ministers of the Gospel will give to the Lord of creation on that day when judgment begins at the household of God."

Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Packer Tidbits

Dr. Packer tries to walk 10-15 miles a week--usually for at least an hour at a time. He turns 80 years old on July 22.

He also recently had succesful cataracts surgery. The last time I was with him his eyesight was very poor. But his vision is now 20/20--something his unbelieving doctor, unprompted, labeled as a "miracle." He now only needs glasses for reading. He hasn't seen this well in over 70 years. Praise God for the cultural mandate and for his healing graces.

He considers his work on the ESV translation (he was the general editor of the Translation Oversight Committee) to be the most important contribution he has made to the kingdom, and he regards the publication of the ESV as the biggest milestone in the last 100 years of Bible translation history.

He mentioned to me that at the end of J.I. Packer: A Biography, McGrath struggles with how to label Packer. Instead of "theologian," McGrath settles on "theologizer." But Packer regards himself most properly as a "catechist." This is explained in his new book on Praying (p. 9): "J. I. sees himself as a traveler on Bunyan's pilgrim path, and as a theologian (which is J. I.'s public identity) he sees himself as a catechist, one who teaches Christian basics to new believers and adult inquirers, seeking both viva voce [by speaking] and by writing to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ."

(He thinks that McGrath mainly got things right in the biography. The one shortcoming, he suggested, was that McGrath doesn't portray Packer's humor. Packer loves to laugh and often has a twinkle in his eye, and I get the sense he wished that had been portrayed more in the volume.)

He mentioned how struck he was by the comment once made by G. Campbell Morgan (d. 1945), who remarked that he wouldn't expound a book of the Bible until he'd read it through 40 times. Inspired by that comment, Packer read the book of Hebrews through 10 times in a row in one sitting. That event, he said, was a watershed moment for him, and he'd like to encourage once again the lost habit of reading whole biblical books at a time.

"The more I go on," he said, "the more I appreciate [John] Owen." He loves Owen because Owen was "so systematically God-centered." He pointed to the reality of God. He regards Edwards and Owen as the twins at the head of the pack--though personally he thinks Owen was the best theologian.

On a personal note, a few things that stood out to me were (1) his incredible memory--citing detailed information on the Puritans, dates, personal recollections, etc; (2) his kindness and graciousness and humility--especially with people who approach him to convey their gratitude; (3) his personal interest in people--one quickly senses that he cares for each person he meets and wants them to feel loved; (4) his deep concern and sadness over the Anglican communion and the virtually inevitable upcoming split over the "gay way"; (5) the way in which he loves to fellowship over a good meal with friends talking about theology--he suggests few things in life are more enjoyable than that.

He is praying for five more years of good, productive writing. I'm sure he would be deeply thankful for your prayers in this regard.

One final note: from what I can tell, very few people know that Packer's shorter writings have been collected in four volumes by Paternoster. They are:

Honouring the People of God

Serving the People of God

Celebrating the Saving Work of God

Honouring the Written Word of God

I highly recommend these four volumes.

Packer on How to Become a Better Writer

At breakfast this morning with Dr. Packer, I asked him what advice he would give to someone who wanted to become a better writer. Here were the principles he suggested, based on the brief notes I jotted won:

1. Don't write until you have something to say.

2. Know your ideal reader, and write with that reader as your focus as if you're directing all of your thoughts to him.

3. Remember that there are two sides of the brain: the left and the right. The left is the logical side--monchrome gray. The right side handles grammar, imagination, and pictures--that which gives color to life. The way of wisdom in writing is to use color: nouns, verbs, and adjectives that convey pictures. A good communicator appeals to the whole person--both sides of the brain. (C.S. Lewis is a great example.)

4. There is a place for long sentences, but a long sentence should be followed by a short one. Use plenty of short sentences that will jump off the page and hit the reader between the eyes. Readers need variety--both long and short sentences--to keep them awake.

Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible

Congratulations to Baker Academic and Kevin Vanhoozer, whose book Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible won the EPCA Christian Book of the Year Award tonight.

Update: I should mention that I recommend purchasing this volume. I've only been able to read a few entries, but from what I've read, the quality is high and it covers a wide range of important topics.


Mark Noll writes in Friday's Wall Street Journal about the King James Version of the Bible.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

CBA and Packer

Blogging will be light this week as I'm in Denver for the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) annual convention--only now it's called ICRS (International Christian Retail Show).

I have the very happy task of hosting J. I. Packer while he is here, and I'll try to post a few anecdotes later this week.

Here's one:

This morning we got to talking about sports. He doesn't like baseball, football, hockey, or basketball. But he does like soccer, and he loves cricket. I then asked if he had played cricket as a young boy in England.

He looked me in the eye, and in his measured words with British accent, deadpanned:

"I don't know if you've ever noticed . . . but I have a hole in my head."

Some people say they could use such-and-such like a 'hole in the head'--and I can say that and mean it!"

In J.I. Packer: A Biography, Alister McGrath recounts the story of Packer's childhood accident [note, I've posted this before]:

It was 19 September 1933. A new school year had begun in England. A seven-year-old boy had just started to attend the National School in the English cathedral city of Gloucester. He was shy and uncertain of himself in his new surroundings. He was already being bullied. Another boy chased him out of the school grounds on to the busy London Road outside. A passing bread van could not avoid hitting him. He was thrown to the ground with a major head injury. The young boy was taken to the Gloucester Royal Infirmary and rushed into an operating theatre. He was discovered to have a depressed compound fracture of the frontal bone on the right side of his forehead, with injury to the frontal lobe of the brain. It was potentially very serious.
The reason for this story was to explain why he didn't play sports growing up.

McGrath continues:
Every schoolboy of the period longed for the day when he would own a bicycle of his own. Usually around the age of eleven, at the point when a schoolboy would enter senior school, parents would mark their son's 'coming of age' by giving him a bicycle as a birthday present. Packer dropped heavy hints that he expected to receive the cycle, like all his friends. However, his parents knew that they could not yet allow their son to have a bicycle. If he were to have any kind of accident, the earlier injury could lead to something much more serious, and potentially fatal. but what could they give their son instead?

On the morning of his eleventh birthday, in 1937, Packer wandered down from his bedroom to see what present awaited him. The family had a tradition of placing birthday presents in the dining room of the house. He expected to find a bicycle. Instead, he found an old Oliver typewriter, which seems to him to weigh half a ton. It was not what Packer had asked for; nevertheless, it proved to be what he needed. Suprise gave way to delight, as he realized what he could do with this unexpected gift. It was not more than a minute before he had put paper into the machine, and started to type. It proved to be his best present and the most treasured possession of his boyhood. (pp. 6-7)

To this day, Dr. Packer types all of his material on an old-fashioned typewriter! Thank you, God, for giving an 11-year-old Packer what he needed, not what he wanted!

By the way, Dr. Packer has a new book out--co-authored with the help of Carolyn Nystrom--called Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Driscoll Interview

Christianity Today interviews Mark Driscoll.

(HT: Scott Anderson)

Flannery O'Connor

Douglas Jones writes in the latest edition of Credenda Agenda, asking Who's Afraid of Flannery O'Connor? He writes:

Flannery O'Connor is easily the most important and talented and self-consciously Christian short story author of the twentieth century. Nobody else is close. I've seen her stories revolutionize people's lives, and yet most Christians have never even heard her name. Sure, many Christian academics and writers sing her praises, especially of late. But we should all know her stories inside and out; they should be easy allusions in conversation; they should be common parables in our teens' mouths. And we need to master her style and absorb her insights before the next generation can build upon her gifts.

Amen and amen!

Now if you've never read any of her writings and this post causes you to go out and get a copy of her short stories, chances are that you'll find them disturbing and confusing. Reading Jones's article first will help set the stage for what she's trying to do.

I once spent my reading time during a vacation alternating between her Complete Stories and Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner's interpretive work, Flannery O'Connor: A Proper Scaring, a book I'd recommend for understanding her writing. It was of the more enjoyable and enlightening reading weeks I've ever had.

Here is how Jones ends his piece, which I hope will entice you to consider O'Connor's writings:

On top of this, when you read a group of her stories, a pretty amazing pattern emerges. You soon realize how her visitations of dark grace stand out as huge gifts when compared to actual life. Most people's actual lives seem to be Flannery characters who never have the privilege of meeting dark grace. Think of the people around you. Think of the secularists. Most go on for decades in their self-deception and self-righteousness and pettiness until their bitterness just grinds to a close at the end. No revolutions. The majority of people have always seemed to live tedious, small lives. But in Flannery's world, it's as if dark grace intrudes regularly. People who would have probably been handed over to let their sin slowly destroy them get this amazing explosion of grace that turns them inside out. Because of this, her stories start to read like gift after gift after gift. You start to long for more dark grace in actual life since it produces such wonderful turns of redemption. It's as if Flannery's stories are a photo album or a hall of fame of great moments in surprising grace, a pattern so far from do-the-dishes life. Maybe we have not because we ask not.
Don't be afraid of Flannery. Let her mess with your head. Let her disturb you. As she observed, "all human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." She's not the first or the last word, but she has an amazing grasp of Christian drama, and it's hard to see how contemporary Christian culture can mature without having her stories or others like them very deep in its bones. Let her show you how surprising grace is, how dark and healthy it can be, what a gift it is. Let the ugly girl in the waiting room turn her lip inside out again, let her make a loud noise through her teeth, let her fingers clamp onto the soft flesh of your neck.

Jones also offers his top 10 list of favorite O'Connor stories. I'd especially commend "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Parker's Back" (numbers 5 and 1 on his list, respectively).

For more on O'Connor's work, especially as it relates to southern culture, see Ralph Wood's Flannery O'connor and the Christ-Haunted South.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Apostles Creed

Bob Kauflin posts on a new CD, The Apostles Creed, by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.

I Interview Voice

Below is an interview I conducted with Curtis Allen (aka Voice) (biographical sketch here)--rapper and pastoral intern at Covenant Life Church.

First you were “Mc Finesse.” Then you became “Intrigue Garcia.” Now you’re “Voice.” Why Voice?

When I first decided to do Christian Rap I really struggled with a name. Primarily because names in rap (secular) can typically highlight the individual or some element of pride they want to be known for. It was a struggle because I wanted a name that drew less attention to myself, and more on the content of what I would say on “Progression.” So I was reading the Gospel of Matthew and came across a description of John the Baptist as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.” I thought to myself that is what I hope to a voice crying out to a generation of the church to love the cross of Christ and live humbly in light of the orthodoxy we have been given.

I wonder if we could start with some definitions. What, for example, is the difference between rap and hip-hop?

Good question. Hip-hop is a culture that consists of a style of dress, a language and art forms such as tagging, which are graffiti, break dancing, DJing and rapping. Rap is an art form that comes out of the culture of hip-hop. Similar to salsa music coming out of the Latin culture, yet there is more to Latin Culture than just Salsa as there is more to hip-hop than rap music.

When Joshua Harris asked you to perform at the New Attitude Conference in 2004, was that the first Christian rapping that you had done since your conversion?

Yes it was. It was then that I realized Christian “Reformed” rap could and does glorify God. To this day I am so grateful for New Attitude 2004.

It seems to me that Eminem’s move 8 Mile gave us a peek into the personal dimension of the world of rap. If you saw the movie, did you see a lot of similarities between your journey and Eminem’s?

I would see some similarities in terms of desire. I really wanted to make it in the rap industry before being a believer. I saw this drive in Eminem and could relate. The other similarity I saw was the freestyle. When I grew up freestyle, which means to make up your rap as you go along in the moment, was how you proved you were a real MC (old school name for rappers).

Why do you think so many white kids are attracted to hip-hop these days? I noticed that in “All Rap Is” you say that Emimem “gave white people something to relate to that couldn’t claim the streets.”

Yeah, well this is bit of a deep issue but I will try to succinctly answer this. I think our generation is very much removed from the civil rights generation. The more time that goes by, racism between blacks and whites will matter even less. Having said that, I think because of that racist history our generation feels an obligation to embrace that which our parents have said was wrong in the past. Because of the acknowledged wrongs of racism by our previous generation, our generation has wanted to distance itself from that. This transcends far beyond music but nowadays it has primarily parked itself at black culture. In society today, among Caucasians it is trendy to accept and want to be black. It has become the in thing to identify with struggle, and rap represents that struggle in the most influential form created, music. That’s why 80% of Secular rap consumers are white. I could go a lot deeper on this but I hope this makes sense.

Is the scene changing? One of the lines in “All Rap Is” says: “But lately I don’t know if you noticed but to me rap is low key saying Jesus save me.” What does that mean and what do you think is going on?

Well there seems to be an intellectual agreement of salvation through Jesus, which is being communicated more and more. Not that people are being saved but you can identify with faith in Christ without being booed. "Jesus Walks" was a song by Kanye West that was the number one song in the country last year. I think the harvest is ripe right now.

For this next question I’m thinking about increasingly smaller circles. In the first circle you have all the musicians in the world. Within that circle is a much smaller one that holds all the rappers in the world. Within that is a smaller one yet of guys trying to live a fairly clean, moral lifestyle. Within that you have Christian rappers. And finally, you have perhaps the smallest segment of all—Reformed Christian rappers. But you’re not the only one, are you? Who are some of the other Reformed brothers out there doing hip hop and rap?

Right now the guys I listen to are Christcentric ( Shai Linne and Timothy Brindle ( These guys, groups influence me the most and the ones I like to listen to. There are more but I don’t listen to them as much.

Do you regard Ligon and John Duncan as two of your biggest rap competitors—or do you all get along okay?

After seeing them at Together [for the Gospel] I was thinking that the Lord was revealing to me that these are the men he has called to use rap to glorify himself. I thought I should no longer be doing rap but then I realized it wasn’t the voice of the Lord after hearing them. Seriously I thought that was hilarious! People were looking at me wondering if I would be offended but I was dying laughing. I think it helped Christian rap in that people see that these guys not only are aware of it but in some sense enjoy it. Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan wanted and got CD’s of Progression after the conference.

Tell me about your first CD, Progression.

Progression is an album that I wanted to make that I considered to be a “Very Human” album. Sometimes Christian music can lack the everyday struggle of the Christian or can easily gloss over the problem and go right to the solution, but that is not always the case in real life situations. Sometimes we doubt God’s Sovereignty, and I wanted to capture that on the album. It has 14 songs, and the album progresses. So it starts off with faith in Christ and excitement in being like him in the world. Then after a few songs you get to a bit of unbelief and complaints about the very thing you were celebrating in the first few songs. Then in "Contemporary Job," like the book of Job, God addresses those complaints with His perspective. After that the Christian is refreshed and is ready to again fight sin in "Divide and Conquer" and so forth. So I see Progression as the Christian life in many ways. We all face doubts and encouragement and I wanted to have that element on Progression.

If I can just add a personal note here—the song I enjoyed the most on your album was “Why Should I Care,” where you recount a conversation he had with a hurting single mom who needed to hear the gospel.

Thank you. Very tough situation that was, but God gives grace in those moments to speak truth and be sensitive to what people are going through

Do you have any more albums in the pipeline?

Yeah I am working on an album called “The Crucible” that will be available early September.

When we think of racial harmony in the church today, most of us think about whites not welcoming blacks. But your experience seems to show the flip side of that: a white guy inviting you to a predominantly white church, but you feeling that their whiteness was an obstacle for you. Tell me about that. Why was it an obstacle, and how did God work to overcome that in your heart?

Well prior to coming to Covenant Life I had only had segregated experiences in the church. I am from the “Hood” so when I came to CLC it was just too many white people to me. I focused more on the cultural differences, like music clothes and lingo, too much. But I went to New Attitude 2000 and God revealed to me that I was proud to be uncomfortable around my white brothers and sisters in the Lord. Through the word he helped me see that I was Christian first and a black man second and that in heaven we will all be there together worshipping Him. So I see going to Covenant Life Church, a predominantly white church/ministry, as preparation for Heaven.

Where do you hope to be five years from now?

I hope to be a pastor in Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Are you doing concerts these days? If so, what are you trying to accomplish through your concerts, and what sort of impact do you think it’s had so far?

I am. Josh Harris (my senior pastor) and Eric Simmons (my boss), along with myself, have felt that God is opening doors in music. I have been able to do some concerts and bring the gift that God has given me in rap to edify the body of Christ. I have been received well, and by His grace I have been able to get some pretty significant concerts. It’s hard to measure impact, but I hope to use this because of rap’s influence on the next generation and ours. I want to make music that glorifies God and points others to do the same.

Just out of curiosity, what kind of audiences are you usually performing in front of these days? Black, white, etc. Do you have a sense of the average breakdown?

Justin, this is the wildest thing to me. I do shows and 99% of the time the crowd is white. As a matter of fact, I have only done one show so far where the crowd was more black and Latino. It is the white pastors who bring me to their churches to influence their youth and singles groups. Although, I recently opened for Matt Redman at a JAMA conference and that was a crowd of 2300 Koreans. The people who are the most supportive of the ministry are white people, and I praise God for that. I have had many people that are not rap-oriented or even liked it prior to hearing Progression have encouraged me and are wanting to bring me to their churches. Very humbling and I am very grateful.

If someone reading this wanted to bring you to their church or event for a concert, how do they do that?

Well they could go to my website and go to the booking page and fill out the info. It sends an email directly to me. That is how most of my requests come in. Either that or by word of mouth from people who have brought me out and have enjoyed the ministry.

Voice, thanks very much for taking the time to talk about these things. I really appreciate your time, and the way you are using your gifts to glorify the Savior and to edify the church! Folks who want more info on Voice can go to

Thank you, Justin! I know that this kind of interview on your blog isn’t what people read it for. Thank you for taking the time to listen to Progression and actually enjoy it enough to do this! I hope others know that if God works in Mysterious ways, rap is one of them. FYI, I did a really cool interview with Matt Redman on Monday, July 3rd. The podcast will be on in a few days and the video will be on my site on Friday. He had some very interesting things to say about Worship. When you go to my site go to the Media star and you will see it on your left--click and watch. Justin, I hope to do a concert near you buddy! Maybe we can freestyle together or something, haha!

The Power of the Gospel

C.J. Mahaney posts some excerpts from an article by Ray Ortlund, Jr. on "The Power of the Gospel in the Church Today"--looking in particular at the limits of Paul's contextualization as cited in 1 Corinthians 9:22.

My hope is that the T4G guys--who have been blogging on faithfulness and relevance--would now also turn to the flip side of contextualization and explore the issue of whether the issue of under-contextualization is a problem that we struggle with in the Reformed church. I'd love to hear their discerning thoughts on that topic as well.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Humble Orthodoxy

Joshua Harris's excellent message on Humble Orthodoxy--delivered at the New Attitude conference--is now available to download as a video.

"Answers to Common Questions about Creation"

Mark Driscoll posts a portion of the commentary he wrote for his people, providing Answers to Common Questions about Creation as he preached verse-by-verse through the book of Genesis.

Here are the questions:

  • What does the creation account in Genesis 1–2 reveal about God?
  • What are some of the primary non-Christian views of God’s relationship to creation?
  • What are some of the problems with atheistic evolution?
  • What are the various Christian views of creation?
  • What is Intelligent Design?
  • Are the six days of creation literal twenty-four hour days?
  • Should science or Scripture hold priority?
  • How old is the Earth?
  • Why does the earth appear old?
  • What is ex nihilo?
  • Where did creation come from?
  • Was the entire Trinity involved in making creation?
  • Why did God make creation?
  • How are men and women different than the rest of creation?
  • What is the cultural mandate?
  • Was anything made not good?
  • What is the Fall?
  • Did animals die before the Fall?
  • What about dinosaurs?
  • Who did Cain marry?
  • Why are sex and sexual sin so prevalent in Genesis?

Driscoll also has an appendix of further resources for study.