Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mercy Ministries

Two Reformed pastors present their differing perspectives on the proper role, and biblical rationale, of mercy ministries in the local church.

Race Matters

Mark Galli offers a thoughtful post here on racial inequalities based on an Associated Press article--which Galli (correctly) judges to be a "textbook example of sloppy reporting: ignoring historical context and using an opening quote to determine an ideological tone for the entire piece."

Galli also points to an article by CT editor-at-large Ed Gilbreath, who writes on Kramer's Sins--and Ours. And even in the seemingly simple task of pointing to this article, Galli acknowledges struggling with "the confusion and awkwardness of race."

I appreciate his honest perspective, join him in the fog, and echo his prayer: "Lord, have mercy."

Defending Life

The following book is one that all want serious thinkers about abortion will want to purchase next year:

Title: Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice
Author: Francis J. Beckwith
List Price: $65.00 (hardcover) / $23.99 (paperback)
Page count: 272
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Pub Date: September 30, 2007
ISBN: 0521691354

Book Description: Defending Life is the most comprehensive defense of the prolife position on abortion ever published. It is sophisticated, but still accessible to the ordinary citizen. Without high-pitched rhetoric or appeals to religion, the author offers a careful and respectful case for why the prolife view of human life is correct. He responds to the strongest prochoice arguments found in law, science, philosophy, politics, and the media. He explains and critiques Roe v. Wade, and he explains why virtually all the popular prochoice arguments fail. There is simply nothing like this book.


Literary Smackdown for Studied Truculence in Response to Hospitality

One of my goals in life is never to make George Will mad at me. Apparently Virginia's Senator-elect Jim Webb does not share that goal.

Rebuilding Your World of Talk

Lately I've been dipping into Paul Tripp's book, War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles, which is "not a discussion of the techniques and skills for effective communication," but rather is "the story of the great battle for our hearts that is the reason for our struggle with words."

Here are some notes from one of the sections on how to rebuild your talk so that it runs along the dual rails that God has designed--one rail called God's glory, the other rail called your neighbor's good.

1. Don't give in to regret.
We should not become paralyzed by "if onlys." Remember that God is the Wonderful Counselor, the universe's best teacher; therefore, instead of regret we need to rest in his sovereign wisdom. Also remember that the God who forgives also restores, rebuilds, and reconciles.

2. Embrace gospel hope.
While our sin confounds us, it never confounds the Savior. Trouble does not mean that God has forsaken us. And God not only forgives, but he also empowers.

3. Examine your fruit.
"What is the fruit produced by your communication? Do you leave others encouraged, hopeful, and loved? Do your words lead to forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace? Does your communication impart wisdom and encourage faith? Or do your words lead to discouragement, division, condemnation, bitterness, and foolishness?"

4. Uncover your roots.
Word problems always point to heart problems (Luke 6:45). People and situations do not cause us to speak the way we do. They are simply the occasion for the heart to express itself. Our heart controls our words.

5. Seek forgiveness.
"Seeking forgiveness is like weeding a garden. It leaves the soil of the soul free to grow the new life of obedience. The weeds of unconfessed sin choke out the life of the soul. A major part of rebuilding your world of talk is to ask yourself the question, What specific sins of communication (both heart and mouth--see Luke 6:46) is the Lord calling me to confess to him or to others?"

6. Freely grant forgiveness. There are two aspects: (1) judicial, vertical forgiveness (willingness to let go of another's offense before God; Rom. 12:19); (2) relational, horizontal forgiveness (willingness to forgive anyone who comes seeking it; Eph. 4:32). There is no greater impediment to change than the unwillingness to seek and grant forgiveness.

7. Change the rules.
What is God calling you to change in your communication? What new ways of speaking must replace the old ways? After the obedience of forgiveness, you must make a specific commitment to a new way of speaking. "The 'put off' of confession and repentance must be followed by the 'put on' of a specific, practical commitment to a new way of talking."

8. Look for opportunities. "This is not so much a change of direction as it is a change of perspective. Those situations that were the source of difficulty, those moments where unkind, selfish, and ungodly words were spoken, those situations you once dreaded, now become opportunities to experience the enabling grace of the Lord and exercise newfound character and obedience."

9. Choose your words.
We must think before we speak, weighing our answers (Prov. 15:28), not speaking in haste like a fool.

10. Confess your weakness. The awareness of weakness is a sign of maturity. We will never outgrow our need for God's moment-by-moment supply of grace.

11. Don't give the Devil an opportunity
. Two things shut the door to Satan and his cruel work: (1) commitment to the courage of honesty and loving truthfulness; and (2) commitment to the humility of approachability.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Nativity Story

CT's David Neff reviews The Nativity Story.

Apologetic Lectures

Free online lectures on apologetics by Douglas Groothuis, professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary.

(HT: A-Team)

Go Deep

(HT: Jeff Brewer)

Christmas Visitor

Paul Helm gets paid a surprise visit by the Apostle Paul and finds out what he thinks about Christmas.

Piper on Substance Dualism

John Piper responds to a Books & Culture article by Kevin Corcoran, who advances a Christian materialist argument against the soul.

Update: Piper and Corcoran exchange emails about their respective articles.

Redeeming Physics

Vern Poythress has posted his most recent ETS paper online: Redeeming Physics: Biblical and Theological Resources for a God-Centered Approach.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


"I am thinking of what I call Style-mongers. On taking up a book, these people concentrate on what they call its ‘style’ or its ‘English’. They judge this neither by its sound nor by its power to communicate but by its conformity to certain arbitrary rules. Their reading is a perpetual witch hunt for Americanisms, Gallicisms, split infinitives, and sentences that end with a preposition. They do not inquire whether the Americanism or Gallicism in question increases or impoverishes the expressiveness of our language. It is nothing to them that the best English speakers and writers have been ending sentences with prepositions for over a thousand years" (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p. 35).

(HT: Doug Wilson)

By the way, if you are an editor--or just happen to hate editors--you may be interested in reading Thomas Sowell's blistering essay entitled Some Thoughts on Writing. I'm just thankful I can enjoy Sowell's writings without editing them!

Consistency Alert

Tony Jones seems quite irritated that Brett Kunkle thinks Tony has opened the door to unorthodoxy. Yet Tony calls comments by Mark Driscoll to be "unChristian" (he doesn't say which comments and why they are "unChristian"), and wishes that Reformed leaders would "publicly spank" Driscoll and call him to task--though I'm not aware of a parallel call by Tony for the same sort of thing to happen to any of his fellow Emergent leaders. Anyone care to guess what Tony's response would be if someone penned a post in such a tone and called one of Brian McLaren's comments "unChristian" and deserving of public rebuke?

Update: Here's an email exchange Tony and I had today, reprinted with permission:

Hey Tony,

Hope you're doing well.

Just wanted to let you know that I regret posting the little thing about consistency on my blog. I think it may still be a legitimate point, but it came across as trying to pick a fight rather to engage in constructive dialogue. So I ask for your forgiveness for that.

One of my unwritten rules for blogging is that if I'm frustrated at something and intend to post an insta-response but have a moment of self-doubt about it, I should sleep on it first. Obviously it'd be better if I started practicing my own rules!

Hope all's well in Edina.



Thanks, Justin. I have the same rule, though I sometimes break it. I'd be happy if you removed the post and/or told the blogging world about the mistake. As with Brett, I think it's essential that our friendship be in the forefront.


Reformed and Emergent

Roger Overton offers a critique of both Reformed academics and the Emergent proponents--for different reasons. I think both frustrations are legitimate.

Update: Sean Lucas offers some thoughts regarding the Reformed angle. (HT: Z.)

A Commentary Series for Children

A faithful, substantial, biblical-theological commentary series on Genesis to Joshua for ages 6 and up? Yes, it's been done, and from the sounds of it, done well. Check out the Herein Is Love series, published by Shepherd Press.

Articles on Homemaking, Singleness

Some of the articles from the most recent issue of The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have been posted online by Sovereign Grace Ministries:
A description of the entire "By Women for Women" issue can be read here.

(HT: GirlTalkers)

Mohler Review of The Nativity Story

Al Mohler on The Nativity Story movie:

My family and I attended a media screening for The Nativity Story last night. Here is my instant review -- the movie is in season and on message. In other words, the movie faithfully presents the main thrust of the Christmas story. That is no small achievement.

Read the whole insta-review.

Crunching the Population Numbers

Mark Steyn writes:
...The new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, [is] the first woman to run a national division of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Kate gave an interview to the New York Times revealing what passes for orthodoxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a simple enough question: "How many members of the Episcopal Church are there?"

"About 2.2 million," replied the presiding bishop. "It used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations."

This was a bit of a jaw-dropper even for a New York Times hackette, so, with vague memories of God saying something about going forth and multiplying floating around the back of her head, a bewildered Deborah Solomon said: "Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?"

"No," agreed Bishop Kate. "It's probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion."

Is population control a problem in the West? Should Christians seek to have less children in order to be good stewards of the earth? In light of these questions we should examine some of the statistics about what is happening to demography in the Western world.

Last night I started reading Mark Steyn's new bestselling book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. (It's the only book I know of that carries a blurb on the cover mocking the author: "The arrogance of Mark Steyn knows no bounds."--Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Ambassador to the United States.) Steyn's thesis is that "much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive the twenty-first century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most European countries" (p. xiii). "This book is about . . . the larger forces at play in the developed world that have left Europe too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia and that call into question the future of much of the rest of the world, including the United States, Canada, and beyond. The key factors are: (1) demographic decline; (2) the unsustainability of the advanced Western social-democratic state; [and] (3) civilizational exhaustion" (pp. xv-xvi).

Now, keeping Jefferts-Schori's quote in mind, consider some quotes by Steyn with regard to what is happening to demography:

"...the salient feature of Europe, Canada, Japan, and Russia is that they're running out of babies. What's happening in the developed world is one of the fastest demographic evolutions in history" (p. xvi).

"The single most important fact about the early twenty-first century is the rapid aging of almost every developed nation other than the United States: Canada, Europe, and Japan are getting old fast, older than any functioning society has ever been and faster than any has ever aged" (p. 2).

In order to have a stable population (no growth, no decline) you have to have a fertility rate of 2.1 live births per woman. Here are the current rates:
  • America: 2.11
  • Ireland: 1.9
  • Australia: 1.7
  • Canada: 1.48 (all-time low)
  • Europe as a whole: 1.38
  • Japan: 1.32
  • Germany and Austria: 1.3
  • Russia and Italy: 1.2
  • Spain: 1.1
"So Spain's population is halving with every generation. Two grown-ups have a total of one baby. So there are half as many children as parents. And a quarter as many grandchildren as grandparents. And an eighth as many great-grandchildren as great-grandparents. And after that there's no point extrapolating, because you're over the falls and it's too late to start paddling again" (p. 10).

What, you ask, is the live birthfertility rate in a country live Afghanistan? In 2005, it was 47.02 births per 1,000 people (=10.6 live births/woman). In 2006, the rate is 6.69. You do the math and ponder what that means for the shift of socio-political power in the years ahead.

"Islam has youth and will, Europe has age and welfare" (p. xix).

"I wonder how many pontificators of the 'Middle East peace process ever run this number: the median age in the Gaza Strip is 15.8 years. Once you know that, all the rest is details."

"Big government depends on bigger population. . . . The progressive Left can be in favor of Big Government or population control but not both. That mutual incompatibility is about to plunge Europe into societal collapse. There is no precedent in human history for economic growth on declining human capital--and that's before anyone invented unsustainable welfare systems" (pp. 2-3).

"...demography is an existential crisis for the developed world, because the twentieth-century social-democratic state was built on a careless model that requires a constantly growing population to sustain it" (p. xix).

"The tax revenues that supporter the ever-growing numbers of the elderly and retired have to be paid by equally growing numbers of young and working. The design flaw of the radically secularist Eutopia is that it depends on a religious-society birth rate" (p. 12).

"It's not the economy, stupid. It's the stupidity, economists--the stupidity of thinking you can ignore demography" (pp. 4-5).

"Given the plummeting birth rates in Europe, Russia, Japan, etc., a large chunk of the world has evidently decided to take pre-emptive action on climate change and opt for societal suicide. The crisis we face today is the precise opposite of 'overpopulation': the developed world's population is shrinking faster than any human society not in the grip of war or disease has ever shrunk" (pp. 8-9).

"In the fourteenth century, the Black Death wiped out a third of the Continent's population; in the twenty-first, a larger proportion will disappear--in effect, by choice. We are living through a rare moment: the self-extinction of the civilization which, for good or ill, shaped the age we live in. One can cite examples of remote backward tribes who expire upon contact with the modern world, but for the modern world to expire is a turn of events future anthropologists will ponder, as we do the fall of Rome" (pp. 3-4).

Update: Thanks to the alert readers who told me I was confusing birth and fertility rates with regard to Afghanistan. I never did do well in statistics in college!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Worst Burglar Ever

I guess even burglars can have a bad day:

(HT: TeamPyro)

How to Learn a Foreign Language

A friend remembered a post I did on learning a foreign language, and in the process of searching for it, I thought I'd repost it. It's from a piece for NPR by linguist John McWhorter:

As a linguist, I get a letter or message about once a month asking me what the best way is to learn a foreign language at home. I always answer "The Magic Books," by which I mean the wonderful Assimil series. I've been giving people Assimil sets for 20 years now. It's the With Ease series you may have seen -- Russian with Ease, Dutch with Ease, and so on.

These are some of my favorite Christmas gifts because they're the only self-teachers I know that work. In just 20 minutes a day -- if you do exactly what they tell you to with the books and accompanying recordings -- then presto! You will be talking like, roughly, an unusually cosmopolitan three-year-old. No, you won't be "conversing like a native" the way the ad copy says, unless you already are one, which would presumably make one's use of the set somewhat peculiar. And, they can only give you so much vocabulary. But the magic is that you will be able to carry on a decent conversation, instead of just being able to count to 100 and say things like "My uncle is a lawyer but my aunt has a spoon."

Read the whole thing.

Review Reminder

Just a reminder to those who are reviewing Overcoming Sin and Temptation or Suffering and the Sovereignty of God--I'll be posting a link to all the reviews this Friday. Send your link to

Consistency Alert

Here's Andrew Sullivan, writing on Mormon Mitt Romney, explaining why he is completely disinterested in a candidate's private religion: "Personally, I have no interest in someone’s private faith in his or her pursuit of public office. Romney, to my mind, should be judged on his public record."

And here's Andrew Sullivan, conducting an investigation into the kind of religious underwear worn by Mormons.

(HT: Dean Barnett)

Sealed with an Oath

Students of biblical theology will be interested in this forthcoming addition to IVP's New Studies in Biblical Theology series:

Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Purpose
Volume 23, New Studies in Biblical Theology
By Paul R. Williamson
InterVarsity Press
Pub Date: March 2007

Paul R. Williamson looks at the role of the covenant concept in Scripture and the meaning of this terminology. He then sets the idea of covenant in the context of God's universal purpose, and traces the idea through Noah and the patriarchs, the nation of Israel and the kingship of David. Lastly, he shows how the new covenant is anticipated in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.

Williamson offers new insights into key texts and issues related to the theme of covenant. He is not afraid to challenge established positions. One example is his dual-covenant approach to God's dealings with Abraham.

His robust scholarship will be appreciated by scholars, lecturers and students in theology, ministers and all who have a serious interest in the covenant concept.

1. Biblical Theology and the Covenant Concept
2. Covenant and God's Universal Purpose
3. God's Universal Covenant with Noah
4. God's Programmatic Covenants with the Patriarchs
5. God's National Covenants with Israel
6. God's Royal Covenant with David
7. God's New Covenant anticipated by the Prophets
8. God's New Introduction Inaugurated through Jesus

"Few will be the readers who will not learn a great deal . . . and who will not appreciate the firm but respectful way Dr. Williamson disagrees with his dialogue partners. And perhaps some of those who are much too indebted to atomistic exegesis, unable to see how the Bible hangs together, will glimpse something of the comprehensiveness and wholeness of God's self-disclosure in Scripture, and find their worship of the covenant-making God enhanced."
—D. A. Carson

Jim Wallis

The Washington Post profiles Jim Wallis.

Mitt Romney

If you ignore his boilerplate theme of bash-the-evangelicals-whenever possible, Andrew Sullivan provides a helpful introduction to Mitt Romney in The Sunday Times.

Hugh Hewitt's 256-page book on Romney--A Mormon in the White House? 10 Things Every Conservative Should Know about Mitt Romney--is due out in March 2007. Here's the publisher description:

A Mormon in the White House? is the first book on Mitt Romney, his unusual faith story, and his viability as a Republican presidential nominee. Inside are exclusive interviews with the governor, his family, and closest associates, mixed with candid conversations with some of the country's shrewdest political observers and Christian leaders. Radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt sets out to explain Romney, his faith, and the importance of that debate in a headline-making and election-shaping opening shot in the campaign before the campaign.

And Time Magazine has an article this week entitled Can a Mormon Be President?
Here's an interesting statistic: "A poll conducted in June by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg found that 35% of registered voters said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for President. Only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate, the poll found."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Minimum Wage Laws Hurt the Poor

"The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum-wage laws."
-- Milton Friedman

William Buckely has some further reflections.

John Daker: Whoop!

Every so often I post this clip of John Daker singing. Since there are new readers of this blog being added all the time, I'm reposting it so as not to deprive them of the joy found in watching!

For background, here's the Wikipedia entry on John Daker.

So without further ado . . . here's John:

It repays multiple viewings.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Desiring God Conference for Pastors: The Holiness of God

Here is some information on the Desiring God Conference for Pastors:

Dates: February 5-7, 2007
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Venue: Hilton Minneapolis
Keynote Speaker: R. C. Sproul
Pastoral Speaker: Thabiti Anyabwile
Missions Speaker: William Mackenzie
Biographical Speaker: John Piper (on Andrew Fuller)

Learn more about the speakers.
Read John Piper's invitation.
Listen to Piper talk about the conference.
Register to attend.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

When People Are Big and God Is Small

"The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
Proverbs 29:25

"Fear of man is such a part of our human fabric that we should check for pulse if someone denies it."--Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small.

In order to fear God, not man, here are the steps Welch sets forth in his book, which I've just started and would warmly commend:

Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.

Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.

Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.

Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.

Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.

Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.

Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.

Piper: Bad, Not Mad

John Piper responds to the "I'm Bad" sound clip in an interview with Louie Giglio.

Here's the video, for the few of you who may not have seen it till now:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Meet the Puritans

The Shepherd's Scrapbook has announced their Book of the Year, along with how to order it at a special discount.

Is Mormonism Christian?

The discussions about Mormonism and Christianity are going to intensify rapidly in the next couple of years, especially if--as I suspect--Gov. Mitt Romney will be the GOP presidential nominee in 2008. Now is the time for Christian pastors, leaders, and teachers to bone up on the subject with a view toward instructing the church in answer to the inevitable questions that are going to arise. (This topic was a significant part of Hugh Hewitt's plenary address at ETS, where he suggested to the evangelical scholars in attendance that it would be a serious mistake for evangelicals to reject Romney because he is a Mormon--in part because the exact same premises will be used in arguments to exclude evangelicals from the public square. Hewitt also revealed that he is almost done writing a book on Romney.)

For an introduction to the history and beliefs of Mormonism, a helpful place to start reading might be Richard and Joan Ostling's Mormon America: The Power and the Promise. Richard John Neuhaus recently reviewed it, and along the way he provides a helpful primer in his own right.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Benny Hinn

$10-million, 7,000 sq. ft. home. $112,000 per month for a private jet. Two $80,000 cars. Luxury hotel rooms that are 5,400 sq. ft. for $10,800 per night paid for and stayed at during a "layover." Tips over a 3-day period for $4,500. A salary of half a million to a million dollars per year--plus book royalties. Those are some of the numbers represented in Benny Hinn's lifestyle.

I don't think these clips from an NBC news expose are new, but they are still instructive.

(HT: Bob Hyatt)

Biography of Roger Nicole

David Bailey has now written an authorized biography of one of the great Reformed theologians of our time, Dr. Roger Nicole. It is entitled Speaking the Truth in Love: Life & Legacy of Roger Nicole.

You can read online J. I. Packer's Introduction.

Here are a few of the endorsements:

"This is a fascinating overview of the life and labors of one of the America's most gifted evangelical theologians. Drawing deeply from the wells of Reformation theology in the tradition of Calvin, Bunyan, Owen, Edwards, and Bavinck, Roger Nicole has set forth a compelling vision of theology as a discipline in the service of the church. And he has done so with grace, wit, insight, passion, and the kind of wisdom evangelicals need more of today. Though I never took a class with Roger Nicole, I am certainly one of his students and I commend this telling of his story to all who care about the Bible's God, the church's faith, and the world's need for the gospel of grace."
-Dr. Timothy George

"Here is a review of one of the most interesting Reformed theologians of the last seventy years. Roger Nicole's life has been spent in training ministers. Most of his students have known him only behind a lectern or in a brief meeting; here is much more of the story from WWI Germany to pre-War Paris, to Canada and beyond. Read and be encouraged to give your all in service to Christ."
- Pastor Mark Dever

"This is a moving tribute to one who has been valiant for the truthfulness of God's Word throughout his whole life. Not only is the measure of the man included, but amazing story here is the way Dr. Nicole's life has intersected with almost all the major events of the evangelical world in the past three-quarters of a century. It is a vivid reminder of the faithfulness of God and the bold necessity of ever speaking the truth in love both to those both who are part of the household of faith and those who are not."
- Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

"Awesome for brain power, learning and wisdom, endlessly patient and courteous in his gentle geniality, and beloved by a multitude as pastor, mentor and friend, veteran Reformed theologian Roger Nicole comes beautifully to life in this warm-hearted biographical tribute. Thank you, David Bailey."
- Dr. James I. Packer

"The biography, based as it is on lengthy personal interviews with Dr. Nicole, has been both thoroughly researched and is well written. Between his Preface and Conclusion Bailey takes us in the eleven intervening chapters from Dr. Nicole's paternal grandfather's professorship in Greek language and literature at the University of Geneva and his father's pastoral ministry in Germany and Switzerland through his childhood and education and his teaching and pastoral ministry both in Europe and America up to the present. More, much more, could be written about this biography of Dr. Nicole's life and legacy but space constraints will not allow it. So I will close by stating unequivocally that anyone who takes the time and makes the effort to read it will be richly rewarded. He will be moved many times, as I was, both by Dr. Nicole's encyclopedic knowledge of the entire theological terrain and by his deep personal Christian humility. I can only hope and pray that through this biography more people will come to know and appreciate what a choice gift God has given to his church in the person of Roger Nicole."
- Dr. Robert Reymond

Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World

Here is a beautifully illustrated, historically faithful children's book on Martin Luther, written by the historian Paul Maier and published by Concordia Publishing House: Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World (retail price: $12.99; pages: 32; ages: 4-8).

Doctrine and Life

"Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; is not apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other branches of learning; but is received only when it possesses the whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart. . . . To doctrine in which our religion is contained we have given the first place, since by it our salvation commences; but it must be transfused into the breast, and pass into the conduct, and so transform us into itself, as not to prove unfruitful." - John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III. VI. 4.

(HT: Keith Plummer)

Kunkle Paper on the Emerging Church

Brett Kunkle (of Stand to Reason) has now posted his ETS paper online: Essential Concerns of the Emerging Church. Brett has done is homework, and bends over backwards to be fair and nuanced. Here's a sample:

I have listened to the ECM’s response to criticism and have attempted to be a well-informed, fair, balanced, and humanizing voice within the conversation. In turn, I hope my voice is thoughtfully considered and not quickly dismissed. Conversely, I am open to correction. If I have mischaracterized a position or been unfair to a view, I desire the same correction I humbly attempt to offer.

I'd encourage you to read it. Brett's concerns and perspective line up with my own, except that he is able to express it more clearly, persuasively, and with greater documentation.

Campolo, Idolatry, and the Holiness of God

Joe Carter weighs in on the Bart Campolo piece: Cosmic Traitors: Campolo, Idolatry, and the Holiness of God.

Four Steps to Transform Your Life

Joe Carter:

This post contains a four step process that could transform your life by, quite literally, changing your mind.

After reading the entire post the vast majority of readers will snicker at such a hyperbolic claim and never implement the method I outline. A smaller number will consider the advice intriguing, my assertion only a slight exaggeration, and will also never implement the method. A tiny minority, however, will recognize the genius behind the recommendation and apply it to their own life. This group will later say that my claim was an understatement.

This post is written for those people.

Here are the four steps:
  1. Choose a book of the Bible.
  2. Read it in its entirety.
  3. Repeat #2 twenty times.
  4. Repeat this process for all 66 books of the Bible.
Read Joe's entire post for practical suggestions and motivation.

Brief ETS Update

Denny Burk:

I am pleased that the society decided to amend the bi-laws so that the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” will become the norm for defining inerrancy in the ETS. Now that this motion has passed, the ETS has an official guideline for evaluating whether theological views (like Open Theism) are compatible with a belief in inerrancy. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Clark Pinnock spoke in favor of the bi-law change.

The members of ETS elected Bruce Ware as the next President of ETS. Dr. Ware is a fine scholar and an articulate theologian. The ETS selected one of its finest in elevating Dr. Ware to this position.

Update: To be more precise and to clarify, Dr. Ware was elected as vice-president for the year ahead. He'll then be program chairman in 2008, then president in 2009.

New "Nativity Story" Trailer

(HT: Z)

Quote of the Day

Kate O'Beirne: "Should Mitt Romney join a 2008 race that included John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and George Allen, the only guy in the GOP field with only one wife would be the Mormon."


While at ETS I had the privilege of running into Quincy Jones (no not that Quincy Jones). This is a young, winsome, earnest brother who is studying for the ministry and seeking to be faithful with the gifts God has given him.

He's also part of a hip-hop group called CHRISTCENTRIC. Here's part of their self-description:

CHRISTCENTRIC is a collection of ministers, gifted in the art of hip-hop, and called by God to passionately preach, teach, and defend the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. CHRISTCENTRIC is distinct in that they purpose not to entertain but to minister and this primarily to professing believers within the hip-hop culture. Coming to help spur (the saints) on toward love and good deeds and ground them in sound doctrine they seek to dynamically impact the lives of believers for the building of Gods Kingdom. Through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs they powerfully bring the mercies of God in full view calling saints to greater commitment to Christ and unbelievers into a right relationship with God.

The ultimate aim of CHRISTCENTRIC is simply to bring glory to the mighty name of Jesus Christ. So that first in their lives and then the lives of the hearers at all times and in all things Jesus might have the preeminence.

CHRISTCENTRIC, centered in Germantown, MD (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) began in the mind and prayers of Evangel and Q-D.O.G. in 1996. Growing up in the hip-hop culture and loving to rhyme they both one day aspired to be professional hip-hop artists. While separately on their quests in the world to make it in the hip-hop industry, each of them on a path of prodigal living, God took a hold of their lives, brought them together, and changed their vision. Seeking now to use their lyrical gifts to build the Kingdom of God there was only one thing they lacked: a producer. They began to pray. God answered on their heart The Apologist who was a close friend and formerly Evangel's producer in his worldly hip-hop endeavors. Evangel and Q began to pray fervently for his repentance and faith in Christ. God powerfully answered their prayers and in 1997 Will got saved! More than that, he joined with great fervor and zeal for the LORD, specifically, to do something with his gifts in hip-hop! Thus the three began to pray and in 1998 CHRISTCENTRIC was born! Endeavoring only to build the Kingdom of God for His glory and not blow-up for their own, they committed to using their spiritual gifts to proclaim the greatness of God and truths of His word through hip-hop and to patiently allow God to build the ministry.

Their official CHRISTCENTRIC site is here. They also have a MySpace site.

Q graciously gave me a copy of their CD Reformation. It starts with a track containing excerpts from sermons/readings by RC Sproul, John Frame, Max Mclean, Charles Baile, John MacArthur. (Hey, it's not everyday that you can hear Sproul and MacArthur with a good beat behind them!)

Their lyrics are thoroughgoingly Reformational--think of it as a contextualized catechism.
For example, here is their refrain for the song The Sufficiency of Scripture:

"Sufficiency of scripture/ how it used to be a fixture, now it's swirled into a world mixture/ Expose the fallacy of this mentality/ Lord, restore Your word to its centrality!"

Here's a further sample from the song:

The church today is on the downgrade/ cause the Word today is getting downplayed/ This was the message that Spurgeon urged when/ men compromised doctrine for ecumenical merging/ Searching for innovations to relate/ to make their congregations more acceptable to those skeptical/ Cuz preaching the whole counsel’s ineffectual/ at keeping those who are peeping Christ…they need a spectacle/ But the question is thus/ for all matters of life and conduct, are the Scriptures enough? (well)/ God is calling your bluff/ only your doctrinal thesis believes this…certain pieces you snuff/ Such, as total depravation, predestination/ true salvation means repentance is a mark of regeneration/ or revelation’s cessation/ not believing only certain men had inspiration’s ordination/ They seek a direct word, this is blasphemous/ holy men died so the Word could be passed to us/ this is “tragedous”, you need to apologize/ instead of the Word, you prescribe and psychologize/ Beloved, its hazardous treating the Word with such deficiency/ but at His coming we’ll see His sufficiency!

Amen! So if you're into hip-hop and want to soak your mind in sound doctrine, I'd encourage you to check them out!

You can also check out Quincy's blog here:

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Attitude 2007: 25 Free Registrations This Week

From the Sovereign Grace Ministries e-newsletter:

New Attitude
2007: 25 Free Registrations This Week

The New Attitude conference for singles and young married couples returns May 26–29, 2007, in Louisville, Kentucky. A special five-day early registration window (including 25 free registrations!) starts this week.

The 2007 conference will focus on examining our lives through the lens of God's Word—from doctrine to culture, and from our hearts to our call as Christians—because humble orthodoxy takes discernment. Joshua Harris, Mark Dever, Albert Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Eric Simmons, and John Piper will teach main sessions.

Now, about the free stuff: The conference may be six months away, but we're giving away 25 free registrations this week, during temporary early registration. November 22–26, five registrants every day will be randomly selected to have their registration fee refunded in full. That's five early Christmas presents a day. More details are coming soon at

Campolo Update

Christianity Today picked up on the Bart Campolo article. Collin Hansen compares Campolo's questions with that of Dostoevsky's famous skeptic, Ivan Karamazov. He closes his piece in this way: "Dostoevsky knew Christians were ill-prepared to answer these questions about theodicy. That's why he created Ivan. What would you tell Ivan and Bart? Write to us and let us know."

In introducing Campolo, Hansen adds a detail I didn't know, namely, that Campolo is a national representative for Compassion International.

Meanwhile, Mark Oestreicher has posted a note on the YS website regarding their removal of the article:

If you came looking for the article, "The Limits of God's Grace", I'm sorry to tell you I've asked our staff to pull it from our Website. YS likes to ask good questions—we think questions have great value in our spiritual growth. And we applaud the author, Bart Campolo, and the publisher, Journal of Student Ministries, for being willing to honestly wrestle with tough questions. But people often confuse articles on our Website as statements from Youth Specialties, as endorsed position papers. And without a strong lens of understanding as to why the questions raised by the article are worth talking about, or a counter-argument by someone else, we were concerned that the article could be more damaging than helpful. Thanks for understanding.

Why McLaren Is a Bad Conversation Partner

Timbo at the A-Team blog writes a blog post trying to explain to emerging church proponents (like Andrew Jones and Scot McKnight) why Brian McLaren has been bad for the emerging "conversation." I appreciate Timbo's thoughts here--as well as his refutation of McLaren's idea that you can publicly critique and caricature a book based only on its title!

Loving God with Your Mind

J. P. Moreland, in his excellent book, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, writes:

The mind is like a muscle. If it is not exercised regularly and strenuously, it loses some of its capacities and strength. We modern evangelicals often feel small and without influence in the public square. We must recapture our intellectual heritage if we are to present to our brothers and sisters, our children, and a post-Christian culture a version of Christianity rich and deep enough to challenge the dehumanizing structures and habits of thought of a society gone mad. To do this, we must change our reading habits; indeed, we must alter our entire approach to the life of the mind as part of Christian discipleship." (p. 87)

In order to do this, reading Moreland's book would be an excellent first step.

Here's an exercise you can try. Read When Religion Loses Its Credibility, an editorial in today's USA Today written by Oliver “Buzz” Thomas, a Baptist minister and author of an upcoming book, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job).

Identify his thesis (what's the main thing he's trying to argue). Next identify his arguments (composed of premises that lead to conclusions). Then evaluate his arguments. Are his arguments valid (that is, do they logically follow and are they free from fallacious reasoning)? Then finally ask: Are his arguments true (that is, how well do they match up with a Scriptural view of God, world, and self)?

Writing and Publishing in the Christian Market

Because of my job, I sometimes get asked about advice on how to improve writing and/or how to get a book published. If you've asked similar questions, here are some books you may find helpful:

The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing by Leonard G. Goss and Carolyn Goss

The Little Handbook to Perfecting the Art of Christian Writing: Getting Your Foot in the Publisher's Door by Leonard G. Goss and Don M. Aycock

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White, and Roger Angell

Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (2nd Edition) by Joseph M. Williams

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (On Writing Well) by William K. Zinsser

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Keeping the Dream Alive

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Conclusion:

We've come a long way since 1964, when the late civil rights hero Hubert Humphrey stood on the Senate floor and told his colleagues that if the civil rights bill contained "any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there."

Four decades later, supporters of racial preferences imposed by government agencies are blocking legal efforts to establish the color-blind society that Martin Luther King envisioned. Dr. King's dream is alive in Michigan, and in other states, but a large number of people seem interested in stirring up a nightmare of massive resistance. Such efforts are likely not only to only fail, but to harden the public's opposition to divisive racial quotas.

Media Bias

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson writes an excellent article here on the Iraq War and the ubiquitous, simplistic mantras of "Bring Our Troops Home" or "Increase the Boots on the Ground." But the final third of the article is an insightful angle on media bias that I think is worth quoting at length:

Third, what does unbalanced reporting really mean? We all harp that the media — specifically, the wire services, network television, and the international stations like the BBC and CNN — all focused on Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the carnage left by IEDs and suicide bombers, and the allegations against the Marines at Haditha, and neglected entirely the damage we did to the terrorists and Islamic fascists, or the singularity of seeing parliaments in places like Kabul and Baghdad.

But the important question left unspoken is Why? Was the unbalanced converge, in the case of leftwing elites in the American media, a simple effort to embarrass Republican policy, allowing more sympathetic Democrats to regain power? In the case of the envious European media, was it to take down the Americans a notch or two to remind us that we are not as powerful as we think?

Or is the bias a more general result of a Western elite so deeply conflicted about its own culture, and so fundamentally unable to define its own civilization, that it either doesn’t care whether it wins, or in fact wishes that the West lose in Iraq?

One can grasp that generic hypocrisy by reviewing all the journalists’ charges leveled against Gulf War I — too much realpolitik; too much pay-as-you-go war thinking; too much Colin Powell and James Baker and not enough Paul Wolfowitz; too much worry about stability and not enough about millions of poor Kurds and Shiites; too much worry about empowering Iran. Then compare those charges to those leveled against Gulf War II — too much na├»ve idealism; too much expense in lives and treasure; not enough Colin Powell and James Baker and too much Paul Wolfowitz; too little worry about regional stability and too much given to ungovernable Iraqis; and too little thought about empowering Iran.

The one common denominator? Whatever the United States does is suspect; and journalists without responsibility for governance, either for setting policy or for its implementation, are always brighter than generals, politicians, and policy planners saddled with it.

The truth is that wealthy Western elites in the media have evolved beyond worry over the basics of their civilization. They are so insulated, even after September 11, that they don’t believe there is much connection between liberty, freedom, consensual government, freedom of expression, and the everyday mundane things they depend on — whether excellent medical care, clean water, nice cars, neat electronic gadgets, eating out, or safety in their streets. A nuclear Iran, a missile-laden North Korea, a theocracy in oil-rich Iraq, an unleashed terrorist-sponsoring Syria, and an emboldened Hezbollah — all these still could still never quite take away their good life, so strong is the assurance of their never-ending comfort zone that they could not conceive of ever losing it.

And thus the most vehement and angry critics find it possible, even desirable, to nibble away at their own civilization’s efforts, on the understanding that a loss in Iraq would be only an apparent loss. That defeat would not entail any material detriment to themselves, but surely would enhance their own sense of contrarian self-righteousness and self-worth, as they boldly caricature the very culture that so empowered them.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Warnock Interviews Mohler

Adrian Warnock's interview with Al Mohler is available here in one document.

A Theology of Anti-Americanism

Denny Burks examines N. T. Wright's anti-Americanism in this paper delivered at ETS. Here's the issue in a nutshell:

In what N. T. Wright has dubbed a “Fresh Perspective” (FP) on Paul, this new strand of scholarship holds as axiomatic at least two assumptions, with a third assumption being increasingly advocated in the literature. First, it is assumed that the Roman imperial cult was pervasive in Paul’s missionary context. Second, Paul’s gospel is, therefore, both theopolitical and counterimperial in that it offers an explicit repudiation of the Roman empire. Third, “Paul’s gospel [therefore] confronts all imperial systems, and especially the new American empire of global consumerism and military might.” In this new movement, the analogy between America and Rome is so direct, that Pauline repudiations of the “powers” of his day imply a direct confrontation of American imperial power in our own day. Thus the FP on Paul confirms the critique of American empire that political liberals have been lodging against the United States’ economic and foreign policies.

Here are Dr. Burk's aims in this paper:

What I hope to show is that the counter-imperial, post-colonial interpretations of Paul are not so much motivated by a “fresh” and more accurate understanding of Paul as they are being motivated by the desire of some to find in Paul an endorsement of their own political and cultural biases. I suggest that while evangelicals may debate the pro’s and con’s of empires, this eisegetical hermeneutic does not produce a better understanding of Paul or a more faithful application of his message to the contemporary political scene. Regardless of how one evaluates the historical claims of the fresh perspective, reading a counterimperial (and thus anti-American) bias into Paul’s gospel is not a helpful way for evangelicals to approach Paul’s letters.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Global Warming Debate

On Oct. 30, 2006 Union University sponsored a formal debate on global warming, featuring two evangelical scholars: David P. Gushee, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, and E. Calvin Beisner, associate professor of historical theology and social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary. Dr. Gushee was one of the authors of the statement produced by the Evangelical Climate Initiative, and Dr. Beisner was one of the authors of the counter-statement produced by the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance.

A DVD of the debate is now available for purchase.

(HT: Challies)

On Faith: An Online Conversation

Newsweek Magazine and the Washington Post are teaming up to offer a new online feature: On Faith: A Conversation on Religion with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn. Here's part of their explanation for what they hope to accomplish:

And so, in a time of extremism -- for extremism is to the 21st century what totalitarianism was to the 20th -- how can people engage in a conversation about faith and its implications in a way that sheds light rather than generates heat? At The Washington Post and Newsweek, we believe the first step is conversation-intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation-among specialists and generalists who devote a good part of their lives to understanding and delineating religion's influence on the life of the world. The point of our new online religion feature is to provide a forum for such sane and spirited talk, drawing on a remarkable panel of distinguished figures from the academy, the faith traditions, and journalism. Members of the group will weigh in on a question posed at least once a week, perhaps sometimes more often, depending on the flow of the news. We encourage readers to join the conversation by commenting on what our panelists have to say, offering their own opinions and suggesting topics for future discussions.

From the nature of evil to religious reformation, from the morality of fetal stem-cell research to the history of scripture, from how to raise kids in multi-faith households to the place of gays in traditional churches -- of the asking of questions, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there shall be no end. We think that the online world, with its limitless space, offers us a unique opportunity to carry on a fruitful, intriguing, and above all constructive conversation about the things that matter most.

The inaugural question is: "If some religious people believe they have a monopoly on truth, then are conversation and common ground possible? If so, what would be the difficulties and benefits of such a conversation?"

Al Mohler is among the participants. You can read his response here. Answers from the rest of the panelists can be read here.

Driscoll Responds to His Critics

For those of you who have not been following the controversy, some people in the blog world have been upset with Mark Driscoll's blog post in the wake of the Ted Haggard scandal, misinterpreting him to be casting some of the blame at the feet of Mrs. Haggard. (You can read his original post here.) Folks like Scot McKnight reprinted an "open letter" from Rose Swetman, a Vineyard pastor who thinks that Driscoll's tone about women is "unhealthy, vitriolic, abrasive, unchristian, and uncharitable," and also implies that he is a "misogynist." She went on to call this and other statements "irresponsible," "patronizing," "insulting," "demeaning," and "bombastic." (Ever notice that the people who call for charity and a change in tone tend to sound pretty mean and use a lot of nasty labels?)

Protests have also been planned at Mars Hill Church, where Driscoll pastors.

Driscoll has now responded to the criticism about his Haggard post: Thank You, Critics. I'm thankful for his response, which is more mature and measured than I would have been able to offer in response to these attacks.

Some Important Scriptural Principles About Government

We returned this afternoon from the annual meeting of ETS (the Evangelical Theological Society). One of the books I purchased was J. Budziszewski's Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action.

Budziszewski pens an essay examining the thinking of "the [four] premier influences on American evangelical political reflection": (1) Carl F. H. Henry ("pricker of the evangelical conscience"); (2) Abraham Kuyper ("preceptor of the neo-Calvinist magisterium"); (3) Francis Schaeffer ("sentinel at the secularist border"); and (4) John Howard Yoder ("student of the war of the lamb").

There are then four response chapters: (1) David Weeks (Azusa Pacific University) on Henry; (2) John Bolt (Calvin Theological Seminary) on Kuyper; (3) William Edgar (Westminster Theological Seminary) on Schaeffer; and (4) Ashley Woodiwiss (Wheaton College) on Yoder.

I may blog through at least the first chapter of this book, in which Budziszewski observes that despite the presence of evangelicals in the public square, "they have never developed a clear, cohesive, and Christian view of what politics is all about" (p. 15). I'll save it for another post to explain why Budziszewski thinks this is the case and what he thinks can be done about it.

For now, it may be helpful to highlight the following ten general principles that Budziszewski finds in Scripture regarding the nature of government:

  1. God is the true sovereign; he ordained all human government for the good of man, whom he made in his image (Ps. 22:28; Rom. 13:1, 3-4; Gen. 1:27).
  2. Although God originally chose only one nation, he desires ultimately to draw all nations into the light of his Word (Isa. 49:6; Rom. 10:12; Rev. 21:23-24).
  3. He disciplines the nations according to their deeds (Jer. 18:7-10; Jer. 5:28-29).
  4. He also disciplines their rulers (Dan. 2:20-21; Jer. 25:12; Dan. 4:27).
  5. In general, disobedience to human government is disobedience to God; indeed, government deserves not only obedience but honor (Rom. 13:1-2, 7).
  6. But there are exceptions: Any governmental edict that contradicts the commands of God must be disobeyed (Acts 5:29; Dan. 3:18; Ex. 1:17, 20-21).
  7. The just purposes of human government include the commendation of good, the punishment of evil, the maintenance of peace, and the protection of the oppressed (1 Pet. 2:13-14; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Isa. 10:1-2).
  8. In pursuance of these purposes, God authorizes human government to use force on his behalf and in grave cases even to take life, though never deliberately to take the life of the innocent (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:3-4).
  9. Yet human government cannot fully or permanently redress wrong, because it cannot uproot sin from the human heart; this can be done only by the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ (Jer. 17:9; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:22-25).
  10. Moreover, the community of redemption is not the state but the church. No matter how much respect is due to the state, the church is never to be identified with it (John 18:33-36; Acts 20:28).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

"Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who championed individual freedom, influenced the economic policies of three presidents and befriended world leaders, died Thursday. He was 94."

(HT: Scott Lamb)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Gospel According to Bart

Tonight a friend passed along to be an article by Bart Campolo (son of Tony). Entitled The Limits of God's Grace, it was published in Youth Specialties' The Journal of Student Ministries, promoted by Youth Specialties.

I don't often link to "bad theology" articles in order to bash them, but I'm making an exception here. It is rare for a writer to be this honest about the functional sovereignty of his own mind in determining the object of his worship. In other words, Bart Campolo is an idolater of the first-order. (Something tells me, though, that there won't be any "protests" planned against his views.)

Here's an excerpt:

Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about such stuff [like God's sovereignty, wrath, hell, etc.], remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, then God might as well send me to Hell. For better or worse, I simply am not interested in any God but a completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving One who is powerful enough to utterly triumph over evil. Such a God may not exist, but I will die seeking such a God, and I will pledge my allegiance to no other possibility because, quite frankly, anything less is not worthy of my worship.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that I don’t get to decide who God is. What I do get to decide, however, is to whom I pledge my allegience. I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.

May God grant Campolo repentance for disdaining the only true God, exalting himself, and hating his neighbor (by refusing to tell them the gospel of Jesus but only the deceitful and untrue Gospel According to Bart). And may God likewise grant YS repentance for publishing such nonsense.

Sermon Plagiarism Article in the WSJ

On Wednesday the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page, above-the-fold story Suzanne Sataline entitled That Sermon You Heard on Sunday May Be From the Web.

Ms. Sataline does a good job of summarizing what has been happening, and the perspective of each side. The fact that sermon plagiarism is so rampant--meriting a front-page story in one of the nation's leading newspapers--is an embarrassment to the cause of Christ. Ray Van Neste, who is quoted in the article, highlights an important issue: the matter of integrity. Dozens of sins accompany the sin of plagiarism, like laziness, deception, pride, and spiritual second-handing. The fact that such sin is not just practiced but defended and encouraged (cf. Rom. 1:32) is doubly shameful.

Matt Perman and I attempted to define plagiarism and provide some guidelines in this brief article.

Learning from the Depressions of Lincoln and Spurgeon

Zack Eswine (of Covenant Theological Seminary) writes about some less we can learn from the melancholy of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Spurgeon. See his article, Listening for the Sound of Reality.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Christians and Tipping

Daniel Holland writes in Relevant Magazine about the Dreaded Church Table. As a former Applebee's waiter, I can say that I agree. Christians tend to be bad tippers and bad witnesses. (HT: Phil Ryken)

See also Greg Koukl's brief counsel on The Ambassador and the Waitress.

Ted Haggard and the Case for Gay Marriage

Robert Gagnon has a new article online: The Haggard Episode and the Case for “Gay Marriage”: Why the Two Have No Connection (also in PDF).

Prof. Gagnon has also posted online his answers to some questions by an AP reporter.

Sulky Sullivan

Jonah Goldberg reviews Andrew Sullivan's The Conservative Soul

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Partial-Birth Abortion Oral Arguments

Ed Whelan at the Bench Memos Blog writes about the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on partial-birth abortion. He also links to the transcripts.

Friday, November 10, 2006

9Marks on Biblical Theology

The latest 9Marks newsletter (also available in PDF) is devoted to the theme of biblical theology.

Contributors include Graeme Goldsworthy, Bruce Waltke, Tom Schreiner, and many others.

Dever on the Miami Pastors' Conference

Mark Dever is liveblogging (well, not really) the Miami Pastors' Conference on Christ-centered preaching.

ESV Firefox 2.0 Search Bar

The ESV Blog posts on how to Add the ESV to Your Search Bar in Firefox 2.0. This is really easy to do. I've found it very helpful to have it right in my toolbar.

(To do this in Internet Explorer 7.0, see this post.)

Update: Just so the rest of your aren't jealous, I downgraded the 20.0 version in the headline to 2.0.

Letter to Sam Harris

Doug Wilson pens his second letter to Sam Harris, author of Letter to a Christian Nation.

An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture

If you want to memorize Scripture, especially extended portions of it, here is the one of the most helpful guides.

By the way, one very helpful feature of the ESV page is that you can listen to any verse--or any passage--of Scripture with a simple click. This is a great aid to memorization--not only saying the verse(s) out loud, but hearing someone read it to you.

What Happened?

What happened on Tuesday? It's really not that complicated. The Wall Street Journal editors: "Too many Republicans were corrupted and seduced by power and forgot why voters sent them to Washington." Charles Krauthammer: "The electorate threw the bums out in disgust with corruption and in deep dissatisfaction with current Iraq policy."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Moore Prayers

Here's an evangelical who takes 1 Tim 2:1-2 seriously, and convicts me to follow his example

Letter to Sam Harris

Doug Wilson pens his first letter to Sam Harris, author of the bestselling Letter to a Christian Nation.

Mohler on the Elections on NPR

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is scheduled to appear this afternoon on the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered.” Dr. Mohler was interviewed by host Michelle Norris about Tuesday’s election. “All Things Considered” airs on NPR stations across the country. Please check your local listings. The interview is expected to air just after 5:00 PM Eastern Time.

Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

Roger Clegg posts some reflections on the success of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Kauflin on Learning About Sin From Ted Haggard

Bob Kauflin posts on what Ted Haggard's situation has taught him about sin.

Partial-Birth Abortion

Here is an editorial on partial-birth abortion, written by Greg Koukl and published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Downloadable Indexes of John Owen's Works

Tony Reinke continues to serve the church by giving us resources to understand the Puritans who understood the beauty and centrality of God in Christ.
Click here to download a 5.9 MB file containing the indexes to The Works of John Owen (16 volumes).

Brief Take on the Elections was down all day yesterday, so I couldn't post my brief reflections on the elections.

Basically, I'm glad the Republicans lost and sad the Democrats gained power!

What went wrong for Republicans? Dean Barrett, in his post on An Overdue Reckoning, makes a number of good points that I concur with in the main.

See also Fred Barnes' Weekly Standard column: "This one is pretty easy to explain. Republicans lost the House and probably the Senate because of Iraq, corruption, and a record of taking up big issues and then doing nothing on them. Of these, the war was by far the biggest factor." Later Barnes writes: "Republicans cast themselves as the party of reform, but they didn't reform anything. And heaven knows, the public is eager for a lot to be reformed, starting with Congress itself and moving on to taxes and entitlements."

Senator Tom Coburn (R, Oklahoma) issued a statement that reads in part: “The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government. . . . This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism. . . . Our short-term, politically-expedient, bread and circus governing philosophy has failed. Iraq is an important issue in the minds of voters but it is not the only issue. Our majority was severely weakened by a long series of decisions that pre-date the public’s current concern about Iraq. Republicans oversaw a seven-fold increase in pork projects since 1998. Republicans increased domestic spending by nearly 50 percent since 2001, increased the national debt to $9 trillion, passed a reckless Medicare expansion bill and neglected our oversight responsibilities. While some of these decisions may have helped secure specific seats in the short-term the totality of our excess did not secure our majority, but destroy it.

It's interesting, as John Podhoretz has noted, that President Bush hasn't been on the losing side of an election since his unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1978. (He was elected governor in 1994 and reelected in 1998, elected President in 2000 and reelected in 2004. And of course the Republicans won the midterm in 2002.) It will be interesting to see how he responds.

Nancy Pelosi will be the speaker of the House of Representatives. Donald Rumsfeld is now longer SecDef. Former CIA director Robert Gates has been nominated to head the Defense Dept.

I'm glad Tim Pawlenty is still the governor of Minnesota. Pawlenty proves that the concept of "virtuous politician" is not an oxymoron or a laugh line.

I'm also very glad that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative passed--a major decision against racial discrimination--despite a concerted disinformation campaign against the initiative.

Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin all approved state constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. Arizona rejected such an amendment.

South Dakota rejected a law that would ban virtually all abortions.

Missouri approved a proposition that protects human cloning and allows for the destruction of embryos in stem cell research.

Today is the unofficial start of the 2008 elections. Well, I've got to run and start making phone calls for the '08 Romney-Pawlenty presidential campaign!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

PBA Ban Act Arguments at SCOTUS

The Supreme Court meets today to hear two hours of arguments over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003.

Phillips on McKnight on Emerging

Rick Phillips reflects on Scot McKnight's paper at WTS on the emerging church movement.

Watch Your Life and Doctrine

Those who had the privilege of attending the Together for the Gospel Conference, or who listened to the audio recordings (available here in MP3 or CD format), no doubt remember C.J. Mahaney's plenary session which was entitled "Watch Your Life and Doctrine." He took as his text 1 Timothy 4:16 which reads: "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." He taught that, through God-appointed means, the preservation of a pastor and his congregation is at stake in his obedience to this verse. Faithful, pastoral ministry could not be more important and the implications could not be more important, for they are eternal. I know of a great many pastors who were both challenged and encouraged by this session.

As you may know, the sessions from the conference are being compiled into Preaching the Cross, a book that will be published by Crossway in 2007. In the days following the scandal involving Ted Haggard, it seemed appropriate to provide this chapter to others. Though the book has not yet been edited and published, Crossway was kind enough to provide special permission to Tim Challies and me to post this chapter. It is Copyright © 2006 by Crossway (used by permission; all rights reserved) and will be available here for only a limited time. While you are free to link to this post from your web site or to download the document for personal use or, we ask that no one else upload the file to their own web server.

So here is your first glance at the forthcoming title Preaching the Cross. The chapter written by C.J. Mahaney is entitled "The Pastor's Priorities: Watch Your Life and Doctrine." We strongly urge you to consider making this chapter available to your pastor and leaders, either by forwarding the link or printing a copy. The wisdom of Paul, relayed through C.J., is timeless, but seems especially timely today.

The chapter headings include:
  • Our Two-Fold Task
  • Watch Your Life
  • Sound Doctrine Is Not Enough
  • The Consequences of Neglect
  • The War Within Never Ends
  • We Can't Fight the War Alone
  • A Model for Your Consideration
  • Watch Your Doctrine
  • Watch the Savior Work
Here is a brief excerpt from the document:

The Consequences of Neglect

Sound doctrine is not enough, because according to Scripture, the fundamental qualification for pastoral ministry is godly character. Neither skill, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, nor reputation, nor personality, nor apparent fruitfulness of public ministry will suffice. Scan 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and you will encounter a profile of personal piety.

Yes, the pastor must be able to teach. Certainly, he must handle the Word of truth accurately and skillfully. But the foundational assumption of Scripture--both for appointment to or continuation in ministry--is that the pastor provide a godly example. Not a perfect example, but an authentic example. As Spurgeon exhorted his students in "The Minister's Self-Watch," "Our characters must be more persuasive than our speech."

If we neglect the command of 1 Timothy 4:16--if we fail to watch our life closely, carefully, and uncompromisingly--negative consequences are inevitable, for ourselves, our family, our pastoral team, and our church. A marked or prolonged inattention to personal holiness in a pastor is a grave matter that must be addressed.

In Sovereign Grace Ministries, here is how we have sought to apply this passage in relation to the pastors of our local churches.

We believe that the biblical requirement for a pastor is not flawless character but mature character. We are all progressively growing in godliness. A pastor who recognizes an area of immaturity, and takes specific action towards change, demonstrates close attention to his life and doctrine. Likewise, if a particular instance of non-disqualifying sin occurs in a pastor's life, but he genuinely repents before God and the appropriate individuals, this also honors the passage we are examining.

There are, of course, some sins that are particularly serious, both in the effect they have upon others and what they reveal about the condition of the heart. Even a single instance of such sins--sexual immorality, financial impropriety, violent behavior, etc.--would automatically disqualify a man from pastoral ministry. Beyond such grave instances of sin, however, a serious ongoing pattern of disobedient deviation from biblical requirements in the life of a pastor can also be disqualifying.

For example, a single lustful look, quickly confessed and repented of is part of growing maturity. However, a pattern of pornography could be disqualifying. Similarly, an isolated instance of lying speech, promptly brought into the light, is evidence of ongoing sanctification. Repeated examples of deceptive behavior, on the other hand, call into question a pastor's trustworthiness. Likewise, an outburst of irritation, immediately regretted and repented of is proof the Holy Spirit is at work. But a reputation for anger is not consistent with the biblical requirements for a pastor.

Where such patterns of sin exist, we believe that genuine care for a pastor and church involves a corrective process. Of course, this must be administered with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Occasions requiring the loving confrontation of a pastor in sin have been among the most difficult and painful of my ministry experience. But in the end, the corrective process has normally produced God-glorifying and fruitful outcomes in a pastor's life, family, and church.

The document is available is PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format. You can download it here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics

Here's a new title coming out next spring from InterVarsity Press: Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation, by Graeme Goldsworthy (320 pages, due out March 2007).

"The focus of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics is not word studies but 'Word study': a sustained reflection on the priority and centrality of the good news concerning Jesus Christ as the distinct way that Scripture interprets Scripture and, indeed, all of reality. Goldsworthy's attention to the role of biblical theology in biblical interpretation is particularly welcome, providing a refreshing contrast to what often gets produced by the contemporary hermeneutics industry. And by highlighting the gospel of Jesus Christ, he puts the evangel back into evangelical hermeneutics." —Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

While there are many books on hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy's perception is that evangelical contributions often do not give sufficient attention to the vital relationship between hermeneutics and theology, both systematic and biblical.

In Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Goldsworthy moves beyond a reiteration of the usual arguments to concentrate on the theological questions of presuppositions, and the implications of the Christian gospel for hermeneutics. In doing so, he brings fresh perspectives on some well-worn pathways.

Part I examines the foundations and presuppositions of evangelical belief, particularly with regard to biblical interpretation.

Part II offers a selective overview of important hermeneutical developments from the sub-apostolic age to the present, as a means of identifying some significant influences that have been alien to the gospel.

Part III evaluates ways and means of reconstructing truly gospel-centered hermeneutics.

Goldsworthy's aim throughout is to commend the much-neglected role of biblical theology in hermeneutical practice, with pastoral concern for the people of God as they read, interpret and seek to live by his written Word.

Well, That Could Be a Problem


"37 counties in Pennsylvania use the ESS & Ivotronic.

These machines are experiencing massive failures.

If you vote for one candidate, the opposing candidate lights up."

Ed Welch

Mark Dever interviews Ed Welch: "Meet Ed Welch, a biblical counselor at CCEF and author of the books Depression and When People are Big and God is Small. Mark Dever asks Ed about his background and testimony, as well the topics of co-dependency, substance abuse groups like A.A., medicating depression, "integrationism," "nouthetic" counseling, the role of counseling in the local church, and much more."

(HT: KP)

Evangelicals and Politics

Al Mohler and Melinda Penner each weigh in on Newsweek's cover story on evangelicals and politics.

Election Results from an Evangelical Perspective.

Ted Olsen and Collin Hansen of Christianity Today will be liveblogging the election results tonight:

Ted Haggard

Rick Phillips has produced a very important post, explaining what's right and what's wrong with the "Denounce Ted" and the "Just Like Ted" positions that have been shaping up in the evangelical blogosphere.

Homosexuality and the Bible

Robert Gagnon is Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is "the leading scholarly defender of the church's historic understanding of homosexuality as revealed in the Bible."

You can access his work online at

I would recommend starting with this interview, which gives an overview and defense of his position.

Those who want something more in depth may want to look at a 112-page review written by Prof. Gagnon, available here.

Readers will find treatments here of every major issue in the debate, including discussion and analysis of:
  • The different hermeneutical scales or interpretive grids used by proponents and opponents of homosexual practice (pp. 19-25).
  • The difficulty in neutralizing Scripture for a pro-homosex agenda (pp. 25-30).
  • The nature argument (pp. 30-46).
  • The relevant biblical texts and the arguments used to limit their relevance for today's debate: Old Testament (pp. 46-54) and the New Testament (pp. 54-85), including Jesus (pp. 56-62) and Paul (pp. 62-85).
  • The three main "new knowledge" arguments for dismissing the biblical witness against homosexual practice: the exploitation argument (pp. 65-76), the orientation argument (pp. 77-79), and the misogyny argument (pp. 80-82).
  • Whether homosexual practice is the diet and circumcision issue of today (the Gentile inclusion analogy; pp. 86-90).
  • The alleged analogies to slavery, women's roles, divorce/ remarriage and other changes to marriage over the centuries (pp. 90-97) vs. analogies to incest, polysexuality, and pedosexuality (pp. 98-101).
  • Manipulative rhetoric in the church debates about homosexuality (pp. 103-114).
  • The science side of the debate (pp. 114-30), including the question of the moral relevance of congenital influences and claims to an unchanging orientation (pp. 116-19), the question of whether culture can affect the incidence of homosexuality (pp. 120-25), and the question of whether "gay marriage" is good for society (pp. 125-30).
Finally, for those want to explore the issue in depth, you can purchase his monograph, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001).

Ted Haggard and Homosexuality

I suspect that a large number of new readers have found this blog through a search on "Ted Haggard." A number of them have left comments with the basic message of "do not judge." Some of them are by evangelical Christians who recognize that homosexuality is wrong but, by God's grace, recognize it as contrary to the moral will of God and are fighting for purity. Some have come by simply to mock Christians as hateful hypocrites. And a larger number have explained that they are gay Christians and that Haggard's only sin was that he wasn't true to himself and deceived others.

For my gay readers:

Please know that you are welcome here. I wish we could sit down and talk, rather than communicate through this blogging medium--which is great for quick information but not necessarily conducive for meaningful dialogue and loving expression of concern.

I would encourage you to consider read this testimony by Joe Hallet. (Joe died from AIDS in 1997.) I'd also encourage you to consider visiting Exodus International. It is a place where many have found hope and healing.

I thought it might be helpful to provide an extended quote from Al Mohler, first addressing homosexuals, and then addressing the church. (You can listen to or watch this message online.)

We must also admit that sin has enduring consequences, even in this life. An analogy might be useful at this point. Consider a man who has sinned by driving under the influence of alcohol. One night, sinfully drunk and recklessly irresponsible, this man gets into his car and drives it right into a wall at high speed. His body is broken, but his life is saved as he is taken to the hospital and receives emergency treatment. He recovers from the accident, but he will forever walk with a limp. Throughout his life, he will drag an injured leg, which can heal to a point, but will never be fully restored.

Let us follow this man as he comes to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He becomes a wonderful trophy of God’s grace, as the grace of God transforms him, reordering his affections right down to the fact that he gains victory over alcoholism. Regeneration has produced a new man, even as sanctification is demonstrated in his growth in grace. Old things have passed away and behold all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17)—but he still walks with a limp.

The work of the Holy Spirit in his life is evident, even as his limp continues as a part of his experience. He will limp all the way to the grave. He has become what only God could make him as a demonstration of God’s glory in the salvation of a sinner. But until the day of his glorification, this man will limp.

That limp does not become a disqualification for this man’s ability to display the glory of God. As a matter of fact, he may begin to see his limp as a way of explaining to people, “I want to tell you who I was in order to tell you who I now am by the grace of God. You see, this limp is a part of my story. I do not exult in this limp, but this limp is an important part of telling my story about how I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ and how he changed my life.”

In reality, every one of us limps. Throughout our lives until the day of our glorification, every one of us will limp. We must look to the moment of our glorification as the moment of our release from every limp. On that day, every tear will be wiped away, every injury will be fully restored, everything will be made right, and everything will be made whole. Everything and every redeemed person will then perfectly display the glory of God. We are the people with the theology adequate to explain this, and thus, we can offer the only genuine means of personal transformation.

We know better than to say that people cannot change. We also know better than to believe that people can change themselves. As Jonathan Edwards made clear, we sin in our affections, and we do not even understand ourselves in terms of why we love the things we love and desire the things we desire. This is why we are so dependent upon the work of Christ in our lives and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in reordering our affections. This is no easy process, but it is real and it is enduring.

Is our purpose to make homosexuals into heterosexuals? The answer to that question must be both yes and no. We must urgently urge all sinners to repent and abandon their sin, but convincing homosexuals to think of themselves as heterosexuals is not tantamount to salvation. We must be honest about the sinfulness of homosexuality in order that we can show homosexuals their need for salvation and the transforming power of Jesus Christ in their lives. We can promise that this power of transformation will, by the grace of God, lead to a reordering of their lives and require a turning away from the sins of their past. As Christians, coming for whatever our individual background in sin may be—we come under mutual accountability to the Word of God and his command in all things—including our sexuality.

I want to speak honestly to those who are struggling with homosexual affection. You must know that this is sin, and you must recognize that your affections are corrupted by sin. Even in your own heart, you can probably never even separate your desires and impulses in terms of inner motivation and affection. Like all of us, you are a sinner in the midst of a sinful world, but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t change. Becoming heterosexual is not salvation, but the miracle of regeneration and sanctification will produce, by God’s grace, the right affections in your heart and desire. Knowing what God has declared to be objectively right and objectively wrong, we must direct ourselves—whether our sinful sexual profile be heterosexual or homosexual—toward the objective glory of God as revealed in his Word. We must claim the promises of God and seek God’s glory in every dimension of our being.

Do we want homosexuals to find heterosexuality? Yes, as much as we want liars to become tellers of the truth and adulterers to be faithful; as much as we want the disobedient to become obedient to parents and the proud to be humble. God’s glory is in seeing that God’s command is accompanied by God’s provision so that we, by his grace, can be transformed so that we will even desire what he wills for us to desire.

This is what the church is all about. We are the people who gather together to exalt in the grace of God and to proclaim the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ as the answer to human sinfulness. We come together to hold each other accountable to the Word of God and to rejoice in what God is doing in us until the very day that we die. We come together in the assurance of the resurrection that is to come and the glorification that will be God’s gift. Like the apostle Paul, we are convinced that “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

And here is one of his words to the church:

We must be the people who love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality. This is a tough challenge. We have to be the people who, because we are possessed by a passion to see God’s glory in his creation, love homosexuals more than they love their sin. This means that our love has to be a tenacious love. This will also require that we come to know and establish relationships with those struggling with homosexuality. Armed with an awareness of both the problem and God’s provision, we have no right to consider that homosexuals are beyond the grace of God or that any individual is beyond the hope of redemption and transformation. Compassionate truth-telling is deeply rooted in Christian love, and this means that we must love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality.

Every sinner loves his sin, but the church must love sinners more than sinners love their sinfulness. This is precisely how Christ has loved us, and we must love other sinners even as Christ has loved us.

We cannot allow a homosexual to reduce his identity to being a homosexual. This is a tough message, but we live in an age of identity politics when people say, “What I do in my sex life is who I am—period!” We are the people who know that this is nonsense. Sex is a part of who we are—a vitally important and powerful part—but it is only a part of the total human being. Our sexual desires and sexual practices are genuine pointers to our inner reality and our relationship to God, but sexuality is not the end of the story.

Christians must be the people who refuse to put the period at the end of the sexual sentence. We cannot allow homosexuals to be isolated as a class of persons who are beyond the grace of God and exist in some special category of human sinfulness. We must be the people who say to homosexuals, “I am going to love you even more than you love your sin, because in this same way I was loved until I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone loved me more than I loved my sin, and this is how I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.”

Our doctrine of salvation must be accompanied by a strong doctrine of the church. The ecclesia—the purchased people of God—are a covenanted community gathered in mutual accountability to the Word of God. In the bonds of Christ, we are to love each other even more than we love ourselves. Even in the process of church discipline, our purpose is not only to protect the integrity of the people of God, but to love persons into obedience and conformity with the Word of God. The common life of the church is really all about this mutual accountability, mutual encouragement, and exhorting each other to faithfulness unto the authority of the Word of God. The church sins when we deal with these issues wrongly, unscripturally, and superficially.

It is easy to detect a sense of fatigue setting in among Christians in America who are tired of arguing, debating, and speaking the truth about homosexuality in the midst of a fallen and rebellious culture. This fatigue is evidence of sin, even as it is an understandable response to the difficulty of our task. We are now coming to a point of cultural crisis, and the church is called to faithfulness as we must declare God’s truth with a boldness never summoned before. The church must demonstrate even more candor, more courage, and more truth-telling. We must demonstrate more genuine compassion, even as we reach out to a civilization that is literally falling from within. Even as civilization falls, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ must stand as the People of God, determined to keep its wits even as it shows the love of God and seeks the glory of Jesus Christ, in season and out of season.