Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harry Lives, God Dies

I found Lev Grossman's short article on the death of God in the Harry Potter series interesting. In it he writes:
Rowling's work is so familiar that we've forgotten how radical it really is. Look at her literary forebears. In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien fused his ardent Catholicism with a deep, nostalgic love for the unspoiled English landscape. C.S. Lewis was a devout Anglican whose Chronicles of Narnia forms an extended argument for Christian faith. Now look at Rowling's books. What's missing? If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.

Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind. He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so inclined, which he isn't. Rowling has more in common with celebrity atheists like Christopher Hitchens than she has with Tolkien and Lewis.
I've not read the Christian books evaluating Harry Potter. But it seems most of what I've read from Christians has been critical of the series because of the real-world witchcraft it contains. Then I heard about John Granger's book Looking for God in Harry Potter which seems to find redemptive value in them. I'm curious where readers of Between Two Worlds fall on this issue. Anyone know about Granger's book? And if a secular writer like Grossman discerns the death of God in the Potter series should Christians take the time to go looking for him there?

Piper on Romans

This past weekend John Piper spoke at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina on Romans 12-13. The Cove is the Billy Graham training center which features various speakers and seminars throughout the year. If you've never been, the property itself is "a little bit of heaven on earth." Please check it out (I swear I get no kickback from this).

Anyway, Desiring God ministries now has the audio available—these are excellent sessions! http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/740_more_concentrated_romans_audio/

Mahaney on Conflict

Reformation21 is featuring an article by C.J. Mahaney that I would put in the must-read category. Entitled Cravings and Conflict, it's based on a message he gave from James 4:1-2. The truth of this article has had a profound effect on my marriage and I recommend to anyone who wants biblical insight into the root cause and cure of relational strife.

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From? (Part 8)

Mark Dever's eighth answer: MacArthur and Sproul.


A few days ago I posted a column I wrote last year entitled The Irrelevance of God. The point of the column was that in our postmodern world, God has become largely segregated to the private sector. So that while God and spirituality may remain privately engaging, in a secularized society, they are publically irrelevant. Anyway, the point of this post is that I finished the article by saying this:

"The church, then, becomes the sphere of society where the relevance of God ought to reign supreme. The people of God are to be influencing the wider culture by expressing the centrality of God with both their lives and their lips. Jesus called on his disciples to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” In other words, the people of God are to serve the world by acting as a preservative and a lighthouse. We do this by becoming God-saturated, God-intoxicated people, through whom God’s truth and love shine brightly. In order for God to once again become socially relevant, the church will have to exhibit a God-centeredness that shows our culture just how indispensable God is, not only for the individual, but for society as a whole."

I caught some flack for using the phrase "God-intoxicated." And given the association of the word today with drunkenness (although the word actually has a much broader meaning) I responded to the "flack" by admitting that it may not be the wisest phrase to employ. However, I'll have to re-think my recant based on what I read today. This is, word for word, J.I. Packer's endorsement of John Piper's book "Future Grace":

"John Piper's purpose in writing is to revitalize a decadent Western Christianity that knows only cheap grace and cheap faith. Bible-soaked, God-intoxicated, deeply evangelical, and passionately humane, Piper fills the forgotten dimensions of faith with a master hand. This is a rich and wise book, one to treasure and re-read."

It appears I'm in good company after all.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Presbyterians, Look Away

Actually, I'm sure many Baptists won't be thrilled with this baptism instructional video, either. I guess it's nice that this church's leaders use creative ways to reach their congregation. But sometimes I fear we evangelicals try too hard to look and sound like American pop culture. This video, however, I like much better. Simple seems more beautiful.

HT: Ted Olsen

Two Pro-Choice Parties?

The New York Times runs a story today entitled "Anti-Abortion Leaders Size Up GOP Candidates." The author, Robin Toner, writes that pro-lifers in the GOP are more than a little nervous about this year's presidential election. It's hard to argue with her about that. I know it's still the middle of summer 2007, but it's hard to think that the field is going to change much before the primaries start this January. And right now, pro-lifers are having a hard time finding a solid candidate.

The real worry among many pro-lifers, according to the NYT, is that the GOP will nominate Rudy Giuliani, who is openly pro-choice on abortion. Here's a sobering paragraph:

Hadley Arkes, a professor at Amherst College and a leading social conservative legal thinker, said he had recently gotten “feelers” from some in the Giuliani camp. But Mr. Arkes, an opponent of abortion, said he could not fathom a way the party could nominate Mr. Giuliani and remain the same “pro-life” party it has been for 25 years. “You change the constituency of the party,” Mr. Arkes said — either by showing that anti-abortion voters are not necessary to win, or by showing that anti-abortion voters are willing to subsume their cause to other issues.

What happens, exactly, if 2008 turns out to be the year that the Republican Party becomes convinced that it can win elections without being pro-life?

P.S. Thanks to Justin for handing over the keys to his car for a few days! We promise to stay within the speed limit.....

The Glorious Exchange

My mom reminds me of Jesus. Not because she always acts likes Jesus. In fact, she would be the first to admit that, in her attempts to behave the way Jesus behaved, she fails more often than she succeeds. She reminds me of Jesus because she birthed me. Let me explain.

The very process of giving birth is a beautiful picture of what Jesus Christ has accomplished for sinners like me. In his remarkable book Jesus Ascended, author Gerrit Scott Dawson puts it this way: “A child is conceived through the loving communion of husband and wife. The child grows inside the sheltering womb of the mother. But the child cannot live there forever. He is made for another world, a world of daylight and air, starlight and sky. So in the hours of her labor, the mother offers a new and living way. The way to life as a human being into the world passes through the curtain of her flesh. The curtain must be torn that the child might live and reach the daylight world. The mother is the new and living way. By her pain, the child is born.”

This is precisely the way the Bible speaks of Christ’s work on the cross. In Isaiah 53, the prophet foretold of a “suffering servant” who would one day bear the sin of many. He tells of a “man of sorrows” who would take on himself the punishment we sinners deserve. He would carry our sickness and swallow our disease. He says in v.6, “All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.” He goes on to say in v.5, “He was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed.” Approximately 750 years later, the apostle Peter assures his readers that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (1 Peter 2:22-25). It was Christ who accomplished a glorious exchange: his death brings us life. In the same way that we were brought into this world through the pain and suffering of another, we are brought into fellowship with God through the pain and suffering of Christ.

The way to true everlasting life passes through the curtain of Christ’s flesh. Because of my sin, he had to die so that I might live. He is the one who passed through the “valley of the shadow of death” so that I might enjoy the “still waters” and “green pastures” that friendship with God brings.

So when I think about my mother, I can’t help but think about the suffering she endured to give me life. I was born because, in love, my mom spent herself in pain and agony. Her blood, literally, brought me into this world. Similarly, Christ’s blood brings sinners into fellowship with God. Jesus is the new and living way (Heb. 10:20). He not only provides passage to God, he is the passage to God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). A glorious exchange indeed.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dreaming All Day

As many of you know, the word for “church” in the New Testament is the Greek word “Ekklesia.” It refers to those who have been called out of darkness in order to be called together by God into his presence. In other words, we have been “called out” of bondage and “called into” community so that we might worship God the Father, through God the Son, in God the Spirit together. Thirsting for God together and receiving from God together is what we were all created and designed for. This is why I look forward to Sunday mornings more than any other time of the week. When I am with God's people and we are worshipping together (praying, praising, preaching), my anticipation for the “great gathering” on the last day intensifies. What we do together on Sunday mornings is nothing less than a glorious rehearsal of what we will experience when the “ultimate assembly” is fully and finally brought together by Christ. Our weekly worship is a foretaste of that day when our “feasting” will be permanent and our “fasting” will be over. I could dream about that all day long! Wait a second...it's Sunday...I can! And so can you.

More Stott

A couple of you have asked where the John Stott quote came from that I posted last night. It came from his monumental work The Cross of Christ (IVP 1986) pg. 160. For those who don't know, Stott is now officially retired and residing in an assisted living facility for retired Anglican ministers. His life and ministry have been a remarkable inspiration to me. His commentaries on just about every book of the NT are still the ones I consult first and most. His outlines alone are worth the price of the book. For those who aren't familiar with John Stott, do yourself a favor: become familiar with him. He's written scores of books and you can listen to decades worth of sermons at http://www.allsouls.org/ascm/allsouls/static/index.html. At the very least, please purchase his most excellent book The Contemporary Christian (IVP 1992). Vintage Stott!

I couldn't let you go without giving you a couple more of my favorite Stott quotes:

"The Gospel is not good advice to men but good news about Christ; not an invitation to us to do anything, but a declaration of what God has done; not a demand but an offer." (The Message of Galatians pg. 70)

"We must never divorce what God has married, namely his Word and his Spirit. The Word of God is the Spirit's sword. The Spirit without the Word is weaponless; the Word without the Spirit is powerless." (The Message of Thessalonians pg. 34)

"The Christian hope is not the immortality of the soul (a shadowy, disembodied existence) but the resurrection of the body (a perfect instrument for the expression of our new life)." (The Authentic Jesus pg. 51)

Just a teaser. There are many more. Enjoy...

Romney to Give Speech on Mormonism?

Late last week the Associated Press reported that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will probably give a speech about how his Mormon faith would affect his leadership. Opinion writers and some Republican advisers have urged Romney to clarify his views in light of concerns expressed by many voters, including evangelicals. A few weeks back I spoke with Romney for an interview that Christianity Today will publish in its September issue. Romney spoke in some detail about why evangelicals should not be worried about a Mormon President. You'll have to read for yourself and see if he makes a persuasive case.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Blumenthal Visits Hagee

It has been my impression for the last few years that traditional dispensationalism has declined, despite the success of Left Behind and similar literature. At least that's the vibe I get talking to pastors and professors leading institutions once regarded as dispensational headquarters. That said, the ministry of pastor John Hagee reminds me that millions of evangelicals find in Scripture explicit eschatological reasons to support the modern state of Israel. If that's not your view, you might cringe while watching this video by Max Blumenthal at The Huffington Post. Be forewarned: When Blumenthal shows up at your doorstep, expect trouble.

HT: Ben Witherington

A Sabbath-Eve Gospel Prayer

As all of us prepare our hearts and minds for worship tommorrow, my prayer is that we go expecting to encounter the glory of God, his powerful presence, first and foremost. I pray that, as we sleep, God would expand our want to sing of who he is and hear of what he’s done. I pray that we go ready and willing to feel the grief of our sin so that we can feel the glory of his salvation. I pray that we go, in other words, to see God on display, not preachers or musicians. A worship service is not the place to showcase human talent. It’s the place for God to showcase his Divine treasure. A worship service that contains the power to change us (even us preachers) is a worship service that leaves us with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality. Isaiah did not leave the temple in Isaiah 6 thinking, “What great music, what a great building, what a great preacher.” He left thinking, “What a great God.”

Perhaps John Stott's words will be used to grow our love for the great Gospel we will encounter tommorrow: “The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.” Amen!

Remember: we gather for worship not to escape the real world, but to be reminded that this world is not all there is. For the Christian, the best is yet to come. So worship humbly and hard tommorrow. You need it!

Iran's Plastic Surgery Craze

I love Persian food and spend a lot of time in local restaurant called Moby Dick's House of Kabob. (If you're ever in the D.C. area check them out.) I've gotten to know some of the people who work at the restaurant and I've enjoyed learning more about Iranian culture from them. All that to say, I found this video very interesting and surprising. Of the many associations I have with the nation of Iran, I have to admit plastic-surgery is not one of them. But evidently getting a nose job is all the rage these days. President Ahmadinejad is locking up anyone with Western connections, but if you want to get a Western nose, no problem. What I really found funny was the idea of teenagers there putting bandages on their noses to pretend as if they'd gotten a nose job. It's some kind of status symbol. I guess America doesn't have a monopoly on superficiality.

Hollow Sound

I read this Op-Ed piece the other day over lunch and agree with the central point Richard Cohen makes. Entitled He Only Plays a Straight Shooter, Cohen goes after both Fred Thompson and John Edwards for their recently revealed glaring inconsistencies. Here’s an excerpt:
Edwards and Thompson have something in common: They both are all image. Neither has accomplished very much in public life. They are both ex-senators whose names are attached to no famous pieces of legislation. They have built no constituencies on the basis of their legislative records, and so they apparently feel they cannot afford to admit an inconsistency -- pro-choice lobbying by a proclaimed pro-lifer, or Euro-trashy indulgence by the proclaimed avatar of the poor.

All presidents lie sooner or later. But Thompson and Edwards are not trimming for any noble purpose of state; each is just trying to protect a political persona that is somewhat concocted in the first place. Their rebuttals don't inspire either trust or strength and should give us all reason to worry. It's a long campaign, and there is time for both men to prove that they are of sterling character. In the meantime, though, they both hit the counter with the hollow sound of a counterfeit coin.
I appreciate that Cohen went after the hypocrisy of candidates from both parties. Shouldn’t Christians be willing to do the same? It seems we have a tendency to spot hypocrisy or, “all-image-no-content” problems of the other side sooner than we do in our own candidate.

I Prayed For You This Morning

Dear "Between Two Worlds" Readers,

Believe it or not, even though I don't know any of you personally, I prayed for you all this morning. I was pleading with God to graciously grant you all the things necessary to press on and strain forward today: wisdom, discernment, humility, resolve, courage, patience, and joy. These are not qualities that we can muster up on our own. These are qualities that Christ alone perfectly possesses. But if we are in Christ, they are already ours. The Bible makes it clear that in Christ, God provides us with everything we need for godliness. My prayer for you this morning was that you would come to a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, all that already belongs to you in Christ.

Our Christian forefathers used to lament that “Christian’s too often live beneath the level of their privileges.” We fail to recognize that if we are united to Christ, then all that is his is mine (humanly speaking). He has made it possible for us to be all that God originally intended for us to be. In his book Grow in Grace, Sinclair Ferguson notes that “Jesus is the captain of our salvation.” He is the pioneer of our faith. As the pioneer of our faith, he has made it possible for us to follow him. He is the great trailblazer. He has beaten down a path for us to follow. He came to regain for us all that the first Adam had forfeited. He is, as I often tell the people at New City Church where I pastor, “Adam in reverse.” Ferguson goes on to provide this vivid illustration: “Picture an army captain hacking his way through a jungle during a battle with guerilla forces. He leads his men from danger to safety by first facing the dangers, impediments, and tests himself. Similarly, Jesus is the Captain of our salvation. He has not only tasted all of our experiences of temptation but he has gone further. He experienced them in their full strength, when they unleashed all their powers against him. Where we would stumble and fall, he has pressed on. He overcame temptation, conquered death and drew its sting. Now he beckons us: ‘Follow me, the pathway of faith is trustworthy for all of you to use!’” My hope and my prayer for you is that always and everywhere you will hear the voice of our Captain saying, “Follow me—the way has already been paved.”

Gospel Coalition Interviews

Slowly but surely, the Gospel Coalition website is growing. Check out the interviews with Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Tim Keller, and Don Carson. I look forward to seeing this site become a daily must-visit.

South Korea Missionary Backlash

Over at CT's Weblog, Ted Olsen writes about South Koreans who are criticizing the tactics of missionaries currently held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Many hold little sympathy for the captives, because they ignored warnings not to visit the troubled nation. Debates about the particularly zealous actions of South Koreans are not new. The former president of the Christian Council of Korea, Park Jong-soon, told Yonhap News Service, "Korean missionaries have strong emotional fervor, but they are weak in strategy. Missionary work is about humbling ourselves, listening to what locals say, what other missionaries there say. . . . We cannot be combative delivering God's words." Combative or not, these missionaries deserve our prayers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Irrelevance of God

In about three weeks from now, all three of my kids will go back to school. I can't believe summer is almost over. However, this time of year always reminds me just what's at stake regarding the absence of God in the realm of education, both higher and lower. About a year ago I was asked to write a short column in a secular magazine regarding this very issue: what's at stake and what role should the church play. As you will see, it's obviously not comprehensive (after all I had to do it in less than 500 words), but this is that column:

The word “secularization” is a fancy term used by social scientists to identify the process through which God and the supernatural are relegated to the fringe of what’s important in society. A secularized society is a society that has determined to make God and the supernatural socially irrelevant even if they remain personally engaging. It restricts the relevance of God to the private sphere only. This has created, according to Richard John Neuhaus, “a naked public square.” That is, God may be important individually but he is rather unimportant socially and culturally. He may be alive and well privately but publicly he is dead. How our culture got to this point is a study that goes way beyond the scope of this column. Suffice it to say here, however, that we now live in a world that has a bloated sense of human ability. What, in an earlier age, people believed only God could do, we have now placed within human reach. This cultural death of God can be seen in just about every sector of society: science, technology, politics, economics, etc. But the one sphere of society where the cultural death of God shines brightest may very well be the sphere of education.

In his book The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis noted that if we remove God from the educational process we will leave people without the capacity to make moral judgments about the world. If we are stripped of the ability to believe that some things are ultimately true and others ultimately false, then everything becomes a matter of private opinion. This in turn, says Lewis, creates “men without chests.” In other words, this produces a less than robust person who is too weak to make absolute moral judgments and uncompromising moral stands. Our society’s unwavering commitment to political correctness and prevailing tolerance does not permit us to pronounce absolute judgments on anything. “In the modern discussion”, says Os Guinness, “it is worse to judge evil than to do evil.” This is one reason why the events of September 11, 2001 had our heads spinning. On that unforgettable morning we witnessed the unleashing of cruelty and violence in a most unspeakable manner. What we experienced that day was downright evil and everybody knew it. But because absolute evils call for absolute judgment and we don’t believe in absolutes, we found ourselves unjustifiably enraged.

The church, then, becomes the sphere of society where the relevance of God ought to reign supreme. The people of God are to be influencing the wider culture by expressing the centrality of God with both their lives and their lips. Jesus called on his disciples to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” In other words, the people of God are to serve the world by acting as a preservative and a lighthouse. We do this by becoming God-saturated, God-intoxicated people, through whom God’s truth and love shine brightly. In order for God to once again become socially relevant, the church will have to exhibit a God-centeredness that shows our culture just how indispensable God is, not only for the individual, but for society as a whole.

Tullian Who??

First of all, I want to thank Justin for the privilege of being a guest blogger on the famous "Between Two World's" blog. You will be missed this week my friend. We are all praying that you have a thoroughly enjoyable vacation with your family. Secondly, if I don't give at least a brief explanation of my tedious, scarring name, I'm afraid anything I might post this week will be radically overshadowed by the readers preoccupation with trying to pronounce my name. So here it is. My full name (get this) is William Graham Tullian Tchividjian. Phew! It's a name that is actually packed with meaning. Let me explain.

The "William Graham" is after my grandfather, Billy Graham. The "Tullian" is after the early church father Tertullian. My mom was taking a church history class while she was pregnant with me and was most captivated with Tertullian and his unwavering committment to expounding and defending God's truth. She prayed, "Lord, if this child happens to be a boy, please make him an ardent defender of your truth like Tertullian was." And lo and behold, out I came, July 13, 1972--a boy! Rumor has it that for the first day or so my name was the full "Tertullian." Thankfully my mom came to her senses and dropped the "Ter." Can you imagine if my name were Tertullian Tchividjian? I mean seriously! Moving on.

My last name is pronounced "cha-vi-jin." It rhymes with religion (that usually helps people). It's an Armenian name. Not "Arminian", but "Armenian." Armenia is a country that borders Turkey. Arminius was a man. In fact, in seminary I was known as the Armenian Calvinist. Oh well! My dad is half Armenian, half Swiss. My mom was born and raised in Western North Carolina. I'm a Florida native!

So there you have it. It's not that bad, now is it? Amazingly, given the names of the men I have to live up to, I'm still sane. Anyway, I look forward to posting over the next week or so with my fellow "guest bloggers." Take it away guys...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guest Bloggers Next Week

Need a tip on how to improve your blog? Take my example: find four guys wiser, smarter, and more humble than you to take your place for a while! (There's always the downside, of course, that readers get spoiled and not want you back!)

On Friday afternoon our family takes off for a weeklong vacation (undisclosed location!). I've asked four friends if they'd keep the blog up and running while I'm away. I'm thankful each of them said yes!

Here are brief bios for each of them:

Joshua Harris has been the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland since 2004. In 1997, he relocated from Oregon to Gaithersburg to serve as a pastoral intern under--and to live in the same house with--C.J. Mahaney, then the senior pastor of Covenant Life. That same year Josh's book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was released. He has since written three other books: Boy Meets Girl; Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is); and Stop Dating the Church. Josh is also the founder of the New Attitude Conference.

At Covenant Life Josh met his wife Shannon, whom he married in 1998. They have three children.

Josh’s webpage (which includes a blog) is here. You can also listen to his sermons online.

Tullian Tchividjian is the pastor of New City Presbyterian Church in Margate, FL, which he planted in 2003. Even though Tullian grew up in a loving Christian home, he ran from the Lord for many years until 1993, when God graciously and radically rescued him.

After graduating with honors from Columbia International University in Columbia, SC, with a degree in Bible and Philosophy, his interest in theology led him to Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), where he received an M.Div. degree in 2001.

Tullian is the author of The Kingdom of God: A Primer on the Christian Life and Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life's Most Important Relationship (due out at the end of August). He has also contributed to a number of book, including Prodigals and Those that Love Them, by his grandmother Ruth Bell Graham.

Tullian and his wife Kim have three children.

You can listen to Tullian’s sermons here.

Collin Hansen is currently the associate editor of Christianity Today—until next week when he enters the M.Div. program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a view toward entering pastoral ministry. A graduate of Northwestern University, Collin majored in journalism and European history.

Collin has written for Books & Culture, Leadership, and Christian History & Biography, and contributed to The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Zondervan, 2005).

His book on the resurgence of Reformed theology among young evangelicals will be published by Crossway in 2008. His much-discussed CT article on the Young, Restless, and Reformed was published in September 2006. He is also writing a forthcoming profile for CT on Mark Driscoll.

He and his wife, Lauren, attend College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Collin contributes to the CT Liveblog.

Greg Gilbert is 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 contributor to Nine Marks Ministries' "Church Matters" blog. He has contributed a chapter to a forthcoming collection of essays evaluating postconservative evangelicalism.

He and his wife Moriah have two sons, Justin [no, not me!] and Jack.

Ray Ortlund Sr (1923-2007)

Ray Ortlund Sr. has gone to be with the Lord. Here is a letter from his family from the Renewal Ministries website:
Dear Family and Friends of Ray and Anne:

It’s both our deep sorrow and great joy to share with you the news of the home-going of our father and hero, Ray Ortlund. Like Jacob, Dad went off to heaven early Sunday evening having first admonished, loved on, prayed for and given his final benediction over his children.

For Mother and us it’s an inestimable loss—already we miss him beyond words. But for Dad it’s “Glory!” and finally—after a lifetime of daily service—the sheer joy of meeting our Lord Jesus face to face. Sublime.

Two memorial services are planned for Dad:

First, at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA on Friday, July 27, at 1:00 p.m. A second service will be held at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, July 28, at 10:00 a.m.

In lieu of flowers we hope you will simply continue your support of Mother’s wonderful service for Christ through Renewal Ministries.

For Mother and with much love in Christ,

Sherry and Walt Harrah
Margie and John McClure
Ray Jr. and Jani Ortlund
Nels and Heather Ortlund

P.S. Ray’s final words to us are a blessing for you, too:

“The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace (Nu. 6.24-26).
… Amen and amen!”
A news story can be found here.

Ray Ortlund Jr
shares thoughts on his father here, and Dane Ortlund recounts some of the lessons he learned from his grandfather. John Piper offers an appreciation as well. These tributes are well worth reading.

Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency

I was not previously familiar with Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency, but I see that they have hired Dan Cruver to serve as their Ministry Outreach Coordinator. Knowing Dan and his theological integrity and convictions, this seems like a great agency to advance the cause of adoption to the glory of God.

The Lord Gives; The Lord Takes Away

Josh Harris posts about a family in his church who just lost their three-year-old son after a year-long battle with a brain tumor. Josh quotes Charles Spurgeon:

Suppose you are a gardener employed by another. It is not your garden, but you are called upon to tend it. You come one morning into the garden, and you find that the best rose has been taken away. You are angry. You go to your fellow servants and charge them with having taken the rose. They declare that they had nothing to do with it, and one says, "I saw the master walking here this morning; I think he took it." Is the gardener angry then? No, at once he says, "I am happy that my rose should have been so fair as to attract the attention of the master. It is his own. He has taken it, let him do what seems good."

It is even so with your friends. They wither not by chance. The grave is not filled by accident. Men die according to God's will. Your child is gone, but the Master took it. Your husband is gone, your wife is buried—the Master took them. Thank him that he let you have the pleasure of caring for them and tending them while they were here. And thank him that as he gave, he himself has taken away.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bock on "The Future of Justification"

I'm going to start posting some blurbs--maybe one per week--for John Piper's forthcoming response to N. T. Wright, entitled The Future of Justification. Here is Darrell Bock's commendation of the conversation:
A good biblical dialogue needs two good conversation partners, who work hard to understand each other and make their case biblically. Piper's look at justification does this with a superb tone and a careful presentation of his case. He and Wright exchanged communication before this book went public. Piper appeals to the wisdom of the ages on justification, a wisdom deeply rooted in Scripture. Wright argues his approach is also deeply rooted in Scripture as seen through a fresh appreciation of the first century context of Paul's writing, a context we too often underestimate. This dialogue is important for the church; Piper has put us in a position to hear both sides of the debate and understand what is at stake. He has served us all well by enabling the reader to be put in the place of considering what Scripture says as he or she listens to this conversation and to our God. Iron sharpens iron, and Scripture is a sword that cuts between the soul and Spirit. Be prepared to be sharpened by a careful dialogue about what justification is.
--Darrell Bock, Research Professor of NT Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

ESV + iPhone

From a press release from Crossway:
Crossway Bibles celebrated the fifth anniversary of its dedicated ESV Bible web site on July 22 with the launch of a free web site optimized for the new Apple iPhone. The web site offers the complete, searchable text of the ESV Bible plus a variety of daily Bible readings. A Crossway partner has also developed an ESV iPhone application. AcroDesign Technologies last week launched iBibleSpace, which offers the complete ESV Bible text plus a daily Bible verse, several podcasts, and other features. “At the present time, iBibleSpace is far and away the best Bible app available for the iPhone,” wrote Rick Mansfield of the blog “This Lamp” in a review just after the launch of iBibleSpace.

Geoffrey Dennis, Crossway Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says, “Apple’s iPhone revolutionizes the mobile phone market, and we want the ESV to be at the forefront of that revolution. Crossway and our partners are committed to providing the ESV Bible in many formats on many devices—we want people to be able to access the ESV wherever, whenever, and however they want to.”

“Apple has made developing iPhone web applications easy by integrating a full-fledged web browser into the device: Apple instantly turned every web developer into an iPhone developer,” says Crossway Webmaster Stephen Smith. “Visits by mobile devices to Crossway’s family of web sites have grown significantly over the past few months, and we expect iPhones and other next-generation devices to further popularize mobile web browsing.”

Politically Correct Politics

Joe Carter thoughtfully interacts with David Gushee's "Rules for Evangelical Politics."

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From? (Part 7)

Dever's seventh answer: Packer's Knowing God.

Powlison on the Darkness of Depression

"What is a biblical understanding of depression? Is it simply a biochemical malfunction? On today's program, Russell Moore is joined by David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, for a helpful conversation on the subject."

(HT: Keith Plummer)

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer is now blogging.

Converse with Scholars: Kelly Kapic

Kelly Kapic will be the guest tomorrow night on the Converse with Scholars online program. This is your chance to talk with one of the leading experts on the life and thought of John Owen. Kelly will be discussing his new book, Communion with God. The program airs at 10 PM EST on July 26.

Origins II

I'm not intending to make the issue of Genesis 1-4 the new focus of this blog (really I'm not!), but since it's provoked a number of comments, and since a few folks have referenced John Sailhamer's work, I thought it might be worth linking to this article written by my friend Matt Perman:
Science, the Bible, and the Promised Land: An Analysis of John Sailhamer's Genesis Unbound.

If I'm not mistaken, Genesis Unbound is out of print. Perman wrote this while we were college students together. If I recall correctly, when Sailhamer read it he responded that it was more persuasive than his book!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From? (Parts 5 and 6)

Dr. Dever continues: part 5 (the defense of inerrancy) and part 6 (PCA).

"Why al Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church"

Frank Pastore's latest column is an embarrassment--an exceptional example of how not to advocate for truth and critique others, no matter how wrong they are. One cannot simultaneously advocate for the cause of truth and at the same time twist the truth to confirm biases and perpetuate caricatures. It makes about as much sense as trying to use words to defend the idea that all words are meaningless.

Ted Olsen writes: "I'm no fan of Emergent, but a demagogic, counterfactual column like this sure makes me more friendly toward it."

Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4

Speaking of Baker Academic, I see that the fourth volume of Herman Bavinck's great Reformed Dogmatics will be published in the spring of 2008.

Bock Is Back

Darrell Bock's long-anticipated commentary on Acts will be published this fall by Baker Academic. You can read the blurbs here. As Ben Witherington writes: "Bock is back, and better than ever."

What Would Jonathan Edwards Say About Harry Potter?

Josh Moody (PhD, Cambridge University) is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, associate fellow of Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University, and the author of The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today.

He has an article posted today in CT online: What Would Jonathan Edwards Say About Harry Potter?

Good Works Reader

Thomas Oden's The Justification Reader (which sought to survey the Patristic writings on justification by faith) now has a sequel: The Good Works Reader.


This is a heavy week for me: among other things, I have to finish reading the 400+ page proofs for the forthcoming John Owen book, Communion with the Triune God, before I leave on vacation (Friday). So blog posting has been, and will be, light this week. Even though I'll be unplugged next week, this blog will remain alive and active (more on that later).

Due to the light posting, I thought it might be worth reposting something I wrote two years ago on Genesis 1-4 and the age of the earth.

* * *

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:5-7, NASB)

Genesis 1-2 are two of the most contested chapters in the Bible. “Young-earth creationists” think it’s all rather simple, and that a face-value reading of these chapters inevitably leads to a belief that God created the world in six ordinary days. “Old-earth creationists” believe both the text and the world are more complex than this. And so the debate has raged.

In my view, interpreters on both sides have not paid enough attention to a crucial text: Genesis 2:5-7. Though I am unpersuaded of his “framework interpretation,” I do think that Professor Mark Futato of Reformed Theological Seminary—in his article “Because It Had Rained” (part 1 and part 2)—rightly discerns the logic of Genesis 2:5-7 and explains its role in OT covenantal theology. Futato sees a twofold problem, a twofold reason, and a twofold solution:

Twofold Problem (No Wild Vegetation, No Cultivated Vegetation)

1. No wild vegetation had appeared in the land.

2. No cultivated grains had yet sprung up.

Twofold Reason (No Rain, No Cultivator)

1. The Lord God had not sent rain on the land.

2. There was no man to cultivate the ground.

Twofold Solution (God Sent Rain Clouds, God Formed a Cultivator)

1. God caused rain clouds to rise up from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.

2. The Lord God formed the man.

The “bush of the field” (siah-hassadeh) described in 2:5 are the wild, uncultivated, desert vegetation that grows spontaneously after the onset of the rainy season in the fall (Gen. 21:15; Job 30:4, 7). The “small plants of the field” (es eb-hassadeh) in 2:5 refer to cultivated grains like flax, barley, wheat, and pelt (Gen. 3:18; Exod. 9:22, 25).

Now note the reason these had not yet grown: because it had not yet rained. Ed in 2:6 is best translated as “rain cloud” (cf. Job 36:27). Its “rising from the earth/land” is from a human perspective. Clouds appear on the horizon (whether a plain or a mountain or the sea), thus giving the appearance of rising (cf. Ps. 135:7; 1 Kings 18:44; Jer. 10:13; 51:16).

A Contradiction?

If the above interpretation is on track, then there is an apparent contradiction, for according to Genesis 1:9-13, vegetation was made on the third day. But in Genesis 2, it is the sixth day and there is no vegetation.

Three options are available by way of response: (1) abandon harmonization; (2) abandon seeing a sequence of events (i.e., logic, not sequence, is the organizing principle—cf. the “framework interpretation”); (3) reexamine the Hebrew terms. Since it seems that harmonization is encouraged by Genesis 2:4 and by the doctrine of an inerrant Scripture, and because the numbering of the days one after another encourages us to think in terms of a sequence, the third option is the most viable.

There are two sets of terms, the reexamination of which would change our interpretation of the passage. First, we might argue that the vegetation referenced in Gen. 2:5 is not included in the reference of Gen. 1:9-13. Hence there is no contradiction. This is the option that most commentators (Waltke, Sailhamer, et al) seem to prefer. Though I tremble to disagree with such experts of Genesis, I just don’t find their arguments very persuasive. The vegetation (dese) described in Gen. 1:9-13, is broken down into two broad categories: seed-bearing plants (eseb mazria zera) and trees that bear fruit (es peri oseh peri). It seems that the vegetation described in Genesis 2 are a subcategory of those described in Genesis 1. The traditional idea is that the lack of tilling foreshadows post-fall work and the lack of rain foreshadows a post-fall flood. But this assumes that there was no agricultural work before the fall and that it didn’t rain until the flood. I definitely don’t think the latter is true (for the text tells us that it rained, and I see no reason to think the earth existed for over a thousand years without rain!), and I don’t think we can be dogmatic about the former (see Gordon Hugenberger’s Is Work the Result of the Fall? A Note on Genesis 2:15.)

The second solution would be to reexamine the term “earth” (eretz) in 2:5-6. It can refer to the earth as a whole (Gen. 1:1-2), the region of dry land (Gen. 1:10), or some particular region (Gen. 2:11-13). So perhaps eretz in Genesis 2:5-7 refers to a particular land (the Garden of Eden), whereas eretz in Gen 1:11-13 to the earth as a whole. In fact, that’s exactly the solution presupposed by the English Standard Version (ESV) translation, and I believe this was the correct decision.

Ordinary Providence

But note again the startling reason in Genesis 2:5-7 for why there were no shrubs or small plants in the Garden: because “it had not yet rained.” Note well: there is an explanation for this lack of vegetation, which is a reference to ordinary providence. To see the theological implications of this feature, we need to examine the context—of the ancient Middle East, of the original audience, and of the Old Testament as a whole. (Much of the following is dependent on Futato’s careful work.)

Geographic Context

Moses narrated these events for his audience, the people of Israel, who were living in Canaan prior to the exile. What was the climate like there? At the end of the dry season and after five months of drought, the hills in Canaan are dry as dust and the vegetation is brown. Plowing and planting are impossible because the field is as hard as iron. Then the rains come, and the hills of the steppe become clothed with verdure (Job 38:25-27), the soil is softened, and the farmer is able to plow and plant (Ps. 65:9-10).

Theological Context

The agriculture of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia depended upon irrigation from rivers. In Canaan, however, agriculture depended on rain (see Deuteronomy 11:10-11). Because the basic equation was “water = life,” this understanding influenced their respective theologies and religions. Hence, the religions of Mesopotamia and Egypt were concerned with river gods, whereas the primary god of the Canaanites was Baal, the storm god who was the “rider on the clouds.”

Fatuto points out that the “struggle against Baalism is part of the fabric of Genesis through Kings.” The Israelites had been led by Yahweh through the desert and the sea, but as they were set to enter the land of Canaan, the question became, “Is Yahweh also the God of Canaan?” The temptation was to inquire of the Canaanites what made their gardens grow, and hence to be drawn to Baal worship. The polemic against Baalism is at the heart of OT covenant theology. Covenant loyalty to Yahweh resulted in rain, vegetation, and life. Covenant disloyalty—worshipping other gods—resulted in no rain, no produce, and death (see Deut. 11:10-17). Therefore, as Fatuto writes, “the ubiquitous threat of Baalism provides the theological context in which Genesis 1-2 is to be read.”


If the above interpretation is accurate, Genesis 2:5-7 serves a significant polemical function, for it demonstrates that Yahweh is the true God of rain, over against the pretender god Baal.

I don’t believe that Moses was at all concerned about the length of time in which God created the world and prepared the garden. In fact, the church has not historically been overly concerned about such issues. But since it is a preoccupation of our scientific age to inquire into the duration of the creation account, responsible interpreters must eventually lay their cards on the table and reveal their position (even if they get accused of heresy in the process!).

So here’s my view: I believe that Genesis 2:5-7 decisively rules out the idea that the sixth day was a 24-hour period. If the sixth day is a 24-hour period, then the explanation for the lack of vegetation (namely, that it had not yet rained) makes no sense. The very wording of the text presupposes seasons and rain cycles and a lengthier passage of time.

Genesis 1?

Along with many scholars (Waltke, Sailhamer, et al) I believe that Genesis 1:1 is neither a title nor a summary of the following narrative. Rather, it is a background statement that describes how the universe came to be. The typical function of such a background statement (also found in Gen. 16:1; 21:1; 24:1) is to give an action that took place some unspecified time before the narrative actually gets under way. If Genesis 1:1 is a title or a summary, then Genesis does not teach creation out of nothing. The main point of the narrative (in Gen. 1:3–2:3) is the making and preparation of the earth for its inhabitants.

Many incorrectly assume that the creation of the sun, moon, stars, and light occurs in Genesis 1:3, 14, 16. But there is a distinction in the Hebrew words for create and make. For example, as Jack Collins points out, the Hebrew construction let there be is used in the phrase “Let your steadfast love…be upon us” (Ps. 33:22; cf. 90:17; 119:76). This obviously isn’t a request for God’s love to begin to exist, but rather to function in a certain way. Similarly, the sun, moon, stars, and lights were created in Genesis 1:1, but were made or appointed for a particular function in Genesis 1:3, 14, 16—namely, to mark the set time for worship on man’s calendar.

Evening and Morning

What then does the repeated refrain “evening and morning” in Genesis 1 mean? Many think it’s a reference to an ordinary, 24-hour day. But evening to morning isn’t 24 hours, is it? What is it? It is nighttime! It’s the same phrase used to indicate when an Israelite would take his daily rest (cf. Ps. 104:23; Gen. 30:16; Ex. 18:13). The daily rest in Israel looks forward to the weekly Sabbath rest.

When we take this insight, and then combine it with a proper understanding of anthropomorphic, analogical language, a solution begins to emerge. What does God do on the seventh day? Exodus 31:17 tells us that on the seventh day God “rest and was refreshed.” God—refreshed? It’s the same Hebrew word used for getting your breath back after running a long race (Exod. 23:12; 2 Sam. 16:14)! The reason it is not improper to say God was refreshed is the same reason it’s not improper to say that God breathes, hovers, is like a potter, gardens, etc (all images used in Genesis 1-2). God’s revelation to us is analogical (neither entirely identical nor entirely dissimilar) and anthropomorphic (accommodated and communicated from our perspective).

In essence, I agree with the great 19th century theologian Herman Bavinck:

“The creation days are the workdays of God. By a labor, resumed and renewed six times, he prepared the whole earth….” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol.1 , p. 500).

Another great 19th century theologian, W.G.T. Shedd, wrote about it this way:

The seven days of the human week are copies of the seven days of the divine week. The “sun-divided days” are images of the “God-divided days.” This agrees with the biblical representation generally. The human is the copy of the divine, not the divine of the human. Human fatherhood and sonship are finite copies of the Trinitarian fatherhood and sonship. Human justice, benevolence, holiness, mercy, etc., are imitations of corresponding divine qualities. The reason given for man’s rest upon the seventh solar day is that God rested upon the seventh creative day (Exod. 20:11). But this does not prove that the divine rest was only twenty-four hours in duration any more than the fact that human sonship is a copy of the divine proves that the latter is sexual. (Dogmatic Theology, p. 374).

In other words, the “days” of Genesis 1 are analogical and anthropomorphic. God is portrayed as a workman going through his workweek, working during the day and resting for the night. Then on his Sabbath, he enjoys a full and refreshing rest. Our days are like God’s workdays, but not identical to them. How long were God’s workdays? The Bible doesn’t say. But I see no reason to insist that they were only 24 hours long.

Who Else Holds This Position?

Variations of this view were held by Augustine, W.G.T. Shedd, Herman Bavinck (perhaps the greatest systematic theologian), and Franz Delitzsch (perhaps the great Christian Hebraist). It was also the most common view among the late 19th century and early 20th century conservative Dutch theologians. The most articulate and prominent contemporary defender of this view—whose arguments I have followed most closely—is C. John “Jack” Collins, OT chair and professor of OT at Covenant Seminary and the OT chair of the ESV translation. See his book, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (P&R). Another contemporary advocate of this view is Vern Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary. See his book, Redeeming Science: A God-centered Approach (Crossway).

Biblical Theology Sale

Westminster Bookstore is having a Best of Biblical Theology sale.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Billy Graham Preaches "Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God"

From the Jonathan Edwards blog:
In the Fall of 1949, at the height of his famous Los Angeles "Canvas Cathedral" Crusade, Billy Graham preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. That night, America's most famous sermon was preached by the man who was to become America's most famous evangelist. This was no ordinary revival meeting!

The Jonathan Edwards Center has worked in conjunction with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Billy Graham Center Archives in Wheaton, Illinois to present an engaging digital exhibit on this remarkable event in American religious history.

Check the exhibit out at http://edwards.yale.edu/graham

Jesus in Prime Time

From Ed Komoszewski:
If you live in the Dallas area or you can be in the Dallas area in late October, you won’t want to miss the Jesus in Prime Time conference. The subject couldn’t be more timely and the lineup of speakers couldn’t be better.

Speakers include heavyweight New Testament scholars Darrell Bock, Dan Wallace, and Ben Witherington. Add to the mix the likes of Dallas Seminary president Mark Bailey, popular pastor and writer Erwin Lutzer, Search Ministries president Larry Moody, and television host and writer John Ankerberg, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind event. But it gets even better. Mainstream media personalities like Peggy Wehmeyer of The World Vision Report and Claire Brinberg of CNN News will lend their unique insights to the discussion.

Be sure to go to the Jesus in Prime Time website and watch the short video clips of Darrell Bock describing the conference.

Would you join me in spreading news of this event around the blogosphere? This is one of the most important conferences of the year!

Blog Reading to the Glory of God

Some good comments here from Abraham Piper on how to become a better blog reader.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"A Piety above the Common Standard"

Jim Hamilton:

The concerns of the day could be summarized as follows: disputes over Calvinism, with anti-Calvinists pursuing a divisively vocal course; earnest desire for “a revival that will last all winter;” intense debates about world missions and new methods being used to reach the lost; conflicting opinions on the question of whether persons baptized by others need to be re-baptized; debates over whether theological education breeds pride and liberalism; and divided opinions on the possibility of cooperation with those who disagree.

As much as this may sound like a description of the contemporary scene, it is a description of the issues of Jesse Mercer’s day. Anthony Chute, who now teaches at California Baptist University, has given us a valuable window into the life and times of Jesse Mercer (1769–1841). This is a book from which every Baptist pastor would benefit and which every seminary student at a Southern Baptist school should be required to read. As will become plain below, this book is a short course on soteriology, missiology, ecclesiology, denominational and associational cooperation, and, of course, history.

Read the whole review.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Kevin Cawley points us to two new books on Christology (the doctrine of Christ).

Interracial Marriage and Emergent Truth

A good post here by Russ Moore as a follow-up to his conversation with Tony Jones.

The more I think about it, the more surprised I am that Tony would think this is a valid argument, for it seems to undercut the possibility of saying that interracial marriage is truly wrong, and it also opens the door to saying that it could someday be seen again as legitimately wrong.

(HT: Z)

Sovereign Grace Music

From Sovereign Grace Music:
The newest CD from Sovereign Grace Music will be our first father-son project. Titled In a Little While, the CD features twelve songs written and sung by Mark Altrogge and his oldest son, Stephen. It is planned for release in August.

You may already be familiar with some of Mark's songs—"I Stand in Awe," "I'm Forever Grateful," and "In the Presence," to name a few. You may also have heard some of Stephen's songs on recent Sovereign Grace Music projects, such as Worship God Live and Valley of Vision. But you may not know that Mark has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania, for 25 years. His example of humble service and heartfelt worship inspired his son Stephen to play music and write songs for God's glory. In a Little While reflects Mark and Stephen's considerable talent, but it also represents of years of service in the local church.

The songs on In a Little While range from the upbeat, electric-guitar driven "At the Cross" to "Whatever My God Ordains Is Right," a gentle rendition of a seventeenth-century hymn. You can listen to song samples, and read the lyrics for all twelve songs, at our website.

You can also preview the CD with a free download of the song "All I Really Need." To download this MP3 file, visit our website and follow the instructions in the upper right corner of the page. We hope you enjoy this preview of In a Little While.
They also provide information about their new remix CD:
When we introduced Asleep in a Storm at our recent New Attitude conference, it sold out almost immediately. Our first remix CD, Asleep in a Storm takes well-known Sovereign Grace songs and refashions each one into something new, while keeping the original lyrics and vocals.

We're pleased to announce that this CD is back in stock at our online store for $10.00. If you haven't yet heard it, you can listen to song samples at our website. (For this CD only, a bulk discount is available: 30 or more copies for $8.00 each.)

Plus, you can download a free MP3 of the song "Across the Great Divide" at on our online store. (To download the song, you'll need to log in or follow the easy instructions to create an account.) Upcoming CD from Mark Altrogge and Son—Download a Free Song Now.

SBJT on the Atonement

Here is the table of contents for the new volume of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology:

Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum
"Articulating, Defending, and Proclaiming Christ our Substitute"
Gregg Allison
"A History of the Doctrine of the Atonement"
Peter J. Gentry
"The Atonement in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song" (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
Derek Tidball
"Songs of the Crucified One: The Psalms and the Crucifi xion"
Simon Gathercole
"The Cross and Substitutionary Atonement"
Barry C. Joslin
"Christ Bore the Sins of Many: Substitution and the Atonement in Hebrews"
The SBJT Forum
"The Atonement under Fire"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Baugh on the Kingdom of God

There's few people I'd trust more to teach on the kingdom of God than Steve Baugh at Westminster Seminary California.

Here's a lecture he gave on the topic last year (HT: Scott Clark). Prof. Baugh also kindly sent me the handout of quotes that went along with it.

When Sinners Say "I Do"

Tim Challies' review: "Piercing in its description of sin and unrelenting in pursuing sin to the deepest recesses of our hearts (and thus, of our relationships), When Sinners Say "I Do" is a most welcome contribution in a busy marketplace. I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to any couple and, indeed, to any single person as well. It is one of the best books on marriage and relationships that I have had the privilege of reading. We all need to see our sinner as bitter so that grace can be sweet. This book's biblical focus will bring both sin and the Savior into clear focus, helping us to build strong relationships centered upon Christ for His glory." You can buy the book here.

Update: Here's an interview with the author, Dave Harvey.

100 Christian Blogs

Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost posts a list of 100 Christian blogs.

Yes, "Between Two Worlds" is on the list, so I wrestled with whether or not to draw your attention to it. But, note that Joe writes: "This is not a list of the 'best Christian blogs' (whatever that might mean) but rather the top 100 blogs that I have found to be the most convicting, enlightening, frustrating, illuminating, maddening, stimulating, right-on and/or wrongheaded by Christians expressing a Christian worldview." So I very well could be in the "most . . . frustrating . . . maddening . . . wrongheaded" category!

The Sanctification of Your Studies

Richard Baxter, from The Reformed Pastor, chapter 1:
The most holy men are the most excellent students of God’s works, and none but the holy can rightly study them or know them. His works are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein,” but not for themselves, but for him that made them. Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God that you seek after in them. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works—this is the true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when He is the end, the object, and the life of them all.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Amend the ETS Statement of Faith?

That's what Denny Burk and Ray Van Neste are proposing. You can read more about it here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Princess Bride

Sorry, couldn't resist: here's an update on the actors 20 years later.

(HT: Evangelical Outpost)

Strange Encounters

The world's tallest man meets the world's shortest man.

A robber threatens to start shooting people at a party if they don't give him money, is instead offered some Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry, responds, "D**n, that's good wine," and eventually leaves peacefully--but not before requesting a group hug!

How Will Bush's Presidency Be Judged?

Bill Kristol in the Washington Post: "I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's presidency will probably be a successful one." It's a thoughtful piece, and you can read the whole thing.

DG Conference Videos

Desiring God has produced some new videos on the forthcoming conference on standing and endurance. They include videos of John Piper explaining why he chose the speakers, as well as a promo video about the conference. You can check out the videos here. The promo video is below:

The Dawning

"The Dawning" by George Herbert

Awake, sad heart, whom sorrow ever drowns;
Take up thine eyes, which feed on earth;
Unfold thy forehead, gathered into frowns;
Thy Saviour comes, and with Him mirth:

Awake, awake, and with a thankful heart His comforts take.
But thou dost still lament, and pine, and cry,
And feel His death, but not His victory.

Arise, sad heart; if thou dost not withstand,
Christ's resurrection thine may be;
Do not by hanging down break from the hand
Which, as it riseth, raiseth thee:

Arise, arise; and with His burial linen drie thine eyes.
Christ left His grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears or blood, not want a handkerchief.

(HT: Fig Leaf)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

24 and Philosophy

Good TV shows and movies deal thoughtfully with existential human questions. So does philosophy. Therefore it's not surprising--indeed it's welcome--that a number of books have appeared exploring philosophical questions raised by movies and shows. (You'd be surprised at how much thoughtful philosophical exploration, for example, can come from the book Seinfeld and Philosophy!)

Ever since I started watching the show "24" I thought it'd be a great organizing subject for an ethics or philosophy book. Well, it's coming out this fall: 24 and Philosophy. Christian philosophers Doug Geivett and Tom Morris are among the contributors.

Speaking of Geivett, this fall will also see the publication of a book published by IVP that he co-edited with Taylor University philosopher James Spiegel: Faith, Film and Philosophy: Big Ideas on the Big Screen. There is also an official website connected with the book.


Defending Life

Cambridge University Press has posted the frontmatter (acknowledgments, table of contents, introduction) and part of chapter 1 from Frank Beckwith's forthcoming book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion Choice. If you can handle an intellectual workout and you're a defender of protecting the unborn, you need to read this book. And if you aren't--well, you also should read this book! Here's the publisher's description:
Defending Life is arguably the most comprehensive defense of the pro-life position on abortion – morally, legally, and politically — that has ever been published in an academic monograph. It offers a detailed and critical analysis of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood as well as arguments by those who defend a Rawlsian case for abortion choice, such as J. J. Thomson. The author defends the substance view of persons as the view with the most explanatory power. The substance view entails that the unborn is a subject of moral rights from conception. While defending this view, the author responds to the arguments of thinkers such as Boonin, Dworkin, Stretton, Ford, and Brody. He also critiques Thomson’s famous violinist argument and its revisions by Boonin and McDonagh. Defending Life includes chapters critiquing arguments found in popular politics and the controversy over cloning and stem cell research.

A Theology for the Church

Jim Hamilton interviews the editors of A Theology for the Church: part 1, part 2.

Do I Know God?

Here are the endorsements for Tullian Tchividjian’s forthcoming book, Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship, published by Multnomah and due out at the end of August:

“Warm, fresh, and helpful, Tullian’s insightful answer to the question ‘Do I know God?’ will be a guide and encouragement to many.”—Os Guinness

“With wisdom, grace, and transparency, Tullian helps clear the sometimes uncertain path of knowing and following after God. I am thrilled to endorse this thoughtful work and trust you will find it equally engaging and helpful.”—Ravi Zacharias

“Many people are confused today as to whether we can truly know God. Is it possible to actually have a relationship with the Creator of the universe? This book by my former student Tullian Tchividjian makes it clear that we can have such certainty and how that certainty is possible. It is thoroughly biblical, well balanced, excellently stated and illustrated. May God use Tullian’s volume to bring many to the wonderful assurance that God loves them in Jesus Christ.”—John Frame

“Tullian has written a good, simple, solid book on a crucial subject. Tullian wants you to know God and to know that you know God. Do you know God? This book can help you answer that most important of all questions. What better reason is there to spend money on buying a book—or time on reading it?”—Mark Dever

“This is a warm, personal book about assurance, about how we can know we have been redeemed by Christ. It is written with pastoral wisdom for a church often afflicted by deep currents of uncertainty and sometimes by faltering discipleship. It speaks to our time with biblical fidelity.”—David Wells

“To know that you know God and God knows you is life’s greatest source of peace, joy, and strength for the journey. Tullian takes strugglers by the hand and leads them with sure steps toward this certainty. Here is a book to be trusted and treasured.”—J. I. Packer

“My prayer for you, the reader, is that you will listen carefully to what my grandson says here. Apart from the Bible, this may be the most important book you could ever read, because it will help you answer the most important question you could ever ask: Do I know God”—Bill Graham (from the foreword

I just finished the book last night and would highly recommend it. More to come . . .

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Pornography Culture

From David Hart's essay in The New Atlantis responding to some of the reasoning behind SCOTUS's rejection of the Child Online Project Act (COPA). It's an excellent piece. Excerpt:
Anyone who would claim that constant or even regular exposure to pornography does not affect a person at the profoundest level of consciousness is either singularly stupid or singularly degenerate. Nor has the availability and profusion of pornography in modern Western culture any historical precedent. And the Internet has provided a means of distribution whose potentials we have scarcely begun to grasp. It is a medium of communication at once transnational and private, worldwide and discreet, universal and immediate. It is, as nothing else before it, the technology of what Gianni Vattimo calls the “transparent society,” the technology of global instantaneity, which allows images to be acquired in a moment from almost anywhere, conversations of extraordinary intimacy to be conducted with faceless strangers across continents, relations to be forged and compacts struck in almost total secrecy, silently, in a virtual realm into which no one—certainly no parent—can intrude. I doubt that even the most technologically avant-garde among us can quite conceive how rapidly and how insidiously such a medium can alter the culture around us.

We are already, as it happens, a casually and chronically pornographic society. We dress young girls in clothes so scant and meretricious that honest harlots are all but bereft of any distinctive method for catching a lonely man’s eye. The popular songs and musical spectacles we allow our children to listen to and watch have transformed many of the classic divertissements of the bordello—sexualized gamines, frolicsome tribades, erotic spanking, Oedipal fantasy, very bad “exotic” dance—into the staples of light entertainment. The spectrum of wit explored by television comedy runs largely between the pre- and the post-coital.

What is worth noting, however, is that the modern understanding of freedom is essentially incompatible with the Jewish, classical, or Christian understanding of man, the world, and society. Freedom, as we now conceive of it, presumes—and must ever more consciously pursue—an irreducible nihilism: for there must literally be nothing transcendent of the will that might command it towards ends it would not choose for itself, no value higher than those the will imposes upon its world, no nature but what the will elects for itself.

We call upon the state to shield us from vice or to set our vices free, because we do not have a culture devoted to the good, or dedicated to virtue, or capable of creating a civil society that is hospitable to any freedom more substantial than that of subjective will. This is simply what it is to be modern.

But perhaps the COPA decision can provide some of us, at least, with a certain salutary sense of alienation: it is good to be reminded from time to time—good for persons like me, with certain pre-modern prejudices—that our relations with the liberal democratic order can be cordial to a degree, but are at best provisional and fleeting, and can never constitute a firm alliance; that here we have no continuing city; that we belong to a kingdom not of this world; and that, while we are bound to love our country, we are forbidden to regard it as our true home.
(HT: Z)

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From? (Part 4)

Mark Dever's fourth answer: Evangelism Explosion.

CT on Justification

The editors at Christianity Today explain why justification by faith alone is still our defining doctrine, and also reveal that Simon Gathercole has written next month's cover story on the new perspective(s) on Paul. (Gathercole, for those who haven't heard, is heading from Aberdeen to Cambridge this fall to become a NT lecturer there.)


How about this for a suggestion? If you want to pass along encouraging words, feel free to do so anonymously in the comments section. If you want to criticize someone's writing or ministry, include your name or don't comment.

B. B. Warfield

From Mark Noll's introduction to the new book, B. B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought, edited by Gary L. W. Johnson and published by P&R:
Despite his formidable gifts as biblical exegete, biblical theologian, and biblical apologist, it is not clear that Warfield's dual effort has been appreciated as it should have been. To modern thinkers he has seemed old-fashioned, to active revivalists overly Calvinistic, to some Calvinists too much a rationalist. Yet Warfield has never lacked readers who appreciated the clarity with which he maintained traditional Calvinist doctrines or ventured forth from his Calvinist foundations to address new problems, and the numbers of those readers seems to be growing. It is, thus, all to the good that this book is being published in order to stimulate closer attention to who Warfield was and what his theological contributions actually mean.
You can order the book through the Westminster Bookstore, or preview online the Table of Contents | Foreword by David Calhoun | Introduction by Mark Noll.

Interview with Tony Jones

As a commenter pointed out, Russell Moore will interview Tony Jones tonight on the Albert Mohler radio program regarding Tony's paper on orthodoxy, delivered at the Wheaton Theology Conference (and excluded from the forthcoming book). The program streams live on the web, from 5:00-6:00 p.m. ET. You can also call in with your questions or comments: 1-877-893-8255 (TALK).

Al Mohler on the Division Between Protestants and Roman Catholics

Al Mohler is neither offended nor surprised at the statement approve by Pope Benedict XVI that the Roman Catholic Church is the only institutional form in which the Church of Christ subsists. On the contrary, Mohler appreciates the Pope's candor and sees this as an opportunity to discuss one of the defining issues of our division with respectful candor and clarity. His essay is worth quoting at length:
It all comes down to this -- the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Pope as the universal monarch of the church is the defining issue. Roman Catholics and Evangelicals should together recognize the importance of that claim. We should together realize and admit that this is an issue worthy of division. The Roman Catholic Church is willing to go so far as to assert that any church that denies the papacy is no true church. Evangelicals should be equally candid in asserting that any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church. This is not a theological game for children, it is the honest recognition of the importance of the question.

The Reformers and their heirs put their lives on the line in order to stake this claim. In this era of confusion and theological laxity we often forget that this was one of the defining issues of the Reformation itself. Both the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church staked their claim to be the true church -- and both revealed their most essential convictions in making their argument. As Martin Luther and John Calvin both made clear, the first mark of the true Church is the ministry of the Word -- the preaching of the Gospel. The Reformers indicted the Roman Catholic Church for failing to exhibit this mark, and thus failing to be a true Church. The Catholic church returned the favor, defining the church in terms of the papacy and magisterial authority. Those claims have not changed.

I also appreciate the spiritual concern reflected in this document. The artificial and deadly dangerous game of ecumenical confusion has obscured issues of grave concern for our souls. I truly believe that Pope Benedict and the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith are concerned for our evangelical souls and our evangelical congregations. Pope Benedict is not playing a game. He is not asserting a claim to primacy on the playground. He, along with the Magisterium of his church, believes that Protestant churches are gravely defective and that our souls are in danger. His sacramental theology plays a large role in this concern, for he believes and teaches that a church without submission to the papacy has no guaranteed efficacy for its sacraments. (This point, by the way, explains why the Protestant churches that claim a sacramental theology are more concerned about this Vatican statement -- it denies the basic validity of their sacraments.)

I actually appreciate the Pope's concern. If he is right, we are endangering our souls and the souls of our church members. Of course, I am convinced that he is not right -- not right on the papacy, not right on the sacraments, not right on the priesthood, not right on the Gospel, not right on the church.

The Roman Catholic Church believes we are in spiritual danger for obstinately and disobediently excluding ourselves from submission to its universal claims and its papacy. Evangelicals should be concerned that Catholics are in spiritual danger for their submission to these very claims. We both understand what is at stake.

The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, responded to the press by saying that the Vatican's "exclusive claims" are "troubling." He also said, "what may have been meant to clarify has caused pain."

I will let Bishop Hanson explain his pain. I do not see this new Vatican statement as an innovation or an insult. I see it as a clarification and a helpful demarcation of the issues at stake.

I appreciate the Roman Catholic Church's candor on this issue, and I believe that Evangelical Christians, with equal respect and clarity, should respond in kind. This is a time to be respectfully candid -- not a time to be offended.