Friday, August 31, 2007

Trueman on CJ, Basketball, and Spurgeon

Carl writes, "CJ Mahaney is a pal, but I've always had two problems with his ministry. . . ."

Read the whole thing

Olson on Calvinism

Baylor University's Roger Olson: " The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil."

(HT: Scott Lamb--see the discussion)

Update: I should point out that Olson has done this sort of thing before. For example, in 2003 wrote an article claiming, "The God proclaimed by John Piper is sometimes 'too big' in the sense that he doesn't seem personal enough to come near and dwell with us for our sakes. He's aloof and self-absorbed. That's not the loving, self-emptying, often vulnerable, caring and suffering God of the Bible." My response was published (you have to scroll down).

Olson likes to call for an "irenic" theology, but at the same time he has a habit of doing theology by caricature. It's analysis by labeling one side with glowing terms and labeling the other side with put-downs. In my introduction to the book Reclaiming the Center I collected some of the quotes to this effect from just one article of his:

The postconservatives and their proposals are “liberated,” “bold,” “vibrant,” “interesting,” “new,” “relevant,” “committed,” “faithful,” “fresh,” and “fascinating.” The traditionalists are “old guard,” “obsessive,” “reactionary,” “highly rationalistic,” “rigid” “naysayers” with a “scholastic spirit” who love nothing more than “gatekeeping,” “control[ling] the switches,” and “patrol[ling] the boundaries.”

Theology in the News

Today Collin Hansen begins a bi-weekly online column that provides a roundup of sorts for theological discussions on the web. (My advice to the CT editors: give this a permanent link so that interested readers can bookmark and return.)

Collin explains some of the purposes for his column, then (as promised), links a lot:
Christian colleges and seminaries can grow detached from the churches they serve. Hazardous ideas can percolate for decades without so much as a nod from most churchgoers. And parents wonder why their undergraduate daughter or seminary son graduates with odd ideas about everything. So they blame the theologians and the cycle continues.

But what if they knew more about current debates? What if someone could direct them toward resources that would help them think theologically about current events? I hope that in some small way, this column might help those of you who want to care about theology but lack the time to skim blogs. Maybe you'd consider attending a conference if you only knew when or where to go. You might even read the occasional book if someone explained why it's important. As I draw on the help of scholars and friends, I hope this column will become a destination for you to catch what you might have missed in the last two weeks and discern what you otherwise might not have foreseen.

Reformation 21

A new edition of the e-zine is now online.

An Interview with Tullian Tchividjian

Here is an interview with Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of New City Presbyterian Church and the author of the new book, Do I Know God?

What are some memories you have of spending time with your grandparents, Billy and Ruth Bell Graham?

All of my memories (and I have a lot) are wonderful. People ask me all the time, “What was it like growing up as the grandson of someone so famous, so well-known?” My answer is simply: I never knew any different. I don’t have anything to compare it to. In fact, it wasn’t until I got older that I began to realize that my grandfather was a pretty important person. This is mainly due to the fact that he (and my grandmother) never, ever, projected themselves to be any more or less important than anyone else. They have always been genuinely approachable, humble, ordinary, and normal. They’ve always had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh (especially at themselves). Most captivating, of course, has been their own sense of sin and their obvious love for their Savior. They have always exemplified the sweet reality that you can never know Christ as a Great Savior until you first know yourself to be a great sinner. Growing up, my family spent every summer, all summer, in North Carolina with my grandparents (summer’s were particularly slow for my granddad so we had him all to ourselves). But probably the sweetest memories I have are of their visits to our home in South Florida every year for Thanksgiving. They would both come down and spend a few weeks in our home, getting out of the cold and into the tropical warmth of South Florida. Playing in the pool, going on walks, having dinner almost every night at Morrison’s Cafeteria (my granddad’s favorite restaurant), watching movies, having my granddad lead in family devotions, etc. Those were sweet, sweet, times. They have always been family oriented, first and foremost.

You rebelled against the Lord during your teenage years. Can you tell us about that time?

I share my testimony in more detail in the book so I’ll be brief here. As I’ve already noted, I grew up in an amazing Christian home. The flavor of Christianity that was expressed by my family was not legalistic or oppressive. It was joyful, warm, inviting, hospitable, and real. I am, however, the middle of seven children and to be honest, that wasn’t easy. There’s a large age gap between my three older siblings and my three younger siblings. And I couldn’t figure out if I was the youngest of my older siblings or the oldest of my younger siblings. I was in the unique, unenviable position of being both the youngest and the oldest. Anyway, I couldn’t figure out where I fit inside the home and so I set out trying to determine where I fit outside the home. And when you are young, immature, sinfully self-centered, and desperate for belonging, you make some pretty unwise choices—which I did. The people that I started running around with and the things I started to do began to get me in a lot of trouble. To make a long story short, at the ripe young age of 16, I dropped out of high school, got kicked out of my home (actually escorted off my parent’s property by the police) and started pursuing worldly pleasure with all of my might. At the time, of course, I was very pleased with my achievements. Freed from the constraints of teachers and parents, I chased worldly bliss harder than most my age, trying desperately to “find myself” through promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol. My fun quickly came to an end, however, at the age of 21 when God sobered me up to the realization that my so-called freedoms had made me a slave to habits and desires that were shrinking my soul. The more I tried to find my place in the world, the more displaced I felt. God graciously brought me to the end of myself. I knew there had to be more to life than what the world was offering, more to who I was than what I was experiencing. I remember coming home early one morning after a night out feeling emptier than I ever have. I cried out to God for help. I said something like this: “God, it’s been a long time since I’ve talked to you. As you know I’ve been trying to do things on my own for many years now and I simply can’t do it anymore. I need you. I desperately need you to rescue me. Amen.” That was it. I didn’t hear any angelic choirs; I didn’t see any bright lights. Slowly but surely, though, everything about me started to change from the inside out. I started to love the things I used to hate and hate the things I used to love. I started running away from the things I used to run toward and running toward the things I used to run away from. God came to me and God conquered me. In the words of Cornelius Plantinga, I experienced “a magnificent defeat” at the hand of God and I’ve never been the same. See, I told you I’d be brief (ha).

I’m curious—your grandfather, Billy Graham, is one of the most famous evangelists in history. And your uncle, Franklin, is not only a well-known Christian leader, but also went through a season of deep rebellion? Do you recall anything in particular that they said to you during your time away from the Lord?

Interestingly, because my grandparents knew that my parents had laid such a solid foundation, teaching me the Gospel from the time I was born, they never preached to me during my wilderness wanderings; they never sat me down and gave me a lecture. They always told me they were praying for me, that they believed God had his hand on me, and that if I ever needed anything, not to hesitate to let them know. Their unconditional love for me during that time was stunning. In fact, from a human perspective, one of the tools God used to bring me to himself was the attractiveness of my grandparents (and parents) unconditional love. Because of my upbringing, I had always known the content of the Gospel but it was the “preaching of the Gospel without words” through my parents and grandparents which helped me to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

When your prodigal journey ended and the Lord brought you to himself, do you consider that your conversion or had you just been in a period of backsliding, having been converted before your rebellion?

I actually address this issue in the book because for so long it bothered me. I grew up in a church that pressured people to identify a particular time and place when they became Christians. In fact, I grew up believing that if I could not recall the moment God saved me, then I was at best a second-class Christian or at worst not a Christian at all. I really wrestled with this about seven years ago. My mom told me that I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life when I was five years old, but I don’t remember anything about it. What I do remember is how drastically my life changed when I was twenty-one. It frustrated me not knowing for sure whether my relationship with God began when I was five and “prayed the prayer” or when I was twenty-one and my life clearly changed. Did I become a Christian when I was five and then simply rebelled until I was twenty-one, at which point I “rededicated” my life to God? Or did I become a Christian for the first time at twenty-one? I didn’t know, and it really bothered me. I wanted to pinpoint the time and place. My spiritual life depended on it, or so I thought. About that time I had lunch with Arnie, one of my wisest, most godly friends. As I shared my struggle with him, he looked at me and said, “Tullian, does it really matter? The Bible has a lot more to say about how the Christian life ends than how it begins.” I dropped my fork. He was right. I thought about all those places in the Bible that speak about finishing the race, obtaining the prize, pressing on, and straining forward. I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. Pinpointing the time and place I became a Christian didn’t matter, ultimately. What did matter was my daily pursuit of God. What did matter was my need to continue in the faith from that day forward. John Stott said, “He who stands firm in the faith to the end will be saved, not because salvation is the reward of endurance, but because endurance is the hallmark of the saved.” Arnie helped me see that my ongoing endurance, not my ability to isolate a moment when my relationship with God began, is what helps me be certain about my relationship with God today.

You did your MDiv work at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Which happened first—you became Reformed, then went to RTS, or the other way around?

Soon after God saved me (if indeed I was saved at 21 instead of 5), God gave me an overwhelming hunger and thirst to study, to read, to learn. I wanted to go to college but with only a GED and no SAT scores, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this. So at first, I simply began reading books that my pastor (we were attending a PCA church at the time) encouraged me to read (this included books by Packer, Sproul, Lloyd-Jones, the Puritans, etc.). I really wrestled with the doctrine of election. But after a long hard struggle with the Bible I came to the realization that I could choose not to believe this doctrine but I could not in good conscience say that the Bible doesn’t teach it. It was clear to me that from cover to cover Scripture highlights God’s sovereignty in salvation. After I was convinced of the Doctrines of Grace, however, I became a real pain in the neck. Every non-Calvinist was an idiot, so I thought, and I made sure to tell them. Thankfully, God quickly tempered my zeal and I came to realize that an arrogant Calvinist is an oxymoron. If we truly believe we’ve been given it all and deserve only death, then we should be the most humble people on the face of this earth. Eventually I was accepted to a Christian University in South Carolina (Columbia International University) where I studied philosophy and then made my way to RTS/Orlando. Because I was a convinced Calvinist long before I went to seminary I only looked at Westminster Theological Seminary and RTS. God led us to RTS and I’m thankful he did. My wife and kids agree that the years I was in seminary were some of the best years of our lives.

A few years ago Jon Meacham profiled Billy Graham for a cover story for Newsweek. One thing that stood out to me was this line: “If he had his life to live over again, Graham says he would spend more time immersed in Scripture and theology. He never went to seminary, and his lack of a graduate education is something that still gives him a twinge. ‘The greatest regret that I have is that I didn't study more and read more,’” In a sense, you’ve been able to walk down a path that your grandfather was never able to travel. What has that education meant for your preaching and writing and counseling ministry?

Due in part to my granddad’s regret for not going to seminary, not only has he helped to start a seminary (Gordon-Conwell) but he fully funded my seminary education. He’s the one who really encouraged me early on to go to seminary, saying, “If you are going to properly preach the Scriptures you need to be properly trained.” Therefore, contrary to what some may think, my granddad has a high regard for theological education in general and theologians in particular. His close friendships with Carl Henry, Harold Lindsell, Kenneth Kantzer, John Stott, and J.I. Packer testify to this. In my humble opinion (and there are always wonderful exceptions—Charles Spurgeon, C.J. Mahaney, etc.) seminary is a non-negotiable for anyone who has been called by God to preach. There is no way I could be doing what I do now if I hadn’t gone to seminary. I was an avid reader before I went to seminary and when I got to RTS I was sure I wasn’t going to learn anything new. Boy, I was wrong. In fact, it didn’t take me long to begin blushing as I thought about the sermons I had preached and the classes I had taught prior to seminary. The great thing about RTS was that even though it was a highly academic setting, it was place where my mind was stretched and my heart was enlarged. F. W. Faber wrote, “Deep theology is the best fuel of devotion; it readily catches fire and once kindled it burns long.” This is what RTS did for me and it has helped me develop the culture at New City Church where I serve. Believing that God has equipped Christian’s with both a head and a heart, intellectual capacities along with emotional capacities, we understand that no one can feel rightly about God without thinking rightly about God. On the other hand, we also believe no one can think rightly about God without feeling rightly about God. Therefore, we are seeking, in everything we do, to combine gravity and gladness, depth and delight, doctrine and devotion, precept and passion, truth and love (Matt. 22:37; John 4:23-24; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 4:15). We want to be a community that glorifies God in the way that we think and the way that we feel. We desire to be a church that thinks and feels theologically while seeking to avoid both intellectualism and emotionalism. My theological education has helped to make this a reality at New City.

When and how did you start the church you now serve, New City Presbyterian Church?

Wow! Where do I begin? When I left seminary I went to serve a large church in Tennessee (Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church) as pastor to young adults (20’s and 30’s) and as the Sunday evening preacher. I loved it, but I always knew it was a temporary stop. I thought I’d be there for 5 years or so and then leave to pastor my own church. Well, less than two years into my time there, I received a call from a group of people in South Florida who had started to pray about beginning a new church in the greater Ft. Lauderdale area. They had been given my name by a few people and they called to see if I would be willing to talk with them. I agreed to talk to them but assured them I had no interest. The one thing I swore I would never do is plant a church. Not because I didn’t believe in church planting but because I didn’t think I had the gifts to do it. I was a preacher, a teacher, a people person, but I didn’t think of myself as an administrator. And I knew enough about church planting to know that starting something from scratch took a lot of administrative skill. They were persistent, though. At one point after listening to my protests, they said, “Tullian, administrators are easy to find, preachers are hard to find, would you please consider it?” Apparently, without my knowing, they had obtained numerous copies of my sermons and started passing them around. To make a long story short, we moved back home in August of 2003 and started worshipping together on Sunday mornings immediately. The initial group had about 75 people. The church is now 4 years old and it has grown wildly in every sense. There are now 10 on staff and because we have outgrown our current facility (we worship in a large High School auditorium) we are moving to two services. God is on the move in South Florida and we are excited to be a part of it. I’m humbled and pleasantly surprised at the hunger and thirst for God’s truth in the bustling, very strategic area of South Florida. Please pray for us!

Your book, Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship, was just published by Multnomah. How did the book come about?

The book started off as a sermon that I preached at Cedar Springs on Matthew 7:21-23. If you recall, in that passage, Jesus says, essentially, that there are multitudes of people who go through life thinking they know God when in fact they don’t. So I started thinking about why false assurance is such an epidemic in our time as well and whether or not I could be doing more to prevent it. Believe it or not, one of the most strategic mission fields in North America today is the church! So I set out to write a book that would answer two basic questions: is God knowable, and if he is, how can I know that I know God? In the book I say that if you don’t know God, he wants you to know it. If you do know God, he wants you to know it. The two things God does not want is for you to think you know God if you don’t and for you to think you don’t know God if you do. So I identify 6 ways that someone might be deceived into thinking they have a relationship with God when in fact they don’t. And then I move into three ways one can know that they know God: believing God’s promises, loving God’s presence, and obeying God’s precepts. Or, to put it another way, knowing that you know God involves what you believe (this is the intellectual dimension), what you love (this is the emotional dimension), and how you behave (this is the volitional dimension). Knowing that you belong to God, having a deep sense of your eternal security, not only provides a sure and steadfast anchoring for your soul, but it radically changes the way you live here and now. There’s nothing more vital, nothing more satisfying, than knowing God and knowing that you know God.

It seems to me that one of the audiences for the book is surely people who do not know whether they are saved. But who else is the book written for?

I also wrote this book for pastors. If a pastor would ask me, “Why should I read this book”, I would say, “This book will help you present the Gospel in such a way that those listening won’t be confused about whether or not they know God.” I give some real practical pointers regarding ways in which we as pastors tend to confuse people with some of the things we say and don’t say. It’s imperative, in my opinion, that pastors understand the need to help people rightly identify their spiritual condition. I think this book will help them do that.

But because there is so much confusion regarding how we understand a relationship to God, I address issues like the distinction between eternal security and assurance of salvation; the proper relationship between saving faith and good works, etc. In other words, even for those one who know that they know God, I hope this book serves to clear up some misconceptions. The last chapter is on heaven: what is the promised future for those who know God? It’s my favorite chapter because, again, there’s so much confusion regarding our ultimate destination. Every time I say this people raise their eyebrows but its true: the ultimate destination for the Christian is not heaven. The ultimate destination for those who truly know God is a new heaven and a new earth where we will enjoy new sinless, disease-free, incorruptible bodies. Our future, in other words, is physical! I go into much more detail about this in the book.

Any future books from you on the horizon?

Yes. I’m under contract with Multnomah to keep writing! I think I’ve almost settled on a book entitled Unfashionable. The working subtitle is Following Jesus in the 21st Century. If I were to identify one trend in the church today that concerns me, it would be our fascination with “fitting in.” The sad fact is, we’ve come to believe that the best way to reach the world is to become just like the world. When in reality, we make a difference by being different. We don’t make a difference by being the same. We need to remember that it is the calling and the privilege of Christians to be against the world for the world. In fact, it is, in the words of theologian David Wells, “those who are cognitively and morally dislocated from worldly culture that alone carry the power to change it.” Christians should be encouraged and challenged by the historical reminder that the Church has always served the world best when it has been most counter cultural, most distinctively different from the world. I would love to see a radical commitment to being unfashionable.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is Praying for Others Compatible with Libertarian Free Will

An excerpt from John Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology, pp. 705-706.

If I [believe in libertarian freedom and] plead with God to remove my friend’s illness, that is not absurd, for God can answer that prayer without negating anyone’s freedom. But what about the request that God change the attitudes and actions of my friend’s tyrannical boss? What about petitions that ask God to move those processing applications for graduate school to accept my friend? Or what about prayers that ask God to keep my enemies at work from bothering me? And what about pleading with God to save a dear relative or friend? In all of these cases, what am I asking God to do, if libertarian free will obtains? I am either asking God to override others’ freedom, or I am asking him to move them to do something freely in spite of the fact that my belief in libertarian free will means that I believe God cannot get anybody to do anything freely. If I truly value libertarian free will as much as libertarians say they do, why would I ask God to override it just because of my petition? . . . Libertarians may be asking God to try to persuade their friends, but I repeat that God can only guarantee their persuasion by causal determinism, and that abridges libertarian free will.

On the other hand, if I am not asking God to override someone else’s freedom, then I’m asking him to do something which I believe he cannot do (make it the case that someone else does something freely). I may ask him to try to persuade the person, but I know that without God overriding their freedom, he cannot guarantee that they will change. In fact, since at the moment of free decision making nothing decisively inclines their will, regardless of what God or anyone else does or says, the matter may be hopeless. In light of such problems with interceding with God to change someone’s incompatibilistically free actions or attitudes, there is good reason for anyone committed to libertarian free will who understands the implications of the position to think twice before offering intercessory prayers of the kind mentioned. In fact, prayer to change either our or others’ actions seems problematic.

Is the Reformation Over?

Here is Manetsch's conclusion regarding the book, Is the Reformation Over? and his answer to the question itself:
So, is the Reformation over? It depends on what one means by “Reformation.” If one means the particular constellation of religious, political, and social events in sixteenth-century Europe that brought renewal to western Christianity, then of course the Reformation is over. But if one means the fundamental doctrinal divide separating official Roman Catholic Christianity from classic Protestant Christianity, then most certainly “no,” the Reformation is not over. Noll and Nystrom provide a valuable survey of the emerging climate of good will, cooperation, and ecumenical conversation that now exists between evangelicals and Catholics. But their theological analysis of the “state of the disunion” is not nearly as helpful in orienting the reader to real present day confessional differences. This reviewer found it particularly ironic (and a sad commentary) that a book which bemoans evangelicalism’s disregard for the historical tradition treats the Protestant Reformation in such a cursory fashion. And yet, now more than ever, there is urgent need for evangelical Protestants in North America to “protest” against theological superficiality, to eschew cultural faddishness and myopic presentism, and recover their historic roots, not only in the religious awakenings of colonial America, but in the Christian renewal movements of sixteenth-century Europe. Evangelicals who make this journey to Wittenberg and Geneva, to Zurich and Edinburgh and London will discover a world of profound biblical and theological insight, a rich deposit of practical wisdom, a gift given by God to his church for life and ministry in the twenty-first century.

Irreconcilable Differences Between the Protestant Solas and Roman Catholic Dogma

Tonight I read a helpful review by Scott Manetsch, who is associate professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and the associate general editor of IVP's forthcoming Reformation Commentary Series. The review, originally published in the Trinity Journal, is of Noll and Nystrom's much-discussed book, Is the Reformation Over?

I found the following to be a helpful summary of the irreconcilable differences between Reformational Protestantism and the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. (I took the liberty of adding the italics.)
In summary, this reviewer believes it impossible to reconcile the classic Protestant solas with the teaching of the Catholic Catechism.
  • For Roman Catholics, Scripture and Tradition are two distinct but equal modes of revealed authority which the magisterium of the Roman Church has sole responsibility to transmit and interpret. For the early Protestant reformers, the holy Scripture provides final normative authority for Christian doctrine and practice, standing as judge above all institutions and ecclesial traditions.
  • For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified because of inherent righteousness. For the mainstream Protestant reformers, sinners are accepted on the basis of the righteousness of another—namely, the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to them.
  • For Roman Catholics, sinners are both justified by unmerited grace at baptism and (subsequently) justified by those infused graces merited by cooperating with divine grace. For the magisterial reformers, sinners are justified before God by grace alone.
  • For Roman Catholics, sinners are justified by faith (in baptism), but not by faith alone. For the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers, sinners are justified by faith alone.
  • For Roman Catholics, justification is a process of renewal that affords no solid basis for Christian assurance in this life. For reformers such as Luther and Calvin, justification is God’s decisive verdict of forgiveness and righteousness that assures Christian believers of the acceptance and love of their heavenly Father.

Haggard Update

CT: "Ted Haggard's recent request for money to keep his family afloat while he attends school was 'inappropriate' and 'unacceptable,' according to a statement Wednesday by the group that oversees the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals."

Alan Jacobs on Harry Potter

Alan Jacobs' conclusion to his review of the last Harry Potter book:
What do we choose to imagine, when we choose? The answer is always revelatory, which is one of the reasons Chesterton was right to say that "the simple need for some kind of ideal world in which fictitious persons play an unhampered part is infinitely deeper and older than the rules of good art, and much more important." The Harry Potter books remind us of this, and they can be, if we read them rightly, both a delight in themselves and a school for our own imaginings. They have many flaws, but I have not dwelt on them here because I forgive J. K. Rowling for every one. Her seven books are, and thank God for it, always on the side of life.

Interview with David Dockery on Christian Higher Education

CT interviews Dockery.

Mother Theresa's Redemption

Rick Phillips pens an insightful, must-read look at the recent revelations about Mother Theresa's life of doubt and darkness before God.

Doug Wilson on Piper's "The Future of Justification"

"This book is clear, careful, meticulous, and honest. In a day when too much theological debate is spent loudly praising Diana of the Ephesians, it is refreshing to see a book tackle a subject of controversy in this way. I commend it highly."

Douglas Wilson
Pastor, Christ Church
Moscow, Idaho

Is the Category of "Race" Legit?

In his article Many Ethnicities, One Race Thabiti Anyabwile argued that there is only one race, and the idea that there are "raises" is "a fiction," a concept "foreign to Scripture."

I was curious to hear what Jeremy Pierce thought. Jeremy is a PhD student at Syracuse, working on the metaphysics of race and races. He wrote up a response here, disagreeing with Thabiti about the image of God, definition of race, etc--but agreeing with the second half of the article and the practical implications.

Thabiti has now continued the dialogue with a response to Jeremy's critique.

I think this is a fruitful exchange and hope it continues.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Testifying to God's Sovereignty

I pray that God would give me the grace and strength to sweetly rest in God's sovereignty and to become as Bible-saturated as this man:

(HT: Aaron Shepherd)

Transitioning Your Soul during Your Commute Home from Work

Since the first time I read the following words by C. J. Mahaney, in his book Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God (pp. 49-50) they have stuck in my mind, convicting and instructing me. So I pass them along with the hope they might have the same effect in you:
When our first two children were still quite young, I realized that my commute home in the evening was functioning as little more than a review of my day. As far as I was concerned, by the time I got in that car, my responsibilities were pretty much over until the next morning. I saw my home as a refuge, a place where the emphasis, for me, was on being served rather than on leading and serving with Christlike love.

In God's mercy, he showed me the selfish motivation I was bringing home each evening. I saw that my commute could be best utilized as a time of transition, so that I might be prepared to finish the day by loving and serving my family well.

So I made a practice of pulling the car over a few blocks from home so I could take a couple of minutes to make an effective transition in my soul. There on the side of the road, I meditated on Ephesians 5 as well as on some other passages. I confessed to God my sinful tendency to be selfish and sought to prepare my heart to serve my wife and children when I arrived home. In this way I learned to see my home as the context where I have my greatest privilege and opportunity to serve. This practice had a transforming effect, allowing me to walk through the front door with the mind and heart of a loving servant-leader. By God's grace, I found it an excellent help in building a loving marriage, enjoying my family, and minimizing regret.

Bock, Blog, Book

Darrell Bock, whose blog has now been nicely redesigned (HT: Andy Naselli), wrote last month about Mark Robert's new book, Can We Trust the Gospels?

I often am asked about books that can get one easily into the discussions about the gospels and their trustworthiness.

I have finally found one I can recommend that serves very well as an introduction to the host of issues residing here in the age of a need for a fresh apologetics. It is Mark Roberts' Can We Trust the Gospels?

It is written at an introductory level and divides the topic nicely into key questions. It is a very suitable introduction for high schoolers headed to college, although once they get there, they will need more. However, Roberts is pretty good at giving notes taking students to the next level. The book's strength is the clarity with which these areas are treated. Roberts studied at Harvard, so he knows the issues and the personalities involved in these discussions.He also is a pastor, so he knows how to communicate so that one does not need a PhD to get his point.

So I'd urge high school pastors or parachurch leaders of high school groups to think about this book, not to mention the value it has for parents of those this age. It is nice to have a book that so nicely fits this niche.

The Offspring of Pride

Joe Thorn points to Puritan Richard Mayo's sermon on The Prevention and Cure of Spiritual Pride. Mayo says: “It is a big-bellied sin; most of the sins that are in the world are the offspring and issue of pride.” Joe summarizes some of the sins that pride gives birth to:
  1. Covetousness - because you believe you deserve something more than others.
  2. Ungodly ambition - because you believe that you are most qualified, and the idea of someone else being preferred over you is an insult to your perceived worth.
  3. Boasting - because everyone should know who you are and what you have accomplished.
  4. Contention - because in picking fights you feel a sense of superiority over those who may (or may not) be in error.
  5. Unthankfulness - because you deserve everything you get!
  6. Selfishness - because others do not!
  7. Self-deceit - because it’s easier to believe you are something, when in fact you are nothing.
  8. A judgmental attitude - because you believe the errors of others are much more serious than your own.
  9. Gossip - because you look so much better when telling others how awful someone else is. Mayo said that the proud “endeavor to build their own praise upon the ruins of others’ reputation.”
  10. Complaining - because God should have consulted you before orchestrating the events of your day/life.
  11. Hypocrisy - because you must hide the truth, your own failures, in order to avoid shame and accumulate praise.

Handling Criticism

In a Banner of Truth article Joel Beeke offered this wise words of counsel on how to handle criticism:
  1. Consider it inevitable.
  2. Consider the motive.
  3. Consider the source.
  4. Consider the context.
  5. Consider yourself.
  6. Consider the content.
  7. Consider Scripture.
  8. Consider Christ.
  9. Consider biblical saints.
  10. Consider love.
  11. Consider the long haul.
  12. Consider eternity.
Read the whole article for the explanations and the pastoral wisdom: it's in two parts and deals not only with handling criticism, but also fighting pride and loving the ministry.

Schreiner on Piper's "The Future of Justification"

Tom Schreiner on John Piper's The Future of Justification (to be published by Crossway on Oct. 23, 2007):
In this captivating and marvelously clear book John Piper defends the truth that justification is the heart of the gospel. Contrary to Wright, justification does not merely declare who is saved. Rather, justification is a doctrine about how we are saved. As Piper rightly emphasizes, justification is about being right with God, receiving the forgiveness of our sins, and being counted righteous in Christ. One of the striking features of the book is that Wright's views are presented with scrupulous fairness. No cheap or straw-man arguments here. Nor is there even a whiff of animosity against Wright personally. What animates Piper is the stunning beauty of Christ and the crucial importance of the gospel. Piper reminds us, as Luther and Calvin did during the Reformation, that we have no assurance of forgiveness apart from a right understanding of justification. Further, the truth that our righteousness is in Christ gives God all the honor in our salvation, and comforts us with the truth that God is for us. I found this book to be not only doctrinally faithful but also to be spiritually strengthening.

Thomas R. Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Worship, Relevance, and Megachurches

Sally Morgenthaler, author of the influential book Worship Evangelism, has now concluded: "For all the money, time, and effort we’ve spent on cultural relevance—and that includes culturally relevant worship—it seems we came through the last 15 years with a significant net loss in churchgoers, proliferation of megachurches and all."

(HT: Cranach)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Evangelicals and Literary Works

Donald Williams pens a thought-provoking piece in Touchstone magazine on what evangelicals can learn from Flannery O'Connor.

One helpful quote:
Some Evangelical congregations still do a good job of transmitting the biblical worldview and the specifics of Christian doctrine. But we have not done so well at giving Evangelicals the confidence to take this body of doctrine and use it creatively as a tool to understand life and experience.
HT: Behind the Books

Update: I should mention that one of my more enjoyable times of reading on vacation was when I only had with me my Bible, The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor, and Flannery O'Connor: A Proper Scaring by Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner. I founder Baumgaertner's book to serve as a helpful and informative interpretive companion.

"The Reason for God" by Tim Keller

Here's the semi-final table of contents for Tim Keller's forthcoming book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, to be published by Penguin:

Introduction – All doubts are leaps of faith

PART 1 - The Leap of Doubt
1. There can’t be just one true religion.
2. A good God could not allow suffering.
3. Christianity is a straitjacket.
4. The church is responsible for so much injustice.
5. A loving God would not send people to hell.
6. Science has disproved Christianity.
7. You can’t take the Bible literally.


PART 2 - The Grounds for Faith
8. The clues of God
9. The knowledge of God
10. The problem of sin
11. Religion and the gospel
12. The (true) story of the cross
13. The reality of the resurrection
14. The Dance of God

Epilogue – Where do we go from here?

(HT: James Grant)

Articles on Race

Many Ethnicities, One Race
By Thabiti Anyabwile

Starting the Conversation with Earth, Wind, and Fire
An exchange between Thabiti Anyabwile and Jonathan Leeman

Pastoring a Multi-Ethnic Church
By John Folmar

Nine Lessons I Learned From Yellow (And One More)
By Sam Lam

Did Moses Marry a Black Woman?
By John Piper

9Marks Pastors and Theologians Forum on Race

"We asked a roundtable of pastors and theologians the following questions:

In From Every People and Every Nation, J. Daniel Hays writes, "Black scholars identify the racial division in the church as one of the most central problems for contemporary [church], while many White Scholars are saying, ‘What problem?’" (17). Is there a race problem in the American church? Are whites missing it? Why? What implications does this have for the church’s proclamation of the gospel?

Answers from

9Marks Book Reviews

Book Review: On Being Black and Reformed
By Anthony J. Carter
Reviewed By Rickey Armstrong

Book Review: From Every People and Nation
By J. Daniel Hays
Reviewed by Anthony J. Carter

Book Review: The Faithful Preacher
By Thabiti Anyabwile
Reviewed by Ken Jones

Book Review: Reconciliation Blues
By Edward Gilbreath
Reviewed by Eric C. Redmond

Book Review: Being Latino in Christ
By Orlando Crespo
Reviewed by Juan R. Sanchez Jr.

Book Reviews: Growing Healthy Asian American Churches
Edited by Peter Cha, S. Steve Kang, and Helen Lee
Reviews by Jeremy Yong & Geoffrey Chang

Race and Grace

The latest edition of the 9Marks newsletter is online--it looks rich indeed.

The whole thing is available here in PDF.

In separate posts I'll spotlight some items.

Reading Holiness Together

Tim Challies is organizing an online reading group to go through classics together. They are starting with Ryle's Holiness and Faithfulness, edited by J. I. Packer.

They'll do a chapter a week for 8 weeks, starting on Thursday. You can read more about it here.

Thanking God for D. James Kennedy

Rick Phillips explains his gratitude to God for D. James Kennedy and Evangelism Explosion.

Dawkins Interviews McGrath

Google Video has an hour-long interview of Alister McGrath conducted by Richard Dawkins. It was filmed for Dawkins's TV documentary, "Root of All Evil?" but was left on the cutting-room floor.

Anthony Sacramone
has some thoughts on a couple of questions that he thinks McGrath fumbled.

Hercules Collins

Never heard of this 17th century Baptist pastor? All the more reason to consider getting this new little book, entitled Devoted to the Service of the Temple: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins.

You can read the following online for free:

Foreword by James Renihan

Excerpt #1: “God is the Gospel”

Excerpt #2: “Plain Preaching”

The new book exploring the spirituality of 17th century Baptist pastor Hercules Collins is now in stock at Reformation Heritage Books and available for order online here.


While largely forgotten in modern times, Hercules Collins (1646/7-1702) was highly influential among the late 17th and early 18th century Calvinistic Baptists of London. Through a biographical sketch and 35 sample selections collected from Collins’s writings, Michael A. G. Haykin and Steve Weaver introduce us to the vibrant spirituality of this colossal figure.


“Hercules Collins is one of the great figures from our Baptist heritage—a pastor who suffered much for the cause of Christ and left a great legacy for generations that followed. There is something especially compelling about the witness of a man who was oppressed and imprisoned for his faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The witness of Hercules Collins as pastor, prisoner, and preacher is worthy of the closest attention in our own times. We are indebted to Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver for bringing Hercules Collins to life for a new generation.” —R. Albert Mohler Jr.

“The secret of Collins’s courage and strength lay in his relationship with the Lord Christ. The enormous contemporary value of reading his life and writings is not just in its exposition of his evangelistic methodology, and its indirect comments on today’s broader theological scene, but in the inspiration it gives to the heart of each Christian for growth in grace and deeper spirituality.” —Geoff Thomas

“We are indebted to Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver for these carefully chosen selections …. For too long Baptists have had little access to the richness of their theological tradition. We have a great past, and many able servants have given their lives to the cause of our churches, and yet so few of their works have been reprinted. This book continues a very encouraging recent trend, in which the best works are being restored to print. May the Lord bless this book, and the efforts of its editors.” - From the foreword by James M. Renihan

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bourne Again?

David Wayne: "Metzger doesn't claim that Bourne is a Christian hero, just that the franchise itself asks the inescapable questions which are only answered fully in the Christian story." David is referring to this commentary by Mike Metzger, looking at the questions raised by the Jason Bourne trilogy.

Piper in Wheaton

If you're in the Wheaton area next week, John Piper will be speaking.

Artificial but Intelligent Life Design

Good reflections here by Greg Koukl on scientists trying to design artificial life.

Unreturned Shopping Carts and the Gospel

One evidence of a Gospel-saturated worldview and imagination is the ability to see unreturned shopping carts in a parking lot and discern gospel implications and parallels!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

In Defense of Paedobaptism

Dennis Johnson, Infant Baptism: How My Mind Has Changed

R. Scott Clark, A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism

(HT: Heidleblog)

Documentary on Intelligent Design

Ben Stein--former Nixon speechwriter, actor who played the deadpan teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off ("Bueller . . . Bueller"), host of "Win Ben Stein's Money," conservative commentator, etc.--has a new documentary coming out in February 2008 on the issue of intelligent design and it's marginalization among academic elites. You can watch the trailer online.

D. James Kennedy Retiring

Dr. Kennedy, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is retiring.

(HT: Denny Burk)

Introduction to Biblical Theology: David Peterson

Former Oak Hill principal David Peterson's lectures on biblical theology:
(HT: Rev. James)


David Neff posts on Ted Haggard's new support raising.

Update: Neff confirms that the letter is real.

Believer's Baptism

In his chapter on what the NT epistles teach about baptism, in the book Believer's Baptism, Tom Schreiner writes:
When a matter like baptism has been debated for so long without consensus among Christians, it is tempting to conclude that further discussion is fruitless. How can we advance the discussion when believers have been polarized for so many years? I do not believer, of course, that my essay will break up the logjam and produce consensus, and yet further study on baptism is still mandatory and helpful. If we are open to change, the Scriptures can correct, refine, or even confirm our previous understanding of a doctrine. And we should not avoid making judgments on controversial matters, for if we limited our doctrinal convictions to issues on which all Christians everywhere agreed, we would leave out many areas of teaching to which the Scriptures speak. Further, we are all responsible before God to understand the Scriptures to the best of our ability and to live in harmony with them. Indeed, in our churches we must decide how to order our life together as Christians. One way or the other we make a decision in our churches about how baptism should be practiced, and so every church implements some kind of theology of baptism. Surely all Christians would agree that we should strive to be as biblically faithful as we can in understanding and applying the scriptural teaching on baptism in our churches.
In my view, all readers should seriously consider purchasing this book. As Bruce Ware has said, this book "is now unquestionably the best volume on a theology of baptism and the best defense of believer's baptism available."

So if you're a baptist, this book will solidify and strengthen and inform your understanding; if you're a paedobaptist, it will help you understand better what the "other side" believes and why.

B&H Academic has kindly granted me permission to post one of the chapters from the book: Steve Wellum's excellent study of Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants (PDF). Wellum writes:
At the heart of the advocacy and defense of the doctrine of infant baptism is the argument that it is an implication drawn from the comprehensive theological category of the “covenant of grace,” a category which, it is claimed, unites the Scriptures and without which the Bible cannot be understood correctly. In many ways, all other arguments for infant baptism are secondary to this overall line of reasoning.
The structure of Wellum's essay is as follows:
First, I will outline and then unpack briefly the covenantal argument for infant baptism as given by the proponents and defenders of the view. Second, I will attempt to evaluate their argument, albeit in a summary fashion, both in terms of critique and positive construction.
Highly recommended!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Q&A on Paedobaptism

Sean Michael Lucas posted this email last month on his blog; I saved it and just now got around to reading it. He seeks to explain to a correspondent how God can make a "promise" that's signed and sealed in a covenant, and yet for many people, it is not effectual. I've had the same question, too. It's a helpful answer, I think.

Even though I disagree with the paedobaptism argument, I want to grow in understanding their view and arguments.

Next week (Lord willing), I'll post an interview that seeks to explain how a credobaptist views the continuity and discontinuity of the covenants.

Friday, August 24, 2007


The NFL has indefinitely suspended Michael Vick for his grotesque, inhumane actions of dogfighting.

In other (less reported) news, the NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars has donated $30,000 to Planned Parenthood.

Theocracy in America?

National Review Online has published an essay by evangelical blogger Joe Carter: Theocracy in America? Here is Joe's conclusion:
[CNN's Christiane] Amanpour’s dismay encapsulates the difference in perspective between people who believe that their faith informs all of life — including politics and culture — and those who believe religion should be kept secularly locked with the church, synagogue, or mosque. Amanpour and CNN have a peculiar, though increasingly common, view of liberal democracy: Everyone has a right to be heard — until they start listening to God.


Speaking of Facebook, it's the subject of Newsweek's cover story this week.

Regulating Reincarnation

In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.
Read the whole thing.

(HT: Josh Sowin)

Hitchens vs McGrath

The Ethics and Public Policy Center and The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University will host a debate between writer Christopher Hitchens and Oxford University professor Alister McGrath on the role of religious belief in the modern world. Michael Cromartie will moderate. Here are the details:

Poison or Cure? Religious Belief in the Modern World
A debate, dialogue, and discussion with Christopher Hitchens and Alister McGrath
When: Thursday, October 11, 2007 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Location: Georgetown University, Gaston Hall

More info here. If an online recording becomes available, I'll try to link to it.

Piper on Pragmatism, Pleasure, and Pride

John Piper warns against three P's: "The idolatry of pragmatism that ruins the church; the pleasure in unrighteousness that refuses to love the truth; and the pride of being strong that leads to destruction."

With regard to pride in particular, Piper writes:
1) Never let me be above criticism and correction. I invite you to give me constructive criticism whenever you see some attitude or words or actions that dishonor the Lord. 2) Stay close to the cross and never cease to be amazed and thankful that you are saved. People who are perpetually and thankfully amazed that God has saved them are not likely to be destroyed by pride.


Josh Harris writes on why he stopped doing FaceBook after one week:
But even if I weren't writing a book, I don't need another reason for staring at a computer screen. I'm constantly needing to evaluate is how much time I spend emailing, browsing and blogging. Now obviously a lot of that activity is good, useful work. But sometimes it can be a time-waster. I think God's been helping me improve at knowing when to unplug from cyberville and connect with the real, rich world of reality--playing with my kids, talking to my wife, taking a walk. Throwing Facebook in the mix of my online options is just a little too much for me right now. The other reason I feel right about making my time with Facebook just a visit is a little harder to explain. How do I put this? I found that it encouraged me to think about me even more than I already do--which is admittedly already quite a bit. Does that make any sense? Without any help from the internet I'm inclined to give way too much time to evaluating myself, thinking about myself and wondering what other people think of me. If that egocentrism is a little flame, than Facebook for me is a gasoline IV feeding the fire. I need to grow in self-forgetfulness. I need to worry more about what God is thinking of me. I need to be preoccupied with what he's written in his word, not what somebody just wrote on my "wall." And, finally, I need to read more. There are so many good books I want to read and so little time. If I added up the few minutes here and there that I spent checking Facebook this past week it wouldn't be an insignificant amount of time. I'd rather give that time to reading. Anyway, all of the above is totally personal and is in no way an indictment on other Facebookers. This is just where I'm at right now. Who knows...I might be back when the kids are grown and the book is written and I have more self-control.
You can read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Dangers of Culture Warfare Imagery

Jack Collins, Science and Faith, pp. 331-332:
It's pretty common to hear that we’re in a culture war—the traditionalists and the secularists are fighting over who will control the culture. There is a sense in which the image is right: as we will see in the next chapter, there are worldviews that are at odds with each other, and therefore it’s no surprise that we find conflict. The image is a dangerous one, though, because it can lead us to look at everything in combatant terms: people who disagree with us become our enemies, and we have to defeat them. If you are my enemy, and I am a Christian, then—even if you’re a Christian too—you must be morally defective.

Three further dangers follow from this warfare imagery. The first is that we can forget that worldviews involve not just philosophical positions but also moral commitments; and that back behind unbelief there lies a demonic enslaver. As Paul put it in Ephesians 6,
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. . . . 18 [Pray] at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints . . .
There is a spiritual component to this battle; and therefore, all our intellectual efforts must express our faithfulness to Christ and must be bathed in prayer. We must never use the weapons of unbelief—dishonesty, slander, name-calling, and so on. The second danger, related to the first, is that we can forget that the unbeliever is not the person we’re fighting against; rather, he is the person we are fighting for: that is, the purpose of all this is to free people from their slavery to the Devil. The third danger that arises is that we can forget that any Christian—and any Christian church—always has only a partial grasp of a fully Christian worldview; and even those parts that we grasp rightly, we practice only partly. So some of our “warfare” ought to be against our own imperfections!

The warfare image is a biblical one, to be sure; but we will do well to be careful how we use it.

Science and Faith

Even if you don't care about the intersection of science and faith, you should buy and read Jack Collins's Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? The reason I say that you should read it even if you don't care about science (and obviously you should if you care about Christian truth and witness!) is that simply reading it and tracing the author's argument builds critical thinking skills.

I read some more chunks of it last night. Collins, as I mentioned before, is not only an MIT grad, but also has a PhD in Hebrew, OT, and linguistics from the University of Liverpool. That makes him ideally suited to write a book on science and faith. But what makes the book unique is his down-to-earth wisdom and good cheer--this is a guy who likes to quote Lewis, Chesterton, and Sherlock Holmes to make his points! The genesis of the book was a call from a homeschooling mom who wanted a resource for teaching her children science. So Jack wrote a book!

In a separate post I'll highlight a helpful little section on some cautions on the "culture wars."

Interview with Carson on Worship

In the year 2000 Tony Payne (Mathias Media) interviewed Don Carson about worship. They had a subsequent email exchange about it. Both are online.

(HT: Andy Naselli again!)

Carson, Henry, and Kantzer: Historic Video

D. A. Carson, in Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (p. 58), writes:

Several years ago I was asked to interview Dr. Carl F. H. Henry and Dr. Kenneth S. Kantzer for a videotaping. These two American theologians have been at the heart of much of the evangelical renaissance in the Western world, especially, but not exclusively, in America. Each was about eighty years of age at the time of the videotaping. One [i.e., Henry] has written many books; the other [i.e,. Kantzer] brought to birth and nurtured one of the most influential seminaries in the Western world. They both have been connected with Billy Graham, the Lausanne movement, the assorted congresses on evangelism, the influential magazine Christianity Today, and much more. The influence of these Christian leaders extends to the countless numbers of younger pastors and scholars whom they have helped to shape not only by their publications and public teaching but by the personal encouragement at which both have excelled. Both men gave lectures for the video cameras before several hundred theological students, and then I interviewed them. Toward the end of that discussion, I asked them a question more or less in these terms: “You two men have been extraordinarily influential for almost half a century. Without wanting to indulge in cheap flattery, I must say that what is attractive about your ministries is that you have retained integrity. Both of you are strong, yet neither of you is egotistical. You have not succumbed to eccentricity in doctrine, nor to individualistic empire-building. In God’s good grace, what has been instrumental in preserving you in these areas?”

Both spluttered in deep embarrassment. And then one of them [i.e., Henry] ventured, with a kind of gentle outrage, “How on earth can anyone be arrogant when standing beside the cross?”

That was a great moment, not least because it was so spontaneous. These men had retained their integrity precisely because they knew their attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:5). They knew that they had been called not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him. If their Master had viewed equality with God not as something to be exploited for personal advantage but as the basis for the humiliating path to the cross, how could they view influential posts of Christian leadership as something they should exploit for personal advantage?

Ever since first reading this I've wanted to watch this historic video. Now, thanks to The Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding, this four-part, 120-minute video is available online for free.

You can also listen to more audio messages at the site, and more will be forthcoming.

(HT: Andy Naselli)

DG Conference Videos

The guys at Desiring God have now posted all the videos (for free, of course) from the past two conferences.

A God-Entranced Vision of All Things
looks at Jonathan Edwards life and theology, with addresses by John Piper, J. I. Packer, Iain Murray, Sam Storms, and Don Whitney. (It is available as a book, too.)

The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World features John Piper, David Wells, Tim Keller, D. A. Carson, Voddie Baucham Jr., and Mark Driscoll--along with speaker interviews. (The book will be published in November.)

Walter Kaiser on Suffering

In this article Walter Kaiser identifies eight kinds of suffering
  • retributive suffering, caused by sin and disobedience to God
  • educational or disciplinary suffering as in Proverbs 3:11 or Hebrews 12:5-6;
  • vicarious suffering, as in the case of our Lord's death on the cross;
  • empathetic suffering, where one person's grief affects many others, as Isaiah 63:9 illustrates;
  • evidential or testimonial suffering, as in the first two chapters of Job;
  • doxological suffering for the glory of God, as in the man born blind in John 9;
  • revelational suffering, as in the case of the prophet Hosea's wife abandoning him; and
  • apocalyptic or eschatological suffering that will come at the end of this age.
One of his points is that the error of Job's friends was in reducing all suffering to "retributive suffering" instead of recognizing that there are other forms.

In Pursuit of Truth

The C.S. Lewis Foundation (owners of the Kilns and the folks who run the program “Oxbridge”) have started a new online, peer-reviewed journal: In Pursuit of Truth. The online articles look very helpful.

Here's an outline of an article by Leland Ryken on bad ways--and good ways--to read Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Bad practice #1 is using The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe instead of receiving it.

Bad practice #2
is to value The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe primarily as a collection of ideas.

Misconception #3
is to assume that when Lewis composed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he started with a set of ideas and then created fictional details to embody them.

Good practice #1 is to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first as an escape from the real world to an imagined world.

Good practice#2 is to enter into the particulars of the imagined world that a writer creates.

Good practice #3
is to view the far-flung fantasies of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a window to reality and truth.

Good practice #4
is to value the artistry and technique of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a self-rewarding aesthetic experience.

Good practice #5
is to recognize and value the religious and moral viewpoints embodied in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Read the whole thing--and check out the rest of the journal.

(HT: Mere Orthodoxy)

Storms on Dever

Sam Storms:
If you haven't yet read Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright (B & H Academic), you are missing out on what is, in my opinion, the finest and most persuasive case for credo-baptism yet written. One need not agree with every point of interpretation in this book to recognize the remarkable accomplishment of these authors (contributing to the book, in addition to the editors, are Andreas Kostenberger, Robert Stein, Stephen Wellum [his chapter on "Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants" is alone worth the price of the book], Steven McKinion, Jonathan Rainbow, Duane Garrett, Ardel Caneday, and Mark Dever).

I mention this book not only to encourage you to read it but also because of the excellent chapter by Mark Dever concerning how baptism is practiced in the context of the local church. One thing you can be assured of, Mark is never boring! His insights are penetrating and, most of the time, persuasive. When one hears that we evangelicals lack a credible ecclesiology, I immediately point to Mark Dever and his voluminous writings on the subject. No one is more serious about the centrality of the local church in God's kingdom purposes than is Mark. I highly recommend all his books on the subject. No, you won't agree with him on every point, but you will be challenged, instructed, and encouraged in a way that I find rare in the evangelical world today.Sam goes on to repost his disagreements about Dever's point that paedobaptists occasionally may partake of the Lord's Supper at a Baptist Church. But I draw your attention again to Sam's commendation of Mark's writing on ecclesiology:

Even though I end up differing with Mark on this point, I have probably learned more from him on the nature of local church life than any other author. And I look forward to learning even more as this dialogue continues.
I agree with Sam's comments here, especially regarding the book on Believer's Baptism. I'll have more to say about Wellum's chapter by the end of the week (Lord willing).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dever on Evangelism

In the foreword to Mark Dever's forthcoming book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, C. J. Mahaney writes:
That’s why, for many years now, I’ve been pestering Mark to write this book. It’s so that by the grace of God, church members and pastors and you and I will notice those we once ignored. It’s so that we will befriend sinners who are without hope and without God. It’s so that we will share with them the good news of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. It’s so that someday those lost souls might turn from their sins and trust in the Savior’s death and resurrection on their behalf. And then, there will be some serious rejoicing—on earth and in heaven (Luke 15:10)!
You can read the Contents, as well as the Foreword, Introduction, and Chapter 1, online for free.

Here are some blurbs for the book:
“Mark Dever’s personal devotion to Scripture has led him to think deeply, read widely, preach clearly, and write simply to the great blessing of the body of Christ. Evangelism is the church’s mandate, and the one reason the redeemed are still on earth. Doing it effectively requires doing it biblically. Mark teaches us how to mobilize our churches to do just that.”

John MacArthur, Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

“For most of us, personal evangelism is the reverse of easy, and so it becomes a task we evade. Mark Dever writes to shake us up about this, clearing our heads as to just what evangelizing involves and motivating our hearts to go to it realistically and responsibly. This is a word in season that will surely do a great deal of good.”
J. I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College

“At the heart of this book is a heart for the gospel. Mark Dever encourages, instructs, and challenges us to proclaim the gospel in all its fullness, grace, truth, goodness, and wonder.”
Randy Newman, author, Questioning Evangelism and Corner Conversations

“Mark Dever has done every Christian and pastor a tremendous favor. With great humility, Dever helps us to connect the dots of our hopes for seeing people saved with the truth about the gospel and evangelism itself. This little book searches our hearts, corrects our thinking, calls us to faithfulness, and encourages us with practical examples and exhortations.”
Thabiti M. Anyabwile, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman; author, The Faithful Preacher

The ESV Blog interviews Tim Kimberley, one of the people behind

Tullian on Younger Evangelicals and Ruth Graham

The Newsweek/Washington Post online faith forum has an article today by our friend Tullian Tchividjian. He begins by documenting some encouraging trends he sees among younger evangelicals, and connects this trend to the faith and virtue of his grandmother:
An interviewer recently asked me what trends I see among younger Christians today that encourage me. I remarked that one of the things which I find tremendously encouraging is the groundswell of interest in theology among young adults. What’s unique, however, about this movement is that it has not only a strong intellectual dimension to it, but a strong emotional dimension to it as well. These young adults are not simply thinking deeply about God, they are feeling deeply for God. They are properly blending precept and passion, depth and delight, gravity and gladness, truth and love. They understand well the connection between thinking and feeling as it concerns our knowledge of God—and how indispensable God-centered emotion is in our relationship to God. Jonathan Edwards used to say that people not only need to hear about the holiness and majesty of God, but even more importantly, they need to sense his holiness, they need to feel his majesty. These young adults are “getting it,” and I couldn’t be happier.

One example of someone who understood this better than anyone I know was my grandmother, Ruth Bell Graham, who recently passed away at the age of 87. Her capacity to blend thinking and feeling regarding her relationship to God remains unsurpassed, in my biased opinion.
Read the rest, which is an excerpt from his new book, Do I Know God? which has just been published.

$3 Worth of Gospel, Please

From D. A. Carson's Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians:
I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please.

Not too much – just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted.

I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust.

I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture.

I want ecstasy, not repentance;

I want transcendence, not transformation.

I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races – especially if they smell.

I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged.

I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please. (pp. 12-13)
Ray Van Neste comments:
This is piercing application. I am cut to the quick. I know the approach to life he is satirizing not simply by looking out at others but by looking within. I need to hear this word again. And, how we need this word in our churches! All too easily we warp the gospel into a way for securing the ‘good life’ for ourselves. . . . Brothers, we must preach this searching point. Many will be entirely content for us to “do our sermon”, but when you begin to press the call of the gospel to shape our lives, rebuke our sin, calling for repentance many will rebel. But without this we have failed to discharge our ministries (Col 4:17). Without this we are mere hirelings awaiting rebuke from the Master on the final day. There is no discount version of the Gospel. It is all or nothing. Let us wield the searching sword of the Spirit (Heb 4:12) as those who have first been pierced by it.

Taylor Adoption

As most readers know, I intentionally avoid posting much about myself or my family. I prefer to keep the focus outward, trying to link to things I find interesting and edifying (with a hope that you do as well). So this post will be a bit of an exception.

A couple of weeks ago Josh Harris kindly referred to the adoption button (found on the right-hand column of my blog). Several people have asked what this is for and whether or not we are in the adoption process. Thus far, I've ignored their queries (sorry about that!).

Yesterday my wife and I had an appointment with a facilitating adoption organization. We have adopted twice before: our daughter will be four next month; our son recently turned two. It seemed that the time was right.

As I mentioned in a recent post, finances are a major hurdle for adoptions. When we adopted our son, we had less than 24 hours to come up with $12,000, jump on a plane to Florida, and meet our son in the hospital (at the ripe age of 48 hours old)! At that point I put a PayPal option on the blog for people to donate if they so desired. Many of you helped--thank you again!--and God provided for our needs.

With a bit of hesitance, I've decided to do it again. My reluctance, in part, is due to the fact that I've never found it comfortable to solicit money for anything, and also due to the fact that Christians are regularly inundated with good requests. So no guilt-trips here, no daily postings about this, and no fund-raising thermometers!

Though it can become an unfortunate cliche, it really is true that we need prayer more than money. So if you happen to think of us in the process and would pray for us, we would be more thankful than you could know.

Finally, while I'm going out of character and addressing things a bit more personally, I'd also like to thank you for reading this blog. Your encouragement has been very meaningful to me, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have this little ministry on the side.

Sovereign Grace Free MP3 Messages

Keith Plummer points out that "Sovereign Grace Ministries is giving an invaluable gift to the body of Christ by making their store's entire collection of MP3 messages available for free download. Audios are sorted by topic, event, and speaker." Here are some of the speakers:

Randy Alcorn
Mark Altrogge
Mike Bullmore
Mark Dever
Ligon Duncan
Wayne Grudem
Joshua Harris
C. J. Mahaney
John MacArthur
Carolyn McCulley
Albert Mohler
John Piper
David Powlison
Ken Sande
R.C. Sproul
Bruce Ware