Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Worldwide Classroom at Covenant Theological Seminary

A new website for Covenant's Worldwide Classroom:
Learn from wherever you are in the world. The free courseware available on this site includes every class you need to help you in life, ministry, discipling and equipping others, and taking your faith deeper and mind to greater degrees of Biblical understanding., Our hope and prayer is that no matter where God has stationed you in his Kingdom or how he has gifted you to serve, you will find that these resources encourage and strengthen your ministry. You may download, use, and share this courseware at no charge for non-commercial purposes.

The seminary itself also has a new website, and also "a new Living Christ360 website, which is the media ministry of the Seminary with daily broadcasts and devotionals from Bryan Chapell."

HT: Sean Michael Lucas

Piper: What to Do, and What Not to Do, with Evil

From Piper's new book, Spectacular Sins, pp. 50-51:
Eight Things to Do with Evil

On the one hand:
  1. Expect evil. “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12).
  2. Endure evil. “Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7; cf. Mark 13:13).
  3. Give thanks for the refining effect of evil that comes against you. “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20; cf. 1 Thess. 5:18). “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance . . .” (Rom. 5:3–5).
  4. Hate evil. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).
  5. Pray for escape from evil. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).
  6. Expose evil. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph. 5:11).
  7. Overcome evil with good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
  8. Resist evil. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
Four Things Never to Do with Evil

But on the other hand:
  1. Never despair that this evil world is out of God’s control. “[He] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).
  2. Never give in to the sense that because of seemingly random evil, life is absurd and meaningless. “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! . . . For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:33, 36).
  3. Never yield to the thought that God sins or is ever unjust or unrighteous in the way he governs the universe. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways” (Ps. 145:17).
  4. Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. If you trust him with your life, you are in Christ. Never doubt that all the evil that befalls you—even if it takes your life—is God’s loving, purifying, saving, fatherly discipline. It is not an expression of his punishment in wrath. That wrath fell on Jesus Christ our substitute (Gal. 3:13; Rom. 8:3). Only mercy comes to us from God, not wrath, if we are his children through faith in Jesus. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).
When we renounce the designs of the devil and trust the power and wisdom and goodness of God displayed in the humble triumphs of Jesus Christ, we fulfill God’s purpose in letting Satan live a little longer. We glorify the infinitely superior worth of Jesus. So I invite you to trust him and to stand in awe of how he saves you and defeats Satan in one great sacrifice of love.

2008 Financial Crisis for Dummies

Conor Friedersdorf continues his work of providing a helpful overview.

Live Blogging 2.0

If you ever need to blog an event while it happens, you might want to check out the free web-based software, CoveritLive:
CoveritLive's web based software takes your next live blog to a new level. Your commentary publishes in real time like an instant message. Our ‘one-click’ publishing lets you drop polls, videos, pictures, ads and audio clips as soon as they come to mind. Comments and questions from your readers instantly appear but you control what gets published. Try our software for your next live blog. Your readers will love it.
This is the software Mike Anderson used in live-blogging the DG conference at Resurgence.com.

New Illustrated Version of Piper's Job Book

Visit the official site for the book.

Blaming the Speaker?

Peter Wehner has become one of my favorite conservative commentators. I thought this post, this morning, was right on:
I consider Nancy Pelosi to be one of the worst political figures of my lifetime: hyper-partisan, small-minded, and wrong on issue after issue. And I thought her speech on the House Floor yesterday — tearing into the president and Republicans when her job was to rally support for an economic rescue plan — was extremely unwise and irresponsible. It set exactly the wrong tone for a tough vote. But the assertion by Republican leaders in the House that as many as a dozen of their members who were leaning toward voting for the legislation ended up voting against it because of Pelosi’s speech is extraordinary.

Let’s see if we have this straight: whichever side of the issue you were on, yesterday’s vote was considered one of the most important ones members of Congress will ever face. Many respected voices argued that an economic catastrophe might follow in the wake of its defeat. Opponents of the legislation considered it a terrible violation of free-market principles. The stakes could not be higher.

After the legislation was defeated and only one-third of House Republicans backed the plan, John Boehner and Roy Blount took to the microphones and indicated that Pelosi’s speech had been so alienating and offensive that a significant number of House Republicans changed their mind and voted against the bill.

Can they be serious? Do they realize how foolish and irresponsible they sound? On one of the most important votes they will ever cast, insisting “the speech made me do it” is lame and adolescent. The vote, after all, was on the legislation, not the speech. And to say that a dozen members of your caucus voted not out of principle but out of pique is a terrible indictment of them. I hope we learn the names of these delicate figures whose feelings were so bruised and abused.

I have been defending House Republicans for a week against friends who thought they were acting in an irresponsible fashion. I argued they were people with admirable free-market principle who were simply trying to improve legislation and have their voices heard, something to which they were certainly entitled. And I thought they made the bill better than it was. But yesterday’s vote, and the excuses that followed the vote, have made me reassess my judgment. Watching Boehner, Blunt, and Cantor blame the outcome on the Pelosi speech was an embarrassment.

We are in one of the most dispiriting moments I have ever witnessed in Washington, when political authority seems to be collapsing all around us. House Republicans have contributed to this, and it’s a shame.

Update: WSJ: "Their immediate response was to say that many of their Members turned against the bill at the last minute because Ms. Pelosi gave her nasty speech. So they are saying that Republicans chose to oppose something they think is in the national interest merely because of a partisan slight. Thank heaven these guys weren't at Valley Forge."

Carson on Five Trends in the Church Today

Acts 29 blogged a recent talk by Don Carson on Five Trends in the Church Today:

1. It is important to observe contradictory trends.
2. Current evangelical fragments are moving into a new phase -- into polarized "clumps."
3. The most dangerous trends in any age are the trends that most people do not see.
4. There is a trend in our churches to be consumed by social concern.
5. There is a trend in our churches to emphasize discipleship over the gospel.

Read the whole thing.


Lost in the Middle: Mid-Life Crisis and the Grace of God

A video related to Paul Tripp's book, Lost in the Middle: Mid-Life Crisis and the Grace of God.

Herman Bavinck Online

Tony Reinke has started a new website, hermanbavinck.org, dedicated to an important Dutch theologian whose rich writings have great relevance for our own debates today.

The goal of the website: "Maintain a fresh and uncluttered corpus of books, articles, lectures, news, information, and discussions on the life and writings of Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)."

Various tabs include:

GAudio: Audio Indexing from Google

Phil Gons:

Google’s new audio indexing, GAudi, looks very promising. Finally the ability to find what you’re looking for in audio or video without listening to the whole thing! This has huge potential for sermons and lectures and could really make audio and video more accessible sources for academic research. . . . .

Check it out: http://labs.google.com/gaudi.

Read more:


RefTagger is a nice little program for bloggers that I recently added:
RefTagger is a free web tool that automatically turns all of your Bible references into hyperlinks to the passages at BibleGateway.com. RefTagger can also add an icon that is hyperlinked to the passage in Libronix and a tooltip window that displays the passage when you hover over the reference. So if your website says, "My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 8:28," RefTagger will instantly turn it into this: "My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 8:28."
Your readers will be able to have immediate access to any of the Bible passages that you mention. All you need to do is copy the customizable code that we provide for you below and paste it into your website's template file(s), and it will instantly be applied to your whole site—all past and future content! Because RefTagger uses JavaScript, it doesn't make any changes to your site's files. If you decide to remove RefTagger from your site, it's as simple as deleting the code from your template file(s).This page explains how to add the program for a Blogger blog.

Monday, September 29, 2008

John Mark Reynolds on the Art of Online Conversation

I enjoyed listening to this talk online (from the GodBlogCon) by John Mark Reynolds.
Online discourse has become harsh and unhealthy. This is especially true of political discourse. John Mark Reynolds, public speaker and director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, will address the problems of internet discourse and what bloggers can do to raise the level of conversation on the internet.
There is a lot of good advice here.

Reynolds blogs at The Scriptorium Daily. He is an outstanding model of thoughtful blogging.

You can also check out the first two chapters (by Reynolds) in the book, The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ.

DG Conference

This page has all the audio, video, and notes from everything at the conference.

Class-Action Lawsuit against Your Humble Blogger

Folks, it seems, are getting a wee bit anxious for a certain Study Bible.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Luther on the Marvel of Music

Cited by Bob Kauflin at the DG conference:
When man's natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.
(Martin Luther, 1538, in his foreword to a collection of chorale motets)

Debate Night

Here's the transcript.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ferguson's Message

You can now listen to it or download it. It was an excellent, edifying, and encouraging message.

Sinclair Ferguson: 20 Resolutions from James

In his talk tonight at the DG conference Sinclair Ferguson suggested 20 resolutions from the book of James--given Jonathan-Edwards style--that we need to make if we are to live a God-centered, biblical life:

James 1:5 To ask God for wisdom to speak and with a single mind
James 1:9-10 To boast only in exaltation in Christ, & humiliation in world
James 1:13 To set a watch over my mouth
James 1:19 To be constantly quick to hear, slow to speak
James 2:1-4 To learn the gospel way of speaking to poor and the rich
James 2:12 To speak always in the consciousness of the final judgment
James 2:16 To never stand on anyone’s face with my words
James 3:14 To never claim as reality something I do not experience
James 4:1 To resist quarrelsome words in order to mortify a quarrelsome heart
James 4:11 To never speak evil of another
James 4:13 To never boast in what I will accomplish
James 4:15 To always speak as one subject to the providences of God
James 5:9 To never grumble, knowing that the Judge is at the door
James 5:12 To never allow anything but total integrity in my speech
James 5:13 To speak to God in prayer whenever I suffer
James 5:14 To sing praises to God whenever I am cheerful
James 5:14 To ask for the prayers of others when I am sick
James 5:15 To confess it freely whenever I have failed
James 5:15 To pray with and for one another when I am together with others
James 5:19 To speak words of restoration when I see another wander

The Little Bank That Couldn't

Posted by Greg Gilbert

Jim Geraghty at NRO's "The Campaign Spot" has a helpful explanation of what, at root, has happened in this financial crisis.

A great bedtime story for your kids tonight.........

Update: Geraghty responds to readers' critiques.

Christian Views of the Economic Crisis

An excellent commentary here by Al Mohler--who gives us an Economics 101 lesson along the way.

Today's crisis in the financial system should not be a threat to the long-term health and vitality of our economic system. There is cause for concern, but no justification for panic. Rather than hit the panic button, spend that energy thinking about how Christians should glorify God in our economic lives. We should watch the developments and debates in Washington and New York with interest, but we should investigate our own hearts with even greater urgency.
Read the whole thing.

See also this article in World Magazine by Timothy Lamer who gives an Anatomy of a Crisis: How Washington and Wall Street Got into Trouble. After explaining the six steps that led to this situation, Lamer writes:
The fundamental dynamic is this: Washington and Wall Street helped people buy houses they could not afford on such a massive scale that simply letting the lenders and debtors take their lumps would arguably do grave harm to the economy. They will take some lumps (Wall Street isn't exactly a hot job market right now), but most of the losses will be "socialized," or spread out among everyone who pays taxes. This includes those who exercised restraint during the bubble. That's how it is.
HT: James Grant

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Guest Blogger

Greg Gilbert will be filling in for me while I'm in Minneapolis at the Desiring God National Conference. I may manage to sneak a post here or there.

For updates on the conference, keep an eye on the DG blog. (These guys are the Jimmy Johns of conference-content delivery!)

On Friday night I'll lead the speaker panel with John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, and Mark Driscoll.

On Saturday afternoon I'll do the same with Piper, Daniel Taylor, Bob Kauflin, and Paul Tripp.

If you're a blogger and you're going to the meet up, perhaps I'll see you there!

Why Driscoll Loves Piper

Four reasons:

1. He is the most passionate guy I think I’ve ever met.
2. He does not seem to really care about his approval ratings.
3. He has a father’s heart.
4. By not trying to be cool . . . he’s cool.

Read the whole thing

One Way to Pray Today

I think this would be a good time for Christians in the United States to increase their prayers for our leaders and representatives in the White House and in the Congress--that God would give them wisdom and maturity and humility as they seek to divert a massive economic catastrophe:

I urge that
and thanksgivings
be made . . . for kings
and all who are in high positions,
that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life,
godly and dignified in every way.
This is good,
and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.

1 Timothy 2:1-3

Interview on the ESV Study Bible

Trevin Wax recently interviewed me (part 1, part 2) about the ESV Study Bible.

Perhaps of interest to some: I explain a bit about how we chose the contributors, go into some detail on the map and the NASA program that formed the basis for them, etc. Oh, and there's a bonus picture of Wayne Grudem holding a print-out of the page proofs!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mark Driscoll's Preaching Notes

Here they are, for a sermon on John 17.

More explanation here.

What Is the Gospel?

I'd strongly encourage you to check out this brief three-post series by Greg Gilbert, addressing the question, What Is the Gospel?

I've often repeated something I once heard from John Piper: being a good theologian is all about making good distinctions. And I think Greg helps advance the discussion by doing just that.

Even though many are asking, "What is the gospel?" Greg rightly discerns that there are actually two distinct questions being asked here:
  • What is the gospel? In other words, what is the message a person must believe to be saved?
  • What is the gospel? In other words, what is the whole good news of Christianity?
Greg goes on to distinguish between the Gospel of the Cross (i.e., the narrow sense of “gospel”) and the Gospel of the Kingdom (i.e., the broad sense of “gospel”). The former, he argues, is presented in the NT as the gateway/fountainhead/see of the latter. The only and infallible means to have the broader gospel blessings is through the narrow gospel foundation.

And he makes this crucial point:
To proclaim the inauguration of the kingdom and the new creation and all the rest without proclaiming how people can enter it---by repenting and being forgiven of their sins through faith in Christ and his atoning death---is to preach a non-Gospel.
See the third post especially for a number of implications that follow from this. What follows is the barebones outline--though you'll want to go and read the whole thing.

1. It is wrong to argue that "the gospel" is the declaration of the kingdom.

2. It is wrong to say that "the Gospel of the Cross" is not the gospel, or less than the gospel.

3. It is wrong to say that "the Gospel of the Kingdom" is somehow gospel-plus, or a distraction from the real gospel.

4. It is wrong to call a person a "Christian" simply because they are doing good things and "following Jesus' example."

5. It is wrong ever to say that non-Christians are doing "kingdom work."

6. The ultimate goal of any mercy ministry---whether done by an individual Christian or a church---has to be to point the world back to the gate.

7. Many in the emergent church---for all their insistence about how astonishing and surprising their gospel is---have missed entirely what really is astonishing about the gospel.

8. Evangelistic, missiological, and pastoral emphasis in this age belongs on the gospel of the cross—on the fountainhead, the gateway of the broader gospel of the kingdom.

How to Understand the Financial Crisis

Conor Friedersdorf provides five links to help you get a good overview.

Total Church

David Mathis at the DG blog interviews Tim Chester about the new book, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, published by Crossway in the Re:Lit series (from Mark Driscoll's Resurgence ministry).

I've been excited to read this book for quite a while now; to get a good overview, check out the interview.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Carson on Deeds of Mercy and Gospel Proclamation

D. A. Carson reports on a recent discussion with pastor-theologians trying to answer this question:
Granted that we ought to be engaged in acts of mercy, what safeguards can be set in place so as to minimize the risk that the deeds of mercy will finally swamp the proclamation of the gospel and the passionate desire to see men and women reconciled to God by faith in Christ Jesus and his atoning death and resurrection?
Read the whole thing for some suggested answers.


The latest edition of Themelios is now online.

I've had a skim of the contents, and will blog more about some of the articles later.

But let me pause and say that I think this is quite a significant development for theological engagement on the web.

Themelios is first-rate and peer-reviewed, with an international collection of excellent scholars. But it's free, and it's instantaneously online.

The guys behind it have been smart and savvy: it's available as a 126-page PDF. But they have also set up a Themelios RSS feed, and each of the articles is also available as individual html files (see the Table of Contents below). This is a brilliant move, allowing for easy spreading and discussion. It will be interesting indeed to watch the future of theological journals and whether or not they will follow suite.

So hats off to The Gospel Coalition for a wonderful development!

Here's what in this issue:

Mohler, He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World

Al Mohler's new book on preaching, He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody Publishers), is now available.

Tim Challies reviews the book today.

Here are the endorsements for the book:
"Where are the Spurgeons of this generation?" So R. Albert Mohler concludes his call for expositional preaching in today's pulpits. Thank God that the man occupying the position of the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would write such a book as this! Deeply theological, concerned and confident, this is a clearly written book with an important message on THE crucial topic for churches and preachers today.
—Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC and founder of 9Marks

This book shows a side of Dr. Mohler that many don't see. In addition to his roles as a seminary president, discerning observer of culture, and evangelical spokesman, Dr. Mohler excels as a preacher, passionate about God's Word and confident in its power to save. He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World instructs us in, and urges upon us, a view of preaching that is theologically profound, culturally aware, pastorally sensitive, and spiritually edifying. Evangelical pastors desperately need the clear, confident, and urgent plea that issues from these pages.
—C. J. Mahaney, president, Sovereign Grace Ministries

I preach because nothing else can satisfy the urgency and passion that God has ignited in my heart for His truth and His people. The same should be true for you. If you can go sell cars or shuffle stocks instead of being a pastor and preacher of God's Word, then go do that. For the rest of us, I'm grateful for my friend and mentor, Al Mohler, who dares us to think beyond seminary syllabi and safe homiletics. Careful—this book can change your ministry.
—James MacDonald, senior pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel Bible Teacher, Walk in the Word

Albert Mohler is one of North America's most trenchant, incisive analysts of Christianity and culture. In this passionate book, he makes a persuasive case for the kind of preaching that our culture needs: the faithful exposition of Holy Scripture, in which the triune God speaks His own life-giving gospel for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of his people.
—Philip Graham Ryken senior minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church Bible Teacher, Every Last Word

As President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Al Mohler trains thousands of pastors and ministers to proclaim the Word of God with integrity and clarity. The book you hold is the result of a lifetime of challenging and developing effective biblical preachers. I predict it will become a classic for the preparation and delivery of sermons that exalt Christ and strengthen God's church for generations to come.
—Jack Graham, pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas

"According to the Bible, exposition is preaching. And preaching is exposition." Dr. Al Mohler's statement pretty well sums up this powerful volume on the theology of preaching. I wish every young man called to preach could be given a copy of this excellent volume on the necessity of expository preaching. It can transform any pastor's preaching ministry. Wouldn't hurt preachers of any age to read this one!
—Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus, First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, FL and president of Jerry Vines Ministries, Inc.

"Mohler at his best. Chapter 7 alone is worth the price of the book!"
—Alistair Begg, senior minister, Parkside Church, Cleveland, OH

Esther Online, and An Interview with Barry Webb

The last full-book sample from the ESV Study Bible, the Book of Esther.

The introduction and notes are by Barry Webb, Senior Research Fellow in Old Testament, Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia.

Gordon Cheng of Matthias Media’s Sola Panel blog recently interviewed Dr. Webb about his work on Esther. Here are the questions:

  • Barry, how long have you been a student of the Old Testament?
  • What’s the book of Esther about?
  • Tell us a bit about the flawed heroes of the story, Esther and Mordecai.
  • You’ve said in your ESV Study Bible notes on Esther that it is a humorous book. Can you give some examples of what you mean?
  • You also said in your notes on Esther 6:1–13, “Events now move so tellingly in favor of Esther and Mordecai that a presumption of God’s providential involvement becomes unavoidable”. Can you say more about that? Can we read providence in our own circumstances of life?
  • What tips would you give for someone who is trying to preach through the book of Esther for the first time?
When working on editing this material, one of the most helpful things for me was putting together a timeline, which is fairly straightforward in Esther, given that many of the events are explicitly dated. I hadn't realized before that the events of Esther unfold over an entire decade.

Here's a version of the chart that's included on the bottom of p. 855 (though go to the PDF to see a prettier version):

Chronology in Esther

The events of Esther unfold over a period of 10 years.

ReferenceEventMonthDayYear of ReignYear
1:3Ahasuerus holds his banquets

2:16Esther goes to Ahasuerus10
3:7Haman casts his lots1
3:12Haman issues his decree11313
3:13Date planned for annihilation of the Jews121313
8:9Mordecai issues his decree32313
8:12; 9:1Day upon which Jews could defend themselves from attack121313
9:6–10, 20–22Ten sons of Haman executed; Feast of Purim celebrated1214, 1513

Palin's Religion

Terry Eastland has a good overview of Sarah Palin's religious beliefs and affiliations.

A few weeks ago Mark Silk observed that Sarah Palin is “the first movement evangelical ever to occupy a place on a GOP national ticket since the emergence of the religious right.” Eastland commented in a blog post:
Silk doesn’t say what a “movement evangelical” is, but a fair definition would have to include being active in an evangelical church or parachurch or both. . . .

If you wonder why Palin isn’t the second movement evangelical to be on a GOP national ticket, behind George W. Bush, the answer is that Bush always went to mainline churches, the last before he was elected in 2000 being Highland Park Methodist in Dallas. Also, he wasn’t a big parachurch guy, though he knew a lot of people involved in those organizations (and pastors in evangelical churches). Silk says Bush was a “johnny-come-lately” to evangelicalism. Palin, as this story from today’s New York Times makes clear, grew up in it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Christ and Media: Free Driscoll Lecture This Thursday

Northwestern College in St. Paul is hosting a free ongoing lecture series this year on Christ and Media: Rethinking How We Produce and Consume Media. The speakers and topics look excellent. More info below--but if you live in the area, or you arrive early for the DG conference, you may want to hear Mark Driscoll speak this Thursday at 7:30 PM on “Christ & Media: How Important is Being Relevant?” More info is at the site.

The other lectures are as follows:
Quentin Schultze, Ph.D., Calvin College (MI)
“Jesus Britney and You: Calling in a Media World”
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
7:30 p.m., Nazareth Chapel

Mark Seignious M.A., Northwestern College (MN)
Ripley Smith, Ph.D., Bethel University (MN)
“Music and the Message: Connecting the Prophetic Voice in Christian Radio”
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
7:30 p.m., Nazareth Chapel

Gene Edward Veith, Ph.D., Patrick Henry College (VA)
“Christian Media as Cultural Critic”
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
7:30 p.m., Nazareth Chapel

Ann Sorenson, MFA, Northwestern College (MN)
“Faith & Film: To the Glory of God”
Tuesday, April 28
7:30 p.m., Nazareth Chapel

An Interview with Robert Yarbrough on the Epistles of John

Robert Yarbrough is chair of the New Testament Department and associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I'm really looking forward to his Baker Exegetical Commentary on 1-3 John, which is being published in November.

Today CT's Collin Hansen interviews Dr. Yarbrough about his work on the Epistles of John--as well as his views on the the relationship between teaching and writing, his views on computer technology for biblical studies, why he has invested his time into theological education in Eastern Europe and Africa, and more. May God continue to raise up more scholars like Dr. Yarbrough!

As some may know, Dr. Yarbrough authored the notes on 1-3 John for the ESV Study Bible. The introduction and notes for 1 John are now available on the web for free as a sample download.

Erwin Raphael McManus

Last month Phil Johnson went off on Erwin McManus--taking him to task for his pretension and faddishness. But most importantly, for his absence of biblical teaching on the gospel truths of sin, atonement, justification, repentance. Here's the closing. I'd be interested to hear if anyone successfully thinks the challenge can be answered:
    . . . my fundamental quarrel with McManus is not about whether he repudiates this or that label. It's not even about the menagerie of high-flown titles he does load his resumé with. It's this: clear gospel truth is almost impossible to find in the material he publishes and posts for public consumption. And in that regard, I don't see a whole lot of difference between Erwin McManus and Joel Osteen. He's Osteen with blue jeans and an occasional soul patch rather than a shiny suit and a perpetual grin.

    Am I being too hard on McManus? I expect we'll get lots of commenters (including the usual suspects and some first-time drive-bys) who will insist that I am. McManus seems to have lots of passionate devotees online. To them I say: Welcome to our blog. Convince me. It should be easy to do if I'm wrong. Simply show me a few places where McManus makes the gospel plain and clear for his audience, with straightforward, biblical explanations of sin, atonement, and justification for sinners—including a distinct and compelling summons for sinners to repent.

    Yes, I realize that is historic, confessional, old-style doctrine—and it's not at all the sort of thing a "futurist" likes to talk about.

    That's my point.
Read the whole thing.

Update: I think it's worth pulling up from the comments this response by Phil:

Thanks for the link. I didn't notice you had posted this till last night and it was too late to add much to the discussion. Here are a few of points I'd like to underscore:

1. In reply to some comments like that of Timothy (from the UK, above): I wasn't raising this question with regard to a single sermon or video. I'm pointing out that I can't find anywhere where McManus has dealt with sin qua sin--an offense against God as opposed to a personal hurt or emotional/psychological dysfunction. And I have never seen him even hint at the idea of repentance. I wouldn't be automatically critical of a preacher for a single gospel message that didn't include every aspect of systematic theology. In other words, I agree with your point: while it's true that the resurrection is essential to the gospel itself, that doesn't invalidate every tract or sermon or witnessing encounter where the resurrection isn't expressly mentioned. (I defended that very point a couple of years ago in the infamous controversy about Francis Chan's evangelistic video.) But if someone who preaches all the time never mentioned the resurrection--indeed, seemed to be deliberately avoiding it--I'd think it completely fair to raise the question of whether he really believed it.

2. I have exchanged several e-mails about this with a senior staff member at Mosaic, and I received one message from Erwin McManus himself. Neither of them supplied references to any message or online resource where McManus has ever mentioned the necessity of repentance. I had a hard time getting the senior staff member to understand that I wasn't challenging McManus over an issue of technical theological terminology. His main reply to me was that just because McManus doesn't use words like repentance, justification, and penal substitution, it's unfair to assume he doesn't teach those doctrines. But after exchanging several e-mails with him, he still couldn't (or wouldn't) point me to any online resources where McManus has dealt with the ideas of repentance, justification, or propitiation using different terminology.

3. So if we count that, plus all the replies to my initial post about McManus, plus all the comments in this thread, it brings the grand total of documented examples where McManus deals with the issues of sin, repentance, and justification to exactly zero.

4. I'm not trying merely to be harsh here. But I honestly don't see why anyone would think McManus's approach to avoiding the gospel is any better than Joel Osteen' approach to avoiding it. I understand that they appeal to different demographics, so there are real stylistic differences between the two of them. But my concern is with the missing substance.

5. I'd like to know why some who feel perfectly free to label Osteen a heretic think it's unnecessarily "vitriolic" to put McManus in the same category. A few of you have suggested that it's uncharitable even to raise this question. No one yet has offered a reasonable explanation why.

The Death of the Emerging Church (Label)?

Dan Kimball:
Although I am finding that the term [emerging church] has become so broad now and so confusing, it is very important to know that I am not by any means stopping being involved and pursuing the heart and mission of what the term "emerging church" originally meant. At least in how I was personally using it when I wrote the book [The Emerging Church] 6 years ago.
. . . I can't defend or even explain theologically what is now known broadly as "the emerging church" anymore, because it has developed into so many significantly different theological strands. Some I strongly would disagree with.

Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi) writes about a poll on his blog about whether to keep or dump the term:

There are some countries and circles where I am no longer using the word. The word no longer communicates what I want it to so, even though I will still be in support of Emerging Church ventures like this excellent one from the Church of Scotland, I will no longer be using the word for myself and the ministries that we support.
Words change. We give meaning to words and we take it away. The word is problematic for many American institutions and often insulting to European ministries that preceded their American counterparts.
So . . . most of you said to dump it and I will. But I am still staying connected to many ministries around the world that are using it.

Url Scaramanga at the Out of Ur blog writes:

As the emerging church rides off into the sunset, where does that leave things? Well, news has been leaking about a new network being formed by Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and Scot McKnight among others. I understand further meetings will be happening this week to help solidify the group. The still unnamed network has agreed to start with the inclusive but orthodox theological foundation of the Lausanne Covenant, and they intend to emphasize mission and evangelism.

Re: McManus:I'll post something separate on him.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How Big Is God's Universe?

A truly amazing, mind-boggling, worshipful experience reading and watching the images from this post from Jeff Gray.

HT: Scott Anderson

Dexter Filkins on Iraq

Dexter Filkins's piece in Saturday's NYT on Iraq is well worth your time.
When I left Iraq in the summer of 2006, after living three and a half years here following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, I believed that evil had triumphed, and that it would be many years before it might be stopped. Iraq, filled with so many people living so close together, nurturing dark and unknowable grievances, seemed destined for a ghastly unraveling.

And now, in the late summer of 2008, comes the calm. Violence has dropped by as much as 90 percent. A handful of the five million Iraqis who fled their homes — one-sixth of all Iraqis — are beginning to return. The mornings, once punctuated by the sounds of exploding bombs, are still. Is it possible that the rage, the thirst for revenge, the sectarian furies, have begun to fade? That Iraqis have been exhausted and frightened by what they have seen?

Filkins's new book, The Forever War, has just been published, and it looks very, very good. Here are some blurbs:
“Dexter Filkins is the preeminent war correspondent of my generation, fearless, compassionate, and brutally honest. In an age of know-it-all pundits and preening bloggers, Filkins is the real thing. He's been everywhere, he's seen everything, and, miraculously, he's lived to tell the tale. The Forever War is his astonishing story. It is one of the best books about war that I have ever read. It will stay with me forever.”
-Jeffrey Goldberg, author of Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide

“Dexter Filkins has seen the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan; he has stood in the ruins of the World Trade Center; he has been in the heat of battle in Iraq; indeed, no one else has been closer to the action than this courageous and thoughtful observer. This is a sensational book in the best sense.”
-Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

"The Forever War is already a classic–it has the timeless feel of all great war literature. A lot has been written about Iraq and Afghanistan, but no one has seen as much, survived as much, and registered the horror with such sad eloquence as Dexter Filkins. His combination of courage and sensitivity is so rare that books like his come along only once every major war. This one is ours."
-George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq

“Filkins . . . is widely regarded as among the finest war correspondents of this generation. His richly textured book . . . does not editorialize–a welcome change from the punditry that shapes most writing from these war zones.”

Hugh Hewitt recently interviewed Filkins for two hours (you can listen to the podcasts here and here, and read the transcript here). Amazon.com also interviewed Filkins, and you can read the three-page PDF here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dealing with Doubt

Marvin Olasky interviews J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler, authors of In Search of a Confident Faith (IVP). I found this exchange helpful:
Q: You offer a four-step procedure that can reduce our doubting tendencies if we practice it often enough.

(1) Identify the source of the doubt (e.g., evening news, movie, conversation at work).

(2) Identify the particular assumptions that stand under the source (example: if it can't be tested by the five senses, you can't believe in it).

(3) Raise doubts about the doubt. Challenge it (example: I can't see my own thoughts, but I know them, so why should I believe this principle?).

(4) Replace the assumption with a more biblical one (example: For thousands of years, the brightest people alive have known God was real from the creation even though they never saw Him, so we can, in fact, know things that go beyond our five senses).

Martin Luther King Response to "You Can't Legislate Morality; You Have to Change Hearts First"

Martin Luther King Jr.:
Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government. [emphasis added]
Taken from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s address at Western Michigan University, December 18, 1963, cited in The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture by Scott Klusendorf (forthcoming).

Obama's Top Ten Reasons for Voting against the Born Alive Infants Proection Act

Some have sought to defend Senator Obama's votes against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act by explaining the reason/argument he advanced against it. But actually, Obama has offered 10 different reasons for his opposition. Jill Stanek--the nurse who started the national discussion about this act--has an article with quotes explaining the various reasons. Here they are in outline form--but for more detail and documentation, read the whole thing.

10. Babies who survive abortions are not protected by the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

9. A ban to stop aborted babies from being shelved to die would be burdensome to mothers.

8. Aborting babies alive and letting them die is a doctor's prerogative.

7. Anyway, doctors don't do that.

6. Obama apparently read medical charts and saw no proof.

5. Aborting babies alive and letting them die is a religious issue.

4. Aborting babies alive and letting them die violates no universal principle.

3. Introducing legislation to stop live aborted babies from being shelved to die was a political maneuver.

2. Sinking Born Alive was about outmaneuvering that political maneuver.

1. Introducing Born Alive was a ploy to overturn Roe v. Wade.

House on the Prophets

Here are some lectures from Paul House on expositing the Minor Prophets, giving at the 2008 Simeon Trust Workshop on Biblical Exposition:
Dr. House served as an OT consultant for the ESV Study Bible, and was the author of the notes on Jeremiah and Lamentations, as well as the essay introducing the prophets.

Crossway is also making available for free his essay, Introduction to the Prophets.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pray for the Economy

A good post here from Matt Perman at the DG blog.
I pray for the economy at all times, not just times of crisis, because as Christians we are to wish for and seek the welfare of others. There are few things that have more impact on the welfare of large groups of people, in the physical sense, than the state of the economy. Therefore, I believe that the command to “love your neighbor” implies that we desire, seek, and pray for the welfare of the economy.
Read the whole thing. Matt explains how a healthy economy serves people and what we should pray.

A Despicable Vote

Here's an ad by a 527--BornAliveTruth.org--on Senator Obama's consistent votes against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, featuring abortion survivor Gianna Jessen:

Here is Obama's response ad, which effectively says that Ms. Jessen is telling a "despicable lie":

Notice that the ad says that “Obama has always supported medical care to protect infants.”

Yuval Levin writes:

But in the debate about the born-alive bill which he voted against (see page 87 of this transcript), Obama said:

[I]f we're placing a burden on the doctor that says you have to keep alive a previable child as long as possible and give them as much medical attention as — as is necessary to try to keep that child alive, then we're probably crossing the line in terms of unconstitutionality.

So a child who has been born and is living and breathing outside the womb can’t get medical care because by some legal definition he or she is “pre-viable”? That doesn’t sound like always supporting medical care to protect infants.

More here from David Freddoso on one of Obama's earlier (incorrect) explanations regarding his vote.

Obama and Abortion

I've mentioned before how much I appreciate the careful thinking of Jeremy Pierce, a PhD candidate in philosophy at Syracuse. He is a wise thinker who seeks to be fair and careful.

In this post on Obama and Abortion he tries hard to put all of Obama's statements about abortion into one coherent framework. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to do:
I've tried hard to make sense of Barack Obama's various statements, stumbles, votes, and explanations related to abortion. With many of them, I haven't succeeded. I've come to the conclusion that he simply hasn't thought hard about the issue and that he's grossly unaware of many of the important background facts, both about the legal background and the general philosophical conversation about this important issue.
Read the whole thing. Here's the conclusion:
Some people called John Kerry inconsistent on abortion, and I defended him against those charges. I'm willing to be charitable to those I disagree with if they leave a way to take them seriously in all the things they say. I disagreed with one of Kerry's fundamental premises, but he had a consistent view, and I pointed that out to counter the many who refused to do that with him. This is different. Barack Obama has basically declared himself incompetent to make any judgments on one of the key issues of our day, and I have to say that I agree with him. The statements he's been making show that he's either hopelessly ignorant on some very important policy matters or deliberately contradicting himself in order to pretend to two opposing groups that he's on both their sides. That means he probably should have a job where these issues really are above his pay grade. There are a lot of such jobs. Unfortunately for him, the job of U.S. President (not to mention U.S. Senator, Illinois State Senator, or constitutional law professor) would not be in the list.

Religion and Superstitution

Mollie Hemingway in the WSJ:
The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.

"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

Read the whole thing.

Three New Gospel-centered Books

It's not every day that three books land on my desk at the same exact time, each of them begging to be read!

A couple of days ago that happened. Here are the three books, each of which looks excellent!

Spectacular Sins
And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ

by John Piper

Free sample materials online:

Table of Contents, Introduction & Chapter 1

"The weighty truths about the sovereign wisdom and power of God unpacked in these pages created in me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and ultimate safety. To be reminded of his might over everything is priceless, and I don't think I'll ever be able to preach the same again."
--Matt Chandler

Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World
Edited by C.J. Mahaney

Free sample materials online:

Table of Contents, Foreword by John Piper, & Chapter 1

"This book is biblically grounded and Christ-centered, full of grace and truth. Every chapter raises the bar of Christian living without falling into legalism. One of the most timely and much-needed books I've read in years. I highly recommend it."
--Randy Alcorn

Death by Love:
Letters from the Cross
by Mark Driscoll and Garry Breshears

Free sample materials online:

Contents, Preface, & Introduction

"With Death by Love, we see the maturing of a young pastor (who stepped on a lot of toes early on) into a significant pastor/theologian able to communicate the power of the gospel in powerfully effective ways. If you've written off Mark Driscoll in the past, you owe it to him and your walk in Christ to give this stunning new book a chance. He presents the value of the cross of Christ clearly and definitively. Better yet, the pastoral letter in each chapter may be some of the best examples of sensitive, Bible-centered, gospel-saturated counsel in print since Thomas Brooks' and John Owens' quills were laid to rest."
--Mark Traphagen

Carolyn Mahaney: To Teach What Is Good

Carolyn Mahaney's To Teach What Is Good: Wisdom for Women from Titus 2 has become something of a classic, encouraging and edifying countless women. The MP3s and PDF outlines are available for free download at the Sovereign Grace webstore.

The description and links are below:
Here is the updated series from Carolyn's classic messages to women based on Titus 2. Topics include self-control, purity, kindness, having a love for husbands and a tender affection for children, making your home your center of ministry—and more. Carolyn teaches about how these qualities in women glorify God and draw others to the gospel.

"In an unusually compelling series of eight lectures to women, Mrs. Carolyn Mahaney explains the significance of Paul's command to women in Titus 2:3-5 … Wives, mothers, singles, widows—all will benefit from the solid instruction, touching stories, and uncommonly clear and powerful exhortation contained in Wisdom for Women from Titus 2."
—review in the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's Update, June 2000

Message titles and speakers
Click on a message title to read its description or to download the free MP3.
  1. A Fresh Look at Titus 2
  2. Loving My Husband
  3. Loving My Children
  4. Being Self-Controlled
  5. Being Pure
  6. Being Busy At Home
  7. Being Kind/Doing Good
  8. Being Subject to My Husband

Douglas Wilson: Debates and Responses to Atheists

Douglas Wilson, in my view, is at his very best when debating and dismantling the case for atheism and the case against God.

Here are the books--each of which I would recommend:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Response to Gushee on Palin and Complementarianism

Denny Burk does a nice job answering David Gushee's questions that supposedly reveal complementarian inconsistency with regard to supporting Sarah Palin.

Update: Andreas Kostenberger weighs in with another angle:
These are clever questions indeed, questions that Gushee seems to think are virtually irrefutable and that conservative evangelical Christians are unable to answer. My purpose in this brief response is not to address the questions Gushee raises (though I do not think they are quite as irrefutable as Gushee seems to believe). Indeed, Palin’s nomination raises all kinds of interesting issues that require further discussion. My concern here is rather with the forum Gushee chose for his frontal assault on his fellow evangelical Christians (albeit less “moderate” than he). Here is my question: Is it appropriate for Gushee to seek to ridicule, or at least embarrass, his brothers and sisters in Christ on the pages of a national newspaper for their “archaic” beliefs? Or is this the equivalent of believers bringing lawsuits against fellow believers in worldly courts, a practice Paul condemns in 1 Corinthians 6?

The world needs the gospel; it does not need to watch conservative and “moderate” evangelical Christians be at each other’s throats in contentious public debate. How does the spirit and tone of Gushee’s contribution to “The Forum” in the pages of USA Today serve the gospel? How does it serve to bring the lost closer to Christ and help them come to terms with the salvation he offers and the judgment incurred by those who reject what God has done for them in Christ? How is the piece charitable and constructive? The way I see it, maybe conservative evangelical Christians are facing “The Palin predicament,” but by targeting CBMW and complementarians in his Op-Ed piece in USA Today the way he chose to do, Gushee has created a predicament of his own.

Sean Lucas on Culture Making

Here's how Sean Lucas starts his blog post about Andy Crouch's new book, Culture Making: "If people tell me that something is a must-read, I tend to be a bit skeptical."

And here's the closing: "All to say, Culture Making probably is one of those rare must-read books that comes along every so often. A book of rare learning, helpful and accessible synthesis, and godly humility, it might actually change the evangelical culture on how to make and engage culture. If so, all I can say is thanks be to God."

J. I. Packer on the ESV Study Bible

More videos can be found at the new ESV Study Bible Video page.

Reflections on Our Electric Lives

Al Mohler writes about what we can learn from being without power for a few days.

John Woodhouse on OT Narrative

If you want to learn how to read/preach OT narrative, John Woodhouse (Principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia) is an excellent guide.

If you want to learn by watching him do it, check out his expository commentary on 1 Samuel.

If you want to learn by hearing him teach on it, check out the following six one-hour lectures on OT narrative delivered for the Charles Simeon Trust:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

C.J. Mahaney Interviews Stephen Altrogge

C.J. Mahaney interviews Stephen Altrogge (20 minutes) about the new book, Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes.

Google Ads and Abortion

Google has changed its policy, and will now include ads against abortion (along with other viewpoints on abortion) when people do searches on the subject.


Thinking Biblically about the Banking Crisis

David Kotter is the Executive Director of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I've found him to be a reliable, insightful voice on the intersection of theology and economics. He has an MBA, has taught economics, served as a finance manager for Ford Motor Company, and has done a lot of thinking on the topic. So I decided to ask him a few questions in an attempt to think biblically about the banking crisis that is currently underway.

What is happening in the present banking crisis?

Last night the federal government committed to lend $85 billion to the insurer American International Group (AIG), on top of the $200 billion of capital promised to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac solvent in July and $30 billion for Bear Stearns in March. In other words, more than $1,000 for every man woman and child in the country has been directed in various ways to resolve the present banking crisis. At this point, you might be wondering why this happened and what benefit you can expect to receive from your thousand-dollar share.

Why is this happening?

There are plenty of root causes for the present crisis, depending on whom you ask and where you look. Some point to the several years of artificially low interest rates from the Federal Reserve Bank. These led to an explosion of home building and enabled families to stretch into larger houses. Others blame lenders for creatively introducing no-documentation and interest-only loans as a temptation to over-extended buyers. There is certainly individual responsibility involved whenever anyone signs the imposing mortgage document packet. In any case, many people borrowed money to purchase houses and this increase in demand increased the price of houses.

At the most basic level, a $100,000 mortgage loan on a house (at 6%) is a promise to pay back about $215,000 over the next 30 years in 360 convenient payments. This promise is obviously valuable to a commercial bank, and can be sold to other banks or even consolidated and sold to large investors as a Mortgage-Backed Security (MBS). If the promise is not kept, the lender gets the house to offset the decreased value of the promise.

Problems arose last year when many people failed to keep their mortgage promises. This year a staggering 25% of all subprime loans are delinquent or in foreclosure. In essence, the valuable promises that were being bought and sold are now worth much less. Further, the houses backing the promises are often worth much less because so many are being sold at distressed prices.

Therefore someone has lost a lot of money (a.k.a. a crisis). The mortgage promises are no longer worth what banks paid for them and the underlying real estate is often worth less than the loans. Precisely, the real problem was that the risk of default was underpriced, or not completely taking into account by insurers and purchasers of mortgage-backed securities. Now that the default rate turned out to be much higher than credit scoring agencies predicted, the key question is who will ultimately bear the cost of these multibillion-dollar losses.

Certainly the shareholders of investment banks like Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers have realized tremendous losses. This has forced these companies into bankruptcy or distressed sales to other firms. The shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost almost all of their equity when these government sponsored enterprises were forced into conservatorship by the government. AIG, which sold insurance against the risk of default of mortgage backed securities, gave up 80% of the firm to the US government in exchange for a two-year loan at 11% interest.

This is where your thousand dollar contribution enters the picture: it represents your share of the government bailout to partially offset these losses and keep most of these firms afloat. If they all fail, the borrowing and lending that efficiently directs capital in a modern economy will grind to a halt. If none of them fail, the Federal Reserve will introduce a "moral hazard" that will reward risky behavior and encourage more in the future. This is a good reason to intercede for “those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1).

By the way, you won’t receive a personal invoice for the thousand dollars; it will just be added to the national debt. Ironically, for many people this is larger than the stimulus payment sent out earlier this year, and there is no guarantee that the taxpayers won't be asked contribute yet more as the crisis unfolds.

What effect will this have on the wider economy?

Undoubtedly this crisis is having widespread effects on the economy, although economists disagree as to the extent at this point. AIG is one of the 30 stocks in the Dow industrials, so the evaporation of the equity in this company was a major contributor to the 500 point drop in the market on Monday. Investors are now suspicious of other banks, leading them to sell those stocks as well. Banks are increasingly reluctant to make mortgage loans and this makes it more difficult for individuals to purchase a house. A huge inventory of houses on the market in many areas is resulting in neighborhood blight and further depresses prices. Individuals whose houses are declining in value are curtailing other large purchases, and this further weakens the economy. High gasoline prices and a weaker dollar only contribute to the malaise.

On the other end, we must keep this in a wider perspective. Though some laugh when they hear "the fundamentals of the economy remains strong," this is actually true. For example, the unemployment rate has risen to 6.1% (which is a challenge if you have personally lost a job), but this rate is still lower than the peak in 2003 and is better than many European countries today. Further, despite the rampant media discussion of a recession, the economy has been growing for the last two quarters. This bubble, like the “dot com” bubble and even the tulip mania bubble of 1637, will eventually be resolved as banks and investors accurately report their losses and adjust accordingly.

What effect will this have on individuals?

For believers, this is just one more reason to "not love the world or the things in the world" which is "passing away along with its desires" (1 John 2:15, 16). In Louisville we have been without electricity since Sunday, and it makes me increasingly grateful that our God is independent and powerful enough to accomplish his good will every moment. Lighting candles each night reminds me that I am not!

Although it will be harder to obtain aggressive mortgages, Christians who are practicing prudent financial stewardship (modest houses, large down payments, monthly payments easily within their means, diligent participation in the work force) should not have much problem. Everyone will want to verify that their savings account is government insured, but believers with a generous "wartime mindset" should have no trouble keeping their bank accounts under $100,000 FDIC limit. Above all, don't be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor what you will wear. Remember that journalists, markets, and lemmings tend to move in herds. The media never reports on thousands of planes that land safely, but solely focuses on one that doesn't. In that light, if you are saving for retirement more than 10 years from now, this actually would be a good time to invest in the stock market. But don't let your IRA be a substitute god or distract you from treasuring Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:24-34).

Is it right to pray for the economy?

I think it is appropriate to pray for the economy. After all, God said to Jeremiah, "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jeremiah 29:7). When the economy is strong, people are able to work and support their families, believers have greater opportunities for generosity, and many benefit from this common grace.

We can pray for integrity and wisdom for government officials who are faced with the incredibly complex task of regulating investment securities and banks in a way that is transparent and serves all of the varied stakeholders. We can pray that those who are willing to work will be able to find gainful employment. We can pray that greed would be restrained at all levels, from the leaders on Wall Street to individual families tempted to live beyond their means. We can pray for ourselves that we will participate in the national economy that keeps in mind the time is short and the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7: 29-31).

Many thanks to David for taking the time to answer these questions!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Interview with D.A. Carson on Christ and Culture Revisited

Kevin Boling interviews D.A. Carson about his latest book.

The Answer to Practical Problems Must Involve Robust Doctrine

Amen to this quote from Donald Macleod's The Humiliated and Exalted Lord, cited by Ligon Duncan:
:Theology exists in order to be applied to the day-to-day problems of the Christian church. Every doctrine has its application. All scripture is profitable and all the doctrine is profitable. Similarly all the application must be based on doctrine. In both the Philippians example-passage and the Corinthian example-passage, Paul is dealing with what are surely comparative trivia, the problem of vain glory in a Christian congregation and the problem of failure of Christian liberality. As a Pastor one meets with these difficulties daily. They are standing problems. Yet Paul, as he wrestles with both of them, has recourse to the most massive theology. It’s not only that you have the emphasis on the unity between theology and practice but you have the emphasis on the applicability of the profoundest theology to the most mundane and most common-place problems. Who would ever imagine that the response to the glory of the incarnation might be to give to the collection for the poor? Who might imagine that the application of the glories of New Testament Christology might be to stop our quarreling and our divisiveness in the Christian ekklesia? That is what Paul is doing here. He is telling them: You have these practical problems; the answer is theological; remember your theology and place your behavior in the light of that theology. Place your little problems in the light of the most massive theology. We ourselves in our Christian callings are to be conscious of this. We must never leave our doctrine hanging in the air, nor hesitate to enforce the most elementary Christian obligations with the most sublime doctrines.

Denominational Renewal in the PCA

Common Grounds Online:
In February, 2008 five PCA pastors gave talks at a conference called Denominational Renewal. Hundreds of PCA pastors and seminarians attended.

We will host a forum on these talks at CGO. We will spend one week on each talk, in sequence. The forum will run from Monday, September 15 through Friday, October 17.

To listen to the original talks, go to the Denominational Renewal site and click on speakers. Under each of the speakers’ biographies you will find a link to the audio of the message.

This is a great way to use the web to extend a conversation about important matters.

The structure is that each week is devoted to one of the talks, and each day of that week multiple responses are offered:
Mondays- Simpatico response
Tuesdays- Critical response
Wednesdays- Women or minority voices in the PCA response
Thursdays- Outside of the PCA response
Fridays- Original speaker of the talk at Denominational Renewal responds to the respondents
This week the subject is Greg Thompson's talk (click for audio) on Renewing Ethos.

On Monday Tim Keller offered the "simpatico response." Today Ligon Duncan offers the "critical response." And so on.

See here for the full schedule.

Pastor-Theologian, Theologian-Pastor

David Mathis:
Don Carson is a pastoral scholar. John Piper is a scholarly pastor.

Next Spring they will team up to address the topic “The Pastor as Scholar, and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry with John Piper and D.A. Carson.”

The event is scheduled for April 23, 2009, sponsored by the Henry Center at TEDS, and hosted by Park Community Church in Chicago. And it's free!

Those attending The Gospel Coalition conference April 21-23, 2009, in the Chicago area may want to consider staying an extra night for this unique gathering.

Clowney and Keller on Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World

This 35-session team-taught class at RTS is now available for free at iTunes.

HT: Tony Reinke

An Interview with Steve Nichols on Getting the Blues

I recently had the chance to ask Steve Nichols a few questions about his latest book, Getting the Blues: What Blues Music Teaches Us about Suffering and Salvation.

Steve, let me be the first to wish you congratulations on the publication of your 100th book. That's quite an achievement!

Yes, indeed it would be, but your count is a little off. It sort of reminds me of how my four-year-old counts. He skips a bit. I will say this much, this book on the blues is quite different from my other books.

The subtitle is What Blues Music Teaches Us about Suffering and Salvation. Let me make it personal, and start with suffering. What have the blues taught you about suffering?

This gets right to it. What I have learned about suffering is the value of sympathy, in the truest and deepest sense of that term. Sympathy means, on a basic level, “with feeling.” But we’re not talking about Barry Manilow—not a blues man!—belting out the word. Sympathy is really about identification with the other person, about community, a quite popular term these days. The Bible teaches us that we are to mourn with those who mourn, as well as rejoice with those who rejoice, because of this idea of sympathy, of our mutual identification with one another. Sympathy ultimately stems from our union with Christ, The Man of Sorrows. The blues are quite attuned to the currents of suffering. Listening to the blues helps me understand the words of Paul, in his desire to “share his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).

Suffering takes different forms and different levels, but all too often we try to construct our lives to avoid it at all costs. We live as if life should always be in the major key. In the process, we sometimes miss out on what can be learned from the minor key. J. I. Packer once called the book of Ecclesiastes the gospel bassoon, which is precisely why he finds himself returning to it. I think the blues is that, too (though I have to admit I can’t name any good blues bassoonists).

And how about salvation?

This is the often missed piece in the blues. You don’t have to listen long to hear the notes of suffering, but you do have to listen closely to hear the tune of salvation. Some of these bluesmen were preachers. I actually dedicate the book to Charley Patton. He went back and forth from pulpit to jook joint, the old blues bars dotting the Mississippi Delta. He spent the last few weeks of his life in a virtual non-stop preaching marathon, presumably making up for what he perceived to be lost time. Patton sang a blues called “You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You Die.” The somebody he was talking about was Christ. As he puts it in another song, “Jesus is a dying bed maker.” During that preaching marathon of his, in the days before he died, he often sang a simple little chorus in the midst of preaching:
Jesus is my God, I know his name.
His name is all my trust.
He would not put my soul to shame,
Or let my hopes be lost.
Some of these blues singers also spoke of Jesus in life and not just at death. Before he was Thomas A. Dorsey, the king of gospel, he cut blues records as Barrelhouse Tom. I argue that without his roots in the blues, without his blues sense of things, we would never have “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”--perhaps the chief of Dorsey’s many fine gifts to the church.

Christ identified with us, the lost and cursed sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. And in his death on the cross he became the curse for us. He was abandoned by the Father so that we might be reconciled to him. The blues artists, perhaps a surprising lot of them, knew this. You can hear it if you listen.

You're a (very) blonde fella who lives among the Amish. How did a guy like you become a fan of the blues?

Just to elaborate on the question. I am white. I grew up in and live in the north. I don’t play an instrument. And I’m pretty sure I’m tone deaf. But I do love the blues. My wife and I started listening to a program on NPR—I know that’s your favorite station, Justin—called American Routes, hosted by Nick Spitzer. I loved the music, not to mention Nick’s commentating. He would often refer to the work of the late sociologist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. I began reading Lomax and soon realized that there is far more to this than good music. There is also a richly textured story here and, what’s more, a lot of theology.

Writing a book on the blues also gave me license to buy CDs and spend hours listening to them, all sacrifices for the noble task of research.

What motivated you to move from simply enjoying the blues to wanting to write a book about it?

As I mentioned, it didn’t take me long to see that there is a lot of theology here, but the kind of theology we don’t always dwell on. The blues is more about the “fellowship of his suffering,” than it is about the “power of the resurrection.” The blues reminds us of the curse, of our limitations and of our fallenness. The blues is also about the cross. The blues reminds us that while we celebrate Easter Sunday, we do well sometimes to pause over Good Friday. Our theology tends to be more triumphant, more major key. I liked the theology I was hearing in the blues because it was a theology we don’t always hear in our typical contemporary American evangelical contexts.

In the course of reading for the book, I didn’t spend all my time in research just listening, I came across the term theomusicology. That’s what I’m doing in this book, a theomusicology of the blues. Again, I think it’s a theology or a slant on theology that we, the “us” in the subtitle of the book, don’t always pay attention to but should.

For those unfamiliar with the music, where should they start?

At the end of the book I offer a discography of three or so CDs that complement each chapter in the book. I’ll pull a few out of there for you. You can’t go wrong with the standards: Son House (Delta Blues), Charley Patton (Primeval Blues, Rags, and Gospel Songs), Robert Johnson (Complete Recordings), and Muddy Waters (The Anthology). I’m also partial to the smooth vocals of Mississippi John Hurt (Avalaon Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings). For the more raspy vocals, it doesn’t get any better that Blind Willie Johnson (The Complete Blind Willie Johnson). His moaning version of “Dark Was the Night,” a song about Good Friday, was launched into space on the Voyager.

If you’ve not listened to the blues before, then I’d start with Hurt before moving on. If you were into the whole British rock scene, then you need to start with Eric Clapton’s “Me and Mr. Johnson,” his tribute to Robert Johnson. In fact, I think I’ll go have a listen myself.