Friday, July 31, 2009

The City: A New Journal

Posted by James Grant

Russ Moore explains that Houston Baptist University is publishing a new journal called The City. The summer 2009 issue includes articles by Moore on the death of John Updike, Wilfred McClay on the soul and the city, Hunter Baker on science, Peter Augustine Lawler on Solzhenitsyn, Robert P. George on Obama and abortion, and Louis Markos on Christ in the Classroom. The journal also features a symposium on “younger evangelicals” between John Mark Reynolds, Francis J. Beckwith, and Matthew Lee Anderson. Moore writes:

The symposium includes this quote from Francis Beckwith: “If the young evangelicals are really serious about ’struggle’ and ‘authenticity,’ they should avoid drama queens like Donald Miller and look at those who have really lived it.” This is in the midst of Beckwith’s argument that “authenticity” is being treated by some evangelicals as one more commodity to be acquired in the whirl of their “image-hypnotized” lives.

You can subscribe to the journal here. You should also check out the archives.

"What Is Man?"

Posted by Robert Sagers

Are you looking for a little more mid-summer reading?

The latest issue of the The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT) has just rolled off the presses. All of the major articles in this issue are devoted to the topic of "Theological Anthropology," articles ranging from an analysis and definition of human personhood (Bruce A. Ware) to a case for dualistic holism (John W. Cooper).

From Stephen Wellum's editorial:
"In the end, it is a theological anthropology which we desperately need today, given the anthropological crisis of our day... It is my prayer that this issue will better equip each one of us not only to know the truth but also to practice it, in an increasingly dark and de-humanizing age."
Gregg Allison's helpful article, "Toward a Theology of Embodiment," has been posted online. Before defining human embodiment and outlining various elements of a theology of the body, Allison first contends "that evangelicals at best express an ambivalence toward the human body, and at worst manifest a disregard or contempt for it." Read the whole thing.

Other articles include an ethical case study from Russell D. Moore, a "practical" article from William Cutrer and Robert Cutrer on personal wellness, and a forum featuring C. Ben Mitchell, Mark T. Coppenger, Chad O. Brand, Denny Burk, and Stephen Wellum.

You can survey the contents of most back issues of the SBJT and read several major articles from pages past, as well as subscribe to the journal whose recent themes have included "Exploring Biblical Theology," "Exodus," and "Learning from the Church Fathers."

Happy summer reading!

Unchurched Twenty-Somethings and Bible Study

Posted by Tony Reinke

And speaking of “How Unbelievers View The Church,” during his portion of the interview Ed Stetzer said that his research indicates an openness to bible study among unchurched twenty-somethings. Stetzer said:
"…We asked a total of 1,000 twenty-something unchurched people; 900 American, 100 Canadian. And we compared them to a sample of 500 older unchurched (30 or above). ... And what we found is that yes, there are negative views of the church, two-thirds saying the church is full of hypocrites, people who do one thing and say another. But there was also great openness that's there. One of the questions that we asked them to agree or disagree with was: "I would be willing to study the Bible if a friend asked me to?" Among twenty-somethings, 61-percent said, "Yes." Among their older counterparts of 30 and above, 42-percent said, "Yes." That was a statistically significant difference saying there is something going on, there is an openness that's there. So we're seeing that as an opportunity that in the midst of some negative views of the church there is also some openness to the things of God."

—Ed Stetzer, The Albert Mohler Program, July 30, 2009, timestamp 22:55—23:46.
For more on this see Stetzer’s latest book, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them (B&H 2009).

Loving Jesus, Loving the Church, and Loving the Lost

Posted by Robert Sagers

Why do so many people say that they like Jesus, but not the church? And how can Christians go about changing that perception?

Dan Kimball, Kevin DeYoung, and Ed Stetzer joined guest-host Russell Moore yesterday on the Albert Mohler Program to talk about how unbelievers view the church, and how the people of Christ can reach lost men and women—those at the coffee shop, or sitting next to you on the bus, or those working in the cubicle adjacent to yours right now—with the only gospel that saves.

From DeYoung, on how best to overcome obstacles to sharing the gospel:
"...on the one hand, the great opportunity in our day is that people like Jesus. On the other hand the great obstacle that we have to overcome is that a lot of those same people have a very negative view of Christians, and of Christianity—and sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly. But regardless, perceptions are reality to the ones who hold them, so we just have to deal with those perceptions. And I think the way to do it is to move forward with lots of patience, lots of humility, lots of love—not watered-down—but walk with people and establish a relationship, and help people to see that, 'You know what? Maybe this view of Christianity that I had really was founded on stereotypes, and there is something different about these people.'"
From Kimball, on dispelling stereotypes of Christians as harsh and judgmental, but without doing away with sin and judgment:
"To me, it's simple, if we just think of ourselves like missionaries again in our own world—whether it's Michigan, or Santa Cruz, California. The Spirit of God does the convicting and the wooing, but we're used—I don't want to say that it's all human effort—but when you start building trust with people, then they listen more. And if they know that you care about them—and it's felt in the sincerity of your preaching, and attitudes, and your tone—you don't have to hide anything."
From Stetzer, on what it means for Christians to be truly authentic with unbelievers:
"I think that authenticity is basically a simultaneous admission that I'm imperfect, in need of the work of Christ and the cross, but at the same time sharing that struggle in that journey along the way... I think that authenticity is built from pastors and leaders, but also from everyday people who say, 'Here's what Christ has done, how he's changed me, how the gospel shapes me, but I'm also the one who's filled with faults and failures—struggling, but trusting in the power of Christ."
Listen to the whole thing.

For more, check out Kimball's They Like Jesus but Not the Church, DeYoung's (co-authored) Why We Love the Church, and Stetzer's (also co-authored) Lost and Found.

And may the Lord spare Christians from being known as people who say they like Jesus, but not those outside the church.

The 99 Most Essential Bach Masterpieces

Posted by Andy Naselli

  • Bach is arguably the greatest composer of all-time.
  • But these recordings aren't the finest quality.
  • But it's hard to beat the price.


The Altar: Not the Finish Line

Posted by Andy Naselli

An Unusual Wedding Procession

Posted by Andy Naselli

Is it true that Justin did this at his wedding, too? :-)

HT: Denny Burk
(Note Denny's follow-up comments on his blog: 1, 2.)

Paul Helm on N. T. Wright, Divine Righteousness, and Covenant Faithfulness

Posted by James Grant

Paul Helm is in the middle of a series of Analyses on N. T. Wright's book Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. Helm's current post examines Wright's argument concerning God's righteousness as covenant faithfulness, providing support for a point made by John Piper in The Future of Justification that God's righteousness is wider than covenant faithfulness. Read Helm's post: "Why Covenant Faithfulness is not Divine Righteousness (and cannot be)."

The Reformed Resurgence Series by Collin Hansen

Posted by Andy Naselli

Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), just published seven short essays on "The Reformed Resurgence."

The Folly of Idolatry

Posted by Andy Naselli

Cf. Isaiah 44:9-20:
All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall e terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Introducing the Guest Bloggers

I'm looking forward to leaving today for our annual week-long vacation in Northern Minnesota. And as I've done over the past few years, I've invited some friends to guest-blog for me.

I'm most grateful that these guys have graciously agreed to help keep this blog up and running. Let me offer a brief introduction to each of them.
Andy Naselli. Andy is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, writing his dissertation on the use of the OT in Romans 11:34-35. He serves as research assistant to D. A. Carson and administrator of Themelios. This Spring Zondervan will release an abridged edition of Carson & Moo's NT Intro, edited by Andy. He, his wife Jenni, and their one-year-old daughter attend CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, WI. He blogs here.

James H. Grant Jr
. James (M.Div, RTS-Orlando) is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Rossville, TN, a Reformed Baptist church east of Memphis. James and his wife Brandy have three children. He is currently working on a preaching commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians for Crossway's "Preach the Word" series, edited by R. Kent Hughes. We recently co-authored an essay together on "John Frame and Evangelicalism" for a forthcoming festschrift, to be published by P&R. James blogs at In Light of the Gospel.

Tony Reinke
. Tony serves as C.J. Mahaney's editorial and research assistant. He and his wife Karalee, along with their three kids, belong to Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD. Tony blogs at Miscellanies (formerly The Shepherd’s Scrapbook), which "exists to provide essays and quotes on Cross-centered living and theology for a small gathering of sinners seeking their daily food in the Cross of Christ." He also runs a site devoted to Herman Bavinck.

Robert E. Sagers. Robbie serves as Special Assistant to the Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration (Russell Moore) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he is a Doctor of Philosophy student in Christian theology. He co-teaches a Sunday School class at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, and is training to be a pastor.
It's a privilege to count each of these brothers as a friend. They love Christ and they love the Church. They have served and encouraged me time and again.

I'm grateful for their help. My only regret is that I won't be around to see what they post!

See you in a week or so.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Girl's Guide to Marrying Well is now making available their free, attractive booklet: A Girl's Guide to Marrying Well.
Based on the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility it's designed to encourage and equip you for marriage. Not marriage at all costs, but marrying well for your good and God's glory.

May God bless the time you spend reading this, align your desires with His, and help you become a godly woman for a godly man.

This complements their earlier resource, A Guy's Guide to Marrying Well.

Tools for Connecting with Neighbors

I love Steve McCoy's deliberate thoughtfulness in how to meet, connect with, and love his neighbors. It's a great example for the introvertedly oriented like me.


Praying with Paul

Here is the series of talks from D.A. Carson (given in 1990 in Cambridge, I believe) that led to his book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers:
  1. Foundations (2 Thessalonians 1)
  2. People (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13)
  3. Practice (Colossians 1:3-20)
  4. Mystery (Ephesians 1:1-23)
  5. Ministry (Romans 15:14-33)

Powlison on Criticism

CCEF has now made available online for free David Powlison's article on criticism. I highly recommend it!

"Praise Factory" Children's Curriculum

Capitol Hill Baptist Church is now making their children's curriculum, Praise Factory, available online for free if your church is interested in obtaining a copy. The Big Questions and Scriptures been set to music.

For an overview, see this blog post or check out their website.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tolkien in His Own Voice

Since I posted on Lewis in his own voice, I thought I'd do the same for Tolkien.

The CD to get is The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection. Here's a description:
Of historic note, these selections from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are based on a tape recording Tolkien made in 1952, which inspired him to continue his own quest to see his vision in print. Also included is a never-published poem, "The Mirror of Galadriel," originally intended for inclusion in the trilogy, yet edited out. And, finally, Tolkien's son, Christopher, reads selections from his father's The Silmarillion, the epic foundation upon which rests the whole of his work.
Below are materials free online. A few clips from interviews, followed by several readings, recitings by Tolkien of his own material.

A 47-second clip of an interview about how The Hobbit began in Tolkien's mind:

From a 1968 interview, discussing the Rings mythology:

A nearly 10-minute audio interview (transcript here), broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January 1971:

Tolkien reads from chapter 5 of The Hobbit:

Tolkien reciting the Ring Verse from "The Shadow of the Past" (LOTR):

Tolkien reading from chapter 4 of The Two Towers:

Tolkien singing "Troll Sat Alone On His Seat Of Stone," the poem recited by Sam Gamgee in "Flight to the Ford" (LOTR):

Tolkien recites an Entish Chant (LOTR):

Tolkien in 1952 reciting the Quenya poem "Namárië," sung by Galadriel in the chapter "Farewell to Lórien" (LOTR):

Tolkien recites the poem "The Hoard" from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:

Lewis on the Distinction between "Receiving" and "Using" Art

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, p. 88 (line breaks mine):
A work of (whatever) art can be either ‘received’ or ‘used.’

When we ‘receive’ it we exert our senses and imagination and various other powers according to a pattern invented by the artist.

When we ‘use’ it we treat it as assistance for our own activities.

The one, to use an old-fashioned example, is like being taken for a bicycle ride by a man who may know roads we have never yet explored.

The other is like adding one of those little motor attachments to our own bicycle and then going for one of our familiar rides. These rides in themselves may be good, bad, or indifferent.

The ‘uses’ which the many make of the arts may or may not be intrinsically vulgar, depraved, or morbid. That’s as may be. ‘Using’ is inferior to ‘reception’ because art, if used rather than received, merely facilitates, brightens, relieves or palliates our life, and does not add to it.
HT: S.D. Smith

Tozer on Pseudo-Faith vs Biblical Faith

"The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in. What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day."

A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

HT: Randy Alcorn

An Interview with Ray Van Neste

Here's a good interview with Ray Van Neste about shepherding and caring for the flock of God.

HT: James Grant

Chan, Forgotten God

Francis Chan talks about his next book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit:


You can read some sample material from the book below:

Forgotten God, by Francis Chan

Infrastructure for Souls

A slideshow that traces "the parallel histories of the American megachurch and the corporate-organizational complex."

HT: NYT via Gene Veith

An Early Christian Creed

A three-part sermon series by Lee Irons on Philippians 2:1-13:
Part 1: The Obedient and Exalted Bond-Servant
Part 2: What It Teaches Us About Justification
Part 3: What It Teaches Us About Sanctification

A Reader on Race and Liberty in America

This looks like a helpful resource: Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader. John Miller says "It reproduces everything from excerpts of the Declaration of Independence and the speeches of Frederick Douglass to the modern-day works of Shelby Steele and Clarence Thomas."

Here's a blurb by Juan Williams:
If you are interested in the real history of the Civil Rights movement in America -- the radical ideas that set it in motion no matter where they came from -- get ready for an intellectual thrill ride. There is no time for political posturing here. Race and Liberty in America is full of revelations and stunning in its honesty.

Machen Birthday

A day after J. Gresham Machen's birthday Martin Downes posts a nice round-up of resources (books by and about him, MP3s, etc.) related to Machen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BibleWorks 8 vs. Accordance 8

Keith Mathison has extensive reviews of the latest versions of BibleWorks and Accordance.

Born in the U.S.A.

I hesitate to even post this, but in case people are following this issue--or especially if they are tempted by conspiracy theories--here is a good editorial at National Review on President Obama being born in the USA, not Kenya. In short, "this theory is based on unreality, as two minutes’ examining the claims of its proponents reveals. The hallmark of a conspiracy theory is that a lack of evidence for the theory is taken as yet more evidence for the theory."

Lewis: Omnipotent Moral Busybodies Worse than Robber Barons

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

—C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, p. 292.

HT: James Kuschner

Introduction to John Owen

A helpful video overview here by Carl Trueman:

Monday, July 27, 2009

New EP: One

Steve McCoy reviews Austin City Life Church's One EP (listen to some samples at MySpace).

Steve writes:
I was offered this new EP for review and was happy to help out a friend. I'm always weary of helping out friends because it's hard to be critical (if need be). Add to that, as most of my regular readers know, I'm not a fan of most Christian music, and I'm not usually very excited about new worship music. I'm happy to say I can heartily recommend this EP. I'm always afraid early EP's by churches will be low quality. This is an outstanding, quality recording with great voices. I'm already thinking about how quickly we can get them into our worship times at Doxa.
Read the whole review for some of the lyrics and more thoughts.

Trueman's "Speech" to Those Thinking about a PhD

Carl Trueman's Minority Report in the latest Themelios open in this way:
Every year a few students ask me my thoughts about whether they should pursue doctoral studies and I respond with what has come to be known as ‘The Speech.’ Essentially, ‘The Speech’ runs something like this: ‘Do not do it if you think you are going to find a job at the end of it; do it for the sake of doing it. There are almost no jobs going in academia these days, and humanly speaking, time and chance are what make the difference between the one who gets the big break and the one who never even makes a shortlist. For every student who finds an academic job, there are countless others who do not. I studied with people much more talented than I am who ended up selling insurance or working in a bank.’

The advice is, I believe, good. The chances of finding a job are slim; and with a PhD you actually make yourself less employable for other things. This is not to say you should not do a PhD; but you need to be realistic about what you can expect. Of course, all human beings are, to some extent, narcissists: I have never given ‘The Speech’ to anyone who did not believe that they were destined to be the one in a thousand who lands the plum job—after all, I ignored similar sage advice on similarly narcissistic grounds more than twenty years ago; but at least I try to bring a little reality to bear on the situation.

Read the whole thing. Here's the conclusion:
Too many theological students come unstuck not because they do not master the sophisticated intricacies of their chosen fields of specialization but rather because they failed their apprenticeships in the basics, the corporate disciplines of church attendance, submission to elders, hard work for the local body, and the individual disciplines which flow from these: private prayer and Bible reading, a crying out to God for his mercy, and a burning desire to be mastered by the Word of God. Successful theological students are never the subjects in theological study; rather they are always the objects of God’s grace. And the church is the place where they will be held accountable for these things. The church, not the seminar room, provides their only true home, their best classroom, and their best form of strenuous spiritual rest. Theological study at the highest level is a high calling indeed; but just for this very reason those who pursue it need to make especially sure that they truly are humble servants of the church.

Carson on Polemical Theology

As I've mentioned, the online Themelios (completely free online) has become a rich resource indeed. Thus far, in addition to excellent articles and reviews, we are treated to compelling editorials by both D.A. Carosn and Carl Trueman.

Carson's latest takes up the issue of "polemical theology." He begins by showing that polemics is a slippery category and that it's really unavoidable at some levels. He then shows that it is modeled biblically. He writes:
. . . any robust theology that wounds and heals, that bites and edifies and clarifies, is implicitly or explicitly engaging with alternative stances. In a world of finite human beings who are absorbed in themselves and characterized by rebellion against God, polemical theology is an unavoidable component of any serious theological stance, as the Bible itself makes clear.
But then he points to the dangers:
Nevertheless there is something wrong-headed about making polemical theology the focus of one’s theological identity. This can be done in many ways. There are well-known scholars whose every publication has an undertone of “everyone-has-got-this-wrong-before-me-but-here-is-the-true-synthesis.” Some become far better known for what they are against than for the overflow of their worship or for their generosity to the needy or even for their affirmation of historically confessed truth. Still other Christians develop websites and ministries whose sole aim is to confute error. God knows there is plenty of error to confute. To make the refutation of error into a specialized “ministry,” however, is likely to diminish the joyful affirmation of truth and make every affirmation of truth sound angry, supercilious, self-righteous—in a word, polemical. In short, while polemical theology is just about unavoidable in theory and should not, as a matter of faithfulness, be skirted, one worries about those who make it their specialism.
Before going on, that quote is worth re-reading.

He also makes the point that "polemical theology ought to develop a wide range of 'tones'":
Re-read Galatians. Within the space of six short chapters, Paul can be indignant with his readers, but he can also plead with them. He openly admits he wishes he could be present with them so he could better judge how he should adjust his tone. He can be scathing with respect to his opponents, precisely because he wants to protect his readers; he can devote several paragraphs to clarifying and defending his own credibility, not least in demonstrating that his core gospel is shared by the other apostles, even though he insists he is not dependent on them for getting it right. He happily connects his theological understanding to ethical conduct. All of this suggests that a mature grasp of the potential of polemical theology wants to win and protect people, not merely win arguments.
I've quoted a fair chunk of the editorial, but I'd encourage you to go over there and read the whole thing.

Affirmative Action

In Sunday's Washington Post the op-ed page had opinion pieces by Juan Williams and by Shelby Steele on the issue of affirmative action--its success, limitations, and end.

Those interested in exploring the topic further might want to take a look at Thomas Sowell's book on the topic, which sought to examine the issue empircally and globally.

Depression: A Stubborn Darkness

In this video Ed Welch shares the story of his own father's depression and gives some thoughts on how to think about depression biblically:

Those interested might want to pick up a copy of his book, Depression--A Stubborn Darkness: Light for the Path. You can also read the first few pages of chapter 1.

Hurtado's The Earliest Christian Artifacts

Jim Hamilton reviews Larry Hurtado's The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Conclusion:
This fascinating book should command the attention of all who are interested in questions of how the New Testament came into being, when the documents began to be recognized as Scripture, and what can and cannot be maintained on the basis of the actual manuscript evidence. This book deserves wide reading among those with a high view of Scripture, and we can hope that it will spur students to access the manuscripts directly and thereby to know the treasures these texts contain. We can thank Prof. Hurtado for his service in calling attention to the riches of these manuscripts. May he be rewarded with droves of students who turn their attention to the direct study of these “earliest Christian artifacts.”

How Mediators in the OT Point to Christ

From Vern Poythress's survey of salvation history for the ESV Study Bible:
Instances of mediators in the OT include prophets, kings, and priests. Prophets bring the word of God from God to the people. Kings, when they submit to God, bring God’s rule to bear on the people. Priests represent the people in coming before God’s presence. Christ is the final prophet, king, and priest who fulfills all three functions in a final way (Heb. 1:1–3). One can also look at wise men, who bring God’s wisdom to others; warriors, who bring God’s deliverance from enemies; and singers, who bring praise to God on behalf of the people and speak of the character of God to the people.

Mediation occurs not only through human figures, but through institutions. Covenants play a mediatorial role in bringing God’s word to the people. The temple brings God’s presence to the people. The animal sacrifices bring God’s forgiveness to the people. In reading the Bible one should look for ways in which God brings his word and his presence to people through means that he establishes. All these means perform a kind of mediatorial role, and because there is only one mediator, it is clear that they all point to Christ.

Lincoln and Obama, Slavery and Abortion

Jeffrey Anderson and Darren Guerra recently argued that President Obama is more in step with Stephen Douglas and John C. Calhoun than with Abraham Lincoln. An excerpt:
There are significant parallels between these two issues. Each is likely the political or moral issue about which Americans of their era have, or had, the most passionate feelings and the strongest opinions. Each was ultimately decided, at least for a while, by the Supreme Court — in favor of legalized slavery and legalized abortion. And each involves conflicting interpretations of fundamental natural rights — of liberty versus property in the case of slavery, of life versus liberty in the case of abortion. . . .

Both slavery and abortion ultimately reduce to competing claims over unalienable rights. No one can justly take the liberty or life of another if that other qualifies for the rights with which all of humanity is endowed. Thus, debates over slavery eventually became — as debates over abortion eventually become — debates over the humanity of the slave or the fetus. If the slave or the fetus are among those beings who, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, “are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” then their unalienable rights to life (in the case of abortion) and liberty (in the case of slavery) must be secured. If they are not, then a slave-master may be said to have a right to property in a slave, and a pregnant woman may be said to have a right to liberty in the form of abortion.

Read the whole thing (but note that it's two pages, not one--it's hard to tell from the design on their page).

HT: Gene Veith

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Beginner's Reading List for Lewis and Chesterton

David Mills offers his suggestions.

HT: Russell Moore.

Calvin on the Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian reprints a beautiful portion of John Calvin's preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534). I reproduced it below (line breaks and italics mine)
Without the gospel
everything is useless and vain;
without the gospel
we are not Christians;
without the gospel
all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.
But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made
children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom
the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.
It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.

For, he was
sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;
he was
made a curse for our blessing,
[a] sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;
he died for our life; so that by him
fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,
debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,
division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,
ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,
vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.
In short,
mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.
For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.

And we are
comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.
This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

Antipsalm 23 vs. Psalm 23

David Powlison writes an Antipsalm 23:

I'm on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing's quite right.
I'm always restless. I'm easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It's a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It's a desert — I'm thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can't fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life's confusing. Why don't things ever really work out?
I'm haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I'd rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I'm alone ... facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can't really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I'm so much all about ME, sometimes it's sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I'm left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, "Hell is other people."
I have to add, "Hell is also myself."
It's a living death,
and then I die.

Powlison writes:
The antipsalm tells what life feels like and looks like whenever God vanishes from sight. As we hear about Garrett and the others, each story lives too much inside the antipsalm. The "I'm-all-alone-in-the-universe" experience maps onto each one of them. The antipsalm captures the driven-ness and pointlessness of life-purposes that are petty and self-defeating. It expresses the fears and silent despair that cannot find a voice because there's no one to really talk to.

. . . Something bad gets last say when whatever you live for is not God.

And when you're caught up in the antipsalm, it doesn't help when you're labeled a "disorder," a "syndrome" or a "case." The problem is much more serious: The disorder is "my life." The syndrome is "I'm on my own." The case is "Who am I and what am I living for?" when too clearly I am the center of my story.
But, he says, the antipsalm needn't tell the final story.
It only becomes your reality when you construct your reality from a lie. In reality, someone else is the center of the story. Nobody can make Jesus go away. The I AM was, is and will be, whether or not people acknowledge that.

When you awaken, when you see who Jesus actually is, everything changes. You see the Person whose care and ability you can trust. You experience His care. You see the Person whose glory you are meant to worship. You love Him who loves you. The real Psalm 23 captures what life feels like and looks like when Jesus Christ puts his hand on your shoulder.
Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Powlison continues:
Can you taste the difference?

You might want to read both antipsalm and psalm again, slowly. Maybe even read out loud. The psalm is sweet, not bitter. It's full, not empty. You aren't trying to grab the wind with your bare hands. Someone else takes you in His hands. You are not alone.

Jesus Christ actually plays two roles in this most tender psalm. First, He walked this Himself. He is a man who looked to the Lord. He said these very words, and means what He says. He entered our predicament. He walked the valley of the shadow of death. He faced every evil. He felt the threat of the antipsalm, of our soul's need to be restored. He looked to his Father's care when He was cast down — for us — into the darkest shadow of death. And God's goodness and mercy followed Him and carried Him. Life won.

Second, Jesus is also this Lord to whom we look. He is the living shepherd to whom we call. He restores your soul. He leads you in paths of righteousness. Why? Because of who He is: "for His name's sake."

You, too, can walk Psalm 23. You can say these words and mean what you say. God's goodness and mercy is true, and all He promises will come true. The King is at home in his universe.

Jesus puts it this way, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). He delights to walk with you.
You can read the whole thing here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hamilton on the Inerrancy of the Protestant Canon

A new essay by Jim Hamilton (available online temporarily), “Scripture: The Evangelical View, or, The Sixty Six Books of the Protestant Canon Are Inspired by the Holy Spirit and Therefore Inerrant.”

Be Slow Like God

God is:
Exodus 34:6
"The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.'"

Numbers 14:18
"The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation."

Nehemiah 9:17
"You are a God ready to forgive,gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them."

Psalm 86:15
"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness."

Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."

Psalm 145:8
"The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."

Joel 2:13
"Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster."

Jonah 4:2
"That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster."

Nahum 1:3
"The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet."
Proverbs 14:29
"Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly."

Proverbs 15:18
"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention."

Proverbs 16:32
"Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city."

Proverbs 19:11
"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense."

James 1:19
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger."

A Conversation between Prayerful and Prayerless

John Piper:
Prayerful: It's not complicated. God providentially ordains all events. God never ordains an event without a cause. The cause is also an event. Therefore, the cause is also foreordained. So you cannot say that the event will happen if the cause doesn't because God has ordained otherwise. The event will happen if the cause happens.

Prayerless: So what you are saying is that answers to prayer are always ordained as effects of prayer which is one of the causes, and that God predestined the answer only as an effect of the cause.

Prayerful: That's right. And since both the cause and the effect are ordained together you can't say that the effect will happen even if the cause doesn't because God doesn't ordain effects without causes.

Prayerless: Can you give some illustrations?

Prayerful: Sure. If God predestines that I die of a bullet wound, then I will not die if no bullet is fired. If God predestines that I be healed by surgery, then if there is no surgery, I will not be healed. If God predestines heat to fill my home by fire in the furnace, then if there is no fire, there will be no heat. Would you say, "Since God predestines that the sun be bright, it will be bright whether there is fire in the sun or not"?

Prayerless: No.

Prayerful: I agree. Why not?

Prayerless: Because the brightness of the sun comes from the fire.

Prayerful: Right. That's the way I think about the answers to prayer. They are the brightness, and prayer is the fire. God has established the universe so that in larger measure it runs by prayer, the same way he has established brightness so that in larger measure it happens by fire. Doesn't that make sense?

Prayerless: I think it does.

Prayerful: Then let's stop thinking up problems and go with what the Scriptures say. Ask and you will receive. You have not because you ask not.

Read the whole thing.

Tim Tebow

The latest cover story for Sports Illustrated is on the faith and ministry of Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.

HT: Scott Lamb

Freed to Visit Orphans (in Ethiopia)

Russell Moore:
We encourage you to watch this video, produced by our friends at Together for Adoption. Dr. Moore will be speaking at the Together for Adoption conference in October. Registration for the conference is now open.

Trueman: The Case for Church History

Some guest posts from Carl Trueman at The Sola Panel on the importance of church history:
  1. The Theological Importance of Criminal Profiling
  2. Sticking It to the Man
  3. Learning from the Pretenders
Here's an excerpt:
. . . [I]n affirming the value of their history and the sovereignty of their God, the church stands as a witness against the wider culture, which throws off the claims of God and, from science to teen culture, despises the past as any source of wisdom for the present, let alone the future.

Thus, stuffy and archaic as some would see it, the recitation of the Apostles' Creed is potentially the most dangerously subversive act of cultural terrorism one might engage in on a Sunday. Far from being a hidebound exercise in dusty conservatism, it is potentially an act of absolute rebellion and revolution against the system, the man, the company, the establishment, the corporation or simply ‘them’—however one wishes to characterize those who hold the levers of cultural power.

And what is true of the Creed is surely true of history in general. The historian of the church (the one who is committed by conviction and equipped by training to study the past—the one who is committed and equipped to demonstrate that, despite the received wisdom, we are connected to the past, that studying the past enables us to understand the present better, and that learning from the past helps us to articulate the faith with more self-awareness and self-reflection)—the historian of the church is the one who has a key role to play in the unit of countercultural resistance that is the local church.

John Newton

John Newton--the blaspheming slavetrader turned grace-filled pastor and hymnwriter--was born this day in 1725.

Here's a video overview from Mars Hill:

For more on Newton, see:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Getting Published

Kevin DeYoung posts a brief paper (part 1 / part 2) on how to get a book published, written by Kevin and Sherry Harney. It contains some wise counsel.

Parenting Seminars

MP3 files and PDFs below from various parenting seminars hosted at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD:

Parenting Ages Infant to 5 (by Brian Chesemore)

Parenting Ages 6 to 10 (by Kenneth Maresco)
Overall Outline (PDF)

Additional Resources:

Parenting Ages 11 to 14 (by Greg Somerville)
Overall Outline (PDF)
Parenting Ages 15 to 18 (by Kenneth Maresco)
Overall Outline (PDF)
Parenting Ages 19 to 22 (by Bob Kauflin)
Overall Outline (PDF)

HT: Z, Doug Wolter

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can There Be a Christian Univeristy?

Owen Strachan has a good post here, reflecting on Kenneth Kantzer's assessment of Carl F. H. Henry. Kantzer thought that Henry's greatest failure was in not establishing his dream of establishing a "great Christian university--and his greatest achievement being his advocacy of Christianity as a compelling, viable world-and-life view.

A number of years ago D.A. Carson took up the former topic in his essay, “Can There Be a Christian University?The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 1:3 (1997): 20–38

He proposed eight theses and four priorities (below), but read the whole thing for his explanations and various sub-points on what this would look like in terms of structure and vision.

  1. A university is a tertiary-level institution devoted to study and education in a plurality of fields at both undergraduate and graduate levels, controlled by some unifying Vision.
  2. A Christian university is God-centered in the structure of its thinking and in the establishment of its priorities, cheerfully pledging allegiance to the Christian revelation, and in particular the focal point of that revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the gospel he has proclaimed.
  3. A Christian university is passionately committed to the formation and maintenance of a Christian worldview.
  4. Because Christians recognize their finiteness and their sinful minds, the Christian university is called, whatever its prophetic voice, to humility of mind and the kind of communal care that fosters integrity and candor.
  5. Because of its God-centeredness, the Christian university will recognize that it is beholden to the church, to the world, and to the God who inhabits eternity.
  6. Because of its God-centeredness, the Christian university seeks to maintain a tension between a world-wide openness on the one hand, and cultural integrity and sensitivity at the local level on the other.
  7. Within the vision of the Christian university already laid out, it is entirely appropriate to provide both liberal arts education and professional training.
  8. A Christian university will rigorously reflect on academic freedom and confessional Fidelity.
  1. Teach the Bible.
  2. Teach the Bible worldviewishly.
  3. Pursue excellence.
  4. Reflect hard and often on how to preserve the institution.

C.S. Lewis in His Own Voice

If you've never heard C.S. Lewis speak, here are some free samples online.

The first two are from the BBC:
Beyond Personality: The New Men (14:05 mins)
March 21, 1944
Length: 14:05
(This talk later became a part of Mere Christianity.)

An Introduction to The Great Divorce
Date: May 9, 1948
Length of clip: 1:58
On this site you can hear a few samples from his lectures on The Four Loves:
  • Introduction (0:29)
  • "Agape Love" (0:20)
  • "Is Creation Necessary?" (0:35)
You can also order The C.S. Lewis Recordings, which contains the following material:
The Four Loves - In this rare recording of C.S. Lewis' own voice, Lewis examines the four classical Greek terms for love: storge, philia, eros and agape. Recorded in 1958 in London by the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation, it was first heard in the United States on the Episcopal Series of the Protestant Hour radio program, now known as Day1.

C.S. Lewis Speaks His Mind - This rare recording contains Lewis' lecture on Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Lewis' adaptation of his famous Cambridge lecture known as "The Great Divide," his introduction to his book The Great Divorce, and his critique of works by author Charles Williams.

If there is more audio of Lewis in his own voice, let me know.

On another note, I was recently at Half-Price Books (love that store) and came across a recording of the actor Kenneth Branagh's unabridged reading of The Magician's Nephew. During recent travels we've also been listening to Michael York's unabridged reading of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I hadn't heard of these recordings before (it's time-consuming just to find out which British actor did which recording!), but I'm sure the rest are just as good. If anyone wants to take the time to figure out who reads the rest of the books, feel free to leave it below as a comment.

Update: Here are the rest of the Narnia audiobooks. Thanks for the help!

Patrick Stewart, The Last Battle

Alex Jennings, The Horse and His Boy

Lynn Redgrave, Prince Caspian

Derek Jacobi, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Jeremy Northam, The Silver Chair

An Interview with Thabiti about Lemuel Haynes

Reformation Heritage Books interviews Thabiti Anyabwile about his new book,
May We Meet in the Heavenly World: The Piety of Lemuel Haynes. Here's one exchange:
Lastly, if you only had a couple of sentences to encourage someone to read this book, what would you say?

A. If your thoughts and your heart has grown dull, perhaps a little complacent and worldly, read this book as one tool to turn your mind back to your first love. If you want to be encouraged by some consideration of what God is able to do with a life of great disadvantage (abandoned by both parents at infancy; raised an indentured servant; etc), read this book and trust that God may do even greater things through those desiring to be used of Him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three Questions with John Piper about Filling up the Afflictions of Christ

John Piper's latest book is the fifth volume in the series The Swans Are Not Silent: Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson and John Paton.

When we hear about new book titles, our first thought often jumps to whether or not we should read it, how interesting the subject is to us, etc. But with this book, I'd encourage you to consider whether or not there are missionaries to whom you can send this book. I hope that numerous churches decide to send a copy to each missionary they support. I think this would be incredibly encouraging for those who have been sent out to the nations for the sake of the Name.

Pastor John graciously agreed to answers a few questions I had about the book:

1. Can you describe the effect it has had on your own soul to spend three years reading and writing on these three brothers?

My first answer to this is no. The reason is that great people and great achievements and great ideas and great acts have effects on us that we do not know fully, and remember even less fully. Who can describe, for example, the effects of our parents on our lives? Or who can describe the effects of the great books we have read? They shape us and we are different. But the influence cannot be quantified or described.

But I can say a few things. John Paton’s life thrilled me because of his courage. He would face down throngs of raging natives in the New Hebrides. He responded once to a man who said he might be eaten by savages, that we will all be eaten by worms, so there is not much difference, if only he could die for Christ. And he showed all this courage by the simplest faith in the promises of Christ. He lived in fellowship with Jesus through the promise: “I will be with you to the end of the age.”

William Tyndale’s life made me want to give my best efforts to study and understand and teach the Scriptures. He was betrayed and strangled and burned because he wanted the common man to have the Bible, and because he translated it in a way that made clear the truth of justification by faith. I saw the evil of the Roman Catholic hierarchy more clearly than ever as it raged against his passion to put the Bible in plain English. David Daniell’s biography of Tyndale is one of the best books I have ever read.

The life of Adoniram Judson was the most sobering because of how relentless were the losses. He lost three wives. He hung upside down in a hot, bug-infested prison. He almost went insane living in the jungle dealing with his grief. But O, the fruit of it all! The grain of wheat did not die so many times in vain. Reading his life made me want to suffer well and not give up.

2. Missionaries frequently feel discouraged—caught between two worlds, feeling forgotten by those at home and often disconnected with those to whom they are trying to minister. What encouragement do you hope that missionaries will receive from reading this book?

All your suffering is worth it. You are not alone. Your sorrows and discouragements are part of a painful strategy God has designed for the sake of the nations. We do not see all the effects of Christian suffering. It is designed by God to complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). You may feel that it is in vain. It is not. It is not. God promises it is not: “In the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). Few things outside the Bible strengthen the hands of missionaries like the stories of those who endured what only those who have been there can understand.

3. One of the things we hear a lot about in American Christianity is that persecution is coming—and this is often used as a fear tactic to support certain forms of activism. But you argue that persecution, death, and suffering will be the very means God uses to spread his kingdom. Can you explain?

Pervasive in the New Testament is that Christians suffer. What Colossians 1:24 makes plain, along with other passages, is that this suffering is not God’s problem, but God’s plan. It is his strategy to present the sufferings of Christ to the world in the embodiment of his suffering people.

We are too sinful to be left without suffering. And the world is too sinful to see our love unless it comes with suffering. Therefore, for our sake and their sake God appoints tribulation for all who would conquer their own sin and offer salvation to the nations.

Explore the Moon in Google Earth


A video overview:

HT: James Grant

Fee on 1 and 2 Thessalonians

It's always worth noting when Gordon Fee writes a new commentary. It's also worth noting when there's a new volume published in the NICNT series. Both come together in this new volume on 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Dr. Fee also serves as general editor for the NICNT.

Health Insurance Shift

Here's research suggesting that if President Obama's health-care overhaul succeeds, 48.4% of Americans with private health coverage will have to drop their coverage in favor of the government plan (since their employers providing the insurance will opt for the less-expensive option).

Your Jesus Is Too Safe

Jared Wilson is the pastor of Element (Nashville, TN), a blogger, and the author of the new book, Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel Good Savior (Kregel, 2009).

Michael Spencer interviews Jared here about the book and about gospel preaching.

Questions for Your Missions Budget

Kevin DeYoung suggests four good questions that churches should ask when thinking through their missions budget.

See also these helpful documents from 9Marks: