Thursday, October 31, 2013

Martin Luther: The Reluctant Revolutionary

Luther on the Estate of Marriage

The following quote comes from the pen of the great Protestant reformer Martin Luther. It is from his a sermon entitled "The Estate of Marriage" preached in 1522 and is as timely today as it was then. It should be noted that Luther himself would not be married, and married reluctantly, for another three years to a runaway nun named Katie von Bora. This is, in essence, Luther at his best.
Now the ones who recognise the estate of marriage are those who firmly believe that God himself instituted it, brought husband and wife together, and ordained that they should beget children and care for them. For this they have God's word, Genesis 1 [:28], and they can be certain that he does not lie. They can therefore also be certain that the estate of marriage and everything that goes with it in the way of conduct, works, and suffering is pleasing to God. Now tell me, how can the heart have greater good, joy, and delight than in God, when one is certain that his estate, conduct, and work is pleasing to God?

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful. carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.”

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers. or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”

A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works. This is also how to comfort and encourage a woman in the pangs of childbirth, not by repeating St Margaret legends and other silly old wives' tales but by speaking thus, “Dear Grete, remember that you are a woman, and that this work of God in you is pleasing to him. Trust joyfully in his will, and let him have his way with you. Work with all your might to bring forth the child. Should it mean your death, then depart happily, for you will die in a noble deed and in subservience to God. If you were not a woman you should now wish to be one for the sake of this very work alone, that you might thus gloriously suffer and even die in the performance of God's work and will. For here you have the word of God, who so created you and implanted within you this extremity.” Tell me, is not this indeed (as Solomon says [Prov. 18:22]) “to obtain favour from the Lord,” even in the midst of such extremity?

Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil's fools.

For more:
Martin Luther on the Secular/Sacred Dichotomy
"I fly Unto Christ": Luther on Imputation For When the Devil Accuses
We Preach Christ: Martin Luther, the Apostle Paul, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ "The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther" by Steven Lawson: A Review
Luther on the Doctrine of Verbal Inspiration
Luther on the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy
The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 1
The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 2
The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 3
The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 4
The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 5
The Real Divide:  Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 6 
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
The 95 Theses, 490 Years Later
For Reformation Day:  An Insightful Documentary  
The Theology of the Reformers  
The Unquenchable Flame  
Christianity's Dangerous Idea 
"Five Leading Reformers"  

All Around the Web - Reformation Day/Halloweed Edition

Albert Mohler - Christianity and the Dark Side—What about Halloween?
Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would “witness a gigantic conflict of spirits.” His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

Well, Halloween is a big deal in the marketplace. Halloween is surpassed only by Christmas in terms of economic activity. Reporting in 2007, David J. Skal estimated: “Precise figures are difficult to determine, but the annual economic impact of Halloween is now somewhere between 4 billion and 6 billion dollars depending on the number and kinds of industries one includes in the calculations.” As of 2012, that total exceeded $8 billion.

Justin Taylor - Michael Haykin on Luther and the 95 Theses

Gene Veith - "We are beggars; this is true"
The Reformation can be summed up in six words, according to our pastor in his Reformation Day sermon last Sunday.  Not the solas, not some version of “Here I stand,” but the words written down on a scrap of paper that Luther had in his pocket on his deathbed:  “We are beggars; this is true.”

Russell Moore - Halloween and Evangelical Identities
The words “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” have very little meaning. For some, a “fundamentalist” is anyone who believes in miracles. For others, it necessitates a King James only Bible or a pre-trib Rapture or even a certain sort of public posture. At an American Baptist Churches General Assembly, I’d be considered a hardcore fundamentalist. At a KJV-only independent Baptist Bible camp, I probably wouldn’t be counted.

And “evangelical” includes, for some people, everyone from J. I. Packer to T. D. Jakes to Brian McLaren. That can get confusing, especially to those on the outside of our circles.

A few years ago, a friend of mine, the inimitable John Mark Reynolds, attempted to explain, simply, some of the differences for our friends on the outside of conservative Protestantism. Picking up on the old definition, “An evangelical is a fundamentalist who likes Billy Graham,” Reynolds said, “An evangelical is a fundamentalist who watches The Office.”

The Cripple Gate - 5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel
1. Justification
2. The Pope as the Head of the Church
3. Mass vs. Communion
4. Mary
5. Purgatory

Ligonier - What Is Reformation Day All About?
An heir of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther is one of the most significant figures God has raised up since that time. This law student turned Augustinian monk became the center of a great controversy after his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God.

This last issue is probably Luther’s most significant contribution to Christian theology. Though preached clearly in the New Testament and found in the writings of many of the church fathers, the medieval bishops and priests had largely forgotten the truth that our own good works can by no means merit God’s favor. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Eph. 2:8-10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

Martin Luther’s rediscovery of this truth led to a whole host of other church and societal reforms and much of what we take for granted in the West would have likely been impossible had he never graced the scene. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God in the hands of the people, and today Scripture is available in the vernacular language of many countries, enabling lay people to study it with profit. He reformed the Latin mass by putting the liturgy in the common tongue so that non-scholars could hear and understand the preached word of God and worship the Lord with clarity. Luther lifted the unbiblical ban on marriage for the clergy and by his own teaching and example radically transformed the institution itself. He recaptured the biblical view of the priesthood of all believers, showing all people that their work had purpose and dignity because in it they can serve their Creator.

Smithsonian Magazine - The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board
The real history of the Ouija board is just about as mysterious as how the “game” works. Ouija historian Robert Murch has been researching the story of the board since 1992; when he started his research, he says, no one really knew anything about its origins, which struck him as odd: “For such an iconic thing that strikes both fear and wonder in American culture, how can no one know where it came from?”

The Ouija board, in fact, came straight out of the American 19th century obsession with spiritualism, the belief that the dead are able to communicate with the living. Spiritualism, which had been around for years in Europe, hit America hard in 1848 with the sudden prominence of the Fox sisters of upstate New York; the Foxes claimed to receive messages from spirits who rapped on the walls in answer to questions, recreating this feat of channeling in parlors across the state. Aided by the stories about the celebrity sisters and other spiritualists in the new national press, spiritualism reached millions of adherents at its peak in the second half of the 19th century. Spiritualism worked for Americans: it was compatible with Christian dogma, meaning one could hold a séance on Saturday night and have no qualms about going to church the next day. It was an acceptable, even wholesome activity to contact spirits at séances, through automatic writing, or table turning parties, in which participants would place their hands on a small table and watch it begin shake and rattle, while they all declared that they weren’t moving it. The movement also offered solace in an era when the average lifespan was less than 50: Women died in childbirth; children died of disease; and men died in war. Even Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the venerable president, conducted séances in the White House after their 11-year-old son died of a fever in 1862; during the Civil War, spiritualism gained adherents in droves, people desperate to connect with loved ones who’d gone away to war and never come home.

“Communicating with the dead was common, it wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird,” explains Murch. “It’s hard to imagine that now, we look at that and think, ‘Why are you opening the gates of hell?’”

32 superstition origens

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Watch HHS Secretary Sebelius' Testimony on Obamacare Live

Live streaming video by Ustream

From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus

From Screwtape Letters:
You will find that a good many Christian-political writers think that Christianity began going wrong, and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage. Now this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a "historical Jesus" to be found by clearing away later "accretions and perversions" and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a "historical Jesus" on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward a new "historical Jesus" on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold. In the first place they all tend to direct men's devotion to something which does not exist, for each "historical Jesus" is unhistorical. The documents say what they say and cannot be added to; each new "historical Jesus" therefore has to be got out of them by suppression at one point and exaggeration at another, and by that sort of guessing (brilliant is the adjective we teach humans to apply to it) on which no one would risk ten shillings in ordinary life, but which is enough to produce a crop of new Napoleons, new Shakespeares, and new Swifts, in every publisher's autumn list. In the second place, all such constructions place the importance of their Historical Jesus in some peculiar theory He is supposed to have promulgated. He has to be a "great man" in the modern sense of the word - one standing at the terminus of some centrifugal and unbalanced line of thought - a crank vending a panacea. We thus distract men's minds from Who He is, and what He did. We first make Him solely a teacher, and then conceal the very substantial agreement between His teachings and those of all other great moral teachers. For humans must not be allowed to notice that all great moralists are sent by the Enemy not to inform men but to remind them, to restate the primeval moral platitudes against our continual concealment of them. We make the Sophists: He raises up a Socrates to answer them. Our third aim is, by these constructions, to destroy the devotional life. For the real presence of the Enemy, otherwise experienced by men in prayer and sacrament, we substitute a merely probable, remote, shadowy, and uncouth figure, one who spoke a strange language and died a long time ago. Such an object cannot in fact be worshipped. Instead of the Creator adored by its creature, you soon have merely a leader acclaimed by a partisan, and finally a distinguished character approved by a judicious historian. And fourthly, besides being unhistorical in the Jesus it depicts, religion of this kind is false to history in another sense.

No nation, and few individuals, are really brought into the Enemy's camp by the historical study of the biography of Jesus, simply as biography. Indeed materials for a full biography have been withheld from men. The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had - and sin, not against some new fancy-dress law produced as a novelty by a "great man", but against the old, platitudinous, universal moral law which they had been taught by their nurses and mothers. The "Gospels" come later and were written not to make Christians but to edify Christians already made.

From Lewis' Pen Series
From Lewis' Pen: Aslan is on the Move
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: An Exaggerated Feminine Type
From Lewis' Pen: Theology as a Map
From Lewis' Pen: A Lot of Wrong Ideas
From Lewis' Pen: Children Know Better Than Grownups

For more:
Lewis on Practical Theology
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics 
Theology As a Map: Lewis, Practical Theology, and the Trinity
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 1
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 2
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 3 
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 1
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 2
He is Not a Tame Lion: Aslan, Jesus, and the Limits of Postmodern Inclusivism  
To Be Undragoned: Aslan, Christ, and the Gift of Regeneration 
Lewis on Practical Theology  
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics      
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
"The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism" Full Documentary
Beyond Narnia:  A Great Documentary 
"Surprised by Joy" by Lewis
"Jack:  A Life of CS Lewis"  
"The Great Divorce" by Lewis
"Finding God in the Land of Narnia
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism

Hump Day Humor: Reality or Ultrareality

HT: The Blaze

All Around the Web - October 30, 2013

HT: The Blaze

The Wall Street Journal - Evangelical Leader Preaches Pullback From Politics, Culture Wars
For years, as the principal public voice for the Southern Baptist Convention, the country's biggest evangelical group, Richard Land warned of a "radical homosexual agenda" and pushed for a federal ban on same-sex marriage.

His successor, Russell Moore,sounded a different note when the Supreme Court in June struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. "Love your gay and lesbian neighbors," Mr. Moore wrote in a flier, "How Should Your Church Respond," sent to the convention's estimated 45,000 churches. "They aren't part of an evil conspiracy." Marriage, he added, was a bond between a man and a woman, but shouldn't be seen as a "'culture war' political issue."

Since the birth of the Christian-conservative political movement in the late 1970s, no evangelical group has delivered more punch in America's culture wars than the Southern Baptist Convention and its nearly 16 million members. The country's largest Protestant denomination pushed to end abortion, open up prayer in public schools and boycott Walt Disney Co. over films deemed antifamily. Its ranks included many of the biggest names on the Christian right, including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

. . .

"We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it," Mr. Moore said in an interview in his Washington office, a short walk from Congress. "Christianity thrives when it is clearest about what distinguishes it from the outside culture."

Russell Moore - Should We Pull Back From Politics?
Don’t call it a pullback; we’ve been here for years.

The recent profile in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a generational change in terms of the way evangelicals approach cultural and political engagement: toward a gospel-centered approach that doesn’t back down on issues of importance, but sees our ultimate mission as one that applies the blood of Christ to the questions of the day.

The headline, as is often the case with headlines, is awfully misleading. I am not calling, at all, for a “pullback” from politics or engagement.

If anything, I’m calling for more engagement in the worlds of politics, culture, art, labor and so on. It’s just that this is a different sort of engagement. It’s not a matter of pullback, but of priority.

Koinonia - My Advice to Students — Bird Says "No Matter How Much You Love Your Theology, It'll Never Love Your Back"

Tim Challies - 18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing With My Kids
1. Praying with them for them.
2. Reading books to them.
3. Kissing them goodnight.
4. Taking them to church.
5. Taking them out for breakfast.
6. Letting my friends be their friends.
7. Doing family devotions.
8. Disciplining them.
9. Doing special things.
10. Asking their forgiveness.
11. Forgiving them.
12. Loving their mother.
13. Identifying God’s Grace.
14. Expressing affection.
15. Planning little surprises.
16. Giving them my full attention.
17. Pointing to the gospel.
18. Telling them “I love you.”

JD Greer - Four Reasons the Gospels Could Not Be Legends
1. The timing of the writing is too early for gospels to be a legend.
2. The content is far too counterproductive to be a legend.
3. The literary form of gospels is too detailed to be legend.
4. The message was itself too costly to be a legend.

"The Mona Lisa of healthcare."

I post the following video because it is MSNBC doing this story, not Fox News.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Evangelical Theology" by Michael Bird Out Today

There have been a number of great systematic theologies out in recent years and of all of them that I have anticipated the most, Michael Bird's Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction, is the one I have anticipated the most. The video below, I believe, explains why.

I think the goal of theology – evangelical theology – is that we would be gospelized. You know, when you magnetize a piece of medal, the whole piece of medal becomes magnetic. When you tenderize a piece of meat, the whole piece of meat becomes tender. When you sterilize a surgical tool, the whole tool becomes sterile. When you are gospelized, you begin to reflect the realities of the gospel in your life, in your ministry, in your prayers, and your preaching. That, I submit, is the goal of evangelical theology. For us properly to become a gospel people.
I received a pre-release copy from Zondervan late last week and am responsible for reviewing his treatment of Theology Proper. My review will be published next week. However, I will say having glanced at much of the book, though the book has some weaknesses, its greatest strength is what Dr. Bird articulates in the video above. No loci is introduced without making a clear and concise connection to the gospel.

The book is out today and if your looking for a good introduction to evangelical systematic theology, Michael Bird has just published one you might want to consider getting.

Helpful links:

* Return back to the blog often as I will be interacting with a number of portions of Bird's book in the coming weeks mostly from his take on Theology Proper.

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1

There are some books too important to simply write a short (or even lengthy) book review and then move on only to return to survey the highlights and comments one made in the margins. Recently while researching a number of topics regarding the Gospels, one book repeatedly came up: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Dr. Richard Bauckham. After reading the first three chapters, it became clear to me why I came across it so many times and why a simple book review would not do. So just as I am doing with Dr. Millard Erickson's systematic theology textbook Christian Theology, I want to blog through the book. In this series, however, I want to, for the most part, limit it chapter-by-chapter.

The first chapter, as one might expect, establishes Bauckham's thesis. He begins by surveying the lay of the land of the past two hundred years particularly when it comes to the so-called Quest for the Historic Jesus. I have lost count as to how many quests have been made since the first. Almost immediately, Bauckham reveals the problem with such quests: the quests, born in modern liberalism, tries to severe the Jesus of history from the Jesus of faith.

Immediately we confront our first problem. To the Gospels (and the rest New Testament), such a effort is superfluous. To them, the Jesus of history - and the Gospels claim to be historic documents - is the Jesus of faith. If Jesus was historically and physically raised from the dead, Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15, then He is the Jesus of faith.

Though this point ought to be obvious, Bauckham shows that the said quests view the Gospels, essentially, as too theological and not historic enough, thus though they ought to be taken seriously, they ought not be taken too seriously for the historian. He then argues:
Yet everything changes when historians suspect that these texts may be hiding the real Jesus from us, as best because they give us the historical Jesus filtered through the spectacles of early Christian faith, at worst because much of what they tell us is a Jesus constructed by the needs and interests of various groups in the early church. Then that phrase "the historical Jesus' comes to mean, not the Jesus of the Gospels, but the allegedly real Jesus behind the Gospels, the Jesus the historian must reconstruct by subjecting the Gospels to ruthlessly objective (so it is claimed) scrutiny. It is essential to realize that this is not just treating the Gospels as historical evidence. It is the application of a methodological skepticism that must test every aspect of the evidence so that what the historian establishes is not believable because the Gospels tell us it is, but because the historian has independently verified it. (2-3)
He then makes this insightful observation.
The result of such work is inevitably not one historical Jesus, but many. Among current historical Jesuses on offer there is the Jesus of Dominic Crossan, the Jesus of Marcus Borg, the Jesus of N. T. (Tom) Wright, the Jesus of Dale Allison, the Jesus of Gerd Theissen, and many others. The historian's judgment of the historical value of the Gospels may be minimal as in some of these cases, or maximal, as in others, but in all cases the result is a Jesus reconstructed by the historian, a Jesus attained by the attempt to go back behind the Gospels and, in effect, to provide an alternative to the Gospels' constructions of Jesus. (3)
We could add two more recent names to this list no more credible (in fact less credible) than the names he offers: Dan Brown (of The Da vinci Code fame) and even more recently Reza Aslan whose interview with Fox News went viral gaining him unnecessary and undeserved attention come immediately to mind.

This leads to an important point when it comes to the work of history: interpretation. Bauckham writes, All history - meaning all that historians write, all historiography - is an inextricable combination of fact and interpretation, the empirically observable and the intuited or constructed meaning (3). This is not to deny that history cannot be done or that all history is inaccurate. Instead, we must acknowledge the difference between facts (Jesus was crucified) from interpretation (He was/was not the Christ).*

So what must the historian do? This gets to Bauckham's main thesis. He suggests that we need to recover the sense in which the Gospels are testimony (5) Why? Because an irreducible feature of testimony as a form of human utterance is that it asks to be trusted (5). Furthermore, the Gospel texts are much closer to the form in which the eyewitnesses told their stories or passed on their traditions than is commonly envisaged in current scholarship (6). Thus Bauckham wants us to take the Gospels seriously and he shows in this book why we should. After all, The Gospels were written within living memory of the events they recount (7) by eyewitnesses in some cases (as in John). In fact, Bauckham argues, the Gospel traditions did not, for the most part, circulate anonymously but in the name of the eyewitnesses to whom they were due (8).

If such a thesis can be proven true, and I believe Bauckham makes a convincing argument in the book, then any so-called quest for a historical Jesus must begin, and ultimately end, with the Gospels. This is not to deny the value of non-canonical texts (earlier he called such an approach docetic citing NT Wright), but to recognize the historic value of the Gospels.

I seriously doubt any of those searching for the "real" Jesus and especially those that promote such quests in the media will be interested in Bauckham's argument. The media, anymore, is in the realm of entertainment, not historic accuracy (just look at the direction of the History Channel in recent years) and the sensational (read "unhistoric") claims of many "scholars" with their new (real "same old") reinterpretation of Jesus gets the most press.

* I should briefly point to a point I made earlier. For the Evangelists, the historic fact that Jesus was raised from the dead is proof of their interpretation that He must be the Christ. See Thomas' confession in John 20.

For more:
"The Historical Jesus": A Lecture by Ben Witherington
"The Story of Jesus" Documentary
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus  
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
Ravi Zacharias' 12 Arguments For the Historicity of the Resurrection
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
"Raised With Christ" by Adrian Warnock: A Review
NT Wright: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster: A Review
"The Case for Easter"
"The Case For the Real Jesus" by Lee Strobel
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
The Quest For the Historical Satan: Introduction - Part 1
The Quest For the Historical Satan: A Subtitle Please - Part 2
The Quest For the Historical Satan: Yes Jesus Does Save - Part 3   
The Quest For the Historical Satan: Because the Bible Says So - Part 4
The Quest For the Historical Satan: We Know Better & a Conclusion - Part 5
The Quest For the Historical Satan: The Entire Series  

All Around the Web - October 29, 2013

CBN - Duck Dynasty's Alan Opens Up about Tough Childhood | So he has a beard now?

Kevin DeYoung - Theological Primer: The Simplicity of God
It is perfectly appropriate to highlight the love of God when Scripture makes it such a central theme. But the declaration “God is love” (1 John 4:8) does not carry more metaphysical weight than “God is light” (1 John 1:5 ), “God is spirit” (John 4:24 ), “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29 ), or, for that matter, Scriptural statements about God’s goodness, kindness, or omniscience. “If God is composed of parts,” Bavinck explains, “like a body, or composed of genus (class) and differentiae (attributes of different species belonging to the same genus), substance and accidents, matter and form, potentiality and actuality, essence and existence, then his perfection, oneness, independence, and immutability cannot be maintained (Reformed Dogmatics 2:176).

In other words, the simplicity of God not only prevents us from ranking certain attributes higher than others, it allows God to have “a distinct and infinite life of his own within himself” (177). He is not an abstract Absolute Idea who happens to have love, wisdom, and holiness, as if we first conceive of a being called God and then relate qualities to him. Rather, God in his very essence—within himself and by himself—is love, wisdom, and holiness. God is whatever he has. He is not the composite of his attributes, some in greater and some in lesser amounts. God is a simple being without parts or pieces. His attributes do not stick to him; he is what they are.

John Stonestreet - Road to Designer Babies

Earlier this month on BreakPoint, Eric Metaxas told us about a molecular biologist at Kyoto University who used the skin cells of a mouse to create “primordial germ cells.” He matured these cells into eggs, fertilized them, and implanted them into a female mouse, which then gave birth to live young. In other words, he made it possible to create life by bypassing normal reproductive channels—and many infertile as well as homosexual couples began asking about whether the technique could enable them to have children, too.

Eric rightly told us that what ultimately sets us apart from the rodents in Hayashi’s laboratory is not our technology or power to cheat nature. It’s our ability to say ‘no’ to things we want to do, but shouldn’t do.”
. . .

Of course, when it comes to biotechnology, plans often change. What becomes thinkable then becomes possible, then becomes profitable, and then becomes available. As a culture we've already embraced the selective elimination of unborn children with undesirable traits. It's only a small step enabled by our scientific arrogance and narcissism to embrace the selective production of children with desirable traits.

But anything that turns children into products results in putting a price tag on the priceless, which always and only cheapens human value.

The New Yorker - The Devil You Know | Warning. There is an unfortunate picture at the link. I highlight this article not because I agree with it or think its great, but because a major New York City paper is reacting to the ongoing affection we have towards CS Lewis, especially his diabolical book on temptation.
Five years after publishing “The Screwtape Letters,” Lewis appeared on the cover of Time with a devil on his shoulder. The novel was already one of his most popular works. Despite decades of expounding the same themes in lectures, radio addresses, sermons, and theological treatises, Lewis (like Milton) was never livelier than when he wrote of demons. No matter how many other ways he tried to write of faith, we still like hearing from the Devil best.

For believers, the letters are theology in reverse, teaching the love of God through the wiles of the Devil, but for all readers, regardless of belief, the letters frame human experience as a familiar sequence of trials, from how you take your tea and what parties you attend to the sort of person you choose for a partner and the sort of politics you espouse. As Justice Scalia said when he invoked “The Screwtape Letters,” “That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.” The novel remains wildly popular because whether or not you agree with Lewis and Scalia that the Devil is real, the evils promoted by Screwtape—greed, gluttony, pride, envy, and violence—most certainly are.

Denny Burk - Albert Mohler’s address on religious liberty at BYU

Albert Mohler delivered an important address on religious liberty at Brigham Young University today. Mohler’s remarks are notable for a number of reasons. I suppose what struck me most, however, is how he speaks respectfully and candidly about the profound differences between Christians and Mormons even as he addresses our common predicament. He writes
I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.

I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together. I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences. Your faith has held high the importance of marriage and family. Your theology requires such an affirmation, and it is lovingly lived out by millions of Mormon families. That is why I and my evangelical brothers and sisters are so glad to have Mormon neighbors. We stand together for the natural family, for natural marriage, for the integrity of sexuality within marriage alone, and for the hope of human flourishing

Thabiti Anyabwile - “Art: In the World but Not of It”: A Conversation on Christian Hip Hop and Culture | Christian rap fans may want to check this out. Here is the first part. Click the link for the rest.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"The Global War on Christians" by John Allen: A Review

This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: the global war on Christians. We're not talking about a metaphorical 'war on religion' in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it's okay to erect a nativity scene on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment, and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. However counter-intuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and sometimes oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence. (1)

That is the first paragraph from the introduction of one of the most frightful books I have read this year. It is frightful because it is tragically true. The greatest international story you have never heard is a global assault, through executions, persecutions, oppressions, and violence, against Christians. This onslaught is recorded in John L. Allen's book The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution.

The book is divided into three major sections. After providing a helpful introduction (worth the price of the book itself), the author moves to the first section which surveys this "global war" against Christians. The author takes the reader around the world and offers both examples of persecution and why such persecution is taking place. He discusses, among others, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. Space would not allow the treatment this section alone deserves. In the end, the author proves that this assault against Christians is no mere isolated incident. Based on all the evidence he provides, one can easily believe the reported claim from Open Doors that between 2000 and 2010, one hundred thousand Christians were killed per year. "That works out to eleven Christians killed every  hour, every day, throughout the past decade (4)."

The second section debunks a number of myths regarding Christian persecution. These myths are as follows:
  1. The Myth that Christians are at Risk Only Where They're a Minority
  2. The Myth That No One Saw it Coming
  3. The Myth that its all about Islam
  4. The Myth that its only Persecution if the Motives are Religious
  5. The Myth that Anti-Christian Persecution is a Political Issue.
Again, space and time will not allow a full treatment of these, but suffice it to say that the author tackles these adequately and provides ample evidence to support his claims. The two that stick out in my mind the most here regard the first and third myths. Regarding the first, it is striking to find nations identified as primarily Christian struggling mightily with persecution. Christianity is hated, regardless of their numbers. Period. The third myth hits the hardest against the American reader who has almost been trained to see Islam as the greatest threat against Christianity. As a result of the past 10+ years, Americans have focused on Islamic terrorism and have turned a blind eye to all of the other forms of violence against Christians from other institutions and movements.

The final section is a more practical section showing what the fallout and consequences of such persecution is. Finally, he offers some help on how Christians should respond. Perhaps his discussion on the "benefit" of persecution is worth highlighting here. Tertullian famously said that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." There is no doubt that the heavy persecution against Christians in the Roman Empire contributed mightily to the church's growth. Allen shows how that premise remains true today. He writes:
The sacrifice of missionaries during the Era of Exploration helped bring the Gospel to the New World. Today, it's no accident that zones where persecution of Chieftains is the most intense, such as China and parts of India, are also the places where Christianity is growing the most dramatically. (262)
Our response, from our comfortable chairs and lives, ought to be both to pray for the persecuted and to pray that God would not waste the opportunity. We pray that it ends, of course. Yet at the same time, we pray that God will be glorified even through such cross bearing, just like He was (and still is) in the cross of Christ.

The reader should note here that little is said regarding the persecutions of Christians in the secular West. Frankly reading a book like this makes you realize that though there is an increasing attack on religious liberty here, we remain safe. I am unaware of any church worried that gathering for weekly worship could result in their capture or murder.

One last note. Allen mentions throughout the book the unintended consequences of international policies of countries like the United States. He even highlights Syrian Christians who fear a post-Assad regime in Syria. Such regime changes have almost universally increased violence against Christians so much so that the author refers to the Arab Spring as the Christian Winter. This is not to suggest that standing up against known dictators who oppress and even murder there people military is wrong, only that more consideration, especially for the church, ought to be considered first.

Overall, a book like this is important for Christians. Right now as I type this and as you read it, Christians are being slaughtered. Their stories may go unreported, but God knows their names. Let us be humbled and at the same time learned from these dear saints. I have not given much for the gospel. May I be a bit more bold and courageous in my faith.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

All Around the Web - October 28, 2013

HT: 22 Words

Wall Street Journal - Skull Suggests Single Human Species Emerged From Africa, Not Several
The discovery of a 1.8 million-year-old skull has offered evidence that humanity's early ancestors emerged from Africa as a single adventurous species, not several species as believed, drastically simplifying the story of human evolution, an international research team said Thursday.

The skull—the most complete of its kind ever discovered—is "a really extraordinary find," said paleoanthropologist Marcia Ponce de Leon at the University of Zurich's Anthropological Institute and Museum, who helped analyze it. "It is in a perfectly preserved state."

Unearthed at Dmanisi in Georgia, an ancient route in the Caucasus for the first human migrations out of Africa, the skull was found at a spot where partial fossils of four other similar individuals and a scattering of crude stone tools had been found several years ago. They all date from a time when the area was a humid forest where saber-tooth tigers and giant cheetahs prowled. Preserved in siltstone beneath the hilltop ruins of a medieval fortress, the remains are the earliest known human fossils outside Africa, experts said.

David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum, who led the team, reported the discovery in Science. The primitive skull was first uncovered on Aug. 5, 2005—his birthday. "It was a very nice present," he said.

WORLD Magazine - Fleeting Images | An important story from WORLD.
While porn is wreaking havoc within the church, Christians have done little to address the issue. Among pastors who broach the subject, most only give it a passing reference, and virtually all direct comments to men—leaving out women and children, whose porn usage is on the rise. Daniel Weiss of Brushfire Foundation, an organization that promotes a positive view of sexuality, said, “We have a situation where the whole world is talking about it, but the church and young people are looking for answers outside the church.”

In the absence of the church and proactive parenting, many children look to the internet to understand sexuality. The result: The average addict is exposed to porn between the ages of 10 and 12, and teens use porn more than any other age group. Ninety percent of all boys and 60 percent of all girls will see pornography before they turn 18—including large amounts of deviant behavior, such as bestiality, group sex, and child porn.

Churches often expect one-time fixes through prayer or confession, but addicts get frustrated and start doubting God when they end up slipping back to pornography. “When we only talk about it from the moral view, we are doing listeners a terrible disservice,” said David Zailer, a former porn and drug addict who now heads Operation Integrity, a porn recovery organization that started in California: “They already know it’s wrong. The problem is people will stop but generally go back to it because they’re stuck in isolation."

Fox News - Southern Baptist groups fight contraception mandate |

WORLD Magazine - Why banks see pastors as bad credit risks | The rest is only available with subscription. But its an important read. The reasons he gives is, first and foremost, pastors are underpaid. "Secondly, most pastors are not taught about managing money." Thirdly, "faulty thinking." Churches should take note.

“Never loan money to poets, painters, and pastors.” the banker told me. He called it the “Three 'P' Rule.”

The first two on the list I understood, but the third I didn’t. Why would pastors be a credit risk for a bank loan? Here are a few mitigating answers. They don’t excuse irresponsible behavior; they explain it.

Christianity Today - The Craziest Statistic You'll Read About North American Missions
One out of five non-Christians in North America doesn't know any Christians.

That's not in the fake-Gandhi-quote "I would become a Christian, if I ever met one" sense.
It's new research in Gordon-Conwell's Center for the Study of Global Christianity's Christianity in its Global Context, 1970-2020. Missiologist Todd M. Johnson and his team found that 20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not "personally know" any Christians.

That's 13,447,000 people—about the population of metropolitan Los Angeles or Istanbul—most of them in the United States.

And that number includes atheists and agnostics, many of whom are former Christians themselves and more likely to have close Christian contacts. Without that group, 60 percent of the non-Christian population has no relationships with Christians.

Worldwide, the numbers are much worse: more than 8 in 10 non-Christians do not personally know a Christian. But Christians only make up a third of the world's population. The United States, meanwhile, ranks in the top 10 Christian countries, with 80 percent of the population identifying as Christians.

HT: Everyday Theology

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Coffee is Hot: The True Story of Stella Liebeck

The New York Times has put together the following mini documentary attempting to set the record straight regarding the Stella Liebeck vs. McDonald's court case where she was reportedly awarded $2.9 million after spilling hot coffee on herself. The documentary is sympathetic toward Lieback, but I am not sure they adequately prove their case.

HT: 22 Words

From Brad Stine:

All Around the Web - October 26, 2013

HT: Mashable

Phil Johnson - Should Type-R Charismatics Get a Free Pass? 
I have warm affection and heartfelt respect for most of the best-known Reformed charismatic leaders, including C.J. Mahaney, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms. [Let’s call them “Type-R charismatics.”] I’ve greatly benefited from major aspects of their ministries, and I regularly recommend resources from them that I have found helpful. I’ve corresponded with the world-famous Brit-blogger Adrian Warnock for at least fifteen years now and had breakfast with him on two occasions, and I like him very much. I’m sure we agree on far more things than we disagree about. And I’m also certain the matters we agree on—starting with the meaning of the cross—are a lot more important than the issues we disagree on, which are all secondary matters.

But that is not to suggest that the things we disagree on are nonissues.

Candor, and not a lack of charity, requires me to state this conviction plainly: The belief that extrabiblical revelation is normative does indeed “regularly and systematically breed willful gullibility, not discernment.” Even the more sane and sober [Type-R] charismatics are not totally exempt from the tendency.

Church Today - 4 Technology Options that Might Kill the Church Bulletin | Some of these, at first, seem unpractical for smaller churches, but the article makes a good case why this may not be the case. I encourage you to read the whole article.
Option 1: Scale Down Print Bulletin Length
Option 2: Create a Mobile-Friendly Church Website
Option 3: Utilize YourVersion Live
Option 4: Build a Church App

Ben Witherington - Why I'm Not a Calvinist | Though I disagree with Witherington here, I think its an argument worth hearing.

Josh Harris - The Power of the Gospel 
"The power of the gospel comes in two movements. It first says, 'I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe,' but then quickly follows with, 'I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope.'" - Tim Keller, Center Church

Michael Bird - Story of God Bible Commentary Video Intro | This looks interesting.

Kevin DeYoung - Monday Morning Humor

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Soteriology 1

I have now blogged through the first nine parts of Millard Erickson's systematic theology taking 89 blogs to cover that amount of space (almost 900 pages!). The tenth part regards the doctrine of salvation (soteriology). In his opening chapter, Erickson highlights a number of common and current concepts of salvation that are faulty. These include liberation theologies, existential theology, and Roman Catholic theology.

Most important for our context, I believe, is his discussion on liberation theology. Not to ignore the others, but liberation theology has a large following in the American melting pot (or are we really more like a tossed salad?). Erickson identities three main liberation theologies: feminists, black, and third world. All three of these have a strong presence. Erickson describes liberation theologies as follows:
One of the common emphases is that the basic problem of society is the oppression and exploitation of the powerless classes by the powerful. Salvation consists in deliverance (or liberation) from such oppression. The method of liberation will be appropriate to the nature of the specific situation. (906)
Liberation theology's analysis of humanity's predicament stems from two sources (906): economics and the Bible. In regards to economics, most liberation theologians are anti-capitalists. Many, I have found, are more anti-colonial. They see rich capitalists as parasites that prey on the working poor whom they pay little. Liberation, then, would find salvation in the economic liberation of the underclass and the poor oppressed by the rich and, often, whites.

The second source Erickson identifies as biblical for the Bible identifies with the oppressed (907). A key book of Scripture in this regards is Exodus as it illustrates God liberating an oppressed people, in this case poor slaves, from the hands of their oppressors: the rich Egyptians.

This directly affects their view of salvation. Erickson writes:
Salvation is not to be thought of primarily as individual life after death, the liberation theologians maintain. The Bible concerns itself much more with the kingdom of God. Even eternal life is usually placed in the context of a new social order and is regarded not so much as being plucked out of history as being a participant in its culmination. This understanding that the goal of history is the realization of justice has never been popular with the powerful. If, as the traditional formulation has it, history and eternity are two parallel . . . realms, our goal within history is to gain access to eternity. This can best be achieved by being meek and accepting. Since the chief concern of the human individual is for his or her soul to go to heaven, those who exploit the body may actually be rendering a service. . . . The salvation of all persons from oppression is the goal of God's work in history and must therefore be the task of those who believe in him, utilizing every means possible, including political effort and even revolution if necessary. (909)
This is where Erickson's discussion of liberation theologies end. The point in highlighting it here regards our current cultural and political context. Our own President sat in the church of a leading black liberation pastor in Chicago for two decades. One ought not separate the politics of Jeremiah Wright or Barack Obama from black liberation theology. In addition, feminist liberation theology arose in light of the rise of feminism in the culture. Feminism remains a strong force in American culture and the church continues to struggle with a lot of the issues raised by feminist readings of Scripture. Finally, the increase of immigrants from Hispanic communities has led to an increase in third world liberation theologies.

It seems to me that most Christians today have ignored liberation theology. I pray that we open our eyes going forward. Such theologies are inherently racist and/or sexist. There is no call for "neither male nor female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free" in such theologies. As a result, their hope for the Kingdom of God can never be realized.

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 4
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 5
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 6
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 7
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 8  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 9
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 10

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 3 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 16
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 17
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 18
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 19
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 20

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 16

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 6

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 9

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 10

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 7

"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 4 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Pneumatology 5 

"Christian Theology": Blogging Throughout Erickson - Soteriology 1

For more:
The Quest For the Historical Satan: Introduction - Part 1
The Quest For the Historical Satan: A Subtitle Please - Part 2
The Quest For the Historical Satan: Yes Jesus Does Save - Part 3   
The Quest For the Historical Satan: Because the Bible Says So - Part 4
The Quest For the Historical Satan: We Know Better & a Conclusion - Part 5
"Christ Our Mediator" by CJ Mahaney: A Review
The First Cause of Our Salvation: John Craig on God's Eternal Election
Does the Calvinistic Doctrine of God's Providence Make God Responsible For Sin?: Grudem's Answer
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 1
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 2
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 3
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 4
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 5   

All Around the Web - October 25, 2013

Slate - Is Polyamory a Choice?
Even a cursory examination of the facts will blur any claim of a black-and-white, binary distinction. Sexual orientation—how sexual desire and emotional connection are informed by the physical sex and gender performance of a potential partner—is informed by both nurture and nature. Otherwise you couldn’t possibly get the vast differences that are observed across cultures and eras. There’s good reason to believe that it’s partly genetic and perhaps partly developmental as well, but at the margin, there are surely some people for whom same-sex intimacy is a choice.

Meanwhile, there are some people whose innate personality traits make it very difficult to live happily in a monogamous relationship but relatively easy to be happy in an open one. Given the persecution heaped on gays in most of the world in recent generations, and the relative difficulty of “passing,” there are probably few people who would choose that identity unless they could not find happiness in straight life. So, sure, there may be a larger fraction of non-monogamists for whom their unconventional relationship is “optional” or “a choice.” But there are almost certainly also some “obligate” non-monogamists who would never feel emotionally satisfied and healthy in a monogamous relationship, any more than a gay man would be satisfied and healthy in a straight marriage.

For many polyamorists, the idea of a partner telling them that they can never, under any circumstance, embrace their feelings for a new partner feels terrifying and stifling. If you’re a monogamist, the idea of your partner wanting somebody else may make you ask, “Why am I not enough for you?” But if you are innately poly, the idea of a primary partner trying to cut you off from even the possibility of new love fills you with a parallel anguish: “I promise I’ll never spend so much time and energy elsewhere that it takes away anything I promised to you, any more than I’d let work or hobbies take me away from you. You’ll get everything from me that you always have. Why isn’t my adoration and devotion enough for you?”

I have little experience with non-monogamists who are purely interested in outside sex without wanting emotional involvement. I would guess that among swingers, there’s a larger fraction for whom it’s “optional”—essentially a hobby. However, I also expect that if you asked enough of them, you’d find some who would tell you that they can’t imagine feeling fulfilled any other way; that in order to be satisfied with their primary relationship, they need to experience others’ desire for their partner. Is that unusual, or even rare? Sure. But as long as everyone’s having fun and nobody’s getting hurt, why should that matter? The left-handed are also a small minority. That doesn’t mean we need to tag them as abnormal or aberrant. (Or sinister.)

Practical Shepherding - How should a pastor approach shepherding women in the church? | really good advice here for pastors.
1)  Old enough to be your grandmother rule.  I feel a freedom to visit an elderly widow in her home or the hospital alone if there is a sizable gap in age, verses going to visit a needy, flirtatious, recently divorced woman who is my age, which I NEVER do alone!  Be wise not to compromise this rule.  Remember, the rule is “grandmother” not “mother.”

2)  Copy the woman’s husband and your wife in emails.  I do think it is perfectly acceptable to communicate through email with women in the church.  Many email exchanges are solely administration issues (would you please put our women’s event in the bulletin type emails).  However, if you intend to send any email to a woman in the church, or receive one that involves anything of a personal nature, a pastor’s wife and the woman’s husband should always be copied in it.  It should be in the (cc) section so all corresponding can see the spouse’s involvement.  This may seem tedious, but a necessary accountability.

3)  Counsel with the woman’s husband or someone else present. I NEVER counsel a woman alone.  I know, that sounds extreme to some of you.  Even if there is glass between us and the church secretary, I will not meet alone with another woman.  I will, however, meet to counsel a woman with her husband present.  This has borne good fruit as the husband learns how to better care for his wife as he sits and listens.  Besides, many times the husband is part of the problem!  I’ve learned that in my own marriage.  If I am trying to care for a single lady, my wife is always my preferred choice of counseling companion, but I am open to allowing another leader or trusted friend of the single lady to be present.  I’m flexible, but will not counsel alone.

4)  Pass off long-term discipleship and counseling to other capable women.  Pastors need to deal with pastoral matters with everyone in the church.  However, long-term issues that will require years of care and discipleship should be eventually handed to mature, godly, and capable women in the church who would then report to the pastors on their progress, which still allows some kind of pastoral oversight and soul care.

John Stonestreet - Sexual Autonomy and Euthanasia
Forty-four-year-old Nathan Verhelst asked doctors to end his life last month and became part of the radical increase in euthanasia in Belgium. But he didn't do it on grounds of physical suffering. Nathan was actually born Nancy. After botched sex-change operations, Nancy decided it was too much psychologically. So doctors euthanized Nancy on the grounds of "unbearable psychological suffering." Belgium, with the most lax euthanasia laws in the world, has seen a 25% increase in "mercy killings" since last year. Now one in 30 deaths in Belgium is due to euthanasia. In a time when sexual preference isn't considered behavioral, but an immutable core of our identity, and human dignity lacks any stable grounding, Nancy Verhelst's story offers a dire warning where this leads. Our ideas about sexuality and bio-ethics aren't just academic or theoretical. They have consequences, for people, like Nancy.

Liberate - Pastor Tullian and Steve Brown on Pastoring

Daily Caller - Study: Oreos are more addictive than cocaine
A recent study released Wednesday by Connecticut College makes the bold claim that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine — at least, in lab rats.

Connecticut College psychology professor Joseph Schroeder told CBS News that rats who ate the high-fat cookies and rats who were exposed to cocaine or morphine had the same pleasure center of their brain stimulated.

“When we looked in the pleasure center of the brain, we found that the Oreo cookies activated the pleasure center more so than cocaine would activate the same center,” Schroeder said.

I can't wait for this.