Friday, February 28, 2014

"Theology of the Reformers" by Timothy George: A Review

Theology of the Reformers Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George.

The Great Reformation changed the world and changed history and at its heart, the Reformation was a theological movement.  Rooted in deep theological convictions, Protestants took their stand against the Roman Catholic Church.  Being that it is theological, it is important to understand Protestant theology through the lens of the movement’s primary leaders.  Professor and historian Timothy George has written a book detailing the theology of four of the Protestant Reformation’s leaders: Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and Menno Simons. 

The book is broken down into seven chapters centered on the four chapters of each leaders theology.  George begins by looking at pre-Reformation theology and spirituality.  One must understand that the theology of the Reformation did not happen in a vacuum.  Luther was seeking salvation and found it in justification by faith alone not by accident, but out of his frustration with Reformation soteriology.  George lays out the various approaches to theology and the Church.  Some granted the Pope and his court full authority, others made a separation between the Universal Church and the Roman Church, while others were beginning to fan the flame of Reformation (like John Wyclif and John Huss).  Furthermore, George lays out the new theological and academic approaches rising on the eve of the Reformation especially the contrast between scholasticism and humanism.  George gives the reader some detail into these two schools of thought and how they affected the Reformation and Reformation thought.

From there, George begins his venture into the theology of each of the Reformation’s four leaders.  He begins with Martin Luther who began his Reformation in Germany and predates the other three Reformers (and influenced each of them).  Throughout the chapter, the author weaves in biographical information on the reformer, but focuses most of the biographical information at the beginning.  However, the purpose of the biography is to illustrate Luther’s cry for reformation.  Luther craved grace from God and did not find it in Catholic soteriology.  It was in the context of a monastery that he discovered (or really re-discovered) the true gospel of sola fida.

George sees the heart of Luther’s theology in justification by faith alone and predestination, but as he shows, these two are really connected.  Predestination, and Luther’s “bondage of the will,” is rooted in his understanding of man’s depravity.  Such a desperate state of man demands an affirmation of sola fida.  George then goes on to show how the rediscovery of the gospel forced Luther to reexamine the doctrine of the Church and his understanding of Scripture.  Take Scripture for example.  Luther was not a big fan of James primarily because it failed to proclaim the cross like Paul.  To study Luther and to understand his theology is to enter into the depths of one man’s soul to find a God of both justice and love.  Luther found such grace in the message of the cross - the just shall live by their faith.

From there, George discusses Ulrich Zwingli.  Zwingli’s story is different than Luther’s though he was influenced by the German monk.  Zwingli’s Reformation was very much connected with politics and Zwingli rooted in his understanding of the Kingdom being external and affecting our whole lives even beyond religion and faith.  But George spends much of his time discussing the heated debate between Zwingli and Luther over the issue of the Lord’s Supper.  Luther held to consubstantiation while Zwingli saw the language of Jesus (“this is My body,” etc.) as symbolic.  The two were never reconciled even though efforts were made.  But regardless, George shows how Zwingli’s influence impacted his Reformation and the Reformation as a whole.

The third theologian was John Calvin who many believe was the greatest theologian of the period.  Although Luther and Zwingli wrote much on theology, neither of them wrote an entire, detailed systematic theology that shaped the thinking and theology of the Reformation.  George’s treatment of Calvin’s theology is different than the previous two.  The chapter on Calvin covers various, and the most important, aspects of his theology – Christology, harmitology, prayer, providence, etc. 

The final theologian is the Anabaptist leader Minno Simons.  In order to introduce the theology of Simons, one must understand the Radical Reformation and the birth of the Anabaptists.  George takes time laying out the historical and theological narrative of the re-baptizers.  Simons was very much part of this tradition.  Like with Zwingli, George discusses Simons’ understanding and theology of the ordinances and how they differ and like Luther, George discusses Simon’s understanding and theology of Scripture and how they differ with the Reformers.  Simon’s is perhaps the most neglected of these four theologians, but he is certainly no theological light weight.

Like many of his other books, George sums up the discussion by applying the historical and theological record to today’s relevance.  George sums up Reformation theology in a number of particular areas that connect the four theologians.  These areas include Scripture, worship, ethics, ecclesiology, and eschatology.  Overall, George offers his reader and introductory, yet thorough, theology of the Reformation through the lens of its four leading theologians.

George has presented a book that is a must read for all Reformed believers and those intrigued by the Reformation.  All Protestants can trace their theological lineage to the 16th Century theological movement that rediscovered the gospel.  Timothy George has once again revealed why he is among the most respected and widely read theological historians.  This book is one of his best.

What I found interesting about this book is the interesting interaction and the compare and contrast between these four men.  The disagreement between Luther and Zwingli is case in point.  Though the two agreed with one another in most everything (especially regarding the gospel) the two found themselves as almost enemies throwing accusations and angry slurs at one another over this issue.

But through the fog of name calling and theological accusations, George provides the reader with what was really at stake and what the debate was really about.  In his chapter on Zwingli, George shows how this was an issue over Christology, politics, and exegesis.  George’s survey and historical telling of the debate provides the reader with what the issue was really about preventing us from simply ignoring the debate as an unnecessary reality of history.  Many Reformed Protestants love both Zwingli and Luther but try to overlook this part of their theology and their vehement disagreement.  George not only prevents us from ignoring the debate, but draws us into why it was so central to the Reformers and why they took it so seriously.

Furthermore, this approach of laying out the individual theology of the Reformers likes this grants us insight into the debate over Baptism in which they very much disagreed.  George rightly connects the crux of this debate on the question of faith.  It is fascinating how Luther suggests that in some mysterious way the infant does have faith, while Zwingli began to develop the language of covenant and connected circumcision with baptism in ways that Luther hadn’t, while Simons rejected infant baptism outright and understood faith as a prerequisite for baptism.  It is fascinating how these men, though in agreement over most major theological issues, could be so different as something so fundamental as baptism.

In addition to baptism, one gains insight into how the Reformers understand Scripture.  Saying sola scriptura is one thing, but how each of them understood that is different.  Though Luther firmly believed in Scripture alone, he clearly had problems with books like James in which he though contradicted Paul.  Similarly, Simon’s believed that the apocryphal books should be included in the biblical canon.  So though the Reformers affirmed Scripture alone, each of them seemed to have a unique understanding of what that meant.  However, in spite of such a diversity, George is clear that the Reformers, though slightly differing on the subject, were firm in their convictions that Scripture only is inspired and should shape the church and that that fundamental understanding guided each man to his theological conclusions especially the gospel.

Another advantage of this approach to the study of the Reformation and its theology is that its draws the reader to understand and focus on the center of what made the Reformation so powerful and unstoppable. These were not just doctrines that academics debated, but real live issues that affected their culture and changed the world.  Theology is practical and George succeeds in showing where each man’s biography and theology impacted the world around them.

The one thing I found a little frustrating about the book was at times I found George to be distracted by issues that prevented him from developing the center on one’s theology more thoroughly and fully.  The Lord’s Supper controversy is an example of this.  Certainly the Lord’s Supper and how each Reformer understood and applied it, was extremely important to the Reformers (the debate between Luther and Zwingli is case in point), at times the length and careful treatment of the subject almost trumped the more central issues.  George used the largest ink on the Lord’s Supper in his chapter on Zwingli and as a result the reader was drawn away from Zwingli’s theology into an area of debate with another Reformer.  Though this critique is not very common in the book, it is real.  I thought that Zwingli, as a result, was somewhat short changed as a result of the in-depth look into the debate.  Though the discussion was interesting and well written, such distractions were unfortunate.

Overall, however, George has written a fine book on a fascinating book.  George is successful in laying out the theology of the Reformers and how it shaped, not only their own lives and nation but also the world.  George provides a book that is intriguing, accurate, and scholarly yet readable for most Christians.  The Reformation is central in the history of the Church as through it the gospel was rediscovered.  And it is that message of the gospel that changed the world and it is men like these four men that God used to call on men to repent as He did in the days of the apostles.

All Around the Web - February 28, 2014

Huffington Post - This Is What Happens When Hip-Hop Lets The Saints In
A who's who of conservative celebrities gathered in November in Asheville, N.C., to honor and praise Billy Graham, the famed Christian evangelist, on the occasion of his 95th birthday. Inside the hotel ballroom, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin rubbed elbows with Rupert Murdoch, Glenn Beck, Greta van Susteren and Rick Warren.

"Billy Graham, we need you around another 95 years," Palin said. "We need Billy Graham's message to be heard, I think, today more than ever."

At one of the head tables, right next to Kathie Lee Gifford, sat a 34-year-old rapper who looked out of place among the mostly older, white VIPs. Lecrae Moore had not been raised a Christian, and had not grown up listening to Graham preach. His childhood role models had been rappers like Tupac, and he had spent his teenage years running the streets.

But Lecrae -- who was featured in Graham’s recent “final sermon” video -- has also become an ambassador for Christendom. His delivery is just a bit different.

Russell Moore - Should a Christian Photographer Work at a Same-Sex Wedding Ceremony?
You're right that this situation is more complicated than whether to serve someone at a restaurant (yes) regardless of that person's sexual or marital situation. I would also argue that the situation is very different from photographing some other event, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the clients' sexual or marital context. The fact that this is a wedding means there's a different moral question for you.

You are also right that your role as a wedding photographer is different from an officiating minister, a member of the wedding party, or even an invited guest. All of those people are part of the wedding itself, the assembled witnesses who affirm the lawfulness of the union and pledge to hold the couple accountable for their vows.

If you were, say, a photojournalist for a news service, there to report on the first same-sex marriage in your state, for instance, there would be no issue for your conscience. As a wedding photographer, though, you are in a third place between participant and neutral observer.

Justin Taylor - Calvin’s Ailments: Pastoral Productivity in the Midst of Pain

Justin Taylor5 Quotes that Luther Didn’t Actually Say
Here are a few quotes you’ll often hear attributed to Luther, though none of them are exact actual quotes, and a few of them are things that Luther would have disagreed with!
Alleged Luther quote #1:

If I believed the world were to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.
Luther didn’t say this. For a thorough discussion, see Martin Schloemann, Luthers Apfelbäumchen: Ein Kapitel deutscher Mentalitätsgeschichte seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 246-251 (via Frederick Gaiser, HT: Garrett Lee). Schloemann argues that it’s not only something Luther didn’t say but wouldn’t say, unless it was put into a Christocentric eschatology emphasizing “creaturely service of neighbor and world.”

Bible GatewayHow To Listen to the Bible on Bible Gateway
There’s something special about hearing the Bible read aloud. Every Sunday, millions of Christians around the world listen to Scripture read out loud from a church pulpit. Many people read the Bible aloud at the dinner table or recite their daily devotional readings.

Did you know you can listen to the Bible at Bible Gateway?

Bible Gateway has a large library of audio Bibles, and while they’re extremely popular, we like to mention them here periodically for those of you who might be unaware that you can listen to the Bible for free at Bible Gateway. If you didn’t know you could listen to audio Bibles online, here’s how.

There are several ways to listen to a Bible passage. One way is to download our mobile app for iOS/Android, which has an audio Bible feature. But we’ll cover listening to audio Bibles in the app in a future post; today, we’ll look at the ways you can listen to audio Bibles on the Bible Gateway website using your web browser.

10 facts about Twitter

Thursday, February 27, 2014

All Around the Web - February 27, 2014

Denny Burk - Are conscientious Christians the new Jim Crow?
I have no interest in defending the legislation that recently failed in Kansas. I think that good people can disagree on whether that particular law would have been a good idea. Nevertheless, Powers’ argument is disappointing no matter how you feel about the Kansas proposal.

First, Powers promotes the canard that somehow Christian business owners do not “want to sell its products to a gay couple.” That is bearing false witness. None of the Christian business owners cited in recent reports are refusing to do business with gay couples. They are happy to serve gay people, and they have served gay people. In fact, I think one of the business owners even had a gay employee. Doing business with gay people is not the issue. They simply do not want to be forced into participating in a gay wedding. That’s the issue, but that is totally lost in Powers’ article. And it totally undermines the analogy to Jim Crow.

Second, Powers invokes the “what would Jesus do” standard, and she offers her self-evident conclusion that Jesus would have contributed his part to a gay wedding (“he’d bake the cake”). But for many Christians, this conclusion is a far cry from the Jesus that is revealed in the Bible. Yes, Jesus often ate with “tax-gatherers and sinners” (Luke 15:1). No, Jesus never did anything that was promoting or participating in their sin! Jesus was a carpenter. What if he were still around today to offer his services? Indeed, what would he do if a gay couple asked him to design a platform upon which to conduct their gay wedding ceremony? Powers would have us believe that Jesus would employ himself as the set designer for sinful unions. I am guessing I’m not the only one who finds this portrait of Jesus to be inconsistent with scripture (e.g., Matt. 5:13-19; Rom. 1:32).

Charles Krauthammer - The myth of ‘settled science’
I repeat: I’m not a global warming believer. I’m not a global warming denier. I’ve long believed that it cannot be good for humanity to be spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I also believe that those scientists who pretend to know exactly what this will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years are white-coated propagandists.

“The debate is settled,” asserted propagandist in chief Barack Obama in his latest State of the Union address. “Climate change is a fact.” Really? There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge. Take a non-climate example. It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less) or be subject to termination.

Now we learn from a massive randomized study — 90,000 women followed for 25 years — that mammograms may have no effect on breast cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo or surgery.

So much for settledness. And climate is less well understood than breast cancer. If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today’s climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken?

Trevin Wax - Pagan Propitiation vs Biblical Propitiation
“Propitiation” is one of those five-syllable theological words that tend to break up polite parties. But it’s also a word that’s well worth the work of understanding, because whether we know it or not, all of us are walking around working on some sort of plan for propitiation. The big question is whether our plan is a Christian one.

The Ancient Meaning

Here’s what I mean: Propitiation is an ancient word, which we as Christians have in common with other world religions. To propitiate a god is to offer a sacrifice that turns aside the god’s wrath. Anyone who believes in a god knows that they need some way to stay on the friendly side of that god. So they give gifts to the god, or serve in the temple, or give alms. And if the god is angry with them, they pay a price, or make a sacrifice, or find some way to soothe the god’s anger: they propitiate him.

This description may conjure up images of animistic tribes cravenly placating their volcano gods by tossing in victims; and in fact some modern Christians have argued that, whatever the Old Testament may have been about, the New Testament can’t possibly have anything to do with propitiation. But the fact is, the idea that God’s wrath must be turned aside by a sacrifice is very much a New Testament idea. It’s just that, as John Stott has argued, “the Christian doctrine of propitiation is totally different from pagan or animistic superstitions.”

Thom Rainer - Seven Occasions When You Should Not Hire More Church Staff
  1. When it takes ministry away from the laity. There has been a tendency in a number of churches to bring on staff as ministry hired hands. The laity thus pay the staff to do the work of ministry. That approach is both unwise and unbiblical. A new staff minister should demonstrate that he or she will actually increase the number of people who will do the work of ministry.
  2. When you add staff according to the way you’ve always done it. Church practices are changing rapidly. Communities are changing. Technology is advancing. When a church is considering adding new staff, the leadership should see it as an opportunity to reevaluate what the needs in both the church and the community are.
  3. When it’s not a smart financial decision. There will be times when a church should take a step of financial faith to add a staff person. But that doesn’t mean that such a decision is done without prayer, study, and good stewardship. Make certain you are comfortable that the resources for the new staff will be available.
  4. When a particular group in the church pushes its own agenda. It is not unusual for groups in a church to want their “personal minister” to take care of their needs. Make certain that the addition is best for the entire church, not just a select few who might have influence or money.
  5. When a friend needs a job. Don’t hear me wrongly on this point. I am not saying that a church should never bring on a friend of the pastor, staff, or some church member. I am saying that an addition should not take place only on the basis of that friendship.
  6. When it’s just to copy another church. I’ve seen it many times. A church, usually a large church, has a new and creative way of adding and naming new staff positions. It won’t be long before I see churches all across the country making identical decisions. Certainly it’s okay to emulate a church if it’s best for your church. But don’t add staff just because another church is doing it.
  7. When you are unwilling to deal with a current ineffective staff member. Here is the scenario. A current staff member is obviously ineffective in his or her current role. So that person is moved to another role, sometimes a role that does not add true value. Then a person is hired to fill the role once held by the ineffective staff member. This workaround results in a bloated personnel budget and, usually, poorer morale among the effective staff. Be willing to make the difficult decisions before adding new staff.

Truth Revolt - Abortions Outnumber Live Births for Blacks in NYC
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a report showing that, among blacks, abortions are outnumbering live births. 

The report labels abortions as "Induced Terminations" and shows that in 2012 there were 31,328 abortions among the "non-Hispanic black" ethnicity group. For that same group, live births totaled 24,758.

The second highest number of abortions were for Hispanic at 22,917. Hispanic live births reached 36,642.

Both groups far outnumbered abortions for whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders who aborted 9,704 and 4,493 children respectively.

50 Interesting Facts About The 50 State Capitals

9 Reasons Why I Preach Expositionally

In recent years there has been a resurgence of expository preaching and I believe this is a good thing. Expositional preaching is not limited to the preaching, verse-by-verse, through biblical books, but includes any sermon whereby the text, and the gospel it proclaims, stands at its center. Expository sermons, by definition, exposit the biblical text and connects it to the cross. The exposition of books is one great way of doing it, but it is not the only way.

With that said, I want to offer a few reasons why I preach expositionally and why more preachers should as well.

1. The message of the text is greater than the opinions of the preacher.

Typical among topical pastors is soap box preaching. Every preacher has an opinion and many of them based on the biblical text. Yet often such preaching becomes the ramblings of a man with an office rather than the exposition of the inspired Word of God. Frustrating for me is when a preacher begins his sermon by reading a text and never returning to it. It gives the impression that that text is missing something.

Expositional preaching is one clear way the preacher and the congregation he leads confesses that the gospel found only in the words of Scripture is of greater importance than anything else. We have nothing to say unless it is driven by a sound hermeneutic. Most bad preaching can be traced to a preacher, and a congregation that lets him, who thinks he has something to say. Most good preaching can be traced to a preacher who believes God has already said everything that needs to say.

2. Expository preaching allows the preacher to declare "Thus says the Lord"

Related to the first point, the goal of expository preaching is to do the dirty work of exegesis so that the preacher can boldly declare before his flock, "thus says the Lord." That is the essence of preaching and prophetic ministry. "This is not my word," the preacher says, "but God's."

3. All Scripture is God-breathed, even the difficult texts.

I have grown to love difficult texts. I once had a member of our church come up to me following our service and say, "I can't wait to see what you do with the next passage." I replied, "me either." I knew what was coming next and I knew I had a lot of studying to do the next week. I have found that expository preaching requires the preacher to appreciate and apply the doctrine of the sufficiency and inspiration of Scripture. Some texts are fairly easy to preach. Others are not. Enough experience preaching expositionally and I believe the preacher and the congregation will have a greater appreciation for all of Scripture, not just the popular parts.

4. Expository preaching is Christological.

"The Bible," Martin Luther once said, "is the cradle wherein Christ is laid." His point is that all of Scripture has as its subject Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God. Topical preaching typically begins with the self because it is driven by the preacher. Expository preaching, when done right, begins with Christ because that is where the biblical text directs our attention.

5. Expository preaching takes a load off of the preachers back

I am not sure I could handle not knowing what I am going to preach in advance week-by-week. The stress and difficulty of finding a text or a topic for the next sermon can be extremely difficult and frustrating. When I was an associate minister I would be asked to preach with very little time to prepare. Not knowing what to preach took as much time as preparing to preach. Expository preaching eliminates all of that. Both the preacher and his congregation know what is coming next and can prepare accordingly. This takes a major load off the preachers back and allows him to invest more of his time to the text rather than the search for a text.

6.  Expository preaching makes preaching more difficult 

Although the previous point remains valid, anyone that has preach expositionally for any period of time will tell you there are weeks where the preacher may want to abandon ship. Every biblical book has its difficult texts and exposition forces the preacher to handle all of them. If you in Exodus, you must preach why Ziporah circumcised her son. If your in Matthew, you have to deal with church discipline.

7. Expository preaching allows the preacher to preach the "whole counsel of God."

As has been suggested above, expository preaching forces the preacher to preach all of Scripture, not just the parts he prefers. In Acts 20:27, Paul told the Ephesians that he did not shrink from proclaiming to them the whole counsel of God. That should be the goal of every preacher. Expository preaching is the best method for doing so.

8. Expository preaching tells the whole story of Scripture.

The Bible is not a collection of stories, but is a story. Topical preaching often fails in showing this. When the preacher goes verse-by-verse he must handle the texts immediate context and biblical context. One cannot properly exegete the New Testament without understanding and proclaiming the story of the Old Testament.

9. Expository preaching teaches the congregation how to read and interpret the Bible.

No doubt our congregations are malnourished. Most do not read their Bibles nor know how to. Poor preaching and pastoral leadership is to blame here for much of it. When preachers read just one verse and never exegete it our congregation falls in line. Many might tweet verses that sound inspirational but are utterly ignorant of its context or what it actually means. Expository preaching is one means of remedying this.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hump Day Humor: Your a Cheap Date!

From Lewis' Pen: What Temptation Means

From Mere Christianity:
Now I must turn to Faith in the second or higher sense: and this is the most difficult thing I have tackled yet. I want to approach it by going back to the subject of Humility. You may remember I said that the first step toward humility was to realise that one is proud. I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist. Very well, then. The main thing we learn from a serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues is that we fail. If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out. If there was any idea of a sort of bargain—any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in our debt so that it was up to Him, in mere justice, to perform His side—that has to be wiped out.

From Lewis' Pen Series:
From Lewis' Pen: Where is God?
From Lewis' Pen: The Seven Deadly Sins
From Lewis' Pen: Aim at Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Lay Down Your Arms
From Lewis' Pen: Satan Speaks
From Lewis' Pen: Screwtape on Marriage
From Lewis' Pen: As the Ruin Falls
From Lewis' Pen: Church Factions
From Lewis' Pen: Church Factions
From Lewis' Pen: Mere Adjectives
From Lewis' Pen: We Are Far Too Easily Pleased
From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus
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:
Out of the Silent Planet" Audio Book
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 
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism

All Around the Web - February 26, 2014

HT: Everyday Theology

Albert Mohler - The Christian Leader in the Digital Age
The Digital Age is upon us. In the span of less than three decades, we have redefined the way humans communicate, entertain, inform, research, create, and connect – and what we know now is only a hint of what is to come. But the greatest concern of the church is not a technological imperative, but a Gospel imperative.

The digital world did not exist a generation ago, and now it is a fundamental fact of life. The world spawned by the personal computer, the Internet, social media, and the smart phone now constitutes the greatest arena of public discussion and debate the world has ever known.

Leaders who talk about the real world as opposed to the digital world are making a mistake, a category error. While we are right to prioritize real face-to-face conversations and to find comfort and grounding in stable authorities like the printed book, the digital world is itself a real world, just real in a different way.

Real communication is happening in the digital world, on the Web, and on the smart phone in your pocket. Real information is being shared and globally disseminated, faster than ever before. Real conversations are taking place, through voice, words and images, connecting people and conversations all over the world.

If the leader is not leading in the digital world, his leadership is, by definition, limited to those who also ignore or neglect that world, and that population is shrinking every minute. The clock is ticking.

Justin Taylor - An Interview with David Wells

The Cripplegate - Are Tongues Real Languages?
If we consider the history of the church, we find that the gift of languages was universally considered to be the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not learned.

In the early church, the writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Hegemonius, Gregory of Nazianzen, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Augustine, Leo the Great, and others all support this claim. Here are just a few examples:
Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–390): “They spoke with foreign tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learned it. And the sign is to them that believe not, and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, ‘“With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me” says the Lord’” (The Oration on Pentecost, 15–17).
John Chrysostom (c. 344–407), commenting on 1 Cor. 14:1–2: “And as in the time of building the tower [of Babel] the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages” (Homilies on First Corinthians, 35.1).
Augustine (354–430): “In the earliest times, ‘the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues,” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These were signs adapted to the time. For it was necessary for there to be that sign of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth” (Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10).
In reaching this conclusion, the church fathers equated the tongues of Acts 2 with the tongues of 1 Corinthians 12–14, insisting that in both places the gift consisted of the ability to speak genuine languages.
The Reformers, similarly, regarded the gift of tongues as the supernatural ability to speak real foreign languages. By way of example, here is John Calvin’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 12:10:
John Calvin: “There was a difference between the knowledge of tongues, and the interpretation of them, for those who were endowed with the former [i.e. the gift of tongues] were, in many cases, not acquainted with the language of the nation with which they had to deal. The interpreters rendered foreign tongues into the native language. These endowments they did not at that time acquire by labor or study, but were put in possession of them by a wonderful revelation of the Spirit.” (Commentary on 1 Cor. 12:10)
To the names of the Reformers, we could add the names of the Puritans, and the names of theologians like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Charles Spurgeon, and B.B. Warfield among many others.

Liberate - Does Baptism Wash Away Sin Itself?

Phillip Bethancourt - Dad is Fat 
Have you ever wondered what parents in your church are thinking as they experience the joys and trials of raising young kids? In the fast and funny book Dad Is Fat, well-known comedian Jim Gaffigan offers that insight as he recounts the ups and downs and the ins and outs of raising five kids in a two-bedroom, walk-up apartment in New York City.

Gaffigan provides a humorous (and at times humiliating) inside look at married life with young children. And this account could even help evangelical churches love and serve this culturally endangered species. Though Gaffigan is a nominal Catholic, and the work contains some vulgarity in both word choice and subject matter, Dad Is Fat offers a window into the common American family experience that can help evangelicals evaluate their ministry to families.

Several themes shaping Gaffigan’s portrayal of American families can frame an appraisal of evangelical family ministry. First, Dad Is Fat highlights the cultural oddity of kids. Whether it’s through the comments of people about how many children he has (“Don’t you know what’s causing that?”) or the reactions of onlookers as they hustle their horde of kids onto a packed subway train, Gaffigan repeatedly reveals how contemporary culture sees children as strange. As birth rates drop, many see children as a luxury item to enjoy only if they don’t disrupt personal pursuits. As churches minister to families, then, we must find ways to highlight the countercultural glory of children.

Signs and Symbols by Beautiful Eulogy

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Ecclesiology 6

Last week we discussed some of the major problems with the ecumenical movement. At the end of his chapter on the unity of the church, Dr. Millard Erickson offers a number of "guidelines for actions."
1. We need to realize that the church of Jesus Christ is one church. All who are related to the one Savior and Lord are indeed part of the same spiritual body (1 Cor. 12:13).

2. The spiritual unity of believers should show itself or come to expression in goodwill, fellowship, and love for one another. We should employ every legitimate way of affirming that we are one with Christians who are organically separated from us.

3. Christians of all types should work together whenever possible. If no essential point of doctrine or practice is compromised, they should join forces. In other words, it is important that there be occasions on which Christians lay aside their differences. Cooperation among Christians gives a common witness to the world and is faithful stewardship of the resources entrusted to us.

4. It is important to delineate carefully the doctrinal basis and objectives of fellowship. The original goal of the 1910 World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh has been, by Visser's Hooft's own admission, largely supplanted by other concerns. Yet the execution of Christ's commission is till the major task of the church. Consequently, it is difficult to justify committing time, personnel, and finances to activities that do not contribute, at least indirectly, to evangelization. In other words, a return to the original goals of the ecumenical movement should be our aim, for not every one who says, 'Lord, Lord," is really one of his.

5. We must guard against any union that would sap the spiritual vitality of the church. It is conservative churches that are growing; evangelicals have the momentum. Alliances that would dilute their vitality must be very carefully evaluated and probably avoided.

6. Christians should not be too quick to leave their parent denomination. As long as there is a reasonable possibility of redeeming the denomination, the conservative witness should not be abandoned. For that matter, if conservatives withdraw from ecumenical circles, their position will not be represented therein.

7. It is important that Christians make sure that divisions and separation are due to genuine convictions and principles, and not to personality conflicts or individual ambition. it is a discredit to the cause of Christ when Christians who hold the same beliefs and goals separate.

8. Where Christians do disagree, whether as individuals, churches, or denominations, it is essential that they do so in a spirit of love, seeking to correct others and persuade them of the truth, rather than refute them or expose them to ridicule. Truth will ever be linked to love. (1051-1052)

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

All Around the Web - February 25, 2014

Hershael York - Five Reasons to Plant Your Life in a Church and Stay There
1)  The longer you live in community with people, the more credibility you will have—unless you simply don’t earn and have credibility. Either way, they will know it.
2)  Only when you stay for a significant portion of time can you know for certain what the church has been taught and intentionally plan your preaching, alternating between testaments, genres, law and gospel, and homiletical lens so they learn a strategic grasp of the Scriptures and it’s redemptive-historical framework.
3)  Nearly every pastor will face a crisis of leadership in the church at a 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 9-year mark (give or take a year at each point).
4)  The temptation to preach old sermons at a new church setting is too great for some to resist, but rehashing old, familiar stuff will lead to spiritual dryness.
5) Moving is tough on families.

Radical - How Far is Too Far?

The Gospel Coalition - The Joy of Theology Reading Groups

Why Theology Reading Groups?

Though God has revealed himself in his Word and preserved that Word for thousands of years, so many of his people don't know it well. They haven't thought deeply about the wonder of the Trinity, the significance of the resurrection, or the promised return of their Savior. It's not that they don't believe it. It's that they largely defer to their elders and pastors to know it, believe it, and tell them it's true. Theology reading groups allow the believer to wrestle with verses and the truths contained therein. It helps audit the bad theology that has crept into all of our minds based on experiences or tired truisms that turn out to not be true (such as "God helps those who help themselves").
I wanted to see the people entrusted to my care know their God better and live lives reflecting joyful devotion to him. I wanted that for myself too. I also wanted to provide an environment where Christians would enjoy discussing truth and working out its implications together. In other words, the goal of a theology reading group is to get people reading, thinking, talking, and living in light of God's revelation.

Here's how you can begin.

1. Select the book. I chose Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I wanted a book that directed the reader to application with each truth. I also know Grudem has smaller works (Bible Doctrine or Christian Beliefs), but I wanted something that would offer a real challenge for all of us.

2. Plan the schedule. The book you choose will greatly shape the length of time it takes to cover the work. We scheduled the reading, including the appendix, to cover the span of 13 months. Perhaps in your context smaller time commitments would serve you better.

3. Set the expectations. Christians often attend Sunday school classes and other additional gatherings where their attendance alone is considered a win. I encourage you to raise the bar. In our case the expectations were twofold: (1) you always read before you come, and (2) you're always there unless you're out of town or in the hospital. Sounds strict, I know. But you'd be surprised how much people will step up when challenged.

4. Share the discussion. I launched the group with the clear expectation that I'd facilitate the discussion for two months. Then I'd assign all of us to a rotation of leadership each week for the remainder of the time. I'd also give feedback after each meeting. This approach keeps you from being the "answer man" and identifies potential future small group leaders, whether for theology reading groups or other areas of ministry.

5. Encourage regularly. You're asking people not only to read a book (something 28 percent of Americans didn't do last year), but also to read a significant book. It can appear daunting at first. I encourage them like crazy for the first three months. I find once they cross the three-month mark, however, their own excitement for what they're learning rubs off on each other and helps carry them to the end.

6. Pray for fruit. Some people will think theology reading groups make people proud in their knowledge and apathetic in their life—"They should read less and evangelize more." I disagree. Pray earnestly that people would be amazed at the God who created them, saved them, and promises to return for them. In simplest definitions, I define evangelism as taking your worship public. Pray that as people are amazed at God's love for them in Christ they'd grow contagious as Christians, whether they are talking to other believers or not.

The Gospel Coalition - The Danger of Forgetting How to Read the Bible
Once again, I wonder: How could a man who studied and knew Scripture and taught it faithfully to others, brazenly violate its most basic principle of love and self-control? Even as I ask the question, I know I'm liable to self-destructive sin too. Everyone needs Paul's admonition: "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). Self-aware leaders know that we can violate principles we thought we knew.

But how can we repent quickly and keep from hardening ourselves to God's voice as he calls us back to himself?

Leaders stumble for many reasons, and while I could argue that a zealous seminarian has little in common with a vain or depressed middle-aged leader, there is at least one common thread: My peers and my students can both stop reading the Bible as we should.

Russell Moore - Questions & Ethics: Is Russia really a “pro-family values” nation?
Russell Moore discusses his view of Russian government propaganda, abortions and the change in Russian adoption laws.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Left Unreviewed - Part 3

I read a lot. As such I cannot review everything I read and not everything is deserving to be read. Both time and priority prevents me from commenting on everything I invest in. However, I do want to pass along a number of books worth highlighting. The following is not my endorsement of these books, but I believe they are important nonetheless. I include only the title, author, and publisher's description of each book. No comment from me.

John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor by W. Robert Godfrey
An introduction to the essential life and thought of one of history's most influential theologians, who considered himself first and foremost a pilgrim and a pastor.

July 10, 2009, marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. As controversial as he was influential, his critics have named a judgmental and joyless attitude after him, while his admirers celebrate him as the principal theologian of Reformed Christianity. Yet his impact is unmistakable-a primary developer of western civilization whose life and work have deeply affected five centuries' worth of pastors, scholars, and individuals.

What will surprise the readers of this book, however, is that Calvin did not live primarily to influence future generations. Rather, he considered himself first and foremost a spiritual pilgrim and a minister of the Word in the church of his day. It was from that "essential" Calvin that all his influence flowed.
Here is an introduction to Calvin's life and thought and essence: a man who moved people not through the power of personality but through passion for the Word, a man who sought to serve the gospel in the most humble of roles.

The Visionary Christian: 131 Readings by CS Lewis; edited by Chad Walsh
VISIONARY CHRISTIAN Culled from some of C.S. Lewis's finest fiction and poetry, this collection of writings explores the eternal truths of Christianity in the accessible language of allegory, fairy tales, dream visions, and science fiction. From his children's classic The Chronicles of Narnia to the wisdom of Screwtape on marriage, democracy, and heaven, Lewis's literary imagination and extraordinary insight into the universe and God remain vivid and relevant for all times. The Visionary Christian is testimony to a true man of faith who continues to provide comfort and understanding to Christians around the world.

Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander by Phil Robertson
This no-holds-barred autobiography chronicles the remarkable life of Phil Robertson, the original Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty® star, from early childhood through the founding of a family business.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien 
A great modern classic and the prelude to THE LORD OF THE RINGS
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.

“A glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible . . . All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take The Hobbit to their hearts.” – New York Times Book Review

Letters to Timothy: A Handbook for Pastors by John Bisagno
After nearly fifty years in ministry, Letters to Timothy is John Bisagno's retirement gift to younger and older pastors alike. A voluminous and comprehensive work, it is full of useful advice to ministers covering the “things that might have fallen through the cracks in seminary.” This book is a practical manual covering all aspects of pastoral life for clergy in churches of all sizes, locations, and denominations.

Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations by Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer
How are we doing? The church, that is. And how are we doing it? Congregations have long measured success by "bodies, budget, and buildings"--a certain record of attendance, the offering plate, and square footage. But the scorecard can't stop there. When it does, the deeper emphasis on accountability, discipleship, and spiritual maturity is lost. Ignoring those details, we see fewer lives transformed, Christian influence wane, and churches thin out--a situation that is all too familiar across North America today.

It is time to take heart and rework the scorecard.

According to Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer, the authors of Transformational Church, "Too often we've highlighted the negative realities of the declining American church but missed the opportunity to magnify the God of hope and transformation."

Based on the most comprehensive study of its kind, including a survey of more than 7,000 churches and hundreds of on-site interviews with pastors, Transformational Church takes us to the thriving congregations where truly changing lives is the norm.

Stetzer and Rainer clearly confirm the importance of disciple making for all through active biblical engagement and prayerful dependence on God alongside of ever-increasing, intentional participation in mission and ministry activities. As the church engages these issues, the world will see the change:

* More people following Christ
* More believers growing in their faith
* More churches making an impact on their communities

The transformation starts now.

For more:
Left Unreviewed - Part 1
Left Unreviewed - Part 2
Left Unreviewed - Part 3

"What is the Gospel?" by Greg Gilbert: A Review

What Is the Gospel? (9marks)In a perfect world Christians would know what it means to be a Christian.  But we do not live in a perfect world.  I once heard Dr. John MacArthur discuss the issue of heresy saying that at no other time does the Church have the resources and the technology to reach every person in the world with the gospel.  So what is Satan's ploy?  Confuse the message of the gospel.  As a result, we have few missionaries and many confused Christians fighting over what the gospel is.

Recently I sat down to read Greg Gilbert's book, What Is the Gospel? (9marks).  Unfortunately this book is needed.  There have been many other books on the subject of course.  I would recommend books like The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? and similar titles, but such books are deep, detailed, and oftentimes a response to controversy.  Gilbert's book, however, offers the reader a shorter and simpler understanding of the gospel beginning with God (His holiness, demand for justice, wrath, love, and mercy) and then moving on to discuss anthropology, Christ and the cross, repentance, the Kingdom, etc.

Gilbert accomplishes what he sets out to do.  He explains the gospel to his reader.  Gilbert uses the Bible and sound theology to lay out the gospel.  The importance of this cannot be overlooked.  If we do not understand the gospel, then we cannot do missions or call ourselves Christians.  It is important for Christians to understand this message.

One of the things I really liked about this book was Gilbert's emphasis on issues like repentance (it means more than just saying, "oops, my bad!"), the kingdom of God (being both here and not yet), and a proper understanding of Christ (both fully divine and fully human).  It is too easy for Reformed authors like Gilbert to just emphasize substitutionary atonement and leave other necessary aspects of the gospel out like the resurrection and repentance.  Gilbert doesn't fall for that trap.  He offers a fuller, complete understanding of the gospel.

One final comment on Gilbert theology.  Substitutionary atonement, in Gilbert's assessment, is the gospel's understanding of the cross.  To reject substitutionary atonement is to reject the gospel.  But this does not mean that substitutionary atonement is the only application of the cross.  Gilbert identifies three other applications:  Christus Exemplar, Christus Victor, and reconciliation.  Though these three are legitimate applications (see my series on Christus Exemplar), they are not the gospel.  Propitiation is the gospel (in fact we will have a wrong understanding of these other applications without a right understanding of penal substitution).

For those who want to understand the gospel better, then I highly recommend this book.  It is a short book and is a quick read.  Gilbert isn't deep, difficult, or hard to read.  Also, anyone wanting to know the gospel or confused on what the gospel is, I highly recommend this book.  Once again Mark Dever and those at 9Marks Ministries have published another good book that Christians everywhere should read.

For more:
Reviews - Raised With Christ
Reviews - Scandalous
Reviews - In My Place Condemned He Stood

All Around the Web - February 24, 2014

Thom Rainer - Twelve Reasons Pastors’ Wives Are Lonely
Here are the twelve most common reasons pastors’ wives have offered to explain their loneliness.
  1. Superficial relationships in the church. “No one ever sees me as my own person. I am the pastor’s wife. No one tries to get close to me.”
  2. A busy pastor/husband. “My husband is on 24/7 call all the time. I just get leftovers.”
  3. Mean church members. “I guess I’ve isolated myself to some extent. I just don’t want to keep hearing those awful things they say about my husband and me.”
  4. A conduit for complaints about her husband. “Last week someone told me their family was leaving the church because my husband is a lousy preacher. Do they have any idea how that makes me feel?”
  5. Broken confidences. “I’ve given up trying to get close to church members. I thought I had a close friend until I found out she was sharing everything I told her. That killed me emotionally.”
  6. Frequent moves. “I’m scared to get close to anybody now. Every time I develop a close relationship, we move again.”
  7. Viewed as a second-class person. “One church member introduced me to a guest visiting the church by saying I’m ‘just the pastor’s wife.’”
  8. Lack of support groups. “I’ve heard that some wives have support groups that really help. I’ve never been able to find one.”
  9. No date nights. “I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had a date night together.”
  10. Complaints about children. “I really don’t try to get close to church members anymore. I’m tired of so many of them telling me how perfect our children should be.”
  11. Husband does not give the wife priority. “Frankly, the church is like a mistress to my wife. He has abandoned me for someone else.”
  12. Financial struggles. “My husband makes so much less money than most of the members. I just can’t afford to do the things they do socially.”

The Austin Institute - The Economics of Sex

Tim Challies - The False Teachers: Arius
Arius is said to have been Libyan by descent, and he was probably born around 256 AD. We know little about his early days except that he studied under Lucian, the presbyter of Antioch. He later returned to Alexandria and became a presbyter there where he quickly became both prestigious and popular.

Arius’ difficulties began in 318 when he clashed with Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria. Alexander believed in the co-eternality of the Word of God while Arius taught that the Word was created by God. Because Alexander understood this as a dangerous threat to the church, he publicly condemned Arius’ teaching and removed him from all church posts. However, Arius refused to accept Alexander’s judgments and appealed to the people of the city and to other eastern bishops. In this way the dispute spread and became a severe threat to church unity. Seeing this danger, and wishing to avert division within his empire, Constantine called the first Christian council: the Council of Nicaea.

At the council, Arius’ teaching was formally condemned. The debate lasted from May 20 until June 19, at which point the council produced an initial form of the Nicaean Creed which explicitly affirmed the “begotten” position and condemned Arianism. All but two of the attendees voted in its favor and those two, along with Arius, were excommunicated and banished to Illyria. All of Arius’ writings were ordered confiscated and burned.

After being in exile for a decade, Arius sought to be restored to the church, and appealed directly to the emperor. Constantine became convinced of Arius’ return to orthodoxy and soon ordered Alexander, the patriarch of Constantinople, to reinstate him. Alexander was wary of letting Arius back into the church and, according to a letter by Athanasius, prayed that God would somehow prevent it. Very soon after this prayer, before Arius could be reinstated, he died.

In ancient times, Arius’ teachings presented the foremost threat to orthodox Christianity
Nathan Busenitz summarizes Arius’ impact in this way: “In ancient times, Arius’ teachings presented the foremost threat to orthodox Christianity—which is why historians like Alexander Mackay have labeled him ‘the greatest heretic of antiquity’.” His false teaching, coming as it did in the church’s infancy, truly did represent a grave threat.

9Marks - Nine Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader
1. Your worship leader should meet the biblical qualifications of an elder.
2. Your worship leader should be musically capable.
3. Your worship leader should be invisible (almost).
4. Your worship leader should be committed to gospel-anchored liturgy.
5. Your worship leader should work in close tandem with the preacher.
6. Your worship leader should be committed to the expression of a vast range of emotions.
7. Your worship leader should be committed to the explicit worship of Jesus.
8. Your worship leader should encourage and enlist congregational participation.
9. Your worship leader should be chiefly concerned with honoring God and upholding Jesus and the gospel, more than reaching the next generation or any other pre-determined demographic.

LifeSiteNews - Former Planned Parenthood worker: ‘It was a money-grubbing, evil, very sad, sad place to work’
A former Planned Parenthood worker has opened up to a diocesan newspaper in a gripping tell-all interview, saying she was shocked at the horrors she witnessed during the two years she worked in Indiana’s largest abortion facility.

Marianne Anderson is a nurse who assisted Planned Parenthood abortionists by partially sedating women who paid extra for that luxury.  She told The Criterion newspaper that she saw many women pressured into abortions they did not want, including minor girls.

“One young girl came in with her mom,” Anderson told the paper.  “She was about 16. Her mom had made the appointment. That’s not supposed to be how it works. It’s supposed to only be the patient who makes the appointment. I checked her in, and she thought she was there for a prenatal checkup. The mom was pushing it. She blindsided her own daughter.”

Another time, said Anderson, “This guy brought in a Korean girl. I had no doubt in my mind this girl was a sex slave. This guy would not leave her side. They could barely communicate. He wanted to make all the arrangements.  During the ultrasound, she told one of the nurses that there were lots of girls in the house, and that the man hits them. She never came back for the abortion. I always wondered what happened to her. One of my co-workers said, ‘You’re better off to just let it go.’”

"The South will never rise again because they don't have the energy."