Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Inerrancy, Adam, and the Gospel": A lecture by Richard B. Gaffin

HT: Justin Taylor

All Around the Web - May 31, 2014

Kevin Eckstrom - Ten Years Later, Why Gay Marriage Is Winning
 What a difference 10 years makes.

In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage. Six months later, with dire warnings about schoolchildren being forced to read “Heather Has Two Mommies” and threats of legalized polygamy, so-called “values voters” passed bans on same-sex marriage in 11 states and ushered George W. Bush to another four years in the White House.

Fast-forward to 2014, and the cultural and legal landscape could hardly be more different. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, and federal courts have struck down bans in 11 more states. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages after ditching a central portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act last year, and 44 percent of Americans now live in states that allow same-sex marriage.

After four same-sex couples filed suit Wednesday (May 21) challenging Montana’s ban on same-sex marriage, neighboring North Dakota is the only state that isn’t facing a challenge to its gay marriage ban — at least not yet.

So what changed? The issue is far from settled — and some conservatives insist that it never will be — but pro-gay groups clearly have the momentum. Here’s why:

Chuck Lawless - 10 Ways to Recognize Our Arrogance
Marker #1: You believe few people are as smart as you are.
Marker #2: Your first reaction to negative is to be defensive or to cast blame on others.
Marker #3: Titles matter to you.
Marker #4: You assume your organization cannot fail.
Marker #5: Not knowing “insider information” bothers you.
Marker #6: You are disconnected from your team members.
Marker #7: Spiritual disciplines are secondary, if not non-existent, in your life.
Marker #8: No one has permission to speak truth into your life.
Marker #9: Other people see you as arrogant.
Marker #10: This post bothers you . . . or doesn’t bother you.

Trevin Wax - Christianity’s 5 Most Important Theologians
1. Athanasius of Alexandria
2. Augustine of Hippo
3. Thomas Aquinas
4. John Calvin
5. Karl Barth

Christian Post - Author Debunks Myths About Divorce Rates, Including of Churchgoers
Many of the most demoralizing beliefs about marriage, especially when it comes to discouraging statistics commonly passed around, are just not true, says social researcher and best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn.

"A subconscious sense of futility about marriage is everywhere, as everything we hear says marriage is 'in trouble,'" states Feldhahn. "And while some of the bad news is accurate (for example, 41% of children are born out of wedlock), many of the most demoralizing beliefs just aren't true. For example, the notion that half of all marriages end in divorce or that the divorce rate is the same in the church… neither are anywhere close to true."

The Christian Post recently conducted an interview with Feldhahn, whose recently released, The Good News About Marriage, is the result of an 8-year investigative study that she believes reveals the truth about the state of marriage and divorce in today's culture and churches. Below is the interview.

Independent - Steve Jones at the Hay Festival: Falling birth rates in Europe and rising ones in Africa could spell decline in atheism
A combination of surging population growth in Christian Africa and population decline in Europe could signal the decline of atheism, a world-renowned geneticist has claimed.

According to Steve Jones, a professor in genetics at University College London’s Galton Laboratory, population decline in religiously sceptical European countries combined with rapid population growth in central Africa could see a resurgence of Christianity, leaving sceptics in a minority.

Speaking at the Hay Literary Festival he argued that religion grows rapidly during large population booms, particularly in poorer countries, while in Europe the Christian faith is stagnating as birth rates drop below the levels required to avoid population decline.

Friday, May 30, 2014

May 18, 2014 | Matthew 20:1-16: Marvel at Grace

I had the opportunity recently to preach at my home church and so preached again from Matthew 20:1-16. Here is that sermon.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he *said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ They *said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He *said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard *said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.”


Everything About This is Wrong: Albert Mohler on Revenge Porn

Although its an issue rarely raised by Christians, the prevalence of "revenge porn" has been a growing challenge for some time and several (usually) ex-girlfriends/wives have responded (rightly) with legal action. The church has remained mostly silent regarding the challenge of pornography and how the gospel breaks men (and women) free from its bondage. Therefore, I was pleased that Dr. R. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, raised the issue in a recent Briefing podcast. You can listen to it here. Below is the transcript of his discussion:
This relates to a story that appeared last week in USA Today. The headline is “States Move to Ban Revenge Porn.” Trevor Hughes reports that the big issue in revenge porn is this: states are beginning to crack down on the fact that people are embarrassing former romantic partners who had shared intimate photographs, and by putting them up on the web to embarrass, they are then causing harm to the one who originally took the compromising photograph. Now let’s be very clear. From a Christian perspective, everything about this is wrong. Everything. The pornography’s wrong. The sexually explicit image is wrong. The lack of a marital context is wrong. The posting of such material is wrong. All of it is wrong! The whole ambition of revenge is absolutely wrong. The Bible would condemn every single aspect of this, but it is one of the most revealing new stories to come around in a very long time because what you have here are courts trying to put an end to revenge porn, trying to make it a crime, trying to make it a criminalized offense so that people can be arrested for this, and if they misuse—notice the key word here is misuse—a sexually explicit photograph that was sent from one romantic partner to another, there can be criminal consequences. But I have ransacked news media to find any acknowledgment of the underlying moral issue here, and, thus far, I have found not one major American media source that acknowledges that if you don’t have this photograph taken in the first place, it can’t be used against you by someone who wishes either to bless you or to curse you. In other words, no one’s talking about the individual responsibility of not participating in a pornographic act in the first place. So, again, this is very revealing. From a Christian worldview perspective, it reveals the insanity of a human creature so confused that we will try to re-create a morality on the other side of an immorality. We will create an immoral image and then we will try to come up with moral consequences for misusing an immoral image. And you wonder what kind of sinful creature could come up with something so devious and insane, well the Christian worldview answers that too. Where you look? The first place is in the mirror.
Pastors and churches need to be aware that they, right now, have those addicted to porn in their congregations. Furthermore, there are those, likely right now, who have been victimized personally by our pornified culture. That is why conversations and discussions like this are important and pastors and other church leaders must be better prepared to serve those suffering in our church.

For two great resources on breaking free from pornography, I highly recommend Heath Lambert's book Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (read my review here) and Michael John Cusick's Surfing For God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle (read my review here).

For more:
"Finally Free" by Heath Lambert: A Review
A Must Read: Searching For God & Settling For Sex
"Surfing For God" by Michael John Cusick: A Review
"Vote Like Your Lady Parts Depend on It": The Duhumanization of Women
An Exaggerated Feminine Type: Uncle Screwtape on Beauty
A Must Read: What If It Were Your Daughter?
The Great Recession or the Recession That Made Us Great?: Pornography and the Frugality of Lust
Pornography for the Blind: Our Continuing Fantasy With What Is Not Real
It Takes One to Know One: Large Families and Smug Fecundity
"Real Marriage" by Mark & Grace Driscoll 

"The Gospel According to Jesus" by Chris Seay: A Review

The Gospel According to Jesus: A Faith that Restores All ThingsWhat is the gospel of Jesus Christ?  What is the gospel period?*  Perhaps no question is more important than that.  The balance of life and death, restoration and reconciliation, hope and joy all hang in the balance.  It is imperative that the Church affirm and proclaim the message once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).  The gospel is central to the Church and is the rock by which the Church is built on (see Matthew 7:24-29; 16).  The fact that many within the Church are debating this issue should be a serious cause of concern.

Being that the gospel is a primary issue, to have the bold title "the gospel according to Jesus" should jump off the shelf at us.  By suggesting that this book contains the timeless gospel is not to be taken lightly.  As a result, I sat down and read Chris Seay's book The Gospel According to Jesus: A Faith that Restores All Things.

The question then is; is the true, lasting gospel presented here?  My answer:  close, but no cigar.

I must say at the outset that Seay does not deny the gospel, but at the same time, he fails to present the pure gospel.  Seay tries to guard against false gospels, but at the same time fails to clearly lay out the true gospel.  Seay wants to combine justification with restorative justice (a favorite phrase of his).  The author does not see how a true Christian that understands the message (or gospel) of Christ and not care about the poor or dying.

It is tempting at this point for the reader to think that this is yet another postmodern social gospel book.  It isn't that.  The author goes out of his way condemning the social gospel and clearly says the social gospel is no gospel at all. At the same time, the author doesn't want us to just think that the gospel is just about "getting our butts in heaven."  No.  It is more than that.  It has its social elements, but it is not just social.  It does deal with our eternal souls, but it is not just eternal.  Seay seeks to offer a balance.

But here's the problem: in his attempt to clearly lay out the gospel the author fails to emphasize or clearly discuss the gospel - Jesus Christ's death and resurrection accompanied with our belief and repentance. It is amazing how the author misses this.  At times I found myself shouting "Yes!" only to then shout, "Where's the cross?  Where's the resurrection?  Where's the call to repent; truly repent based on the cross and resurrection?"

This does not mean that the author doesn't mention the cross, the resurrection, or repentance.  The author does. But, the author failed to clearly lay out substitutionary atonement as the basis of our salvation.  Seay discussed sin (though he could have saved other things, but that's another issue), he discussed Christ, he discussed justification (though missing the point in some places), and he discusses the kingdom.  But in all of this, the atonement is simply lacking.

As a pastor (like Seay) who is deeply concerned with our members understanding the gospel I am concerned that the author fails to mention the gospel at its core. I applaud the author's effort to avoid dangers of the gospel and on a whole he does a fairly good job, but avoiding heresies isn't good enough.  He failed to clearly declare what the gospel is. Certainly the gospel has implications and it is right to discuss them.  But unless the cross and resurrection leads us towards repentance and self-denial it is not the gospel.

The author loves to quote guys like Martin Luther and even John MacArthur (who has written an important book with a very similar title called, The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith?) but in such quotes, the author fails to present the gospel that such men have and continue to boldly proclaim. Instead of discussing sacrifice, submission, slavehood, self-denial, even self-hatred, the author discussed poverty, injustice, and consumerism.  We will not understand why and how to serve the poor and the greedy unless we proclaim the foolish message of the cross.  Such a message calls us to sacrifice.  Not sacrifice of our money, but a sacrifice of our lives.  This goes beyond social issues, but to our very core.  We must look at Christ on the cross.  We must live like Christ at the resurrection.  We live and die by those events.  The cross.  The resurrection.  Period.

So though the author attempted and came close, no cigar can be awarded and this deeply concerns me.  We can debate and disagree on eschatology and even baptism, but let us not miss the gospel and I fear that this book, as are many others, miss that central message.  The gospel.  Adoption through propitiation.**

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze

*  I make this remark because many try to separate the message (read, "gospel") of Jesus from the message (gospel) of Paul and the early Church.  I reject this.  The gospel of Christ is the same gospel as proclaimed by the early apostles and continued to be preached by the Church throughout the centuries.
**  This definition of the gospel is taken from JI Packer, Knowing God.

All Around the Web - May 30, 2014

Albert Mohler - Ten Books for Eager Reading — The 2014 Summer Reading List
1. Tim Townsend, Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis (Morrow, 2014).
2. Steven Parissien, The Life of the Automobile: The Complete History of the Motor Car (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2013).
3. Steven Pressfield, The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War (Sentinel, Penguin Group, 2014).
4. Winston Groom, The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight  (National Geographic, 2013).
5. Michael Korda, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee (HarperCollins, 2014).
6. Phillip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne, 2014).
7. Kai Bird, The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (Crown Publishers, 2014).
8. John C. McManus, The Dead and Those About to Die — D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach (NAL Caliber, Penguin Group, 2014).
9. James Webb, I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, 2014).
10. Charles Marsh, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Knopf, 2014).

Matt Capps - 27 Blog Posts on The Atonement
With the release of The Gospel Project’s study on the atonement titled “Atonement Thread“, I organized a series of blog posts centered around the same theme theme. In total, 27 blog posts on the importance of the atonement.

The atonement, as taught in the Bible, calls to mind the unfathomable love of God to send His Son to take away our sins. The atonement proclaims the amazing grace of God to cover over our sins with the precious and perfect blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Whether you realize it or not, the doctrine of the atonement has very practical implications for your day to day Christian life.

The Atonement and the Christian Life

John Stonestreet - Proving the Obvious 
It seems like a no-brainer that porn use is bad for marriages, and a study just published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture removes any doubt.

Married adults who said they’d viewed pornography in the last year were much more open to the idea of an affair than those who hadn’t viewed it. And while this is just a correlation, it does show that different types of unfaithfulness go hand-in-hand.

The Huffington Post, not known for family values, reports this research as if it’s only actual cheating that’s the problem. But Jesus taught a moral equivalence between thoughts and deeds. Lusts entertained in the heart lead us toward lusts lived out, and it’s still spiritually deadly, even if no one else knows or sees.

Thom Rainer - Five Fascinating Facts about Single Parent Families for Church Leaders
  1. Nearly three out of ten families with children today are headed by a single parent. That makes this group one of the largest population segments in the nation.
  2. Four out of ten children in American are born to single women. That rate is six times its level since 1960. And the pace continues even though teen pregnancy has been declining.
  3. Hispanics and whites have the largest percentage increase in single parent births. African Americans still have the highest absolute percentage, but the faster growth is taking place among Hispanics and whites.
  4. Males are the fastest growing category of single parents. I think most of us are surprised at this development. The implications for churches are staggering.
  5. The vast majority of single parents are gainfully employed. Eight out of ten single moms are employed. Nine out of ten single dads are employed. The vast majority of these parents receive no government assistance.

Tim Challies - Tricky Texts: He Wasn't Being Humble
When I come across this text in books or blogs, I often find authors suggesting that in the first statement Paul is drawing upon a statement that is binding on all Christians while in the second he is either expressing humility or a kind of personal opinion. In either case, they highlight the full authority of the first statement and then diminish the authority of the second statement, saying something like, “Paul was humble enough to say that this was simply his understanding of the situation” or “In the second statement Paul was expressing his personal opinion.”

However, the contrast here is not between divine revelation and personal opinion. Rather, the contrast is between two different kinds of authority, each of which is from God and each of which is fully authoritative and fully binding.

In the New Testament we find the new Christians drawing upon three different sources of authority: The Old Testament scriptures; the teachings of Jesus; and new revelation given to the Apostles. Each of these was considered authoritative revelation from God. So sometimes we see New Testament Christians drawing from the Old Testament, sometimes from words Jesus spoke while he was on earth, and sometimes from new teachings given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Never do we find these sources of authority ranked or contrasted as if one is more important or authoritative than the others.

Makes me laugh every time.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 25, 2014 | Matthew 24:32-51

Here is Sunday's sermon from Matthew 24:32-51.
32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
45 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


January 12, 2014 | Matthew 19:1-9: All the King's Horses: Marriage, Divorce & the Gospel
January 19, 2014 | Matthew 19:10-12 - What's the Point?: Marriage, Singleness, & Living for the Glory of God
January 26, 2014 | Matthew 19:13-30: What Must One Do to be Saved? 
February 2, 2014 | Matthew 20:1-16: Marvel at Grace
February 16, 2014 | Matthew 20:17-28 - The Key to True Greatness
February 23, 2014 | Matthew 20:29-34
March 3, 2014 | Matthew 21:1-11: The Royal Entry
March 9, 2014 | Matthew 21:12-22 
March 23, 2014 | Matthew 21:23-46
March 30, 2014 | Matthew 22:1-14 - What Not to wear or Heeding God's Invitation to Celebrate His Son
April 6, 2014 | Matthew 22:15-22: Life After Death and Taxes
April 13, 2014 | Matthew 22:23-33 - I Don't Want to be a Sad-You-See, or Why the Doctrine of the Resurrection Matters
May 4, 2014 | Matthew 22:34-46
May 11, 2014 | Matthew 23: Religion vs. the Gospel, or Why Don't You Tell Us How You Really Feel Jesus
May 18, 2014 | Matthew 24:1-31 - Is It the End of the World As We Know It?: The End Times, the Present Times, and the Kingship of Jesus
May 25, 2014 | Matthew 24:32-51

For more:
Matthew 1-18 | The King Has Come: The Gospel According to Matthew Series
MacArthur on the Greatest Act of Love
Ain't No Grave . . .
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus
The Gospel of Matthew Movie
Humpty Dumpty & Grace
I Am Yours, Save Me

No, Don't Listen to Yourself: A Brief Reflection on the Mayo Angelou Tweet

By now you are aware of two things (1) yesterday poet Maya Angelou died at the age of 86 and (2) her last tweet, published on May 23 was this:
At last count, that one, final tweet has been retweeted almost 70,000 times and favorited almost 48,000 times. In virtually every news story and obituary, that quote is shared.

On the surface, the tweet sounds spiritual but in the end, it is deceptive. The rise of spirituality in the West is essentially an adoption of eastern, mystical theology that emphasizes the inner self. Christianity, on the other hand, has traditionally (and rightly) emphasized the external for the internal, the self, is corrupt.

Another way of putting this is simply that to the Christian, the answer to life's many riddles is alien - it lies outside of ourselves. For Christians, we turn and listen to Christ, not ourselves.

Yet this final tweet has received the attention because it marks the end of a celebrated life and because it adequately summarizes the prevailing spirituality of the day. But I assure that if you look inside you will not hear God. God is found in Christ standing in our place there at Calvary. Our hope lies there, not in here.

The Difference Between a Catholic and a Protestant

From Flannery O'Connor:
I think the only difference between them is that if you are a Catholic and have this intensity of believe you join the convent and are heard from no more; whereas if you are a Protestant and have it, there is no convent for you to join and you go about in the world, getting into all sorts of trouble and drawing the wrath of people who don't believe anything much at all down on your head. 

HT: Russell Moore

All Around the Web - May 29, 2014

Russell Moore - Questions and Ethics: Which ethical issues is the church missing?
Russell Moore discusses some of the most pressing ethical issues the church should be addressing, such as pornography, social media and the prosperity gospel.

Thom Rainer - Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members
  1. “When you criticize a family member, you hurt me deeply.” Please understand that neither my spouse nor my children are employed by the church. Do your best to treat them as regular church members, and do not place unreasonable expectations on them.
  2. “I will have bad days, and it will show at times.” A pastor is supposed to be “on” all the time. But it is difficult. I know there are times I speak out of turn. I know there are times when I’m too tired to listen well. I will try not to show my bad days, but I will slip at times.
  3. “Not all of my sermons will be ‘home runs.’” I wish they were. But with the number of different messages I have to prepare and preach in a year, I won’t always be the stellar preacher you want me to be. Indeed, I won’t always be the stellar preacher I want to be.
  4. “I am sensitive about my salary.” There are few people who work in a place where everyone in the organization is the boss. That is the nature of church work. But when you make disparaging comments about my pay and my related work, it cuts me to the core.
  5. “I struggle when the church numbers are down.” I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t derive my worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, I question my own leadership at the church.
  6. “I would love a true friend in the church.” I’m talking about someone who would let me be myself, someone who wouldn’t mind if I let my hair down. It seems like everyone wants me to put on my pastor face all the time.
  7. “Please don’t criticize me or ask me to do something right before I preach.” I put many hours into sermon preparation. I have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t tell me the worship center is too cold right before I preach.
  8. “I cannot show up at every place all of you would like me to be.” I jokingly told a pastor friend that I wish I could be omnipresent, and he laughed and agreed. I love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect me to be.
  9. “I hurt deeply when good people don’t defend me.” Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. I don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts me the most is the silence of “good” members when I am attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about me in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation.

The Christward Collective - Was Christ's Death Divine Child Abuse?
And that leads to our final point. Some may argue, "But even if Christ knew and willingly offered Himself, in our penal system, we would say it isn't right for one man to bear the penalty of death for another." That is true, because no mere man owns himself. Therefore, we don't have the right to substitute our own lives in the place of another, enduring the justice that is their due. No man can justly offer Himself for another, because he is not his own. He was created by God and so he belongs to God. But Christ is His own. He is the owner of His own life. He is the Creator and He may choose to die for others if He so chooses, because it is His life. He is wholly unique as the Godman. He said, "I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (John 10:17-18).

He willingly bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, and was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was laid the chastisement that brought us peace. And with His stripes we are healed. He was our substitute and this was no divine child abuse. It was a gift—a gift of infinite and eternal value.

BreakpointHow Homosexualism Gained Popularity
Over at First Things (May 2014) R.R. Reno writes, "homosexuality plays a very important symbolic role in the moral imaginations of heterosexuals." And it's not the role you might think.

"When it comes to sex and transgression,” Reno explains, “their [homosexuals'] freedom from moral censure guarantees ours. Which is why gay rights are so very popular among the American elites who can't imagine themselves as anything other than good people."

Reno shows restraint, for the popularity of gay rights isn't limited to the elites; it extends to a growing segment of common folk. In fact, according to Gallup Politics, 54 percent of Americans now believe that homosexual relationships are "morally acceptable." (Among 18 to 34 year olds, the percentage is 74!) What’s more, since 1996, approval of same-sex “marriage” has doubled, to 53 percent.

These are people, like the elites, who believe, or want to believe, themselves good, and equate the social approval of homosexualism with the moral acceptance of their own sexual peccadilloes.

The Detroit News - Doctor: Detroit abortion stats 'like some Third World country'
Nearly one-third of all pregnancies in the city of Detroit end in abortion, a statistic public health officials blame on rising poverty and dwindling access to affordable contraception.

Of an estimated 18,360 pregnancies among Detroit residents in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, 5,693 ended in abortion, or 31 percent.

During that same year, an estimated 160,219 pregnancies were reported in Michigan, with 22,699 abortions.

That translates into a Detroit abortion rate — the number of abortions by population, including women who weren’t pregnant that year — of 37.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. That’s up from 27.5 per 1,000 women in 2001.

It’s a staggering three times greater than Michigan’s statewide rate, which declined from 12.6 abortions per 1,000 women during child-bearing years, to 11 per 1,000, over the same period.
Genesis 1-11

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?: Paul Enns Weighs In

A few days ago I lamented the strange absence in most of my systematic theologies in addressing the Christological challenged raised in Matthew 24:36 where Jesus confesses his ignorance regarding the timing of his return. If Jesus is fully God, as the orthodox creeds confess, then how can he not be fully omniscient. For that post, click here.

Since then I have invested in another systematic theology textbook and discovered that the difficulty is addressed directly. In his book The Moody Handbook of Theology, Paul Enns writes:
The kenosis problem involves the interpretation of Philippians 2:7, "(He) emptied . . . Himself." The critical question is: Of what did Christ empty Himself? Liberal theologians suggest Christ emptied Himself of His deity, but it is evident from His life and ministry that He did not, for His deity was displayed on numerous occasions. Two main points may be made. (1) Christ merely surrendered the independent exercise of some of his relative or transitive attributes. He did not surrender the absolute or immanent attributes in any sense; He was always perfectly holy, just, merciful, truthful, and faithful. The statement has merit and provides a solution to the problem passages such as Matthew 24:36. the key word in this definition would be "independent" because Jesus did on many occasions reveal His relative attributes. (2) Christ took to Himself an additional nature. The context of Philippians 2:7 provides the best solution to the kenosis problem. The emptying was not a subtraction, but an addition. The four following phrases explain the emptying: “(a) taking the form of a bond-servant, and (b) being made in the likeness of men, and (c) being found in appearance as a man, (d) He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” The “emptying” of Christ was taking on an additional nature, a human nature with its limitations. His deity was never surrendered. (242)
 I am more in line with number 2 obviously since I reject both liberal theology and kenosis theology. When discussing Matthew 24:36 and its parallel, it is important to emphasize (1) the incarnation is not a subtraction of Christ's nature, but an addition to and (2) there is a mystery regarding some of the specifics. The incarnation is a type of humiliation whereby, though completely God, Christ submits to the will of the Father and the direction of the Spirit.

For more:
How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?
David's Lord: Jesus on the Hyopstatic Union
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
The God Who Became Man: Millard Erickson on the Implications of the Humanity of Christ 
Martin Luther on how John 1:1 Contradicts Modalism & Arianism
From Lewis' Pen: Either the Son of God or a Madman
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus 
"For Us and Our Salvation" by Stephen Nichols: A Review
And yet this Jesus of Nazareth . . .

Hump Day Humor: North, South Carolina

From Lewis's Pen: Nonsense Questions are Unanswerable

From A Grief Observed:
When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of 'No answer'. It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, 'Peace, child; you don't understand.'

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask — half our great theological and metaphysical problems — are like that.

From Lewis' Pen Series:
From Lewis' Pen: Intellectual Slackers
From Lewis' Pen: Worship God as Creator
From Lewis' Pen: Thirsty
From Lewis' Pen: Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Not Idealistic Gas
From Lewis' Pen: But He's Good
From Lewis' Pen: Read Old Books
From Lewis' Pen: When Love Becomes a Demon
From Lewis' Pen: Until You Fully Love God
From Lewis' Pen: As the Ruin Falls
From Lewis' Pen: Screwtape on Marriage
From Lewis' Pen: Lay Down Your Arms
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
From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus
From Lewis' Pen: Aim at Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Satan Speaks

For more:
"CS Lewis: A Life" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"C.S. Lewis In A Time Of War" by Justin Phillips: A Review
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: A Brief Look at Perelandra
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: Doug Wilson Says Yes 
Mere Christianity: An Original Recording
McGrath on the Memory of Lewis
"Letters to Malcom" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review  
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism
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
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
"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" 1979 Cartoon
Alister McGrath on CS Lewis

All Around the Web - May 28, 2014

Huffington Post - Evangelical Leader Not Waving White Flag On Gay Marriage
"When the prevailing cultural narrative is that people who believe that marriage is a man-woman union are the equivalent of white supremacists or segregationists, then -- that's not true, first of all," Moore said. "Second of all, we can't simply say, 'Well, let's just assume that we are and let's protect our religious liberty.'

"I think we have to work to protect our religious liberty while at the same time we are articulating why this is a reasonable view to have," Moore said.

Below is a partial transcript of Moore's interview with The Huffington Post, edited for brevity and clarity.

9Marks - Six Principles For Youth Ministry
1) Whatever you do, maintain a clear line between church and world.
2) If you do baptize adolescents, treat them like adults.
3) Baptized or not, integrate them into the chronologically rich life of the church.
4) Equip parents to minister to their youth.
5) Take advantage of the evangelistic opportunity of this season.
6) Whatever you do programmatically on points 1 to 5, don’t let your manmade plans interfere with these biblical objectives. Facilitate them.
Inerrant Word - Inerrancy and Church History: Is Inerrancy a Modern Invention?
In 1970, Ernest Sandeen (Macalester College) claimed that nineteenth century Princeton theologians A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield created the doctrine of inerrancy to combat the burgeoning threat of liberalism.[1] In particular, Sandeen posited that the doctrine of inerrancy in the original autographs “did not exist in either Europe or America prior to its formulation in the last half of the nineteenth century.”[2] In 1979, Jack Rogers (Fuller Seminary) and Donald McKim (Debuque Theological Seminary) wrote, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical  Approach which popularized this theory on a broad scale. Over the past forty years, the conclusions of Sandeen, Rogers and McKim have affected how many Christians think about the doctrine of inerrancy. Namely, if the doctrine of inerrancy was not promoted throughout church history, why should the Church fight for it now?

Despite the widespread influence of Sandeen, Rogers and McKim, their claim was historically inaccurate. In 1982 John Woodbridge (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) wrote, Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal, to give abundant evidence that the doctrine of inerrancy was the dominant view of the Church before Hodge and Warfield. As a result, Woodbridge would give a devastating critique of Sandeen, Rogers and McKim and all those who would follow in their footsteps of faulty scholarship.

Following the example of Woodbridge, it is the goal of this article to give evidence that the doctrine of inerrancy was not the creation of the Princetonians or American fundamentalists. Rather, the original resource material will show that the inerrantist view has been nearly unanimously accepted throughout church history by the Eastern and Western churches.[3] A major thrust of this article will be to let theologians from the first to the nineteenth centuries speak for themselves, in their own words. There will also be a discussion concerning the origin of biblical criticism in the Modern Period.

Ligonier - What Fiction Books Do R.C. Sproul Jr.’s Children Read?
Lord of the Flies—William Golding, along with Anthony Burgess, demonstrate their artistic merits in that they have garnered universal respect, all while using their talents to dismantle the modernist worldview. Here Golding goes after Rousseau, showing just what happens when the “innocent” are freed from the shackles of civilization. Bonus—this was my first introduction when I was in high school to the use of symbolism in fiction. It blew me away, as I always hope it blows my children away.

Brave New World—Huxley’s vision of a future where we are less browbeaten by big brother, more sedated by bread and circuses, Brave New World is, as Neil Postman argues in Amusing Ourselves to Death, what we should have been guarding against instead of 1984.

The Chronicles of Narnia—Lewis never grows old. While I am grateful for all the biblical imagery and lessons in Narnia, it is more the beauty of the gospel than its truth that Lewis so potently captures. Bonus—a gateway drug to all the rest of Lewis’ wonderful work.

That Hideous Strength—Of course Lewis shows up twice in my list. This, the third volume of his Space Trilogy, is by far my favorite novel in the world. Not the best mind you, but my favorite. Lewis’ greatest strength is his grasp of our weaknesses.

Huffington Post - J.R.R. Tolkien Reveals TRUE Meaning Of 'The Lord Of The Rings' In Unearthed Audio Recording
Over 20 years ago, a lost recording of J.R.R. Tolkien was discovered in a basement in Rotterdam, but the man who found it kept this important reel-to-reel tape hidden away. Until recently, only he had heard the recording. But now, I am one of those lucky Middle-earth lovers who has listened to this magical magnetic tape, and I happily declare that it is awesome. For it proves once and for all that Professor Tolkien was, in fact, very much the hobbit that we all suspected him to be. What's more, we get to hear Tolkien reading a lost poem in the Elven tongue which he translates into English. And to top it off, he states in unambiguous terms (cue Rohirrim war trumpets) the real meaning of The Lord of the Rings!

Got chills yet Tolkien fans? Just wait until you hear it yourself.

The recording took place on March 28th, 1958 in Rotterdam at a "Hobbit Dinner" put on by Tolkien's Dutch publisher and a bookseller. Tolkien's own publisher, Allen and Unwin, paid for his trip to the Netherlands to attend this special party. According to his letters the author was chuffed to find that Rotterdam was filled with people "intoxicated with hobbits." Tolkien showed up at a packed hall where 200 hobbit fanatics had come to hear him and other scholars talk about Middle-earth. The menu for the dinner was whimsically Tolkienesque, with Egg-salad à la Barliman Butterbur, Vegetables of Goldberry, and Maggot-soup (mushroom soup regrettably named after Farmer Maggot). And a Dutch tobacco company supplied the tables with clay pipes and tobacco labeled Old Toby and Longbottom Leaf, which pleased Tolkien, a devotee of the "art" of smoking pipe-weed.

47 Charming Facts About Children's Books

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why John Calvin Was Buried in an Unmarked Grave

Today marks the 450th anniversary of the death of John Calvin - one of the greatest Christian theologians ever to have lived. In spite of his renown fame, Calvin was buried in an unmarked grave. The reason for this was explained by Dr. W. Robert Godfrey in his helpful book John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor:
[Calvin] was buried on Sunday [May 28, 1564] in an unmarked grave at a secret location somewhere in Geneva. In one of the last commentaries he wrote, he commented on the death and burial of Moses, "It is good that famous men should be buried in unmarked graves."[1] This conviction guided his own burial. He rejected the superstitious veneration of the dead and wanted no pilgrimages to his grave. he had lived to make Christians, not Calvinists. He had perhaps written his own best epitaph in his Institutes ". . . we may patiently pass through this life in afflictions, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other disagreeable circumstances, contented with this single assurance, that our King will never desert us, but will give what we need, until having finished our warfare, we shall be called to the triumph."[2]

[1] Quote taken from John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, 15:4, altered.
[2] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses, Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), on Deut. 34:6, 406.

For more:
Calvin on Providence 
On the Reformation: An Interview With Glenn S. Sunshine
Where to Begin?: Calvin on the Starting Point of Theology - The Knowledge of God & the Knowledge of Man
Calvin on the Redemptive Necessity of the Resurrection
Was Calvin a Calvinists?: Helm Weighs In
"The Story of Calvinism": A Sermon Preached by Phil Johnson

John MacArthur Claims the Islamic Long-Awaited Mahdi is the Antichrist

In his exposition of Mark 13:1-13, John MacArthur makes an interesting claim: Islam and its long awaited Mahdi will be the biblical antichrist and usher in the end times. The sermon is entitled The Grim Reality of the Last Days and in it he states:
Let me summarize. The Mahdi will be a messianic figure. He will be a descendant of Mohammed. He will be an unparalleled, unequaled leader. He will come out of a crisis of turmoil. He will take control of the world. He will establish a new world order. He will destroy all who resist him. He will invade many nations. He will make a seven-year peace treaty with the Jews. He will conquer Israel and massacre the Jews. He will establish Islamic world headquarters at Jerusalem. He will rule for seven years, establish Islam as the only religion. He will come on a white horse with supernatural power. He will be loved by all people on earth.

If that sounds familiar, that is a precise description of the biblical Antichrist...absolutely step-by-step-by-step-by-step. The Bible’s Antichrist is their Mahdi. We know that the rider on the white horse in Revelation 6 is the Antichrist. They use that verse to describe their Mahdi.

Why am I giving you all this? Because the description of the Mahdi is exactly the description of the biblical Antichrist, the beast of Revelation 13, and you go into any kind of a study of that and you will find that all the details match up perfectly. The Bible’s Antichrist is Islam’s Savior and world conqueror who establishes a universal Islamic kingdom.
Although I am normally a huge fan of MacArthur, I cannot follow him here.  I do not think a pastor should speak with such certainty on matters of eschatology. No one can predict who the mysterious antichrist will be and MacArthur's words will likely lead his congregation to fear or even hate Muslims rather than to reach them.

Here is the sermon:

For more:
"Christ's Prophetic Plans" by John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue: A Review
Michael Bird on Why Eschatolgoy Matters
Why I Am a Panmillenialist: An Introduction
John MacArthur on Why Every Calvinist Should be a Premillennialist  

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 12

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 2
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 3
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 4-5
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 6
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 8
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 9
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 10-11
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 12

For several chapters now, Dr. Richard Bauckham has been dealing with the issue of oral transmission of the Jesus tranditions. At issue is the ongoing influence of form criticism much of which, as he argued in chapters 10-11, has been debunked. Groups like the Jesus Seminar who rely so heavily on form criticism have argued that the Jesus traditions were anonymous and passed orally. As a result, when the Gospels were finally composed (usually at a later date by an anonymous writer[s]), the stories of Jesus became legendary and mythical. As Christianity evolved, so did their Jesus. Thus Jesus became God in flesh, but the original, so-called historic Jesus was but flesh and bone.

In chapter 12 of his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Bauckham tackles this issue head on. Like the other chapters dealing with form criticism and the earliest Jesus traditions, much of the discussion is technical and comprehensible only to scholars fluent in the field. His main argument is the traditions of Jesus that began as primarily oral that later found themselves in the four Gospels, were not passed along by anonymous sources but instead traced their origin and safekeeping, we could say, to the original eyewitnesses. Bauckham writes:
For the time being we wish to show that, whatever truth there may be in speaking of a collective memory in the early Christian movement, it did not prevent early Christians from treating Jesus traditions as the testimony of specific eyewitnesses. (293)
It is here he returns to Papias who serves, outside of the New Testament itself, as the main voice supporting his argument. He writes:
We may note that Papias shows no interest at all in anonymous community traditions but only in traditions formulated and transmitted by individuals; the disciples of the elders (i.e., individuals who had listened to the elders teaching and then happened to pass through Hierapolis), the elders (individual teachers in the churches of the province of Asia, doubtless known by name to Papias), and the disciples of Jesus (members of the Twelve and at least a few others). (294)
Yet it isn't just Papias who makes this argument. Bauckham also quotes Irenaeus who traces his theology to Polycarp who was a close associate to the Apostle John. Perhaps the key quote is, Polycarp, as having received them from the eyewitnesses of the life of the Logos, would declare altogether in accordance with the scriptures (295).

But for the remaining of this post, however, I want to highlight one main point Bauckham raises here. As mentioned above, the view that the Gospels are anonymous documents mostly made up of folklore remains prevalent today. At this point, Bauckham offers three main reasons for rejecting this view of both the traditions and the Gospels (300).

First, though the Synoptics are anonymous in the strict sense (nowhere do the authors identify themselves as the author) they were not first presented as works without authors (300).
The clearest case is Luke because of the dedication of the work to Theophilus (1:3), probably a patron. It is inconceivable that a work with a named dedicatee should have been anonymous. The author's name may have featured in an original title, but in any case would have been known to the dedicatee and other first readers because the author would have presented the book to the dedicatee. Of course, this in itself does not guarantee that the author was named Luke; the attribution to Luke could be later and erroneous. But we are not, at this point, concerned with establishing the real authorship of each Gospel, only with refuting the idea that the Gospels were presented and received as anonymous works whose contents would have been taken as coming from the community rather than from known authors. (301)
Secondly, from the beginning, at least as we can tell, each Gospel was associated with one specific author and that never changed. The Gospel of Matthew, for example, has always been associated with Matthew. The same is true for the other Gospels.
Throughout the early manuscript tradition, from c. 200 onward, the only titles for all four canonical Gospels are in the form "Gospel according to . . ." . . . Martin Hengel has argued persuasively, not only that the longer form was the earlier form, but also that the meaning is not "the Gospel writing written according to the tradition that derives from Mark," but "the gospel (i.e., the one and only gospel message) according to Mark's account." (302)
The Gospels were never known by any other name. The Gospel of Luke, for example, has always been associated with Luke, the companion and physician of Paul.

Finally, Baukham writes:
These two lines of argument establish that as soon as the Gospels circulated around the churches they had author's names attached to them, even though such names were not part of the text of the Gospels. (304)
Thus we must ask if these Gospels present the traditions they preserve to anonymous resources? Here Bauckham returns to the evidence he has already presented in the book. First, even the names of minor characters are given. Secondly, all three Synoptic Gospels present a remarkably similar list of the original Twelve even though some remain obscure. Finally, Mark, Luke, and John are tied closely to a single eyewitness that was present "from the beginning." In both Mark and Luke, it is Peter. In John, it is the mysterious Beloved Disciple.

The main point of all of this is to finally debunk the argument so common today in more liberal and secular circles. The Gospels are not the byproducts of anonymous oral traditions which only later were preserved, in some mysterious way, in the Gospels we now call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are instead unabashedly eyewitness documents.

 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: The Entire Series   

All Around the Web - May 27, 2014

Russell Moore - Questions and Ethics: Should pastors talk politics from the pulpit?
Russell Moore discusses pastors engaging politics from the pulpit. Read the full transcript here.

Liberate - You Can’t “Live Out” the Gospel

9Marks - What a New Pastor Doesn’t Know
1. You don’t know who’s there.
2. You don’t know what’s there.
3. You don’t know where they’ve been.
4. You don’t know where you are.
5. You don't know what you’re changing.
6. You don’t know where you’re going.
7. You don’t know what your idols are.
8. You don’t know what God will do.

Canon and Culture - Alfred Kinsey: A Brief Summary and Critique
During the Twentieth Century, no one individual did more to bring homosexuality into the public forum than Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894 – 1956). A professor at Indiana University, Kinsey was a zoologist by training and spent the early years of his career studying gall wasps, collecting thousands of specimens of the insects. Kinsey then transferred his obsessive and taxonomic approach of research to the study of human sexuality. Much like the gall wasps he collected, Kinsey and his colleagues gathered thousands of “interviews” in which he or his researchers asked detailed questions about the sexual backgrounds of research participants. Kinsey compiled the findings from these interviews into two books that were the opening salvos of the sexual revolution that soon swept the United States: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). Both works contain many sweeping assertions and often move quickly from tables full of data to moral speculation about the repressed sexual ethics of America.

Kinsey officially began sexual research in 1941 with the help of funds from the Rockefeller Foundation and the assistance of the National Research Council. In 1947 Kinsey founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now simply known as The Kinsey Institute. What has become clearer in the years since the publication of the Kinsey reports is that Kinsey was not merely gathering information about other people’s sexual experiences, but he was also engaging in assorted sexual practices with various members of the research team. Instead of the staid atmosphere most people associate with academia, the Institute for Sex Research became a kind of sexual utopia for the gratification of the appetites of Kinsey and his team. According to one biographer, “Kinsey decreed that within the inner circle men could have sex with each other; wives would be swapped freely, and wives too, would be free to embrace whichever sexual partners they liked.”[1] Kinsey himself engaged in various forms of heterosexual and homosexual intercourse with members of the institute staff, including filming various sexual acts in the attic of his home. My purpose here is not to engage in ad hominem attacks on Kinsey, but to emphasize that Kinsey was not a dispassionate scientist seeking truth; he was an agenda-driven reformer bent on changing the sexual ethics of a nation.

The Gospel Coalition - Bonhoeffer and Blindspots
It’s rather shocking, in hindsight, to consider how two men so personally invested in fighting racism in the German context could have been so blind to the truth just two years before Hitler was named chancellor. The so-called Jewish question was in fact no joke.

But neither was racism in America. Bonhoeffer and his brother saw a serious problem in America with distinct clarity, though they underestimated the severity of racism in their own context. We need to be careful on this point, but it’s safe to say that the racial prejudice in both contexts was atrocious.

And so often it is the same way with us. We easily identify blind spots in contexts other than our own while nurturing our own forms of blindness. Our own blind spots would not be so if we could see them (that’s why they are aptly named).

Here are three things we can learn from Bonhoeffer about overcoming our blind spots.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Paedophiles Were Born that Way?: We are on the Slippery Slope

Ideas have consequences and the West will make the bed it is sleeping in. The moral argument based on assumed sexual orientation will result in an unchecked slippery slope.

A recent study suggests pedophiles have a natural inclination toward underage children. This is not a new argument, but its recent presence is a reminder what the dangerous road we are traveling on. After years of being told that sexual lifestyles like homosexuality and bisexuality should be normalized and legalized (and even enforced at the great cost of religious liberty) based on supposed evidence that "they were born that way," we are now without any moral or ethical foundation for condemning (let alone criminalizing) pedophilia.

The first amendment of the erotic bill of rights reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of erotic morality, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Therefore, as the sexual movement moves forward will society be able to stop the sexual slippery slope from normalizing a sexual lifestyle that victimizes children? I am afraid not.*

CBS Atlantic - Study: Pedophiles’ Brains ‘Abnormally Tuned’ To Find Young Children Attractive   

* I address the issue of "born that way theology" in my book Logizomai: A Reasonable Faith in an Unreasonable World.

For more:
A Must Read: Told You So

The Marriage Debate: A Debate About Rights or Definitions?
The Missing Gene and Ray Boltz: The Theistic Argument, Did God Make Him This Way?
The Missing Gene: The Failed Search For the Gay Gene
The Piling Evidence:  Homosexuality Is a Choice  

"Know the Creeds and Councils" by Justin Holcomb: A Review

Today's Christianity is directly affected by what earlier Christians chose to do and to believe.

The fact that Christianity developed - that the sixteenth century, for instance, looked very different from the third, and that both looked very different from the twenty-first - can sometimes lead us to wonder what the essential core of Christianity is. As a result, some people decide to ignore history altogether and try to reconstruct "real Christianity" with nothing more than a Bible. But this approach misses a great deal. Christians of the past were no less concerned with being faithful to God than we are, and they sought to fit together all that Scripture has to say about the mysteries of Christianity - the incarnation, the Trinity, predestination, and more - with all the intellectual power of their times. To ignore these insights is to attempt to reinvent the wheel, and to risk reinventing it badly. (9-10)

Seventeen hundred years ago a bunch of theologians met together to talk about the deity (or lack there-of) of a dead traveling preacher from Nazareth who was good with a hammer. What do I care? What do you care?

In his new book Know the Creeds and Councils Justin Holcomb tells us why. But we should care about more than just the Nicean Creed (which was born out of the above debate) but with all of the major councils and creeds of Christianity. Holcomb offers a helpful, easy-to-read book for the average believer that gives the history, theology, and relevance of these councils, catechisms, and creeds.

The book begins with a helpful introduction differentiating, among other things, the difference between a creed, a catechism, and a council. The rest of the book, apart from a short conclusion, surveys a number of councils and creeds. They are as follows:
  1. Apostles' Creed (ca. 140)
  2. Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed (325)
  3. Councils of Ephesus (431, 449, 475)
  4. Council of Chalcedon (451)
  5. Athanasian Creed (Late 400s to Early 500s)
  6. Councils of Constantinople (381, 553, 681)
  7. Councils of Carthage and Orange (419 and 529)
  8. Council of Trent (1545-63)
  9. Heidelberg Catechism (1563)
  10. Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (1563)
  11. Westminister confession of Fatih (1646)
  12. Second Vatican Council (1962-65)
  13. Lausanne Covenant (1974)
  14. Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)
Each of the above receive an entire chapter apart from the final two which are treated together. In each chapter, the author provides the reader with the historic and theological background along with the major characters (like Arius, Pelagius, Athanasius, Augustine, Martin Luther, etc.), with a final word on the relevance of the creed/council/confession.

Perhaps a few examples of their relevancy would be beneficial. Regarding Nicea, Holcomb writes:
If Christianity had agreed with Arius that Jesus could be a lesser God - if it had failed to defend monotheism, if it had fallen into the trench of professing three unrelated deities - it may have dissolved into the religion of Rome and its pantheons of false gods. If the early Christians had lost their nerve and conceded the "lesser divinity" of Jesus, whatever that might mean, then the work of God in Christ for our salvation would have been rendered meaningless. No mere man, nor half god, could possibility intervene to save fallen and sinful humanity, let alone restore all of creation. Only the Creator can enter creation to fix its brokenness and redeem its original, latent purpose. Athanasius explored this truth in On the Incarnation, defending the claim that the Father and the Son share one common substance (homoousios). Only the Creator can recreate. Only the Maker can remake. Only God can save us from our sins.

Because the Father and the Son are one substance, we can also be assured that we actually know God in Jesus Christ. After all, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being' (Heb. 1:3), and so when we look on Jesus, we look on God. Without confidence that Jesus is God, united in substance with the Father, we could not be sure that Jesus can speak for god, forgive sins for God, declare righteousness for God, or do anything to make us children of the Father. (38-39)
On the Councils of Carthage and Orange regarding Pelagianism, Holcomb writes:
Like most heresies, however, Pelagianism provides easy and attractive answers at great cost. Through Pelagius's God seems more fair, he is certainly much less intimate. (94)
Other examples could be given. Overall, however, Holcomb has written a fairly simple to read book on historic theology. Though some of its content is difficult to grasp, especially regarding the two natures of Christ and the fine tuning between human agency and divine sovereignty, Holcomb presents the issues in an attractive way.

I recommend this book to all pastors and Christians serious about theology. We are standing on the shoulders of many giants and this book is a simple effort to tell that story.

I received this book free from Zondervan as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze

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"Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 3, 1567-1599" by James T. Dennison: A Review
"The School of Faith" by Thomas F. Torrance: A Review 
"For Us and Our Salvation" by Stephen Nichols: A Review
"The Creedal Imperative" by Carl Trueman: A Review 
A Nestorian Heresy?: John Knox & His Rejection of Particular Redemption