Tuesday, March 31, 2015

7 Questions for RFRA Critics

From Ross Douthat's recent column:
1) Should religious colleges whose rules or honor codes or covenants explicitly ask students and/or teachers to refrain from sex outside of heterosexual wedlock eventually lose their accreditation unless they change the policy to accommodate gay relationships? At the very least, should they lose their tax-exempt status, as Bob Jones University did over its ban on interracial dating?

2) What about the status of religious colleges and schools or non-profits that don’t have such official rules about student or teacher conduct, but nonetheless somehow instantiate or at least nod to a traditional view of marriage at some level — in the content of their curricula, the design of their benefit package, the rules for their wedding venues, their denominational affiliation? Should their tax-exempt status be reconsidered? Absent a change in their respective faith’s stance on homosexuality, for instance, should Catholic high schools or Classical Christian academies or Orthodox Jewish schools be eligible for 501(c)3 status at all?

3) Have the various colleges and universities that have done so been correct to withdraw recognition from religious student groups that require their leaders to be chaste until (heterosexual) marriage? Should all of secular higher education take the same approach to religious conservatives? And then further, irrespective of leadership policies, do religious bodies that publicly endorse a traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of sexual ethics deserve a place on secular campuses at all? Should the Harvard chaplaincy, for instance, admit ministers to its ranks whose churches or faiths do not allow them to perform same-sex marriages? Should the chaplaincy of a public university?

4.) In the longer term, is there a place for anyone associated with the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic view of sexuality in our society’s elite level institutions? Was Mozilla correct in its handling of the Brendan Eich case? Is California correct to forbid its judges from participating in the Boy Scouts? What are the implications for other institutions? To return to the academic example: Should Princeton find a way to strip Robert George of his tenure over his public stances and activities? Would a public university be justified in denying tenure to a Orthodox Jewish religious studies professor who had stated support for Orthodox Judaism’s views on marriage?

5) Should the state continue to recognize marriages performed by ministers, priests, rabbis, etc. who do not marry same-sex couples? Or should couples who marry before such a minister also be required to repeat the ceremony in front of a civil official who does not discriminate?

6) Should churches that decline to bless same-sex unions have their tax-exempt status withdrawn? Note that I’m not asking if it would be politically or constitutionally possible: If it were possible, should it be done?

7) In the light of contemporary debates about religious parenting and gay or transgender teenagers, should Wisconsin v. Yoder be revisited? What about Pierce v.Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary?
Of course countless other questions an scenarios can be imagined and others have already taken place. Ultimately what we have here is our culture's ongoing worship of Asherah - the Canaanite god of sex - and such religious devotion demands we trump erotic liberty over religious liberty.

What Motivates Religious People? That is the Question: Russell Moore on RFRA

As usual, Russell Moore offer piercing insight into an ethical issue:
So where does all the ignorance come from in this case?

Many of those leading the discussion of religious freedom have little or no understanding of what motivates religious people. This shows up in almost all of these conversations, whether over the Little Sisters of the Poor fight not to be compelled to purchase contraception insurance coverage or the legislative attempts to codify RFRA. If one cannot empathize with why defying conscience on a matter of religious exercise is a life-or-death concern, then one is free to impute all sorts of evil motives. Why doesn’t the employee at Abercrombie and Fitch just ditch the head scarf to work there? After all, that’s just fashion. Why won’t the Amish just drive in cars down the road like “regular people” do?

When secularized or nominally religious people don’t understand religious motivation, then they are going to assume that, behind a concern for religious exercise, is some sinister agenda: usually one involving power or money. That sort of ignorance is not just naive. It leads to a breakdown of pluralism and liberal democracy. I shouldn’t have the power to mandate that a Jain caterer provide wild game for some Baptist church’s Duck Dynasty-themed “Beast Feast,” just because I don’t understand their non-violent tenets toward all living creatures. I shouldn’t be allowed to require Catholic churches to use grape juice instead of wine just because I don’t understand transubstantiation.

This is particularly problematic when widespread ignorance of religious motivation is joined with a zealotry that can only be called religious: for the stamping out of all dissent against the sexual revolution. The sexual revolutionaries are, by all accounts, winning the public debate in American life on matters of sexual freedom, right down to the redefinition of marriage and family. But that’s not enough. Many of them want not only to win, but to stamp out dissent with all the relish of a Massachusetts Bay Puritan.

And, behind all of that, is the question, often backed by powerful corporate interests, of why the rest of America can’t just get on board with a vision of the good life that is defined by economic stability and sexual libertarianism. Why can’t the rest of us just be “normal?” That sort of political hegemony never ends well, for anyone

All Around the Web - March 31, 2015

Weekly Standard - Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Explained

Hunter Baker - Gay Marriage and Religious Liberty: Two Scenarios

Biblical Counseling - Heath Lambert Addressing Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture

Joe Carter - What You Should Know About Religious Freedom Restoration Acts

Relevant Magazine - The ’90s Albums Every Youth Group Rocked

Monday, March 30, 2015

"CS Lewis, Spinner of Tales" by Evan Gibson: A Review

The process of "undragoning" Eustace expresses a truth which most adult readers probably recognize immediately. man's unassisted efforts to change himself always result in failure. Eustace tries to take off his ugly covering but underneath each layer is another one just as bad. He needs a divine miracle in order to get rid of his dragon-nature. The process is excruciating - in fact, Aslan's first blow seems to go right into the heart. But that is the spot where the change must begin. And, when the water of regeneration has done its work, and Eustace is a boy again, Aslan dresses him in new clothes. Just as the Christian is not dressed in the filthy rags of his own unrighteousness but in the righteousness of Christ, so Eustace loses his dark and knobby dragon-skin and gains garments appropriate for his new nature. Or to paraphrase Paul's statement in First Corinthians: he is sown a natural dragon; he is raised a spiritual boy.  (170)
Even a cursory survey of this website is enough evidence to prove my deep affection for all things C. S. Lewis. I do not agree with everything Lewis wrote and believed, but when he was right, he said it better than anyone before or since him. Lewis's ability as a writer and apologists sets him apart from most in history.

Lewis's writings are mostly divided into two categories: apologetics and literature. Though that might be an oversimplification, it is general truth. One can easily find books on Lewis's theology/philosophy and on his Narnia Chronicles, but it is difficult to find a book that interacts with Lewis the fiction writer. Beyond the Narnia tales, Lewis wrote several fictional (-like) books including the Ransom Trilogy, Screwtape Letters, the Great Divorce, and Til We Have Faces.

I finally discovered and read such a book. It is entitled C.S. Lewis, Spinner of Tales: A Guide to His Fiction and its author Evan Gibson offers the reader an introduction to the fictional writings of Lewis. To begin, the author notes that this is not a literary criticism book. Gibson's audience is to those new to Lewis and his fiction. It assumes the reader is familiar with the material (all of which are listed in the previous paragraph) and wants to explore it deeper. 

Nevertheless, this book is a pleasant exploration in Lewis's writings. He first surveys and interacts with the space trilogy which was helpful to me. Though I enjoyed the trilogy immensely, no doubt I did not catch or understand all of it. Gibson got rid of a lot of the fog for me. 

The riches part of the book, unsurprisingly, regards his survey of the Chronicles of Narnia. Prior to reading this book, I assumed I had a real handle on this series and am in agreement with Michael Ward's recent theory.  Yet Gibson showed important parallels (not allegories!) that I had never noticed before. 

Consider the following which shows how Narnia and our world are different, yet parallel:
One of the difference is that Aslan died for one small boy. To quote again the hymn of praise at the end of Perelandra "When He died in the Wounded World he did not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less." And so Aslan died for Edmund. The truth of the gospel is there even though the story is different. But there are many echoes of the passion of Christ. 
All of this feeds my love for Lewis. Only the best of author's can be explored over and over again and each time something new is discovered. Lewis is among such gifted men. 

Overall, this is a helpful book. I would not recommend this book to anyone not familiar with the works or to someone who has little to no interests in Lewis. But for real Lewis fans, I believe you will find much to enjoy.

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
"Out of the Silent Planet" by CS Lewis: A Review  
"Perelandra" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Letters to Malcom" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review   
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: A Brief Look at Perelandra
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: Doug Wilson Says Yes 
He Was Not a Tamed Arminian
Mere Christianity: An Original Recording
McGrath on the Memory of Lewis
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism
"The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism" Full Documentary
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 
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics      
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" 1979 Cartoon
Alister McGrath on CS Lewis
"Narnia's Lost Poet: The Secret Lives and Loves of CS Lewis" Documentary

All Around the Web - March 30, 2015

NC Register - There’s only one right order to read the ‘Narnia’ books

Kevin DeYoung - Not That Bright

John Stonestreet - Restoring All Things

Credo House - Press Release: Credo Courses Has Launched

Andy Unedited - Take Note

Friday, March 27, 2015

How to Hear Sermons: A Word From George Whitefield

As a pastor, I frequently am reminded of both the power and the frustration of preaching. To see God move by the preached Word is an awesome experience. To be the instrument by which God speaks never gets old. Yet more often than not, a sermon is easily forgotten and the exhortations are forsaken.

In an 18th century sermon, the great preacher George Whitefield exhorted his hearers on how they ought to hear a sermon. That is to say, Whitefield (who was used mightily by God in the First Great Awakening) preached a sermon on how to hear a sermon (you can read the entire sermon here).

There are two points in the sermon, the second of which will dominate our time here. His first point is straightforward and is summarized as follows:
But if it be the duty of ministers to preach, (and woe be to them if they do not preach the gospel, for a necessity is laid upon them) no doubt, the people are obliged to attend to them; for otherwise, wherefore are ministers sent?
It is the duty of preachers to preach faithfully the whole counsel of God's Word. It is equally the duty of the Christian to attend and listen to God's Word from their preacher.

This leads to his more developed second point. I will allow Whitefield to speak for himself.

1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty
Formality and hypocrisy in any religious exercise, is an abomination unto the Lord. And to enter his house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.

Hence it is, that so many remain unconverted, yea, unaffected with the most evangelical preaching; so that like St. Paul's companions, before his conversion, they only hear the preacher's voice with their outward ears, but do not experience the power of it inwardly in their hearts. Or, like the ground near Gideon's fleece, they remain untouched; whilst others, who came to be fed with the sincere milk of the word, like the fleece itself, are watered by the dew of God's heavenly blessing, and grow thereby.
Flee therefore, my brethren, flee curiosity, and prepare your hearts by a humble disposition, to receive with meekness the engrafted word, and then it will be a means, under God, to quicken, build up, purify, and save your souls. 

2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God
If an earthly king was to issue out a royal proclamation, on performing or not performing the conditions therein contained, the life or death of his subjects entirely depended, how solicitous would they be to hear what those conditions were? And shall not we pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to his ministers, when they are declaring, in his name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?

When God descended on Mount Sinai in terrible majesty, to give unto his people the Law, how attentive were they to his servant Moses? And if they were so earnest to hear the thunderings or threatenings of the law, shall not we be as solicitous to hear from the ministers of Christ, the glad tidings of the gospel?

Whilst Christ was himself on earth, it is said, that the people hung upon him to hear the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth. And if we looked on ministers as we ought, as the sent of Jesus Christ, we should hang upon them to hear their words also.

Besides, the sacred truths that gospel ministers deliver, are not dry insipid lectures on moral philosophy, intended only to amuse us for a while; but the great mysteries of godliness, which, therefore, we are bound studiously to liken to, left through our negligence we should either not understand them, or by any other means let them slip.

But how regardless are those of this direction, who, instead of hanging on the preacher to hear him, doze or sleep whilst he is speaking to them from God? Unhappy men! Can they not watch with our blessed Lord one hour? What! Have they never read how Eutychus fell down as he was sleeping, when St. Paul continued like discourse till midnight, and was taken up dead?

But to return. Though you may prepare your hearts, as you may think, by a teachable disposition, and be attentive whilst discourses are delivering, yet this will profit you little, unless you observe a

3. Not to entertain any the least prejudice against the minister
For could a preacher speak with the tongue of men and angels, if his audience was prejudiced against him, he would be but as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal.

That was the reason why Jesus Christ himself, the Eternal Word, could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of his own country; for they were offended at him: And was this same Jesus, this God incarnate, again to bow the heavens, and to come down speaking as never man spake, yet, if we were prejudiced against him, as the Jews were, we should harden our hearts as the Jews did theirs.

Take heed therefore, my brethren, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you. Consider that the clergy are men of lie passions with yourselves: and though we should even hear a person teaching others to do, what he has not learned himself; yet, that is no sufficient reason for rejecting his doctrine: for ministers speak not in their own, but Christ's name. And we know who commanded the people to do whatsoever the Scribes and Pharisees should say unto them, though they said but did not.

4. Do not depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought
For though this be an extreme that people seldom run into, yet preferring one teacher in apposition to another, has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians. For whereas one said, "I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos: are ye not carnal," says he? "For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but instruments in God's hands by whom you believed?" And are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work's sake.

The Apostle, it is true, commands us to pay double honor to those who labor in the word and doctrine: but then to prefer one minister at the expense of another, (perhaps, to such a degree, as when you have actually entered a church, to come out again because he does not preach) is earthly, sensual, devilish.

Not to mention that popularity and applause cannot but be exceedingly dangerous, even to a rightly informed mind; and must necessarily fill any thinking man with a holy jealousy, lest he should take that honor to himself, which is due only to God, who alone qualifies him for his ministerial labors, and from whom alone every good and perfect gift cometh.

5. Make a particular application of every thing that is delivered to your own hearts.
When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with his beloved disciples, and foretold that one of them should betray him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart, and said, "Lord, is it I?" And would persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin, or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, this was designed against such and such a one, turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, Lord, is it I? How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be, than now they generally are?

But we are apt to wander too much abroad; always looking at the mote with is in our neighbor's eye, rather than at the beam which is in our own. Haste we now to the

6. If you would receive a blessing from the Lord, when you hear his word preached, pray to him, both before, in, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put in practice, what he shall show from the book of God to be your duty.
This would be an excellent means to render the word preached effectual to the enlightening and enflaming your hearts; and without this, all the other means before prescribed will be in vain.
No doubt it was this consideration that made St. Paul so earnestly entreat his beloved Ephesians to intercede with God for him: "Praying always, with all manner of prayer and supplication in the spirit, and for me also, that I may open my mouth with boldness, to make known the mysteries of the gospel." And if so great an Apostle as St. Paul, needed the prayers of his people, much more do those ministers, who have only the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Besides, this would be a good proof that you sincerely desired to do, as well as to know the will of God. And it must highly profit both ministers and people; because God, through your prayers, will give them a double portion of his Holy Spirit, whereby they will be enabled to instruct you more fully in the things which pertain to the kingdom of God.

And O that all who hear me this day, would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How would ministers see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the word preached sharper than a two-edged sword, and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil's strong holds!

The Holy Ghost would then fall on all them that hear the word, as when St. Peter preached; the gospel of Christ would have free course, run very swiftly, and thousands again be converted by a sermon.

For "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever." He has promised to be with his ministers always, even unto the end of the world. And the reason why we do not receive larger effusions of the blessed Spirit of God, is not because our all-powerful Redeemer's hand is shortened, but because we do not expect them, and confine them to the primitive times.

It does indeed sometimes happen, that God, to magnify his free grace in Christ Jesus, is found of them that sought him not; a notorious sinner is forcibly worked upon by a public sermon, and plucked as a firebrand out of the fire. But this is not God's ordinary way of acting; No, for the generality, he only visits those with the power of his word, who humbly wait to know what he would have them to do; and sends unqualified hearers not only empty, but hardened away.

Take heed, therefore, ye careless, curious professors, if any such be here present, how you hear. Remember, that whether we think of it or not, "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ;" where ministers must give a strict account of the doctrine they have delivered, and you as strict a one, how you have improved under it. And, good God! How will you be able to stand at the bar of an angry, sin-avenging judge, and see so many discourses you have despised, so many ministers, who once longed and labored for the salvation of your precious and immortal souls, brought out as so many swift witnesses against you? Will it be sufficient then, think you, to alledge, that you went to hear them only out of curiosity, to pass away an idle hour, to admire the oratory, or ridicule the simplicity of the preacher? No; God will then let you know, that you ought to have come out of better principles; that every sermon has been put down to your account, and that you must then be justly punished for not improving by them.

But fear not, you little flock, who with meekness receive the ingrafted word, and bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness; for it shall not be so with you. No, you will be your minister's joy, and their crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus: And they will present you in a holy triumph, faultless, and unblameable, to our common Redeemer, saying, "Behold us, O Lord, and the children which thou hast given us."

But still take heed how you hear: for upon your improving the grace you have, more shall be given, and you shall have abundance. "He is faithful that ha promised, who also will do it." Nay, God from out of Zion, shall so bless you, that every sermon you hear shall communicate to you a fresh supply of spiritual knowledge. The word of God shall dwell in you richly; you shall go on from strength to strength, from one degree of grace unto another, till being grown up to be perfect men in Christ Jesus, and filled with all the fullness of God, you shall be translated by death to see him as he is, and to sing praises before his throne with angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, and the general assembly of the first- born, whose names are written in heaven, for ever and ever.

All Around the Web - March 27, 2015

Trevin Wax - dc Talk and the Influence of Faith-Fortifying Songs

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Darrin Patrick

Tim Challies - 5 Reasons to Rejoice in Persecution

Kevin DeYoung - Hymns We Should Sing More Often: Holy God, We Praise Your Name

Andy Naselli - 5 Free Classes on Ethics

Thursday, March 26, 2015

This is Who We Are What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father

God is Dad.  Let us not under-emphasize or neglect such an important reality.  If your like me, to say that God is our Father is routine, Christianeze.  We just say it without ever really thinking about what it means.  The next section of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 discusses the foundational doctrine of the Trinity; that is, God is three persons but one nature.  The BF&M 2000 says:

God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Gen 1:1; 2:7; Ex 3:14; 6:2-3; 15:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Lev 22:2; Deut. 6:4; 32:6; 1 Chr 29:10; Ps 19:1-3; Is 43:3,15; 64:8; Jer 10:10; 17:13; Matt 6:9ff.; 7:11; 23:9; 28:19; Mk 1:9-11; Jhn 4:24; 5:26; 14:6-13; 17:1-8; Acts 1:7; Rom 8:14-15; 1 Cor 8:6; Gal 4:6; Eph 4:6; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17; Heb 11:6; 12:9; 1 Pet 1:17; 1John 5:7

The first member of the Trinity is God the Father – God our Dad.  The words our and Dad are purposeful.  If God is Dad, then God is personal, relational, and knowable.  Like any dad, God isn’t distant or cold, but near and intimate.  At the birth of America, the rise of Deism was unmistakable in our nation.  Even the author of our Declaration of Independence was written by a Deist.  Deism affirms the existence of God but holds that He is distant and uninvolved.  God is rather cold in Deism.  But though few today refer to themselves as deist, many (including Christians) hold fast to such a belief (intentionally or not).

How many times have you asked, “where was God when tragedy struck?  Does God even hear my prayers?  Why do I feel so alone?  Has God forgotten me?”  If your like me, all the time.  Every hospital is full of rooms of people asking such questions.  Every funeral is populated by mourning loved ones shedding the tears of such questions.  Every church is full of members putting forth the front that all is good, but inside, they’re decaying.  That promising marriage is falling apart – where is God?  That rebellious child has abandoned their parents rock-solid faith – does God not hear the their prayers?  That young couple desiring to have a child can’t and yet the promiscuous girl too immature to be a mother does – what is God up too?

We’ve all been there.  What hope do we have?  For one, God is Dad.  Such a fundamental understanding of God assures us that our prayers don’t fade in the wind, our questions aren’t empty concerns, and though we are alone, we can be comforted, though we are confused, there are present and real answers, and though life is tough, God is in control, aware, and active.

I’ve learned more about God in the past 22 months than I had the previous 24 years of my life.  Though where I fail as a father, God triumphs as our Dad.  I lock the door at night concerned for the safety of my family, because as dad its my primary responsibility.  I learned to pour formula in a bottle because my son needed me.  I wear a seatbelt because I have a family.  I wrestle with a toddler because I enjoy Elijah’s smile.  I am awake when he is, I run when he is in danger, and of course, I discipline when he is in the wrong.

God is Dad and thankfully He’s better at it than me.

But this language of God as Father, especially in the BF&M 2000, means more than just God’s closeness to His creation.  It also means that God is the source of everything and in “providential care over” everything. To no one’s surprise, Elijah was not dropped off by a stork.  He is the offspring of Amanda and I.  Without our union, Elijah would not exist.  Elijah is here because we are.  Likewise, we are here because God exists.  This means that as Elijah has value to us, so too we are valuable to God.  Issues over life and the protection of life are fundamental because life is a God issue.

God’s providence reminds us that just as creation was purposeful, so is everything else.  Every disaster and every celebration is well within God’s good purpose.  So even when we suffer, we can celebrate knowing that all is not lost, all has a purpose, and God will triumph in the end.  If God is Dad, then God is provident and in control and for that we rejoice.

God the Father is an important doctrine that we dare not take for granted.  If God was not Dad then we are a people without hope.  Let us live in comfort and peace knowing that He who created the world is not a distant, cold God, but an intimate Father that planned my existence and has me in His arms.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father

All Around the Web - March 26, 2015

Justin Taylor - In Death, a Witness to Life: Kara Tippetts (1976-2015)

Thom Rainer - Nine Traits of Mean Churches

Canon and Culture - Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana Is Harming America

Preachers and Preaching - Faculty Breakout Sessions: Inerrancy Conference

CBS - Iraqi Christians persecuted by ISIS

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Logic on Fire: Lloyd-Jones on Preaching

From Martin Lloyd-Jones's book Preaching and Preachers:
What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course they are not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see it in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one.

What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.

All Around the Web - March 25, 2015

Albert Mohler - Al Mohler on keeping the Southern Baptist faith

The Gospel Coalition - 4 Questions About Heaven

Canon and Culture - Why Non-Judgmentalism is Unloving

John Stonestreet - Busy or Full?

Justin Taylor - Three Free Lectures by Russell Moore: “Onward Christian Strangers: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel”

The Ville!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God

Amanda and I disagree regarding food.  I like my bacon to still have meat and fat on it.  Amanda, on the other hand, likes for her bacon to be so burnt it could hold up a bridge.  I like my steak to be medium-rare while she likes hers to be like charcoal.  We also disagree with buffets.  I love them and always try to get my money’s worth by stuffing my face.  Amanda, however, isn’t so fond of them.  Why is one of the many mysteries of marriage.

Buffets are great because one can easily pick and choose what they want.  I like steak, but I don’t like broccoli, so I’ll take the steak and leave the broccoli.  I especially like fixing my own desert: a chocolate chip brownie covered in Hersey’s chocolate syrup with chocolate ice cream on top covered again with more Hersey’s chocolate syrup.  Is your mouth watering yet? – mine is.

Buffets are great when it comes to food, but not so great when it comes to theology.  In our postmodern, relativistic, tolerant society, we have turned our understanding of God into a buffet of beliefs.  We want a God of love, but don’t want the wrath and judgment part.  In goes God’s love, out goes His righteousness. We want a God who is personal yet distant enough to not hold us accountable.  In goes God’s as personal, out goes His Omnipresence.  We want a God who is like us and our culture and so we reject His Immutability.  In other words, though God created us in His image, we have to return the favor.

Thankfully, God isn’t limited to our wants and needs.  God is not clay that we can mold and shape.  The motivation behind such theology is to turn us into gods where we determine truth, morality, and righteousness.

God is greater than our imagination.  The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 writes concerning God (before venturing into discussing the Trinity):

There is one & only one living & true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, & personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, & Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness & all other perfections. God is all powerful & all knowing; & His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present & future including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, & obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

If I can sum up this description of God is would be: God is beyond human language and description.  By my count, the BF&M 2000, in this one paragraph, uses approximately twenty different adjectives to describe God.  The statement of faith says that He is one, personal, the Creator, the Redeemer, infinite, holy, perfect, Omnipotent, Omniscient, triune, and eternal just to name a few.

This is an important reality when we speak about God: our human language is limited and cannot adequately describe God.  This is why so many confessions of faith and theologies utilize multiple and countless adjectives to describe God.  He is greater than our human language.

But there is a serious danger at this point.  Though we can never fully describe or grasp God, that does not mean that we ought not seek to understand and study His character.  Many in modern evangelicalism that simply ceases to try to explain or understand God.  This is a convenient way of excusing licentiousness and bad theology.  After all, how can you say that your theology is right when theology (the science and study of God) is impossible since God is beyond human description?

At this point we must admit that though God is beyond complete understanding, He has clearly revealed Himself to us.  Our responsibility is to take what He has revealed about Himself and affirm, believe, and apply those truths.  We know God is holy because the angels in heaven sings such wonder (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).  We know that God is immutable because Scripture clearly says that He does not change (Malachi 3:6-7a; Romans 11:28-36; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17).  We know that God is love because it has been revealed to us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8, 16).  We could do this all day.  Christian theology is not the art of guessing about God.  Yes, God is beyond words, but that does not mean that God cannot be known at all.  In His grace, God has not only revealed Himself in the creation and in our conscience, but also through the canon of Scripture.

This means that we have a responsibility in understanding, studying, and applying what God has revealed.  Scripture, at its center, is direct revelation from God about God.  Apart from the Bible we would know very little and what could be known would be speculative.  If God can be known (though not exhaustively), are we taking advantage of it or are we simply leaving our Bible’s on the shelf until next Sunday?  We say much about God, but because of our infrequent study of Him, we know very little about Him.  We struggle and want to know where God is and yet are unwilling to understand His nature.  All theology is practical and the study of God is no different.  If God is Omnipresent (everywhere) then I am not alone.  If God is immutable (unchanging) then my salvation is secure.  If God is holy then injustice and evil will be judged and I need not retaliate.  If God is forgiving, then I know how to forgive.  If God is love, then I know how to love.  If God is Sovereign then I need not fear.  If God is provident, then I need not worry about tomorrow.  If God is creator then I know that I am not an accident and God has a purpose for me.  Will I fulfill and do His will?  Though I struggle, I know God.  Though I mourn, I know God.  Though I am worried and anxious, I know God. 

There is a God and He has made Himself known to us and what we know is far beyond our comprehension.  So though we cannot pull God down, let us instead lift Him up and praise Him name as he truly is.  Thanks be to God that we are not in the dark but can enjoy the light of truly knowing who God is.  To study and encounter God is to be overwhelmed.  Are you overwhelmed?

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 

All Around the Web - March 24, 2015

Trevin Wax - The Wonder of Sunday Morning

Justin Taylor - An Interview with Sam Storms on What the New Testament Really Teaches about Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security

The Blazing Center - Things I Would Do Differently If I Were Raising My Children Again

9Marks - A Brief History of Complementarian Literature

9Marks - From Lesbianism to Complementarianism

Magna Carta: Medieval from Beakus on Vimeo.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Should Christians Advocate for Religious Liberty for All Religions?

Yes, says Russell Moore:
Emphatically, yes, we should advocate religious liberty for all. Religious liberty for everyone is a corollary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No bureaucrat can stand on anyone’s behalf before the judgment seat of Christ, and the government cannot issue regeneration the way it issues driver’s licenses. To give the government oversight over religious beliefs and practice, even over those with whom we disagree, is to confer spiritual lordship on the state, a lordship Jesus never delegated to it. Only a losing religion needs the government to support or enforce it. The gospel is big enough to fight for itself.

All Around the Web - March 23, 2015

Kevin DeYoung - Concerning the True Care of Souls

Ligonier - 4 Ways Pastors Must Practice Evangelism

Thom Rainer - Church Reflections from a 22-Year-Old

The Gospel Coalition - The Lesser-Known Lloyd-Jones

Preachers and Preaching - Preaching Affects Everything

Thursday, March 19, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Scriptures

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 begins with an article on Scripture.  Any discussion on theology and any survey on what any denomination, faith, or person believes must begin with what they believe about God’s Word.  Our understanding of the Bible determines everything else.  

We would know very little (and even it would be speculative) about God, the meaning of life, salvation, creation, morality, and the afterlife if it were not for special revelation.  God has revealed Himself in three ways: Creation, Conscience, and Canon (the Bible).  Creation and Conscience represent “General Revelation” (meaning that God has revealed Himself “generally” to mankind.  Canon (Scripture) is God’s special revelation in which He gave direct revelation to us.  Without such special, divine revelation, we would be short on answers. 

This means that what we believe about Scripture determines our understanding of God, sin, mankind, creation, salvation, Jesus Christ, righteousness, morality, and truth.  The BF&M 2000 reads:

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man.  It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction.  It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter.  Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.  It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.  All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus on divine revelation.

This is a well-written summation of what we believe Scripture to be.  God is its author, salvation is its thesis, and truth is what it dispenses.  If God is perfect and without blemish or error, then so must be His declarations.  Scripture is perfect, without error, and timeless.  The God of the Bible is still the God of today and what He has revealed still stands.

Scripture is the primary and ultimate source for truth.  It trumps philosophy and sitting in your basement with legs crossed humming.  Humans cannot fully understand God apart from His direct revelation and with His revelation we can better understand, worship, obey, and submit to our creator.  A world without revelation is a world of walking in dense fog. 

We believe in what the Reformers called Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone).  This means that only Scripture is inspired and only Scripture is authoritative as God’s Word.  We reject tradition and experience as inspired.  This doesn’t  mean that learning from past theologians and Christians or from personal experience isn’t insightful, but they are not inspired.  Men err.  God doesn’t.

Secondly, Scripture is closed & is only the 66 books of the Bible.  We reject the Apocrypha (commonly used in the Catholic Church) and any writings after Revelation.  All false Gospels are rejected as uninspired and we believe that God will not give any new revelation.  Anyone who claims to have “a word from the Lord,” must be evaluated in light of revealed Scripture.  In other words, no one can say “God told me,” or “thus says the Lord,” and it truly be from God unless it agrees with what God has already revealed in His Word.  God has spoken and instead of wanting new revelation, we have enough and all that we need in the Old and New Testament.

The doctrine of Scripture is central to Christian and Baptist beliefs.  Unless we have a sound understanding of what the Bible is and what it reveals, everything else will be an educated guess.  We can know very little about God or life apart from His divine revelation.  Let us be thankful that God has willed it to reveal Himself though He was never obligated to.  Let us treasure Scripture everyday and seek to know more about the God who revealed it.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture

All Around the Web - March 19, 2015

Kirk Miller - 7 Free Books by D.A. Carson (PDF)

Carey Nieuwhof - 5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t

The Gospel Coalition - Will the Supreme Court Issue an Eviction Notice to New York City Churches?

Trevin Wax - The Hidden Compliment From Critics of Christian Hypocrisy

Ligonier - 6 Advantages of Consecutive Expository Preaching

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: On Education

From God on the Dock:
This very obvious fact – that each generation is taught by an earlier generation – must be kept very firmly in mind.  The beliefs which boys fresh from school now hold are largely the beliefs of the Twenties.  The beliefs which boys from school will hold in the Sixties will be largely those of the under-graduates of today.  The moment we forget this we begin to talk nonsense about education. . . .  None can give to another what he does not possess himself.  No generation can bequeath to its successor what it has not got.  You may frame the syllabus as you please.  But when you have planned and reported ad nauseam, if we are skeptical, we shall teach only skepticism to our pupils; if fools only folly, if vulgar only vulgarity, if saints, sanctity, if heroes heroism.  Education is only the most fully conscious of the channels whereby each generation influences the next.  It is not a closed system.  Nothing which was not in the teachers, can flow from them into the pupils.  We shall all admit that a man who knows no Greek himself cannot teach Greek to his form: but it is equally certain that a man whose mind was formed in a period of cynicism and disillusion, cannot teach hope or fortitude.

A society, which is predominantly Christian, will propagate Christianity through its schools; one which is not, will not.

All Around the Web - March 18, 2015

Kevin DeYoung - Why Can’t the Church Just Agree to Disagree on Homosexuality?

Canon and Culture - Will US Secularists Be Afraid to Leave US Traditional Christians Alone?

Thom Rainer - Seven Distinguishing Habits of Highly Effective Pastors

Justin Taylor - 22 Benefits of Meditating on Scripture

Daily Writing Tips - Top 10 Punctuation Mistakes

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction

What is a Baptist?  Certainly there are stereotypes of Baptists – backrow sitters, many committees, loves chicken, and always the first to arrive at the local buffet after church.  But this is not what a Baptist really is; these are only characteristics.  There are multiple answers people oftentimes give to this question:  cooperation, missions, doctrine, or something similar.  I want to argue that none of these are correct.

When persons mention that Baptists cooperate primarily in the form of missions what they mean is that Baptist around American and around the world have joined together, shared with one another their resources and funds in order to support local and international missions.  Certainly this is true.  Baptist are notorious for this.  Every year we take up a number of offerings (like the Anne Armstrong Offering and the Lottie Moon Offering just to name a few) which go to support specific missionaries and mission agencies (like the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board).  Very early on in our history, Baptist understood that many churches cannot support large mission ventures, but by cooperating together, we can accomplish more in the mission field.

Others argue that a Baptist is one that affirms particular Baptist beliefs.  Not only do Baptist emphasize orthodox doctrines (like the inspiration of the Bible, salvation through the cross and resurrection of Christ, the Trinity, etc.) but also historical Baptist distinctives.  Some of the distinctives include regenerate church membership (only those saved are members of the local church), believers baptism (we don't baptize babies), the autonomy of the local church (we are in charge of our own church, which is why we have business meetings), the separation of State and Church (we Baptist played a major role in the First Amendment), and others.

But to affirm just one of these and say that this is what makes a Baptist a Baptist is false.  Historically, those who have said that a Baptist is one that cooperates and supports missions usually do so as a way to undermine doctrine.  In other words, when we say that Baptists only support missions is to allow destructive doctrines in the church.  At the same time, those who only care about the doctrine forget the passion Baptist have for missions and its necessity.

So what is a Baptist?  A Baptist is one that affirms both orthodoxy and Baptist distinctives and at the same time has a passion to see the world reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We embrace our identity and at the same time seek the world for Christ.  We cooperate in order to see the lost know Christ.

The union of both doctrine and cooperation is imperative.  Without right doctrine our evangelistic agenda is empty.  How can we reach people with Christ if we have wrong beliefs about Christ?  There are many religious and non-religious organizations dedicated to cooperation but do so to their own peril by being founded on compromising doctrine.  The National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches are two examples.  By making unity their foundation they have undermined divisive doctrines that define our faith.  Such organizations deny gospel doctrines like Christ’s deity, the Bible’s inspiration, and salvation through Christ alone.  As a result, their cooperation is nothing more than a social club most known for their humanitarian aide.  Baptists must avoid such a popular tendency in a culture that unashamedly rejects the divisive doctrines of the faith.

We must not fall for this trap of cooperation at the cost of doctrine.  Cooperation is essential to Baptist identity but cooperation apart from orthodox doctrine is empty.  At the same time, we must not forget that our study of Scripture and sound theology must motivate us and drive us to the spreading of the gospel.  Baptists are known for their cold approach to personal evangelism.  People know that we affirm the full inspiration of Scripture, but oftentimes see us as hypocrites and ignorant of our own faith.  We must not forget that God is most glorified when souls are saved and He has declared that sinners will not be redeemed apart from the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14).

So what is a Baptist?  A more thorough definition could be offered, but at its core we must admit that Baptists are orthodox believers who affirm historical Baptist  distinctives united to the spreading of the gospel around the world for the glory of God.  To lose this core message is to cease to be Baptist.

All Around the Web - March 17, 2015

Foreign Policy - The Real War on Christianity

Preachers and Preaching - 10 Reminders for Preachers

Justin Taylor - Are the Religion Clauses of the Constitution Contradictory?

Chuck Lawless - Lead for the Future, Not from the Past

Tim Challies - Three Roads to Joy in Bi-vocational Min

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit" by Corey Olsen: A Review

In midst of a stalemate caused by people insisting on their rights, Bilbo has given up everything.
. . . 
Now at last we can see why the dwarves needed a burglar in their company. When it actually came to it, a burglar was not all that much help in obtaining their treasure; a bowman was what they really needed for that. Bilbo was quite handy to have around at many points on their journey, but the one task he turned out to be uniquely qualified for was connected not with the recovery of their treasure, but with the recovery of themselves. Bard slays the dragon, but it is little Bilbo who works to make the prophecies of peace and prosperity come true.

Not even Gandalf could have foreseen that his chosen burglar would play this particular role in the adventure he arranged. Yet when Gandalf meets Bilbo again at the end of Chapter Sixteen, we can see that the wizard recognizes the full significance of Bilbo's actions and fully endorses them. His comment that "there is always more about you than anyone expects!" presumably is meant to include himself, and it acts as an admission that he had no idea of the unlikely turn events have taken (249). Gandalf's hearty "Well done!" is Bilbo's greatest reward. He has more than lived up to Gandalf's recommendation. (261, 263)

Rarely do I read fiction, but when I do, the author is usually C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien. From my experience (and with my personal preferences and biases), little is better, more powerful, or better feeds my imagination more than the worlds of Narnia, Middle-Earth, or Perelandria. Following the release of the third Hobbit film, I sat down to reread Tolkien's first volume in Middle-Earth (you can read that review here). Much of the last few years, as a result, has been enjoying both theatrically and literately Bilbo and his thirteen companions.

This is what led me to discover Dr. Core Olsen's wonderful book Exploring J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Olsen writes from the perspective of both an avid fan (even a Tolkien nerd) and professor of medieval history and literature. In fact, Olsen credits Tolkien for his personal interest in the middle ages.

The book walks the reader through The Hobbit interacting with the text and its meaning. Though I consider myself a fan of Tolkien's work, I must admit how little I actually knew. Olsen opened my eyes to see the beauty of The Hobbit.

Olsen makes connections, without stretching or reading into the text, that I had failed to see before. Some of them are fairly obvious. For example, Bilbo is constantly torn between his Baggins side (who wants to stay home and eat his bacon and eggs) and his Took side (which loves adventures). That little insight alone will make the story more interesting. Another example regards the juxtaposition between the Elves and the Goblins. One should note how Tolkien leads the company from one (the Rivendale Elves) to the other.

It is here I must make a confession. I almost always skip over the many songs found in the book. In fact, I should admit that the only poetic section of the book I read is the riddles in the dark between Biblo and Gollum (and I would highly recommend Olsen's take on this great scene). Such songs, frankly, are uninteresting to me. Olsen, however, changed my perspective on this. The writer unfolds what Tolkien is actually doing through these songs. Again, the juxtaposition between the Rivendale Elves and the Goblins is case in point. What I once considered insignificant has, really, robbed me of the real meaning and beauty of the story itself.

One of the main themes of the book (beyond its take on the universality of greed) is the presence of "luck." "Luck" is Tolkien's dominate word here and so the author prefers it. Throughout the text, Olsen reminds us how constant this theme is. Bilbo was lucky to find the ring. He was lucky to figure out Gollum's riddles. He was lucky that a simple question uttered under his breath ("what do I have in my pocket?") was heard by the strange creature. Constantly Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves in surviving on luck.

For a time, such luck breeds pride in Bilbo. His arrogance is made clear in the one moment when he should have been much more humble: his interaction with Smaug. Biblo's self-aggrandizing titles reveal just how much his run of luck has gone to his head.

Yet anyone who reads the story closely and have any fundamental understanding of Tolkien's personal theology will know that Tolkien means something other than mere luck in this book. Olsen hints at this early in the book when he writes:
It would seem that there are only two sensible reactions we can have to these long strings of wildly improbably events. We can either scoff at them and find the whole story rather absurd, or we can begin to suspect that Biblo's adventure is being orchestrated by some power beyond the wizardry of Gandalf the Grey or the wisdom of Elrond of Rivendell. . . . Gently, Tolkien is drawing our attention to the fact that there is a higher purpose at work in the events of this story, and we are being prompted to suspect that the amazing luck of Bilbo and Thorin is not accidental. (67-68)
Non-accidental luck is not luck. It is not happenstance. There is a better, more powerful, word for it: providence. The Hobbit ends with this thought in his conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo. Fittingly, Olsen unfolds this theme more fully for us at the end of his volume. He writes:
Biblo expresses some surprise when he hears that "the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!" (276). In Gandalf's reply, the wizard finally addresses openly a truth that has been increasingly clear as we have studied Bilbo's story. "You don't really suppose, do you," he asks, "that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?" Gandalf confirms that what Bilbo and the narrator have been calling "luck" the whole time was more than simply chance. Bilbo's adventures ahve been "managed" by divine Providence for a purpose far greater than the enrichment of one small hobbit. As we have seen, Bilbo was one of the chief instruments, contributing to a symphony whose score incorporates everything from the tea parties of hobbits to the motions of the moon and the stars. 
Bilbo's reaction is a perfect snapshot of Bilbo after his journey. He was learned wisdom and humility and his cheerful "Thank goodness!" shows that he is quite satisfied to learn that he has not really been the protagonist of his story, after all (276). Bilbo is at peace, and our final image of him is a fitting one. Bilbo, laughing around his parlor table in Bag-end with Gandalf and Balin, hands the tobacco jar to his friend, as they all smoke their pipes together in contentment. (304)
This is what makes The Hobbit such an popular book. Not only does Tolkien show how easy "dragon-sickness" can corrupt us all (from dwarves to elves to dragons to hobbits to men), but he unveils before our mind's eye that history is God's story, not ours.

What makes Bilbo great is that he is not great. He's a Hobbit, not a King, a wizard, a dragon, or even a dwarf. He's a halfling. A nobody. The shape-shifter, Beorn, doesn't even know what a Hobbit is. The mighty Smaug is perplexed at who Biblo is. After all, he had never eaten one of his kind before.

Bilbo succeeds not because he is this mighty burglar or because he possesses a powerful ring, but because there stands above the story a divine Creator. Christians should celebrate this. Though Olsen, I believe, could have interacted with Tolkien's faith a little more, the author does not shy away from it (he does so more in his podcasts at Tolkien Professor).

In the end, those who love Middle-Earth in general and The Hobbit in particular will thoroughly enjoy this book. I was already a fan. Now I am much more.

For more:
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
A Few Thoughts on The Battle of the Five Armies
"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
"The Return of the King" by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Review
Longing for Eden: Tolkien's Insight into the Longing of Every Human Soul
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence
How to Read J. R. R. Tolkien
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Dramatized Audio
"Beyond The Movie": A National Geographic Documentary on the Lord of the Rings   

All Around the Web - March 16, 2015

Denny Burk - Margaret Sanger’s legacy is not salvageable, so let’s not try

Albert Mohler - The Integrity of Words and Our Confession of Faith

The Gospel Coalition - Preachers, Keep A Close Watch On Your Life and Illustrations

Kevin DeYoung - A Brief Defense of Infant Baptism | For the record, I still affirm believer's baptism.

Mashable - Google CFO retires with a candid memo about work/life balance

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bonhoeffer: Don't Try to Make the Bible Relevant

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer as quoted by Eric Metaxas in Bonhoeffer
“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic.… Do not defend God’s Word, but testify to it.… Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”

All Around the Web - March 13, 2015

John Stonestreet - The Bogus 'Others Have It Worse' Argument

Faith by Hearing - 2015 Shepherd’s Conference

Crossway -  How to Befriend Your Pastor's Wife

Michael Bird - Stephen Colbert on his Catholic Faith

The Blaze - Fugitive Had Been Running From Cops for Months. Then He Posted Something Really Dumb on Facebook

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Correcting the Record on a Common Lewis Misquote and Why it Matters

The Internet is great for many things. Accuracy is not one of them. Misinformation abounds in cyberspace. The old adage is true:
 "A lie can spread halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its pants on" -Winston Churchhill (or was it Mark Twain or someone else?)
In this vein, one quote often attributed to CS Lewis is in the above image: "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." No reference. No context. Just a quote. Falsely attributed.

Lewis never said it. Even more, it fails to reflect both Christian orthodoxy and Lewis's mere Christianity. Here is why.

First, the quotation is Docetic.This predominantly Gnostic doctrine taught that Jesus was not embodied but only appeared to be physical. The motive behind this early heresy reflects Greek philosophy which believed the spiritual world was good and the physical world was bad. Thus in order for Jesus to be perfectly good, He cannot be an embodied being.This type of dualism is contrary to the Christian.

The suggestion that each of us are souls trapped inside of a body reflects this. The Gnostics took such spiritualism and either landed on the extremes of asceticism or moral libertarianism. If we are trapped in our bodies, then we must either be liberated from the physical world (which leads to asceticism) or indulge the flesh (which leads to moral libertarism). Docetism is not the gospel.

Christians affirm both the body and the soul. We are embodied beings and this is good. God made all things - the spiritual and the physical - good. Though the Fall and its introduction of sin distorts God's good creation, the physical and spiritual world remain good (but easily abused and used for evil). Therefore, sex remains good even though it is too-often distorted. Food is good even though it is too-often abused.We do not bifurcate the physical and the spiritual.

Furthermore, we shall one day be raised bodily. We will not be spiritual cupids floating on clouds, but embodied beings dwelling with Christ forever. So no, we are not souls trapped in a body. We are both body and soul.

Secondly, Lewis never portrayed the world as exclusively spiritual. In The Great Divorce, Lewis describes heaven's gate in such a way as to suggest that the future world is more real than our present one. Likewise, there is no evidence in any of his other writings that reflects this worldview. Throughout Narnia Aslan is physical with a mane that can be touched. Ransom experiences physical worlds in Perelandra, Earth (the Silent Planet), and Malacandra.

Thirdly, in Mere Christianity, Lewis himself seemed to have repudiated this Gnostic doctrine. He wrote:
There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this is rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.
This is not the language of a Docetic, but of a Christian.

Finally, the origin of the quote has been discovered. The full quote is "You don't have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily." It was written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. in his 1960 novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. Miller was anything but orthodox.[1]

What should concern us most is how pervasive this quote (regardless of who it is attribute to) continues to spread among people who should know better. I am rarely surprised by what I find on Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterests, and Twitter, but when leading Christians promote it a red flag should be raised. Hannah Peckham chronicles that both John Piper has tweeted the quote and Ravi Zacharias has included it in at least one of his books and tweeted it.


This should alarm us. Such leaders ought to know better. On the surface, this quote sounds good and right but is dangerous. It leaves out the ultimate victory of Christ. He defeats death, decay, disease, pain, suffering, and violence. It repudiates the whole gospel and thus it ought to be repudiated by gospel people.

For more on this dubious quote see the following:
Mere Orthodoxy - “You Don’t Have a Soul”: C.S. Lewis Never Said It
First Things - The Spiritualist Origins of “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul.” 
Thomas T. Human - C.S. Lewis did not say "You don't have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body."
Justin Taylor - Apocryphal Quote from C.S. Lewis on the Soul and the Body

[1] The origin of the quote really predates Miller. For more see both the Mere Orthodoxy and First Things articles.

All Around the Web - March 12, 2015

Trevin Wax - “Who Should Raise Your Children?” When G. K. Chesterton Debated Bertrand Russell on the Ideal Family

Washington Post - The Benefits of getting married in your mid-20s

Covenant Eyes - Do women look at porn? Yes. Here are the stats.

Tim Challies - 6 Reasons Why Sexual Predators Target Churches

CBS Sports - Paternal Fraternity: The Overlooked Reality Behind So many College Atheletes' Daily Lives as Fathers

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: From Another World

From Mere Christianity:
The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.

All Around the Web - March 11, 2015

Thom Rainer - Nine Thoughts on Church Splits

Philip Nation - 10 Way to Not Goof Up Your Easter Service

The Gospel Coalition - Looking Forward to a Heaven We Can Imagine

Breakpoint -  Stealing from God - The New Atheists

Ligonier - 4 Sermon Types to Avoid

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 6

The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 1
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 2
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 3
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 4
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 5
The Real Divide: Luther, the Reformation, and the Fight Over Perspicuity - Part 6


We must then conclude where we began. Sola Scriptura was a significant difference between Luther’s Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church.  By that does not mean, however, that Luther believed that Scripture (and Scripture alone) was authoritative while the Catholic Church did not. Both believed and appealed to Scripture and both would argue that their doctrine and practices were based on Scripture and Scripture alone. The interpretations and doctrine decreed by Councils, Popes, and the Church Fathers were based on exegesis.  What really separated Protestants and Catholics was not merely the authority of Scripture, but its clarity. 

It has been established that Protestants affirmed Scripture’s perspicuity while the Catholic Church rejected it.  It has been shown that though Luther and the Church found themselves debating issues like free will, justification, indulgences, and Bible translations, what they were really arguing was perspicuity.  The foundational division between the two sides was perspicuity.  It is this disagreement that led to debates over sola fida and sola gracia.  The gospel was re-discovered because Luther understood the clear words of Scripture.  The Catholic Church condemned and at times executed those who translated the Scripture because it usurped their authority as the sole interpreter of Scripture.  Again and again, it all came down to perspicuity.

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