Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - On Redaction Criticism

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Introduction 
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The Canonization of Scripture"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The New Hermeneutics
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Faith and Practice
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Walter Bauer Thesis
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Progressive Revelation
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - On Redaction Criticism

Chapter 4 of DA Carson's book Collected Writings on Scripture evaluates redaction criticism. Admittedly, this is the most difficult chapter of the book as Carson is dealing with challenging, academic issues. Through it all, Carson proves to be an elite scholar.

In this post, I want to highlight a few of the points Carson makes regarding redaction criticism.   First, point eleven states:
We speak of redaction criticism as a tool, a word that somehow conjures up images of scientific precision. In fact, a glance at the available redaction critical works on any Gospel reveals how terribly subjective these literary tools usually are. "Of course," Hooker comments, "NT scholars recognize the inadequacy of their tools; when different people look at one passage, and all get different answers, the inadequacy is obvious, even to NT scholars! But they do not draw the logical deduction from this fact" - viz., that the tools are incapable of providing an entirely neutral and agreed judgment as to what is authentic. (160)
Carson raises an important issue here worth fleshing out a little more. Behind the sciences is a bias subject: the scientist. It is strange that postmodernity applies personal bias to virtually every area of life except regarding the sciences. Many liberal scholars that use "tools" like redaction criticism as a means to justify their liberal theology. Of course liberal theology is a means to justify certain subjective preferences (especially on the moral and political side).

When entering the world of academia, do not forget that every scholarly paper, academic work, and guest lecture has some bias behind it.

Point twelve reads thus:
It is methodologically irresponsible to pit history against theology as if the two could not be compatible. Moreover,t eh oft-repeated claim that faith is independent of history is reasonable only if Christianity is reduced to purely existential categories. If, however, Christianity is grounded in what god in Christ did in history, and if faith is related in some way to propositions about God's acts in history, then even if historical recital or historical evidence is not sufficient to call faith to life, yet nevertheless faith under such premises is so bound up with historical events that ahistorical faith is both nonsensical and heterodox. Paul certainly thought so (see 1 cor. 15:1-11). (160-161)
I appreciate Carson's words here. One cannot severe Christian doctrine from the Christian story. Liberalism is often guilty of believing in the Jesus of history as opposed to the Christ of faith yet the New Testament will not allow us to do that. If Jesus was raised from the dead, the story of Jesus matters and cannot so easily be disregarded.

Christianity is unique in this regard. Islam does not stand and fall on historic events. Neither does Judaism or Buddhism. Christianity, however, stands and falls on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. If proven false, the faith is false.

Finally, point thirteen reads:
It is too often forgotten that whatever else Jesus was, he was an itinerant preacher. As anyone who has done much itinerant preaching knows, minor variations of the same messages or rearrangements of them come out again and again. Form and redaction critics have developed no methodology for distinguishing between, on the one hand, similar sayings in separate gospels that do reflect a trajectory of interpretation and, on the other, similar sayings in separate gospels that are actually both authentic. (161)
Often more liberal scholars will point out differences (some of them significant) between the Gospels regarding parallel accounts. As Carson argues here, scholars fail to adequately explain these differences. Differences do not question their authenticity. It is very possible, for example, that the Sermon on the Mount was  both one sermon and multiple sermons. That could explain some of the differences between Matthew and Luke.

Carson makes other points regarding redaction criticism of course (twenty in total) but I consider these three worth passing along here. It remains, in the end, that various criticisms, though they have tried, have not undermined orthodox Christianity.

All Around the Web - June 30, 2015

Stand to Reason - Justice Kennedy’s Arguments for Polygamy and Polyamory

Russell Moore - How Should You Talk to Your Children About Same-Sex Marriage?

Public Walker - The Value of Children: Economics, Faith, and the Problem of Underpopulation

Eric Metaxas - Why We Love Rule-Breaking

Cripplegate - Theories of the Atonement: What Happened on the Cross?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Reads: History

Summer is a great time for reading and every year blogs like this one post a summer reading list. I have already written a post recommending 9 books that pastors should read this summer. Now I want to offer a collection of good history books to read this summer. I have read all of them but have not written a review of each. You will find the links below.

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson- (my review) - The mark of good history writing is that the story is better than fiction. That certainly describes the first two books on this list both of which share the same title. Swanson's book is a must read for history and Lincoln buffs. The hunt for John Wilkes Booth is an intriguing one.

Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--from 9/11 to Abbottabad by Peter Bergen (my review) - The hunt for and assassination of Osama bin Laden is a major event in American history. Bin Laden had a lot of blood on his hands. What makes this story so fascinating is that bin Laden managed to live a decade after 9/11 as the most wanted man in the world in spite modern technology and endless resources. Of course it required him to live as a sort of hermit with little technology seriously hampering his leadership of Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, it is a great story and Bergen writes it better than anyone.

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard -Bill O'Reilly has made name for himself and gained even greater wealth from this best-selling series. Killing Lincoln was the first published and the first one I read. The series is written in a unique way that is riveting. Though each book has its weaknesses (nothing is cited), no doubt O'Reily and Dugard have produced a book that brings history to life.

God's Secretaries: The making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson (review forthcoming) - The King James Version has shaped modern English more than anything else including Shakespeare and Twitter. The story behind its translation include theology, politics, and even terrorism. Nicolson tells the story well and introduces us to each translator.

The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority by Pat Buchanan (my review) -I love to read about the Presidents even the most corrupt ones. No doubt to the modern ear, Richard Nixon is the epitome of a corrupt politician. One of his aides, Pat Buchanan, tells the story before Watergate that is rarely told or appreciated. Nixon went from being politically dead to quickly rise to become the President of the United States. How he did it and the story behind it is told here by one who was there the entire way.

My summer history reads:

Here is a foretaste of my personal reading list in regards to history. Not surprisingly, the Presidents dominate it.

All Around the Web - Gay Marriage Edition

Politico Magazine - It’s Time to Legalize Polygamy

Albert Mohler - The Briefing Special Edition: Supreme Court Ruling on Same Sex Marriage

Russell Moore (Washington Post) - Why the church should neither cave nor panic about the decision on gay marriage

Russell Moore - We’ve Been Here Before: Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement

Joe Carter - Explainer: What You Should Know About the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Russell Moore - Same-Sex Marriage and the Future

Trevin Wax - Top 10 Quotes from the Dissenting Justices on Same-Sex Marriage

Justin Taylor - The First Amendment Defense Act: A New Bill Before Congress

Kevin DeYoung - But What Does the Bible Say?

Denny Burk - How to protect your church against sexual orientation and gender identity lawsuits

Hershael York - The only decision that matters

Paul Chitwood - Today’s Supreme Court Ruling

Ed Stetzer - Same-Sex Marriage is now the Law of the (U.S.) Land: What Now for Christians?

Joe Carter - Sam Allberry on Ministering to Same-Sex Attracted Friends

Justin Taylor - Reaction To The Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Word to Pastors Preaching This Morning

Today is Sunday. As such many pastors, like myself, will be standing in the pulpit declaring, "Thus says the Lord." That is hard to do two days following the sweeping decisions made by the Supreme Court whereby gay marriage was made, by judicial fiat, the law of the land.

Once I heard the news I knew that the sermon I had spent hours preparing for had to be postponed. But what must I say it its place? At all times I am accountable with how I handle God's Word, the true gospel, and the position I hold. What must I/we say?

The temptation we all hold - and my immediate intention - is to be bombastic. I wanted to bash the sexual revolutionaries that continue to wreck havoc and despair everywhere its tentacles reach. And then, between the "bomb's away" rhetoric I thought I would sing a few "Woe is me's" tunes. Both are sure to get a few "amens."

That, however, should not be our response. No, today is a day of gospel encouragement. Today is the day we must remind our people that the good news of Jesus Christ is still the greatest news around. We must remind our people that, as Dr. Russell Moore recently stated, that the Supreme Court can redefine marriage but it cannot put a lifeless Jesus back in the grave.

That is why I am not preaching from Romans 1 or some imprecatory Psalm but from John 16:33,
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
The world may rage against us. Our voices may not be heard. And soon we may very well be in jail, but be of good courage, Jesus conquered the world the minute he walked out of that tomb.

So pastors, don't preach angry sermons of condemnation against five oligarchs or their proponents singing in the streets. Preach the gospel. Always preach the gospel. We need it more now than ever.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Luther on Galatians 2:13

Martin Luther was certainly a unique individual in the great halls of Christian history. Case in point is his commentary on Galatians. While recently studying for sermon, I came across the following gem from said commentary. The passage regards Luther's comments on Galatians 2:13 which reads thus:
The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
Luther then has this to say:
It is marvelous how God preserved the Church by one single person. Paul alone stood up for the truth, for Barnabas, his companion, was lost to him, and Peter was against him. Sometimes one lone person can do more in a conference than the whole assembly.

I mention this to urge all to learn how properly to differentiate between the Law and the Gospel, in order to avoid dissembling. When it come to the article of justification we must not yield, if we want to retain the truth of the Gospel.

When the conscience is disturbed, do not seek advice from reason or from the Law, but rest your conscience in the grace of God and in His Word, and proceed as if you had never heard of the Law. The Law has its place and its own good time. While Moses was in the mountain where he talked with God face to face, he had no law, he made no law, he administered no law. But when he came down from the mountain, he was a lawgiver. The conscience must be kept above the Law, the body under the Law.

Paul reproved Peter for no trifle, but for the chief article of Christian doctrine, which Peter's hypocrisy had endangered. For Barnabas and other Jews followed Peter's example. It is surprising that such good men as Peter, Barnabas, and others should fall into unexpected error, especially in a matter which they knew so well. To trust in our own strength, our own goodness, our own wisdom, is a perilous thing. Let us search the Scriptures with humility, praying that we may never lose the light of the Gospel. "Lord, increase our faith."

All Around the Web - June 26, 2015

Russell Moore - What Charleston Should Remind Us About Forgiveness and Justice

Canon and Culture - Justice Scalia and Clergy Solemnization of Same-Sex Marriages

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Pitfalls to Avoid in Sermon Illustrations

John Stonestreet - Elisabeth Elliot, 1926-2015

John Stonestreet - Dads at Play: The Father Factor

LifeWay Pastors - The Pastor’s Primer for Periscope

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Five Ingredient of a Growing Church: Insight From Bisagno

One of the books most, if not all, pastors new to the ministry ought to invest in is John R. Bisagno's Letters to Timothy: A Handbok for Pastors. It is a simple-to-read-and-understand guide for ministers. It is essentially a how-to guide for Protestant clergy. Bisagno touches on virtually every area of ministry from leadership to preaching to funerals to working with deacons, etc.

The second chapter discusses briefly five ingredients of a growing church - a list I want to highlight here. A few of the five "ingredients" are worth expanding upon.

1. Growing Churches Have Strong, Pastoral Leadership

To put it simply, an incompetent pastor-leader will stunt the growth of a local church. This is why leadership matters. It is not enough to preach or even to visit and cry with parishioners. A pastor must lead.

2. Growing Churches Believe the Bible

Unfortunately this point still needs to be made. To doubt the authority of Scripture is to place the local congregation on shaky ground. A church unsure about where truth ultimately lies is a church that will forever struggle with its identity, purpose, and mission.

Bisagno adds:
[Each pastor] were not attempting to be apologists. They were not defending the Bible, debating it, or trying to prove it. They wee preaching it, explaining it, applying it, and illustrating it. (6-7)
3. Growing Churches Are Characterized By Redeeming Love and Joy

Christians should not be a sour people. If one truly believes they were blind but now see or were dead and are now alive and were once enslaved but now free, we have abundant reasons to rejoice! A church entrapped by traditionism or moralism will be an unloving, dry church that will run off potential members.A growing church is a place of evident joy. The people truly love each other and enjoy each other's company.

4. Growing Churches Are Unified

Unity is the byproduct of redeeming joy and love yet at the same time unity produces redeeming love and joy. It is reciprocal. Unity is central to the local church. Unity is diminished when a congregation focuses on lesser, earthly needs instead of greater, eternal needs. The propagation of the gospel ought to be primary above all else.

A healthy, unified church is one focused on Christ and centered on his gospel. Focus on anything else, and church-unity is at risk.

5. Growing Churches Are Driven

Unless a church is serious about growing and willing to do the hard work necessary to grow, it will not grow. It really is that simple. A loving, unified church that does not enter its community and seek to reach the lost will not grow - regardless of its indomitable spirit.

Healthy churches are driven to see people saved and sanctified. But that takes work. It takes effort and purpose.


Admittedly, there is nothing surprising about this list. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals the above list ought to be obvious. We could summarize these five ingredients into one: be the church. A church is one that model's Christ, foreshadows our future life and worship in heaven, and reaches people with the gospel.

Before concluding, however, consider these final words from Bisagno:
The tone of each of these five ingredients is clearly set by the pastor. It all starts in the pulpit. It starts in your heart. Keep your eyes on the Lord. Keep your ears open to the Great Commission. Keep your chin up and your knees down. The best is yet to come. (8)

All Around the Web - June 25, 2015

Albert Mohler - The Heresy of Racial Superiority — Confronting the Past, and Confronting the Truth

John Stonestreet - Forgiveness in Charleston

Michael Gerson - The power of forgiveness in Charleston

Jason Allen - Why I Was Encouraged by This Year’s SBC Meeting

Entrepreneur - 13 Fun Things You Didn't Know Siri Could Do

Michael Bird - Why Pastors Need to be Theologians

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: If You Want To Win Souls For Christ

From his sermon "Conversions Desired" (sermon #1282) preached on March 5, 1876:
Next to this, if you want to win souls for Christ, feel a solemn alarm about them; you cannot make them feel if you do not feel yourself. Believe their danger; believe their helplessness; believe that only Christ can save them, and talk to them as if you meant it. The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you; if you can rest without their being saved, they will rest too! But if you are filled with an agony for them; if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy too. I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child, or about your hearer perishing for lack of Christ—and start up at once, and begin to cry, “O God, give me converts or I die!” Then you will have converts—there is no fear about that; God does not send travail pangs to His servants without causing them to abound in spiritual children! There will be new births to God when you are agonizing for them!

All Around the Web - June 24, 2015

Christianity Today - Tullian Tchividjian Resigns after Admitting 'Inappropriate Relationship'

Erik Raymond - How to Read More Books

The Blaze - Christian-Owned Wedding Venue That Ignited Furor for Refusing to Host Gay Wedding Will Shut Down

Bloomberg - American Adults Surpass Children in Taking Drugs to Stay Focused

Washington Post - Essay: How Pixar enchants us, and moves us, with close-up emotional magic

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What If Arius Won?

In his book, Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, Dr. Alister McGrath asks a provocative question: "[W]hat would Christianity have looked like if Arius had won?" (150) His answer is worth exploring.

Before beginning, a few words of clarity need to be said  The Council of Nicaea which condemned Arianism as a heresy was not a conspiracy. Though popular in liberal circles, Nicaea was not a political strategy of the Roman Catholic Church to consolidate power. Nicaea did not outlaw books of the Bible or any such thing. Any conspiracy theories regarding Nicaea are inevitably false.

Secondly, Arianism was condemned emphatically. Regardless of what Dan Brown has written through his fictional characters, the vote in favor of Athanasius Christology was not close. Related to that, the genesis of Christian Chrisotlogy by which Christ was viewed as divine was not at Nicaea, but in Christ himself. The Church did not make Christ divine, but recognized what Christians already believed.

With that said, here is how McGrath answers the above question:
It needs to be made clear that what Arius was proposing was not a minor rearrangement of the theological furniture of the Christian faith, to be compared with adjusting the position or changing the color of a favored chair in the living room. Arius's understanding of the identity of Christ differed so greatly from that proposed by Athanasius and the orthodox that it can only be regarded as constituting a separate religion. Arian Christianity is much closer to Islam than to orthodox Christianity, in relation both to its notion of God and to its understanding of the religious role of its founder. its concept of absolute divine monarchia has important political associations in that it points to an analogy of absolute authority on earth and in heaven. (150, emphasis mine)
McGrath then shows that "Arianism emphasized the inscrutability of God" where there "was an absolute ontological gulf between God and the world of the creatures" (150). Because Jesus is not divine, He is not revelation from God. This is just one reason why John's prologue is central to orthodoxy. Jesus, as Logos, reveals God. Without embodied divinity, God remains a distant deity.

This weaker view of Christ as revealer confuses the gospel. McGrath shows that "by failing to connect with God, it was unable to permit humanity either reliable or authentic knowledge of God or the salvation promised by the gospel" (151). The Arius Jesus delivered secondary revelation  and thus "may have been superior in quality to that of other human beings but was nevertheless equal in kind" (151).

In short, no orthodox view of Christ equals no gospel. Orthodox doctrines, in many ways, stand and fall on orthodox Christology.

In this regard, McGrath concludes by quoting Dorothy Sayers:
The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls. If Christ was only man, then he is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; f he is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life. It is, in the strictest sense, necessary to the salvation of relevance that a man should believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (152)

All Around the Web - June 23, 2015

Russell Moore - The Cross and the Confederate Flag

Carl Truman - Martin Luther, the Loving Father

Huffington Post - Russell Moore Still Thinks The Religious Right Will Win The Fight Over Gay Marriage

James KA Smith - Fatherless Days

Ligonier - Scotland’s Protestant Martyrs: Walter Milne

Monday, June 22, 2015

"John Knox: Fearless Faith" by Steven Lawson - A Review

My God give to His church again strong men possessed with the indomitable spirit of John Knox. the gentle flute or plaintive violin have their place, but they will never awaken a slumbering church in this dark hour. Give us men with a trumpet to their lips, sounding their Master's message, plainly and boldly, to the ears of all.

If a new Reformation is to come, ti will come through the spirit-empowered preaching of the Word of God in pulpits around the world. May the example of Knox embolden preachers and all who know Chris to herald His saving gospel. May a new generation declare the truth of Scripture in the broadest context of the full counsel of God. (126)

No doubt one of my favorite pastor/theologians of the past is Scottish Reformer John Knox. His uncompromising love of sola fida and faithfulness to his calling remains relevant today. And as a descendent of Knox's colleague, John Craig (see my book on him here), I have a personal interest in the man.

Recently I read another brief biography of Knox written by Steven J. Lawson entitled John Knox: Fearless Faith (Christian Focus, 2014). The goal of the book is to present Knox's story apart from secular retellings. Its brevity makes it assessable and a great introduction to this great reformer.

Lawson, a historian and theologian in his own right, presents a Knox often overlooked and under-appreciated. Knox was above all else a preacher. In his first chapter, Lawson describes Knox this way:
If Martin Luther was the hammer of the Reformation and John Calvin the pen, John Knox was the trumpet. (15)
No doubt if we possessed in manuscript form a fraction of his sermons, they alone would fill volumes (Knox's complete works compiled by David Lang number six volumes). Lawson notes that on any given day, Knox was preaching somewhere.

Such a ministry of fearless preaching made Knox a lot of enemies and put his life at risk. He had to flee both Scotland and England on multiple occasions and ruined any chance of getting on the good side of any female monarch with his most notorious book: The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women. Through it all, Knox persevered and was protected by God. The trumpeter of Scotland was the means by which God brought reformation to Scotland and for that reason alone he deserves our attention.

No doubt Knox's legacy has fallen on hard times in recent decades. Most Scotlanders consider David Hume more respectable than Knox and currently the late reformer lies buried beneath a parking lot under space 23.

But he still speaks because the gospel he preached is not dead.

Lawson concludes as many biographies of Knox does: where is the next Knox who with boldness will proclaim the gospel of Christ? Let us pray he is sitting in an evangelical seminary somewhere struggling with Hebrew vocab waiting to stand before nobles and common folk alike.

Books on Knox:
"John Knox: An Introduction to His Life and Works" - A Review
"John Knox" by Rosalind Marshall: A Review
"The Mighty Weakness of John Knox" by Douglas Bond: A Review
"John Knox & the Reformation" by M. Lloyd-Jones & Iain Murray: A Review
"John Knox For Armchair Theologians" by Suzanne McDonald: A Review

For more on Knox:
"Scottish Theology" by T. F. Torrance: A Review
A Nestorian Heresy?: John Knox & His Rejection of Particular Redemption
Douglas Bond on the Legacy of John Knox
"The School of Faith" by Thomas F. Torrance: A Review
John Knox on the Threefold Office of Christ
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension

All Around the Web - June 22, 2015

Eric Metaxas - Fatherhood Lost

Tim Challies - Summer Reading Suggestions

Mercatornet - The Christian roots of democracy’s most iconic document

Yahoo! - Jeb Bush: Culture Warrior

Federalists - Four Reasons Alexander Hamilton Needs to Stay on Our Money

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Father Hunger" by Douglas Wilson: A Review

In case you haven't notice, men are becoming increasingly absent from the home. Blame it on feminism, effeminate churches and ministers, or the Fall itself. Regardless we are suffering from father hunger. In his excellent book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families, Doug Wilson calls us back not just to fatherhood, but a fatherhood that mimics God the Father.

Wilson offers the reader a view of masculinity and fatherhood deeply masculine (a main emphasis of the book) and purposefully reflective of the Father. Wilson argues that if we want to recover biblical manhood we need to look nowhere else but God the Father Himself. He makes an excellent point here. The reason Scripture refer to the head of the Trinity as Father isn't to give the impression that God is male (nor can we just say that this just reflects a patriarchal society), but that God is masculine and this shows what we need - an example of what true masculinity is.

Wilson is a great writer and it is clear that this is a subject he is passionate about, has studied immensely, and is qualified to write on it. Wilson is deeply concerned with trends culturally that have encouraged the absence of husbands and fathers from the home, the intrusion and failure of the state at the level of the home, what has become of men, and what the Bible has to say about it all. Wilson does not mince words, nor is he concerned with what our effeminate culture might think about it. He calls us back to biblical masculinity of responsibility and sacrificial love. After all, the cultural understanding of masculinity (if we can still use the word) hasn't given us Utopia, but quit the opposite.

My two favorite chapters, and there were many I loved, regard his discussion on abortion (which more broadly looks at the intrusion of the state) and his chapter on sex and feminism.  Regarding abortion, Wilson rightly shows that Roe vs. Wade has only encouraged fathers to leave the home. After all, if the woman is lord over the image bearer in her womb, what's the difference between the loving husband at home and the womanizing trucker? There is none. He writes:

A decision whether to have an abortion now famously rests between the "woman and her doctor." Who is missing from that? Entirely left out of this life-and-death question is whether or not the woman is married. If she is married, should her husband, the legitimate father of the child in question, have nay say in the matter? Left out is the question of whether the covenant of marriage should be taken into account at all when it comes to whether the children of lawful sexual union live or die. In Roe, the supreme Court in effect determined that every American child is, in the eyes of the court, a covenantal bastard.
The destructive leveling effects of this have been implemented from another direction. At the same time that we have seen legitimate fathers excluded from the decision whether or not their sons or daughters will lie or die, we have seen illegitimate fathers included in the lawsuits surrounding adoption, visitation rights, and so on.

The assault is therefore on the very concept of legal paternity. No child is entitled to the protections of a father. A father who has bound himself in matrimony for life has no more legal say over whether his child lives or dies than some free-range motorcyclist who was in town for just a night or two. In the eyes of the Supreme Court, that vanishing man has the same amount of legal say when it comes to the abortion of his child as a man who has committed himself to remain for life - which is to say, none. (78)
Excellent point, though a tragic one. This one court decision has put absenteeism on steroids and most men, even beyond the home, are on heavy doses. Men are now either absent or emasculated wimps that aren't worth their salt.

The other section worth noting regards sexuality and feminism. I will not post all that I want to say here, but suffice it to say, some of Wilson's most direct (and even shocking) language is used here. He shows why feminism doesn't work. Simply put, feminism is a denial of natural femininity. It is a fulfillment of Genesis 3:16 and it only plays into the hands of men. Women who buy the feminist lie seek to make men soft but then complain when men don't pursue them, don't lead, don't step up to the plate, aren't present, and, to put it more simply, aren't masculine. Feminism is always stuck between these two worlds. They don't want men, but secretly do.

Overall, this is an excellent book and one that every Christian man ought to read. The church is suffering from the same masculine absence that the home is and it is starting to show. Wilson rightly shows that even our churches reflect a wimpy version of the gospel especially among its ministers. We need men to lead and men need to step up to lead. The gospel is at stake. Christ's church is at stake. The family is at stake. Our society is at stake. Will we not step up to the plate?

Originally published July 9, 2012.

For more from Doug Wilson
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: Doug Wilson Says Yes
Justice and the Implications of Atheism: Doug Wilson Hits the Nail on Its Head
A Conversation on Jonathan Edwards With Doug Wilson & Joe Rigney
Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?: The Doug Wilson & Andrew Sullivan Debate
Piper & Wilson: A Fascinating Conversation 
"The Witch of Endor": A Sermon Preached by Doug Wilson

All Around the Web - June 20, 2015

New York Times - Rachel Dolezal, in Center of Storm, Is Defiant: ‘I Identify as Black’

The Gospel Coalition - Jabez and the Soft Prosperity Gospel

Tim Challies - What's at Stake? The Gospel Is at Stake

John Stonestreet - Time for Some Bibliotherapy

Kevin DeYoung - 15 History Books for Your Summer Reading

HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, June 19, 2015

Andy Stanley on Expository Preaching

In an interview with Ed Stetzer, Andy Stanley had the following to say regarding expository preaching. In short, he is not a fan
Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible-- that is just cheating. It's cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn't how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There's not one example of that.

All Scripture is equally inspired, but not all Scripture is equally applicable or relevant to every stage of life. My challenge is to read culture and to read an audience and ask: What is the felt need? Or perhaps what is more important, what is an unfelt need they need to feel that I can address? Because if they don't feel it, then they won't address it.

So how can I make them feel an unfelt need and then make them feel like they need to do something about it? But when you do that, people are like, "Man, that is amazing. You're brilliant." No, all you have done is unearthed a need and you talked about it. "I have never heard anyone talk about that before." Probably, no one has ever made you feel that before. So they talked about it, but it didn't register because they didn't make you feel like you needed to hear about it to start with.

I believe the true defining moment of my life as a communicator took place when I was in seminary. I was asked to do a chapel for the high school academy at First Baptist Church, Dallas. So I got the message all ready to go, and I was going to preach on the story of Naaman. And God told him to dip in the water seven times and he would be healed. I had all this great stuff. And I was sitting in my one-room efficiency apartment and I was thinking, "These kids have heard everything. They go to church all the time. They are not going to remember this. This is just another chapel. What can I do so that they can remember this? I am just going to come up with one phrase and I am going to say it so many times that they can't possibility forget it."

So I came up with this phrase: "To understand why, submit and apply." That was over 30 years ago and I still remember it. So I told the whole story. And I said the bottom line was: "To understand why, submit and apply. " And I said that God is going to ask you to do some things that you might not understand why, but you must submit and apply. I had them say it over and over.

Three years go by, and I am working in the college department in the same church and a freshman walks in and says, "I remember you. To understand why, submit and apply." He didn't remember my name. He wasn't even sure where he had seen me before. But it stuck in his head. And I'll never forget thinking, "That is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to take all this stuff in the Bible, and I want to say it so simply that it gets so lodged in people's hearts that in the moment of transition or temptation or whatever it might be, they think: What is that statement? What is that phrase?"

It is hard to take things down to that level...to help people see things from God's perspective. That was huge for me. I think it defined what effective preaching or effective communication is for me. It isn't three points or four points. It's really one point that is somehow connected to a passage and it is connected to a life. And then you should stop talking because you are done.
As this site has argued before, I strongly disagree.

For more:
9 Reasons Why I Preach Expositionally
What Expository Preaching is Not
What Expository Preaching Is

Should We Preach Harmonies?
Best Sermons on the Web for Pastors
5 Reasons Why We Should Plan Our Preaching
The Mechanics of Planning Our Preaching
"The Consequences of Non-expositional Preaching": Two Sermons by John MacArthur

All Around the World - June 19, 2015

John Stonestreet - Why Abortion is Really Declining 

The Gospel Coalition - The Lost World of Adam and Eve

Sam Storms - Is Suicide the Unpardonable Sin?

Justin Taylor - How Do We Know the Holy Spirit Is a Person?

NBC News - Eshbaal Revealed: Biblical Name Found on 3,000-Year-Old Jar in Israel

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Creative Non-Fiction: Dolezal and Jenner on the Moral Anarchy of Our Age

When the news broke that the new President of the NAACP in Spokane, WA , Rachel Dolezal, was actually a white woman masquerading as a black female, everyone took notice and the story went viral. For the most part, she has been criticized as a phony and a fake. Why would anyone who is biologically white self-identify as African-American?

Though the story is another tragic parable of postmodernity run amuk, traditionalists like myself have enjoyed the irony. Bruce Jenner, though biologically a man, self-identifies as a woman and thus has gone through an entire gender transformation, adopted a feminine name, and has been received with open arms by the broader culture.

What we have been asking is how is Bruce Jenner any different than Rachel Dolezal? Though she is biologically one thing, she self-identifies as another; just like Jenner. Why does the left see gender as fluid but not race? If we are to celebrate transgenderism why not transracism?

In a recent interview on NBC News, Dolezal defended her actions and identity in striking language. She makes the same arguments as Jenner:
Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the NAACP’s Spokane, Washington, chapter who has been pretending to be black, told NBC News on Tuesday that she’s never lied to anyone about her race.

“Let me just ask you plainly,” NBC’s Savannah Guthrie said. “Have you ever lied about your race?”

“No,” Doleful replied, “because never have I been asked, ‘are you human or are you not human?’ Race as a construct has a fluid understanding. So I would say no.”

When asked if she’s been “deceptive at all,” Dolezal admitted there have been moments of “creative non-fiction” in order to “survive” or “protect” loved ones. (Source)
"Creative non-fiction" is one way of putting it I guess.

The key quote is: "Race as a construct has a fluid understanding." I am not entirely for sure what that means, but one can easily see the relationship between Dolezal on race and Jenner on gender.

What Dolezal has done is illustrate the lunacy of the moral anarchy of our age. If both gender and marriage is a fluid construct why not gender or anything else? Deconstructionism has redefined everything - everything - to the point that words have no meaning and thus we have chaos.

Here I would point us back to the beauty of the gospel and the Christian vision. As image bearers, God makes no mistakes. Gender is good; race is good; marriage is good; and God is glorified in all of them.

All Around the Web - June 18, 2015

Trevin Wax - What to make of Southern Baptists’ declining numbers (COMMENTARY)

Denny Burk - The Southern Baptist Convention passes resolution on gay marriage

Church Law and Tax - Evaluating Your Church Website

Ligonier - 4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart

Justin Taylor - One Reason to Go Back to the Primary Sources

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Did Jesus Descend To Hell After His Death?

The question of Jesus Christ descending into hell is a popular one among Christians but there is credible reason to believe otherwise.  Several conservative Christians, pastors, and theologians like Wayne Grudem and John Piper have argued that the belief is based bad interpretation of the biblical text driven by an assumption about the Apostles Creed.

Likewise, former Seattle-based Mars Hill Church pastor, Mark Driscoll rejects the belief that Christ descended to hell and I am leaning towards that conclusion myself.  Jesus' emphatic and unmistakable declaration that He would be with the thief in Paradise today and His confession that It is Finished! certainly makes it difficult to fit in a visit to the abyss.

Likewise, the belief that Jesus descended into hell between His crucifixion and resurrection has led to some very dangerous, wrong, and even heretical beliefs.  Here are just two of them.

1)  Postmortem Evangelism - Many have unfortunately taken this event and made the argument that everybody gets a second chance to either reject or accept Jesus after death.  Prominent theologians like Dr. Molly Marshall-Green affirms this. She has written:
Because faith comes by hearing fides ex auditu, the Gospel is preached even to those thought beyond the scope of Christ's redemption--the dead. The iconography of the church portrays a scene of liberation as forbears overcome corruptible death through Jesus. St. Ephrem the Syrian proclaims: "By death the Living One emptied Sheol. He tore it open and let entire throngs flee from it."

The only appropriate response is voicing the Alleulia that has fallen silent during Lent. Although we will experience death in the flesh we, like Jesus, will be made alive by the Spirit.
2)  Ransom Theory of the Atonement - Popular among Charismatics, many argue that at the cross Jesus paid a ransom to Satan.  I have huge problems with that.  Regardless many see Jesus' descent into hell as part of that ransom where Satan, demons, and the powers of hell tortured Christ.  Although this is not the traditional teaching on this subject, many have taken it and corrupted it.  Turn on TBN and you will see what I mean.

So though these are just two extremes one could point to when it comes to this subject, this isn't the best reason for rejecting the belief that Jesus descended into hell.  However, one must admit that taken to its logical end, these two wrong ideas are reasonable, though clearly misguided and wrong.

Here is Doug Wilson on the subject:

Here is Mark Driscoll on the subject from a few years ago.

Molly Marshall-Green - He Descended into Hell
Wayne Grudem - Did Jesus Descend Into Hell?
Russell Moore - Evangelical Feminism Lurches Leftward:  Is Molly Marshall an "Evangelical" Feminist? 

All Around the web - June 16, 2015

Denny Burk - Red and yellow, black and white. We can be all of them in his sight?

The Gospel Coalition - What’s Up with the Witch of Endor?

Thom Rainer - Pastors and Time in Sermon Preparation

Eric Metaxas - Why We Celebrate the Magna Carta

Desiring God - Calvinism Is Not New to Baptists

The Gospel Coalition - Albert Mohler on How to Survive a Moral Revolution

Monday, June 15, 2015

"God's Watchman" by Richard Kyle: A Review

Knox first came storming onto the stage of history brandishing a two-edged sword. In his last days on earth, however, he tells us how he first cast anchor in John 17. His soul seems serene as his wife read to him his favorite passages from scripture.s These two instances illustrate the Knoxian paradox: the warrior for God and a man secure int he evangel of Jesus Christ. Which was the real John Knox? Both. Yet it is the combative Knox as a prophet calling down the judgment of God on the supporters of idolatry - that is, Catholicism. But this was not the only John Knox. He also emerges as a pastor of souls, a man with a close relationship with Jesus Christ. And in looking back at John Knox, this comprehensive and balanced perspective should not be forgotten. (266)

One of my favorite Christians of the past to read about is without a doubt John Knox - the great Scottish reformer. One of my favorite authors to read regarding Knox is without a doubt Richard G. Kyle. A few years ago I read his introductory work on Knox entitled John Knox: An Introduction to His Life and Works co-authored with Dale Johnson (read my review here). Kyle, unlike most other authors I have read on Knox, offers a thorough survey of Knox's theology and thought. No doubt Knox is controversial, but Kyle's treatment of the reformer is always fair and concerned with who Knox really was regardless of what popular culture might thing or what theological preference one might have.

Recently I read Kyle's book God's Watchman: John Knox's Faith and Vocation (Pickwick, 2014) which surveys Knox's theology, ministry, and political thought. Again, Kyle knocks it out of the park.

The book explores who Knox really is. Was he a preacher, a prophet, or a pastor? Others would add political revolution and chauvinist to that list. Kyle explores these aspects of Knox's ministry and life. Who was the real John Knox? Kyle suggests that he was a man who wore many hats. The introductory paragraph of chapter 1 reads:
Revolutionary or servant of God? Thundering prophet or consummate politician? nasty old man or spiritual pastor? ardently loved or passionately despised? will the real John Knox please stand up? John Knox indeed was a complex and contradictory figure. To be sure, he displayed several faces and wore many hates.

The Scottish reformer, therefore, has been the subject of many interpretations - some wildly different. Knox was a controversial figure in his day. And he continues to be so down to the present. He has been both loved and hated by his contemporaries and historians through the centuries. No sixteenth-century reformer has aroused such a range of emotions and opinions. Few people have taken a neutral stance in regard to John Knox. (3)
Kyle, then, explores these aspects of Knox's life and ministry. Knox was, perhaps above all, a preacher - or at least that's the way he saw himself. Yet in his preaching ministry Knox was a prophet who spoke against all forms of idolatry, a political revolutionary that believed a monarch should be overthrown if he/she (usually a she in his day) failed to affirm and promote the true faith, and a pastor who could tenderly comfort the suffering and encourage those struggling with their faith.

As such we must explore Knox's thinking theologically, pastorally, and politically. Kyle does an excellent job in this regard. Of all of the books I have read on Knox thus far, this volume provides some of the best insight into Knox's theology. One aspect I enjoy most about Knox's theology regards his emphasis on immutability. Though he goes farther than I would on the subject, Knox was at least right in placing significant emphasis on it.

In regards to his political theory, Kyle offers sober words for Knox. To the modern ear, Knox is a radical that no one should support. One can hardly read his most (in)famous work The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women without cringing. It is unfortunate that most only know Knox as the double-edge sword yielding preacher who hated women in power.

Yet Kyle warns us against such a view of Knox. The reformer had little interests in politics but understood the world-changing nature of his doctrine. Knox was a preacher and as such he was called to faithfully proclaim the gospel regardless of his audience. Knox did not care if he made a local farmer or the queen of Scotland cry if he was fulfilling his ministry.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book. Kyle wades through the murkiness of Knoxian studies and presents the man as he was - warts and all. It is not a critical book for "englightened" academics which serves to massage their own chronological snobbery nor is it hagiography for Reformed theologians. It is an exploration. Will the real John Knox please stand up? By the end, he does.

This book was graciously provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Books on Knox:
"John Knox: An Introduction to His Life and Works" - A Review
"John Knox" by Rosalind Marshall: A Review
"The Mighty Weakness of John Knox" by Douglas Bond: A Review
"John Knox & the Reformation" by M. Lloyd-Jones & Iain Murray: A Review
"John Knox For Armchair Theologians" by Suzanne McDonald: A Review

For more on Knox:
"Scottish Theology" by T. F. Torrance: A Review
A Nestorian Heresy?: John Knox & His Rejection of Particular Redemption
Douglas Bond on the Legacy of John Knox
"The School of Faith" by Thomas F. Torrance: A Review
John Knox on the Threefold Office of Christ
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
John Knox on the Importance of the Ascension 

All Around the Web - June 15, 2015

Tim Keller - The Bible and same sex relationships: A review article

The Gospel Coalition - Africa Infested by Health and Wealth Teaching

Eric Raymond - He Knows Our Frame

Kevin DeYoung - John Witherspoon on Celebrity Pastors

Action Institute - 7 Supreme Court Cases To Watch This Month

Mental Floss - 12 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Airports

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Paul the Forgiven: Mark Driscoll's Preaching Again

Mark Driscoll has come out of hiding and is slowly getting back to preaching. Here recently preached at James River Church in Ozark, MO.

All Around the Web - June 13, 2015

Family Studies -  Red State Families: Better Than We Knew

Washington Post - Chart: The most liberal and conservative jobs in America

The Gospel Coalition - I Visited a Prosperity Gospel Megachurch

Medium - If my mom were me, I wouldn’t exist.

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Animal Fighting

Friday, June 12, 2015

Even Darwinism is a Religion: Insight from McGrath

From Alister McGrath's book Heresy A History of Defending the Truth:
Every worldview, whether religious or secular, has its orthodoxies and heresies. Although the concepts of heresy and orthodoxy had their origins within early Christianity, they have been found to be useful by other religious traditions on the one hand, and political and scientific ideologies on the other. The development of Darwinism, for example, has witnessed the rise and fall of ways of thinking and schools of thought, with the terms "heresy" and "orthodoxy" being widely used within the field to identify friends and foes. For example, Motoo Kimura's concept of neutral evolution (by which inconsequential amino acid replacements in proteins may account for the bulk of sequence differences between species) was regarded as heretical by many biologists when it was first introduced in the late 1960s. Today it is a part of Darwinian orthodoxy. The appropriation of religious language to describe such controversies is an indication both of the seriousness with which all sides take their positions and of the feeling that certain positions within the Darwinian spectrum are downright dangerous. If evolution can be regarded as a religion, then it has both its orthodoxies and heresies. (35)

All Around the Web - June 12, 2015

Carl Trueman - A Day Late, A Dollar Short

Christianity Today - Breaking News: 2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage

Doug Wilson - The One Thing Bruce Jenner Got Right

Western Recorder - Obama's comments on poverty disappointing

Preachers and Preaching - Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers

Justin Taylor - Jonathan Edwards Would Like to Ask a Few Questions of Your Troubled Soul

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just Go On Preaching: A Word From Martin Luther

While studying for a sermon on Acts 4:23-31 on the early church's prayer for boldness, I read through Steve Lawson's helpful book The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther. In the conclusion of his final chapter, we find the following encouraging word from the great reformer:
This is Christ's commission: 'Go therefore, just go on preaching; do not worry about who will listen; let Me worry about that. The world will be against you; do not let that trouble you. Nevertheless, there will be those who will listen to you and follow. You do not know them now, but I know them already. You preach, and let Me manage. -116*

*Quote cited as coming from Martin Luther, Luther Works, vol 51, xx.

All Around the Web - June 11, 2015

Albert Mohler - Which Way, Evangelicals? There is Nowhere to Hide

James Hamilton - Image and Likeness

Trevin Wax - Why Christian denominations aren’t going away (COMMENTARY)

Brandon Smith - The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: An Interview with Christian George

Thom Rainer - Nine Thoughts for Pastors Who Are Considering Quitting

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: Love is Not God

From The Four Loves:
In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation in which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him (Confessions xv, 10). Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one’s heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

Of course this is excellent sense. Don’t put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may he turned out of. And there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering”.

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my con- science. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a Friend – if it comes to that, would you choose a dog in this spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates. Eros, lawless Eros, preferring the Beloved to happiness, is more like Love Himself than this.

I think that this passage in the Confessions is less a part of St. Augustine’s Christendom than a hangover from the high-minded Pagan philosophies in which he grew up. It is closer to Stoic “apathy” or neo-Platonic mysticism than to charity. We follow One who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus, and, loving all, yet had one disciple whom, in a special sense, he “loved.” St. Paul has a higher authority with us than St. Augustine — St. Paul who shows no sign that he would not have suffered like a man, and no feeling that he ought not so to have suffered, if Epaphroditus had died (Phil. 2:27).

There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests. Nor along any other lines. There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. -The Four Loves, in "The Beloved Works of CS Lewis," 278

All Around the Web - June 10, 2015

Marvin Olasky - Albert Mohler: Saving a seminary

John Stonestreet - Yellow and Blue and True Beauty

Joe Carter - Could Facebook Be Helping to Reduce Abortions?

Liberate - Abuse Doesn’t Get the Last Word

Thom Rainer - Five Types of Change Resistant Churches

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Progressive Revelation

"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Introduction 
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The Canonization of Scripture"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - The New Hermeneutics
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Faith and Practice
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Walter Bauer Thesis
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Progressive Revelation

Properly defined, I believe in progressive revelation. In the third chapter of his book Collected Writings on Scripture, Dr. DA Carson provides a helpful discussion of  progressive revelation. He begins by noting that the "term 'progressive revelation' is a slippery one" (133). Its genesis stems from liberal theology which has used the term "to describe an evolutionary approach to understanding the Bible" (133).

Though Carson does not explore the liberal trajectory more here, one can easily see the influence of evolution and progressive revelation throughout liberal writings. Several years ago Emergent leader Brian McLaren, in his book A New Kind of Christianity, described the Bible as a collection of writings that reveal the progressive evolution of humanity's understanding of God. Thus in the Old Testament, God is predominately an angry Being who condemns sinners while in the New Testament we see a much softer side of God in the example of Jesus. In his theology, the canon is not closed in the sense that all our understanding of God is exclusive to the 66 books of the Bible. God continues to reveal himself and we humans continue to discover God. The Bible reflects an ancient view of God - one in which we have mostly outgrown.

Yet this is not what the Carson means by the term "progressive revelation." Instead, he uses the term to
. . . refer to the fact that God progressively revealed himself in event and in Scripture, climaxing the events with the death-resurrection-exaltation of Christ and climaxing the Scriptures with the closing of the canon. The result is that God's ways and purposes were progressively fulfilled not only in redemption events but also in inscrpiturated explanation. The earlier revelation prepares for the later, the later carries further and in someway explicates the earlier. (134)
This is a good working definition.

Carson then adds that "The most dramatic canonical shift is the shift from Old Testament to New" (134). This assertion, I assume, needs little defense. The shift from legalistic Judaism to Jesus is a notable jump. The gap is bridged, I believe, by the preaching and ministry of John the Baptist.

There are "certain characteristics of the diversity in the New Testament that have to be born in mind" (134). First, "certain parts of the old covenant under which Jesus lived are not continued under the new covenant he inaugurated (e.g., Mark 7:19; much of Hebrews)" (134). No serious take on systematic theology can ignore this fact. The Gospel narratives clearly show that Jesus is the fulfillment, in many ways, of Israel.

Secondly, "the full implications of" the new Spirit-age "takes some time to be understood . . .and this understanding comes only in degrees, unevenly, haltingly, cautiously." (135) This eventually leads Carson to ask an important question, "Can there be development within the writings of one particular author?" (135) The obvious best case-study in this regard is the Apostle Paul. Taking their ques from C. H. Dodd, most writers "affirm unhesitatingly that they can trace development in Paul's thought." (135) I disagree; so does Carson.

There are several problems with this thesis. First, there is still considerable debate regarding the dating of Paul's letters. Though most agree on various ranges, liberal and conservative theologians will likely never agree on date and authorship of Pauline writings. This point alone leaves the thesis virtually unprovable. Furthermore, the letters of Paul are diverse due to the nature and purpose of the letters. Some are pastoral, some are theological, some are introductory, some are personal.* Finally, most scholars believe Paul wrote his canonical letters within a fifteen year time span which makes diversity less likely.

All of this leads Carson to conclude:
There is little reason to doubt that Paul sees himself growing in understanding and maturity, including theological maturity (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-12; Phil. 3:12-16). But there is not the slightest evidence that Paul perceived himself to be abandoning any position he had formerly maintained in his writings. It remains important that we interpret Paul by Paul, not only for the sake of systematic theology but also for the sake of understanding Paul. (136)
So, in conclusion, do I believe in progressive revelation? Yes. No doubt we see a slow unveiling of the doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture, for example. However, as defined by liberals, I fully reject. Liberal progressive revelation makes theology impossible. Orthodox revelation makes theology glorious.

* Carson explores this point more fully on pages 138-141.

All Around the Web - June 9, 2015

Michael Bird - The Coming Evils of Mono-Normativity

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel

Doug Wilson - Triple-D Demented

Thom Rainer - 12 Signs of Mediocrity in a Church

LifeWay - American ‘Nones’ Open to Wide Range of Denominations

Monday, June 8, 2015

Free eBook: "Speaking the Truth in Love" by David Powlison

The good folks at New Growth Press are offering their book Speaking the Truth in Love: Counsel in Community free as a digital download. Here is the description of the book.
You probably speak 20,000 words a day, give or take, and each one influences those who listen. No wonder God has so much to say about our words. We are all counselors, whether we realize it or not!

Speaking Truth in Love is a blueprint for communication that strengthens community in Christ. The principles outlined in this pivotal work are specific to counseling, yet extend to marriage, family, friendship, business, and the church.
  • Have you ever wondered how to be a more effective counselor?
  • Have you ever looked for a better way to talk to difficult people?
  • Have you ever wanted to express faith and love more naturally in your relationships?
Practical in its approach yet comprehensive in its scope, Speaking Truth in Love is sure to become required reading for anyone interested in pursuing a career as a counselor or anyone else who longs for ways to redeem relationships.

"The Spy Next Door" by Shannon & Blackman: A Review

Even if the Russians themselves never again threatened world peace as they had during the Cold War, Gordon said, the secrets Hanssen sold could still do terrible damage to U. S. forces and interests in the Third World. "The Russians are in a position to sell, use, or trade that information to help others neutralize U. S. intelligence," he said. "It's hard to change the way you do things. the Russians know that, and they have taught or traded their knowledge of us to other countries or to non-state actors, to terrorists groups, to revolutionary groups."

It had been almost twenty-two years since Bob Hanssen began selling secrets. But even as the FBI congratulated itself on finally nailing him, there was no denying the presence of an undercurrent of worry, shame, and anger. He had been there. He had been there all along. (224)

Perhaps no crime is more universally hated than betrayal. Trust is everything in any relationship and to discover that citizens with access with our nation's most sensitive secrets and intelligence would then sell them to our enemies is appalling. Such an act has almost always been a capital offense.

In 2001 news broke that the worse traitor in our history was finally captured after serving as a spy for the Soviet Union for twenty-two years. Though not made public, Robert Hanssen, a seemingly everyday man with peculiarities about him, was one of the most wanted men in America - if only the FBI could discover who it was selling all of its secrets.

I remember the story, but the significance of his capture was overshadowed that year by 9/11. Robert Hanssen handed over some of the most sensitive material ever in American history and he is now serving a life sentence without parole.

The narrative has always interested me but I never really looked into it. Recently I read Elaine Shannon and Ann Blackman's book The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, The Most Damaging Agent in U. S. History. The book itself is straightforward. It chronicles, from beginning to end, the rise and fall of Hanssen the spy. The authors do not chase many rabbits. In my experience, books like this spend an inordinate amount of time psychologizing its subject. The authors do not do that here. Though they explore why Hanssen betrayed his country, they go no farther.

Certainly money could not have been the primary motivation. Over a twenty-two year career of espionage, the annual "income" of his work was minimal. Certainly he had his bills to pay, but this could not have been the deciding factor. Likely it was ego and an "I'll show them" sort of attitude. Hanssen was not cool and he resented it. He acted superior to his colleagues (which is why he wasn't cool). The authors portray him as someone that only his family loved.

Ultimately, what we ought to learn from this story is that looks can be deceiving. The best spies, and certainly Hanssen ought to be numbered among them, not only cover their tracks but are experts at living a lie. Hanssen was a very religious Catholic who was also obsessively anticommunist. How ironic.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is a fascinating story and the authors tell it well. I appreciate their approach of just telling the facts. If you are interested in true crime stories, I recommend this one. It is truly historic.

In closing, I am reminded of the following quote from CS Lewis:
We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” -Abolition of Man