Monday, February 29, 2016

"The Hole in Our Holiness" by Kevin DeYoung: A Review

My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to. (11)

Holiness is anything but cool; even in the church. That, in essence, is the hole in our holiness that Kevin DeYoung speaks of in his book The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. There has been a blessed emphasis in recent years on gospel-centeredness, but DeYoung is concerned that we have failed to apply gospel-centeredness to godliness.

What DeYoung offers is a standard book on holiness for a new generation. That's a compliment. Each generation needs such books (I immediately think of MacArthur's lordship books as examples of this in previous decades). DeYoung walks the reader through a theology of holiness and why we should pursue it.

For those familiar with the theology of holiness, you will be familiar with the content of the book. For the most part, DeYoung does not say anything new (again, another compliment) or profound. He simply sticks to the biblical text and writes as a pastor-theologian. There are, however, two sections worth highlighting.

First, the law ain't all that bad. Certainly we must run from legalistic religion and all forms of moralism. That is not subject to debate. However, in pursuit of not being legalistic, many fail to appreciate the law. DeYoung states that "There is nothing sub-Christian in talking about obedience to God's commands" (52). This then leads him to make what, I believe, a profound point:
Some Christians make the mistake of pitting love against law, as if the two were mutually exclusive. You either have a religion of love or a religion of law. But such an equation is profoundly unbiblical. For starters, “love” is a command of the law (Deut. 6:5Lev. 19:18Matt. 22:36-40). If you enjoin people to love, you are giving them law. Conversely, if you tell them law doesn’t matter, then neither does love, which is the summary of the law. . . .

Let’s not be afraid to land on law—never as the means of meriting justification, but as the proper expression of having received it. It’s not wrong for a sermon to conclude with something we have to do. It’s not inappropriate that our counseling exhort one another to obedience. Legalism is a problem in the church, but so is antinomianism. Granted, I don’t hear anyone saying “let’s continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1). That’s the worst form of antinomianism.  . . .
The world may think we're homophobic, but nomophobia (fear of law) may be our bigger problem.  (53-55)
I believe he is right. Scripture calls us to obedience and so we must obey.

Second, DeYoung's chapter on sexual sin is a necessary but tragic reality. He penetratingly writes:
Sexual immorality is one of our high places. I'm afraid we - and there is an "I" in that "we" - don't have the yes to see how much the world has squeezed us into its mold.

If we could transport Christians from almost any other century to any of today's "Christian" countries int he West, I believe what would surprise them most (besides our phenomenal affluence) is how at home Christians are with sexual impurity. It doesn't shock us. It doesn't upset us. it doesn't offend our consciences. In fact, unless it's really bad, sexual impurity seems normal, just a way of life, and often downright entertaining. (108)
Again, I think he is right.

Overall, this is a helpful book that would be good for every Christian and pastor to consider. There is a hole in our holiness and it is something we must take more seriously. Given the Tchividjian sanctification debate in previous years, I assumed some of that would be introduced here (I realize this book was written before the Gospel Coalition controversy) would address those issues. Nevertheless, this is a helpful primer on the subject of holiness.

All Around the Web - February 29, 2016

Michael Bird - Answering President Jed Bartlet on the Bible and Sexuality

Zondervan - Mounce Archive 23 – Missing Verses

Joe Carter - How the Non-Existence of Vampires Reveals the Existence of God

Russell Moore - Signposts: How Our Home Does Family Devotions

The Blaze - 25 Facts to Know About George Washington

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 1

One of the great byproducts of the Internet and the digital age is its working in saving great books in history that are at risk of being lost. In my effort to research my ancestors who were ministers like myself, this work has become even more prescient to me. One of my ancestors (a Great uncle) was a man named Joseph Craig who was among the Travelling Church who came to Kentucky in 1781 fleeing Anglican persecution in Virginia. In the coming weeks, I want to offer his journal which gives a personal and unique insight in pioneer American Baptists life. Thanks to the Internet, is story is being preserved for future generations.

Chapter 1

I was born they say in Virginia the 11th day of June in the year of our Lord 1741. My father [Taliaferro Craig] inclined to the High church; my mother [Mary Hawkins Craig] had some knowledge of the Presbyterian doctrine and often reproved me for my rattling and vain joking. And when I was about eight or ten years old, I was often dreadfully afraid I should be miserable after death and was very desirous to be good. But I never had then heard the way of salvation by Christ as there were only about five or six Baptists within thirty or forty miles and no other that preached him aright. So I lived until I was married and got to be three and twenty years old.

All this time did I live (for thirteen or fourteen years) under a sense of condemnation. I was most sensible of this in the time of lightning and thunder. I used to pray often, most commonly when I was in my bed: but, when it thundered hard I was often on my knees, saying over all the prayers I knew, again and again till the thunder was past. My fears were great, that if I died before I was better, I should be lost from God forever. So I continued till one man rode to the gap where I lived and told me, if I would go and hear the Baptists they would tell me something I would like, he did believe; and some such talk. And when he went off I felt very awful and strange that I could scarcely walk! After some time the preacher came and had an appointment to preach at night. I went to hear him but nothing seemed to affect me. At length, two persons were talking together--one said to the other, the prayerbook was not scripture. That word seemed as if destroyed or took away half my religion, and left me standing on what I knew not. After some time, the preacher came again and preached several times. I followed him down about twenty miles. He preached in an old house. I had been with him and his company several days, and felt, by this time, a strong love for them; and while he preached, I stood near him and gave all attention. After he had done we returned toward our homes. On my way, I felt some solemn and awful impression on my mind; those impressions I feared to lose, I wished to say nothing to anyone, but kept praying to myself. When I got home, I stood in the yard and seemed rather afraid to go in.

My wife saw me and shed tears, and said something ailed me. The next morning the case seemed plain: It seemed as though the glory of God appeared to me, and in me; and I could see the Lord in me, and I in him (by faith); and that I was safe and happy and clothed with his glorious, all sufficient righteousness. Now I felt so safe, as though I was taken out of hell into heaven.

I almost thought God showed me my relations and near friends in the broad road to death and hell. I talked to them. Some heard me and said I was right; and some did not like it at all. I had little thought God would speak by me; I preached in a private way to all I got a chance to speak to; but particularly to our parson. He got angry at me and raised his fist at me and said he was the maddest man I ever saw when he was mad! So I persuaded three of my brothers to go about forty miles with me to the meeting to hear brother Thomas preach.

They seemed fully to fall in with the doctrine which he preached, but none of them professed conversion at that time so we returned home.

For more:
"Esteem Reproach" by Harper & Jacumin: A Review

"Baptists and Persecution in Virginia": A Lecture by Steve Weaver
Elijah Craig: A Biography Written By James B. Taylor 

All Around the Web - February 26, 2016

Christianity Today - Southern Baptists Lose Almost 1,000 Missionaries as IMB Cuts Costs

New York Times - The Apple Case Will Grope Its Way Into Your Future

Thom Rainer - Ten Comments from Happy Church Guests

Justin Taylor - C.S. Lewis’s Poem, “What the Bird Said Early In The Year”

OUP Blog - A short history of the mosquito that transmits Zika virus

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why You Should Preach the Gospel At Every Funeral

As a pastor I have been given the opportunity to preach countless funerals, burials, and memorial services. Unlike most pastors who, behind closed doors, prefer to "bury you than marry you,"
funerals are a constant reminder that though death is a defeated foe, we can still feel its sting.

Though I have preached many funerals, I have also attended and "tag-teamed" many others which included other ministers who were invited to preach. It is unfortunate that many ministers fail to consistently and clearly proclaim the hope and good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ at a funeral. Many are tempted to share sappy stories and personal experiences with the deceased mixed with spiritual antidotes that offer no real comfort.

I cannot condemn such a dereliction of duty in strong enough terms.  I believe that any minister that fails to preach the gospel at a funeral should repent and leave the ministry. Here are a few reasons why I believe this so strongly:
1. Because Your a Minister of the Gospel, Stupid. Do not call yourself a minister of the gospel if you do not proclaim the gospel. When given an opportunity to speak (whether publicly or privately), the gospel must always be on the forefront of your tongue. If the gospel is unclear, then do not call yourself a minister of it.

2. It is an Open Invitation From the Lost to Preach, Don't Waste It. Whether you know the family or not, there will be non-believers at the funeral. It is unfortunate that pastors are more evangelistic on a Sunday morning than at a funeral when the lost-saved ratio is drastically different. Funerals are the one event in our culture where the lost welcome ministers to proclaim the saving gospel. Don't waste such a rich opportunity.

3. Only the Gospel Truly Comforts. In my experience, one can tell if the deceased was a faithful Christian or not the second you enter the funeral home. The mood of the environment is different. Where Christ was the center of the deceased life, there is hope of all who knew them. Where Christ was not the center, there is but sadness. Only the gospel comforts. The gospel tells us the story of how God entered our story, walked in our shoes, suffered in our place, died, and defeated death through his resurrection. Our hope is not in this world, but in Christ. Death is not the end for the believer. That is more comforting than talk of angel wings, harps, and "they were a good person."

4. Ministers Will Be Judged For Their Ministry. James 3:1 is clear that ministers will be judged more harshly than others in the church. Failure to preach the one message you were commissioned to preached by the King will result in judgment.

5. Scripture Speaks of Death in Gospel Terms. One cannot read 1 Corinthians 15 without seeing that the Christian response to death is the gospel. The pastor (the Christian too) has nothing to say but the gospel when dealing with death.
 6. There Isn't a Better Message to Preach Than the Gospel. There is nothing better to say than the gospel. So say it. Otherwise your wasting everyone's time.

For more:
"A Necessary Grief" by Larry Michael: A Review

All Around the Web - February 25, 2016

Trevin Wax - Evangelicals, the Voting Booth, and the Impact of D.C. Discipleship

Russell Moore - Can the Church Disengage From Politics?
Denny Burk - Governor John Kasich’s completely unacceptable remarks about religious liberty

Joe Carter - Must Christians Vote? Part I – Understanding Presidential Primaries and the Electoral College

The Gospel Coalition - 6 Ways Pastors Can Use Their Time Well

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - To Master Peter

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - To Master Peter

As we said in our introduction to Martin Luther's work A Simple Way to Pray, Luther writes a personal letter to his barber who inspired the writer: Peter Benkendorf. He is referred to as "Master Peter" by Luther in this volume.

Luther begins by making a striking confession: "sometimes I feel I am becoming cold and apathetic about prayer" (6). Before glossing over such a comment as Luther exercising false humility, we should pause and take Luther seriously. No doubt Luther prayed more and, frankly, better than you and I, but I believe this confession is genuine. Luther himself believed there were times he felt his prayer life was "cold and apathetic." What a relief! Here is one of the great giants of the faith and here he confesses his own struggles in prayer. We are not alone.

So what does Luther do in those moments? He notes two things here in this introductory letter to Master Peter. First, "I like to take my little book of the Psalms and sneak away into a little room" or to the church and pray. Secondly, as is modeled in this little book,
I begin by saying the Ten Commandments out loud to myself, then the Creed, and if I have the time, I like to repeat certain sayings of Christ, or of Paul, or the Psalms, as the children do. This is why it is such a good idea to start your day, first thing, early in the morning, by praying, and then make it the last thing you do at the end of the day. (6)
Much of the book follows this example (though he leaves out his study of the Lord's Prayer as part of his personal prayer practice). We will explore this in future posts.

Furthermore, it is crucial to pray immediately - don't put it off. Why? Because it implies there are other things more important than prayer when in fact there isn't.

Finally, don't get distracted: "We have to be absolutely certain that we do not allow ourselves to be distracted room genuine prayer. The devil is not lazy! He will never stop attacking us." (7)

Luther provides some really helpful insight here. We all struggle with prayer, but Luther calls us to account to take it more seriously.

All Around the Web - February 23, 2016

Hunter Baker - The Thinking Man’s Guide to Bernie’s Socialism

The Atlantic - Escaping the Amish for a Connected World

Rick Phillips - Socialism Is Evil

Thom Rainer - Ten Common Frustrations of Pastors

Zondervan - What Happened Between the Old and New Testaments? 4 Things You Need to Know to Read the New Testament Well

Russell Moore - Signposts: “Too Dumb to Fail: A Conversation with Matt K. Lewis On Election 2016”

Monday, February 22, 2016

"The World's Last Night" by CS Lewis: A Review

To love involves trusting the beloved beyond the evidence, even against much evidence. No man is our friend who believes in our good intentions only when they are proved. No man is our friend who will not be very slow to accept evidence against them. Such confidence, between one man and another, is in fact almost universally praised as a moral beauty, not blamed as a logical error. And the suspicious man is blamed for a meanness of character, not admired for the excellence of his logic. (26)

Grand total I have read dozens of CS Lewis's books, essays, and poems plus numerous biographies and other volumes on the late Christian apologists. Yet he never gets old. In fact, it seems that the next chapter or essay is just as piercing and prophetic (if not more so) than the one I read before. One of his lesser known books, The World's Last Night is no different. Like many of Lewis's books, this volume is a collection of individual essays. The essays include:
  1. The Efficacy of Prayer 
  2. On Obstinacy in Belief 
  3. Lilies that Fester
  4. Screwtape Proposes a Toast 
  5. Good Work and Good Works 
  6. Religion and Rocketry 
  7. The World's Last Night
Of these six essays, I suspect the third one is the most recognizable as it is commonly found as an appendix in modern versions of Screwtape Letters. In said essay, I would point the reader to consider the following prophetic word regarding modern education:
In that promising land the spirit of I’m as good as you has already begun something more than a generally social influence. It begins to work itself into their educational system. How far its operations there have gone at the present moment, I should not like to say with certainty. Nor does it matter. Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Let, them, for example, make mud pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem.” An even more drastic scheme is not possible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma — Beelzebub, what a useful word! – by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT.

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. (64-67)
Remember that Lewis was writing in 1959. Now over fifty years later, Lewis reads as a sage who was able to see through time. What he criticizes here is precisely what is destroying modern education in our time. Many bright students are being intellectually stunted while many of their peers are struggling with "a cat sat on a mat" all in the name of democracy, fairness, and equality.

Yet Screwtape's toast is not the only essay worth highlighting. In "Lilies that Fester," Lewis equates "religious people" with "the cultured" or what we might say today, "the intelligentsia." Though it takes him some time to develop his thought, Lewis eventually suggests the two worlds are parallels when applied to politics. We should fear theocracy, he says - the worst kind of government. But equally wicked is what he calls Charientocracy, that is, rule of the cultured elite. Lewis warns that theocracy is the least of our worries. Charientocracy, on the other hand, is the world in which we live.

Finally, readers might be surprised to find that Lewis addressed the question of aliens from a theological perspective in this book in his essay "Religion and Rocketry." His broader point is that every generation promises a new discovery that will destroy Christianity. All of them have failed and the search for life on other planets is no different. Theologically speaking, Lewis is really helpful on this question and the essay isn't as silly as it might at first sound.

Overall, of course you should read this book and I highly recommend it. Its Lewis. Below you will find a doodle of the titular essay "The World's Last Night."

All Around the Web - February 22, 2016

Joe Carter - Should We Be Worried About Islamic State Building a ‘Dirty Bomb’?

Baptist Press - Most Americans unfazed by Planned Parenthood videos

The Gospel Coalition - When Should a Pastor Say ‘No’ to a Wedding?

Denny Burk - Scalia explains how to pick a Supreme Court Justice

Sean McDowell - Did the Apostle Thomas Minister in India?

Sam Storms - In Memory of Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie

Friday, February 19, 2016

Elijah Craig: A Biography Written By James B. Taylor

I am a pastor who is blessed to be the descendant of several faithful ministers of the gospel. Slowly over the years, I have been researching several of their stories some of which has made its way onto this site and even publication (see here). Recently, I began to do more research on another ancestor, a Baptist, named Elijah Craig who was a significant player in the history of Kentucky and the founding of Georgetown, its college, and some of the local churches (many which still stand). Craig's exodus to Kentucky is due to religious persecution in Virginia. Below you will find a biographical insert from James B. Taylor's book Virginia Baptist Ministers.

The earliest information which has been obtained respecting Elijah Craig, is connected with his conversion, about the year 1764. Having heard Elder David Thomas preach, he was arrested I his indifference to Divine things, and, for a length of time, was much alarmed, I the consciousness of his fallen and helpless condition. At length his mind became somewhat relieved, though not satisfied. In 1765, he found an opportunity of hearing Samuel Harriss, and such was the coincidence between his own views and feelings and the delineation of gospel truth drawn by Elder Harriss, that he became perfectly satisfied, and rejoiced in the freedom wherewith Christ had made him free. He began, at once, to exhort his fellow-men, whenever he could collect them I his neighborhood. Says Mr. Semple:
“His tobacco-house was their chapel. Being most of them laboring men, they used to labor all day, and hold meetings almost every night at each other’s houses, and on Sundays at the above mentioned tobacco-house. By these little prayer and exhortation meetings, great numbers were awakened, and several converted.”

In a short time he began, amid much persecution, to extend his exertions, and to preach wherever he went, that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. In these exercises he was accompanied by several others, who were of a kindred spirit. The Lord wrought by them, and attended their efforts, by his signal smile. In the county of Culpepper, he met with much opposition. One of the exhibitions of violence, on the part of his enemies, is thus referred to by Elder Semple. “They sent the sheriff and posse after him, when at his plough. He was taken and carried before three magistrates of Culpepper. They, without hearing arguments, pro or con., ordered him to jail. At court, he, with others, was arraigned. One of the lawyers told the court they had better discharge them; for that oppressing them would rather advance than retard them. He said they were like a bed of camomile, the more they were trodden, the more they would spread. The court thought otherwise, and determined to imprison them. Some of the court were of opinion that they ought to be confined in a close dungeon, but the majority were for giving them the bounds. Mr. Craig says ‘they were fed on rye bread and water, to the injury of their health.’ After staying there one month, preaching to all who came, he gave bond for good behavior, and came out. He was also confined in Orange jail, at another time.”

Mr. Craig was considered a man of considerable talent. No doubt can be entertained that what he did possess, he employed well. With a zeal which the floods of persecution could not quench, he prosecuted his Master’s work, and was made a blessing to many. In his labors, as pastor of Blue Run Church, he was very successful. It became a large and flourishing body.

In the year 1786, he removed to Kentucky. Terre he unhappily became implicated in some personal altercation, which resulted in his exclusion from the church. He was, however, restored, and continued in fellowship until his death, which occurred in the year 1808. He seemed, by this and other circumstances, to have given away, in his declining age, to a censorious temper. It is said by Mr. Semple, that,
“in a pamphlet he published, he undertakes to prove that stationed preachers, or pastors of churches, are precluded by the Scriptures from receiving any compensation for their services. In this pamphlet, he takes so many opportunities to condemn preachers for being money seekers, hat it would seem the main design of the publication was to indulge in fault-finding temper.”
The following testimony by one who knew him well will close this article: “Elijah Craig was considered the greatest preacher of the three brothers; and in a very large association in Virginia, Elijah Craig was among the most popular for a number of years. His preaching was of the most solemn style – his appearance as a man who had just come from the dead, of a delicate habit, a thin visage, large eyes and mouth, of great readiness of speech, the sweet melody of his voice, both to preach and sing, bore all down before it; and whine his voice was extended it was like the loud sound of a trumpet. The great fervor of his preaching commonly brought many tears from the hearers, and many no doubt were turned to the Lord by his preaching. He was several times a prisoner of the Lord for preaching. he moved to Kentucky at a later date than his brothers; his turn for speculation did hi harm every way; he was not as great a peacemaker in the church as his brother Lewis, and that brought trouble on him: but from all his troubles he was relieved by death, when perhaps he did not much exceed sixty years of age, after serving in the ministry, say forty years. (65-67)

All Around the Web - February 19, 2016

Politico - Gene editing: The next frontier in America’s abortion wars

Jared Wilson - 3 Ways the Gospel Gives Life to the Weary

Erick Raymond - Common Evangelical Attacks Against Sola Scriptura

Thom Rainer - Seven Reasons Why Your Church Should Have a Ministry to Widows

Zondervan - Why Did Paul Write Romans? Michael Bird Offers 5 Possible Reasons

Baptist Convention of Iowa - Attendance at BCI Churches Increases Fourteen Percent in 2015

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why the Tension Over Calvinism in the SBC is a Good Thing

If you are a Southern Baptists, then no doubt you are aware of the ongoing tension between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the convention. Tensions have been high and unfortunately Bible-believing, missions-affirming baptists are fighting each other over tertiary doctrines.

During the pastor search process, one committee member commented to me that twenty years ago they never thought about asking a potential candidate what they thought about election or the extent of the atonement. My response was simple: twenty years ago, many Baptist pastors (especially those with fresh seminary degrees) and many in the pews didn't believe the Bible. This debate should be a relief compared to the one's we had to fight decades ago.

I want to suggest that the ongoing conversation over the doctrines of grace - though at times heated - are actually good for our convention. I admit up front that it has made my life more difficult as I have interviewed at countless churches in the past, ministered and served with countless believers and churches and yet my refusal to "pick a side and stay there" has made things more difficult, I do believe that ultimately debating these difficult theological issues are actually healthy for us.

Where I Stand

Before we begin, let me lay down my cards. I am sympathetic to the arguments (and friendships) on both sides and have concluded that both are wrong (and right). It appears to me that both are guilty of fidelity to a theological system more than allowing the paradox of Scripture to speak for itself.

For example, non-Calvinist seem to struggle with Paul's use the word "dead" in Ephesians 2. The Wesleyan doctrine of prevenient grace demands a redefinition of "dead," but "dead" only has one meaning. Let me give you an example of this. In the book Whosoever Will, contributor Paige Patterson illustrates Paul's meaning of "dead" as follows:
As a boy in Southwest Texas, I often hunted in the woods. Rattlesnakes were a favorite prey, and I had only one weapon. I visited the army surplus store and purchased an old bayonet, which I learned to use like a machete. At age nine I was armed to the teeth with a bayonet. My friend and I would fin d rattlesnake, and I would chop its head off. One day I was not too accurate, severing the reptile about six inches behind his head. He was dead, and I left him there for a while before touching him to be sure that he was dead. He was such a big rattler that I wanted to take him home and show my father. In a careless moment, I reached out to take his frame, and at that moment the snake's head struck at me and nearly got me. In fact, he did strike the bottom of my blue jeans. I was so glad I was not wearing shorts that day. Its teeth struck in the bottom of my blue jeans. That was a dead snake! (39)
He then applies this story to Ephesians 2: "Actually, being dead does not assure that someone can do nothing." And later, "Note that those who were dead in sin walked in lust and fulfilled the desires of the flesh and mind." (39) With all do respect, Dr. Patterson is wrong. Paul is not guilty of doublespeak. "Dead" means "dead" and non-Calvinists would do well to stop trying to redefine it in order to fit in into their theological system.

Calvinists are just as guilty. My reformed brothers are all over the fence on particular redemption. The debate is always the same. Those in favor line up with their favorite verses while those against it line up with their favorite verses. Either the Bible is contradictory or we're are missing the point. Perhaps we are reading the Bible wrong. I do not believe that Peter and Paul ever discussed the doctrine while in Antioch. Therefore it should not be a priority to us.

Why the Tension is a Good Thing

In my experience, the conversation on both side includes the many strawman arguments. Non-Calvinists constantly levy charges at Calvinists of being anti-free will, anti-evangelism, anti-missions, and anti-altar call. Such belief is typical of Hyper-Calvinism, but no traditional or confessional Calvinist holds such doctrines. If non-Calvinists want to have an honest conversation about the doctrines of grace, they would do well to drop such accusations.

Yet non-Calvinists aren't the only guilty party as many Calvinists do the same to their non-Calvinists counterparts. Arminians, for example, are often accused of not taking the sovereignty of God seriously. Furthermore, they are too often accused of being semi-Pelagian (or even Pelagian), and among young Calvinists, Arminians are associated with a cultured Christianity that we need to abandon.

With that said, we see here the first reason why this tension is a good thing: Tension prevents extremes. Calvinism unchecked can have a tendency to lead toward hyper-Calvinism. We can look through the lens of history for evidence of that. Likewise, Arminianism, unchecked, can lead toward semi-Pelagianism, Pelagianism, Open Theism, and other abuses. Again, a survey of history gives ample evidence of this.

The tension within the SBC, I believe, is a check on both sides. Although I am weary of the constant stereotypes, the conversation between the two sides forces each to hold itself account. If Calvinists are going to roll their eyes every time they are accused of hyper-Calvinism, they had better make sure it is a false accusation. The same can be said to Arminians.

There is a second reason why I believe this tension is positive: Tension Fores Us to Re-evalutate Scripture. If we will humbly reevaluate our own position, our convention will remain strong because we will be forced to read the text of Scripture.

Right now, however, I do not see this latter point being practiced as strongly as it should. Currently, each side is "armed" with their preferred text and launching them against the other. We would do better to listen to the other side, return to the biblical text, and reconsider our theology. Regardless, I do believe that the rise of Calvinism in the SBC has forced a lot of Southern Baptists to reconsider and rethink their theology and that, in the end, is a good thing. 


These are but two major reasons I find that tension is healthy for our convention and churches. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, I believe, is a uniting document that both sides can rally behind and that speaks volumes to the strength of our convention and the vision of its writers. The convention is bigger than Calvinism or non-Calvinism and we should never forget that.

Moving forward, I would like to see more humility on both sides. New Calvinists should love the people in their congregation more than their Calvinism. Non-Calvinists should learn to fear God more than the continual rise of Reformed pastors in the convention. Baptists have always had a healthy debate on these subjects and I see no reason why that should not continue.

For more:
Spurgeon Against Hyper-Calvinism
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists

All Around the Web - February 18, 2016

Joe Carter - The FAQs: What You Should Know About Zika

Canon Fodder - Where Are All the Heretical Bishops in the Second Century?

JD Greer - The Biggest Questions I Get on Genesis 1 and 2

Practical Shepherding - What are 10 qualities every pastor needs to possess?

Justin Taylor - 3 Books for Those Wanting to Prepare for and Thrive in College (Debt-Free)

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Marvin Olasky

This is not an endorsement of Ted Cruz or any other candidate. However, I have not heard such a strong and clear defense of life from a national politician than this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction

I'll be the first one to admit that I do not have the prayer life I should, could, and wish. I have both preached and taught on prayer multiple times and consulted a number of great resources, ministers, and books, but I still believe it is an area of my spiritual walk that needs work.

Recently I picked up the book A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther (translated by Matthew Harrison). Luther needs no introduction, but perhaps the story of the book does.

Luther, like most of the great theologians throughout history, was a pastor. As such he was in regular communication with his congregation. One day while engaging in conversation with his barber, Peter Benkendorf, he was asked for a simple way to pray. That question resulted in the publication of this short book.

The translator introduces the book (and that background) this way:
In his many writings, Martin Luther revealed not only his thoughts but also who he was. And in his writing it becomes abundantly clear that he was a man who not only delighted in prayer but also desperately held on to it as a time to meditate on God's great and numerous blessings in contrast, and most often in opposition, to the daily assaults of Satan - something Luther called Anfechtung.

For eighteen years Luther prepared tools to train pastors to train parents to train children. Then, in 1535, when asked for advice on prayer by his barber and friend, Peter Beskendorf, the great reformer responded with a letter in which he describe his own personal practice of prayer. (3)
What will follow in the coming weeks will be an exploration of Luther's work on prayer. Typically I will blog through some academic work of theology and/or history but his time I want to explore a spiritual discipline from a man who had to lean on it his entire ministry.

All Around the Web - February 16, 2016

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016)

Russell Moore - What the Church Can Learn From Justice Scalia’s Life

Joe Carter - Why It Is Imperative that Presidents Be Pro-Life

The Gospel Coalition - A Pastor Is Not Married to the Church

The Blazing Center - How To Provoke Your Children To Anger

John Piper - May I Split My Giving Between My Church and Another Ministry?

Ligonier - Speaking Truth to a Secular Age: A Google Hangout with Albert Mohler

Monday, February 15, 2016

"Restoring All Things" by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet

There area  lot of 're' words in the Bible. Have you noticed? Words like redemption, renew, repent, restore, resurrection, reconciliation, and regeneration show up over and over throughout the Bible, specially in the New Testament. (17)

The Bible is more than a collection of stories full of moral and ethical nuggets. Rather, it is a divine story of how God has entered into our dark and dying world in order to save it. Thus the Christian worldview is more than legalistic moralism, but transformation for the individual, for relationships, for society, and even for the cosmos. That is the general argument in the book Restoring All Things: God's Audacius Plan to Chane the World Through Everyday People by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet.

Where Christianity thrives, homes are healthier and society is better. Where it begins to crumble, the family unit and the broader society will begin to fall apart. No doubt we are seeing that in our society today.

Each chapter explores this worldview. The authors tackles subjects like crime and punishment, abortion, marriage, education, poverty, capitalism, etc. In each chapter, the authors begin by briefly exploring how the Christian gospel informs our thinking on the given subject. They then dedicate the majority of each chapter to a variety of stories and examples of people fulfilling this calling. It is insightful and a reminder that where there are Christians, there are people working to make the world a better place.

Overall, I must say that this book was not what I exactly what I thought it would be. I assumed that each chapter would explore in more detail how the gospel "restores all things" rather than providing the reader with evidence of how the gospel is now restoring all things. That is not a criticism against the authors, but of myself. Nevertheless, it is a helpful resource that shows that the gospel has power beyond mere moralism and self-helpism. It is much bigger than we can ever imagine. It is the story of God's Kingdom overcoming and conquering man's.

Come Lord Jesus quickly!

John Stonestreet - Restoring All Things: Participating in God’s Great Plan

All Around the Web - February 15, 2016

Russell Moore - Is Bedroom Photography Empowering for Christian Women?

Thomas Kidd - When America Put Pastors in Prison: The Baptist Battle for Religious Liberty

Andrew Walker - Religion Promotes Better Relationships Between Men and Women

Glenn Stanton - Marriage: A feminist institution

Vox - Donald Trump supporters think about morality differently than other voters. Here’s how.

Footnotes - 7 Summits with Danny Akin & Russell Moore

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Young, Restless, and Reformed" by Collin Hansen: A Review

One of the books that has been on my "to-read" list for quit some time has been Christianity Today writer Colin Hansen's book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists. Anyone that has kept up with young Evangelicals will quickly find that there are basically two leading movements. Since the writing of this book (2008) one group has essentially deceased (apart from books that cause quit a stir only to fade like Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith and Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived), while the other seems to only continue to grow taking over entire seminaries (like the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), conferences (like Together for the Gospel), publishers (like Crossway Books), and leading pulpits (like John MacArthur's Grace Community Church among many others).

The two groups are the Emergent Church and what has been called the New Calvinists. Hansen notes that while a lot of attention was given to the Emergent Church little had been said in comparison to the New Calvinists.  In his book, Hansen seeks to explore some of the leading churches, voices, leaders, and institutions fueling this new movement.

The author highlights what ought to be highlighted.  Though pastor and best-selling author John Piper at times dominates the book, he is right to begin with him, his books, and his church.  In addition to Piper, however, Hansen highlights Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and the institution he leads, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (my alma mater), Mark Driscoll, the Passion conference/worship movement, Covenant-Life Church lead by CJ Mahaney and Josh Harris, and others.

Hansen's goal is to offer a journalistic look at this movement, not to necessarily critique or broadly discuss its theology. If one wants to understand more fully what the New Calvinists believe (um, Calvinism?) then there are plenty of books written by them to explore. Hansen writes as a journalists reporting what he sees. Thus he visits campus, churches, and conferences. He interviews leaders and average New Calvinists to really understand what this movement is all about and why it is growing.

This is a helpful book especially to those wanting to know more about the movement. Though I do not particularly enjoy books by journalists like this, I still consider this an important read. It is a short book that highlights much of what needs to be highlight. Hansen says little to nothing about persons like Kevin DeYoung, Tim Keller, DA Carson, the Gospel Coalition, Crossway Books (who published the book), other institutions and schools, the rise of Calvinism in denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention, etc. There is no way he could have discusses these in any detail. Hansen does, however, pick the most important highlights and discusses them.

Just as the book Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger and maybe even The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier by Emergent leader Tony Jones are imperative to read in order to get a basic understanding of the Emerging Church, so too this book is imperative to read for anyone wanting to get a basic understanding of the New Calvinists movement and its appeal.

Lets face it, twenty years ago few saw this coming and now it is a force to be reckoned with. Hansen helps to show us why.

All Around the Web - February 12, 2016

The Gospel Coalition - Lewis on Disordered Desire to Enter the Inner Ring

Thom Rainer - Ten Fascinating Facts about Pastor and Church Staff Compensation

The Gospel Coalition - 7 Ways to Care for Your Pastor

Ligonier - 4 Sermon Types to Avoid

The Gospel Coalition - 3 Ways Our Culture Is Different than Every Other Culture in History

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Marcionism Will Not Die

In his book Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament, Dr. Waltar Kaiser, Jr. makes an important point about Marcionism: it just will not die. He writes:
The first use of the expression "Old Testament," as applied to the first thirty-nine books of the Bible, didn't appear until much later in the fourth century AD int he writings of Eusebius of Caesarea. Clearly, Eusebius started this divisive reference with the distinct intention to show the superiority of the New Testament over the Old Testament - even though the New Testament proclaims that "all Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Tim. 3:16).

Centuries later, G. L. Bauer (1755-1806) wrote the first book to use the title Old Testament (1796), wherein he tried to show that the Old and New Testament belonged to two different inspirations and that the Old Testament was foreign to the Christian faith. The outcry for the removal of the Old Testament from the canon of Scripture grew louder by the time of Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930). Harnack denounced the practice of retaining the Old Testament as part of the Christian canon as "an ecclesiastical and religious paralysis." Friedrich Delitsch (1850-1922)* wrote Die Grosse Tauschung (The Great Deception) in 1920, in which he argued that the Old Testament was not a Christian book and the New Testament superseded it. Even more recently, Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) adopted explicit Marcionite views as he advocated that the Old Testament was a witness to a miscarriage of history as Israel failed to obey the law, which therefore necessitated the need for grace to replace it. The Old Testament was not a document for Christian faith according to Bultmann. Even Karl Barth (1886-1968), who did not agree with Bultmann, still usually stayed away from the Old Testament as he unadvisedly opposed the New Testament God of grace to the Old Testament God of law. (9-10)
There is another name that should (to the surprise of many including myself) that should be added to this conversation: John MacArthur. Before you react, let me explain.

A few years ago, MacArthur finished preaching verse-by-verse through the entire New Testament. It was a forty year effort that was completed when he finished the Gospel of Mark. Such an accomplishment is nothing short of amazing and thousands of pastors (including myself) around the world benefit from his exposition in the form of his New Testament commentaries as a result.

But why did he only preach expositionally through the New Testament? I have personally heard MacArthur state on multiple times that he views himself as a New Testament Christian and primarily uses the Old Testament as a means of illustrating, illuminating, or explaining the New Testament text before him.

To be honest, this is dangerous.

Let me clear here. MacArthur is not a Marcion by any stretch of the imagination and does not share the theology of the men in the Kaiser quote above. MacArthur is orthodox and has defended orthodoxy throughout his ministry. With that said, this one area of his preaching ministry, I believe, should not be followed by other expositors. The local pastor should feed his flock a healthy dose of both Testaments. Let us not forget that the apostles and first Christians had a Bible they were content with now known as the Old Testament and it should not be neglected.

That is my point here. Marcionism continues to haunt us especially in liberal circles and it should be rejected at all times. At the same time, we should be careful when we show an unhealthy favoritism toward the New at the cost of of the Old. Christ is on every page. Let us, therefore, read, study, and preach every page.

* Not to be confused with his father, Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890).

All Around the Web - February 11, 2016

Russell Moore - What a Super Bowl Ad Reveals About Our Abortion Culture

Doug Wilson - Surveying the Text: Chronicles

Denny Burk -  After Football, Now What?

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with David Wells

The Daily Beast - Scary New Ways the Internet Profiles You

Washington Post - What Ivy League students are reading that you aren’t

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Concluding Thoughts

"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Introduction
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Preaching John 3:16
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Total Depravity
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Congruent Election
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - The Atonement
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Irresistible Grace
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Concluding Thoughts

We have concluded another series of blogging through a book. Of all of the books I have done, this one is the most controversial and that was anticipated. Before moving on to the next book, I want to offer up a few concluding thoughts.

Why I didn't review the entire book.

Typically, blogging through a book involves blogging through the entirety of a book including the introduction and conclusion. This volume is obviously different. Almost half of the book remains unaddressed. I want to briefly explain why.

First, much of the latter material is repetitive. For example, in Dr. Allen's chapter on particular redemption, he emphasizes Calvin's non-Calvinism on the "L" in TULIP. In the second half of the book, an entire chapter is dedicated to the subject.

Secondly, I am simply not interested in the material. When people debate Calvinism, it is usually regarding the five points. Therefore, outside of the "P" (Perseverance of the Saints), which all Baptists whether reformed or not, affirm and is addressed in this series.

The book strove for a generous and kind tone but ultimately failed.

In the introduction, the editors suggested the tone of the book would be soft and generous. Such an approach is one of the reasons why I was attracted to this book. I am very much interested in a book willing to engage in a conversation on the criticism of Reformed theology without caricatures, fear-mongering, and false-stereotypes. Though much of the book seeks such generosity, it largely fails. Virtually every contributor returns to the same caricatures (Calvinism undermines evangelism, Calvinist do not believe in free will nor do they believe in altar calls).

The contributors are also disingenuous to Calvinists and misleading in their arguments. What comes immediately to mind here is the quote used by Paige Patterson and others suggesting that Charles Spurgeon (a Calvinist if ever there was one) rejected effectual call (see page 35). I have done an entire series proving otherwise and one does not need to be a Spurgeon scholar to debunk this myth. The men contributing to this volume surely - surely - know better than this. To suggest that Spurgeon rejected regeneration before faith is misleading and unacademic at best.

The arguments were largely weak and hurt their cause.

If this is the best non-Calvinist can produce, they are in trouble. Several examples come to mind. First, while criticizing federal headship as "extra-scriptural" (and even suggesting that it "impugns [even if this is not intended] the justice of God)," (27) Patterson offers no biblical defense of his position: National Headship. Related to this, Patterson suggests that the Reformed doctrine of federal headship forces Calvinists to conclude that Jesus was born depraved. He writes:
By the same token, the virgin conception of Jesus, the second Adam, is necessitated since if Jesus were born with a sinful nature, then He, too, would have been susceptible to sin. (37)

Surely he knows better than that.

Secondly, the contributors fail to fully address the arguments of Calvinism. Take for example their defense of libertarian free will. Calvinist are quick to remind Arminians that the Bible makes it clear that God is absolutely sovereign over every square-inch of the universe. Here is a brief list commonly used by Calvinist - passages largely left unaddressed in this book:
  • Proverbs 16:33 - The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
  • Proverbs 21:1 - The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
  • Proverbs 19:21 - Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
  • James 4:13 - Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . .  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
  • Acts 13:48 - As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
  • Ephesians 1:11 - [God] works all things according to the counsel of his will.
  • Psalm 115:3 - Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 
  • Job 42:2 - I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (source)
The contributors of the book largely fail to listen to Calvinism and answer passages like the one's above which create serious problems for the non-reformed position.

In conclusion, this volume's contributors are guilty of what Steve Lemke accuses Calvinist of doing: forcing Scripture to fit into their theological system. It seems clear that some of the contributors are forced to do the same in order to avoid Reformed conclusions. I believe, as I did before reading this book, that both sides are guilty of this. This theory was affirmed after considering each argument.

Some good arguments were made and Reformed Christians would be wise to heed them.

Reactions to books like these are predictable. Those already predisposed to the arguments will not be changed. Those who are already non-Calvinist will leave having their theological convictions reaffirmed. Those who crack the spine firm in their Calvinism will likely leave frustrated.

The temptation, then, is to pat oneself on your back (for the non-Reformed) or write a bitter review on Amazon about how the contributors just don't understand you (for the Reformed). The truth is, however, that the contributors and editors make valid arguments against Reformed theology that Calvinist would be wise to heed.

Here I am asking the reader to approach the book as a Christian and not as a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist. I am not convinced that all five-point Calvinist is clearly taught in Scripture and books like this are helpful in exposing in some of the weaker arguments commonly used by its defenders. For those sympathetic to Reformed theology, books like this can be valuable resources in listening to the other side and evaluating exactly what the Bible has to say.

We need to remember that much of the debate is the splitting of hairs

This debate has been waging for centuries. Since the birth of Baptists the tension between Reformed and non-reformed theology has been prevalent. The truth is that this conversation will not end anytime soon. One might ask why Christians cannot come to any clear conclusion on the subject. I believe there are multiple reasons why. Though I affirm the perspicuity of Scripture, we should acknowledge that Scripture swims in the paradoxes of some of these questions. Some passages, for example, clearly suggest that repentance precede faith (Lemke provides plenty) while others clearly suggest the opposite (Lemke fails to interact with those passages). Likewise, there are passages we could make look like defend limited atonement while others seem to point toward universal atonement.

I want to suggest two reasons for this (and there are others of course). First, this debate is a splitting of hairs. I readily admit there are implications between the two sides we need to watch. Calvinists can come across as rigid and cold. Arminians can result in distasteful revivalism that produces false conversions. Nevertheless, fine-tuning how liberty and sovereignty co-exist is splitting a hair. Some passages will emphasize one while other passages will emphasize the other. Let us accept and receive this difficulty.

Secondly, much of this debate regards modern theological categories that go beyond biblical categories. Most notable here is limited atonement. As I have said before, I doubt Peter and Paul discussed the extent of the atonement while in Antioch. Election, perhaps; particular redemption, probably not.

For more:
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Complete Series
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Complete Series
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Entire Series 
"Collected Writings on Scripture": Blogging Through Carson - Complete Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Complete Series 
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  Complete Series
Craig's Catechism: My Favorite Passages - Part 6  

All Around the Web - February 9, 2016

Doug Wilson - A Six-Inch Swath of Orange Shag

Eric Metaxas - A Genetic Pandora's Box

The Gospel Coalition - 3 Ways I Share in the Pastor’s Study

Barnabas Piper - 9 Ways to Be a Better Interviewer

Sci-News - Early Christian Church Found in Turkey

Aeon - How looting in Iraq unearthed the treasures of Gilgamesh

Independent Journal - Why the Guy Who Wore Stickers on his Cheeks at Hillary Clinton’s Speech Wore Stickers on his Cheeks

Monday, February 8, 2016

Is Karl Barth a Good Guy or a Bad Guy?

In his book, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction, Dr. Michael Bird offers a two page excursion on how we are to think of the greatest theologian of the 20th century: Karl Barth. Like the doctrine of God's impassibility, evangelical theologians are all over the map on this one. There are those who embrace Barth and his fellow neo-orthodox theologians while others refuse to call him friend. Bird, I believe, offers some real words of advice especially as he sets Barth in his historic and theological context.

He begins by noting four things we need to know about Barth. First, Karl Barth was not an evangelical, but a European Protestant wrestling with how to salvage Protestant Christianity in the wake of (191) the first world war. The Great War exposed the many weaknesses of liberal theology. Barth, then, was not an inerrantist or a revivalists, nor was he fighting the "battle of the Bible" wars.

Secondly, Karl Barth is on the side of the good guys when it comes to the major ecumenical doctrines (191) like the Trinity and the atonement. Barth is both orthodox and Reformed.

Thirdly, Barth arguably gives evangelicals some good tips about how to do theology over and against liberalism. The German theologian was not sparring against Billy Graham, Bird writes, or the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, but the European liberal tradition from Friedrich Schleiermacher to Albert Ritschl (191).

Finally, and I believe this is the best point Bird makes:
Evangelicals and the neoorthodox tend to be rather hostile toward each other. Many evangelicals regard the neoorthodox as nothing more than liberalism reloaded, while many neoorthodox theologians regard evangelicals as a more culturally savvy version of fundamentalism. Not true on either score. Evangelicalism and neoorthodoxy are both theological renewal movements trying to find a biblical and orthodox center in the post-Enlightenment era. The evangelicals left fundamentalism and edged left toward a workable orthodox center. The neoorthodox left liberalism and edged right toward a workable orthodox center. Thus, evangelicalism and neoorthodoxy are more like sibling rivals striving to be the heirs of the Reformers in the post-Enlightenment age. (192)
Therefore, There is much in Karl Barth that evangelicals can benefit from. Barth's theology is christocentric and he placed a strong emphasis on God's transcendence, freedom, love, and "otherness." (192) There are, of course, many things not to like about Barth including his understanding of election that tends toward universalism and his rejection of inerrancy.

Yet Barth is not the bogeyman of evangelical theology that must be removed. At times he is a friend. At times he is not.

For more on Barth:
The Greatest Theologians
Where Have All the Apologist Gone?
"The Great Theologians" by Gerald McDermott: A Review   
The Great Theologians: An Interview with Gerald McDermott

"Evangelical Theology" by Karl Barth: A Review

While in seminary, I took an interesting class on the life and theology of Karl Barth who is widely regarded as the greatest theologian of the 20th Century. The first book of Barth's we had to read was Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. The book is taken from a series of lectures he first gave in Basal and later in America. Though I question some of Barth's theological conclusion, I really enjoyed this book.

What follows is my summary of each chapter. For those going into the ministry, training for the ministry, or consider themselves theologically geared, read this book from a great theologian - love him or hate him. This will not read like a typical review, so please forgive me.

Barth sets out to discuss and define Evangelical Theology which, to Barth, consists of the New Testament and Reformation theology. Furthermore, Evangelical is not a confession nor is it tied to a denomination (or even to Protestantism as he notes), rather evangelicalism is theology laid out in Scripture and accepted by the 16th Century Reformers.

In his discussion on the Word, Barth defines the Word of God as "the Word that God spoke, speaks, and will speak in the midst of all men." God speaks to men through his Word and through the Word (logos). The Bible is not ambiguous, but rather succeeds in what God intended it to do.

The Biblical writers are significant to think about and to understand. It was to them - the prophets, the apostles, and so on - that God choose to reveal His Divine Word to. It was to the apostles that Christ spoke directly to. Barth notes that "the Logos of God in their witness is the concrete concern of evangelical theology."

Rather than use the word "Church," Barth suggests using the word "Community." These "communion of saints," listen to the Word and ready themselves for action. Theology, Barth notes, would be an "utter failure" if it is not theology for the community. As Barth puts it, "theology is responsible for the reasonable service of the community."
But all of this talk about the Word of God, the Community, the Witnesses, etc. is theology with a presumed power. We must be careful, Barth argues, not to think that this power is found inside us, in our ability, or in our own knowledge. Put the real power in everything we do in theology must be from the Holy Spirit and from nowhere else.

"Evangelical Theology is always history," therefore, we must examine how theology affects our lives, Barth argues. The first thing we must reflect upon is the wonder that theology brings. Barth points out that if we are not left astonished after partaking in this task of theology, then we have missed something. A proper theology should leave us in wonder of the God we are seeking to understand.

But admiration and wonder are not enough for evangelical theology. Barth traces the history of unorthodox theologians who were left in "wonder" after studying theology, but still missed the point. Therefore, we must become involved in theology.
Wonder and concern, however, still are not enough to make a "theologian a theologian." One must also have commitment. Barth, here, points out that theology must not only must we desire something from Him, but also for Him.

The first danger that Barth mentions toward theology is solitude. Unlike most professions, theology must be done in "isolation" from the rest of the world. Very few really care about the demands of exegesis and theology like the pastor, priest, and theologian. It is dangerous for theologians to be surrounded by a busy and active world and fail to escape to the task of theology that can only be found in solitude. But it is worth it. Barth points out that though religion might be a private affair the work of theology and the work of God is not limited to the isolated, but for the whole world.

If solitude is a danger from the outside, doubt is a danger on the inside. Doubt arises in many ways, and Barth identifies two main areas, and all of them bring about dangers for the pastor and theologian. Barth sees this as dangerous and perhaps a greater threat to theology than solitude.

Even greater than solitude (a threat from the outside) and doubt (a threat from the inside) is temptation, as what Barth sees as being a threat from above. Barth makes this temptation that of God withdrawing himself and His Holy Spirit from the theologian and burden that may create. There is no greater calling than theology and temptation from God is of great danger. But why would God withdraw Himself? There are many answers, one of which, Barth argues, is that God is not obligated to show Himself, even to men who are set about a good work, for we remain sinners.

What is the answer to these threats? "Endure and bear." Though the theological task is difficult full of many threats, the theologian must persevere through it all for the task of theology is much too important. But trusting in hope and enduring, we will see God at work in our lives and in the lives of our people. God is reconciling His people to Himself, and we get to be a part of that.

Barth opens a new subject in this theological work. He now discusses what must be done in theology, and he begins with the act of prayer. Barth begins discussing how theology must be done with great humility under the distress of the judgment of God. Theology is no small task. Therefore, prayer must be done throughout the process of theology. As theologians, we must " "Ora et labora (pray and work)!"

Because theology is not a work of something, but of someone, we must be in tuned with God by both praying to Him and listening to His voice. Theology, Barth points out, is God’s "address," to man. Through His Word He speaks to His creation.

Theology can only be accomplished through the unity of prayer and study. Prayer alone does not make one a great theologian, rather, it makes one’s theology "empty." Study, like prayer, must never cease. It is to consume the theologian in all that he does and says. To study to merely pass a test is not real study. Rather, we must always remain students of theology even to our death.

But prayer and study, too, are not enough. The theologian must also be a servant. He is to both serve God in all that he does and to also serve man with all that he has. The theologian must never find answers to questions or dive deeper into study in order to simply elevate themselves. Rather, the servant theologian must also be able use his study and prayer to the benefit of the community.

The dominate purpose of doing theology, according to Barth, is to do the work that is both pleasing to God and helpful to man. Unless this principle is applied and practiced, the work of theology will never be a good work. Therefore, everything discussed by Barth so far are critical in order to fulfill this good work of pleasing God and helping man.

The last theme Barth looks at is the fulfillment of this good work. Unless one does theology in and out of love, theology refrains from being a good work. It is essentially the root of everything else Barth discusses. Barth points out how Paul described theological knowledge without love: it becomes puffed up. This is a real danger that the theologian must avoid. To do theology for the sake of knowledge and pride fails to make theology a good work. But theology done in love brings glory to God and help for the community.

For more on Barth:
Is Karl Barth a Good Guy or a Bad Guy?
From Lewis' Pen: On Karl Barth 
The Greatest Theologians
Where Have All the Apologist Gone?
"The Great Theologians" by Gerald McDermott: A Review   
The Great Theologians: An Interview with Gerald McDermott

All Around the Web - February 8, 2016

The Federalist - New Footage Shows Planned Parenthood Employees Negotiating Organ Sales

Russell Moore - Signposts: The Poverty of the Prosperity Gospel

NPR - Why Nepal Has One Of The World's Fastest-Growing Christian Populations

Denny Burk - “Gay Christian” explains why she now accepts same-sex marriage

PC World - Microsoft imagines future NFL games played out on your coffee table, via HoloLens