Thursday, March 31, 2016

One Glaring Weakness of Narnia

On November 22, 1963 three culture-shaping men died: President John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and C. S. Lewis. Most would have assumed that fifty years after their deaths, of these leading figures of the 20th Century, President Kennedy would have the most lasting influence. Yet it is Lewis whose respect and influence has grown while the others continue to fade. Few know who Huxley is anymore and the Democratic party has largely left Jack Kennedy behind.

This is encouraging to say the least. I do not agree with everything Lewis wrote, but when Lewis was right, he said it better than anyone in history. As such, his writings remain relevant and have proven prophetic.

Among his most influential and beloved writings is without a doubt his Narnia Chronicles. These seven books ought to be read by every child. Like other great works of literature, one can enter into the fantastic world of Narnia and leave having discovered something they missed before. This is part of what makes Lewis so riveting. Whether he is writing fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, Lewis has an ability to enlighten every time he is read.

With the continued rise of Lewis's popularity, many scholarly and popular books and articles have been written on him. One subject that fascinates me regards Lewis's view of the atonement. Admitting up front that Lewis considered himself a "mere theologian" that only wanted to emphasize "mere Christianity," that does not mean he did not address other, deeper theological doctrines (the debate over Lewis's view on Calvinism, for example, is a fascinating one).

Others have discussed Lewis's view of atonement (see links below). Any serious discussion must consider the Narnia Chronicles. In the most popular book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch releases Edmund Pevensie upon the execution of Aslan. Admittedly, this is an oversimplification, but on the surface, the narrative strikes one of the Ransom Theory of the Atonement whereby Christ death pays a ransom to Satan.

This theory is predominately seen in Pentecostal circles where Satan is seen behind every bush and every book not available on TBN. It is a theory fraught with problems. For one, God owes Satan nothing. Satan will receive nothing from God except judgment, war, and a crushed head.

There is clear evidence Lewis rejected penal substitution. In Mere Christianity, he wrote:
Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem quite so immoral and silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor an other is Christianity. The central belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter: A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. (57-58)
A strong paragraph in light of the book's title and purpose. He more forcefully added later:
The one most people have heard is the one I mentioned before–the one about our being let off because Christ had volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. (59)
With that said, however, let us return to the stone table and its meaning. One thought continues to cross my mind that makes Narnia a difficult source for understanding Lewis's theology: there is no Trinity in Narnia.*

The reason Aslan seems to pay a ransom to the White Witch is because there is no one else to pay the ransom to. Narnia's most glaring weakness is its lack of Trinity. It should be stated clearly that Lewis does not deny classic trinitarian theology as Mere Christianity and other writings make clear. Nevertheless, being that Lewis refused to portray the Father and the Spirit (for reasons I am sensitive to), the Narnian world suffers.

The lack of divine Trinity means there was a time when Aslan was not. From the time he breathed his last to the time the mice broke the ropes and Aslan was resurrected, Aslan - Narnia's creator - ceased to exist. This is problematic to say the least.

This is not to say we should avoid the Narnia books as rank heresy. However, for theologians in general and students of Lewis in particular, it is important not to treat Narnia has theological treatise. It has its weaknesses and it fails to adequately summarize Lewis's theology.

* This is technically not true. There is a hint of a Trinity in The Horse and His Boy.

Touchstone - Mere Atonement
Kevin DeYoung - Cautions for Mere Christianity

For more:
Correcting the Record on a Common Lewis Misquote and Why it Matters
He Was Not a Tamed Arminian
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: A Brief Look at Perelandra
Was Lewis a Calvinist?: Doug Wilson Says Yes
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism 

All Around the Web - March 31, 2016

Tim Challies - Has Ken Ham Embraced Evolution?

John Stonestreet - The NFL, the NBA, and Big Bucks: Our Freedom vs. Corporate Pressure

Biblical Spirituality - 15 Reflections from My 15 Years of Experience as a Pastor

Washington Post - How Clinton’s email scandal took root

Hershael York - Pastoral Pointer | Leading Your Church to be Welcoming

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

From Lewis's Pen: Still Only Playing With Religion

From Mere Christianity:
This is the fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion.

All Around the Web - March 30, 2016

Jason Allen - Seven Theological Issues Confronting the Church

Russell Moore - Signposts: What Can Fighting Superheroes Teach the Church?

Crossway - 10 Things You Should Know about the Resurrection

The Gospel Coalition - Pursue Complementarity, Not Compatibility

Tim Challies - 10 Lessons on Parenting Little Ones

Andy Naselli - The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Why the Family Matters to the State

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - To Master Peter
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Lord's Prayer
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Pray Like a Barber
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Ten Commandments
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Sabbath Day
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Why the Family Matters to the State

In his exploration of how to pray the fourth commandment ("honor your parents"), Luther offers words relevant for our day as we witness the deterioration of the nuclear family:
Second, I thank this rich, gracious Creator for myself and for the entire world, that He in this commandment established the increase and preservation of the human race through the home and state. For without these two realms, or governments, the world would not stand for a single year. Without temporal government there is no peace. Where there is no peace, the home cannot exist and children cannot be born and raised. The institution of father and mother would completely cease. This commandment exists to preserve and protect both home and state. It commands obedience from both children and subjects. It commands that this happen, and where it does not happen, disobedience against it will not go unpunished. Otherwise, children would long ago have already torn apart the home through their rebellion and laid it waste, and subjects the state, because they outnumber parents and rulers. Thus, the benefit of this commandment is impossible to express adequately. (20)
The state plays a role in protecting the family. Luther is clear on that and few would question that point. Yet today the state fails to understand that the key to a peaceful society is a strong family where values are taught, parents stay together, and children are raised to be moral and good. Undermine the family and the state will have a mess on its hands. We are witnessing that now in America.

For more:
How to Pray in a World of Terrorism

All Around the Web - March 29, 2016

WORLD Magazine - Indiana adopts law to protect Down syndrome babies from abortions

Justin Taylor - 15 Pieces of Writing Advice from C. S. Lewis

Get Religion -  Pew Research survey on global religious gender gap deserves far more coverage

Washington Times - Strong religious beliefs linked to lower rates of drug abuse

Thom Rainer - Six Reasons Why Your Church’s Offerings May Be Struggling

The Blaze - Transgenderism of Children is Child Abuse, American College of Pediatrics Rules

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Baptists on the American Frontier" by Chester Raymond Young: A Review

As was true of almost all early Kentucky Baptist ministers, Taylor did not pretend to be a scholar. Even so, he possessed common sense, genuine piety, and the native ability to reason and understand. At his death he owned at least two dozen books that he probably had put to good use. (45-46)

I have been doing a lot of research on the early baptists of Kentucky. One of the key figures in the first debates of Kentucky Baptist life is John Taylor. He wrote several books, but his most influential (at least to historians) is his A History of Ten Baptist Churches. The book chronicles the ten churches, most of which were in Kentucky that Taylor had been a member of. More recently, Chester Raymond Young has published an edited version of the book entitled Baptists on the American Frontier: A History of Ten baptist Churches of Which the author Has been Alternately a Member by John Taylor.

Young does more than republish an open domain book. Rather, he offers an extensive introduction and biography of Taylor and provides insightful explanatory footnotes in the book itself. In essence, Young does much of the researchers work for them. The biographical section is well written and clearly well-researched. Young portrays Taylor as a faithful minister of the gospel who worked tirelessly to spread the good news of Jesus who was both serious about his work, but had a clear sense of humor.

In short, for anyone serious about early Kentucky Baptist history, this is a must have book.

All Around the Web - March 28, 2016

Ed Stetzer - The Limited Reach of the Planned Parenthood Videos and What it Says about Us

Trevin Wax - Why Does Christmas Get a Season, But Easter Only a Day?

Get Religion -  Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Sean McDowell - The Resurrection Answers Three Big Questions

Vox - Good Friday won’t fall on March 25 again until 2157. Here’s why that matters.

Real Clear Politics - Steve Kornacki: Trump's Path To 1,237 Delegates (And How Cruz Can Stop Him)

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 5

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.

The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 1
The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 2
The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 3
The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 4
The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

An account of my journey to Essex county, in the first big Snow, with brother Bledsoe, as he then had the care of the church there, and chose me to help him.

After we had been there one or two days, it began to snow, and snowed and hailed part of several days (perhaps about four days). In the meantime we had meeting, and several got converted, as we supposed, and believed, before we set off for home!

Brother Bledsoe had about forty miles home, and I had about sixty. By the help of some roads being broken open we got about fifteen miles the first day; and the second day we had about twenty-five miles to brother Bledsoe's; and by the help of a great road being trodden open, we got to brother Bledsoe's about midnight. As my clothes were but thin, I got hurt some from the frost; for the weather was nearly as cold as I ever felt, and for about eight miles before we got to brother Bledsoe's, we had no road nor a trace. The snow was about one foot and a half deep, and our horses often fell on the snow, but through much suffering, we got to brother Bledsoe's about midnight, Then I had better than twenty miles home. I got off early the next morning, and drove hard the all day, being extremely anxious to get home; but did not make it out that night. I got within about six miles of home, and had to stay all night at a very poor man's house. I hurried off very early in the morning. After going about two miles on the track toward brother John's [John Craig?], his mill boys had trodden the track open, which my horse would follow, bleeding very much about the foot; but would not go the way I wanted him to go. Brother John lent me a low horse. In going from thence to my house, he would fall on the snow, and splattered the blood on the snow with his foot. And when I got home, I found that my wife had suffered from firewood and about half of my hogs had frozen to death in the woods. One or two of my children did not know me, and called me the man. So I got home that time, &c.

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 - March 25, 2016

Russell Moore - Reading Augustine in an Election Year

Lee Strobel - How Easter Killed My Atheism

Eric Metaxas - Marriage and Nominal Christianity

USA Today - The Quran's deadly role in inspiring Belgian slaughter: Column

Western Recorder - NEWS ANALYSIS: IMB baptisms hit lowest level since 1969

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Should We Preach Harmonies?

Since the beginning of the year, I have been preaching expositionally through Mark's Gospel. I am reminded of a constant question I have when it comes to preaching: should we preach harmonies especially when preaching through the Gospels? For example, when preaching on the temptation of Jesus in Mark 1:12-13, should we fill in the gaps by referring the congregation back to Matthew 4? Or should we just preach what Mark has without making much of the details supplied by either Matthew or Luke? Sometime ago after completing my sermon series on Matthew, I discussed the issue. I offer that same post below.

After more than two hundred sermons, I have finally completed preaching through the entire Gospel of Matthew. Even then it feels as if there is still much to say. Nevertheless, each week during this process I turned to some of the same resources to aide my exegesis. John MacArthur is, without a doubt, at the top of that list. I utilized all of his sermons, four-volume commentaries, and numerous books.

Throughout the process, I noticed a trend in his preaching that is consistent throughout all of his sermons of the four Gospels. MacArthur has a tendency to harmonize the Evangelists (and he is not the only preacher).

This tendency is most prevalent in his handling of the passion of Christ. Though there is a general flow of the Gospels, at times one Evangelist will include a detail that the others leave out. Matthew includes the strange account of bodies being raised from the dead, Luke includes Jesus condemning Israel while carrying his cross, and John is perhaps the most unique. The tendency was to pause his exegesis of one Evangelist in order to "fill in the gaps" provided by the others.

Here is my question? Should an expositor adopt this practice?

After having preached through an entire Gospel I want to propose that though there might be times with "filling in the gaps" or harmonizing the Gospels might be necessary, the preacher should avoid this approach to preaching.

My reasoning is simple. Expository preaching has as its primary objective to proclaim to the congregation the author/Spirit's original intent. Therefore, isolating one's interpretation and presentation of the text to the author allows the expositor to proclaim that message. Matthew is unique from the other Evangelists. Each bring to the table a unique perspective of the same story. By isolating each Evangelists, the preacher can better handle the text.

Perhaps a few examples will suffice. At certain points throughout Matthew's Gospel, the Evangelists interrupts the narrative with a short vignette. In chapter 26, for example, the conspiracy against Christ is interrupted with the story of a woman (unnamed in Matthew's account) pouring an expensive perfume on Jesus. The purpose ought to be obvious to the reader: Judas and the scribes are conspiring to Jesus' death while an unnamed, humbled woman is in worship preparing Jesus for his burial.

Similarly, in Matthew 27, the narrative of Jesus before Pilate is interrupted with the vignette of Judas' suicide (found only in Matthew's Gospel). It seems to me that Matthew's purpose is theological. By interrupting the flow of the narrative, Matthew is juxtaposing a number of things including two acts of repentance (Peter and Judas) and two deaths upon a tree (Jesus and Judas).

This unique style of storytelling is lost when we spend as much time harmonizing the Gospels as opposed to allowing Matthew be Matthew. The Gospels are deeply theological and it is important to allow the theology of each Gospel to speak. Though we might turn to the other Evangelists for help occasionally, we must not let them drown out the voice of the author before us. If an Evangelist leaves out or adds a detail, let the interpreter make note because it is (or not) there on purpose.

This is why I prefer to isolate a book and author and allow them to speak. Each biblical writer is a competent theologian in their own right - a lesson I learned from exegeting Matthew.

So preacher, preach the text, not the harmonies.

All Around the Web - March 24, 2016

Joe Carter - The FAQs: Religious Liberty and the Little Sisters of the Poor

Kevin DeYoung - Substitution Is Not a “Theory of the Atonement”

Russell Moore - Why Would a Church Support Abortion?

Voddie Baucham - 3 Reasons You Need Expository Apologetics

The Gospel Coalition - What’s to Love About ‘Fixer Upper’

Christianity Today - Tullian Tchividjian Confesses Second Affair Concealed by Two Coral Ridge Elders

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Love Everlasting

From Spurgeon's sermon from Micah 5:2:
I am sure he would not love me so long, and then leave off loving me. If he intended to be tired of me, he would have been tired of me long before now. If he had not loved me with a love as deep as hell and as unutterable as the grave, it he had not given his whole heart to me, I am sure he would have turned from me long ago. He knew what I would be, and he has had long time enough to consider of it; but I am his choice, and there is an end of it; and unworthy as I am, it is not mine to grumble, if he is but contented with me. But he is contented with me—he must be contented with me—for he has known me long enough to know my faults. He knew me before I knew myself; yea, he knew me before I was myself. Long before my members were fashioned they were written in his book, "when as yet there were none of them," his eyes of affection were set on them. He knew how badly I would act towards him, and yet he has continued to love me;

"His love in times past forbids me to think.
He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink."

No; since "his goings forth were of old from everlasting," they will be "to everlasting."

All Around the Web - March 23, 2016

John Stonestreet - Making (Exotic) Babies

Justin Taylor - An Interview with George Marsden on His New Biography of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity

Thom Rainer - Ten Commandments for Pastors, Politics, and Social Media

One Degree to Another - Six Foolish Things I Used to Believe about the Ministry

LifeWay - Churches Continue to Face Budget Shortfalls

The Washington Post - Why flying is awful, explained using your sad, lonely apartment

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Free eBook - "Blood Work" by Anthony Carter

Today, the good folks at Crossway Books are offering the book Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation as a free digital download as we quickly approach Resurrection Sunday. I have written a full review of the book and you can read it here.
Evangelical Christians often sing and preach about the blessed blood of Christ and the wonderful things it accomplishes for believers. To the uninformed ear, such language can convey the idea that Jesus’ blood had semi-magical qualities. Actually, Jesus’ blood was normal human blood, but the Bible refers to it in metaphorical terms to portray the many benefits that come to Christians because of Jesus’ death. In Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation, Anthony J. Carter traces this theme through the New Testament, showing how the biblical writers used the powerful metaphor of the blood of Jesus to help Christians grasp the treasures Jesus secured for them in His death on the cross. In doing so, he provides a fresh perspective on the atonement Jesus made.
You can download this free ebook here.

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Sabbath Day

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - To Master Peter
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Lord's Prayer
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Pray Like a Barber
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Ten Commandments"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Sabbath Day 

In his exploration of the third commandment (sanctify the Sabbath day) in his book A Simply Way to Pray, Luther provides some really helpful and practical insight:
Here I learn first that Sunday is not a day to be lazy, or to indulge the flesh, but instead a day we are to keep holy. But it is not our work or other activities that can keep this day. This happens only through the Word of god, which alone is entirely pure and holy, and thus sanctifies everything it touches, be it a time, or a place, people, work, etc. For through the Word our works are also sanctified, as St. Paul's says in 1 timothy 4:5. Every creature is sanctified through Word and prayer. Therefore I acknowledge in this commandment that I certainly must hear and contemplate God's Word. It is in that word that I learn to thank and praise God for all His benefits, and pray for myself and for the entire world. Thus he who holds to Sunday in this way sanctifies it. He who does not, does worse than those who work on Sunday. (18-19)
For those of us, myself include, who think Sunday's are for football and laziness, doesn't Luther's exhortation sting? Those, he says, who do not sanctify the Sabbath are worse than those who work on it.

For more:
How to Pray in a World of Terrorism

All Around the Web - March 22, 2016

Christianity Today - Actually, Most Evangelicals Don’t Vote Trump

Preachers and Preaching - Is Expository Preaching Boring?

The Gospel Coalition - What Should I Preach Next?

Bible Gateway - What Happened on Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week?

Erik Raymond - A Gentle Political Recalibration for Christians

Russell Moore - Where I Work: My Nashville Office

Monday, March 21, 2016

"Is God Anti-Gay" by Sam Allberry: A Review

And as someone in this situation, what Jesus calls me to do is exactly what he calls anyone to do. Take another well-known saying of Jesus:

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Mark 8 v 34

 It is the same for us all - "whoever". I am to deny myself, take up my cross and follow him. Every Christian is called to costly sacrifice. Denying yourself does not mean tweaking your behaviour here and there. It is saying "no" to your deepest sense of who you are, for the sake of Christ. To take up a  cross is to declare your life (as you have known it) forfeit. It is laying down your life for the very reason that your life, it turns out, is not yours at all. it belongs to Jesus. He made it. And through his death he has bought it.

The moral universe is shifting rapidly beneath our feet. Every time we turn on the news or read an article on our digital devices we feel the violence of this sexual, moral revolution. Who could have imagined just a few years ago, the rapid change in the polls regarding the nation's view on homosexuality, gay marriage, and other sexual lifestyles and choices? Who could have predicted how many Christians would abandon ship in order to save their brand?

Recently I was given a free digital download from Christian Audio of the wonderful book Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry and I cannot recommend it enough. The book is short, taking the author only about two hours to read, and yet it is full of biblical and practical insight that it has become the most important book on the subject of homosexuality and Christianity I have read.

The author openly gives testimony to his own struggle with same-sex attraction. I appreciate his honesty here. His personal struggle allows him to write in a winsome way that is honest, open, and clear. This insight into the personal struggles of homosexuality and the community along with his understanding of Scripture makes this a unique book in Christian circles. The author repeatedly offers clarity that I must admit forced me to repent.

Each chapter deals progressively with another serious issue regarding homosexuality and the gospel. For example, the author dedicates one chapter on what the bible says on the subject of sexuality in general and then follows it with a chapter on what Scripture says about homosexuality in particular. In these two chapters alone, the author provides real exegetical depth and clarity in such a short space that he manages to destroy often used liberal arguments while exhorting more conservative readers against fundamentalist interpretations.

The one chapter I appreciated the most regarded the church. It is clear that the author loves the local church and believes in her. Here the author provides the reader with biblical and gospel insight in how we, as Christians, are called to serve fellow image bearers who struggled with same-sex attraction.

Overall, I cannot, as I said above, recommend this book enough. I appreciate the free audiobook provided to me by Christianaudio. The book is read by the author (a personal preference of mine) and as always the quality is top notched. Every pastor, church leader, and Christian serious about the gospel in a post-sexual revolution, post-Christian world needs to read this book.

Christianaudio was kind enough to allow me a free digital download of this book. The quality, as always, was great

All Around the Web - March 21, 2016

Ligonier - 6 Distinguishing Marks of a Call to Gospel Ministry

The Gospel Coalition - The Whole Bible in One Verse

Chuck Lawless - 9 Reasons Gossip is Destructive to a Church

Tim Challies - What Does It Take To Be Made a Saint?

The Federalists - Let’s Resurrect The Federalist Party

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 4

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 4

As to my travels and standing with brother Joseph Bledsoe.[Joseph Bledsoe would later go to Kentucky in 1781 with the Craigs and the Travelling Church, where he would continue to preach.]

Brother Bledsoe made a covenant with me, that if I would stand with him in society, should be sure to equal with him in the work of the ministry, and to have every liberty which he had in society; which he was faithful to perform to me. In this society I stood, and I went about eight or nine times with him to the Essex meeting [Essex County] about sixty miles off, in one year. As brother Bledsoe had the care of a church in Essex, and brother Lewis [perhaps his brother Lewis Craig] the care of one in Spottsylvania, the persecution in Caroline [County] was great--

[Insert after Caroline:

Read: Matthew's Gospel, chapter 5, 10, 11, 12-and 14th and 45th verses: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness's sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manners of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." But I tried to obey the 44th verse of this chapter: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you."

Here follows the 45th verse, as a reason for doing: "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust."

O Persecution! What has thou done?
In ages past and gone?]

where I was was taken four times (by the civil officer) for preaching without legal license, as they call it, i. e. from the High Church of England. This was the common complaint. Once they put me in the criminal jail, where I sang about one hour, exceedingly happy-After which they let me have the bounds on bail. While I was there, I seemed as if I had said, "Lord, I have left all and followed thee," and "proved my faith by my work"-and it seemed as if he had said, face to face, I can believe you have. After I had staid about three weeks there, I went to the outer part of the bounds, and sat down; and it seemed that, if I would look up, I should see the glory of God. Then I seemed near home! I said, with tears, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now?

One time I had preached, and after I had done, the constable took hold of me, and said I must go with him. I thought God did not send me to prison; and if satan did, I would not go, if I could help it. I said I would not go before T__. That warrant said, "he should bring me before him or some other magistrate in the country." I would go before Mr. H.--. I thought the Lord let me know the prince of this world cometh. One man said, come, go away. The constable had then let me go. I said to the man, you must go with me. We went out at the other door-some one shut the door by the house stable. The constable thought I was in the house but I had gone out the other door, and into the woods. T__ and his company came and hunted the closets and rooms but found me not.

I had an appointment for meeting next day below, in my way to Essex; and when I got there, I thought, if war was fashionable, that I would try and war a good warfare; and, as I had gotten into it, I did not care how much I suffered for the Lord's sake; and I concluded that they might do their worst, and I would try and do what I could for the Lord. And surely I did cry aloud that day! And we had a good time. And on another day, I was at meeting in the same county, and had been speaking (or preaching).

The constable came, and some big men with him. He came round the company, and took hold of me. I asked him to let me get done the hymn which we were singing. He stood and held me by the arm. He then led me along the way, to carry me to prison. The congregation were all moved along-some began to exhort the constable to take care what he did; and then some of the congregation did praise the Lord aloud! They led me about three miles, to T__, and sat with me awhile and then they went away. At dusk I was conducted into an upper chamber, and they took my four penny knife from me, for fear I might kill some of them! I slept but little that night. In the morning the constable and company were in the porch talking. As I was in the hall, and the other room, I thought they had forgotten me. I might, perhaps go away. I went out of their sight--they did not mind me--I feared to be my own jailer--I would try to go off--I could run to meeting better than home--I thought I would try to get off from among them. I got about fifty yards, and one gave an alarm, Craig is gone.

In one minute a gang of men, some on horseback, and a gang of dogs, of different sizes, were after me. I thought they should catch me, if they could; but, if they did, they should have a race for it. I ran steadily on, and got into the woods; but the dogs followed me true--I tried to dodge them, but in vain--I spoke to them but had to stop; they would give no quarters. The men came up and one of them took me by the hair, and raised his fist to strike me; but his companion caught his hand. They led me to the house, and commanded me to prison. I got on my horse, with one brother behind me. I said I must keep my conscience clear, or I should fail into keen despair--I did not care about life or death. The man behind me said I should do as I pleased. I got out at the gate, alighted down from my horse, and stood still. The constable asked what ailed me--was I sullen? I told him I would have no hand in carrying Joseph Craig to prison. He then came and sat me on my horse; his companion came with a rope, and tied my feet together under my horse, which hurt me considerably; and he took hold of the bridle, and led my horse almost ten miles. Being now near the prison, the rope being stiff, untied, and I thought the Lord let me know I was free--so I observed to the constable." Do you remember Pilate took water and washed his hands, and said he was clear of the blood of that just person?" He said he did. I told him he was now carrying me to prison--that I had a wife and children to take care of. He said he would not do anything to hurt me, but only to clear himself of the law. So, when we got to the prison, he put me in, but the door would not lock-so that night I set off toward home; and so got clear of them for that time &c &c &c.

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 - March 18, 2016

Albert Mohler - The Withering of Vice and the Sexual Revolution

Carl Truman - Sex Trumps History

Thom Rainer - Six Reasons Why Most Churches Are Lousy at Follow-up

WORLD - South Dakota becomes 13th state to adopt 20-week abortion ban

Insider Higher Ed - Gay Rights Groups Urge NCAA to End Ties to Colleges Requesting Title IX Waiver

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My Ministry Bucket List

I was having a great conversation with our youth minister one day and I shared with him something I was planning. I casually referred to it as something on my "ministry bucket list" - a term I had never used before. He then encouraged me to publish a post on such a ministry bucket list. The following is thanks to that encouragement.

Typically, a bucket list describes what an individual wants to experience before they die. Similarly, then, what follows is a list of ministry opportunities I would like to witness and participate in before retiring from ministry. I am certain this list will grow and, who knows, shrink as I am blessed with the opportunity to enjoy each.

Remarry a Divorced Couple - I believe in the destructive power of sin. As such every minister has witnessed the effects of sin in many marriages. Divorce makes a mess of everything and the church feels its sting as much as anyone. After a divorce takes place, I always pray that one day these sinners will repent of their sin and through the power of the gospel and through the ministry of the local church, this couple will one day be reunited in marriage.

Perform a Wedding on a Sunday Morning - In the imagery given us in Revelation of the new heavens and the new earth, at the center of heavenly worship is a wedding. The two go hand-in-hand and any wedding that is not a worship service is missing the beauty of the gospel and marriage. I would love to marry a couple one Sunday morning in place of the usual worship service. For the couple, this is ideal. There will automatically be music, a choir, a congregation who loves them, a minister, and a church.

Preach in Historic Pulpits - I think this is on every pastor's list. To stand in the pulpit of the giants whose shoulders we now stand on is a very high honor. The two great men that come immediately to mind are John Knox and Martin Luther.

Preach in Historic Family Pulpits -  In a similar vein, I would love to preach in the historic pulpits of churches founded or pastored by some of my Christian ancestors.

Offering Plate Full of Coins Dropped on Hardwood Floor - This is more for my own entertainment. I can't help but think of how much like a Mr. Bean scene this would be.

What am I missing? What would you add?

All Around the Web - March 17, 2016

Canon and Culture - Does Science Hate Philosophy?

The Gospel Coalition - TGC Asks: Does Scripture Demand Unleavened Bread in the Lord’s Supper?

Christianity Today - Should Churches Display the American Flag in Their Sanctuaries?

Erik Raymond - The Gospel Brings a Debt

Zondervan - 3 Reasons Why the Crusades Don’t Compare with Jihad

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Ten Commandments

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - To Master Peter
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Lord's Prayer
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Pray Like a Barber
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Ten Commandments

After exploring the Lord's Prayer, Martin Luther considers praying through the Ten Commandments in his book A Simple Way to Pray. He explains at the very beginning that his approach follows the same patter:
First, instruction: I read each commandment and consider what it is teaching me, as intended by the commandment, and think about what god is so earnestly demanding of me.

Second, thanksgiving: I use the commandment to thank God for something.

Third, confession of sin.

Fourth, I use the commandment to say a prayer using these or similar words. (16)

Before exploring the commandments more explicitly, I few thoughts in general about his treatment on prayer and the Decalogue. First, I find this approach insightful and one I would never have considered. The Lord's Prayer is established by Jesus as a model prayer intended to be used in a way that Luther suggests. Yet few would consider praying through the Ten Commandments.

Secondly, this section provides helpful insight into Luther's understanding and theology of the Ten Commandments. However, the reader should note just how brief this section is. Luther does not teach the Ten Commandments here. I would recommend the reader explore and study them before praying through them.

Thirdly, there is a glaring weakness that we cannot ignore. Luther commonly utilizes the Law/gospel distinction in his writings. Here, one can barely find the gospel in his survey of the Ten Commandments. I applaud Luther's exhortation to use the Ten Commandments as a means to confess one's sins, but confession should never be isolated from the gospel. Luther fails to make that important point.

With that said, Luther establishes a helpful practice that could greatly benefit our prayer life. If we would be disciplined to put it into practice.

For more:
How to Pray in a World of Terrorism

All Around the Web - March 15, 2016

The Atlantic - Are Conservative Christians ‘Religious Extremists'?

Ross Douthat - Donald Trump’s Christian Soldiers

New York Times - Evangelists Adapt to a New Era, Preaching the Gospel to Skeptics

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Metaphors for Your Church Membership

Relevant Magazine - 11 Mind-bending Christian Book Covers You Can't Unseen

Monday, March 14, 2016

"So Many Christians, So Few Lions" by George Yancey and David Williamson: A Review

Let us take stock of what we have learned thus far. An unknown percentage of individuals hate, mistrust, and/or fear conservative Christians to an extensive degree. We know from the information provided by the American National Election Survey (ANES) that their number is not likely minuscule since nearly  third of the country feels substantial relative hostility toward conservative Christians. The extent of relative hostility directed toward his group is at least as high as that directed at Muslims; thus those concerned about Islamophobia in the United States have as much reason to be concerned about this relative hostility toward conservative Christians - especially since those with this antipathy are more likely to be wealthy, educated, and white, thus to have greater per capita social power than the average American. (109)

It is increasingly becoming clear that the only "group" subject to ridicule and abuse without any alarm from the politically correct police are Christians. What has fueled this most in recent years is, without a doubt, the sexual revolution in general and the legalization of gay marriage in particular. Like in ancient times, Christianity's clear moral stance on sexuality has resulted in derision at best, violence and prosecution at worse.

But we will never bow.

This is chronicled from an academic perspective in the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? by George Yancey and David Williamson.

First a word on the title. Its genesis is taken from one of the candidates they interviewed during the research portion of the book. In response to Christians, this individual commented that there were too many Christians in America and not enough lions. They are referencing, of course, the common form of execution utilized by the Romans in the early centuries of Christianity when they were heavily persecuted and murdered. To illustrate how shocking this statement is, the authors are quick to remind the reader that this is akin to saying, "So many Jews, too few ovens" (an obvious reference to the Holocaust).

The real benefit of this book is that it is primarily a work of academia. Instead of researching news headlines and then bloviating on them in a book-length rant, the authors painstakingly engaged in research and survey its conclusions. The research answers emphatically the question raised in the subtitle with an unmitigated, "yes."

For those new to academic research books, this may be a struggle. The authors are careful with their conclusions. The book is not motivation by emotion, but research. They frequently comment how new this research is and their conclusions need further study by others, but they provide a strong data-based case that Christianophobia is on the rise in America.

I suspect that most readers will be interested in the final chapter which highlights a number of specific cases of Christianophobia. In the end, though, this book goes a long way preparing the believer for what is coming while putting a mirror before the face of those guilty of Christianophobia. They make the valid and piercing point that academics are quick to condemn all forms of discrimination and hate except in one instance: Christianity. That is hypocrisy pure and simple.

Overall, I would recommend the book. The world is changing rapidly. Now is the time to strengthen our faith and prepare for what is coming.

For more:
"The Global War on Christians" by John Allen: A Review
Can It Happen Here? It Already Has: Metaxas on the Threat of Religious Liberty in a Pro-Gay Culture
Christophobia: Newsweek and the Global War on Christians 

All Around the Web - March 14, 2016

The Resurgent - Texas Baker Gets a Taste of Tolerance

Erik Raymond - 3 Ways the Gospel Changes Marriage

Russell Moore - Signposts: Why I Learned More From Sunday School Than Seminary

Managing Your Church -  Meeting IRS Requirements When a Pastor Runs for Office

John Stonestreet - Extraordinary Earth

The Blaze - Mom Takes Deep Breath as Deaf Daughter Makes Chick-fil-A Order Using Sign Language — and Is Overjoyed Watching Cashier’s Rare Response

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 3

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.

The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 1
The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 2
The Journal of Joseph Craig - Chapter 3 

Chapter 3

The journal of Brother Waller and myself, as his assistant, over the great mountains. [John Waller, imprisoned with Lewis Craig in Spotsylvania for preaching in 1768.]

As we lived in Virginia [in Spotsylvania County, west of Fredericksburg], below the great mountains, our journey over two ridges and back would be two hundred miles, the way we went.

After we got over the Blue Ridge, as it was called, we sat on the bank of the river Shannandoah [Shenandoah], while brother Samuel Harris administered the Lord's Supper to about one hundred communicants. After which Waller and myself went up between the river and said mountains about thirty miles, with a brother preacher (by the name of Coons) where we were invited to dine. We went in, and before we were done dinner, brother Coon said, these brothers thought to get horses of thee, to go over to Smith's Creek, to do some business there.

Brother Mocks said he was hauling stone. I observed, that we thought to have forgotten horses would carry us. After awhile, we went out, and he had saddled his horses, and said we might ride them. We got to the church, and staid part of two days, and preached, and came back to the white house, near where brother Mocks lived. He met us there. One or both of our horses he had shod, and in his hand he had a dollar. He said one sister told him to give us that and we must cut it in two between us, and desired it might not be known who she was!

We never said a word about living by the Gospel; but, in private, the brethren would sometimes contribute a small sum, amounting to about one shilling a day, while we were out and sometimes none. When we got back to the white house, we examined who was the minister there; but, as the church was divided between brother Coons and brother Murfit, we could ordain none, according to our customary rule; but baptized four persons. We communed in a large upper room, prepared for meeting by one Coffman, who had built it for that purpose. We had a happy time there, and much love and union appeared among us during the time of our meeting.

When we were set off, one young woman said, weeping, she wished she had never seen these men.--she added she should never see them again, which was the cause of her weeping. The night we staid there, brother Waller said, he had no objection against traveling with me, but I would not let him sleep. After leaving this place, we found in our bag, a first-rate large cake, and we were traveling along, about twenty of us, eating the large cake. We lay that night at a Dutchman's. We left there the next day, and crossed the Blue Ridge at Milan's path--we were told it was seven miles to the top--nearly half that seven miles was so steep that it was very hard to ride; and when we got to the top, the trees were not much larger than apple trees, and the air was quite strong. And here it was the brother Waller composed a spiritual song. That night we got down on the head waters of the Rappahannock, to one brother Joel Earley's, where we preached and washed feet. The rich Earley stood near the door. Then we parted, full of love, and peace and joy, in believing. And brother Waller said, before the fire died, he composed another spiritual song, the first time of which is "come let us take a humble view."

Here the song both follow-first, the one composed on the mountain by brother Waller.

1. Let me but hear by lovely Saviour
Bid me but comfort his lovely spouse;
Saying, she is dear to me, I'll have her,
Though wicked men and hell oppose.

2. The blessed message, so transporting,
O! I would run to Zion's door.
And knock and sound a loud salvation,
To the half-starved hungry poor.

3. The flock of Jesus, how I'd feed them.
In pleasant groves, there they should rest;
Into fat pastures I would lead them,
To lean upon their shepherd's breast.

4. There I would leave them with my master,
And should his spirit bid me go.
Over a mountain or deep river,
I'd run and let poor sinners know.

5. I'd baptize every faithful follower,
Who did repent and did believe,
Who did resolve to be a soldier
Of Jesus Christ and him to serve.

6. The greatest profit, prince, or honor,
That after all I'd wish to have,
Should be to serve my Lord and master,
'Till I'm committed to my grave.

Waller's Second Song.

1. Come let us take a humble view
Of Jesus Christ, our dearest friend,
When going to the place he knew
The wicked Jews his life would end.
Hosannah to the loving lamb of God,
Who bought poor sinners with his most precious blood.

2. Most steadfastly his head he set,
Toward Jerusalem to go;
Resolv'd to pay our dreadful debt,
And take on him the curse of sinner's law,
Hosannah. &c

3. The Scribes, the Pharisees, and Priests,
Resolv'd to stop our dead Lord's breath,
Barrabas, they chose to be releas'd,
While their sport was to see Christ's death,
Hosannah. &c

4. On him a crown of thorns they put,
And smote thereon with reed and staff;
Blindfolding him, his cheeks they cuff't,
Then ask'd him who did smite the last.
Hosannah. &c

5. In token of mock majesty,
With purple robes then he was drest;
Saying, hail, king, they bow'd the knee,
Then, with his cross, his shoulder prest.
Hosannah. &c

6. His cross up Calvery's Mount he bore,
Then being stript, thereon was laid;
His hands and feet were nailed through
And fasten'd to the fatal wood.
Hosannah. &c

7. Then, reared up betwixt two thieves,
Three hours hung in bitter pain,
'Till, with loud cries, death him releas'd,
From all that wreck he so complain'd,
Hosannah. &c

8. The sufferings which his body bore,
Were trifles when compar'd to those;
The hiding of his father's face,
When time shall end, the saints shall know,
Hosannah. &c

9. Two Jewish rulers did inter
Our dearest Lord in a new tomb,
Where he did sleep 'till the third day,
Then rose to heaven, his native home.
Hosannah. &c

10. Sinners, behold your sacrifice,
See all your sins upon the cross;
Believe and sing redeeming love,
And give the Lord of life your praise.

Hosannah to the loving lamb of God,
Who bought poor sinners with his most precious blood.

For more:
The Traveling Church: An Account of the Baptist Exodus From Virginia to Kentucky in 1781 Under the Leadership of Rev. Lewis Craig and Captain William Ellis
"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 
"Baptists and Persecution in Virginia": A Lecture by Steve Weaver
"Esteem Reproach" by Harper & Jacumin: A Review

All Around the Web - March 11, 2016

Christianity Today - Andy Stanley Explains His ‘Stinking Selfish’ Parents Comment

Thom Rainer - The Ten Commandments of Church Parking Lots

The Gospel Coalition - 9 Things You Should Know About Seventh-Day Adventism

JD Greear - 7 Points to Consider When You Preach about Homosexuality

Joe Thorn - How I Prepare a Sermon

Thursday, March 10, 2016

When Christianity Becomes a Disease: A Prophetic Word from CS Lewis

In his essay "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," the late 20th century Christian apologists CS Lewis warned of a growing trend among the elites of reeducating criminals rather than punishing them. While critiquing another article, Lewis describes the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment as "The author was pleading that a certain sin, now treated by our laws as a crime, should henceforward be treated as a disease. . . . On his remedial view of punishment the offender should, of course, be detained until he was cured. And or course the official straighteners are the only people who can say when that is."

On the surface level few would criticize this approach. Nevertheless, Lewis understand that the underlying philosophy and worldview that lay behind this effort was (and now is) extremely dangerous for society.

In the essay, he offers the following:
It may be said that by the continued use of the word punishment and the use of the verb ‘inflict’ I am misrepresenting Humanitarians. They are not punishing, not inflicting, only healing. But do not let us be deceived by a name. To be taken without consent from my home and friends; to lose my liberty; to undergo all those assaults on my personality which modern psychotherapy knows how to deliver; to be re-made after some pattern of ‘normality’ hatched in a Viennese laboratory to which I never professed allegiance; to know that this process will never end until either my captors have succeeded or I grown wise enough to cheat them with apparent success—who cares whether this is called Punishment or not? That it includes most of the elements for which any punishment is feared—shame, exile, bondage, and years eaten by the locust—is obvious. Only enormous ill-desert could justify it; but ill-desert is the very conception which the Humanitarian theory has thrown overboard. 
The next sentence then reads, "If we turn from the curative to the deterrent justification of punishment we shall find the new theory even more alarming."

Shortly thereafter, Lewis makes a striking argument. Such a view of crime and the criminal is a tyranny and cruelty unmatched in human history even if done in the spirit of benevolence. He writes:
It is, indeed, important to notice that my argument so far supposes no evil intentions on the part of the Humanitarian and considers only what is involved in the logic of his position. My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better’, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image. 
This, of course, goes beyond our concern over what we may call the classic criminal - thieves, murderers, etc. When one's actions is confused with sickness in need of curing, then criminality becomes nothing more than a psychosis and can easily be equated with any worldview that society deems unacceptable.

This is where, I believe (and Lewis predicted) society will turn its malevolence against Christianity.  Terms like "homophobia" are more than advantageous for public relations and polling. It suggests that those who continue to stand on the so-called wrong side of history are sick in need of a cure. In his essay, Lewis wrote:
The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will sometimes be very wicked and very foolish. And when they are wicked the Humanitarian theory of punishment will put in their hands a finer instrument of tyranny than wickedness ever had before. For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call ‘disease’ can be treated as a crime; and compulsorily cured. It will be vain to plead that states of mind which displease government need not always involve moral turpitude and do not therefore always deserve forfeiture of liberty. For our masters will not be using the concepts of Desert and Punishment but those of disease and cure. We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis. When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to ‘cure’ it? Such ‘cure’ will, of course, be compulsory; but under the Humanitarian theory it will not be called by the shocking name of Persecution. No one will blame us for being Christians, no one will hate us, no one will revile us. The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, and though all will be in fact as compulsory as the tunica molesta or Smithfield or Tyburn, all will go on within the unemotional therapeutic sphere where words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery’ are never heard. And thus when the command is given, every prominent Christian in the land may vanish overnight into Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound, and it will rest with the expert gaolers to say when (if ever) they are to re-emerge. But it will not be persecution. Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic. In ordinary medicine there were painful operations and fatal operations; so in this. But because they are ‘treatment’, not punishment, they can be criticized only by fellow-experts and on technical grounds, never by men as men and on grounds of justice.
Let us not forget that Lewis is writing in the mid twentieth-century, yet he could have easily have been writing tomorrow. In conclusion, I agree with Lewis, "This is why I think it essential to oppose the Humanitarian theory of punishment, root and branch, wherever we encounter it."

John Stonestreet - Diagnosing Morality 

All Around the Web - March 10, 2016

Gospel Coalition - Jerry Bridges (1929–2016): My Prayer Partner, Mentor, and Friend

Crossway - 10 Things You Should Know about Church Discipline

Jason K. Allen - Revisiting the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (II)

Kentucky Today - Kentucky Baptists report highest number of baptisms since 2012

Baptist Press - Florist who refused gay wedding gets appeal

Mental Floss - How Did English End Up With There/Their/They’re?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

From Lewis's Pen: Accidental Accidents

From "Answers to Questions on Christianity" as published in God in the Dock.
If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents - the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else's. But if their thought - i. e. of Materialism and Astronomy - are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It's like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset. (52-53)

All Around the Web - March 9, 2016

Justin Taylor - Jerry Bridges (1929-2016)

First Things - The Myth of the Evangelical Trump Voters

Brookings - Three Simple Rules Poor Teens Should Follow to Join the Middle Class

Thom Rainer - Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity

Sam Murray - 4 Reasons Your Pastor Left After One Year

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Pray Like a Barber

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - To Master Peter
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Lord's Prayer"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Pray Like a Barber

Anyone familiar with A Simple Way to Pray will have come across the following passage:
Just as a good diligent barber must keep his thoughts and eyes precisely on the razor and the hair, and not forget where he is while cutting hair, even though he may be chatting a great deal, he will be concentrating carefully, so that eh keeps a close eye on where the razor is so he doesn't cut somebody's nose, or mouth, or even slice somebody's throat.

Therefore, it's very clear that if a person is going to do something well, it requires him to focus and concentrate, as the old say goes . . . "a person engaged in various pursuits, minds none o them well." So, if this is true about other things in our life, how much more does prayer require the heart to be completely focused if it is to pray a good prayer? (15)
Here is a great example of how theology meets life. Luther the theologian easily becomes Luther the pastor. Focus is key to prayer, a lesson I, and I suspect many of us, need to learn from Luther's barber.

For more:
How to Pray in a World of Terrorism

All Around the Web - March 8, 2016

Albert Mohler - Everything That is Solid Melts Into Air — The New Secular Worldview

Russell Moore - Signposts: What Christians Should Look For in a Political Candidate

JD Greear - Why I’m Running for President of the Southern Baptist Convention

SBTS - Making a Heretic: Crawford Toy’s Tragic Path from Star Student to False Teacher

9 to 5 Mac - How-To: Manage your ‘digital afterlife’ while you’re still here to do it

Mental Floss - The Science Behind Why It Hurts So Much to Step on a LEGO

Monday, March 7, 2016

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

The process of "undragoning" Eustace expresses a truth which most adult readers probably recognize immediately. man's unassisted efforts to change himself always result in failure. Eustace tries to take off his ugly covering but underneath each layer is another one just as bad. He needs a divine miracle in order to get rid of his dragon-nature. The process is excruciating - in fact, Aslan's first blow seems to go right into the heart. But that is the spot where the change must begin. And, when the water of regeneration has done its work, and Eustace is a boy again, Aslan dresses him in new clothes. Just as the Christian is not dressed in the filthy rags of his own unrighteousness but in the righteousness of Christ, so Eustace loses his dark and knobby dragon-skin and gains garments appropriate for his new nature. Or to paraphrase Paul's statement in First Corinthians: he is sown a natural dragon; he is raised a spiritual boy.  (170)

Even a cursory survey of this website is enough evidence to prove my deep affection for all things C. S. Lewis. I do not agree with everything Lewis wrote and believed, but when he was right, he said it better than anyone before or since him. Lewis's ability as a writer and apologists sets him apart from most in history.

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

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

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

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

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

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