Friday, October 24, 2008

9 Marks and CCEF on Counseling in the Church

I really am going to return to blogging on a regular basis but have to lay low for just a little while longer. The new November/December eJournal from 9 Marks was enough to make me poke my head above ground to point others to it. It's all about counseling in the church and it looks great! Here's an excerpt from the editor's note:
We know counseling ain't easy. Polls show that most pastors prefer the pulpit to the counselor's chair. Not only are the problems people bring intractably complex and heart-rending, they consume vast quantities of time.
Yet we hope this issue of the 9Marks eJournal will do two things for you, pastor: encourage you to look for ways to bring counseling into your local church, and introduce you to an incredible resource, the individuals and materials at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). Both parts of CCEF's vision statement nail it on the head: "Restoring Christ to counseling and counseling to the church." Is your counseling Christ-centered or moralistic? And how are you cultivating a culture of counseling and discipleship in your church?
Here are the articles (full PDF version here):
Five Advantages of Church-Based Counseling
Here are five reasons why churches shouldn't be so quick to "refer out" their counseling.
By Deepak Reju

Counseling and Discipleship
How are a church's ministry of counseling and discipleship related? By Deepak Reju 

Why Every Pastor-in-Training Should Read Ed's Book
Every Capitol Hill Baptist Church pastoral intern is required to read Ed Welch's book
When People Are Big and God is Small. 9Marks asks Michael Lawrence why.
Looking at the Past and Present of Counseling
Can biblical counseling draw from the Puritans? How are churches today doing at counseling? What is CCEF doing that's unique? An interview with David Powlison

Cultivating a Culture of Counseling and Discipleship
Tim Lane talks about counseling from the pulpit, the ideal church, recovery groups, promoting discipleship, and more. An interview with Tim Lane

Sorting Out the Spiritual and the Physical in Counseling
Former medical doctor and now CCEF instructor Michael Emlet discusses his own background and what pastors should make of the mind-body connection in their counseling. An interview with Michael Emlet
Premarital Counseling, Pornography, and Marriage
Today's buzzword for marriages is "compatibility." But counselors and couples need more wisdom than that, especially as pornography attacks marriage like never before. An interview with Winston Smith

What Should Pastors Do with Fear, Medication & Addiction
Welch considers questions like, Should pastors give more thought to fear? Are psychiatric medications unbiblical? Should pastors keep their hands off the psychiatric issues? An interview with Ed Welch

A new 9 Marks interview with David Powlison in which he discusses his conversion, counseling views, and assorted books is also available for listening online or downloading here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Anti-intellectualism No Answer to Dead Orthodoxy

"At many times in history, Christians reacted against academic versions of theology that deaden life. Examples like the Great Awakenings, the rise of Pietism, Kierkegaard's rejection of state Lutheranism, and the charismatic renewals come to mind. Too often, evangelicals today replace dead orthodoxy with anti-intellectual activism or moralism rather than with theologically vital spirituality. The model of piety valued most among evangelicals typically stresses inward moral holiness and outward Christian service set in opposition to reflective thought.

"...Indeed, the church cannot avoid theology in seeking to fulfill its mission. Though some think they can suspend theology, avoid the academic stratosphere, and achieve practical relevance, they succeed only in replacing a well-considered theology with a hodgepodge of theological scraps randomly interlaced with cultural ideas." - David Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology, pp. 208-209.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Books on Marriage

Steve McCoy continues his series of posts on Big 5 book recommendations. His latest entry is on parenting and the one before that was on marriage (at which I chimed in with my picks).

Related, today I came across Paul Buckley's pointer to a helpful comparative chart rating 30 Christian books on marriage in various areas. It came as no surprise to me that two of the most popular volumes fared poorly in the areas of biblical support and theological soundness. Full reviews of each of the books are available here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jesus in China

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune ran a fascinating and extensive cover story on the rapid rise of evangelical Christianity in China and how it's reshaping the officially atheist nation. According to some estimates, the mostly underground church consists of approximately 70 million members. The article is a preview of a joint project of the Trib and PBS' FRONTLINE/World called "Jesus in China" which airs tomorrow night at 9 p.m. ET. The program is momentous in that it includes interviews with numerous church leaders and members publicly declaring their faith for the first time. In a related story, the LA Times reports on China's booming business of Bible production.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tim Keller Talks Apologetics and Evangelism with CT

Some friends and I had the pleasure of attending Tim Keller's Veritas Forum lecture at Northwestern University, part of his The Reason for God book tour. While he was in town he sat down with Christianity Today assistant editor Susan Wunderink. You can read the interview here.

Since my last two posts have dealt with marketing approaches to evangelism, I took particular note of what Keller sees as a major flaw in this way of thinking:
Marketing is about felt needs. You find the need and then you say Christianity will meet that need. You have to adapt to people's questions. And if people are asking a question, you want to show how Jesus is the answer. But at a certain point, you have to go past their question to the other things that Christianity says. Otherwise you're just scratching where they itch. So marketing is showing how Christianity meets the need, and I think the gospel is showing how Christianity is the truth.

C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it's relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it's true. And if it's true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. But there will be many times when it's not relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. To be a Christian is going to be very, very hard. So unless you come to it simply because it's really the truth, you really won't live the Christian life, and you won't get to the excitement and to the relevance and all that other stuff.
And here's a nugget for emergents and other skeptics concerning the role of rationality in leading people to faith:
Perhaps there was a day in which Christians thought that you evangelized largely through intellectual argument, but now I hear people saying, "No, it's all personal. If you're going to win people to Christ you just have to be authentic. You have to just reach out to them personally. You can't do the rational." In other words, Christians are saying the rational isn't part of evangelism. The fact is, people are rational. They do have questions. You have to answer those questions.  Don't get the impression that I think that the rational aspect takes you all the way there. But there's too much emphasis on just the personal now.  Maybe you know I'm a 57-year-old man. You'd say, "Of course you'd say that." But I'm knee deep in 20-somethings. So it's not like I don't know how people are today.

The Two Obamas

New York Times columnist David Brooks explains the problem with dismissing Barack Obama as just another naive liberal:
God, Republicans are saps. They think that they’re running against some academic liberal who wouldn’t wear flag pins on his lapel, whose wife isn’t proud of America and who went to some liberationist church wherethe pastor damned his own country. They think they’re running against some na├»ve university-town dreamer, the second coming of Adlai Stevenson.
But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.  This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator. He’s the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent. He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.
Read the whole thing.

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An Ironic Side Effect of Toning Down Hard Truths

Here's something related to my previous post. Ligon Duncan points to the following thoughts from John Piper (he doesn't note the source) on how diluting biblical truth for the sake of winning unbelievers may actually harm the faith of those already in Christ:
. . . softening hard truth for evangelism in public undermines truth for the waffling believer in private. 
I think in general this is what cultural adapters fail to realize: making the truth more palatable for unbelievers to help them make a step toward orthodoxy serves even more (it seems historically) to help loosely orthodox people feel how unpalatable orthodoxy is and move away from it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Christian Euphemisms

In the interest of clear communication, Christians should carefully consider whether the vocabulary we use in declaring the gospel helps or hinders its furtherance. Contextualization of this sort is commendable. However, sometimes our selection of terms is driven not so much by a desire to facilitate understanding as by a desire to diminish the offense inherent in the message of the cross. After all, warning unbelievers about entering a "Christless eternity" isn't nearly as harsh-sounding as warnings about "hell" and thus the use of such euphemistic language might give us a longer hearing with people who would otherwise be turned off. Of course, it doesn't occur to us that the thought of an eternity without Christ is actually appealing to those who now hate him and have no desire for him.

The use of such toned-down language is not restricted to our conversations with non-Christians. Even when talking with each other we can resort to the use of euphemisms that dilute the concentration of biblical truths. I've always considered the phrase "unchurched" to describe the unconverted to be an example of such. The familiar term can easily give the false impression that a person's most fundamental problem is that he or she has not been properly socialized in church life. Likewise, it can give those who have never repented and trusted in Christ yet who regularly participate in church activities (i.e., the "churched"), a false security.

David Wells in his latest volume, The Courage to Be Protestant, critiques the premises and methods of the church growth and seeker-sensitive movements, noting how the words we use are products of the paradigm that is functionally authoritative:

We need look no further than the way those involved in this experiment speak of the unconverted. In virtually all church-marketing literature, non-Christians are no longer unconverted, or unsaved, or those not-yet-reconicled-to-the-Father, or those who have not come to faith, or those who are outside of Christ. No, they are simply the unchurched. Those who were once the unconverted have become the unchurched. This spares us the embarrassment of uttering theological truth. And that is the tip-off that something is amiss here. What is amiss is that the Christianity being peddled is not about theological truth (p. 45).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Anthony Carter on Reformed Theology and the Black Experience

In an interview with byFaith Magazine, Anthony Carter, author of Being Black and Reformed and editor of the forthcoming Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church, explains why Reformed theology and the African-American experience are inherently complementary.
In God’s providence, He is working all things out for good for His people. And African-Americans experientially see this as true, as they have experienced trials and tribulations and historic oppression. They take comfort and solace in the fact that God is sovereign and working things out for good.

So Reformed teaching and the African-American experience is quite compatible. In fact, Reformed teaching best helps us interpret the African-American experience. There is a sovereign God who is just and merciful who is working all things together for good.

But the challenge is that African-Americans are not exposed to Reformed theology, so they see it as antithetical.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How to be Unfruitful

Though written with seminarians in mind, anyone desirous of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ can benefit from considering (and doing the opposite of) Derek Brown's list of 45 ways to waste your theological education. (HT: Said at Southern Seminary)

Understanding Scripture in Light of Christ

That's the theme of the most recent issue of Southern Seminary's magazine, The Tie. Articles and authors include:

  • Scripture’s story centers on Christ
    Stephen J. Wellum

  • Old Testament: Christ hidden
    Russell Fuller

  • New Testament: Christ revealed
    James M. Hamilton Jr.

  • Biblical counseling: Centering cure on Christ
    David Powlison

  • Beyond a Veggie Tales gospel: Preaching Christ from every text
    Russell D. Moore

  • Christ as Warrior-King: Preaching Christ from Judges
    David E. Prince

The complete issue is available for free here. (HT: Steve Weaver)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Steven Curtis Chapman's Daughter Accidentally Killed

May the God of all comfort console the singer and his family as they grieve over the tragic death of their youngest child.

The Tennessean:
Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest child died Wednesday evening after being struck by a car driven by her teenage brother in the driveway of the family's Williamson County home.
Maria, one of the Christian singer's six children, was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt Hospital, which confirmed the death, according to Laura McPherson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
>The 5-year-old was hit by an SUV driven by her teenage brother, she said. Police did not give the driver's name.
The teen was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser down the driveway of the rural home about 5:30 p.m. and several children were playing in the area, McPherson said. He did not see Maria in the driveway before the vehicle struck her, she said.
Please pray for this family.

UPDATE: Condolences to the Chapmans can be expressed at this blog set up in Maria's memory. (HT: The Point)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Big 5

Steve McCoy has launched a series he's calling the Big 5 in which he'll be asking readers for book recommendations on select topics. In his first post he asks for five titles for a church's book table and gives the following guidelines: "Your 5 should be somewhat diverse. In other words, don't give me 5 books on theology only. Mix it up. And I know you want to list more than 5, but no cheating! Don't necessarily suggest your best 5. Get creative. Mention some others won't mention."

Boy, did I have a rough time whittling my list down to five (I was stuck at six for the longest!) but here, at last, are my picks. Check out Reformissionary to see what others recommend and add your own Big 5.

Questioning Evangelism
by Randy Newman (I reviewed this one here)

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Decision Making and the Will of God
by Garry Friesen

Will Medicine Stop the Pain? by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D. (I gave a synopsis here)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Groothuis on Guinness

Doug Groothuis reviews Os Guinness's The Case for Civility in The Denver Post. Some comments about relativism didn't make the final but can be read at Dr. G.'s blog.

The High Price of Einstein's Unbelief

From the New York Times:
A letter the physicist wrote in 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, in which he described the Bible as “pretty childish” and scoffed at the notion that the Jews could be a “chosen people,” sold for $404,000 at an auction in London. That was 25 times the presale estimate.
The Associated Press quoted Rupert Powell, the managing director of Bloomsbury Auctions, as describing the unidentified buyer as having “a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails.” Among the unsuccessful bidders, according to The Guardian newspaper, was Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Birthday Wisdom

I usually don't air a woman's age but since my friend, Rosemarie, has published hers, I feel free to make an exception. Today, her 51st birthday, she shares thoughts prompted by a woman. two decades her junior, who asked how her priorities and values have changed since she was her age. Her response holds instruction for us all, regardless of our years. Here's a snippet:
I would read, meditate on and memorize the Word more. I would call my sin what the Bible calls it. Jesus provides a remedy for sin, but He is silent about 'mistakes'. I would advise young people to learn the difference between who you are and the choices you make. I value learning that people are more than their sin, they are souls in peril. I'd drill it in my head as soon as possible that flattery is abuse and that genuine heartfelt compassion can accompany the absolute rejection of someone's world view or lifestyle.
Read the whole thing.

Happy Birthday, Ro, and thanks for passing on a portion of the wisdom you've acquired over the years the Lord has given you!

Thoughts on Willow Creek's U-Turn

I'm cautiously optimistic about Willow Creek's stated intention to make the training of believers rather than the attracting of seekers the focus of their gatherings. Why it took reading the results of a survey and not just the New Testament to change their course of action, I'm not sure. Regardless of how they got there, at least they arrived at the right conclusion. One can only pray that the myriad of churches that have followed Willow Creek full throttle into seeker-focused ministry will have a similar epiphany and do a similar about face.

David Wells isn't as optimistic. In an interview with CT about his latest book, The Courage to Be Protestant, Wells was asked what theological significance Willow's shift has, to which he replied:

None. Bill Hybels has, I believe, the very best of motives, but he and his church are sailing rudderless in our cultural waters. Or, to change the image, he is like a CEO who shows up at the shareholders' meeting with very poor bottom-line results. So, what does he do? Instead of carrying out a serious diagnosis of what has gone wrong, he simply rolls out a new business plan that, unfortunately, has many of the same inherent weaknesses in it. The bottom line outcome will be no different five years, or ten years from now, from what it is today.
Also in CT, Matt Branaugh reflects on "Willow Creek's 'Huge Shift.'" He concludes with an observation from Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, that seems to share Wells's skepticism:
But they're still using the same marketing methodology. Willow appears to be selecting a new target audience with new felt needs, but it is still a target audience. Can they change? Yes, but it will take more than just shifting their target audience.
Melinda Penner welcomes the news of Willow's change and recalls her initial ruminations in response to the Reveal study:

Church is for the community of believers. The pastor is the shepherd who guides and teaches the sheep=believers. But at Willow Creek, the sheep fend for themselves and the programs are for unbelievers. Willow Creek calls itself a church but is in reality a perpetual evangelism rally. Hybels isn't a pastor, he's an evangelist. The problem comes when people attend thinking they're getting church, when really the sole focus of the church is evangelism. Billy Graham never started a church or claimed to pastor people. He did his job as evangelist and then encouraged local churches and pastors to do their job of feeding and discipleship. I think Hybels and Willow Creek would serve the Body better if they didn't claim to be a church. Churches and pastors don't leave believers to "self-feed."

Willow Creek says they're "seeker-obsessed." Great. We need evangelists with that obsession for the lost. That's a specific gift of the Spirit in the New Testament. And pastor is a different one. A church can't have that obsession to the exclusion of discipling the believers in its care. Do the job of an evangelist and then send new believers to a church instead of leaving them to "self-feed."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Henry Center and "Young, Restless, Reformed" Around the Web

Trinity International University's Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding now has a blog. Last month the Center's director, Douglas Sweeney spoke with Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists about the surge of interest in and passion about Reformed theology among people in their 20's and 30's. Among the encouraging topics discussed is the recovery of the model of the pastor as theologian and biblically/theologically-driven ministry. A Q & A session follows their interaction. I had the good fortune of attending the event and, thanks to the folks at the Henry Center, you can listen to or view it.

Another noteworthy interview of Collin worth listening to is that conducted by Tim Brister:

Interview with Collin Hansen, Part One
Interview with Collin Hansen, Part Two
Interview with Collin Hansen, Part Three

Christianity Today also recently published an irenic and informative exchange between Collin and Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, in which they discuss their books and respective movements: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

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ESV Study Bible Preview

The introduction to Luke's gospel from the forthcoming ESV Study Bible is available online. Time's running out to pre-order the volume at a 35% discount. Tomorrow's the last day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brian McLaren on the Emerging Church

USA Today carries a condensed version of a recent interview with the Associated Press in which McLaren discusses his latest book and the emerging church's impact on America's religious landscape.[HT: SharperIron]. Perhaps the following non-answer is due to editing but I have my doubts:
Q: On the theology behind the emerging church, you reject the idea that there's an absolute truth. So what boundaries are there on theology that churches are teaching? Can any church just call itself an emerging church?
A: Obviously that's a challenge. The flip side of that question is look at the Catholic Church: For all of its orthodoxy, it could have bishops covering up for molesting priests. And evangelicals, for all their claims of orthodoxy, can be barbaric to gay people and can blindly support a rush to war in Iraq and can be, as we speak, fomenting for war with Iran. ... Obviously, I have a lot of critics and they often say, 'You're wanting to water down the Gospel to accommodate to post-modernity.' I say, 'No, I really don't want to do that. But what I do want to do is acknowledge first the ways we've already watered down the Gospel to accommodate modernity.' ... I think the naivete of some of those critics is that they're starting with a pure pristine understanding of the Gospel. It seems to me we're all in danger of screwing up.
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

You Are Not a Tomb: Words to a Grieving Mom

A friend's daughter recently experienced the heart-wrenching pain of losing her unborn child. In her sorrow, the grieving woman told her mother, "I'm sitting around feeling kind of like a tomb. It's disturbing." Desiring to comfort her daughter in the midst of her anguish, my friend wrote the following words. When she shared them with me, I asked permission to post them here in hope that they might offer consolation to other women for whom this Mother's Day may be a day of mourning for a child they didn't have the opportunity to watch grow up.

You are not a tomb. You are the warm and wonderful world of a tiny soul whom God formed in the deepest recesses of quiet harmony. You are a heartbeat which brought comfort to a little one whose days had already been numbered. And that heart, that sound he heard every second of his life, was his melody, his lighthouse, washing him with a Mother's glow.

You are his playground from which he grew to his fullest height...his sandbox of delight, and when playtime ended, when God called, you became his place of rest, his momentary heaven, his green pasture. Can you think of a better place to await the Shepherd to take him home?

You are not a tomb. You are all this little one knew and had and within you he lived out his entire life. And if a final breath was drawn, it was not done alone, rather to the soft voice of heaven, and the stirring of a Mother's hope. He lived knowing the gentle tug of you are wanted.

You are not a tomb, you are the mystery of a life fully lived...and what you hold onto now is your body's final grief before it says good-bye. You are not a are and always will be this baby's Mom.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:13-16).

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Cornelius Van Til: The Man and His Influence

John Muether answers questions about his new biography, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman at Westminster Bookstore's blog. You can read the book's introduction here.

Another interesting interview with a presuppositionalist is this one with Tim Keller and Monergism about Keller's The Reason for God. In it Keller recommends the writings of John Frame (one of Van Til's students) on apologetics and theology "for giving somebody the basic framework for what I do in my book."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Not Your Father's L'Abri

Earlier this month I pointed to a letter Doug Groothuis wrote to Christianity Today in response to their article on how L'Abri's philosophy and methodology have changed to accommodate the postmodern ethos. The article is now available online.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Goldsworthy on a Whole Bible Theology

Graeme Goldsworthy recently delivered the following Gheens Lectures at Southern Seminary entitled "And Beginning with Moses and All the Prophets: Biblical Theology in the Church, the Academy, and the Home." (HT: The Road to Emmaus)

"The Necessity and Viability of Biblical Theology" (MP3) (PDF)

"Biblical Theology in the Seminary and Bible College" (MP3) (PDF)

"Biblical Theology and Its Pastoral Application" (MP3) (PDF)

A friend in Christian education recently used an illustration that highlights the necessity of helping people grasp the Bible's big picture. "Too often," he said, "we're dropping students in the middle of the desert and having them analyze grains of sand but they have no idea where they are."

Breakfast Links

Thabiti Anyabwile, author of The Decline of African American Theology, talks with Christianity Today's Collin Hansen about Jeremiah Wright, black theology, and the African American church.

Speaking of CT, they recently announced the winners of their 2008 Book Awards.

Good thoughts from John Mark Reynolds on the difficulty of married love.

Kyle Vaughn at Resurgence asks whether considers whether the digital age is in fact a new Dark Age and suggests how the church can minister to those burdened and heavy laden with information:
As Christians, we need to deeply understand how the gospel impacts and gives us a responsibility concerning knowledge as well as understand how a lost world around us is drowning in a storm of information that they don't know what to do with. We live in a unique time in terms of knowledge. Never before in the history of mankind have so many people had the ability to learn (literacy) and had the access to such a vast array of information and even other cultures. With a vast network of libraries and information systems, particularly the internet, one only needs to travel one block over or click a button to access just about everything mankind has ever known or experienced. But mankind is adrift in its thinking. This boom of knowledge it would seem has led to only more despair.
Daniel J. Solove, associate professor of law at the George Washington University Law School, examines another facet of information technology's societal impact in his book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press, 2007). Its full text is available online for free. (HT: Question Technology)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Decline of African American Theology

Boundless Webzine features an excerpt from Thabiti Anyawile's book by that title. Here's a sample:
There is a place in Christian theology — stemming from a deep reflection on the Person and work of Christ — for radical jeremiads against bigotry, injustice, and oppression of all kinds. The earliest African Americans understood this and, consequently, were able to hold both a conventional Christology and an active political praxis. The two are not mutually exclusive, and yet, the theological trajectory followed in the last seventy-five years seems to treat them as such.

To the extent that African American thinkers obfuscated the centrality of Jesus' spiritual mission to purchase a special people for Himself, then they participated in that grand lie of the serpent in the garden that promised knowledge beyond imagination but only ended in the destruction of souls.

This is no victimless crime. Materialism and black nationalism masquerading as Christology overthrow the faith of many — shrouding the cross of Jesus in the temporal affairs of this world, which in turn choke the seeds of the Gospel.
Thabiti's article is a poignant reminder of how our cultural-historical contexts can serve to both sensitize and blind us to biblical truths, thus making it imperative that we humbly listen to saints from ethnic groups and times beyond our own.

Snow on What's So Great About Christianity

Tony Snow reviews Dinesh D'Souza's latest book and concludes:
D'Souza calls atheists cowards. Not quite: They're like the man who perishes in a fire because he refuses to believe the net below will hold. What's So Great About Christianity performs a wonderful and overdue service. It engages atheists exhaustively and carefully, exposing atheism more as a bundle of sentiments than a coherent doctrine.
You can see Dinesh in action debating Christopher Hitchens on "Is Christianity the Problem?" at his website.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Indifferent Theologians

In his introduction to Don Benedetto's On the Benefit of Jesus Christ Crucified, Leon Morris praises the Italian Reformer for stressing joy as a result of justification and sounds a necessary caution:

Joy runs through and through the New Testament but theologians for the most part have muted this happy note...Theologians as a race tend to be solemn folk, and it is good to see this emphasis on the sheer merriment of being a Christian. We are indifferent theologians if we have lost the song in the heart. (Because of Christ: Living Out the Gift of God Through Faith, pp. 28,29)
You can read Benedetto's work here thanks to Shane Rosenthal who offers this introduction:

The following treatise was arguably the most popular book of the short lived Italian Reformation. It is estimated that 40,000 - 80,000 copies were printed between 1541-1548, of which very few remain today due to the fact that most were burned once the title was placed on the list of prohibited books during the Inquisition. The treatise was originally published anonymously under the title Trattato Ultilissimo Del Beneficio Di Geisu Christo Crocifisso, and was for a few hundred years mistakenly attributed to Aonio Paleario (1503-1570), a martyr for the Reformation cause in Italy. But most scholars now agree, based on records from the Inquisition itself, that the "Trattato" was written by Don Benedetto, a student of the Spanish Reformer Juan de Valdes (1498?-1541) and friend of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Clearer Vision Through Tear-Filled Eyes

Mark Lauterbach on how the recent loss of loved ones has aided him in gaining clarity on the meaning of the resurrection:
You see, many people, knowing that my Mom and my wife's Dad died, offered prayer and comfort and words of hope. Most often we heard, "they are in a better place." But as I listened I thought, "that is not the last word on this." Jesus did not die and rise again so when we die we go to a better place. He died and rose again so that death will be swallowed up, this mortal shall be clothed in immortality, and our parents (and all who fall asleep in Christ) will be re-embodied.
It is surprising how very little the New Testament talks about life after death -- and how much it talks about (to borrow a phrase) "life after life after death."  I have changed my words now -- when people ask me about Mom, I tell them that she has died and is waiting the resurrection of her body. I want to point to the real hope we have -- death swallowed up, being re-embodied and without sin, forever.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two Roads

Matthias Media has produced a new evangelistic booklet adapted from their popular Two ways to live gospel outline. "It explains the Christian gospel in simple, easy-to-read language." Read the full text of the new tract here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Schaeffer - Guinness Exchange

Frank Schaeffer responds to Os Guinness's less than favorable review of his book Crazy for God, followed by a brief reply from Guinness that concludes as follows:
I replied to his book for one reason only: His portrait of his parents was wrong and destructive. It left me alternately grieved and outraged,and I wanted to witness to the truth as I see it before God. I hope one day we can sit down and talk it over amicably.

Unlimiting Calvin

My friend Flynn (aka David) has devoted many years to researching what John Calvin believed and taught concerning the extent of Christ's expiatory work. This has led him to conclude that much Calvin scholarship and many who identify their theology as Calvinistic, unknowingly diverge from the Swiss reformer's thought on this point. Of course, nothing is to be believed on the grounds that Calvin, or any other theologian for that matter, taught it. The Scriptures are the ultimate standard as Flynn would be the first to confess. However, he believes that Calvin, properly interpreted, echoes God's revelation concerning this matter.

Flynn has posted some of the fruit of his labor in what he believes "will be the most comprehensive list regarding Calvin’s view on the extent of the expiation and redemption that is available either online or in hard-print," at
Calvin and Calvinism. Thanks to another friend, Tony Byrne for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Tim Keller on Implicit Religion

Some say [religion] is a form of belief in God. But that would not fit Zen Buddhism, which does not really believe in God at all. Some say it is belief in the supernatural. But that does not fit Hinduism, which does not believe in a supernatural realm beyond the material world, but only a spiritual reality within the empirical. What is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing. For example, some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you. Notice that though this is not an explicit, "organized" religion, it contains a master narrative, an account about the meaning of life along with a recommendation for how to live based on that account of things.

Some call this a "worldview" while others call it a "narrative identity." In either case it is a set of faith-assumptions about the nature of things. It is an implicit religion. Broadly understood, faith in some view of the world and human nature informs everyone's life. Everyone lives and operates out of some narrative identity, whether it is thought out and reflected upon or not. All who say "You ought to do this" or "You shouldn't do that" reason out of such an implicit moral and religious position. Pragmatists say that we should leave our deeper worldviews behind and find consensus about "what works"-- but our view of what works is determined by (to use a Wendell Berry title) what we think people are for. Any picture of happy human life that "works" is necessarily informed by deep-seated beliefs about the purpose of human life. Even the most secular pragmatists come to the table with deep commitments and narrative accounts of what it means to be human (The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 15,16).
Related Posts:
Tim Keller on Leading the Secular to Christ

I Believe in Matter Almighty

Stem Cells and the Myth of Religious Neutrality

Forcing My Religion

Groothuis on "Not Your Father's L'Abri"

Yesterday I read an article in the print version of the latest issue of Christianity Today called "Not Your Father's L'Abri." It looks at shifts in emphasis and methodology that have taken place since Francis Schaeffer's death and portrays Schaeffer's thought as largely obsolete for the contemporary scene.

Knowing of his indebtedness to and great respect for Schaeffer, and having recently read his review of Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God, I wondered how Doug Groothuis would respond to to the article (though I thought I had a pretty good idea). My wondering is over. Dr. G. wrote a letter to the editor. I was right and so is he.

Apologetics From the Pulpit

Well, not so much apologetics as in the defense of the faith as apologizing. Peter Mead has a great post about the false though prevalent dichotomy between practical and doctrinal preaching (HT: Milton Stanley). Peter relates the lament of a well-known seminary professor over visiting speakers who introduce their messages with comments about leaving theology to the faculty and wanting to be practical.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for some time. I can't count the number of pastors I've heard on the radio and in person who've timidly prefaced doctrinal expositions with an apology to the congregation as though the explanation of biblical theology is, at best, bitter medicine and, at worst, a necessary evil. Preachers don't regularly apologize for telling jokes and stories. Why, then, do we frequently feel compelled to beg our hearers' pardon for fulfilling the God-given mandate to "give instruction in sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9)?

Peter closes with this much-needed counsel to his peers:

Don’t give the impression that some sermons are biblical, exegetical, theological, doctrinal, while others are practical, pastoral, relevant and helpful. Strive to demonstrate that both sides are really on the same side - there really is no contest.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Addition to the Poythress Online Library

Vern Poythress's The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses is the latest of the author's works offered in free,electronic form. The other titles are: The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy (with Wayne Grudem), God-Centered Biblical Interpretation, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach, Symphonic Theology, and Understanding Dispensationalists. (HT: The Works of John Frame and Vern Poythress)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tim Keller and First Things

First Things' Anthony Sacramone interviews Tim Keller about his new book, The Reason for God (already #18 on the New York Times bestseller list (HT: Steve McCoy).

Paul Tripp Coming to Illinois

I'm pleased to announce that our church, Our Saviour Evangelical Free Church in Wheeling, will be hosting Dr. Paul Tripp for a conference called "Marriage, Family, and Friendship" on Saturday, April 19th. Here's how he describes it:
In an age that offers a diverse array of solutions for relational struggle, people easily find themselves tangled in a web of countless remedies. Married or single - we need a fresh understanding of God's plan for the key relationships of life. This conference takes you beyond the world of skills and techniques to examine the heart that shapes relationship patterns and problems.
If you're anywhere near the northwest suburbs of Chicago, I hope you'll seriously consider attending what I'm sure will be an edifying event. Registration info is available here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Some Things Never Change

From the archives of Techno Tuesday (HT: Question Technology)

The Law of Moses and the Christian

Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine has begun a two-week series of posts on the relationship of the Christian to the Mosaic law (Part I ).

In defense of the perpetuity of the Old Testament law, Greg Bahnsen has argued that without it the Christian has no basis for condemning bestiality since the New Testament, unlike the Old, contains no explicit prohibition of such acts. A few years ago I presented a paper at a national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in which I challenged that argument. The paper, To Beast or Not to Beast: Does the Law of Christ Forbid Zoophilia?, is available online via Reclaiming the Mind Ministries' free ETS Theological Paper Library.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thumbs Up for "Expelled"

American Spectator senior editor Tom Bethell reviews the soon-to-be-released documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. (HT: The Pearcey Report)

I can only say that [Ben Stein's] interviews, conducted in a wide variety of locations, from Paris to Jerusalem and from London to Seattle, are outstanding. There are many of them, and they are edited and knitted together with such skill that the whole film is pleasure to watch. By turns serious and hilarious, it manages to be instructive without ever being didactic. (I stress that I didn't see the film in its final form. Some segments may be cut and others added.)

Incompatible worldviews are at stake, and the debate between the advocates of chance and design, often a proxy for combat between atheists and churchgoers, can become acrimonious. In the movie there are somber moments, as when Stein visits World War II death camps and traces the Nazi philosophy back to the godless Darwinian world in which fitness must prevail and everything is permitted. More commonly, however, the movie defuses the underlying tension with lightness and comedy.

It is surely the best thing ever done on this issue, in any medium. At moments it brought tears of joy to my eyes. I have written about this controversy for over 30 years and by the movie's end I felt that those of us who have insisted that Darwinism is a sorry mess and that life surely was designed are going to prevail.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Leading Young-Earth Creationist to Lecture at Elmhurst College

Readers in the Chicagoland region may be interested in the following announcement from Dr. A. Andrew Das, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Elmhurst College:

Please consider our invitation to attend an event on Sunday, March 2nd at 7:00 pm that is open to the public. Dr. Kurt Wise, arguably the world’s leading young-age creationist paleontologist, will deliver a lecture in the Hammerschmidt Chapel of Elmhurst College . Dr. Wise received his Ph.D. in paleontology from Harvard University. His doctoral supervisor was the late, renowned evolutionary theorist Dr. Stephen Jay Gould. Dr. Wise is currently a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. His book, Faith, Form, and Time (Broadman and Holman, 2002) will be available for purchase and signing after the event. Dr. Wise’s presentation will be followed by responses from a panel. Dr. Alan Gishlick (Ph.D., Yale) is a professor of paleontology at Gustavus Adolphus College and represents the National Center for Science Education. Professor Mladen Turk of Elmhurst College specializes in the interface between science and religion. Dr. Wise will offer a rejoinder to the panel presentations and then take written questions from the audience.
If you have questions about the event, contact Dr. Das at (630) 617-3541 or

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Bill Clinton Snaps at Pro-Life Students

Thanks to Students for Life of America for making me aware of this video. A group of over 100 pro-life students attended a Clinton rally in Steubenville, OH last night. The above is what happened when one of them interrupted and asked about his support of abortion on demand.

“I gave you the answer. We disagree with you," Clinton said. "You wanna criminalize women and their doctors and we disagree... I reduced abortion… Tell the truth, tell the truth… If you were really pro-life, if you were really pro-life, you would want to put every doctor and every mother as an accessory to murder in prison. And you won’t say you wanna do that because you know that because you know that you wouldn't have a lick of political support. Now, the issue is who … the issue is, you can't name me anybody presently in politics that did more to introduce policies that reduce the number of real abortions instead of the hot air putting out to tear people up and make votes by dividing America."

“This is not your rally. I heard you. That's another thing you need is a president, somebody who will stick up for individual rights and not be pushed around, and she won't."

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why Should You Read Good Christian Books?

Colin Adams gives 20 reasons (HT: Justin Taylor)

"The Cool Pastor at Obama's Church"

After 36 years as senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Jeremiah Wright is retiring. The Chicago Tribune  profiles his successor, 37-year-old Otis Moss III.
In explaining his mission, Moss compares himself to a DJ who's playing an updated version of the Bible. Using hip-hop terms, Moss calls his message "the Gospel remix."

"How do we, with our great foundation and history, speak to a new and current generation that desperately needs to hear the word of God?" Moss asked.

"Every pastor has to be an amazing theological DJ. You've got to know what records to play, and you've got to know where the breakbeat is, and you've got to be able to create a new song that does not alienate the old, but at the same time gives a rhythm for a new generation.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pray for Al Mohler

Greg Gilbert, at the 9Marks blog, shared the following release from Southern Seminary's Office of Communications:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will require additional surgery after a scheduled colonoscopy on February 11 revealed a tumor in his colon. An initial biopsy indicated that the tumor is pre-cancerous and further tests are to be scheduled, along with surgical options.
Mohler, 48, underwent major abdominal surgery in late December 2006, complicated by the development of bilateral blood clots in his lungs. Doctors will take special precautions to prevent a recurrence of the blood clots with this new surgery. Specialists are consulting on the case, and a decision on the date and location for the surgery is to be made in the very near future. The procedure is likely to require an extensive period for recuperation and recovery.
Mohler expressed gratitude to God that medical personnel found the tumor this early.
“Sometimes we take it for granted that we live in an age like this one, in which God has given us the blessing of medical technology,” Mohler said. “For most of human history, a tumor such as this one would have gone unnoticed until it was too late. I am thankful for modern medicine, but I am even more thankful that we live in a world in which our God hears us when we pray, a Father who listens to his children.”
Mohler said that Southern Seminary “would not skip a beat” during his recuperation.
“I have absolute confidence in the seminary leadership team. We will move forward with momentum,” Mohler said. “God has blessed and is blessing Southern Seminary. We do not take that for granted, and we pledge to be good stewards of that blessing, even through this time.”
Mohler said that his time of recuperation would necessarily alter some of his plans as he gives first priority to his health and his family.
“Some have asked how this new development affects my nomination to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis this June,” Mohler said. “I have decided to give my greatest attention right now to addressing this new challenge and to ministering to my wife and children. This is clearly not the right time for me to accept this nomination. I have asked my good friend Robert Jeffress not to proceed with nominating me for president of our Southern Baptist Convention this year.
“Frankly that decision is made much easier by my knowledge that there is at least one strongly conservative, committed pastor who intends to be nominated in Indianapolis,” Mohler said.
Southern Seminary will release additional information as it becomes available. The Mohler family has expressed appreciation for all concern, prayer and encouragement.
Like countless others, I have great admiration and gratitude for Dr. Mohler's example of being a servant-scholar to the church and an effective communicator and defender of the Christian faith to the broader public. He is a brother who, through his writing and speaking, has provoked my thinking as well as my desire to live more full-heartedly for Christ. Please join me in praying for him and his family.

More on Heaven

If you found Time Magazine's interview with N. T. Wright about heaven (to which I linked last Saturday) intriguing, you should make a point of reading this essay by J. Richard Middleton titled "A New Heaven and a New Earth: The Case for a Holistic Reading of the Biblical Story of Redemption." (HT: Paul Norridge via Steve Bishop)

Middleton convincingly argues that the Bible's plotline militates against the popularly held notion of "heaven" (i.e., an otherworldly, ethereal state devoid of cultural activity) as the goal of redemption. To the contrary, the zenith of Christ's redeeming work will be a complete restoration and renewal of creation where creation is not restricted to what is commonly referred to as "nature" but includes "the entire human socio-cultural order." Middleton states that his intention is "to explore the exegetical case for a consistent understanding of redemption as the restoration of God's creational intent, such that the appropriate hope of the redeemed is life in a renewed intra-mundane, earthly creation."

Middleton divides the essay into the following sections:

The Logic of Creation and Redemption
The Plot of the Biblical Story of Redemption
The Comprehensive Scope of Redemption in the New Testament
Problem Texts for a Holistic Eschatology
What Role Then for Heaven?

Here are some of the lines I found worthy of underlining:

With these two distinctions (concerning creation and redemption) in mind, it becomes easier to see that the traditional picture of "heaven" (found in many classic hymns and contemporary praise songs) as perpetual fellowship with, and worship of, God cannot constitute full redemption in biblical terms. This is because the traditional picture typically omits (and thus implies the negation or abrogation of) large areas of human life that God created good. "Heaven," therefore, as an eschatological state does not constitute genuine redemption of the multifaceted world God intended from the beginning. The logic of biblical redemption, when combined with a biblical understanding of creation, requires the restoration and renewal of the full complexity of human life in our earthly environment, yet without sin.

It is sometimes shocking for readers of the Bible to realize that the initial purpose and raison d'etre of humanity is never explicitly portrayed in Scripture as the worship of God (or anything that would conform to our notion of the "spiritual," with its dualistic categories). Instead, Scripture portrays the human purpose in rather mundane terms of exercising power over our earthly environment as God's representatives...To put it another way, while various psalms (like 148 and 96) indeed call upon all creatures (humans included) to worship or serve God in the cosmic temple of creation (heaven and earth), the distinctive way humans worship or render service to the Creator is by the development of culture through interaction with our earthly environment (in a manner that glorifies God).
In addition to fueling the kind of anticipation and eager expectation that the Bible describes as characteristic of the Christian life (but which, if we're honest, is frequently lacking from ours), this fuller-orbed view of redemption infuses many of the daily activities we're prone to think of as obstacles to our "spiritual" lives with profound significance.