Thursday, August 31, 2006

Family Devotions

Erik Raymond, pastor of Omaha Bible Church, has some helpful advice on doing family devotions.

The Northbrook Conference

Readers in the Midwest may be interested in The Northbrook Conference, held October 13-14, 2006 at Northbrook Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jim Hamilton will be the keynote speaker, addressing the theme of The Church: Temple of the Holy Spirit or Tower of Babel? You can read the endorsements for Jim and his work on this theme, the fruit of which will be published soon by Broadman & Holman.

The ESV Blog looks at an online subscription program to help with memorizing Scripture. It looks quite helpful.

A Hymn on the Sword

As a follow up to the sermon on knowing and using your sword, here's a hymn penned years ago by Jon Bloom, executive director at Desiring God. (HT: David Sunday)

[David tells me it can be sung to the tune of Thy Word Is Like a Garden, Lord.]

It is a sword, this word of God,
A weapon strong and good.
It has been forged by Sovereign grace,
Prophetic fire and blood.
It's double-edged and there exists
No other blade so fine,
But skillful use is only learned
Through active use and time.

It is a sword with which to fight,
A saber for the war.
For frequent are the battles and
Its use will bring its scar.
Designed as an offensive tool,
Not merely to defend,
Attack the enemy with it
And put him to an end!

And yet be warned! This sword we wield
Becomes the Surgeon's knife.
And ruthlessly reveals our sin;
It wounds to save our life.
It lives and acts and pierces deep,
A paradox indeed;
The very sword that slays our foe
In mercy makes us bleed.

Grip tight the sword and keep it poised
When come the times of test.
Remain alert, its hilt in reach,
In times of peace and rest.
It is our hope, our confidence
When facing pain or strife;
Our glory, strength, our faithful friend –
Indeed, it is our life!

© Jon Bloom

Thoughts on Blogging

Suzanne Hadley of Boundless recently sat down with Carolyn McCulley and yours truly to talk about how to Blog Responsibly. Be sure to also check out Bob Kauflin's reflections on Blogging to Worship God.

The Sword of the Spirit

Here is an excellent, edifying sermon by my pastor, David Sunday, on knowing and using your sword (the Word of God).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kristof Interviewed

CT editor Collin Hansen interviews NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof on evangelicals, China, and human rights.

Dever on Evangelism

Mark Dever:

"One part of clarity sometimes missed by earnest evangelists, however, is the willingness to offend. Clarity with the claims of Christ certainly will include the translation of the Gospel into words that our hearer understands, but it doesn’t necessarily mean translating it into words that our hearer will like. Too often advocates of relevant evangelism verge over into being advocates of irrelevant non-evangelism. A gospel which in no way offends the sinner has not been understood."

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Race and Christianity

Thabiti has a round-up of some recent blog posts on race and Christianity.

DG National Conference Update

This news from the DG National Conference blog:

As of 2:00 PM today, the conference registration is at 90% capacity. We praise God for this!

However, this means that it is very likely that the conference will sell out by this Friday. If you plan to attend, we strongly encourage you to register soon. Once we hit capacity, we will close down Registration. At that point, we will start a waiting list, but can make no guarantees that you’ll be able to attend.

Please pass this news along to others who might be planning to attend but have not yet registered.

Challies's Chrisian Directory

Tim Challies has put together a nice page devoted to upcoming Reformed conferences.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Blog for Teens

The Rebelution, Alex and Brett Harris, have a redesigned site that looks really sharp.

Here's some more info on these guys:

ALEX AND BRETT HARRIS (r-l) are Christian teenagers with a passion for God and for their generation. They are the founders of The Rebelution website and co-authors of the award-winning Rebelution Blog.

Alex & Brett have grown up in a ministry household. Their father, Gregg Harris, is a well-known homeschool author and speaker, teaching elder at Household of Faith Community Church, and director of Noble Institute for Leadership Development. Their mother, Sono Harris, is an accomplished speaker and successful speech coach. Their older brother, Joshua Harris, is senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD and bestselling author of, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," "Boy Meets Girl," and "Not Even A Hint."

Following in the footsteps of their family members, 17-year-old Alex & Brett are speaking out for God with a message to their own generation. Recipients of six national championships in high school speech and debate Alex & Brett are applying their gifts in communication to the challenge of exhorting their peers to stop wasting the teen years and to rebel against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.

Biblical Theology: Sermon Series

I haven't yet had a chance to listen to this sermon series on biblical theology delivered by Michael Lawrence of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. But from what I've heard and from what I know about Michael, this will be a sermon well worth your time:

Biblical Theology: Creation

Biblical Theology: Fall

Biblical Theology: Love

Biblical Theology: Sacrifice

Biblical Theology: Promise

By the way, CHBC is now podcasting. Check out Reloaded

A heads up that the new DG site should come out this week. I'll link to it when it's ready: Is Coming Soon

Watch for our redesigned website, providing more content, improved access to all of our content, and many other improvements, to be released this week.

Reformation 21

The latest issue of Reformation 21 is now online.

Here are links and brief descriptions to the various aricles:

Biblical Antidotes to Racism (part 1)
Biblical Antidotes to Racism (part 2)
Ronald Kalifungwa offers two articles on racism. In the first, he identifies several biblical principles that relate to racism in general. The second examines Colossians 3:11 and offers biblical antidotes to racism within the church.

An Introduction to Lemuel Haynes
, by Thabiti Anyabwile. Meet an 18th century Reformed, African-American pastor.

A response from Guy Waters to Nicholas Perrin. Reformation21 readers are, in a sense, stepping into an ongoing discussion between the two that started with Perrin's review of Water's book, Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul in the Fall 2005 issue of the Westminster Theological Journal.

John Calvin on Missions. Michael Haykin explores Calvin's theology of Christ's kingdom and the example of Geneva as a missionary center to dispel the characterization that the Reformed faith is antithetical to missions.

Wages of Spin
What is the new test of orthodoxy these days? If the frequency of the questions being asked to Carl Trueman is any indication, we have moved far away from the traditional definitions of orthodoxy.

Understanding the Times. Is there room within the Christian music tent for both The Who and Wagner? Jeremy Smith offers a some reflections on music.

Friday, August 25, 2006

9Marks on the Emerging Church

First things first. If you don't subscribe to the 9Marks newsletter, repent and click.

I've taken the liberty of reprinting below the table of contents from their latest issue on the Emerging Church.

An Emerging Church Primer
by Justin Taylor

Pastor's and Theologian's Forum on the Emerging Church
We asked a roundtable of pastors and theologians one question:

"What do you hope will ultimately emerge from the emerging church conversation for evangelicals?"

Answers by D. A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, Michael Horton, Mike McKinley, Daniel Montgomery, Brent Thomas, Carl Trueman, and Jonathan Leeman.

The Emerging Consequences of Whose Ideas?
If ideas have consequences, it’s worth asking whose theology books are being read in the Emergent classroom.
Contributions from J. Ligon Duncan, Gregg Allison, Jim Hamilton, Stephen Wellum, and more.

Book Reviews: The Radical Reformission & Confessions of a Reformission Rev
by Mark Driscoll
Reviewed by Mike McKinley

Book Review: Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
by Rob Bell
Reviewed by Greg Gilbert

Give Me Doctrine or Give Me Death
by Greg Gilbert

Contextualizing the Gospel in an Egalitarian World
by Jonathan Leeman

The Devotional Life of the Professional Christian
by Mike Gilbart-Smith

Doing Seminary Well
by Owen Strachan

The Gift of Singleness, Again

Andreas Kostenberger responds to Debbie Maken.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today in History

John Owen died (in 1683).
William Wilberforce was born (in 1759).

Thank God for both of these men.

(HT: DG)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


A new band, Leeland--led by 17-year-old Leeland Mooring--is creating quite a bit of buzz with their debut album, Sound of Melodies.

You can read a review of it here in CT.

Servant Speaking

Quentin Schultze has written a book that I bet many of us will find profitable: An Essential Guide to Public Speaking: Serving Your Audience with Faith, Skill, and Virtue.

Author: Quentin J. Schultze
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5
Number of Pages: 112
Publication Date: Aug. 06

Status: Available

Description: As followers of the Word in the information/media age, all Christian students need education in becoming more effective communicators who also embody biblical values. Unfortunately, apart from homiletics texts, there is little available on the art and craft of public speaking from a Christian perspective. And many public speaking textbooks are overly technical for the average college student. An Essential Guide to Public Speaking fills this gap, providing a brief and accessible yet content-rich textbook for use in public speaking courses at Christian colleges and universities.

Quentin Schultze calls readers to become servant speakers who serve audiences as neighbors, embody Christian virtues, and present technically well-crafted speeches. Topics covered in the book include the biblical value of effective communication, overcoming challenges to speaking, the importance of listening and research, speaking truthfully, and discourse in the public arena. The book is also filled with servant speaking tips and includes several helpful and practical appendices. Students who practice the guidelines in this book will be equipped with both helpful skills and an understanding of a Christian ethos on public speaking. While designed primarily for college courses, this book is also suitable as an ancillary text for seminary preaching courses.

Author Information: Quentin Schultze (Ph.D., University of Illinois) holds the Arthur H. DeKruyter Chair in Faith and Communication and is the director of the Calvin Workshops in Communication at Calvin College. He is the author of many books, including Habits of the High-Tech Heart, Communicating for Life, and Here I Am.

Endorsements: "There is a lot more to speaking than getting the right words and pronouncing them correctly. Who we are and the way we speak make all the difference. Every time we open our mouths, Christian truth and community are on the line. Quentin Schultze is a skillful guide and wise instructor as he helps us to acquire a voice that speaks in consonance with the God who speaks--to speak in such a way that truth is told and community formed."--Eugene H. Peterson, professor emeritus of spiritual theology, Regent College; translator of The Message

"This faith-based guide is a valiant effort to focus speechwriters and public speakers on quality and ethics. Quentin Schultze reminds us that the biblical context--speech as a gift and a responsibility for the service of our neighbors--has nearly vanished and calls us to refocus. An Essential Guide to Public Speaking helps us to do just that."--Rich DeVos, cofounder and past president, Amway Corp. (now Alticor Inc.); owner and chairman, NBA Orlando Magic

"Quentin Schultze has done it again! This special book, written by one of the most original and profound authors I know, takes a fresh look at public speaking as 'servant speaking.' My students love his call for communication that builds meaningful relationships rather than just performances or arguments. His retelling of Augustine's own transformation into a servant speaker is beautifully told and highly relevant for today. A must-read for everyone who wants to use speech to serve rather than to manipulate audiences."--Kathleen O. Sindorf, professor of communication and media studies, Cornerstone University

"Schultze's highly recommended book offers a practical road map for becoming a 'servant speaker' who serves the audience as a 'neighbor.' By reclaiming Augustine's vision, An Essential Guide to Public Speaking provides an important antidote to today's self-serving rhetoric in public speeches and the media."--Linda S. Welker, communication consultant; professor, Northern Kentucky University

"For a long time I have been looking for a short, inspiring book that not only talks about the skills of effective speaking but also revives the art of public speaking as a virtuous practice. An Essential Guide to Public Speaking does just that. It calls us to reclaim Augustine's vision of ethical, effective speechmaking and shows us how to do this in today's diverse world."--Mary Albert Darling, professor of communication, Spring Arbor University

"Schultze's book is grounded in ancient and modern insights into what communication can be when we develop character and community alongside skill. In a concise, accessible style, he introduces the fundamentals of public communication as part of a larger, more important calling to serve others with our lives."--Nathan Baxter, professor of communications, Gordon College

"Today's emphasis on skill over virtue is ruining public discourse. Schultze has come to our aid, succinctly combining the richness of rhetorical theory with a Christian perspective on stewardly discourse, making the classical ideals of wisdom and eloquence accessible to adults of all ages."--Nneka Ofulue, professor of communication studies, Eastern University

Dr. Schultz also has a companion website on servant speaking.

How to Destroy a Denomination

Mark Driscoll offers ten easy steps to destroying a denomination:
  1. Have a low view of Scripture and, consequently, the deity of Jesus.
  2. Deny that we were made male and female by God, equal but with distinct roles in the home and church.
  3. Ordain liberal women in the name of tolerance and diversity.
  4. Have those liberal women help to ordain gay men in the name of greater tolerance and diversity.
  5. Accept the worship of other religions and their gods in the name of still greater tolerance and diversity.
  6. Become so tolerant that you, in effect, become intolerant of people who love Jesus and read their Bible without scoffing and snickering.
  7. End up with only a handful of people who are all the same kind of intolerant liberals in the name of tolerance and diversity.
  8. Watch the Holy Spirit depart from your churches and take people who love Jesus with Him.
  9. Fail to repent but become more committed than ever to your sinful agenda.
  10. See Jesus pull rank, judge you, and send some of your pastors to hell to be tormented by Him forever because He will no longer tolerate your diversity.

Whoever Loves Discipline...

Bob Kauflin, a wise and humble man, provides some counsel on obeying Proverbs 12:1, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid."
1. Pray for reproof. That’s right. Ask God to bring people into your life who will point out where you’re making mistakes, sinning, or could do things better.

2. Expect reproof. Be on the lookout for it. I find that when I’m surprised by critical feedback from others, it’s usually because I'm looking for their praise.

3. Ask others for input. That’s why we hand out evaluation forms at the conferences. We read every one of them. They have been invaluable each year for making the next conference better. It’s best to ask people for input when they have time enough to think about it, and are convinced that you really want to hear it.

4. Thank people for reproof. It’s rarely easy to reprove someone else. When a friend approaches me and says they want to share something with me (and I don’t get the feeling it’s encouragement), I want to make sure I thank them for caring enough to give me input, whether I agree with them at the moment or not.

5. Ask questions about reproof. Oftentimes, people don't say everything they're thinking. Ask them to elaborate, expand upon, or fill out what they're saying. It will help you hear it more clearly and respond more humbly.

6. Thank God for reproof. Every critic is a gift from God. God is the one who enables others to overcome their fears and tell us what we need to hear. What an evidence of God’s kindness!
(HT: Z)

11 Questions (Continued)

New Attitude has posted the final two installments (part 3 and part 4) of their interview with me on humble orthodoxy, emergent, and evaluating church trends.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Professors Against Stupid Questions

We all know there's no such thing as a stupid question, right? Well, a number of professors would beg to differ!

Here's a handy chart for students as they head back to the classroom, produced by Randy Stinson of Southern Seminary.

(HT: Phillip Bethancourt)

CT Cover Story on Calvinism

Christianity Today has an interesting cover story in the latest issue, which is being shipped this week. The title is: "Young, Restless, and Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback--and shaking up the church."

Written by Collin Hansen, it's an excellent piece that profiles the Reformed resurgence in the twenty-something crowd. John Piper, Al Mohler, Joshua Harris, Kent Hughes, C.J. Mahaney, and Together for the Gospel are all mentioned.

I'd encourage you to pick up a copy of the magazine at your local bookstore. (I have a hunch it may be their bestselling issue of the year!)

I'll also link to the story when it appears online next week.

"Walking From East to West"

J.P. Moreland offers a brief review of Ravi Zacharias's Walking from East to West.

Banish the Bling

NPR commentator Juan Williams has penned a provocative piece in the Washington Post: Banish the Bling: A Culture of Failure Taints Black America.

"Have we taken our eyes off the prize? The civil rights movement continues, but the struggle today is not so much in the streets as in the home -- and with our children. If systemic racism remains a reality, there is also a far more sinister obstacle facing African American young people today: a culture steeped in bitterness and nihilism, a culture that is a virtual blueprint for failure."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

New Studies in Biblical Theology

Here are a couple of new entries in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series (IVP), edited by D. A. Carson. Both look quite good:

A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture, by Mark Thompson (July 2006)

Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor, by Trevor Burke (December 2006)

Communion with God

Kelly Kapic's study, Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen, will be published this spring by Baker Academic. Here is a description along with a couple of endorsements:

Description: The Puritan John Owen is best remembered today for his theological writings on high Calvinism, traditional orthodoxy, church polity, and the pursuit of holiness. According to Kelly M. Kapic, Owen is being rediscovered by a variety of people today, including theologians, evangelical ministers, and laypeople interested in classic forms of spirituality. With this diverse audience in mind, Kapic focuses on the concept of communion with God in Owen's thought, covering key areas such as anthropology, Christology, trinitarian studies, and the Lord's Supper.

Endorsements: "This book, which draws from an impressive array of sources, is a marvelously rich, full, and systematic treatment of Owen's focus on communion with God. It will enhance our understanding and appreciation of Owen and, most importantly, of personal communion with the Triune God."--Joel R. Beeke, president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

"John Owen was one of the giants of Puritanism, his massive erudition displayed on every page of the many volumes that flowed from his pen. We now have no better guide to Owen's thought than Kapic's study. Focusing on the relation of humans to God and the communion with God established by Christ, Kapic masterfully opens up all aspects of the great Puritan's theology. This fresh look is a most welcomed resource as it probes significant aspects of Owen's thought for contemporary theology and Christian life."--Donald K. McKim, editor, Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith

Fox News on Rick Warren

FOX News will air a special presentation Sunday night (8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET) called Purpose Driven Life: Can Rick Warren Change the World.

Reporter David Asman gives a preview, and also hints at some of the challenges in doing an objective report on someone like Warren.

Helping the Poor

Ten years ago (August, 1996) President Clinton signed into law the Welfare Reform Act.

Rich Lowry looks at the unprecedented changes it has spawned:

  • welfare caseloads have dropped 60%
  • child poverty has dropped in each year--1.6 million fewer children live in poverty
  • the black-child-poverty rate has dropped from 41.5% to 30%
  • the portion of single mothers who were employed grew from 58% to almost 75%
  • employment grew by 50% for never-married mothers

In related news, Marvin Olasky cites a book coming out in December by Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks, who asks: "So who is more compassionate: the religious right, or the secular left? The answer appears to be the former. The reason for this, however, revolves around religion, not political ideology. The relatively large religious right and fairly small religious left are both far more compassionate than secularists from either political side. The most uncompassionate group of all—in attitudes and behaviors—is a subset of conservatives who are also secularists. Inordinate media attention to this group may help explain why conservatives are often accused of being uncompassionate."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Biblical Hermeneutics

The course materials for Vern Poythress's seminary classes on Biblical Hermeneutics and the Book of Revelation are now available online.

The Eras of the Church's Great Influence

"What have been the eras of the Church's greatest influence? What have been the moments of its most powerful impact on the world?

Not the epochs of its visible might and splendour;
not the age succeeding Constantine, when Christianity became imperialistic, and all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them seemed ready to bow beneath the spectre of Christ;
not the days of the great medieval pontiffs, when Christ's vicar in Rome wielded a sovereignty more absolute than that of any scular monarch on the earth;
not the later nineteenth century, when the Church became infected with the prevailing humanistic optimism, which was quite sure that man was the architect of his own destinies, that a wonderful utopian kingdom of God was waiting him just round the corner, and that the very momentum of his progress was bound to carry him thither.

Not in such times as these has the Church exercised its strongest leverage upon the soul and conscience of the world: but in days when it has been crucified with Christ, and has counted all things but loss for His sake; days when, smitten with a great contrition and repentance, it has cried out to God from the depths."

James S. Stewart (1896-1990), Scottish preacher.

(Cited in David Wells's Above All Earthly Pow'rs)

The Book of Revelation: Strategies for Seeing

In his excellent commentary on the book of Revelation, entitled Triumph of the Lamb, Dennis Johnson provides principles of interpretation, "a strategy for seeing," John's apocalypse.

  1. Revelation is given to reveal. It makes its central message so clear that even those who hear it can take it to heart and receive the blessing it promises.
  2. Revelation is a book to be seen, a book of symobls in motion. Because the appearance of individuals and institutions in everyday experience often masks their true identity, Revelation is given in visions full of symbols that paradoxically picture the true identity of the church, its enemies, and its Champion.
  3. Revelation makes sense only in the light of the Old Testament. Not only the visions of such prophets as Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah but also historical events such as creation, the fall, and the exodus provide the symbolic vocabulary for John's visions.
  4. Numbers count in Revelation. Since numbers are used symbolically in Revelation, we must discern the meaning that they convey rather than trying to pull them as numbers directly into our experience, measured by calendars and odometers.
  5. Revelation is for a church under attack. Its purpose is to awaken us to the dimensions of the battle and the strategies of the enemy, so that we will respond to the attacks with faithful perseverance and purity, overcoming by the blood of the Lamb.
  6. Revelation concerns "what must soon take place." We must seek an understanding that touches the experience of our brothers and sisters in the seven first-century congregations scattered in the cities of western Asia Minor. Revelation is not about events and hostile forces remote from their struggle.
  7. The victory belongs to God and to Christ. Revelation is pervaded with worship songs and scenes because its pervasive theme--despite its gruesome portrait of evil's powers--is the triumph of God through the Lamb. We read this book to hear the King's call to courage and to fall down in adoring worship before him.

Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?

Readers interested in discussions of foreign policy will want to read Norman Podhoretz's lengthy and insightful essay, Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?, published in the September 2006 issue of Commentary magazine.

Podhoretz identifies three original pillars of the Bush Doctrine: (1) the categorical rejection of relativism and the embracing of categories such as good and evil, right and wrong in the context of terrorism; (2) a new conception of terrorism; (3) the determination to take preemptive action against emerging threats. He identifies a further pillar as the President clarified how Israel and the Palestinians fit into the larger war on Islamist terror, and insisted that US support of a Palestinian state would be conditioned on Palestinians renoucing terrorism and embracing democratic reform.

The Bush Doctrine has been attacked and misrpresented ever since its initial articulation. The surpising twist is seen in the number of conservative--even neoconservative--commentators have pronounced the doctrine dead in the water. It is to them that Podhoretz responds, and the result is illuminating and insightful.

Here is his conclusion. (Keep in mind that Podhoretz insists on calling the Cold War "World War III" and the current war on Islamofacism "World War IV.")

"It is my contention that the Bush Doctrine is no more dead today than the Truman Doctrine was cowardly in its own early career. Bolstered by that analogy, I feel safe in predicting that, like the Truman Doctrine in 1952, the Bush Doctrine will prove irreversible by the time its author leaves the White House in 2008. And encouraged by the precedent of Ronald Reagan, I feel almost as confident in predicting that, three or four decades into the future, and after the inevitable missteps and reversals, there will come a President who, like Reagan in relation to Truman in World War III, will bring World War IV to a victorious end by building on the noble doctrine that George W. Bush promulgated when that war first began.:

Friday, August 18, 2006

Live Stronger

Jedidiah Coppenger recounts an opportunity he had to share the gospel with Lance Armstrong.

Family Audio Library

Roger Overton ends an audio review by spotlighting a Christian audio company:

"I was able to listen to this audio book thanks to the generous folks at They offer quality Christian audio books at discounted prices- 50% off retail. I don’t think you can find a better deal than that. The commercial activity of the site helps to fund deep discounts on the same products for visually impaired, learning disabled and most recently, the entire roster of New Tribes Missionaries! Needless to say, you should stop on by and take advantage of the great deals and help support their ministry in the process."

The Gift of Singleness

Andreas Kostenberger provides a summary of the Bible's teachings on the gift of singleness.

Build Your Own Blank Bible

Jonathan Edwards did it--why can't you?

The ESV Blog collects the links to a fellow who asked himself that very question!

11 Questions

The New Attitude blog recently interviewed me about humble orthodoxy, the emerging church movement, and evaluating church trends.

Part 1 and Part 2 are now available. I'll link to the other parts when they're up.

Reverse Interlinear

Crossway has posted the preface to the ESV Reverse Interlinear New Testament.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ten Books on Piety

Joe Thorn provides a helpful top ten list on books related to spiritual piety.

(HT: Cawley)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Public Prayer of Confession

Bob Kauflin reprints a prayer of confession offered at the Worship God Conference:

Holy and righteous God, we confess that like Isaiah, we are a people of unclean lips. But it is not only unclean lips we possess. We are people with unclean hands and unclean hearts. We have broken your law times without number, and are guilty of pride, unbelief, self-centeredness and idolatry. Affect our hearts with the severity of our sin and the glory of your righteousness as we now acknowledge our sins in your holy presence.

We have had other gods before you.

We have worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.
We have sought satisfaction in this world’s pleasures rather than in You.
We have loved to praise our own glory more than yours.

We have taken your name in vain.

We have prayed religious prayers to impress others.
We have uttered your name countless times without reverence or love.
We have listened to others use your name in vain without grieving.

We have murdered in our hearts.

We have often destroyed our neighbor with our tongues.
We have been quick to uncharitably judge others.
We have considered revenge when we were sinned against.

We have committed adultery with our eyes.

We have loved temptation rather than fighting it.
We have lusted after unlawful and immoral pleasures.
We have justified our lusts by using the world as our standard.

We have stolen what is not ours and coveted what belongs to others.

Our lives overflow with discontent, ungratefulness, and envy.
We have complained in the midst of Your abundant provision.
We have sought to exalt ourselves through owning more.

We have lied to you and to others.

We have told distorted truths, half-truths, and untruths.
We have despised the truth to make ourselves look better.
Even in our confession, we look for ways to hide our guilt.

O God, we have sinned against your mercy times without number. We are ashamed to lift up our faces before you, for our iniquities have gone over our heads. If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? How shall we answer you? We lay our hands on our mouths. We have no answer to your righteous wrath and just judgment.

We have no answer. But God Himself has mercifully provided one for us.

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6)

SBC Mistake

Mark Dever writes about a pretty serious mistake made at the SBC convention.

Peter Toon Online

Peter Toon's writings have now been made available online.

Of particular interest to Owen fans will be

God's Statesman (biography of Owen)
The Correspondence of John Owen
The Oxford Orations of Dr. John Owen

But be sure to check out the whole collection for the wide range of Dr. Toon's writings.

(HT: Tony)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Everlasting Dominion

Eugene H. Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, will publish his OT Theology this fall with B&H: Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament.

Here is the publisher's description:

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation." –Daniel 4:34 (Holman CSB)

Everlasting Dominion is the magnum opus of the greatly esteemed Dr. Eugene H. Merrill, a thoroughly researched theology of the Old Testament based on decades of study and teaching experience. Taking a high view of Scripture as the inspired, authoritative Word of God, Merrill guides readers to a better understanding of the nature of Old Testament theology and employs a well-balanced method of laying bare the Scripture so that its profound, lifechanging truths can be better apprehended and applied.

(HT: Tim Harrelson)

Professor Merrill is also the author of a history of OT Israel: Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Theology Without Prayer Is Idolatry

"Theology without trusting, submissive prayer is no longer good theology; it is merely an academic exercise which may itself pose as a substitute for the process of knowing God. Where this happens, the means has become the end in a kind of perverse idolatry."

David Wells, "The Nature and Function of Theology"

Paul and the Philippians

Paul & the Philippians

A Bible Study in the Dynamics of Biblical Change

By David Powlison

Read Acts 16:6-40 and Philippians 1-4

Read through Acts 16 and Philippians closely. This study will not proceed verse by verse. Instead it asks questions of all five chapters at once. For example “Notice Paul’s situation? What are all the varied pressures Paul faces?” and “What do you see and hear about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”

As you gain familiarity with the flow of Acts 16 and Philippians, you can skim more quickly through to assemble your answer to each question. Or example, these chapters describe more than a dozen different hardships that Paul faced. Your job is to put yourself in his shoes and notice them. You will see that each question is put several ways. Don’t necessarily answer every sub-question. Various ways of putting the same basic question help you to look intently at what the Bible is saying.

The study will work through materials familiar to you from the Dynamics of Biblical Change course: the “three trees,” the “eight questions.” The goal is to help you notice things, organize things, sort out things that differ, think clearly and carefully. This study is meant to change the way you think, act, and experience life. It is then meant to change the way you help others.

How can you involve others both in your Scripture study and the self-counseling project? Discussion, accountability, and prayer can greatly contribute to converting ideas into life wisdom.

These same questions can be easily adapted to other books of the Bible, for they are simply a tool to get you to notice what the Bible says to PEOPLE in real-life SITUATIONS before GOD. For example, you could look at 1 Peter, refocusing Question 1 into “Notice particulars of the readers’ situation.” For example, you could study Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, refocusing Questions 3 and 8 into “What consequences – vicious or gracious circle – do you observe in the stories of people’s lives?”

[1] Notice Paul’s situation, all that is swirling around him, both “negative” and “positive.”

What are the varied pressures Paul faces? Put yourself in Paul’s shoes. What are Paul’s hardships? What burdens, temptations, stresses, problems, failures, impotencies, threats and pains – actual and potential – does Paul face? How are his circumstances difficult? How are people sinning against Paul?

What are the “positive” parts of Paul’s situation? What successes, triumphs, vindications and blessings does Paul experience? What positive impact is he having on events and people? How are people responding favorably to him and his efforts? What is God doing around him and through him?

[2] Think about the typical reactions to such circumstances.

Brainstorm: how do you – or people in general – tend to react to the kinds of pressures Paul was under? What is life like when these things weigh on you? How do you typically react: thoughts? Words? Attitudes? Emotions? Actions? What temptations would you face in such circumstance? In other words, what does Paul command the Philippians not to do? How do you – or people in general –tend to react when good things happen? What temptations come when life abound with good things, when everything’s going your way? How do you typically react: thought? Words? Attitudes? Emotions? Actions? What problem attitudes and actions can arise when you receive success and blessings?

[3] Dig for the craving and beliefs that tend to rule the human heart, producing ungodly reactions.

What do Acts 16 and Philippians say, demonstrate, or imply about why people tend to react in ways quite different from Paul? What beliefs and desires control reactions? What controls the interpretation of experience? What motivates the reaction? For example, Philippians 1:17f, 1:28, 2:3f, 2:21, 3:3-7, 3:19, 4:6, and 4:12 and Acts 16:16, 16:19, and 16:27 directly describe some of the false masters that create bad fruit in our lives. Other times more subtle connections are drawn. For example, Philippians 2:12, 13, 15 have implications regarding the causes that underlie “grumbling and disputing” in 2:14.

How do particular sins flow directly from these motives? For example, how might grumbling or anger or worry or compulsive eating or manipulating others flow from the “god” and “mindset” Philippians 3:19 describes? Draw specific links, and explain the logic of the link.

Why don’t positive experiences, behavioral reformation and positive thinking really change us? What happens when people experience blessings without dealing with their heart’s motives? When people try to change their feelings directly, without addressing reigning desires and beliefs? When people try to act righteously and lovingly, without dealing with the motives that underlie behavior? When people try to discipline their minds by positive thinking, without changing what rules them?

[4] What are the consequences of instinctive sinful reactions?

What “vicious circles” do you see threatening the Philippians? What negative consequences might arise from sin? How would bad reactions compound hardships or create new problems or spoil blessings? What do you reap when you respond to circumstances by instinct? What possible consequences can you envision if Paul had reacted out of the flesh to the rigors of itinerant life, to the honor of apostleship, to being jailed, to the jailer’s conversion, to Epaphroditus’s illness, to the sins of Euodia & Syntyche, to poverty and riches, etc.?

[5] Notice what changes lives, inside and out.

What specifically does God reveal of Himself in Philippians? Who is He? What is He like? What does He promise? How does He work? What has He done? What do you see Him doing? What will He do? What truth do you see and hear about the God who is your true environment? What is the power at work within you?

Philippians does not reveal everything about God, but several well-chosen things. What particular needs are addressed by what God chooses to promise and to reveal of Himself? What resources are tailored to the struggle between sin and godliness? What resources are brought to bear on the particular hardships of the situation?

How does God work through other people? You don’t understand God in a vacuum. You don’t grow to change in isolation. How do Acts 16 and Philippians portray godly people influencing and helping one another grow in faith and obedience? How do you see Paul acting? What impact do the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus have?

[6] What rules the heart in godly responders?

What rules Paul? How is Paul’s life determined by faith? What do Acts 16 and Philippians tell or imply about why Paul responds in such an unusual, “unnatural” way to the things he experiences in life? What ruled Paul? What controlled both his interpretation of circumstances and his response? What is his secret of contentment, the source of his peace, thankfulness and joy? What did Paul believe, trust, fear, hope in, love, seek, obey?

How does faith make the whole world look different? How does faith as a ruling motive reinterpret our circumstances for us, even when we are in the midst of suffering or success?

How does genuine faith change people in practical ways? How does faith change Paul’s desires and directly produce Paul’s outward responses? For example, how do thankfulness, peacemaking and contentment flow directly from believing, trusting and fearing God in Paul’s exact circumstances? Draw the links specifically.

How is turning, repentance, change portrayed? How does faith in God’s message enable us to cross the line? How do we move from our natural reactions to a response of faith like Paul’s? How do we move
  • FROM compulsive self-interest (1:17f, 2:3f & 2:21),
  • FROM confidence in ourselves (3:3-7),
  • FROM making our desires into our gods (3:19),
  • FROM living for what is before our eyes and all around us (3:19),
  • FROM preoccupation with our anxieties of comforts or riches (4:6 & 4:12, and Acts 16:19),
  • FROM fear of what people will do to us (1:28 and Acts 16:27),
  • FROM willing and doing my own good pleasure (2:13-15), and
  • TO faith in the living, loving and powerful Savior, Jesus Christ,
  • TO willing and doing God’s good pleasure?
In other words, what happened to Lydia the Philippian jailer, Paul, Silas, Timothy, and the other Philippian Christians Paul writes to? How is turning to God a once-for-all-act?
How is turning to God a daily, ongoing process, a way of life? What happens once for all at conversion is a picture of what happens daily in Christian growth. How do Philippians 1:6, 1:9, 1:14, 1:25, 2:12, 2:15, 3:12-16, 4:2, and 4:12 describe this ongoing process of becoming different? True Christians are “disciple” of Jesus, who are in process (Luke 9:23). What do Euodia and Syntyche need?

[7] Look for the specific good fruit.

How does Paul respond? What does he command readers to do? How does Paul respond to positive and to negative circumstances? How does he interpret his world? How does he act? What does he say, do and feel in the midst of both trails and victories? How does he tell you to respond? What are concrete ways you are told to obey God?

[8] What good effects result from the way Paul handled his situation?

What “gracious circles” does he create? How do Paul, Silas, Timothy and Epaphroditus affect and influence people and events? What positive consequences do you see or can you envision happening because of how Paul handles things? What do you imagine was the impact of obedient Philippians on other people in Philippi? How do faith and obedience affect others and the world around you?

Personal reflection: What have you learned?

Stop and think. Go back and read what you have written in this study of Paul and the Philippians. Think about your walk with God, your self-counseling project, and your ministry to others. What would it be like if/as the message of Philippians became written on your heart, became the way you instinctively processed life? Write a paragraph to a page about what made the biggest impression on you personally as you did this study, and what might have the most significant impact as you make it your own.

The Dynamics of Biblical Change

I've mentioned David Powlison numerous times on this blog. He is one of those authors whose writings deserve great circulation. John Piper has written that "David Powlison has eyes to see what many do not, and a heart to feel, and a way with words that can speak to the battle we all fight to keep believing."

I'm excited to learn, therefore, that one of David's courses--"The Dynamics of Biblical Change" which looks at the Christian life--is now being made available as a distance education course.

Cohorts of up to 25 students are assembled monthly for a 12-week course (more are students possible in a group when an institution reserves an entire class and so all attenders come from one place).

(For more information, click here.)

I'd highly recommend that small groups and church-based theological programs consider adding this as a superb supplement on sanctification.

One of the assignments in that course is a self-directed Bible study entitled "Paul and the Philippians." It consists of eight questions that are used to examine the book of Philiippians and Acts 16. David's entire course seeks to flesh out these questions and to explain their biblical and inner logic.

Here are the eight questions to ask in seeking the dynamics of biblical sanctification:

1. What is my situation? (What was or what will be my situation?)

2. How am I reacting? (or How did I react? How will I be tempted to react?)

3. What is ruling me? (Desires, expectations, fears, beliefs)

4. What are the consequences of my reaction? (Vicious circles)

5. Who is God? What does He say? What resources will He provide to help in my need?

6. How can I turn to God for help? (Hebrews 4:16)

7. How should I respond to the situation in order to honor God?

8. What are the consequences of living in faith and obedience? (Gracious circles)

In an email, David provides an overview of this inner logic:

Qs 1, 4, & 8 capture the "stage" or situation into which God places us providentially, both the varied circumstances that "come at us" (Q 1), and the situational consequences that result from how we respond (Qs 4 & 8).

Qs 2-3 & 6-7 capture the moral divide in human life, the paths of folly and wisdom respectively. Qs 2 & 7 look at horizontal dimension, how we live; Qs 3 & 6 explore vertical dimension, who we live for.

Q 5 captures the particulars of the living, redeeming God, who is at work in His world.

One of the purposes of the study (as in our lives) is to notice exactly WHAT is revealed about God in any particular situation, based on the challenges to faith and obedience faced by any particular people. God never reveals everything all at once, so even the "normative" revelation is based on particulars of the "situational" and "existential" (to borrow John Frame's language).

These Qs seek to capture the living dynamic of real people in a real world with a real God.

In a subsequent post, I'll post the entire "Paul and the Philippians Bible Study" (with David's permission). I'd encourage you to consider taking a question per day next week and working through this helpful material.


On the anniversary of Baruch Spinoza's excommunication in Amsterdam 350 years, Albert Mohler summarizes Matthew Stewart's new book, The Courtier and the Heretic.

The H*A*B*I*T of Prayer

Dana Olson, of Prayer First, provides a helpful acronymn and a needed exhortation for us to serve people through prayer. I've taken the liberty of reproducing much of his post below, and encourage you to check out his blog for regular encouragement in this practice.

* * *

My point with this post is to remind you of the significant power of simply praying for people.
By 'power' I don't mean power in the signs and wonders sense (though neither am I discounting that he is able to do amazing things). I mean it in the sense of the incredible impact and joy when we pray with people in need. This kind of prayer is often neglected: all too often we think of it as a clergyman's duty. Ridiculous! God has given to believers the privilege of coming to his throne of grace. All believers, not just pastors. And when we bring people in need before that throne, there is mercy and grace for their need, and there is delight in the love unleashed in doing so. Praying for folks who are hurting is a very practical means of showing the love of Christ. It is in the very doing a testimony of our faith in Christ and confidence in God's grace and help. Here is a very simple acronym I have often used to train Christians to pray for someone in need. I call it H*A*B*I*T prayer, as in "make it a habit to pray for others around you."

H -- Honor God. Begin with a simple sentence or two of praise and adortation to God for His glory. Thank him for saving you through the cross of Jesus Christ, and giving you the amazing privilege of entering his throne room to pray.

A -- Ask specifically. Bring the person's need to the throne of grace. It is critical that you listen carefully to what the person has said, so that you can pray for them specifically rather than generally. It is disappointing to pour your heart out to someone, then have them pray as if they didn't hear a single word you said.

B -- Bless. Ask God to bless them in ways other than just the specific item prayed earlier. If the person is not a Christian, pray for their spiritual life and awakening to God's grace through Jesus Christ. If you know them well and other aspects of their life, ask God's blessing. "Lord, I ask your blessing on Ted's wife and children as well. Give him wisdom in his business...etc." If you do not know them, simply ask God to pour his blessing into every aspect of life, especially their spiritual life in Jesus Christ.

I -- In Jesus' name. We come to God in prayer only because of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us, and opened the way for us into the Holy of holies.

T -- Touch as appropriate. If it is appropriate, take the person's hand when you pray for them, or put a hand on their shoulder, whatever seems appropriate to the situation. Take care with this. We should be neither inappropriately "touchy feely" nor cold and "hands off" as if we might catch something.

More could be said on each of these. But that can be at another time. My point today is to ask you, "Do you seize on the opportunities God gives you to pray for those in need who surround you every day?" If you don't, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to communicate with God and communicate to others the love of God.

August 22 and the Apocalypse

Bernard Lews, professor emeritus at Princeton and one of the West's foremost authorities on Islam, writes about Iran's apocalyptic vision for the world, and specifically August 22:

Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

Read the whole thing.

(HT: Dana Olson)

Update: I'm reproducing here a comment left by Peter. This appears to be legitimate, not a joke:

"Check out Ahmadinejad's own new blog. There is an English version - click the second flag from the left. . . . See also the BBC's report about it."

Personal Computers @ 25

The PC celebrated its 25th anniversary this weekend, as this London Times article points out. Al Mohler has some thoughts on the implications of this technological revolution.

US vs British Counterterrorism

This article offers a helpful overview of the ways in which the US and British intelligence systems differ with regard to the war on terror. The authors examine the areas of (1) criminal investigations; (2) profiling; (3) privacy; (4) secrecy; (5) international intelligence cooperation; (6) experience.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth

Roger and Amy at the A-Team blog are blogging their way through Wayne Grudem's Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. Here are their summations of chapter 1 and chapter 2.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Worship Kitsch

Quentin Schultze on the abuse of technology in worship:
Young people witness some of the cheesy video and computer "art" in worship and they see it for what it is: kitsch. Stock clip art. Old-fashioned, 19th-century background images under song text: the sun shining on the Cross, running streams, baby faces -- all of the stereotypical images that say, "Christians are crummy artists and naive sentimentalists." To them, such kitsch is like handing out illustrated kids' Bibles to high school students and telling them that these images represent the depth of insight and excellence of the Christian faith.

Pro-Life Classic Coming to the Silver Screen

Gene Veith writes about P.D. James' book, The Children of Men, which is being made into a movie:

"In addition to her mysteries, she has written a science fiction dystopia entitled "The Children of Men." In it, the human race becomes infertile. No more children can be conceived or born. The world is just waiting to die out. The novel, which also takes on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, is a pro-life classic. And now it is being made into a movie, by a top-flight director and with a top-flight cast, to be released September 29. Click here to see the trailer."

Why Evangelize

Sam Logan asks: "Why exactly do we preach the gospel? Why do we participate in programs such as Evangelism Explosion? Why precisely do some of us go to distant cultures as missionaries? Why do others of us provide financial support?"

He then offers a biblical answer.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Survelliance Works


British antiterrorism chief Peter Clarke said at a news conference that the plot was foiled because "a large number of people" had been under surveillance, with police monitoring "spending, travel and communications."

Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

Witnessing to Muslims

Thabiti has started a new series where he'll be sharing "a few ideas for speaking of Jesus with our muslim neighbors and friends." Thus far:

When Witnessing to Muslims... Know the Gospel
When Witnessing to Muslims... Renounce Fear

Thabiti has also blogged recently about what he learned about evangelism at CHBC and why he was all night thinking about evangelism.


If you weren't aware of this already, ubberblogger Tim Challies is liveblogging the Worship God Conference held by Sovereign Grace Ministries.

A Wedding Prayer

Here is a wedding prayer as adapted by Dr. Ric Cannada, Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary :

O God of love, you have established marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind. Yours was the plan, and only with you can we work it out with joy. You have said, “it is not good for a man to live alone. . . . I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now our joys are doubled, since the happiness of one is the happiness of the other; our burdens are halved, since, when we share them, we divide the load.

Bless this husband. Bless him as provider for the needs of those he loves. Sustain him in all his struggles in the contest of life. May his strength be her protection, his character be her joy and assurance. May he so live that she may find in him the haven for which the heart of a woman truly longs.

Bless this loving wife. Give her a tenderness that makes her great . . . a deep sense of understanding and a great faith in You. Give her that inner beauty of soul that never fades, eternal youth that is found in holding fast to the things that never age. May she so live that he may be pleased always to reverence and adore her.

May they never make the mistake of merely living for each other. Teach them that marriage is not living for each other. It is two uniting and joining hands to serve You, the living God. Give them a great spiritual purpose in life. May they seek first the kingdom that is yours, and its righteousness, so that all other things may be added unto them. Loving you best, they shall love each other all the more. And faithful unto You, faithful unto each other they will remain.

May they not expect that perfection of each other that belongs alone to You. May they minimize each other’s weaknesses, be swift to praise and magnify each other’s strengths and beauty, and see each other through a lover’s kind and patient eyes. Give them a little something to forgive each day, that they may grow in the grace of long-suffering and love. And may they be forbearing with each other’s omissions and commissions as You are with theirs. Make such assignments to them according to Your will as will bless them and develop their character as they walk together. Give them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them humane, enough of failure to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough success to make them sure they belong to You. May they never take each other’s love for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims: “Out of all this world, you have chosen me!” Then when life is done, and the sun is setting, may they be found, then as now, still hand in hand, still so proud, thanking you so very much for each other. May they serve You happily, faithfully, together, until at least one shall lay the other in Your arms. This we ask through Jesus Christ, great lover of souls. Amen.

Dead with Ned

Jacob Wiesering writing in the left-of-center e-zine, Slate:

"Political analysts tend to overinterpret the results of isolated elections. But you can hardly read too much into Ned Lamont's defeat of Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Aug. 8 primary. This is a signal event that will have a huge and lasting negative impact on the Democratic Party. The result suggests that instead of capitalizing on the massive failures of the Bush administration, Democrats are poised to re-enact a version of the Vietnam-era drama that helped them lose five out six presidential elections between 1968 and the end of the Cold War."

BTW, here's a blogger who thinks that the red security alert following the foiling of the terrorist plot in the UK was designed by the Republicans to make the Democrats look weak on national security following Lamont's victory!

"And isn't it queer that the emergency is declared within a day of Republican party leader Ken Mehlman launching an all-out offensive against Democrats following Joe Lieberman's loss in Connecticut, an offensive in which Mehlman, the White House and Republican operatives are claiming that Democrats no longer care about national security or the war on terror. And just at that moment we get our FIRST ever red alert. Beam me up, Scotty."

An interesting strategy here: defend the change that you're weak on national security by doubting a major national security breakthrough!

Weekly Standard on the Evangelical Left

Mark Tooley writes in the Weekly Standard about Greg Boyd and his new book on the myth of America as a Christian nation. Here's the conclusion:

"Will evangelicals hearken to the separatist, neo-Anabaptist mindset that Boyd espouses, as transmitted through Yoder and Hauerwas? It seems unlikely, but Yoder and Hauerwas are popular in many evangelical seminaries. For evangelicals uninspired by the traditional Religious Right, the Yoder-Hauerwas model seems to offer an alternative, without succumbing to theological liberalism. Expect to hear more from such disciples as Rev. Boyd."

"Talking to People Rather Than about Them"

Here's a word I need to hear from John Piper.

Whose Afraid of Van Til?

Doug Wilson has a very thoughtful review of James K.A. Smith's Whose Afraid of Postmodernism?

(My subject line is not a typo--you'll have to read the review to find out why.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Piper Sermon on Justification

The manuscript (and the audio) of John Piper's sermon on justification, delivered this past Sunday upon his return from Cambridge, is now available online. An excerpt:

"Do you see why I would spend weeks of my sabbatical laboring to understand why so many teachers in the church today are replacing the righteousness that Christ has in himself with the righteousness that Christ creates in us as the basis for our justification? People who trust in the righteousness that God has worked in them for the basis of their acceptance and acquittal and justification do not go down to their house justified. People who really believe that the righteousness that God helps them do in this life is a sufficient basis for their justification, Jesus says, will not be justified. Bethlehem, this is serious. We are not justified by the righteousness that Christ works in us, but by the righteousness that Christ is for us."

The Blank Bible

This September Yale University Press will publish Jonathan Edwards's The Blank Bible. Here's a description:

"In 1730, Jonathan Edwards acquired a book-like, leather-bound manuscript containing an interleaved printed edition of the King James Version of the Bible. Over the next three decades, Edwards proceeded to write in the manuscript more than five thousand notes and entries relating to biblical texts (though paradoxically he called the manuscript his 'Blank Bible'). Only a fraction of the entries has ever been published. This volume presents a complete edition of the 'Blank Bible' accompanied by an informative introduction, multiple appendices, and an extensive index."

It's $200. While I admit I'm not yet ready to fork over that amount of cash for this volume, the question should be asked: How much money would you pay if someone offered you an unlimited pass which allowed you to peer over Jonathan Edwards's shoulder as he made notes in his Bible?

Schreiner on Preaching and Biblical Theology

Tom Schreiner has a helpful article on Preaching and Biblical Theology in the latest Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

Here is his conclusion, which is a good summary of his article:

"Our task as preachers is to proclaim the whole counsel of God. We will not fulfill our calling if as preachers we fail to do biblical theology. We may get many compliments from our people for our moral lessons and our illustrations, but we are not faithfully serving our congregations if they do not understand how the whole of scripture points to Christ, and if they do not gain a better understanding from us of the storyline of the Bible. May God help us to be faithful teachers and preachers, so that every person under our charge will be presented perfect in Christ."

And here's a summary of the way in which Schreiner calls upon preachers to take up the task of preaching that is informed by "antecedent theology" and "canonical theology":

"The first task of every interpreter is to read the OT in its own right, discerning the meaning of the biblical author when it was written. Further, as we argued above, each OT book must be read in light of its antecedent theology, so that the storyline of scripture is grasped. But we also must read all of scripture canonically, so that the OT is read in light of the whole story—the fulfi llment that has come in Jesus Christ. We always consider the perspective of the whole, of the divine author in doing biblical theology and in the preaching of God’s word. We read the scriptures both from front to back and back to front. We always consider the developing story as well as the end of the story."

Read the whole thing.

(HT: Jim Hamilton)

Mars Hill Podcast

Mars Hill, the audio journal run by Ken Myers containing thoughtful worldview interviews, is now available on podcast.

(HT: Russell Moore)

McKnight on Burke

Spencer Burke (of the Emergent The Ooze website) is a heretic, a universalist, a panentheist, denies the Trinity, and gives no evidence in his recent book of believing in the gospel as the NT defines "gospel."

Those aren't the conclusions of a fightin' fundie critic of All Things Emergent. They are the careful, sober conclusions of Professor Scot McKnight, who is very sympathetic to the movement and has done much to promote it. Here is the relevant extract from Scot's latest post:

I’d really like to know what you think of these ideas, and at one time I was going to end this series with your evaluations of Spencer’s ideas. But, I have a responsibility before God to be faithful to the gospel, so I have to say the following — and I don’t do so with anything but sadness.

The emerging movement is proud of creating a safe environment for people to think and to express their doubts. Partly because of what I do for a living (teach college students), I am sympathetic to the need for such safe environments. But, having said that, the emerging movement has also been criticized over and over for not having any boundaries. Frankly, some of the criticism is justified. I want to express my dismay today over what I think is crossing the boundaries. I will have to be frank; but I have to be fair. Here’s how I see this book’s theology as a Christian theologian. The more I ponder what Spencer does in this book, the more direct I have become — be glad I don’t have any more posts about this book.

Is Spencer a “heretic”? He says he is, and I see no reason to think he believes in the Trinity from reading this book. That’s what heresy means to me. Denial of God’s personhood flies in the face of everything orthodox. To say that you believe in the creedal view of God as Father, Son, and Spirit and deny “person” is to deny the Trinitarian concept of God.

Is Spencer a “Christian”? He says he is. What is a Christian? Is it not one who finds redemption through faith in Christ, the one who died and who was raised? If so, I see nothing in this book that makes me think that God’s grace comes to us through the death and resurrection of Christ. Grace seems to be what each person is “born into” in Spencer’s theses in this book. That means that I see no reason in this book to think Spencer believes in the gospel as the NT defines gospel (grace as the gift of God through Christ by faith).

I must say this: Spencer told me on the phone that he thinks all are included in God’s grace from the start solely because of Jesus’ death and resurrection; why not write that in this book?

Spencer, you’re a good guy. But I have to say this to you: Go back to church. Go back to the gospel of Jesus — crucified and raised. Let the whole Bible shape all of your theology. Listen to your critics. Integrate a robust Christology, a robust death-and-resurrection gospel, and a full Trinitarian theology back into your guide to eternity.

It will be interesting to see if there are similiar reactions from other prominent Emergent proponents. When I had lunch last year with a couple of high-profile leaders within the movement, this very issue--Burke's questioning the personhood of God--came up in an offhand way. It was just cited as one of the things people in the emerging "conversation" are wrestling with. So the question must be asked of the Emergent Village leaders: what would someone have to deny in order to make them outside the bounds of legitimate conversation? Are there any boundaries at all?

Accountability Groups

Jonathan Dodsen, writing on Accountability Groups in the latest Journal for Biblical Counseling, observes that many evangelicals practice a distorted, hollow, legalistic approach to accountability: "First, we short-circuit our relationship with the Trinity; we don’t trust our Father; we sell out the Son’s sacrifice, and we slight the Spirit. Second, in addition to trivializing the Trinity, we settle for the fleeting pleasure of peer approval or cheap peace when we could have 'pleasures forevermore' in our relationship with God (Ps. 16.11). Third, we displace Christ from our Christianity by either relying on our rituals or the fear of man to motivate holiness. By sidestepping Jesus, we dishonor God and demean His gracious provision."

To "avoid the confessional booth mentality and legalistic accountability," Dodsen suggests two essential remedies: first, taking the Scriptural warnings seriously (Heb. 12:14); and second, remembering and heeding the powerful and precious promises of God (2 Pet. 1:4).

Drawing upon the writings of John Owen (esp. Mortification and Temptation), Dodsen then delineates three principles for accountability groups:

1. Identification: Know thy Sin.
2. Mortification: Be killing sin lest it be killing you.
3. Sanctification: Set thy faith on His promises.

He then shares the ways in which his own accountability group has sought to apply these principles in their interaction together:

  • We aim to diligently identify sinful patterns in our lives and share them with one another.
  • We pray for one another about these weaknesses and ask one another each week if we are
  • struggling well.
  • We suggest promises to one another that are related to a particular battle.
  • We plead with God for earnestness in our pursuit of personal holiness, which is fostered
  • by a shared commitment to the mortification of sin.
  • In all of this we strive to be governed and guided by grace.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, August 07, 2006

DG National Conference

Mark Driscoll blogs about the upcoming Desiring God National Conference.

I'm honored to be leading the two speaker panels this year. The first session will be with Piper, Keller, and Driscoll. The other second will consist of Piper, Wells, Baucham, and Carson.

Feel free to submit questions that you'd like me to consider asking.

Prayers for Seminaries

From a prayer by Herman Witsius (1636-1708), included at the end of his address on "On the Character of a True Theologian":

“O God, who art the teacher and giver of all wisdom, be Thou present, by Thy Spirit, with us as we engage, yea, that we may engage together in these [seminary] studies. Open Thou our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of Thy law. May Thy Holy Scriptures be our pure delight; may we neither be deceived in reading them, nor handle them deceitfully. Sanctify us through Thy truth; Thy word is truth. Preserve, defend, enlarge this seminary, consecrated to Thy glory. Let envy, strifes, divisions, heresies be forever at a distance. May orthodoxy prevail, may piety flourish, let mercy and truth meet together, let righteousness and peace kiss each other. Our beloved country, rescued by Thy wonder-working right hand from so many evils, do Thou preserve in safety and peace. . . .
And after our days in this life have been spent in prolonged felicity, do Thou at last transfer us, with all thine elect, to heaven itself. This is the sum of our prayers, this is the sum of our hope. Hear and accept us, O Triune Jehovah! Amen.”

And here is a prayer for seminaries by John Piper. He prays . . .

That the supreme, heartfelt and explicit goal of every faculty member might be to teach and live in such a way that his students come to admire the glory of God with white-hot intensity (1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 5:16).

That, among the many ways this goal can be sought, the whole faculty will seek it by the means suggested in 1 Peter 4:11: Serve "in the strength which God supplies: in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."

That the challenge of the ministry might be presented in such a way that the question rises authentically in student's hearts: "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16).

That in every course the indispensable and precious enabling of the Holy Spirit will receive significant emphasis in comparison to other means of ministerial success.

That teachers will cultivate the pastoral attitude expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Romans 15:18: "I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me . . . .I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles."

That the poverty of spirit commended in Matthew 5:3 and the lowliness and meekness commended in Colossians 3:12 and Ephesians 4:2 and 1 Peter 5:5-6 will be manifested through the administration, faculty and student body.

That the faculty might impress upon students by precept and example the immense pastoral need to pray without ceasing and to despair of all success without persevering prayer in reliance on God's free mercy (Matt. 7:7-11; Eph. 6:18).

That the faculty will help the students feel what an unutterably precious thing it is to be treated mercifully by the holy God, even though we deserve to be punished in hell forever (Matt. 25:46; 18:23-35; Luke 7:42, 47).

That owing to [this] Seminary, hundreds of pastors 50 years from now will repeat the words of John Newton on their death beds: "Two things I remember: that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."

That the faculty will inspire students to unqualified and exultant joy in the venerable verities of Scripture.

That every teacher will develop a pedagogical style based on James Denney's maxim: "You cannot at the same time show that Christ is wonderful and that you are clever."

That in the treatment of Scripture there will be no truncated estimation of what is valuable for preaching and for life.

That students will develop a respect for and use of the awful warnings of Scripture as well ss its precious promises; and that the command to "pursue holiness" (Hab. 12:14) will not be blunted, but empowered, by the assurance of divine enablement.

That there might be a strong and evident conviction that the deep and constant study of Scripture is the best way to become wise dealing with people's problems.

That the faculty may not represent the contemporary mood in critical studies which sees "minimal unity, wide-ranging diversity" (J.D.G. Dunn) in the Bible; but that they will pursue the unified "whole counsel of God" and help students see the way it all fits together.

That explicit biblical insights will permeate all class sessions, even when issues are treated with language and paradigms borrowed from contemporary sciences.

That the faculty will mingle the "severe discipline" of textual analysis with an intense reverence for the truth and beauty of God's Word.

That fresh discoveries will be made in the study of Scripture and shared with the church through articles and books.

That faculty, dean and president will have wisdom from God to make appointments which promote the fulfillment of these petitions.

Have you prayed for the seminaries today?