Sunday, December 31, 2006

Christ Is All Glorious

Christ is all-glorious:
  • glorious in his throne, which is at “the right hand of the Majesty on high”
  • glorious in his commission, which is “all power in heaven and earth”
  • glorious in his name, a name above every name—“Lord of lords, and King of kings”
  • glorious in his scepter—“a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of his kingdom”
  • glorious in his attendants—“his chariots are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels,” among them he rides on the heavens, and sends out the voice of his strength, attended with ten thousand times ten thousand of his holy ones
  • glorious in his subjects—all creatures in heaven and in earth, nothing is left that is not put in subjection to him
  • glorious in his way of rule, and the administration of his kingdom—full of sweetness, efficacy, power, serenity, holiness, righteousness, and grace, in and toward his elect—of terror, vengeance, and certain destruction toward the rebellious angels and men
  • glorious in the issue of his kingdom, when every knee shall bow before him, and all shall stand before his judgment-seat.
Owen, Communion with God.


The latest Reformation21 issue has a number of articles devoted to John Owen:
John W. Tweeddale, A Little Commenting on a Lengthy Commentary ("Although he wrote no other full length commentary, Hebrews is a considerable enough work to provide significant insight into his understanding of Scripture and serve as a substantial example of the exegetical enterprise of late seventeenth century Protestant orthodoxy.")

Kelly Kapic, Why Read John Owen? ("The question I want to briefly explore is, What is it about this man’s writings that have made so many people believe they are worthy of your precious time?" . . . I remain convinced that although reading Owen is not easy, and he does have his own blind spots (as all of us do), he is a theologian of the highest caliber. Those who take the time to actually read him, whether contemporary theologians, pastors, or lay readers, often find themselves surprised by the wisdom, encouragement, and power that they encounter in this unique Puritan’s writings. May a whole new generation of readers come to appreciate the gift God gave his Church when he gave us John Owen.")

Crawford Gribben, John Owen and Ireland ("John Owen and Ireland is a tragedy – but is it one likely to be repeated elsewhere?")

Derek Thomas, Review of Overcoming Sin and Temptation ("G
et hold of this volume. . . . But prepare yourself for pain, for Owen will take no prisoners. If you want to keep living the humdrum, half-hearted life of faith you currently do, then pass it by.")

New Beale Response to Enns

Greg Beale offers a surrejoinder to Peter Enns's published rejoinder to Dr. Beale's review of Inspiration and Incarnation in JETS. This will also be published in the Spring issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

For those keeping track, I think the following accurately represents the paper trail thus far:
  • G. K. Beale, "Myth, History, and Inspiration: A Review Article of Inspiration and Incarnation," JETS 49 (2006): 287-312.
  • Peter Enns, “Response to G. K. Beale’s Review Article on Inspiration and Incarnation," JETS 49 (2006): 313-326.
  • G. K. Beale, Surrejoinder to Enns's Response, SBTJ, forthcoming (spring 2007).
  • G. K. Beale, “Did Jesus and the Apostles Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? Revisiting the Debate Seventeen Years Later in the Light of Peter Enns’s Book, Inspiration and Incarnation,” Themelios 32 (2006): 18-43.
  • Peter Enns, Response to Beale's Themelios Revew, forthcoming in Themelios
  • G. K. Beale, Surrejoinder to Enn's Response, forthcoming in Themelios

Why Are (Some) Reformed People Such Jerks?

Scott Clark asks (and answers) the question, Why Are (Some) Reformed People Such Jerks?

The Fullness of Christ

Christ is full of "grace and truth"--

  • full, to a sufficiency for every end of grace
  • full, for practice, to be an example to men and angels as to obedience
  • full, to a certainty of uninterrupted communion with God
  • full, to a readiness of giving supply to others
  • full, to suit him to all the occasions and necessities of the souls of men
  • full, to a glory not unbecoming a subsistence in the person of the Son of God
  • full, to a perfect victory, in trials, over all temptations
  • full, to an exact correspondence to the whole law, every righteous and holy law of God
  • full to the utmost capacity of a limited, created, finite nature
  • full, to the greatest beauty and glory of a living temple of God
  • full, to the full pleasure and delight of the soul of his Father
  • full, to an everlasting monument of the glory of God, in giving such inconceivable excellencies to the Son of man.

John Owen, Communion with God

Presbyterians in America

Those interested in Presbyterian denominational history may want to check out some recent blog posts on this topic by Sean Michael Lucas.
It's the material that will go into Lucas's chapter in a forthcoming collection of historiographical essays on denominational history to be published by the University of Alabama Press. As background, see Lucas's post on the dearth of Presbyterian denominational history.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Worst Sportscaster Ever?

You could perhaps file this video under various categories, like "Think You're Having a Bad Day at Work?" or "Reading a Teleprompter Must Be Harder Than It Looks."


Here is an interview that CBS later did with Brian Collins, where he explains the origin of his now legendary phrase, "boom goes the dynamite."

Helm on the Classical Calvinist Conception of God

In 2007 Broadman & Holman will publish Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views, edited by Bruce Ware. Paul Helm will write on "Classical Calvinism," Ware will argue for "Modified Calvinism," John Sanders will defend "Openness Theism," and Roger Olson will expound "Arminianism."

Helm has now posted onto his blog a draft of his chapter.

For those with some background knowledge regarding middle knowledge, I'd be interested for your take on whether or not you think Ware's Calvinistic recasting of middle knowledge is "unstable," as Helm suggests.

(HT: Jeff Downs)

All Is Wrapped Up in Christ

John Owen, Communion with God:
There is no man whatever, that has any want in reference unto the things of God, but Christ will be unto him that which he wants: I speak of those who are given him of his Father.
Is he dead? Christ is life.

Is he weak? Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Has he the sense of guilt upon him? Christ is complete righteousness—“The Lord our Righteousness” [Jer. 23:6].
Many poor creatures are sensible of their wants, but know not where their remedy lies. Indeed, whether it be life or light, power or joy, all is wrapped up in him.

This, then, for the present, may suffice in general to be spoken of the personal grace of the Lord Christ:
He has a fitness to save, having pity and ability, tenderness and power, to carry on that work to the uttermost;

and a fullness to save, of redemption and sanctification, of righteousness and the Spirit;

and a suitableness to the wants of all our souls: whereby he becomes exceedingly desirable, yea, altogether lovely.

Think Before You Post

I've recently suggested that fellow bloggers consider taping a couple of quotes to their computer screens:

"The blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought."--Alan Jacobs

"There is no inherent virtue to instantaneity."--Joseph Rago
Here's another to consider:

"Willingness to wound, too intense and naked, becomes impotent to do the desired mischief."--C.S. Lewis

The quote comes from the chapter “At the Fringe of Language” in Lewis's book, Studies in Words. Tim Keller passed along the following excerpt, which repays careful reading:

Adverse criticism, far from being the easiest, is one of the hardest things in the world to do well. And that for two reasons. When we try to define the badness of a work, we usually end by calling it bad on the strength of characteristics we can find also in good work. . . . The novel before you is bad—a transparent compensatory fantasy projected by a poor, plain woman, erotically starving. Yes, but so is Jane Eyre. . . . An author betrays shocking indifference to all the great political, social, and intellectuals upheavals of his age; like Jane Austen. The solution of the problem is, I suspect, still far away. . . . The other difficulty lies within. . . . Reviews filled with venom have often been condemned socially for their bad manners, or ethically for their spite. I am not prepared to defend them from either charge; but I prefer to stress their inutility. . . . Automatically, without thinking about it one’s mind discounts everything [the venomous critic] says, as it does when we are listening to a drunk or delirious man. The critic rivets our attention on himself. When we get to the end we find that the critic has told us everything about himself and nothing about the book. Thus in criticism, as in vocabulary, hatred over-reaches itself. Willingness to wound, too intense and naked, becomes impotent to do the desired mischief.

Of course, if we are to be critics, we must condemn as well as praise; we must sometimes condemn totally and severely. But we must obviously be very careful. . . . I think we must get it firmly fixed in our minds that the very occasions on which we should most like to write a slashing review are precisely those on which we had much better hold our tongues. The very desire is a danger signal. . . . The strength of our dislike is itself a probable symptom that all is not well within; that some raw place in our psychology has been touched, or else that some personal or partisan motive is secretly at work. . . . If we do speak, we shall almost certainly make fools of ourselves. Continence in this matter is no doubt painful. But, after all, you can always write your slashing review now and drop it into the wastepaper basket a day or so later. A few re-readings in cold blood will often make this quite easy.

The Wonder of the Incarnate Christ

He so loved us that, for our sake,
He was made man in time, although through him all times were made.
He was made man, who made man.
He was created of a mother whom he created.
He was carried by hands that he formed.
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word,
without whom all human eloquence is mute.
--Augustine, Sermon 188, 2

(HT: Christian Mind)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Owen on the Father's Love for You

John Owen, Communion with God:

First, then, this is a duty wherein it is most evident that Christians are but little exercised — namely, in holding immediate communion with the Father in love. Unacquaintedness with our mercies, our privileges, is our sin as well as our trouble. We hearken not to the voice of the Spirit which is given unto us, “that we may know the things that are freely bestowed on us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12). This makes us go heavily, when we might rejoice; and to be weak, where we might be strong in the Lord. How few of the saints are experimentally acquainted with this privilege of holding immediate communion with the Father in love! With what anxious, doubtful thoughts do they look upon him! What fears, what questioning are there, of his goodwill and kindness! At the best, many think there is no sweetness at all in him toward us, but what is purchased at the high price of the blood of Jesus. It is true: that alone is the way of communication; but the free fountain and spring of all is in the bosom of the Father. “Eternal life was with the Father, and is manifested unto us.” (1 John 1:2). Let us, then—

Eye the Father as love; look not on him as an always lowering father, but as one most kind and tender. Let us look on him by faith, as one that has had thoughts of kindness toward us from everlasting. It is misapprehension of God that makes any [to] run from him, who have the least breathing wrought in them after him. “They that know you will put their trust in you” [Ps. 9:10]. Men cannot abide with God in spiritual meditations. He loses soul’s company by their want [=lack] of this insight into his love. They fix their thoughts only on his terrible majesty, severity, and greatness; and so their spirits are not endeared. Would a soul continually eye his everlasting tenderness and compassion, his thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, his present gracious acceptance, [then] it could not bear an hour’s absence from him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with him one hour.

Friends, Strange Friends, and Church Members

The new 9Marks newsletter--focusing on friendship, fellowship, and hospitality--is now online at the 9Marks website (also available as a PDF).

Pray for Al Mohler

From Al Mohler's blog:

Dr. Albert Mohler is recovering at Louisville's Baptist East hospital following abdominal surgery. Dr. Mohler was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday after experiencing abdominal pain. During a three-hour procedure, surgeons removed scar tissue from a 1980s operation. Dr. Mohler is expected to be released from the hospital next week and will continue his recovery at home. Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology and Senior VP for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will host The Albert Mohler radio program until he is able to return to the air. Dr. Mohler's blog and commentary posts will resume as soon as he is able. Please join the Southern Seminary community in praying for Dr. Mohler's quick and total recovery.

Pray for D. James Kennedy

Rick Phillips writes at the Reformation 21 blog:

Please pray for Dr. D. James Kennedy, his wife and daughter, and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Dr. Kennedy is in grave condition following a cardiac arrest last evening.

Jim's health has deteriorated markedly in the last several months, and he has manfully continued his ministry to the best of his ability. During all my interactions with him even during this trying time, he has exhibited his characteristic good cheer, charm, and force of mind. Along with being a man with great vision for the kingdom of Christ, Jim Kennedy is a true Christian gentleman. Please pray for God either to restore him or to give him grace as he passes from this life into the presence of his Lord.

Pomo Hermeneutics

I was thinking the other day about about a particular paragraph from Vern Poythress's review of Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text? I just found it online and thought it might be worth reproducing here for your consideration:

A second tension arises from the book’s prolonged analysis of postmodernism in Part I. Christian readers are all too prone to ignore or rush through discussions of postmodernism, because they immediately see in it atheistic, relativizing, and nihilistic tendencies. Commendably, the book is patient in its analysis. And so it arrives at a positive result, in the form of a critique of “interpretive pride” (p. 184). But for the Christian reader, this final result, though satisfying, ought also to be disappointing. Should we not have known this all along? Do we really have to go through the painful, intellectually difficult analysis of Derrida and postmodernism to learn what the Bible has told us a hundred times? And of course, the Bible is far more powerful in exposing sin than is the frustrating mixture of insight and idolatry in secular postmodernist worldviews. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12 RSV).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hebrew Bible MP3

Those studying Hebrew may be interested in this site, where you can listen to the entire Old Testament in Hebrew (according to the Masoretic Text) via MP3.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford's Death and the Beauty of Jesus

Erik Raymond (of writes:
The 37th President of the United States died yesterday. Gerald Ford was 93 years old. In hearing the news I was immediately struck by the beauty of King Jesus. You may raise an eyebrow and wonder aloud as to how and why.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Heidelblog

R. Scott Clark is associate professor of historical and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California, associate pastor of the Oceanside United Reformed Church--and now a blogger of The Heidelblog.

One of his early posts is on a subject of increasing interest to me: Calvin and Natural Law.

I encourage you to take a look.

Sermons on Romans

My wife and I were married in August 1998. We went on a one-week honeymoon, then moved to Minneapolis, where I began an internship at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

On April 26, 1998 John Piper preached the first sermon in a series on the book of Romans. When we arrived in Minneapolis four months later, he had worked through about 18 verses.

We moved to Chicagoland in January 2006. At that time Pastor John was in the middle of Romans 15. So despite being at Bethlehem for seven and a half years, I heard neither the beginning nor the end of the series! In fact, despite the fact that we've been married for eight years now, John Piper has been preaching this series longer than we have been married.

This past Sunday (Christmas Eve, 2006) Pastor John preached the final sermon of the series. It is entitled Jesus Christ in the Book of Romans. It is not an ordinary sermon, however. The entire thing is framed as a prayer to Christ himself, in the tradition of Augustine's great Confessions.

You can read it, listen to it, or watch it online. When you do, give thanks to God for gifting John Piper to invest thousands of hours into studying and preaching this great book. And give thanks to God for inspiring the apostle Paul to pen these words that addressed particular theological and sociological questions of the day but still speak to us today. And most importantly, thank God for the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ.

8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Why We Need Fairy Tales and Fantasy

In Faerie Gold: Treasures from the Lands of Enchantment (a collection of classics for young readers), Kathryn Lindskoog and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker include a message to parents and teacher entitled "Why Do We Need Fairy Tales and Fantasy?" Here's the outline of their reasons:
  1. They stimulate imagination and creativity.
  2. They help readers empathize with others and develop compassion.
  3. They carry readers beyond the restrictions of time and space and promote a sense of mystery and transcendence.
  4. They satisfy the innate desire for communion with other living things.
  5. They show how the small and powerless can triumph through perseverance and patience.
  6. They awaken higher ideals without preaching.
  7. They help readers envision a better society where intelligence, courage, and compassion prevail.
The classic case for fairy tales is J.R.R. Tolkien's On Fairy Stories (PDF [link fixed]). Highly recommended reading.

And here's a quote by C.S. Lewis on why he preferred fairy tales to "realism":

“By confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happened, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. For in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones; and the terrible figures are not merely terrible, but sublime. It would be nice if no little boy in bed, hearing or thinking he hears, a sound, were ever at all frightened. But if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St. George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comfort than the idea of police.”
– “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”

(HT for the quote: Children's Hour)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Handel's Messiah

Hugh Hewitt recently did a three-hour interview with Professor David Allen White on Handel's Messiah. You can listen online to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Apologetics Through Literature

In these three lectures at the Wylciffe Summer School program, Alister McGrath explores the ways in which Christians can use literature to explain and defend the Gospel.

HT: Dan Cruver

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

Ravi Zacharias often cites Malcom Muggeridge's summary of the 20th century:
We look back upon history, and what do we see? Empires rising and falling. Revolutions and Counterrevolutions. Wealth accumulated and wealth disbursed. Shakespeare has written of the rise and fall of great ones, that ebb and flow with the moon. I look back upon my own fellow countrymen, once upon a time dominating a quarter of the world, most of them convinced, in the words of what is still a popular song, that the God who made them mighty, shall make them mightier yet.

I've heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a Reich that would last a thousand years. I have seen an Italian clown say he was going to stop and restart the calendar with his own ascension to power. I've heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin, acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.

I have seen America, wealthier and in terms of military weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people so desired, they could have outdone a Caesar, or an Alexander in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.

England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running our of those precious fluids that keeps their motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate. All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind.

Zacharias then comments:
Behind the debris of these solemn supermen, and self-styled imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one, because of whom, by whom, in whom and through whom alone, mankind may still have peace: The person of Jesus Christ. I present him as the way, the truth, and the life.

Incarnational Paradoxes

"Infinite, and an infant.
Eternal, and yet born of a woman.
Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman's breast.
Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother's arms.
King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph.
Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter's despised son."

-Charles Spurgeon

(HT: Josh Harris via Z)

Bible Reading Plans

The ESV Blog has a couple of helpful posts on one-year Bible reading plans: (1) Two New Bible Reading Plans for 2007; and (2) Visualizing One-Year Bible Reading Plans.

What Would Not Be If Jesus Had Not Been

John Piper writes:
I read this letter from Pastor Sam Crabtree to our congregation on the evening of December 23, 2006. I tried to read it to my wife and was not able to finish it for tears. I called Sam and said, “Sam, this is a very powerful piece. I could not finish reading it without tears. May I share it with the folks who come to Desiring God?” He agreed.
Why was I so moved? I am not entirely sure. I think it was a mingled effect of four things: 1) the length of the list, 2) the surprise elements in it, 3) the combination of global and intimate, 4) and reference to the Mayans no longer sacrificing their children.

I believe you will want to read this list to your families on Christmas day and perhaps to your churches, with some tweaks to make it personal to your situation (for example, in my case, I am sure I would not exist if Jesus had not been born because he was at the center of my parents’ love affair.)

O that the world would awaken to the greatness of Jesus Christ! May God grant us the passion and the ability to make him look like what he really is, till he comes or until he calls.

Glory to God in the highest through Jesus Christ!
Pastor John

You can read Sam's letter here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Worship Matters

Mark Dever explains why we should all eagerly anticipate Bob Kauflin's forthcoming book, Worship Matters.
Bob Kauflin, tall, humble & happy, classically-trained worship czar of Sovereign Grace ministries has been behind much good for Christ's church. (Get and listen to Sovereign Grace's new CD's Valley of Vision and Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man.) Bob is now in the process of writing a new book on worship which promises to be good, readable, helpful, even by the standards of this regulative-principle, Calvinistic, hymn-loving Baptist reader. Bob is one of the best, most well-read, most pastorally-sensitive conversation partners on the whole topic of worship that God has ever given me. I have learned and do continue to try to learn from him.

Bob blogs at I highly recommend Bob's blog, even if you are not involved in leading or preparing corporate worship music (I'm certainly not--I sound bad even singing in the shower, and six years of piano lessons has left me with only the ability to play Keith Green's "Prodigal Son Suite" [until the key change]). His blog is invariably instructive and edifying.

Written by Fools to Be Read by Imbeciles?

Every blogger (especially those of us who hope that blogs can be a medium for thoughtful edification) should tape these two lines to their monitor:

"The blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought."--Alan Jacobs

"There is no inherent virtue to instantaneity."--Joseph Rago

The latter quote comes from an article in today's WSJ on blogs. It's worth reading (especially if you were really excited to have been named Time Magazine's Person of the Year!).

Here is an excerpt:
Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . ."

The way we write affects both style and substance. The loquacious formulations of late Henry James, for instance, owe in part to his arthritis, which made longhand impossible, and instead he dictated his writing to a secretary. In this aspect, journalism as practiced via blog appears to be a change for the worse. That is, the inferiority of the medium is rooted in its new, distinctive literary form. Its closest analogue might be the (poorly kept) diary or commonplace book, or the note scrawled to oneself on the back of an envelope--though these things are not meant for public consumption. The reason for a blog's being is: Here's my opinion, right now.

The right now is partially a function of technology, which makes instantaneity possible, and also a function of a culture that valorizes the up-to-the-minute above all else. But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting--the news--already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet all this is accelerated.

. . . This element--here's my opinion--is necessarily modified and partly determined by the right now. Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought--instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.

This cross-referential and interactive arrangement, in theory, should allow for some resolution to divisive issues, with the market sorting out the vagaries of individual analysis. Not in practice. The Internet is very good at connecting and isolating people who are in agreement, not so good at engaging those who aren't.

(HT: Robert McDowell)

20 Questions

From Don Whitney:

Ten Questions to Ask at a Christmas Gathering - .doc .pdf A4

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday - .doc .pdf A4

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Amazing Grace Trailer

The trailer to the Amazing Grace movie is now online (lower-lefthand corner). It's small and choppy, though (at least with my connection). Let me know if someone spots it on YouTube or at the trailer site.

Herman Bavinck

Ron Gleason--who has read Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics over 10 times in the original Dutch and who is currently writing a biography on Bavinck--has posted a biographical overview of his life (part 1 | part 2).

Dr. Gleason also recently reviewed the English translation for the first three volumes of Reformed Dogmatics.
These volumes have been anticipated by the theological world for a long time and now that they are available, it would behoove every professor, theological student, Elder, and serious Christian to purchase them. . . . It would not be saying too much to state that reading any chapter in the RD will have the effect of thoroughly grounding the Christian in the most important aspects of the subject under discussion.

Helm's Deep

Paul Helm now has a blog (Helm's Deep: Philosophical Theology), upon which he has been posting a number of his recent papers. He has posted Warfield on Divine Passion and Anthropomorphism Protestant Style.

Forthcoming are "The Calvinist Concept of God," "Three Replies: to Roger Olson, John Sanders and Bruce Ware," "Karl Barth and the Visibility of God," and "'No Easy Task': John R Franke and the Character of Theology."

Unintentional Humor

From an interview with Sylvester Stalone:

"Rocky, for example, is very Christian-like in all his ideals, and the way he turns the other cheek all the time. "

If he always turned the other cheek, how did he win all those fights?

The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005 (Hardco

The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005:

“If a single figure summarizes the meaning of the twentieth century—in its magnificent highs no less than its miserable lows—it is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Like all masters of culture both ancient and modern, his work transcends academic categories. As the editors make clear, Solzhenitsyn embraces the empirical and the ethical, the national culture of Russia and the global condition of Western civilization. The cloth of heroism is woven in respect for everyday life. Solzhenitsyn knows this, and this fine collection is a stark testament to the precious gift of his life and the enrichment he has given to ours.” Irving Louis Horowitz, Hannah Arendt Distinguished University Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Rutgers University

“This book is a remarkable effort at clarifying and presenting a great oeuvre. In gathering together and choosing wisely from texts of different genres (poems, short stories, novels, essays, speeches, etc.), Edward Ericson and Daniel Mahoney give readers the means to appreciate the extraordinary amplitude of Solzhenitsyn’s art and thought. In addition, they provide masterly introductions that go to the heart of the matter and clear up many misunderstandings. This work is an exercice d’admiration that is also a considerable scholarly achievement.” Philippe Bénéton, Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Rennes, France

“You want a Solzhenitsyn reader, because he is one of the greatest writers, and greatest men, of our times. And you want Edward Ericson and Daniel Mahoney to edit this reader, because no one has been more devoted to Solzhenitsyn, or is more knowledgeable about him, than they. This book is a perfect happening. It inspires deep gratitude.” Jay Nordlinger, Managing Editor, National Review

Book Description
This reader, compiled by renowned Solzhenitsyn scholars Edward E. Ericson, Jr., and Daniel J. Mahoney in collaboration with the Solzhenitsyn family, provides in one volume a rich and representative selection of Solzhenitsyn's voluminous works. Reproduced in their entirety are early poems, early and late short stories, early and late "miniatures" (or prose poems), and many of Solzhenitsyn’s famous—and not-so-famous—essays and speeches. The volume also includes excerpts from Solzhenitsyn's great novels, memoirs, books of political analysis and historical scholarship, and the literary and historical masterpieces The Gulag Archipelago and The Red Wheel. More than one-quarter of the material has never before appeared in English (the author’s sons prepared many of the new translations themselves). The Solzhenitsyn Reader reveals a writer of genius, an intransigent opponent of ideological tyranny and moral relativism, and a thinker and moral witness who is acutely sensitive to the great drama of good and evil that takes place within every human soul. It will be for many years the definitive Solzhenitsyn collection.

Media Bias

National Review's Rich Lowry: "Conservatives need to realize that something is not dubious just because it’s reported by the New York Times, and that the media ultimately will be wrong about Iraq only if — fully acknowledging how bad it is there — the Bush administration takes bold steps to reverse the tide."

Grudem Interview

Adrian Warnock posts some highlights and reflections regarding his interview with Wayne Grudem.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Evaluating Corporate Worship

Bob Kauflin provides some good questions to ask.

Mount Hood

Fox News: "A body found in a snow cave on Oregon's Mount Hood has been identified as that of climber Kelly James, a person close to the family said Monday."

Kelly James is the brother of Frank James III, president and professor of church history and of historical and systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando.

Our prayers are with the James family as they grieve the terrible loss during this Christmas season, trusting in their God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Pride and Prejudice

National Review interviews Elizabeth Kantor, the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature.

Grudem on Rethinking His Compromise on Baptism

Wayne Grudem on baptism and secondary doctrines:
The baptism issue is a little different. It’s very hard to have it both ways because when an infant is born in a church, you either baptize the infant, or you don’t. So it’s much more difficult to say, “Let’s just all get along on this.” Well, fine, we all get along. But do we baptize this new baby or not? A church can’t have it both ways. When I wrote my book, Systematic Theology, I was more hopeful that a compromise might be possible in which churches would allow individual pastors and individual families to make this decision for themselves. That is what the Evangelical Free Church of America has done, and it is a strong, healthy denomination in the United States that holds fully to the inerrancy of Scripture. But after many decades, no other denomination, to my knowledge, seems willing to follow them in this position.

The problem is what such a “compromise” implies about the views of baptism of the people who adopt it. For people who hold to infant baptism, they have to be able to say that it’s OK for believing parents not to baptize their infant children, which seems to them to be disobeying a command of Scripture as they understand it. How can they really say this?

On the other side, those who hold to believer’s baptism (as I do) have to be willing to admit into church membership people who have been baptized as infants, and who did not, of course, make any profession of faith at the time they were baptized. But these people (such as myself) who think that genuine baptism has to follow a personal profession of faith are then put in position of saying that infant baptism is also a valid form of baptism. And that contradicts what they believe about the essential nature of baptism – that it is an outward sign of an inward spiritual change, so that the apostle Paul could say, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

I don’t think I realized this difficulty when I wrote my Systematic Theology. I had been in an Evangelical Free Church for about four years and it seemed to me to work well enough. But now I’m beginning to realize that admitting to church membership someone who has not been baptized upon profession of faith, and telling the person that he or she never has to be baptized as a believer, is really giving up one’s view on the proper nature of baptism, what it really is. It is saying that infant baptism really is valid baptism! If we didn’t think it was valid baptism, we should be telling people who were baptized as infants that their “baptism” was not valid baptism and they should be baptized now, after their personal profession of faith. They would need to do this in obedience to Christ’s command.

So I have been re-thinking my position on this issue, and I have been considering sending a change to the publishers of my Systematic Theology book, at least explaining that there are more difficulties to my “compromise” view than I had initially realized.

In short, I don’t think the baptism issue is going to go away any time soon.

Finally, I’m thankful that believers who differ on the issue of baptism can still have wonderful fellowship with one another across denominational lines, and can have respect for each other’s sincerely held views. . . .

We Never Get Beyond the Gospel

Tim Keller:

We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of Christianity, but it is the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.

We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom 1:16-17).

It is very common in the church to think as follows: “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Colossians 1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you—it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32).

The main problem, then, in the Christian life I that we have not thought out the deep implication of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel—a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says (on Gal. 2:14), “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine… Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel—seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Person of the Year

I'm honored to have been named Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Peggy Noonan on Barack Obama

Peggy Noonan publishes an insightful article about Barack Obama.
He is uncompromised by a past, it is true. He is also unburdened by a record, unworn by achievement, unwearied by long labors.

What does he believe? What does he stand for? This is, after all, the central question. When it is pointed out that he has had almost--almost--two years in the U.S. Senate, and before that was an obscure state legislator in Illinois, his supporters compare him to Lincoln. But Lincoln had become a national voice on the great issue of the day, slavery. He rose with a reason. Sen. Obama's rise is not about a stand or an issue or a question; it is about Sen. Obama. People project their hopes on him, he says.

He's exactly right. Just so we all know it's projection.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

(HT: Denny Burk)

Friday, December 15, 2006


Tim Challies posts about some forthcoming books on William Wilberforce, as well as linking to the Amazing Grace movie website. If you look in the lower-right hand corner you can click on "movie clips." (A trailer is not yet available.) It's due out on February 23, 2007 in the U.S.

Quote of the Day

Charles Krauthammer: "Syria should stop infiltration, declares the [Iraq Study Group] report. And Iran 'should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq.' Yes, and obesity should be eradicated, bird flu cured, and traffic fatalities, particularly the multi-car variety, abolished."

New Warden at Tyndale House

Good news out of the UK: P. J. Williams, currently Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Aberdeen, has been confirmed as the new Director/Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge, succeeding Bruce Winter.

For those who may not know,
Tyndale House has an internationally recognised reputation as a leading library and residential centre for biblical research. It was founded in 1944 in a spirit of loyalty to the historic Christian faith and is the research division of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship. It has close links with the University of Cambridge, including a formal association with St Edmund’s College and a collaborative relationship with the Faculties of Divinity and Oriental Studies and the University Library.

The job description called for:
  • an internationally distinguished and active research profile in any field of biblical studies;
  • the ability to assume a role of academic leadership in relation to the mentoring of postgraduate students and research fellows;
  • the strategic skills to direct research and publication projects;
  • abilities in the management of a committed team of research and administrative staff;
  • the capacity to exercise spiritual and pastoral oversight of the members;
  • the capacity to attract development funding.
I trust that the Lord will use this appointment to advance the kingdom and to continue the work of evangelical scholarship through Tyndale House.

For those interested in textual criticism, Williams is also one of the contributors to the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.

What to Do About Darfur

Matt Dirks offers some wise counsel on what Christians can be doing about the terrible situation in Darfur.

Different by Design Conference

There will be a half-day pre-conference before this year's Desiring God Pastors' Conference. Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan will be the speakers. Here is some information on it:

Location: Minneapolis Convention Center, Room 200
Time: 7:30 am - 8:15 am [Continental breakfast] / 8:15 am - 12:00 pm [conference]
Deadline for registering: January 15, 2007

You can register online here.

Piper Resources

Here a couple of new John Piper resources being published by Crossway:

When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God--and Joy

This is an 80-page book adapted from When I Don't Desire God; Piper gives wise, biblical counsel on fighting for joy during seasons of depression and spiritual darkness.

“It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him.”
John Piper

Even the most faithful, focused Christians can encounter periods of depression and spiritual darkness when joy seems to stay just out of reach. It can happen because of sin, satanic assault, distressing circumstances, or hereditary and other physical causes. In When the Darkness Will Not Lift, John Piper aims to give some comfort and guidance to those experiencing spiritual darkness.

Readers will gain insight into the physical side of depression and spiritual darkness, what it means to wait on the Lord in a time of darkness, how unconfessed sin can clog our joy, and how to minister to others who are living without light. Piper uses real-life examples and sensitive narrative to show readers abundant reason to hope that God will pull them out of the pit of despair and into the light once again.

Coming in January, Crossway will publish the Don't Waste Your Life Group Study Kit. It includes a special edition copy of the best-selling book, a study guide, and a teaching DVD featuring ten sessions with John Piper.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is America a Christian Nation?

Al Mohler responds here to the latest question in the Newsweek/Washington Post online forum, On Faith.

Very well said:
America is not Christian by constitutional provision or creedal affirmation -- but its people are overwhelmingly Christian by self-affirmation. Thoughtful evangelicals will not overestimate the convictional character of this self-identification. Secularists ought not to overestimate its superficiality.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

For the Love of God

'Tis the season for new commitments of discipline.

One of the best investments you can make is D.A. Carson's two-volume work, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word. Each day he wisely and deftly guides readers through a section of the M'Cheyne Reading Plan, highlighting the "big picture," biblical-theological themes.

Here is an excerpt from the preface:

The challenge has become increasingly severe in recent years, owing to several factors. All of us must confront the regular sins of laziness or lack of discipline, sins of the flesh, and of the pride of life. But there are additional pressures. The sheer pace of life affords us many excuses for sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent. The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive— we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the space and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of Scripture. More seriously yet, the rising biblical illiteracy in Western culture means that the Bible is increasingly a closed book, even to many Christians. As the culture drifts away from its former rootedness in a Judeo-Christian understanding of God, history, truth, right and wrong, purpose, judgment, forgiveness, and community, so the Bible seems stranger and stranger. For precisely the same reason, it becomes all the more urgent to read it and reread it, so that at least confessing Christians preserve the heritage and outlook of a mind shaped and informed by holy Scripture.

This is a book to encourage that end. Devotional guides tend to offer short, personal readings from the Bible, sometimes only a verse or two, followed by several paragraphs of edifying exposition. Doubtless they provide personal help for believers with private needs, fears, and hopes. But they do not provide the framework of what the Bible says—the “plotline” or “story line”—the big picture that makes sense of all the little bits of the Bible. Wrongly used, such devotional guides may ultimately engender the profoundly wrong-headed view that God exists to sort out my problems; they may foster profoundly mistaken interpretations of some Scriptures, simply because the handful of passages they treat are no longer placed within the framework of the big picture, which is gradually fading from view. Only systematic and repeated reading of the whole Bible can meet these challenges.

That is what this book encourages. Here you will find a plan that will help you read through the New Testament and the Psalms twice, and the rest of the Bible once, in the course of a year—or, on a modification of the plan, in the course of two years. Comment is offered for each day, but this book fails utterly in its goal if you read the comment and not the assigned biblical passages.
Vol 1: Preface, Introduction, and M'Cheyne Chart of Daily Bible Readings (237K PDF)
Vol 2: Preface, Introduction, and M'Cheyne Chart of Daily Bible Readings (298K PDF)

If you'd like to receive the daily commentary by email, I think you can do so by sending a blank note here:

Owen in the Blogosphere

A good post here from Read-Owen-Out-Loud evangelist Paul Martin.

And the New Attitude blog has posted an interview with yours truly about Owen (part one | part two).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Grudem Interview

Adrian Warnock interviews Wayne Grudem
Note that in the first interview Grudem reveals that he is serving as the general editor of the forthcoming ESV Study Bible.

The interview isn't quite done, so head to Adrian's blog for the final installments.

Interview with Bob Kauflin

The New Attitude Blog interviews Bob Kauflin:

Worship and Humble Orthodoxy

Worship and Culture

Sunnis vs Shiites

Dean Barnett gives us another FAQ.

(Link fixed.)

What a Good Pastor Is to Do

Thabiti blogs:

Censorious Thoughts

Mark Lauterbach, a pastor with Sovereign Grace Ministries in San Diego and proprietor of the invariably insightful GospelDrivenLife blog, is doing a helpful series on "Censorious Thoughts" (part 1 | part 2).

The phrase "censorious thoughts" comes from Jonathan Edwards's chapter on this topic in Charity and Its Fruits. Here's a quote:
And so persons are censorious when they condemn others as being unconverted and carnal men because they differ from them in opinion on some points that are not fundamental, or when they judge ill of their state from what they observe in them, for want of making due allowances for their natural temperament, or for their manner or want of education, or other peculiar disadvantages under which they labor, . . . setting up themselves, and their own experience, as a standard and rule to all others; not being sensible of that vast variety and liberty which the Spirit of God permits and uses in his saving work on the hearts of men. . . . In all these ways, men often act, not only censoriously, but as unreasonably (in not allowing any to be Christians who have not their own experiences) as if they would not allow any to be men who had not just their own stature, and the same strength, or temperament of body, and the very same features of countenance with themselves.

Why Tim Challies Does Not Homeschool

Tim Challies bravely begins to explain.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Good Book Business

The New Yorker recently published a 4,000+ word article on Bible translations and publishing trends, with a particular focus on Thomas Nelson's marketing strategy and perspective.

Chief of Intelligence?

Anyone else find this a bit disconcerting?

C.J.'s Gift Ideas for Guys

Here are C.J. Mahaney's ideas for Christmas gifts for guys.

(HT: Challies)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Classic Children's Literature

National Review has been producing a very handsome collection of cloth-bound volumes of classic children's literature. You can see all of their offerings thus far here.

Who Really Cares?

Thomas Sowell writes:
More frightening than any particular beliefs or policies is an utter lack of any sense of a need to test those beliefs and policies against hard evidence. Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts but dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision.

One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring. It is liberals who advocate "forgiveness" of loans to Third World countries, a "living wage" for the poor and a "safety net" for all.

The context for Sowell's article is the new book by Professor Arthur Brooks, entitled Who Really Cares?

Professor Brooks began his research expecting that those who were in favor of larger government would also give more money to charity. But he found the opposite to be the case. He found, for example, that households that were headed by a conservative gave, on average, about 30% more to charity than households that were headed by a liberal. (This is despite the fact that liberal households, on average, earn more than conservative ones.)

Sowell continues:

Fundamental differences in ideology go back to fundamental assumptions about human nature. Based on one set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a liberal. Based on a different set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a conservative.

The two visions are not completely symmetrical, however. For at least two centuries, the vision of the left has included a belief that those with that vision are morally superior, more caring and more compassionate.

While both sides argue that their opponents are mistaken, those on the left have declared their opponents to be not merely in error but morally flawed as well. So the idea that liberals are more caring and compassionate goes with the territory, whether or not it fits the facts.

Those on the left proclaimed their moral superiority in the 18th century and they continue to proclaim it in the 21st century. What is remarkable is how long it took for anyone to put that belief to the test -- and how completely it failed that test.

The two visions are different in another way. The vision of the left exalts the young especially as idealists while the more conservative vision warns against the narrowness and shallowness of the inexperienced. This study found young liberals to make the least charitable contributions of all, whether in money, time or blood. Idealism in words is not idealism in deeds.

By the way, some might wonder about my motivation in posting such information. Professor Brooks writes: "This book is a call to action for the left, not a celebration of the right." I'm interested in neither exhorting the left nor encouraging the right--rather, I'm more concerned that we follow Sowell's counsel and stop believing mainstream-media mantras that are disconnected from reality.

Preaching and Teaching Jesus from Scripture

Here are some links to Mark Driscoll teaching on the topic of "Preaching and Teaching Jesus from Scripture." This was a seminar delivered on September 12, 2006 at the regional Acts 29 conference.

Part 1 (Audio | Video) -- Current Perspectives on Preaching
Part 2 (Audio | Video) -- Reflections on the Narrative Preaching Trend
Part 3 (Audio | Video) -- Epistemological and Hermeneutical Implications on Preaching
Part 4 (Audio | Video) -- Historical Lessons on Preaching
Part 5 (Audio | Video) -- Ten Cautions & Encouragements for Preachers

The links will take you to outlines for each part, as well as options to stream or download both the audio and video.

Fun Facts on Gas Prices

After you account for inflation, the price of gasoline today (about $2.26/gallon) is 67 cents cheaper than it was in 1922. It's 69 cents cheaper than it was in 1981. The record average was set in March of 1981: $3.12 per gallon.

24 oz. bottles of water often go for about $1.29. That's $6.88 per gallon.

Pints of "premium" ice cream run for about $3.39. That's $27.00 per gallon!

Yet if you ask people which costs more--gasoline, water, or ice cream--gas always wins.

20/20's John Stossel writes:
We should marvel at how cheap gasoline is--what a bargain we get from oil companies. After all, it's easy to bottle water, but think about what it takes to produce and deliver gasoline. Oil has to be sucked out of the ground, sometimes from deep beneath an ocean. To get to the oil, the drills often have to bend and dig sideways through as much as five miles of earth. What they find then has to be delivered through long pipelines or shipped in monstrously expensive ships, then converted into three or more different formulas of gasoline and transported in trucks that cost more than $100,000 each. Then your local gas company must spend a fortune on safety devices to make sure you don't blow yourself up. At $2.26 a gallon (about forty six cents of which go to taxes), gas is miraculously cheap!

Remember that the next time the media complains about record-high gas prices!

John Stossel, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel--Why Everything You Know Is Wrong, p. 22. [NB: All the figures from above come from this book.]

P.D. James and The Children of Men

The following is from an email sent by Mars Hill's Ken Myers:
On Christmas Day, a new film based on a book by English novelist P. D. James will open in the U.S. The novel is The Children of Men, a book that came out just when MARS HILL AUDIO was starting up operation. I interviewed Alan Jacobs about that book for Volume 3 of what was then called the MARS HILL Tapes. It was the beginning of a fruitful and enjoyable collaboration with Alan.

I had interviewed P. D. James for Morning Edition when I worked at NPR in the early 1980s, and I had recycled part of that interview on Volume 2 of the Tapes. Now, I've recycled it again, for Audition, our monthly podcast. With the movie's release, I thought it appropriate to devote an entire issue of Audition to P. D. James's work, which has profound resonances with Christian concerns. So a few short extracts from my interview with James and a slightly expanded version of my interview with Alan Jacobs are augmented by a 20-minute version of an interview about James's fiction with Ralph Wood, who now teaches literary studies at Baylor.

Audition is free, either as streaming audio or as an MP3 download which you can save and listen to when you like. We have a special page at for downloading it. If you're not accustomed to such things, go to the page linked above, look for the link at the end of the description of the podcast that says "MHA_Audition_005.mp3," and right-click on the link (Mac users control-click) to begin a download. (If you have iTunes, Audition is also available on the iTunes Music Store.)

I decided to send out this special message about this podcast because I think this film is a chance to introduce a lot of people to James's fiction. Ralph Wood thinks she is one of our most important living Christian novelists. Although Baroness James (as she is now officially addressed) is reticent about describing her own personal beliefs, there is no escaping the profoundly Christian framework of her fiction. In a 1994 essay about The Children of Men (published in Theology Today [JT note: see Rapidly Rises the Morning Tide--James's The Children of Men]), Wood wrote the following:
The key to P. D. James's fiction, especially her later work, is her Christianity. She regards our cultural malaise as having theological no less than ethical cause. The murder in A Taste for Death occurs in a church, for instance, and the murderer is not only a sadist but also a nihilist who revels in the god-like power inherent in the threat of death. He kills in order to prove that the cosmos is empty of divinity. Like Dostoevsky, James is determined to ask whether, if there be no God, all goodness is vacated and all evils unleashed. As a Christian, James knows that the answer is yes. But as a novelist, she has sought to make her faith implicit rather than overt. . . . James is an artist whose moral instruction is conveyed indirectly through aesthetic appeal, not a prophet who seeks our conversion by directly declaring the divine Word.
If you haven't already, I encourage you to listen to this issue of Audition. And I encourage you to consider whether you have friends, family members, or colleagues who may benefit from hearing it. Films released during the Christmas season rarely invite as much serious reflection as this one could; neither Elf nor The Santa Clause series nor Bad Santa left much room for thoughtful discussion of the Permanent Things. If you know anyone who sees Children of Men in a few weeks, think about forwarding a link to our podcast page to them. (And if you want to get really aggressive and get into a handbill-posting mode of notifying people at your school or church about our podcast, you may download an 8-1/2 x 11 pdf file to print and post in an appropriate place. It's at

Finally, consider reading The Children of Men, which is both grim and profoundly hopeful. The film may not capture all of the spiritual nuances of the book (I haven't seen it yet), so don't judge the book by its adaptation.
Ms. James, in an interview with Ralph Wood, confessed: "I do find huge difficulty with much of the dogma." Nonetheless, she said: "When I began The Children of Men, I didn’t set out to write a Christian book. I set out to deal with the idea I had. What would happen to society with the end of the human race? At the end of it, I realized I had written a Christian fable. It was quite a traumatic book to write."

The book is available at

See also Woods's essay, A Case for P.D. James as a Christian Novelist.

Here is the official movie site for The Children of Men. The trailer is also online.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Amazing Grace from Radio Theatre

Few products in the Christian market meet the standards of excellence set by Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre--auto dramas replete with a full award-winning cast, cinema sound, original musical scores.

The latest installment is entitled: Amazing Grace: The Inspirational Stories of William Wilberforce, John Newton, and Olaudah Equiano.

An award-winning cast and cinema-quality sound effects set the stage for this dramatic in-depth look at three courageous men who worked to overthrow the slave trade in 18th-century England: Christian politician William Wilberforce, redeemed slave-trader John Newton, and freedman merchant Olaudah Equiano. A bonus CD offers behind-the-scenes information and extensive historical notes. Six CDs.

Fiends with Pens and Anonymous Commenters

Charles Spurgeon: "Never write what you dare not sign. An anonymous letter-writer is a sort of assassin, who wears a mask, and stabs in the dark. Such a man is a fiend with a pen. If discovered, the wretch will be steeped in the blackest infamy."

(HT: Doug Wilson)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Surgeon of the Soul

Bob Kauflin explains how John Owen helped him see light during a particularly dark and painful season for his soul.

The "Best Book Yet" on the Emerging Church

If you're a critic of Emergent and you want Tony Jones to respond to your criticism, you'll first have to read Peter Rollins's book, How (Not) to Speak of God: Marks of the Emerging Church. He will no longer respond to critics who have not read it.

Tony writes that it "is the best bloody book yet on the the emerging church! . . . If you want to get the emerging church, read this book."

In the foreword, Brian McLaren declares himself a "raving fan" of the book, and says that it is "one of the two or three most rewarding books of theology I have read in ten years."

Iraq Study Group F.A.Q.

By Dean Barrett.

Shelby Steele on Victory in War

I read opinion articles virtually every day about the Iraq War (what went wrong, what to do, etc.), but I rarely link to them. Today is an exception. Shelby Steele's WSJ op-ed, Our Unceasing Ambivalence, is quite insightful and well worth the read.

Dating Jesus?

Agnieszka Tennant pens an excellent critique of the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend motif that is becoming increasingly popular.

I don't question the devotion of anyone who says she loves Christ intensely, whatever language she uses to express it.

But I have little patience for taking biblical metaphors too far and giving one's relationship with God an air of irreverent chumminess. Somehow, the scenario in which "his princess" shaves her legs for a date with Jesus seems to leave little room for fear of God.

By the way, the idea of shaving your legs for a date with Jesus is not a "straw man" argument. It's from a book by a popular author (whose name is not cited). Read the whole thing.

Update: Sticking with the dating-Jesus theme, Mickey McLean at WorldMagBlog posts:

Jesus has returned to Earth for Armageddon, lives in L.A., works as a carpenter for furniture retailer Ikea and goes out on blind dates. At least that's how the husband and wife team of Brian and Gigi Grazer see it in their upcoming film Prodigal Son. "It's a love it or hate it idea, but we're not aiming to offend," Mrs. Grazer said. "He won't be having sex. It'll be a disarming romantic comedy, a story of unrequited love, sort of like Splash." Mr. Grazer and Ron "Opie Cunningham" Howard own Imagine Entertainment, the folks who brought The Da Vinci Code to the big screen.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Van Neste Reviews

Ray Van Neste is churning out the blog reviews. Check out his reviews of Calvin Miller's O Shepherd, Where Art Thou?, P&R's Crown and Covenant series, the ESV Reverse Interlinear, and Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

Peace Not Apartheid: Plagiarism Not Accuracy?

Dr. Kenneth Stein is the William E. Schatten professor of contemporary Middle Eastern history, political science, and Israeli studies at Emory University, and the director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel and Middle East Research Program at Emory College. He once co-authored a book on the Middle East with former president Jimmy Carter. For the past 23 years he has been a fellow at Emory's Carter Center, and served as its first director (1983-1986). Carter guest-lectured for Stein's undergrad class at Emory each year. According to this blog post at, Stein was "in many ways was Carter's 'brain' on the Middle East for years."

In response to Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Stein recently sent an email of resignation from the Carter Center. Stein complains that the book is

replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. . . . Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins."

Witherington Reviewed

Craig Blomberg reviews Ben Witherington's new commentary on Matthew--and along the way explains the importance of editorial excellence.

The Vocabula Review

Joseph Epstein writes about The Vocabula Review, an online monthly journal by Robert Hartwell Fiske, whose purpose is to battle "nonstandard, careless English" and to embrace "clear, expressive English."

The Vocabula Review, in fact, has two mottoes: "A society is generally as lax as its language" and "Well spoken is half sung." Mr. Fiske believes that honest language is elegant language. His online magazine is neither a forum for prescriptivism nor for his prejudices, but deals extensively with the endless oddities and richness of language.

Mr. Fiske's own characteristic tone is perhaps best caught in his Dimwit's Dictionary. In that 400-page work a vast body of words and phrases are shown up for the linguistic ciphers they are. He has established a number of categories for "Expressions That Dull Our Reason and Dim Our Insight." These included grammatical gimmicks, which are expressions (such as "whatever," "you had to be there") that are used by people who have lost their powers of description; ineffectual phrases ("the fact remains," "the thing about it is," "it is important to realize") used by people to delay coming to the point or for simple bewilderment; infantile phrases ("humongous," "gazillions," "everything's relative"), which show evidence of unformed reasoning; moribund metaphors ("window of opportunity") and insipid similes ("cool as a cucumber"); suspect superlatives ("an amazing person," "the best and the brightest"), which are just what the category suggests; torpid terms ("prioritize," "proactive," "significant other"), which are vapid and dreary; not to mention plebeian sentiments, overworked words, popular prescriptions, quack equations, and wretched redundancies.

Read the whole thing

Mommy Wars

Here is Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, talking about Al Mohler in a recent interview:

He said [concerning Ms. Hirshman], "This woman is the instrumentality of the devil." He lied about what I said, and then he told everybody that I was the end of civilization as we know it.

Dr. Mohler's response qualifies for "quote of the day":

Well, a little truth-telling will help here. I never said that Linda Hirshman 'is the instrumentality of the devil." As a matter of fact, I have not said that of anyone. Then she says that I identified her as "the end of civilization as we know it." She flatters herself. I do believe that her ideas--if taken seriously by many persons--would be the end of civilization as we know it. There would be no one left to care for the children. has published a lengthy interview with Hirshman and a response by Mohler:

Linda Hirshman, On the Frontline of the Mommy Wars
Al Mohler, Women Choose Motherhood