Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Larry King Live

Here's a transcript (scroll down to the second interview) of Albert Mohler being interviewed, along with the producers of the Jesus-tomb documentary, on Larry King Live.

Plantinga Review of Dawkins

Alvin Plantinga, John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, is not only the most influential Christian philosopher alive today, but also one of the most respected philosophers of religion from any persuasion. He recently reviewed Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion in Books & Culture.

(HT: Albert Mohler, who provides a summary of Plantinga's critique)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Do the Next Thing

In a review of John Piper's When the Darkness Will Not Lift Ray Van Neste points to a simple but biblical poem entitled "Doe the Nexte Thynge" ("Do the Next Thing").

Professor Van Neste writes:
Here is a poem which contains much wisdom for Christian living in general and is very helpful for pastoral ministry as well. . . .There is much simple wisdom here. Do you find yourself on Monday feeling your soul is scorched, terribly aware of your inadequacies, fearful of what is to come? Since God is still in heaven and His steadfast Word declares His love for you, just carry on and do the next thing. Take the next step of obedience. Do you worry how your children will turn out, what the future will hold for your church, how the finances will look at the end of the month? Resist the allure of self pity, and just take the next step of obedience. We are typically given enough grace just for the next step. Fret not about what lies around the bend. Perform faithfully the next step, and we will make it home safely in the end.

This poem is a balm to my soul.

Here it is, lightly modernized. The author is unknown:
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

Christian Theatre in Chicagoland

If you're in the area and looking for good productions, it looks like Christian Youth Theatre and Overshadowed Theatrical Productions are putting together some good shows.

Witherington on the Jesus Tomb

Ben Witherington responds. Reloaded

Tim Challies has redesigned one of the treasure-troves of the web:

Graeme Goldsworthy Interview

Justin Buzzard interviews Graeme Goldsworthy about biblical theology and preaching.

A Skeleton in God's Closet? Paul Maier Responds

Paul Maier, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, once wrote a "theological thriller" on what would happen if someone claimed to discover Jesus' bones. It was called A Skeleton in God's Closet.

Professor Maier yesterday sent out this email to "friends and readers" (HT: STR) regarding the new documentary that has parallels with his fictional scenario:

Paul L. Maier, Ph.D., Litt.D
Department of History
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

February 25, 2007

Dear Friends and Readers,

Thanks for the profusion of e-mails I’ve received over the last two days regarding the Talpiot tombs discovery in Jerusalem, a.k.a., “the Jesus Family Tomb” story. Some of you also suggested that “life seemed to be following art” so far as my A Skeleton in God’s Closet was concerned. Believe me, this is not the way I wanted my novel to hit the visual media!

Alas, this whole affair is just the latest in the long-running media attack on the historical Jesus, which – we thought – had culminated in that book of lies, The Da Vinci Code. But no: the caricatures of Christ continue.

Please, lose no sleep over the Talpiot “discoveries” for the following reasons, and here are the facts:.

1) Nothing is new here: scholars have known about the ossuaries ever since March of 1980. The general public learned when the BBC filmed a documentary on them in 1996. James Tabor’s book, The Jesus Dynasty, also made a big fuss over the Talpiot tombs more recently, and now James Cameron (The Titanic) and Simcha Jacobovici have climbed aboard the sensationalist bandwagon as well.

2) All the names – Yeshua, Joseph, Maria, Mariamene, Matia, Judah, and Jose -- are extremely frequent Jewish names for that time and place, and thus most scholars consider this merely coincidental, as they did from the start. One-quarter of Jewish women at that time, for example, were named Maria.

3) There is no reason whatever to equate “Mary Magdalene” with “Mariamene,”
as Jacobovici claims.

4) So what if her DNA is different from that of “Yeshua” ? That particular "Mariamme" (as it is usually spelled today) could indeed have been the wife of that particular “Yeshua.”

5) What in the world is the “Jesus Family” doing, having a burial plot in Jerusalem, of all places, the very city that crucified Jesus? Galilee was their home. In Galilee they could have had such a family plot, not Judea. Besides all of which, church tradition – and Eusebius – are unanimous in reporting that Mary died in Ephesus, where the apostle John, faithful to his commission from Jesus on the cross, had accompanied Mary.

6) If this were Jesus’ family burial, what is Matthew doing there – if indeed “Matia” is thus to be translated?

7) How come there is no tradition whatever – Christian, Jewish, or secular – that any part of the Holy Family was buried at Jerusalem?

8) Please note the extreme bias of the director and narrator, Simcha Jacobovici. The man is an Indiana-Jones-wannabe, who oversensationalizes anything he touches. You may have caught him on his TV special regarding The Exodus, in which the man “explained” just everything that still needed proving or explaining in the Exodus account in the Old Testament! It finally became ludicrous, and now he’s doing it again. – As for James Cameron, how do you follow The Titanic? Well, with an even more “titanic” story. He should have known better.

There are more arguments, to be sure, but I want to get this off pronto.

With warm regards,

Paul L. Maier

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Some Wilberforce Resources

The BBC recently did an on-air documentary about William Wilberforce, replete with dramatizations and interviews. You can listen to it here or read an outline of the program.

You can also read or listen to John Piper's biographical sketch of Wilberforce's life. Piper's book, as well as a downloadable audio version, is also available.

Eric Metaxas is the author of the official biography, Amazing Grace, being tied to the movie. He recently did a print interview with National Review. National Review also recently conducted a short online symposium, asking some statesmen (Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn, Chuck Colson, Richard Land, Mark Rodgers, Douglas Minson, Mark Souder) what makes Wilberforce inspiring.

You can also check out the works of Kevin Belmonte, the director of The Wilberforce Project at Gordon College. He's the author of the major biography, William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity.

If you want to read Wilberforce himself, see his A Practical View of Christianity, or 365 Days With Wilberforce: A Collection of Daily Readings from the Writings of William Wilberforce.

Also, see Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre has produced a five-hour dramatized audio production available in a five-CD set: Amazing Grace: The Inspirational Stories of William Wilberforce, John Newton, and Olaudah Equiano.

The Coffin and DNA of Jesus?

From Time Magazine's Middle East blog:

Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you 'The Titanic' is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he's sinking is Christianity.

In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn't resurrected --the cornerstone of Christian faith-- and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.

No, it's not a re-make of "The Da Vinci Codes'. It's supposed to be true.

Let's go back 27 years, when Israeli construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb. of Jerusalem. The earth gave way, revealing a 2,000 year old cave with 10 stone caskets. Archologists were summoned, and the stone caskets carted away for examination. It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua.

. . . Film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.

Cameron is holding a New York press conference on Monday at which he will reveal three coffins, supposedly those of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother Mary and Mary Magdalene.
(HT: STR blog)

Michael Spencer outlines a response--and is posting updates at his site. James White responds. More details about the documentary here. Brian Maloney responds here.

The Purple Cellar

Tim Challies has bestowed his honor of "King (er, should that be Queen?) of the Week" to Lydia Brownback's blog, The Purple Cellar. (Lydia is also the author of the books, Legacy of Faith: From Women of the Bible to Women of Today and Fine China Is for Single Women Too--and more to come.)

A very worthy recipient, in my opinion--Lydia's blog is full of grace, truth, and wisdom. While her primary audience is women, it contains a lot of wise food for thought for men as well.

(Full disclosure: Lydia's office is right next to mine at Crossway. After pulling a prank last week on her that caused her a fair amount of embarrassment, this little plug is the least I can do to make it up to her!)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pierced for Our Transgressions

IVP-UK is set to publish a landmark work: Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. (Clicking on the link will take you to a website for the book. You can also order it from is due out in mid-March.)

The authors of the book are Mike Ovey, Steve Jeffery, and Andrew Sach. Dr. Ovey will be replacing David Peterson as principal of Oak Hill College in the UK.

You can read online the table of contents and the foreword by John Piper.

I'll be sure to let you know when the book has been picked up in North America--which publisher and when it will come out.

Here are just some of the endorsements the book has received:

This book is important not only because it deals so competently with what lies at the heart of Christ's cross work, but because it responds effectively to a new generation of people who are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says. One of the delightful features of this book is reflected in the subtitle: the authors make no apology for their thesis, but underscore the glory of penal substitution. This book deserves the widespread circulation achieved by corresponding contributions a generation ago - the contributions of Leon Morris, Jim Packer, and John Stott.

D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois

The Bible historically has been understood to teach explicitly and implicitly that Christ died as a penal substitute for sinners. That’s what this excellent volume teaches us, too. Carefully studying the primary biblical texts and then answering numerous objections, this book explains and defends the understanding that Christ died in our place, taking our penalty for us. From the biblical material to patristic quotations, from pastoral implications to present objections, this book is a responsible and comprehensive introduction. All the authors’ careful work promises to make this book the new standard text on Christ’s atoning work. Now, I can’t wait to read it again, devotionally.

Mark Dever, Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church

This extended declaration and defence of the penal substitutionary view of Christ’s atoning death responds to a plethora of current criticisms, many of them in-house, with a thoroughness and effectiveness that is without parallel anywhere. The book’s existence shows that a British evangelical theology which exegetically, systematically, apologetically and pastorally can take on the world is in process of coming to birth. I hail this treatise as an epoch-making tour de force, and hopefully a sign of many more good things to come.

J. I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver

Atonement is the central doctrine of the Christian faith, and penal substitution is the heart of this doctrine. It is wonderful to have a whole book on penal substitution.

Roger Nicole, Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida

A person’s attitude to the cross tells you much about their theology as a whole, as it is on Calvary that we see the divine response to the human predicament. Thus, the perennial attempts throughout church history to relativize and even deny the propitiatory and substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrifice should not simply be understood as peripheral discussions; they indicate a constant tendency to revise the very essence of the Christian faith to conform to wider cultural mores and shibboleths. It is thus a great pleasure to commend a book such as this, which seeks to defend a biblical, orthodox understanding of the atonement and to reinforce the non-negotiable centrality of God’s wrath against sin and merciful grace towards humanity. Careful readers will find much here that will enable them to articulate with clarity and conviction this important gospel doctrine.

Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Dean of Faculty, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The doctrine of penal substitution is often maligned and misunderstood today. Pierced for our Transgressions is the perfect antidote. The authors defend the doctrine with sparkling clarity and winsome logic. I thank God for this work in which penal substitution is biblically grounded, theologically articulated, and historically vindicated. Nor could one object that the authors fail to consider alternative views. Every objection to penal substitution is considered and refuted. In this book we are summoned again to the heart of the gospel.

Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Pierced for our Transgressions is a treasure-trove of information and analysis on the important, yet disputed doctrine of penal substitution. As a biblical scholar, I enthusiastically commend the authors for their careful exegesis of the biblical text. From this point on, critics of the biblical teaching must interact with the arguments of this book. Further, every Christian, whether aware of the debate or not, can greatly benefit from this comprehensive and penetrating treatment of this crucial doctrine.

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California

A well-thumbed copy of Pierced for Our Transgressions ought to rest on the bookshelf of every thoughtful Christian. This even-handed, masterful defence of penal substitutionary atonement is clear and convincing. Readers will quickly grasp the theology and the urgency of the issues, and will be especially grateful for the classic objection-response format of Part Two, which makes for easy reference. A crucial read.

R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois

At the cross, when Jesus bore the penalty for our sins in our place, the grace of God paid the price his holiness required. This has been the message of the gospel down the ages because this is the message of the gospel as Scripture reveals it. I am deeply grateful for this book, which illumines these facts so well. It is a book faithful to Scripture, knowledgeable of history, conversant with current debate, and deeply committed to seeing the Church flourish in our day.

David F. Wells, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Hamilton, Massachusetts

This is a very significant book. It addresses the subject of Christ’s penal substitutionary death, which lies at the heart of the biblical gospel, but which has now come under serious threat in the current theological ferment. The authors have carefully and convincingly evaluated the biblical material on which the teaching of penal substitution has been based and reaffirmed it. They have set the doctrine within the theological framework of creation, sin, redemption and relationships within the Trinity, while adducing key witnesses from two millennia of church history in support. Every major objection to penal substitution has been considered, and courteously but firmly answered. This refreshing affirmation encourages us to praise God in wonder at Christ’s atonement for us sinners. The authors have placed us in their debt. Their book deserves to be read widely.

Peter T. O’Brien, Senior Research Fellow in New Testament, Moore Theological College, Sydney

In a lucid and compelling manner the authors of Pierced for our Transgressions summon all of us as Christians to reflect carefully on how we understand and proclaim the cross of Christ. Their defence of penal substitution is a cautious reminder that, although traditional doctrines constantly need to be re-examined, we must ever be careful that we do not jettison the baby with the bathwater. Those who are repelled by provocative and unhelpful caricatures of the doctrine of penal substitution will find the present volume exceptionally helpful and informative.

T. D. Alexander, Union Theological College, Belfast

(HT: Dave Bish)

Matthias Media

Here's an email I received from Matthias Media that I thought was worth passing along. These are folks and resources it's worth getting to know:

Dear Friends...

Exciting news for North American customers!

1. Our new online store is now open

You can find, browse, and securely order Matthias Media resources 24/7. This store has prices in $US—so there will be no more having to do the mental arithmetic trying to work out what $AUS prices equate to in ‘real money’. The store is secure and your credit card details are not stored online. So it is a very safe way to shop. Plus you will enjoy cheaper and faster delivery direct from our US office.

Of course, you are always welcome to phone our US office if you need more information or advice, but we think you'll find the online store a quick and efficient way to order materials, particularly when you already know what you need.

The resources are categorized in the same way online as in our Pastor's Resource Guide (and all future printed catalogues). So we hope you'll be able to quickly find the resources you want.

2. Matthias Media USA conference

In October, we're flying over Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne from Sydney to Washington DC. They will share a platform with Mark Dever at the very first Matthias Media conference in North America.

The conference is from 30 October to 1 November 2007, and we've called it ‘Gospel Growth vs Church Growth: understanding the difference sets you free’.

It promises to be a fantastic conference. Phillip Jensen will be at his provocative best, and there will be plenty of practical ministry ideas for pastors and leaders to take away.

As Kent Hughes says:

I can think of no other person who can speak with greater authority on ‘Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth’ than Phillip Jensen, Dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney. Phillip Jensen's profound understanding of the gospel and how to evangelize has for decades effected a dynamic ministry, not only in Australia but around the world. My advice is to rearrange your calendar and, by all means, attend the conference at Capitol Hill Baptist, October 30-November 1.

For more information, go to the conference website:

We hope we will meet some of you at the conference!

Yours faithfully,

Marty Sweeney

Marty Sweeney
(Ministry Director, Matthias Media USA)

Reformed Praise

I believe I may have mentioned this site before, but I think it's still worth highlighting: Reformed Praise. Here is their summary:
Reformed Praise is a music ministry dedicated to bringing together the rich tradition of hymnody, especially from the reformers or those directly influenced by them, with the modern worship song movement. Sound like a bad idea? Please see our articles page for links to articles about reformed theology, worship, styles of music, and many other topics by various respected theologians and pastors pertaining to this issue.

We truly believe that an incredible wealth of worship music is being "lost" amidst a sea of often over-simplified contemporary praise choruses. Our worship songs should be full of biblical, rich, and powerful truth, truth that is all too often absent from modern worship songs. Hymns have long been a rich source of deep lyrics, but many traditional tunes used to sing these hymns hinder rather than help believers feel what they are singing. The modern worship styles (and there are many) offer a new arena to make these hymn texts come alive to new generations. When these classic and biblical texts are wed to contemporary tunes, the result is a truly powerful worship experience that enables God's truth to settle deep in our hearts and minds.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Only Jesus

One of my favorite songs (Only Jesus) plus a reading from Spurgeon's Morning and Evening (flipped to randomly; reprinted below) helped me look to and worship the crucified and risen Savior tonight. Perhaps they will do the same for you.
Christian, what hast thou to do with sin?

Hath it not cost
thee enough already?

Burnt child, wilt thou play with the fire?

What! when thou hast already been between the jaws of the lion, wilt thou step a second time into his den?

Hast thou not had enough of the old serpent?

Did he not poison all thy veins once, and wilt thou play upon the hole of the asp, and put thy hand upon the cockatrice’s den a second time?

Oh, be not so mad! so foolish!

Did sin ever yield thee real pleasure?

Didst thou find solid satisfaction in it? If so, go back to thine old drudgery, and wear the chain again, if it delight thee.

But inasmuch as sin did never give thee what it promised to bestow, but deluded thee with lies, be not a second time snared by the old fowler— be free, and let the remembrance of thy ancient bondage forbid thee to enter the net again!

It is contrary to
the designs of eternal love, which all have an eye to thy purity and holiness; therefore run not counter to the purposes of thy Lord.

Another thought should restrain thee from sin. Christians can never sin cheaply; they pay a heavy price for iniquity. Transgression destroys peace of mind, obscures fellowship with Jesus, hinders prayer, brings darkness over the soul; therefore be not the serf and bondman of sin.

There is yet a higher argument: each time you “serve sin” you have “Crucified the Lord afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Can you bear that thought?

Oh! if you have fallen into any special sin during this day, it may be my Master has sent this admonition this evening, to bring you back before you have backslidden very far.

Turn thee to Jesus anew; he has not forgotten his love to thee; his grace is still the same. With weeping and repentance, come thou to his footstool, and thou shalt be once more received into his heart; thou shalt be set upon a rock again, and thy goings shall be established.

Leadership Lessons from Matthew 23

I've recently been using Michael Wilkins's excellent NIV Application Commentary on Matthew. In it he takes Jesus' seven woes against the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:1-36) and turns them around to offer some positive lessons from Jesus on leadership:
  1. Live by example God's message of grace (Matt. 23:1-4).
  2. Earn respect and honor, don't demand them (Matt. 23:5-7).
  3. Wear titles lightly that point to God (Matt. 23:8-10)
  4. Serve God's people to empower them to advance the kingdom of God (Matt. 23:11-12).
  5. Be a signpost to the doorway to the kingdom (Matt. 23:13).
  6. Make converts to the kingdom, not to yourself (Matt. 23:15).
  7. Maintain personal accountability (Matt. 23:16-22).
  8. Major on the majors of the kingdom (Matt. 23:23-24).
  9. Promote motive for leadership-ministry form the inside out (Matt. 23:25-26).
  10. Develop personal identity as a leader from the inside out (Matt. 23:27-28).
  11. Choose carefully the traditions you will represent (Matt. 23:29-32).
  12. Listen to God's other messengers, because leadership has stricter condemnation (Matt. 23:33-36).

Greek Blog

Dan Phillips has started a new blog that may be of interest to readers of the Greek NT:

Amazing Grace

The movie Amazing Grace opens today. My wife and I are planning on seeing it.

Here is a disappointing review in today's Wall Street Journal by Charlotte Allen, editor for
Nowadays it is all too common--and not only in Hollywood--to assume that conservative Christian belief and a commitment to social justice are incompatible. Wilberforce's embrace of both suggests that this divide is a creation of our own time and, so to speak, sinfully wrong-headed. Unfortunately director Apted, as he recently told Christianity Today magazine, decided to play down Wilberforce's religious convictions--that would be too "preachy," he said--and instead turned his story into a yarn of political triumph. The film's original screenwriter, Colin Welland, who wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed and unabashedly Christian "Chariots of Fire," was replaced.

The movie "Amazing Grace" nods occasionally in the direction of granting a role to faith in social reform, but it would do us all well to supplement our time in the movie theater by doing some reading about the heroic and amazing Christian who was the real William Wilberforce.

Read the whole review, which seeks to rectify this imbalance.

I'd highly recommend John Piper's Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce (which you can purchase from DG or read online for free). I've also just started reading the longer biography, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas.

(HT: Denny Burk)

Update: Here is a new review of the film from Christianity Today.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Jesus Storybook Bible

Sally Lloyd-Jones, the former publisher of the religious division of Reader’s Digest Children’s Books, is the author of a new book for children ages 4 to 8. It's called The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (Zonhardcover; 352 pp).

Here are a couple of blurbs from Tim and Kathy Keller:
“I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian–from pew warmers, to ministry leaders, seminarians and even theologians! Sally Lloyd-Jones has captured the heart of what it means to find Christ in all the scriptures, and has made clear even to little children that all God’s revelation has been about Jesus from the beginning–a truth not all that commonly recognized even among the very learned.” - Tim Keller

“Sally Lloyd-Jones, a Redeemer member for many years, has done a wondrous thing. She has captured the plot line of redemption in a children’s story Bible that sings the praise of Jesus and his saving grace on every page, in every story.” - Kathy Keller

Click here for Mrs. Keller's full review. Click here to peek inside the book.

(HT: Eucatastrophe)

Letter from a Christian Citizen

Doug Wilson's response to Sam Harris (author of Letter to a Christian Nation) will be published soon. (You can see the cover here.)

Kapic's "Communion with God"

Baker Academic has now posted online a PDF excerpt of Kelly Kapic's new book, Communion with God: The Divine and Human in the Theology of John Owen. The PDF contains J. I. Packer's foreword, the table of contents, and the first chapter. As Packer says, "This is a landmark book in modern Puritan study, and it is a joy to commend it."

Here are some blurbs for the volume:
"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

"This is a landmark book in modern Puritan study, and it is a joy to commend it."--J. I. Packer, from the foreword

"Those who know the theology of John Owen recognize one of the most powerful, and sometimes original, theologians to have written in the English language, but there are few studies tracing the themes and arguments of this great thinker. Thankfully, this is now being reversed, and Kapic's study not only provides the reader with a much-needed guide to the literature that is becoming available but also adds its own significant and powerful contribution. This is a clear, careful, and compelling exposition of a powerful and challenging theological scheme. It deserves to be widely read, for both the greatness of the subject and the ability of the interpreter."--Steven R. Holmes, St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews

"This well-rounded research will be of interest to anyone concerned with the development of Reformed theology from a historical or systematic perspective. Kapic's analysis is clear and well constructed, solidly grounded in an excellent grasp of recent writing on Owen and with a sure sense of where its own distinctive contribution lies. Kapic has produced a meticulous piece of scholarship that brings a sophisticated and nuanced approach to the exploration of crucial themes in Owen's theology."--Susan Hardman Moore, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

"Kapic is an able guide to England's greatest theologian, and he has restored Owen's remarkable exposition of communion with God to its central place. Here is a study that understands and underlines the Puritan conviction that all truly biblical theology is profoundly pastoral."--Sinclair B. Ferguson, senior minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC, and professor, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Kelly Kapic has carefully mined the theological riches of John Owen and has presented them for our study and edification. This welcome work provides the theological foundation for understanding the spiritual hunger and needs of our contemporary church and points us in the proper direction for addressing them. We are greatly in debt to Kapic for this reminder of the transforming message of John Owen for today."--Tom Schwanda, associate professor of Christian formation and ministry, Wheaton College

"Kelly Kapic's work makes two major contributions. First, Kapic effectively dislodges the assumption that pejoratively identifies the Protestant scholasticism of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as being ossifying and unduly scholastic. He does so in a way that is truly ecumenical and amiable rather than pugnacious and polemical. Second, as the best examples of 'pre-critical' exegesis are in need of fresh attention, Kapic's sophisticated contextualization of Owen within the wider intellectual context of seventeenth-century Europe deserves our attention."--Paul C. H. Lim, Vanderbilt University; co-editor, The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism

Wilberforce's Healthy Self-Forgetfulness

From John Piper's Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce:
There was in this child-like love of children and joyful freedom from care a deeply healthy self-forgetfulness. Richard Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, wrote after a meeting with Wilberforce, "You have made me so entirely forget you are a great man by seeming to forget it yourself in all our intercourse." The effect of this self-forgetting joy was another mark of mental and spiritual health, namely, a joyful ability to see all the good in the world instead of being consumed by one's own problems (even when those problems are huge). James Stephen recalled after Wilberforce's death, "Being himself amused and interested by everything, whatever he said became amusing or interesting. . . . His presence was as fatal to dullness as to immorality. His mirth was as irresistible as the first laughter of childhood."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Interview with John Ensor

Here is an interview I recently conducted with John Ensor, Director of Urban Initiatives for Heartbeat International, an organization for Christian communities establishing pregnancy help centers worldwide.

John, tell us a little bit about yourself--your background, family, writing, ministry, etc.

I grew up in a small town (DeKalb, IL), came to faith as a senior in High School during the Jesus Movement days of the early 70’s, and had the joy of seeing my mother and all my siblings come to Christ in the following year. Today my mother is on a short-term missions trip to Guatemala. She is 76. So my family carries a profound awareness of God’s life-changing grace.

My first date with my future wife was a study date for John Piper’s Greek class at Bethel College in Minnesota in 1977. We have been married for 28 years. We lived in Boston’s inner-city for 20 years and raised our three children there. I served as pastor of a small church and then led in the development of six pregnancy help centers.

Our youngest son is currently deployed on the Ronald Regan aircraft carrier, assigned to electronics on a squad of F/A 18 fighter jets. My daughter just graduated Wheaton College and is working in Securities as she prepares for a career in missions. My oldest son and his wife live in Atlanta, where they are preparing for our first grandchild in May. Last month, my wife and I moved from Boston to Miami to take up an urban initiative called Heartbeat of Miami. So we are among those thankful for email and cell phones.

I am, at heart, a pastor. But I do not lead a local church. Rather I speak, preach, write, and labor mostly to instruct and inspire the Christian community about the biblical mandate and practical opportunity we have to defend the weak and the innocent through the establishment of pregnancy-help medical clinics, otherwise known as pregnancy centers.

What exactly is a "pregnancy center"?

Pregnancy Centers are the Christian community’s most visible expression of their rejection of the shedding of innocent blood in their midst. They are commercial spaces set up at our own expense to provide life-affirming, practical assistance to women and couples vulnerable to abortion due to their difficult circumstances. Many of them are now equipped with ultrasound, offer parenting classes, abstinence education, and more. They rescue babies from a violet death by helping one woman at a time find the faith and resources she needs to parent or place for adoption.

There are about 2,200 pregnancy centers now in the U.S. and more developing internationally. Nearly all of them are the efforts of local churches working together. They reflect a gathering repentance of the Christian church over abortion; some turning their direct guilt regarding abortion into something life-affirming for others now in similar circumstances. Others, like myself, found it necessary to repent from passively accepting abortion. Both bring us into blood-guilt (Deut. 21:1-10). We find in the pregnancy center movement a practical and winsome way to faithfully answer the biblical call to “rescue those being dragged off to death” (Prov. 24:10-12). I think history will show them to be the dynamic equivalent of the “safe houses” on the underground railway. They provide direct help, at our own expense, to save lives, one woman at a time.

Tell me about Heartbeat of Miami. When and why did it start? What are its goals?

Heartbeat of Miami is a pilot project for a slowly emerging national strategic plan for steering the pregnancy help center movement into the major cities of America; and more specifically, into urban neighborhoods. It reflects the horrific reality that abortion is now firmly consolidated into our cities and disproportionately aimed at minorities. 94% of abortion facilities are now in urban neighborhoods. This is “de facto” racism. Nationally, Black women make up 12% of the female population but account for 36% of abortions. Latino women make up 13%, but account for another 20% of all abortions. Yet to date, the pregnancy centers are mostly set up in suburbs and small towns across the country where the “sanctity of life” has been addressed the most.

My prayer and future labor is going to go toward mainstreaming the pregnancy-help center into the urban Christian community. Since abortion is profiting most off the minority community, they hold the economic key to closing them down. When the Black and Latino pastors of our nation stigmatize abortion for what it is, the diminution of human dignity and a direct assault against the integrity of God as Creator, the abolition of abortion is in sight.

Miami is a city plagued with 37 abortion facilities. It has only one pregnancy-help center. In Boston, the Christian community, working together, started six pregnancy help centers over the last 15 years. We have seen hundreds of women and couples reject abortion on a yearly basis. We now have only six abortion facilities, and the abortion rate dropped 25% from the early 90’s.

Last year I turned 50. To celebrate my midlife crises I thought I should either buy a motorcycle or venture a new work in Miami. My wife agreed that Miami might be the better way. We are now working full-time to open 3-5 ultrasound-equipped, medically licensed, fully staffed, Christian-based pregnancy centers in the neediest neighborhoods of Miami. Our first effort is in Hialeah, a neighborhood with seven abortion facilities. We hope to open around Mother’s Day.

What happens when a pregnant woman considering abortion sees an ultrasound of her baby?

The data suggests that about 75% of women who receive an ultrasound exam and a consultation with a medical professional during the critical weeks that they are considering abortion, will never have one. The ultrasound allows a woman to see her baby and hear the heartbeat. She finds new reserves of strength and faith that she did not know she had. Or the ultrasound scan reveals that a miscarriage is pending and she needs to do nothing. I have seen women come in to our pregnancy center determined to have an abortion and start weeping when they see their baby is dying from natural causes. The ultrasound is truth. When backed up by the love--the direct, neighbor-loving, problem-solving kind--women choose life. And by the time it all works out, many times, the baby ends up saving the mother’s life. In the outworking providence of God’s life-changing grace, this crisis is the pivotal point in coming to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and for daily bread.

You've written about "abortion hot zones"--what does that mean, and where are they?

Abortion as a business, as a practice, is consolidating into our major cities and feeding off the minority populations which live there. And in particular, the highest concentrations appear to be in New York, L.A., Las Vegas, D.C., and Miami. That is why our defense of the innocents must go urban. The racial, theological, and political barriers between the Black and White Christian Church is significant and daunting. I tremble at the obstacles. Nonetheless, I have burned my ship on the shoreline of the city and am committed to learning my way forward.

Is it true that abortion providers are targeting minorities? If so, why?

One of the horrible effects of racism is targeted child-killing. As the Egyptians increased their oppression of the Israelites (Exodus 1:8) they not only instituted forced labor (1:14), they promoted child-killing (1:19) and eventually turned it into public policy (1:22). Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a eugenicist and aimed her “birth control” squarely at the non-European races. Today, the overt racism of Planned Parenthood is gone, but the “de facto” element is very real. Just ask yourself where the push is on to open contracepting, abortion-referral offices in schools. Disproportionately they are set up for the “poor” as if there is a condom for the heart and child-killing is a God-honoring solution to poverty.

What is the biblical basis for evangelical action to end abortion?

My full answer is written in my book, Answering the Call (Focus on the Family, 2003). There I provide both the biblical foundation and bits of the inspiring history, from the first generation of the church onward, of the Church faithfully and ardently defending innocent human life.

But three Scriptures have formed the foundation of my thinking and action. First, Deuteronomy 21:1-9 teaches us how to respond to the shedding of innocent blood. The point is that we are to respond. We are not to have business as usual (which would mean we have made peace with death). God calls the leaders to lead (shocker!) in insuring that the whole town feels the loss; by shutting down business, gathering the community together on a prime piece of commercial property and with expensive stock and going through a ritual that re-gilds the human heart with a godly responsibility to protect human life. Their leaders prayed, “We did not shed this blood nor see it done” (1:7). Too many leaders are silent, leaving the church vulnerable to abortion and acting as if they are helpless to stop it. I see the expense and time and teaching involved in opening pregnancy centers as one clear testimony of God’s people feeling the loss of the innocents and responding according to the law of love.

That law is succinctly stated in Proverbs 24:10-12. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter; If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” I particularly love the fact that this calling has no context other than our rationalization to say, “I didn’t know.” This is the signal that not wanting to get involved is the sure sign that we should. God sees our intentional ignorance and avoidance and reminds us that faith, which boasts, “God is safeguarding my life” can risk and act courageously to defend the innocent when it is dangerous or unpopular to do so. If not, it is a puny faith.

One example of what faithfulness to Proverbs 24 looks like is in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which calls us to be a death-defying, life-saving people. In the context of abortion, that means drawing near to pregnant woman in turmoil, and making their problems, our problems. That is what compassion means. Just today I was on the phone with a Christian woman who is working with a 15-year-old girl in foster care, who is nearly 15 weeks pregnant. This teen is being pressed to abort by people who want her problem to go away in the simplest way. But loving this teen means intervening, looking at what this abortion will do to her young body and her psyche. If she aborts, she becomes vulnerable to further sexual exploitation and the lifestyle that will eventually destroying her. Loving her means helping her think and change and consider this event as the pivotal opportunity to change her life, trust in God, and prepare to parent or place for adoption. It is work! But it is the labor that neighborly love calls us to do!

Pro-life critics sometimes say that we only care about babies in the womb, but our concern ends when babies are born. Is there any truth to that? How do you respond?

It is the same charge made against the church that we care only for people’s soul’s and care little for their physical well-being. Since the hospital is an invention of the church (Basil of Caesarea), that alone should be enough to dismiss the charge. But it is made by those who actually dismiss the value of preborn children. Saving them is legitimate, even if that is all we did. After all, we don’t say to those who work with prisoners, “You only care about them when they are in prison, but not when they get out.” We don’t say to those engaged in feeding the starving, “You only care about their bellies. What about their housing needs!” Stopping babies from being violently killed is a legitimate work, by itself. But it never ends up being “by itself” any more than those who work with prisoners confine themselves to the prison. They often end up working with transitional ministries as well. And those ministries responding to starvation, do what they can to provide shelter and eventually education and micro-finance, etc. Every pregnancy center in the country, given the resources that it has, is seeking to help young mothers find the long-term help they need to parent well, or place for adoption. Most also work at prevention (abstinence education) and restoration (post-abortion ministries).

You've written an excellent exposition on The Great Work of the Gospel (Crossway, 2006). Another criticism of the pro-life movement is that it's "social gospel," and that instead we should just preach Christ and him crucified. In your mind, what's the connection between the gospel and working to end abortion?

It is no small lesson that that the great missionary, William Carey, who labored to bring the Gospel to India, who translated the Bible into three languages over 40 furlough-less years, and portions of the Bible into some 30 dialects, also labored to end child-killing in India. The prolife legislation that finally outlawed the practice of throwing babies into the Ganges River to be eaten by alligators is called Carey’s Edict. The Gospel saves the innocent and proclaims good news to the guilty. They are not at odds with each other or Christ would not have pointed to the Samaritan and said, “Go and do likewise.” When we preach Christ and him crucified, we are proclaiming the extreme end to which God proves his love of human life; body and soul. That is why when Amy Carmichael (again in India) rescued an innocent young girl from a cult temple of prostitution, her ministry was transformed. She soon was rescuing dozens of young girls, opening orphanages and schools, and her gospel message rang with authority to the glory of God. But prior to this, she was one fruitless missionary.

So if I am sitting in a café sharing the Gospel with a lost friend (soul), and a car accident outside leaves a baby and a mother pinned in a car (body), and I stay seated doing my evangelism (soul), my message is distorted and unconvincing. But if while rescuing the young mother and baby (body), the car blows up and I am killed by shrapnel (body), my guess is my lost friend will weigh my gospel (soul) with great care. It is sophistry to make it more complicated than that.

What can readers of this interview, who care about the cause of life, do to help?

Repent for navigating around death and pretending it is not happening in our homes and churches and neighborhoods. Then resolve to do something where you feel the pain and loss of the innocents in our midst. I think for most of us, and our churches, that means doing something sacrificially to support a pregnancy center. And if you don’t know of one, help me start them in Miami, then L.A., then D.C., etc.

What books do you have in the works?

My latest effort is coming out this spring from Crossway Books entitled, Doing Things Right In Matters of the Heart. I am really jazzed about it. It is my contribution to those looking for guidance in establishing an healthy, tender, long-term, mutually satisfying relationship.

Thank you for your time, John.

If the Lord is leading you to help support this ministry, you can visit this page.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Was George Washington a Christian?

I admit I have a hard time getting worked up about the question concerning the faith of our founding fathers. Nonetheless, here are a couple of interesting articles bucking the conventional wisdom that suggests our first president was a deist.

Peter A. Lillback, President of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, is the author of the book, George Washington's Sacred Fire. For a summary, see his article, Why Have Scholars Downplayed George Washington's Faith?

Michael and Jana Novak, father and daughter, are the co-authors of Washington's God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of our Country. They have a couple of op-eds today: Was Washington Really a Deist? (First Things) and What Washington Saw in God (USA Today). They also did a Q&A last year for National Review Online.

(HT: Albert Mohler)

Fee on Metzger

Gordon Fee, testifying to Bruce Metzger's humility: "Bruce was easily the most widely educated man that I have known in my lifetime; yet at no time in any conversation with him would one ever know that, unless he slipped in one of his famous anecdotes. He was a truly learned man who wore that learning lightly . . . "

Edwards in Europe

I just received a note from Caleb Maskell at the Jonathan Edwards Center about an interesting conference in Budapest on May 8-9, 2007.
The conference, "Jonathan Edwards in Europe," is meant to formally acknowledge and further encourage this important dialogue about Edwards in Europe. This meeting will bring European scholars interested in Edwards together with their American counterparts. Presentations and discussions will provide opportunities for scholars, clergy, and members of the general public to interact and to learn about Edwards, his life, times, and legacy, in American, transatlantic, and global contexts.

The conference is open to the public. There will be eight papers given by leading Jonathan Edwards scholars, each followed by a respondent and open discussion from the audience. The conference will be conducted in English.
Registration is free at

Inquiries can be made to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.

Generation Next

David Wayne has a summary of Generation Next, distilled from fresh research by the Pew Research Center, which has surveyed the lifestyles, values, and beliefs of 18-25 year olds.

The Hugh Hewitt Show Today

"I will broadcast today from Eastern College, and hours two and three will feature a debate on America's role in the world between evangelical author and professor Tony Campolo and the Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney."

Reading Interview

Joshua Sowin interviews yours truly on books and reading.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ben on Bell

Ben Witherington commends Rob Bell on some things, but goes on to critique his views on homosexuality.

(HT: Stephen Shields)

Paul Tripp on Relationships

Paul Tripp--co-author with Timothy Lane of Relationships: A Mess Worth Making--is now blogging. Here are some recent posts on relationships:

Interview with Joshua Harris

Mark Dever interviews Joshua Harris.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Demotivators from

Resolved Conference

Tim Challies is currently liveblogging the Resolved Conference--a conference calling a new generation to live with the resolve of Jonathan Edwards. Speakers include John Piper, John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, C.J. Mahaney, and Rick Holland.

The Slow-Bleed Strategy

William Kristol explains Congress' slow-bleed strategy to weaken the U.S. position in Iraq.

The Washington Post editors seem to agree with Kristol's perspective.

Martin Peretz (editor in chief of the left-of-center New Republic): "There is no rationale for troops in terrible danger to be held hostage to the political expediency of nervous Democrats, who are not prepared to do what they really mean to do and to say what they really mean to say."

Pray Request

If you think of it, I'd appreciate your prayers as Kelly Kapic and I seek to complete the editing of a new edition of John Owen's Communion with God, to be published this fall by Crossway. I won't bore you with the details of all that's involved in the project--after all, people don't like to see how the sausage is made--but your prayers for efficient and excellent work would be most appreciated. Thank you!

BTW, John Tweeddale points out that in the new book, God the Holy Trinity, ed. Timothy George, J. I. Packer has a chapter entitled, "A Puritan Perspective: Trinitarian Godliness According to John Owen," focusing on Owen's Communion with God.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Central Themes in Biblical Theology

Here's a forthcoming book that will be of interest to students of biblical theology: Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity, ed. Scott Hafemann and Paul House. It is being published this month by IVP-UK; then Baker Academic will release it in North America next month. Here are the contributors and chapters:
Scott Hafemann, The Covenant Relationship
Tom Schreiner, The Commandments of God
Frank Thielman, Atonement
Stephen Dempster, The Servant of the Lord
Paul House, The Day of the Lord
Elmer Martens, The People of God
Roy Ciampa, The History of Redemption
A while back I had the opportunity to read an early draft of Schreiner's chapter. I remember it as being one of the finest treatments of the issue I had ever read.

Conversation about Owen

Our "Converse with Scholars" program from last night is now available online in MP3.

Quo Vadis, Evangelicals?

So asks Andreas Kostenberger, announcing his work on a new book.

Crisis Pregancy Centers

Time Magazine: "Two companies—Care Net and Heartbeat International—serve three-fourths of the crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. Unknown and unaffiliated a few decades ago, such centers now outnumber abortion providers in the U.S."

Along with this graph, Time has produced a substantial, informative article about crisis pregnancy centers, entitled 1 Woman at a Time.

A couple of quotes:

"Hers is the new face of an old movement: kind, calm, nonjudgmental, a special-forces soldier in the abortion wars who is fighting her battles one conscience at a time."

"Much of the antiabortion movement remains focused on changing laws, tightening restrictions one by one, state by state. But Wood and her team talk of changing hearts. They are part of a whole other strategy that is more personal and more pastoral, although to some people it's every bit as controversial."

There is also some good material about the need for pro-life groups to use accurate information and righteous means in seeking to accomplish their goals. Jeff Hutchinson, senior pastor Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA), comes off very well in the article. Quote:
"I never would have said that the ends justify the means," he says. "But I know that was in my heart--if lying helps save a baby's life, that glorifies God." He has read some pregnancy-center brochures that he suspects are maybe shading the truth in the name of a larger good. "This whole process has reminded me that Jesus is not a Machiavellian," he says. "It really helps me trust the sovereignty of God. He's in control of who lives and dies. My effort is to serve folks, and the means I use matter. I have to glorify Jesus. The results are in God's hands."

Read the whole thing. And consider supporting organizations like CareNet and Heartbeat International.

Five Lust Languages?

I know many people in the church have been influenced and helped by Gary Chapman's bestselling book, The Five Love Languages. If you count yourself (or those in your circle of influence) in that camp, I'd encourage you to consider David Powlison's review, entitled, Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently.

As longtime readers of this blog will know, I consider Powlison to be an incredibly perceptive, insightful thinker on sanctification. Even for readers who might not care about this particular book, I'd encourage everyone to read this review, for it is an outstanding example of careful reading and thinking, as well as a great model for how to do a book review that identifies evidences of grace but also serious deficiencies when viewed through a Christian lens.

Powlison begins by acknowledging that the book contains some constructive advice and accurate descriptions of lived life--it "rings bells when it describes how people typically come wired." (As many probably know, the five love languages are affirming words, quality time, gift giving, physical affection, and acts of service.)
Chapman’s full working philosophy might be summarized this way: “I’ll find out where you itch, and I’ll scratch your back, so you feel better. Along the way, I’ll let you know my itches in a non-demanding manner. You’ll feel good about me because your itches are being scratched, so eventually you’ll probably scratch my back, too.” . . .

Unwittingly he exalts the observation that “even tax collectors, gentiles, and sinners love those who love them” (Matt. 5:46f; Luke 6:32ff) into his guiding principle for human relationships. This is the dynamo that makes his entire model go. This is the instinct that he appeals to in his readers. If I scratch your back, you’ll tend to scratch mine. If you’re happy to see me, I’ll tend to be happy to see you, too. So, 5LL teaches you how to become aware of what others want, and then tells you to give that to them. This is the principle behind How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 30-second Manager. It’s the dynamic at work in hundreds of other books on “relational skills,” or “attending skills,” or “salesmanship,” or “how to find the love you want.” Identify the felt need and meet it, and, odds are, your relationships will go pretty well. . . .

Up to a point, 5LL can be informative, correcting ignorance about how people differ from each other, and making you more aware of patterns of expectation that you and others bring to the table. . . . But speaking love languages is surely not the whole story. In fact, it is practical, immoral wisdom—manipulation or pandering or both—when it becomes the whole story. Part of considering the interests of others is to do them tangible good. But then to really love them, you usually need to help them see their itch as idolatrous, and to awaken in them a far more serious itch! That’s basic Christianity. 5LL will never teach you to love at this deeper, more life-and-death level. Chapman’s reasons for giving accurate love to others, his explanation of what speaking another’s love language does, his ultimate goal in marriage, and his evaluation of the significance of love languages are deplorable.

. . . The 5LL model fails the class “Human Nature 101.” Like all secular interpretations of human psychology (even when lightly Christianized), it makes some good observations and offers some half-decent advice (of the sort that self-effort can sometimes follow). But it doesn’t really understand human psychology. That basic misunderstanding has systematic distorting and misleading effects. Fallenness not only brings ignorance about how best to love others; it brings a perverse unwillingness and inability to love. It ingrains the perception that our lusts are in fact needs, empty places inside where others have disappointed us. The empty emotional tank construct is congenial to our fallen instincts, not transformative. It leaves what we instinctively want as an unquestionable good that must somehow be fulfilled. It not only leaves fundamental self-interest unchallenged, it plays to self-interest. . . .

. . . The love of Christ speaks a “love language”—mercy to hellishly self-centered people—that no person can hear or understand unless God gives ears to hear. It is a language we cannot speak to others unless God makes us fluent in an essentially foreign language. We might say that the itch itself (an ear for God’s language) has to be created, because we live in such a stupor of self-centered itchiness. The love language model does not highlight those exquisite forms of love that do not “speak your language.” You and I need to learn a new language if we are to become fit to live with each other and with God. The greatest love ever shown does not speak the instinctively self-centered language of the recipients of such love. In fundamental ways, the love of Christ speaks contrary to your “love language” and “felt needs.” Does anyone naturally say, “I need You to rule me so I’m no longer ruled by what I want”? Does anyone naturally say, “For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity for it is great” (Psalm 25:11)? Does anyone naturally say, “My greatest need is for mercy, and then for the wisdom to give mercy. I long for
redemption. May Your kingdom come. Deliver us from evil”?

God’s grace aims to destroy the lordship of the five love languages, even while teaching us to speak the countless love languages with greater fluency.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Join the Conversation Tonight

Converse with Scholars is a free, live, online program I mentioned last week: "CWS connects you with the best in Christian scholarship, giving you opportunities to talk to top scholars in theology, the Bible, and philosophy."

Past guests in the archives include folks like J. P. Moreland, Dan Wallace, John Frame, Mark Noll, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, etc.

To particpate, go to and download the free chat program, Paltalk.

The Converse with Scholars events are in a room called "Reclaiming the Mind Ministries."

Kelly Kapic (associate professor of theological studies at Covenant College) and I will be the guests tonight (Thursday, Feb. 15 [9 pm EST, 8 pm CST]). We'll be talking about John Owen and Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

For those interested in Owen, also be sure to check out Kapic's new book, Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007)

Bruce Metzger, George L. Collord Professor Emeritus of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, died on Tuesday.
The son of Maurice and Anna Metzger, he earned a bachelor's degree from Lebanon Valley College in 1935, a bachelor of theology degree from Princeton Seminary in 1938 and a doctorate in classics from Princeton University in 1942. He became an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church in 1939.

Metzger began his teaching career at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1938, where he stayed in the New Testament department for 46 years. During his time at the seminary, Metzger developed 25 courses on the English and Greek texts of books in the New Testament.

He was also involved with committees in the production of three new editions of the Scriptures: the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (1966), the Reader's Digest condensed Bible (1982) and the New Revised Standard Version (1990).

In 1986, Metzger was elected to the American Philosophical Society in the class devoted to the Humanities and in 1994 he was awarded the F.C. Burkitt Medal by the British Academy for his contributions to biblical studies.

Metzger is survived by his wife of 62 years, Isobel Mackay Metzger, two sons and a sister. A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Princeton.
Update: John Piper pays personal tribute.
Ben Witherington writes on Metzger today in CT.

Piper on Prosperity Preaching

John Piper on Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly. Here are his main exhortations:
  1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.
  2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.
  3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.
  4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.
  5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.
  6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.
  7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

How Not to Lose Your Faith in College

Thabiti Anyabwile on How Not to Lose Your Faith in College:
What I've found in these counseling situations is that typically the prospective college student has no definite plan for surviving college as a Christian. They've very often been raised in the thick, semi-transparent plastic Christian bubble, and the challenges of toxin-laced, free oxygen-based life is new, alluring, and usually more than the perky teenager is bargaining for.
Thabiti offers some excellent counsel, organized under the following exhortations: (1) find and join a good church; (2) choose your friends with biblical criteria in view; (3) at all costs, remain sexually pure; (4) study; (5) call home; (6) remember the counsel of God.

Witherington on Amazing Grace

Ben Witherington reviews Amazing Grace. An excerpt:
I will tell you now it is one of the better films of historical interest that I have ever seen--- beautiful cinematography, powerful acting, carefully hewn plot line and scene development-- just right. While superficial comparisons could be made with Steven Spielberg's 'Amistad' of some years ago, this is a far more compelling story as it explains the philosophical and theological roots of the abolitionist movement in England.
. . . "Amazing Grace" is a wonderful, poignant and compelling story of how to live out the social implications of one's faith. It reaches the theaters on Feb. 23rd of this month, the 200th anniversary of the date when the abolition act first passed the vote of Parliament. I would urge every Christian to see this movie, take their families, take their youth groups, take their churches to see it. We need to support this sort of high quality cinema which supports Christian values. I hope we will do so. In doing so we will be serving the One who called us to social justice and ministries of compassion saying "in as much as you have not done it unto the least of these, you have not done it unto me."

Pro-Life After 9/11

Jonah Goldberg argues that after 9/11, conservatives now seem willing to do something once thought impossible: vote for a pro-choice candidate for president:
The war on terror . . . changed the attitudes of many Americans, particularly conservatives, about the central crisis facing the country. It's not that pro-lifers are less pro-life or that social conservatives are suddenly OK with homosexuality, gun control and other issues where Giuliani's dissent from mainstream conservative opinion would normally disqualify him. It's that they really, really believe the war on terror is for real. At conservative conferences, on blogs and on talk radio, pro-life issues have faded in their passion and intensity compared with the war on terror. Taken together, terrorism, Iraq and Islam have become the No. 1 social issue for conservative base of the party.

Note: I didn't say it's become the No. 1 foreign-policy or national-security issue for social conservatives. It's become the No. 1 social issue, at least for many of them.
Update: John Piper and Joe Carter have both explained why they are "single-issue voters."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Letter from Allan Groves

Here is a letter that Allan Groves, who taught OT at WTS, wrote for his funeral.

Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics

John Tweeddale, a PhD student at Edinburgh working on John Owen's commentary on Hebrews, is doing the church a great service in helping us to understand Richard Muller's magisterial work, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. (Tweeddale blogs at The Conventicle blog (dedicated to Puritan studies) and also has a blog that contains notes on PRRD. Here's an overview of his article:
In what follows, I want to give you a causal tour through PRRD. As we meander along, I have three basic goals. I want to (1) give an overview of Muller’s work, (2) provide several reasons why I think PRRD is a valuable resource for pastors, elders, seminarians, and bible college students, and (3) suggest a reading plan for tackling this work. To state my intentions another way, I want to answer three questions: (1) what is the basic argument of PRRD; (2) why is reading PRRD important for your theological development and ministry; and (3) how can you as a busy minister, elder, or student best utilize your study time so as to gain maximal benefit when reading PRRD? My primary aim is not analytical but practical.
For those interested in reading more, Tweeddale references, but doesn't link to, a review by Roger Nicole and a review by Martin Klauber.

I do have to take issue with Tweeddale on just one point, though. He write that he thinks he's "the only man in history to receive Richard Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics as a wedding present!" Not true, John! I won't say who (it wasn't me), but I have a friend who received the same!


The manuscript for John Piper's talk on adoption is now online.

A Mormon in the White House

Mitt Romney today announced his presidential campaign.

An interesting stat here from USA Today: "In a diverse 2008 presidential field that includes a woman and an African-American on the Democratic side, polls show being Mormon is a handicap. In a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 72% say they would vote for a qualified nominee who is Mormon. That compares with 94% for a black nominee and 88% for a female nominee."

They go on to look at the beliefs of Mormonism and how it might impact Romney's campaign. Meanwhile, I'm sure more than a few evangelicals will be interested in hearing Hugh Hewitt set forth his case in the upcoming book, A Mormon in the White House?: 10 Things Every American Should Know about Mitt Romney, due out next month.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith

Timmy Brister provides a gospelcentric meditation on the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Obama's Unique Opportunity

Edward Blum discusses Barack Obama's views on race-based preferences:
For the most part, no recent Democratic presidential aspirant has been as bold as Obama in discussing the problems with race-based affirmative action: “An emphasis on universal, as opposed to race-specific, programs isn’t just good policy; it’s also good politics.”

Beneath this extraordinary statement, coming as it does from a black, Democratic, presidential aspirant, lies a massive iceberg capable of transforming the nation’s racial policies — if he has the courage to pursue it.

Obama is correct about the political implications — it is beyond debate that ending race-specific programs is good politics. Given the chance, the overwhelming majority of whites want to end race-based affirmative action as was evidenced last November when Michigan voters passed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative by a 16-point margin. Ward Connerly and Jennifer Gratz, the organizers of the Michigan voter initiative, have announced plans to organize similar initiatives on Election Day in 2008 in as many as nine states, including the swing states of Missouri, Colorado, and Arizona. It is unlikely this has escaped the attention of campaign strategists in either party.

This presents Barack Obama with unique opportunity. . . .

“A pro-civil rights Democrat doesn't become complicit in an anti-civil-rights agenda because he or she questions the efficacy of certain affirmative action programs,” he wrote shortly before the last election. So, like Nixon’s overture to China, it may fall to a liberal, black Democrat like Barack Obama to question the wisdom of our current race-based affirmative-action polices and map a new course. Let’s hope he does.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Seminary-Level Classes for Free

I've posted these links before in various posts, but I think it's worth collecting them in one place in re-linking as new readers keep coming along.

There are three sites--I'm sure there are others out there--that offer free access to full seminary-level courses on matters of the faith (systematic theology, exegesis, OT theology, NT theology, missions, practical theology, etc.) This sort of thing, of course, can't replace personal instruction in seminary, but it can be a great tool for those in differing stations of life who want to grow in their knowledge of the faith. So if you wanted, say, to "sit on" on David Wells teaching theology, Frank Thielman teaching NT theology, Bill Mounce teaching Greek, Bryan Chapell on Christ-centered preaching, John Piper on pastoral theology, etc., then check out these sites:
It's also worth reposting information about an exciting new program in development by Richard Pratt, Third Millennium Ministries, and Reformed Theological Seminary. It's called the Reformed Seminary Curriculum. Here's the description on their website of the problem and their solution:

Most pastors in the world have no theological education and no way to obtain one. Third Millennium Ministries is working to meet this need by creating and distributing a high-quality, multimedia seminary curriculum in the major languages of underprivileged nations: English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), and Russian.

Read more about this need and our specific approach to a solution.

Our goal is to complete a 60-hour accreditable masters curriculum consisting of 480 multimedia video lessons. Our existing catalog of materials is currently used in: North, Central and South America; Europe; Asia; Africa; and Australia.

Our president and all our featured teachers are Reformed seminary professors from fully accredited seminaries. Most of our staff members, from our writers and editors to our multimedia designers, are seminary graduates or students. Every one of our teachers and staff members is a committed Evangelical Christian.

The teachers who have taped video courses thus far are first-rate: John Frame (on ethics), Reggie Kidd (on Acts and Pauline letters), and Richard Pratt (on the Pentateuch, Hermeneutics, Intro to Theological Studies, and Kingdom, Covenants, & Canon).

Their goal is to create the full curriculum in five major languages over the next 15 years. The projected cost is $15 million. They are committed to free distribution in underprivileged countries. 95% of their funding comes through donations from individuals, churches, and foundations. If you would like to help support this worthy ministry, click here. You can also request an information packet suitable for presentation to your church's missions committee by emailing