Saturday, June 30, 2007

Jesus Made in America

IVP editor Joel Scandrett blogs about Steve Nichols's forthcoming book, Jesus Made in America (not due out till next Spring). Having read some of the manuscript, I agree with Joel: this is an insightful book you'll want to get.

Application Videos

The New Attitude site has been posted videos with their conferences speakers on applying their messages. Thus far they have posted:
(HT: The Other Brother Harris)


The Brothers Harris (Alex and Brett) have posted onto their blog a promo video for their upcoming tour, where they are encouraging teens to "do hard things." If you're a teenager or parent of a teenager and can get to Denver, Dallas/Ft. Worth, or Indianapolis to attend the conference, I recommend the work these guys are doing. Here's the video:

Dever on Togetherness

Mark Dever explains why he's against "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," why he's involved with "Together for the Gospel," and why he believes in "Calvinists and Arminians Together."

Key quote: "The real front line is not between Calvinist evangelicals and Arminian evangelicals. It is between those who are lost in their sins and those who have been saved by God's sheer grace in Christ."

The Pastoral Theology of John Owen

Here are eight lectures by Derek Thomas (Reformed Theological Seminary) on the pastoral theology of John Owen, delivered at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

(In a previous post, I also linked to five lectures on Owen by Carl Trueman.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Worship While You Work

Charles Drew:
It is not always easy to worship while we work. Thanks to the fall, there is no job—whether it is raising children, running a bank, or working as a carpenter—that does not have its dreariness. Nevertheless, God made us for work, Jesus is present with us in our work, and Jesus will one day completely fix work. For these reasons, we should seek occasions to thank God for and in our work. Simply to be given something to do that brings order into our life is cause for thanks. If we get paid for it, all the better. Work often presents us with people to love—and this is good for us (especially when it is hard). There are, or course, those occasional jobs (or occasional tasks within a particular job) that we actually enjoy doing—for which it is only right to worship God. Then there is the recollection of how much worse work might be for us if we lived at a different time or under different circumstances—a recollection that should train our faith to see the hand of the Redeemer at work, and to thank him. Finally, there is the promise of consummation—of a coming world in which all toil will finally be taken from our work—and for this hope we worship God (especially when we are acutely aware of the toil in what we are presently doing).
You can read the whole interview or look at his recent book.

Are Mormons Christians?

Albert Mohler and Orson Scott Card (a prominent science fiction writer and a Mormon) debate the question here at

Packer on Lloyd-Jones

J. I. Packer on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from a 1985 essay:
What a fascinating human being he was! Slightly built, with a great domed cranium, head thrust forward, a fighter's chin and a grim line to his mouth, he radiated resolution, determination, and an unwillingness to wait for ever. A very strong man, you would say, and you would be right. You can sense this from any photograph of him, for he never smiled into the camera.

There was a touch of the old-fashioned about him: he wore linen collars, three-piece suits, and boots in public, spoke on occasion of crossing-sweepers and washerwomen, and led worship as worship was led a hundred years before his time.

In the pulpit he was a lion, fierce on matters of principle, austere in his gravity, able in his prime to growl and to roar as his argument required.

Informally, however, he was a delightfully relaxed person, superb company, twinkling and witty to the last degree. His wit was as astringent as it was quick and could leave you feeling you had been licked by a cow. His answer to the question, posed in a ministers' meeting, 'Why are there so few men in our churches?' was: 'Because there are so many old women in our pulpits!' (Americans, please note: that was no reference to female preachers! In Britain an 'old woman' is any dithery man with a gripe.)

In 1952 he complained to me of the presence at the Puritan conference of two young ladies from his congregation. 'They're only here for the men!' said he. 'Well, Doctor,' I replied, 'as a matter of fact I'm going to marry one of them.' (I had proposed and been accepted the night before.) I thought that would throw him but it didn't at all. Quick as a flash came the answer, 'Well, you see I was right about one of them; now what about the other?' That's repartee for you! He did not suffer fools gladly and had a hundred ways of deflating pomposity. Honest, diffident people, however, found in him a warmth and friendliness that amazed them.

For he was a saint, a holy man of God: a naturally proud person whom God made humble; a naturally quick-tempered person to whom God taught patience; a naturally contentious person to whom God gave restraint and wisdom; a natural egoist, conscious of his own great ability, whom God set free from self-seeking to serve the servants of God.
Packer goes on to write:
Nearly forty years on, it still seems to me that all I have ever known about preaching was given me in the winter of 1948-49, when I worshipped at Westminster chapel with some regularity. Through the thunder and the lightning, I felt and saw as never before the glory of Christ and of his gospel as modern man's only lifeline and learned by experience why historic Protestantism looks on preaching as the supreme means of grace and of communion with God. Preaching, thus viewed and valued, was the centre of the Doctor's life: into it he poured himself unstintingly; for it he pleaded untiringly. Rightly, he believed that preachers are born rather than made, and that preaching is caught more than it is taught, and that the best way to vindicate preaching is to preach. And preach he did, almost greedily, till the very end of his life. . . .
You can still listen to the Doctor preach via the web.

Immigration Bill Roundup

The editors at National Review:
For months, the establishment dismissed those of us opposed to amnesty as a tiny minority of the public and the Congress. On Thursday, that “tiny minority” outnumbered the pro-amnesty forces in the Senate, dealing a humiliating and well-deserved defeat to President Bush. The same White House that insisted that there was no realistic alternative to “comprehensive immigration reform” had better recalibrate its realism now. There always were better alternatives, and the president and his party have no way out of the immigration morass he has created unless they pursue them.
Read the whole thing.

And Glenn Reynolds offers some advice for next time:
(1) Make the process open, transparent, and timely, with hearings, drafts on the Internet, and no last-minute bills that no one has read;

(2) Earn people's trust, don't demand it, and treat enforcement like it matters;

(3) Respect people who follow the law, and make legal immigration easier, cheaper, and simpler, rather than the Kafkaesque nightmare it is now;

(4) Don't feel you have to be "comprehensive" -- address the problems you can deal with first. The trust needed to deal with other problems will come later, after you've shown some success and some good faith.

Rich Lowry:
All of that was enough to get all of 46 votes on a key procedural vote that needed 60 to pass. The fight over the immigration bill was the first instance of an insider parliamentary struggle in which bloggers, talk-radio hosts and citizens were able to have a major voice through the synergistic power of the Internet, radio waves and telephone lines. Bloggers picked apart the bill, talk-radio-show hosts broadcast its flaws, and ordinary people jammed their senators' phone lines -- blocking what had begun as a kind of legislative coup.

. . . P
resident Bush said opponents hadn't read the bill, when diligent bloggers combed through it line by line. They gave the bill the markup -- the detailed process of amendment -- that it never got in committee because there was such a rush to passage. Even the procedural shenanigans that the bill's supporters relied on to try to get it through were subject to the intense glare of publicity. Instead of helping the bill's cause -- as such arcane maneuvers would have in the past -- they hurt it by adding to the sense of chaos and unfairness around the process. . . .

. . .
Now, there is really no such thing as an "inside game" anymore, since bloggers make sure it gets "outside." Both the right and the left will take advantage of this, for good and ill policy ends. But it's clearly an enhancement of democracy. Senators should get used to it, and buy more phone lines.

Ratatouille Reviewed

Thomas Hibbs--not an easy reviewer to please--positively reviews the new Pixar film, Ratatouille.

Update: Frederica Mathewes-Greene likes it too.


Sam Storms, from Signs of the Spirit, pp. 204-205:
Here, then, is how we must come to God, whether to serve him or worship him or enjoy all that he is for us in Jesus:

Come, confessing your utter inability to do or offer anything that will empower God or enrich, enhance, or expand God.

Come, with heartfelt gratitude to God for the fact that whatever you own, whatever you are, whatever you have accomplished or hope to accomplish, is all from him, a gift of grace.

Come, declaring in your heart and aloud that if you serve, it is in the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:10); if you give money, it is from the wealth that God has enabled you to earn; if it is praise of who he is, it is from the salvation and knowledge of God that he himself has provided for you in Christ Jesus.

Come, declaring the all-sufficiency of God in meeting your every need. Praise his love, because if here were not loving, you would be justly and eternally condemned. Praise his power, because if he were weak, you would have no hope that what he has promised he will fulfill. Praise his forgiving mercy, because apart from his gracious determination to wash you clean in the blood of Christ, you would still be in your sin and hopelessly lost. So, too, with every attribute, praise him!

Come, with an empty cup, happily pleading: "God, glorify yourself by filling it to overflowing!"

Come, with a weak and wandering heart, joyfully beseeching: "God, glorify yourself by strengthening me to do your will and remain faithful to your ways!"

Come, helpless, expectantly praying: "God, glorify yourself by delivering me from my enemies and my troubles!"

Come, with your sin, gratefully asking: "God, glorify yourself by setting me free from bondage to my flesh and breaking the grip of lust and envy and greed in my life!"

Come, with your hunger for pleasure and joy, desperately crying: "God, glorify yourself by filling me with the fullness of joy! God, glorify yourself by granting me pleasures that never end! God, glorify yourself by satisfying my heart with yourself! God, glorify yourself by enthralling me with your beauty . . . by overwhelming me with your majesty . . . by taking my breath away with fresh insights into your incomparable and infinite grandeur! God, glorify yourself by shining into my mind the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ!"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Update from DG

Word is that their book sale will be extended till Friday at noon (12 PM, CT, June 29)

Shopping for Time

Hot off the press: Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT Be Overwhelmed by the GirlTalkers (AKA Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, Janelle Bradshaw). I'm giving copies to my wife, sister, and mom.

Here are the blurbs:
“Like most women today, I struggle with feelings of ‘too much to do and too little time to do it’! My friend Carolyn Mahaney, along with her daughters, offers practical, biblical advice to help us plan, evaluate, strategize, and make wise choices concerning our time and priorities. As a godly mentor, Carolyn takes us by the hand, points us to God’s Word, shares out of her own life experience, and shows us how to apply God’s timeless truths to the contemporary challenges we face as women.” —Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author; Revive Our Hearts radio host

“‘We can actually do all that God has called us to do . . . and we can do it in a peaceful, joyful manner and get sufficient rest beside.’ When I read that, a light flashed on in my soul. Of course! I knew that! Once again Carolyn, Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle have created a book that’s fun to read and filled with truth that resonates because it’s biblical and practical and manageable.” —Noel Piper, wife, mother, grandmother, and author of Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God

“Shopping for Time offers a glimpse into the delightful Mahaney household. This book offers no simplistic solutions to the perils of superwoman syndrome. Instead, it deliberately leads women to the bedrock of biblical priorities and then suggests real-life methods by which to apply them.” —Mary K. Mohler, wife of R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Another Special Announcement from DG

Abraham Piper writes: "We are now taking orders for the sale by phone. If you are having trouble placing your order online, please call us at 1-888-346-4700. We will be taking calls until 7:00 P.M. CT. If this doesn't work for you, you can of course continue placing orders online for the rest of the day."

Signs of the Spirit

Sam Storms's new book, Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards's Religious Affections, just crossed by desk. I've been eagerly anticipating its publication, and would highly recommend buying and reading it.

Here are the blurbs:
“Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections remains one of the most discerning works of spiritual psychology published in the last several centuries. Dr. Samuel Storms’ unpacking of this significant work reveals once again for a new generation why the old Puritan so much deserves the most careful study today.”

—Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

“Storms’ repackaging of this spiritual classic meets a serious need. His essay on Edwards’ personal spirituality, introducing the “Personal Narrative,” is almost worth the price of the book. Then his running commentary, interspersed with direct selections from the Narrative, are exceedingly helpful.”

—Gerald R. McDermott, Professor of Religion, Roanoke College

“After nearly 300 years, these gems of Edwards continue to sparkle. Sam Storms has done a superb job interpreting them for twenty-first century followers of Jesus. His vivid paraphrases are easy to read and always edifying.”

—Douglas A. Sweeney, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“These texts of Jonathan Edwards have nourished the church for nearly three centuries. In Sam Storms’ capable hands they’ll now speak clearly, plainly, and powerfully to the church today and for generations to come. If you've ever wanted to tackle Edwards but have shied away, you no longer have an excuse.”

—Stephen J. Nichols, author of Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards’s Vision of Living in Between

“In reading through this book, I feel like I am looking over Sam Storms’ shoulder, reading Edwards together with him. At times, he pauses to interpret Edwards for me, at other times, he places Edwards’ comments in their historical context. At all times, Sam’s love and respect for Edwards shines through clearly.”

—Glenn Kreider, Professor of Theological Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Gospel Coalition Site Is Live

The Gospel Coalition webpage is now up and running. Hats off to Michael Thate, the Resurgence guys, and whoever else had a part in putting this together. It looks sharp, with a lot of edifying resources to explore, including the audio and video for all of the plenary sessions. There are also a number of new articles, by guys like Bruce Ware, C. J. Mahaney, D. A. Carson, Tim Keller. (And yours truly--which always prompts the question, "Which of these three is not like the others!")

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Special Message from the Folks at DG

Matt Perman asked if I'd post this note for those of you trying to access their big two-day sale:
The sale has generated so much traffic to the checkout process in our store that the DG server is at its limit. In fact, the traffic is so high that even two servers couldn't handle it. There are some solutions we can implement (namely, optimizing the code in the checkout process), but none that could be implemented by tomorrow.

So here is a different idea: Let's divide the traffic to the DG site into two sources: (1) People that are reading this post and (2) people that aren't. If everybody reading this post waits until tomorrow to order (I'm so sorry to ask this of you!), then there might be enough processing power for all the other people that don't know what's happening. Perhaps enough of that group will place their orders tonight, and tomorrow everyone else will make it through. And, obviously, the more you spread the word about this post, the more the people in group 1 increases, and the more likely this is to work.

Again, I'm so sorry to even mention this idea--our aim is to make your lives easier, not harder. And of course we don't even know if this will work--but it seems worth a try. If you have other ideas, respond in the comments and let us know. We'll keep trying to think of ways we can serve you in the midst of this.

Interview with Conrad Mwebe

Colin Adams interviews Conrad Mwebe--often called "The Spurgeon of Africa."

Blogs and the Immigration Bill

Stanley Kurtz on the role of the blogosphere in exposing the legislative shenanigans going on right now over the immigration bill.

Multiplying Churches

Like Steve, I don't get too worked up about "top __ lists," especially with regard to church lists. But given the common caricature that Calvinists don't care about evangelism and missions, it's interesting to note that the theological orientation of the top two multiplying churches in America.

Keller on Gospel-Centered Ministry

Tim Keller on "Gospel-Centered Ministry" at the Gospel Coalition is now available in either audio or video at the Resurgence site.

HT: Reformissionary

Desiring God Update

Just a reminder that the sale goes through Thursday, so if their server is slow, check back later.

The Laura Bush Effect

Tim Morgan at CT writes about the Laura Bush Effect on HIV and Africa.

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?

Mark Dever posts his answer--the first in a 10-part series.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

9Marks Newsletter on the Gospel

The guys at 9Marks have produced another excellent newsletter, this one on the gospel (also available in PDF).

And speaking of 9Marks, I should mention that Mark Dever has a new book out, entitled What Is a Healthy Church? You can read the intro and first chapter at the Crossway website.

Interview with David Wells

9Marks interviews David Wells (in print, not audio) on culture, contextualization, and the church.

Get First Things First

In this article on the therapeutic gospel vs. the real gospel, David Powlison explains why "felt needs" make good gifts but poor gods. Print this out; pausing to ponder and pray; then read it again. This is rich wisdom for the soul. Here is but one paragraph:
"Need for significance"? It is surely a good thing for the works of your hands to be established forever: gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, hay, and straw. It is good when what you do with your life truly counts, and when your works follow you into eternity. Vanity, futility, and ultimate insignificance register the curse upon our work life – even midcourse, not just when we retire, or when we die, or on the Day of Judgment. But the real gospel inverts the order of things presupposed by the therapeutic gospel. The craving for impact and significance – one of the typical "youthful lusts" that boil up within us – is merely idolatrous when it acts as Director of Operations in the human heart. God does not meet your need for significance; he meets your need for mercy and deliverance from your obsession with personal significance. When you turn from your enslavement and turn to God, then your works do start to count for good. The gospel of Jesus and the fruit of faith are not tailored to "meet your needs." He frees from the tyranny of felt needs, remakes you to fear God and keep his commandments (Eccl. 12:13). In the divine irony of grace, that alone makes what you do with your life of lasting value.

Mark Dever Interview of Will Metzger

Evangelism and the Gospel with Will Metzger: "Author and evangelist Will Metzger, who helped shaped Mark Dever's understanding of evangelism, discusses the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to evangelism today."

Piper Books: $5 Each

Desiring God is hosting a remarkable sale: any of their books for $5, no limits. The online sale just opened, and will last through Thursday, June 28.

Why I Chose . . .

Two articles on
Amy Hall provides some reflections.

Pierced for Our Transgressions

Tim Challies reviews Pierced for Our Transgressions.

For more new reviews (which are posted every Tuesday), check out the Discerning Reader site.

Good as New?

Phil Johnson posts on a disturbing new "translation" of Scripture--with a foreword by Rowan Williams.

Beale Bonanza

For those of you who appreciate the biblical-theological teaching of Greg Beale--and if you don't, you should!--here's a great collection of resources from a recent teaching/preaching weekend at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM.

Blomberg Review o

In RBL Craig Blomberg reviews Steve Roy's dissertation-turned-IVP-book, What Does God Foreknow?

Opening line: "Roy, associate professor of pastoral theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has authored what may well be the best, most complete, and most irenic response yet to open
theism, defending the classic Christian view of God’s complete and comprehensive
foreknowledge of all future events."

Conclusion: "All in all, though, this is an outstanding book—if only a majority of American theological doctoral dissertations could be so significant, clear, and compelling!"

(HT: Andy Naselli)

Pastoral Position Open at Bethlehem Baptist Church

From Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis:
We are currently seeking a candidate for the position of Associate Pastor for Adult Discipleship at our downtown campus. Click here for a description of this position.

Thank you for prayerfully considering employment at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Please note that to join the church staff you must:

  • have a vital relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ
  • manifest a hearty support for the leadership of our church
  • be an active member who fully understands and is committed to the mission of our church
  • other requirements are likely and will be listed on each job description

After seeking the Lord's guidance, kindly email your resume to

Readers of this blog may recall that John Piper wrote an article explaining the elders' desire to increase the diversity of Bethlehem's pastoral staff. "We intentionally take ethnicity into account when making choices about who we will call to the pastoral staff and eldership." The fuller purpose of the article is:

First, I want to inform the people of Bethlehem (and anyone else who cares to listen) how the staff and elders think about ethnic diversity in hiring pastoral staff and choosing elders. Second, I want to solicit the help of any friend of Bethlehem or Desiring God in helping us know about African-American, Asian, Latino, Native, or any other ethnic persons who might be a part of the pastoral staff at Bethlehem.
Again, the job description and application are online.

Brevard Childs (1923-2007)

Yale Divinity School announces that Old Testament scholar Brevard S. Childs died Saturday at the age of 83.

For more on Childs's work, see here.

(HT: Scott Clark)

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Director for CBMW

David Kotter has been appointed the new executive director at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This is a great move for CBMW, as Kotter is a sharp thinker, good communicator, and a humble, godly man.

(Weird) Quote of the Day

It's not too often that you get to read gems like this in the news:

"On the witness stand, Pearson broke down in tears and had to take a break from his testimony because he became too emotional while questioning himself about his experience with the missing trousers."

This is from the Onion!

You can read the whole story (about a judge suing Korean-immigrant-dry-cleaning store owners for $54 million over a pair of missing trousers)!

The Chimeras Are Coming

Al Mohler:
For some time now ethicists have warned that the development of real animal-human combinations -- known as chimeras -- was nearing on the horizon. Now, according to some reports, the future has arrived.
Read the whole thing.

Talk, Don't Listen, to Yourself

The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man's treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you'. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art thou cast down'--what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God'--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet priase Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God'.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, pp. 20-21; emphasis added.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Difference between Self-examination and Introspection

We all agree that we should examine ourselves, but we also agree that introspection and morbidity are bad. But what is the difference between examining ourselves and becoming introspective? I suggest that we cross the line from self-examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and chief end in our life. We are meant to examine ourselves periodically, but if we are always doing it, always, as it were, putting our soul on a plate and dissecting it, that is introspection. And if we are always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that frown upon our face and saying: I am in great difficulty--it probably means that we are all the time centred upon ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turns leads to the condition known as morbidity.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, p. 17.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mark Dever Interview

Jim Hamilton interviews Mark Dever.

The Cultural Illiteracy of Easy Atheists

Christopher Hitchens writes: "We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books."

Mary Graber responds: "
But Hitchens must be banking on a readership that has not read Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky."

Read the whole thing

(HT: Frank Beckwith)

Bridges on Legalistic Fences

Zach Nielson posts a good quote from Jerry Bridges (Transforming Grace, p. 124):
I think my parents' pool hall fence was appropriate. But there is a lesson in my experience for all parents: Don't focus on the fence. If you erect a fence for your children - for example, in regard to certain movies or television programs- be sure to focus on the real issues, not the fence. Take time to explain and re-explain the reason for the fence.

If you decide, as my parents did , that you don't want your children going to the local pool hall, explain why. Distinguish between playing the game itself - which has neither negative nor positive moral value - and the atmosphere you are trying to protect them from.

For all of us, it may be good to have some fences, but we have to work at keeping them as just that - fences, helpful to us but not necessarily applicable to others. we also have to work at guarding our freedom from other people's fences.

Some of the fences in our respective Christian circles have been around a long time. No one quite knows their origin, but by now they are "embedded in concrete". Although it may cause conflict if you violate one, you must guard your freedom. To paraphrase Paul, "Stand firm in your freedom, and don't let anyone bring you into bondage with their fences."

I'm not suggesting you jump over fences just to thumb your nose at the people who hold to them so dearly. We are to "make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Romans 14:19). Use discretion in embracing or rejecting a particular fence. but don't let other coerce you with man made rules. And ask God to help you see if you are subtly coercing or judging others with your own fences.

Krauthammer on American Elections

Charles Krauthammer on the endless American presidential campaigns--exhausting to both the candidate and the electorate:

The final function of the endless campaign, and perhaps the most psychologically important, is to satisfy the American instinct for egalitarianism. We have turned the presidential campaign into a pleasingly degrading ordeal -- pleasing, that is, to the electorate. The modern presidential campaign is meant to be physically exhausting and spiritually humbling almost to the point of humiliation. Candidates spend two years and more on bended knee begging for money, votes and handshakes in a diner.

Why do we inflict such cruel and unusual punishment? Because our winner is not just chief magistrate but king. True, the kingship is temporary, but its glories and perks are beyond compare -- the pomp and pampering of a head of state, married to the real political power of controlling the most important state on the planet.

The bargain we offer the candidate is this: We will make you Lord, circling celestially above us on Air Force One, but because we are flinty Jeffersonian yeomen, we insist that you flatter us first with a very extended show of camaraderie and commonality with the Iowa farmer, the New Hampshire alderman and the South Carolina good ol' boy. Aboriginal tribes have slightly different rituals for those who pretend to kingship, but the idea is the same: ordeal before dominion.

As a columnist whose job it is to chart every jot and tittle of these campaigns, every teapot tempest that history will remember for not one second, I curse election years. Now I have to curse the year before as well. But for all its bizarre meanderings, the endless campaign serves critical purposes.

The first two -- testing the candidates' managerial and consensus-building skills -- are undeniably useful. But like most Americans, I find it is the third -- the gratuitous humiliation of our would-be kings -- that makes it all worthwhile.

Four Classes of Legalism

Jollyblogger: "C. R. Biggs at Reformation Theology quotes a great passage from Dan Doriani on different types of legalists":

Prof. Doriani writes:

"Class-one legalists are auto-soterists; they declare what one must do in order to obtain God's favor or salvation. The rich young ruler was a class-one legalist.

Class-two legalists declare what good deeds or spiritual disciplines one must perform to retain God's favor and salvation.

Class-three legalists love the law so much they create new laws, laws not found in Scripture, and require submission to them. The Pharisees, who build fences around the law, were class-three legalists.

Class-four legalists avoid these gross errors, but they so accentuate obedience to the law of God that other ideas shrivel up. They reason, 'God has redeemed us at the cost of his Son's life. Now he demands our service in return. He has given us his Spirit and a new nature and has stated his will. With these resources, we obey his law in gratitude for our redemption. This is our duty to God.' In an important way this is true, but class-four legalists dwell on the law of God until they forget the love of God. Worshiping, delighting in, communing with, and conforming to God are forgotten.

Class-four legalists can preach sermons in which every sentence is true, while the whole is oppressive. It is oppressive to proclaim Christ as the Lawgiver to whom we owe a vast debt, as if we must somehow repay him- - repay God! -- for his gifts to us.

I count myself a member of the legion of recovering class-four legalists. We slide into a 'Just Do It' mentality occasionally, dispensing commands just because they are right.

Calvin and Servetus

Mention Calvin's name in most contexts, and the result--as evidenced by a recent blog entry of mine about Calvin's theology being understood--immediately produces chants of "Servetus! Servetus! Servetus!"

Here is Packer, in an essay entitled "John Calvin and Reformed Europe," commenting on Calvin and Servetus:
The anti-Trinitarian campaigner Servetus was burned at Geneva in 1553, and this is often seen as a blot on Calvin's reputation. But weigh these facts:
  1. The belief that denial of the Trinity and/or Incarnation should be viewed as a capital crime in a Christian state was part of Calvin's and Geneva's medieval inheritance; Calvin did not invent it.
  2. Anti-Trinitarian heretics were burned in other places beside Geneva in Calvin's time, and indeed later--two in England, for instance, as late as 1612.
  3. The Roman Inquisition had already set a price on Servetus' head.
  4. The decision to burn Servetus as a heretic was taken not only by Calvin personally but by Geneva's Little Council of twenty-five, acting on unanimous advice from the pastors of several neighboring Reformed churches whom they had consulted.
  5. Calvin, whose role in Servetus' trial had been that of expert witness managing the prosecution, wanted Servetus not to die but to recant, and spent hours with him during and after the trial seeking to change his views.
  6. When Servetus was sentenced to be burned alive, Calvin asked for beheading as a less painful alternative, but his request was denied.
  7. The chief Reformers outside Geneva, including Bucer and the gentle Melanchthon, fully approved the execution.
The burning should thus be seen as the fault of a culture and an age rather than of one particular child of that culture and age. Calvin, for the record, showed more pastoral concern for Servetus than anyone else connected with the episode. As regards the rights and wrongs of what was done, the root question concerns the propriety of political paternalism in Christianity (that is, whether the Christian state, as distinct from the Christian church, should outlaw heresy or tolerate it), and it was Calvin's insistence that God alone is Lord of the conscience that was to begin displacing the medieval by the modern mind-set on this question soon after Servetus' death.
John Piper, in his biographical address on Calvin (published in The Legacy of Sovereign Joy), devoted an appendix to the issue, entitled Calvin's Barbaric World – The Case of Michael Servetus. Here is how he concludes:
So the times were harsh and immoral and barbaric, and had a contaminating effect on everyone, just as we are all contaminated today by the evils of our time. Their blind spots and evils may be different from ours. And it may be that the very things they saw clearly are the things we are blind to. It would be foolhardy to say that we would have never done what they did under their circumstances, and thus draw the conclusion that they have nothing to teach us. In fact, what we probably need to say is that some of our evils are such that we are blind to them, just as they were blind to many of theirs, and the virtues they manifested in those times are the very ones that we probably need in ours. There was in the life and ministry of John Calvin a grand God-centeredness, Bible-allegiance and iron constancy. Under the banner of God's mercy to miserable sinners we would do well to listen and learn.

New Atttitude Interview

When I was at the New Attitude conference, Ricky Alcantar interviewed me. They've now posted the transcript.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rev. Dr. Mark Adam Elliott (1956-2007)

David Mathis passed along this news:
Rev. Dr. Mark Elliott went to be with the Lord on Monday, January 8, 2007. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his family as we rejoice in his homecoming. . . .

Mark held a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen. His studies involved considerable research at Cambridge University and in universities throughout Europe. He served as adjunct professor at the University of Western Ontario and at Conrad Grebel College, University of Waterloo. Mark ministered at the Frank Street Baptist Church in Wiarton from 1996 to 2006, serving there until he was diagnosed with cancer last year.

He leaves his wife Maureen and children Josh, Kristen and Joel.

So far I know, Elliott's only published book was The Survivors of Israel: A Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Judaism. Here is how Craig Blomberg described it in a review:

This hefty volume, the product of an Aberdeen New Testament thesis under I. Howard Marshall, is one of the most significant pieces of research on Jewish backgrounds to the New Testament to have appeared in years. Elliott, now pastor of the Frank Street Baptist Church in Wiarton, Ontario, tackles head-on the consensus that has been established via the ground-breaking work of E. P. Sanders that argues that a nationalistic view of election dominated pre-Christian Judaism. Elliott's thesis in a nutshell is that there are pervasive patterns throughout both the Dead Sea Scrolls and key intertestamental pseudepigrapha (esp. 1 Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Psalms of Solomon, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and the Assumption of Moses) that look only for God's blessings to be showered on a faithful remnant of ethnic Israel rather than on the substantial majority of the Jewish people. It is only when one moves to primarily post-A.D. 70 rabbinic literature, which may well not reflect pre-Christian Jewish attitudes, that one begins to find true nationalism as prevalent as Sanders and the many who have followed him claim it was earlier on. . . .

. . . This book is therefore an indispensable work for scholars in virtually every arena of New Testament backgrounds and theology and deserves at least as serious scrutiny as Sanders' major volumes. . . .

In another review Blomberg listed Elliot's tome--along with Simon Gathercole's Where Is Boasting? and Carson/O'Brien/Seifrid's Justification and Variegated Nomism--as a "required starting point" for "theological students and pastors who haven't yet heard of the Sanders-Dunn-Wright trajectory in Pauline studies."

In his own review of the work, Gathercole concludes: "In conclusion, this is a very well-researched, and very significant piece of work. I sincerely hope that the size of book will attract, rather than deter attention. Many scholars, I am sure, would be pleased to produce a book of this quality at the end of their careers. To do so in a first publication is an outstanding achievement."

Blurbing the back cover of his work, I. Howard Marshall wrote, "This is one of the most significant pieces of work I have seen in recent years. . . . Quite simply an outstanding work." Tom Schreiner writes that "Its ramifications for New Testament studies are significant. I believe that if Elliott is correct, the consequences for New Testament theology extend beyond the implications that he himself raises."

Though I didn't know Elliott, it always struck me as significant from afar that someone who would spend that much time doing technical research of this kind--publishing such a massive, learned book--would feel called to become the pastor of a small church.

May God comfort his wife and children during these painful days, and may we thank God for giving Dr. Elliott the time and wisdom to produce such an important book.

Carson on the Gospel

The Resurgence has posted an audio and video clip from Don Carson's address at the Gospel Coalition, "What Is the Gospel?"

Packer on Pauline Contextualization

Packer again:
[Paul] set not limit to what he would do, however unconventionally, to ensure that he did not by personal insensitiveness or cultural inertia set barriers and stumbling-blocks in the way of men coming to Christ. . . . His loving, imaginative adaptability in the service of truth and people is a shining example to all who engage in evangelistic communication, and cannot be pondered too often or too seriously.

From a 1979 essay, "The Gospel--Its Content and Communication: A Theological Perspective." Republished in Serving the People of God: Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, vol. 2, pp. 230, 231.

Packer on Engaging and Learning from Culture

From a 1979 essay, "The Gospel--Its Content and Communication: A Theological Perspective":
If it is true (as I for one believe) that every culture and sub-culture without exception in this fallen world, whether primitive or tribal or Hindu or Christian, or a form of constantly shifting 'pop' youth culture which affluent nations develop these days, is a product not just of human sin but also of God's common grace (which means, biblically speaking, of the work of the life- and light-giving Word of John's prologue), then respect for other cultures as such, and a desire to see them not abolished but reanimated by Gospel grace in their own terms, must undergird all particular criticisms of ways in which, missing the good life, they embrace the not-so-good life instead. This practice of respect will set us all free for critical dialogue with all forms of human culture Christian and non-Christian alike, while safe-guarding us against both the appearance and the reality of cultural imperialism while we engage it.

. . . The koinonia which is the church's proper life is two-way traffic, taking as well as giving, and it requires us both to share what resources of Christian insight we have and to take gratefully any further insights that others offer us. Only so can we avoid canonizing the clumsiness, blind spots and poverties of our own tradition, and thereby actually misrepresenting the content of the Gospel which we seek to make known.
Republished in Serving the People of God: Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, vol. 2, pp. 221, 222.

A Theology for the Church

In the mail this morning comes a new systematic theology textbook by a number of Southern Baptists. It's entitled A Theology for the Church, edited by Daniel Akin and published by B&H.

Major sections of this 992-page work include:
  1. The Doctrine of Revelation (with writings from Greg Thornbury, Russell Moore, David Dockery, David Nelson)
  2. The Doctrine of God (Timothy George, David Nelson, Peter Schemm)
  3. The Doctrine of Humanity (John Hammett, Stanton Norman)
  4. The Doctrine of Christ (Danny Akin, Paige Patterson)
  5. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Malcom Yarnell)
  6. The Doctrine of Salvation (Kenneth Keathley)
  7. The Doctrine of the Church (Mark Dever)
  8. The Doctrine of Last Things (Russell Moore)
  9. The Pastor as Theologian (conclusion by Al Mohler)
Each section seeks to answer the following questions:
  1. What does the Bible say? Each Christian doctrine is rooted in the Bible's own teaching in both the Old and New Testaments.
  2. What has the Church believed? Christians have interpreted these doctrines in somewhat different ways through the centuries.
  3. How do the doctrines fit together? Each Christian doctrine must cohere with the other doctrines.
  4. How does each doctrine impact the church today? Each Christian doctrine must be meaningful for today's church. It's sure to become a widely-used resource in systematic theology study.

Storms on "Signs of the Spirit"

Sam Storms begins a series of posts explaining why he wrote the book, Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards's "Religious Affections":

Because of the profound and truly life-changing influence that Edwards has exerted on me, I am quick to recommend his works to others, indeed, to everyone. This brings me to my defense of this interpretation of his treatise on the Affections. If it were the case that people heeded my advice, I would hardly have undertaken this project. Nothing grieves me more than to hear that yet another has started reading Edwards only to give up, frustrated by his style or overwhelmed by the complexity of his argumentation.

I can't begin to count the number of times I've been asked for recommended reading, have suggested Edwards, specifically the Religious Affections, only to be greeted with a contorted face or an embarrassed evasion that goes something like this: "Well, I tried reading Edwards. I really wanted to read the Affections, but after about 15 or 20 pages into it, I just quit. For whatever reason, I couldn't follow him. His style was aggravating and, well, to be honest, I just couldn't understand what he was saying."

Such confessions have come not simply from average lay folk, but from well-educated seminary graduates as well. Edwards' penchant for torturously complex sentence structure, together with the abundance of theological "bunny trails" that, at least initially, don't seem to contribute to the point he is making, have tested and all too often triumphed over the determination of even the most avid and intellectual of Christians.

For years I have taken the high ground when it comes to the reading of Edwards, refusing to yield to the insistent demand that someone "tweak his prose" or paraphrase his theological concepts. I have faithfully exhorted countless men and women, again and again, to renew their commitment to working through some of Edwards' more daunting treatises. "Your patience and perseverance will reap a bountiful harvest," I said, again and again, until blue in the face. Alas, to little (or no) avail, I've come to discover. Sure, there are a few, here and there, who've made their way through the Affections and were (justifiably) proud of it. But even in the majority of these cases, they aren't sure they understood, far less appreciated and embraced, what they had read.

I've worked my way through the Affections at least ten times, perhaps more, and I still struggle in places to make sense of him. I'm more than happy to attribute this failure to my shortcomings rather than his (indeed, I still hesitate, at times, to acknowledge that he had any shortcomings!). But I can no longer escape the conclusion that, no matter how passionately I exhort and encourage and rebuke and challenge people to read Edwards, no matter how exuberantly I promise them great treasure at the end of their labors, the vast majority of folk simply won't do it. Or they do it, for at most a few pages, and then set aside the book, forever convinced that Edwards is beyond their grasp. I wish it were otherwise. I pray that it were otherwise. But it isn't and, I fear, never will be.

The theology of Jonathan Edwards and his insight into the nature of religious experience are simply too important, too relevant, and too enriching to sacrifice on the altar of some lofty ideal that it is beneath his (and our) dignity to make his work accessible to a more general audience. I suppose I could go to my grave, proudly congratulating myself for not having yielded to the temptation to do what this book proposes. But I'd go there with the disturbing realization that other people are likewise going there without having reaped the eternal benefits of what Edwards had to say.

Let's be clear about something. I'm not advocating the "dumbing down" of Jonathan Edwards (or any aspect of the Christian faith). Yes, I would much prefer the "smarting up" of the Christian public, equipping them for the task of wrestling with this magnificent theological mind (and others as well). And I will continue to challenge believers of every age and educational background to think and dig deeply into the rich treasures of Christ, his Word, and the resources made available to his Church throughout the last two millennia. My prayer is that Signs of the Spirit will be a helpful tool in the pursuit of that goal.

Nevertheless, I suspect that on reading this many will come to me, protesting: "Sam, you're wrong! I read the Affections. I loved it. Yes, it was really hard, but my perseverance paid off." Praise God for every one of you. But for every one of you there are one-hundred others who tell a different story, whose encounter with Edwards was frustrating and embarrassing. It is for the latter that I wrote this book, not the former.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints

Registration is now open for the Desiring God 2007 National Conference, featuring:
  • John MacArthur
  • Jerry Bridges
  • Randy Alcorn
  • Helen Roseveare
  • John Piper

9 Marks Blog: Church Matters

The guys at 9 Marks are now blogging: The blog is called "Church Matters." Mark Dever contributes the opening post. Here's an excerpt:
This blog is dedicated to discussion of matters pertaining to the church because church matters. 9marks provides a basic framework that we can all agree on, but the discussion can push further on those points, or work out to other related issues.The discussion is a discussion between 14 friends (with maybe some more being added as we go). You can read the official biographies of the guys, but let me give my own spin to them introducing them to you. . . .

I'm going to try to kick this off over the next couple of weeks by doing a brief series of 10 influences that I think God has used to bring about the current resurgence of reformed theology among the young. Stay tuned!!

Wise Thoughts on Dawkins

Frank Beckwith examines Richard Dawkins's lament of the career of Harvard-educated, young-earth geologist Kurt Wise (who is now at Southern Seminary).

Lessons Learned from Ruth Graham

Think Christian reprints an excellent piece by Stephen Griffith entitled Lessons Learned from Ruth Graham. Griffith served through the years as her editor, agent, and book developer. It gives us a great window into her life.

The Difference between Justification and Sanctification

Tony Lane:
The Reformation doctrine makes a deliberate and systematic distinction between justification on the one hand and sanctification or regeneration on the other hand.
  • Justification refers to my status; sanctification to my state.
  • Justification is about God's attitude to me changing; sanctification is about God changing me.
  • Justification is about how God looks on me; sanctification is about what he does in me.
  • Justification is about Christ dying for my sins on the cross; sanctification is about Christ at work in me by the Holy Spirit changing my life.
The Reformers were careful to distinguish these two--but not to separate them. One cannot have one without the other--as with the heat and light of the sun. The sun gives out heat and light. These two cannot be separated. When the sun shines there is both heat and light; yet they are distinct and not to be confused. We are not warmed by the sun's light nor illumined by its heat. To use a modern illustration, justification and sanctification are like the two legs of a pair of trousers, not like two socks which may well become separated and, in the author's experience, too often do become separated.
Anthony N.S. Lane, Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue: An Evangelical Assessment, p. 18.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Welch: Read Job 38-42 Every Day for a Month

Ed Welch:
Apart from the giving of the law, God's longest speech in the entire Bible is in the last four chapters of Job. It is a speech intended to cause Job to grow even more in knowing God's greatness. If you read these chapters every day for a month you will find that they are a treatment for almost anything. Do you fear people? Are you suffering? Are you anxious? Depressed? Struggling with anger? Hard-hearted? listed to these questions from the mouth of God.
"Have you ever given orders to the morning?" (38:12)

"Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?" (38:17-18)

"Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, 'Here we are?'" (38:35)
The pace of God's questions is relentless. They leave you speechless. But they are graciously delivered to a righteous man who prizes the fear of the Lord above all else.
Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God Is Small, pp. 115-116

Ed Welch Blog Posts

Keith Plumer:
Ed Welch of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation has been blogging at the Society for Christian Psychology. If you're unfamiliar with Ed or the Society, you can learn more from this introductory post. Ed's contributions are as follows:

What is Biblical Counseling?

The Nature of Persons: Monism or Duality?

Further Thoughts about Emotions


Serial (Comma) Killer

IVP editor Andy Le Peau seeks to defend the indefensible.

Update: A colleague passes this along:
Interesting—we covered this at the copy editor workshop I just went to. The workshop leader presented this sample sentence (which she took from an actual book preface) that illustrates the potential confusion that could result from not using the serial comma: I’d like to thank my parents, Jesus and Ayn Rand.

In the Mail

Three books came in the mail today--each of them looks quite helpful:

1. The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine, by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath (IVP). It has a great front cover blurb by Michael Ruse: "The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why."

2. Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, by Timothy Paul Jones (IVP). Craig Blomberg calls it "an absolute must-read for anyone confused or taken in by the revisionist biblical historians of our day."

3. A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World, by Charles Drew. You can read online the Table of Contents | Introduction | Chapter 1. Here are some blurbs:

David Powlison (who wrote the foreword): "This book bids to teach you a new 'language' for thinking about your life and identity. . . . Listen well as you read. Think hard. Take it to heart. It will be a bit like watching as predawn darkness lightens and brightens into sunrise and then full day. A slow and quiet happening . . . mundane . . . and wonderful beyond telling when you think about it. This is a book to take slowly, so it sinks in."

Tim Keller: “Charles Drew has given us a great book to give away--especially to those who want a purpose-driven life and want to dig more deeply into the mysteries of that purpose. It is at once clear, personal, culturally up-to-date, and theologically rich-- a perfect combination. Drew takes us a step beyond the literature that is presently available on the subject. Highly recommended.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

Beckwith: Defending Life

Frank Beckwith, in the course of an interview largely about his conversion to Roman Catholicism, talks about his upcoming book on abortion. Having read and been significantly helped by his earlier book, Politically Correct Death, I'm looking forward to this one as well: This fall Cambridge University Press will be publishing your book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, which is described as "the most comprehensive defense of the prolife position on abortion ever published." Would you like to give it a shameless plug and tell readers what is unique about the book and what you hope to accomplish with it?

Dr. Beckwith: You gotta love publishers! Now to the shameless plug. Some of your readers may know of my 1993 book, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Argument for Abortion Rights (Baker Book House). Defending Life was originally going to be a revised edition of that book. But since so much has been written over the past decade on abortion, and because Politically Correct Death did not cover some issues and was a bit outdated, I decided to just write a whole new book. Defending Life covers not only the popular arguments for abortion, but also some of the most sophisticated cases offered by abortion-choice advocates in the academy. I deal extensively with the arguments of thinkers like David Boonin (author of A Defense of Abortion [Cambridge University Press, 2002]) and Judith Jarvis Thomson on issues of fetal personhood and the mother's obligation to her unborn child. But I also deal with the paucity of the legal case for Roe v. Wade, the cloning and stem-cell research debate, and whether prolife religious citizens have the right to shape laws in a liberal democracy, none of which I addressed in Politically Correct Death. Although Defending Life covers sophisticated arguments offered by professional philosophers and bioethicists, the publisher believes that because it is clearly written and includes sections on popular arguments, it will be marketing the book to an audience broader than academics and scholars. In fact, the publisher asked me to place the book's footnotes as endnotes in order to make the text attractive to non-scholars. I, of course, said yes.

What I hope to accomplish with the book is this: I want to offer my colleagues as well as the general public an intelligent, clearly articulated, and non-polemical defense of the prolife position on abortion that does not rely on theological or religious arguments. I also want to help college students and my friends in the prolife movement so that they are better equipped to deal with the best arguments offered by our fellow citizens who do not share our point of view.

Owen: "No Title to Life by Innocence"

John Owen:
There is yet something more required; it is not enough that we are not guilty, we must also be actually righteous--not only all sin is to be answered for, but all righteousness is to be fulfilled. By taking away the guilt of sin, we are as persons innocent; but something more is required to make us to be considered as persons obedient. I know nothing to teach me that an innocent person shall go to heaven, be rewarded, if he be no more but so. Adam was innocent at his first creation, but he was to "do this," to "keep the commandments," before he entered into "life:" he had no title to life by innocence. This, then, moreover, is required, that the whole law be fulfilled, and all the obedience performed that God requires at our hands. This is the soul's second inquiry; and it finds a resolution only in the Lord Christ: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). His death reconciled us; then are we saved by his life. The actual obedience which he yielded to the whole law of God, is that righteousness whereby we are saved; if so be we are found in him, not having on our own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil. 3:9).
John Owen, Communion with the Triune God

Quote of the Day (2)

"The amount of misrepresentation to which Calvin's theology has been subjected is enough to prove his doctrine of total depravity several times over."

J. I. Packer, "John Calvin and Reformed Europe," in Packer, Honouring the People of God, p. 19.

Quote of the Day (1)

From John Ensor, Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart:
Brothers, it falls to us to be the initial risk takers in matters of the heart. Headship means being the one to go ahead and ask. It is ours as men to suffer the embarrassment of rejection if need be. It is our role to initiate. Get to it right merrily. We are the hunters. They are the quarry. It is for men to strike out into the forest and look. It is for women to crack the twigs and stir the leaves so we know where to find them.
Cited by C. J. Mahaney at the New Attitude Conference. (Via Solo Femininity). For women who are interested, the GirlTalkers are blogging through this book chapter by chapter for their Book Club.

Study on the Role of Fathers

Al Mohler points to the research of W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia, who argues that fathers play an essential role in the raising of children.
His recent study, "Religion, Race, and Relationships in Urban America," suggests that fathers play a very important role in five specific domains of children's lives.

As Wilcox explains, fathers serve this unique role in providing financially for their children, protecting their children from abuse and neglect, teaching their children how to regulate their bodies and emotions through play, disciplining their children (especially boys), and modeling good male-female relationships to their sons and daughters.

Mohler cites four key findings from Wilcox's study:

  1. Boys who grow up with their fathers in an intact, married home are 50 percent less likely to end up in prison as young adults than children living in a single-parent or step-family.
  2. Children living with their fathers in an intact, married home are almost 50 percent less likely to be sexually abused than children living in a single-parent home.
  3. Girls who grow up apart from their fathers typically experience the onset of puberty at an earlier age and have sex at an earlier age than girls who grow up with their fathers in an intact, married home. They are also three times more likely to become young, unwed mothers.
  4. Communities with large numbers of fatherless households are significantly more likely to experience high levels of murder and robbery.
Joe Carter has cites a number of interesting statistics about the crucial role of fathers.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Packer on Lessons from Luther

Packer on lessons we can learn from Luther:
  1. The necessity of reformation when the church's outward form and life contradict the gospel, whether doctrinally or practically.
  2. The nature of reformation as spiritual renewal, wrought from within by the Word of God.
  3. The pastoral purpose that must govern church reorganization. Good church order is not an end in itself, but must be thought of as a means to the good of souls by inducing fellowship, edification, and holiness.
  4. The primacy of preaching and teaching the Word as the means to reformation. All Luther's emphasis was laid on teaching, by catechisms, sermons, books, and schools. This emphasis on Christian instruction was itself epoch-making.
  5. Piecemeal improvement is better than none: and it is better to carry out innovation in a slow and piecemeal fashion than to outstrip weak consciences and make them stumble.
  6. Patience is need by those who seek reformation: having set ourselves to teach the Word, we must wait for it to do its own God-appointed work. Only God can build up Zion, and he is not always in such a hurry as we are.
"Martin Luther," in Packer, Honouring the People of God, p. 12

Packer on Saving Faith

J. I. Packer, in an essay on "Justification in Protestant Theology":
Faith is a conscious acknowledgment of our own unrighteousness and ungodliness and on that basis a looking to Christ as our own righteousness, a clasping of him as the ring clasps the jewel (so Luther), a receiving of him as an empty vessel receives treasure (so Calvin), and a reverent, resolute reliance on the biblical promise of life though him for all who believe. Faith is our act, but not our work; it is an instrument of reception without being a means of merit; it is the work in us of the Holy Spirit, who both evokes it and through it ingrafts us into Christ in such a sense that we know at once the personal relationship of sinner to Saviour and disciple to Master and with that the dynamic relationship of resurrection life, communicated through the Spirit's indwelling. So faith takes, and rejoices, and hopes, and loves, and triumphs.
J. I. Packer, Honouring the People of God, p. 228.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Virtual Rome and Virtual Temple

The AP on Virtual Rome: "Computer experts on Monday unveiled a digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared at the peak of its power in A.D. 320 — what they called the largest and most complete simulation of a historic city ever created." The official site is at the University of Virginia's Rome Reborn 1.0.

A Jerusalem Reborn project is also under way, though its completion seems to be a long ways away. You can see the initial work being done on their construction of the second temple.

Speaking of Herod's Temple, one of the most helpful things on the web is this virtual reconstruction model from the Davidson Center. It allows you to "stand" in the temple court and have a look around. It will surely give you a new appreciation for the size and scope of the temple mount!

Boys to Men

Tony Woodlief, writing in the Wall Street Journal, reflects on what it means to be a man and what it means to raise boys. Conclusion:
The trick is not to squash the essence of boys, but to channel their natural wildness into manliness. And this is what keeps me awake at night, because it's going to take a miracle for someone like me, who grew up without meaningful male influence, who would be an embarrassment to Teddy Roosevelt, to raise three men. Along with learning what makes a good father, I face an added dilemma: How do I raise my sons to be better than their father?

What I'm discovering is that as I try to guide these ornery, wild-hearted little boys toward manhood, they are helping me become a better man, too. I love my sons without measure, and I want them to have the father I did not. As I stumble and sometimes fail, as I feign an interest in camping and construction and bugs, I become something better than I was.

Father's Day, in our house, won't entail golfing or napping or watching a game. I'll probably have to contend with some trapped and irritated reptile. There's that cannon made of PVC that my oldest boy has been pestering me to help him finish. And the youngest two boys are lately enamored of climbing onto furniture and blindsiding me with flying tackles. Father's Day is going to be exhausting. But it will be good, because in the midst of these trials and joys I find my answer to the essential question on Father's Day. What makes a good father? My sons.

How Missional Is Your Church?

Jonathan Dodsen, writing for the Acts 29 Network:

Moving from the theological tower to the church planting trenches, more than my clothing changed. This transition exposed me to the broken-in look of various theological concepts, notably the concept of being missional. As an interdisciplinary academic discipline, missional theology is incredibly robust. On a more pedestrian plane, the concept and practice of missional is, at times, a bit thin-blooded. If being missional is hot and hip among young evangelicals, it's blazing and blown-up among church planters. And I guess I am hot and hip, if in using the word missional we are referring to participating in the trans-historical, multi-cultural, global missio Dei. However, among many churches and church planters, broken-in missional fashion faces the danger of loosening from its theological stitching and consequently declining in its universal appeal.

Ed Stetzer has made a point of focusing on the cultural dimensions of being missional. In his opening chapter of Planting Missional Churches he writes: "The first major message of this book is to understand missional. Establishing a missional church means that you plant a church that is part of the culture you're seeking to reach" (latter emphasis added).[1] In fact, Stetzer links the missio Dei with missional cultural savvy: "a church or church planter who is missional is focused on God's mission (missio Dei), being aware of what God is doing in the culture and joining him in his work."[2] So, according to Stetzer, missional church plants are a part and aware of their target cultures-a thoroughly biblical idea.

However, while I agree that being missional includes being culturally alert and active, church planters often appropriate this idea monoculturally. Our notion of being culturally aware is often radically ethnocentric, primarily restricted to American culture. As missional people, we can become so committed to reaching our own culture that the cultures and peoples of the rest of the world end up taking a backseat. As a result, "missional" becomes a codeword for Western, ethnocentric, monocultural church planting, which leads to churches that aren't fully missional. In turn, this missional short-sightedness produces churches and disciples of Jesus that are not shaped by the insights and challenges of the global church.

Read the whole thing.

Paul Potts

Paul Potts is a mobile-phone salesman in South Wales. A very average guy who loves to sing, with a dream of being an opera singer.

You can watch below his moving audition and semi-final performance in the UK show, "Britain's Got Talent":

Friday, June 15, 2007

Harold O.J. Brown

From In the Light of the Gospel:
The BaylyBlog has asked for prayer for Haorld O. J. Brown, professor at RTS Charlotte. Here is the request:

Harold O. J. “Joe” Brown is near death. As you or Tim may know, he had cancer ten years ago which cost him an eye and affected his sinuses. It has returned now more in the throat area. He cannot speak or swallow and has a feeding tube in his stomach. They are contemplating further care in Chicago with his initial doctor but are not sure at this time if the extent of the current damage would make that wise. I have communicated a few times with him through email and have talked with his wife, Grace. Will you and your brother pray for this great man and his wife, Grace?

Update: From an email by Wayne Grudem (posted with permission:

I just learned this morning that Harold O. J. ("Joe") Brown, professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary - Charlotte, NC, and a long-time friend, is gravely ill. His cancer from several years ago has returned and a tumor is interfering with his breathing and speech, so that he has a breathing tube and a feeding tube. He is at home with hospice care. He is fully alert, but physically he is failing rapidly. He is 73 (his 74th birthday is coming on July 6).

Joe taught with me at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for many years, always a good and faithful friend, stalwart in defense of the truth, with a never-failing sense of humor (bursting forth in Latin as often as English). His prolific and erudite writings have advanced the work of the kingdom in several areas of theology and ethics, and he was a major intellectual and organizational force behind the pro-life movement in the United States from its beginning (together with Dr. C. Everett Koop he founded the Christian Action Council, now Care Net, in 1975). His excellent book Heresies (Doubleday, 1984) is (as far as I know) the definitive historical survey of the various false doctrines rejected by the church throughout 2000 years.

Please pray for God's comfort and strength for Joe and his wife Grace at this time. I phoned this morning and talked with Grace, then was also able to talk to Joe for a few minutes, reminding him of old times and telling him how thankful I am for his friendship and the testimony of his life. I could not understand his responses, but Grace said he was saying "Thank you, thank you."

Unborn in the USA

What started as a senior thesis in a filmmaking class at Rice University has turned into a documentary, Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion, that has unprecedented access to the pro-life movement, including groups like Focus on the Family and Justice for All.

The reviews seem fairly positive, many of them pointing to the evenhandedness of the directors:

Slate Magazine: "If I had to guess, I would say the filmmakers are challenging the pro-choice movement to recognize that its opponents are people of deep conviction, and to examine its own beliefs in the harshest possible light."

Slant Magazine: "Flmmakers Stephen Fell and Will Thompson, having gained unprecedented access to the inner workings of pro-life groups across the country, have created an ungainly, distracted, but nonetheless fair-minded look at people who actively work to chip away at Roe v. Wade. . . . Unborn in the USA will not change your mind about abortion, but it will make pro-choicers think differently about people who actively work to stop it from happening."

New York Magazine: "Where do Fell and Thompson stand? With the exception of one title card—in which they demolish a woman's emotional assertion that having an abortion gave her breast cancer—they are rigorously objective. I'm sad to say that through the eyes of the movie's subjects the pro-choice activists come off as glib, unfeeling, and profane. The most harrowing sequence is saved for the end: A young woman becomes so distraught by the sight of these pictures that she slaps the minister who engages her and is taken away in handcuffs. But whatever your views on abortion (mine are extremely tangled), you need to hear the subjects of this film, if only to be able to fight them more effectively."

New York Times: "The documentary 'Unborn in the USA' is billed as a rigorously objective look at the anti-abortion movement, and that's accurate — but only to a point. The people who are the filmmakers' subjects are passionate, sometimes intemperate and often in-your-face aggressive, and the movie's topic is a powder keg regardless."

TV Guide: "Fell and Thompson rarely introduce the voices of pro-choice advocates, allowing antiabortionists the chance to speak uninterrupted and, as often as not, hang themselves with their own ropes."

Interview with Joel Beeke

Martin Downes posts the first part of an interview with Joel Beeke. Here is an excerpt:
How should a minister keep his own heart, mind, and will from theological error?
  1. Keep yourself deeply immersed in the Scriptures, and pray daily to be willing to surrender all to their inerrant truth.
  2. Surround yourself with sound, godly colleagues and lay people who love you sufficiently to be honest with you, so that iron will sharpen iron.
  3. Read the best, sound, scriptural, classic books, especially those by the Reformers and Puritans, that address your mind with clarity, convict your conscience with poignancy, bend your wills with conviction, and move your feet with passion.
  4. Meditate on those truths preached that do your people the most good; in every case, you will discover that they are biblical truths.
  5. Develop the hide of a rhinoceros so that you won’t be tossed about with every criticism and wind of doctrine while maintaining the heart of a child, so that you will be a tender undershepherd to the needy.
Calvin said that ministers have two voices. One is for the sheep and the other for warding off the wolves. How have you struck the right balance in this regard in your pulpit ministry?
  1. Pray daily for biblical balance in all areas of ministry.
  2. Love your sheep. Love has a way of balancing out our often imbalanced personalities. Those in error can receive much more from a minister who obviously loves them than from one who comes across as combative.
  3. Be patient with your sheep. Be willing to teach them the same truth repeatedly, just as the Lord has done with you (cf. Phil. 3:1; 2 Peter 3:1–2).
  4. Let your “voice for the sheep“ always receive the primary accent of your ministry. Truth must ultimately be positive in nature to win the day with a congregation. Many ministers have focused too much on polemical and apologetical theology, often setting up and beating upon straw men in their congregation to the detriment of the flock. Polemics and apologetics must have the proper place of a minor accent in the ministry, so that no error is left unexposed. But the minister must expose error wisely, forthrightly, humbly, compellingly, not by lording it over the sheep (2 Tim. 4:1–2; 1 Pet. 5:2–3).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham (1920–2007)

Ruth Bell Graham celebrated her 87th birthday on June 10. On June 13, she slipped into a coma after a bout with pneumonia. Today, she went to be with the Lord. She was married to Billy Graham for 64 years.

I join others around the world in thanking God for a life well lived in quiet, unashamed, faithful service to the Lord and his kingdom.

In a prepared statement Billy Graham said:

Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team. No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support. I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together. We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven.

The following profile is found on the BGEA website:

Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, was born at Qingjiang, Kiangsu, China, on June 10, 1920, as Ruth McCue Bell. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. L. Nelson Bell, were medical missionaries at the Presbyterian Hospital 300 miles north of Shanghai. As a young girl there in the small hospital compound, Ruth first sensed the great calling to abandon all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Her childhood was spent on China's mission field with her parents and siblings Rosa, Virginia, and Clayton, surrounded by disease, despair, and the eventual disorder and chaos of civil wars. The suffering she observed only strengthened in her the conviction of mankind's need for the Savior. Until her early adult years, she dreamed of serving as a single missionary in a far corner of the world -- the mountainous nation of Tibet.

At the age of 13, Ruth was sent to boarding school in Pyongyang, in modern-day North Korea, where she studied for three years. Under terrible homesickness, Ruth learned to overcome the loneliness of being far from loved ones by taking care of the needs of others, a skill that would serve her well in the coming years.

Ruth completed her high school education in Montreat, North Carolina, while her parents were there on furlough. In the fall of 1937, she enrolled at Wheaton College, outside Chicago, Illinois, and three years later was introduced to "Preacher," the nickname other students gave the strapping Billy Graham from Charlotte, North Carolina.

The couple began courting, and so also began a struggle in Ruth between what she thought was her calling to the mission field and her blossoming love for the driven young evangelist. In late April 1941 after much struggling in prayer, Ruth realized her life's mission was to be bound up in Billy's passion for evangelism. Shortly after their graduation from Wheaton, the two were married in Montreat on August 13, 1943.

For a brief period, Ruth served as a pastor's wife in Western Springs, Illinois, before Billy moved on to serve as an evangelist with Youth for Christ; as president of Northwestern Schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and eventually as evangelist and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

With their increased time apart due to frequent preaching trips -- and with their first child on the way -- Ruth convinced Billy to move the family to Montreat, near her parents. Ruth's ministry flourished in the mountains of western North Carolina, where she built the family homestead and raised five children: Virginia (Gigi), Anne, Ruth, Franklin, and Nelson Edman (Ned). Ruth treasured her role as the strong woman behind "America's Pastor" and was Billy's closest confidant, most trusted advisor, and dearest friend. She loved to move behind the scenes, away from the spotlight, and helped him craft and research sermons and even books.

A gifted poet and writer herself, Ruth authored or coauthored 14 books, including Sitting by My Laughing Fire, Legacy of a Pack Rat, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, and One Wintry Night.

For lots of links and updates, go to CT's Liveblog where Ted Olsen is working overtime.