Saturday, September 29, 2007

Questions for Kids

Last night during the conversation with John Piper, John MacArthur, and me, Piper mentioned how helped he was by the kinds of questions that Rick Gamache (senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Fellowship) regularly asks his kids. Rick gave me permission to post them here:
  • How are your devotions?
  • What is God teaching you?
  • In your own words, what is the gospel?
  • Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?
  • Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
  • What’s daddy most passionate about?
  • Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
  • Are you aware of my love for you?
  • Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
  • Do you have any observations for me?
  • How am I doing as a dad?
  • How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?
  • Does my relationship with mom make you excited to be married?
  • (On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationship with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationship. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.)

Free Speech and Spineless Dives

An excellent article here by Jonah Goldberg on how "freedom of speech" includes not only the right to say certain things, but also the right not to say something and the right to criticize that speech.

When someone gives a controversial or offensive statement, defenders will often respond to critics by appealing to the fact that the person has a right to say it. Goldberg writes:
This whole line of argumentation is a sign of intellectual weakness or cowardice. Take, for example, that mossy cliché “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it!”

The only reasonable response is, “Who gives a rat’s patoot?” If I deny the reality of the Holocaust, or insist that “2 plus 2 equals a duck,” or that I can make ten-minute brownies in six minutes, responding that you may disagree with what I say but will defend my right to say it is a shabby way to sound courageous while actually taking a spineless dive. How brave of you to defend me from a threat that doesn’t exist while lamely avoiding actually challenging my statements.

Driscoll on "Vintage Jesus"

Mark Driscoll explains how you can get an early, discounted, signed copy of Vintage Jesus.

Religious Books Back on the Shelves in Prison

AP: "Religious materials are being returned to prison chapel libraries, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Thursday, confirming plans to modify a program designed to remove religious books and videos that could incite violence."

(HT: CT Liveblog)

An Interview with John Piper and John MacArthur

DG has posted the audio of Friday night's conversation.

Friday, September 28, 2007

DG LiveBlogging

Tyler Kenney will be blogging the DG conference this weekend at the DG blog.

They plan to post the audio for free within an hour of the completion of each session. You can view the schedule online.

Reformation 21: Forgiveness

The latest edition of Reformation 21 is now online.

The two features are Paul Helm's essay on Forgiveness, Guilt, and Harm, and a roundtable on the nature of forgiveness with Derek Thomas, Ligon Duncan, and me.

Church Planting

Al Mohler applauds the increased excitement over church, but also warns that we must not neglect the need to revitalize existing congregations. His conclusion:
The energy and commitment evident in the church planting movement should encourage all who long to see a new wave of evangelism throughout North America. But this movement must be driven by a robust New Testament ecclesiology and must be undergirded by an eager embrace of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. This movement must complement -- not castigate -- existing churches. Each needs the other, and both can learn from each other.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

YouVersion (a Bible Study interactive site) goes live this week.

Here's some more info on it.

DG Blogging

Just a heads up that I'm doing some guest-blogging over at the Desiring God blog this week and next. Posting will probably be lighter than usual here.

Review of "For Us and for Our Salvation"

David Mathis reviews Steve Nichols's new, excellent book, For Us and for Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church.

Pagitt Email

I deleted the post on "Two Gospels," because it involved my reprinting what I understand to be a private email from Doug Pagitt to a correspondent. I apologize for posting it here, as I think it violates the Golden Rule.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Covenant and Salvation

The third volume in Michael Horton's projected four-volume work on covenant and theology is now available. This entry deals with Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ.

Here are a couple of blurbs I've seen:

Michael Horton has done more to demonstrate the ongoing viability of Protestant orthodoxy for contemporary theological reflection than any other current writer. . . . Even those who are not inclined in Horton's direction will find in these pages a rich and sophisticated theological vision that is worthy of careful attention.

—John Franke, Professor of Theology, Biblical Seminary

With his covenantal account of union with Christ, Horton cuts through the false dichotomy between forensic and participatory accounts of salvation. In its place, Horton forges a stunning synthesis of biblical, historical, and systematic argumentation which puts the Reformed tradition in conversation with prominent voices in Radical Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the New Perspective on Paul. This weighty work has broad ecumenical implications for some of today’s most pressing theological issues.

—J. Todd Billings, Assistant Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI and author of Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: the Activity of Believers in Union with Christ

Christianity and Black America

Anthony Bradley explains why we need new theologians to save Christianity from dying in black America.

Update: Scott Clark at Westminster Seminary California weighs in. "Healing the breach between the blacks and whites within the Reformed communities is a big job. It calls for honesty and positive concrete steps. This scholarship is one, small concrete practical step. Can we do more? Yes, absolutely. Are we committed to taking those steps? Yes." Read the whole thing.

Wright's Politics

The Weekly Standard examines N. T. Wright's anti-war politics.

(HT: Denny Burk)

Waltke's OT Theology

Bruce Waltke's long-awaited, 1000-page, magnum opus--An Old Testament Theology--has finally been published by Zondervan.

You can read the table of contents and chapter 1 online.

Publisher's Description
The Old Testament is more than a religious history of the nation of Israel. It is more than a portrait gallery of heroes of the faith. It is even more than a theological and prophetic backdrop to the New Testament. Beyond these, the Old Testament is inspired revelation of the very nature, character, and works of God. As renowned Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke writes in the preface of this book, the Old Testament’s every sentence is “fraught with theology, worthy of reflection.”

This book is the result of decades of reflection informed by an extensive knowledge of the Hebrew language, the best of critical scholarship, a deep understanding of both the content and spirit of the Old Testament, and a thoroughly evangelical conviction. Taking a narrative, chronological approach to the text, Waltke employs rhetorical criticism to illuminate the theologies of the biblical narrators. Through careful study, he shows that the unifying theme of the Old Testament is the “breaking in of the kingdom of God.” This theme helps the reader better understand not only the Old Testament, but also the New Testament, the continuity of the entire Bible, and ultimately, God himself.

"Exegetically and theologically it is all pure gold, and every teacher of the Old Testament will gain new insights from working through it. It is a fitting crown to a very distinguished career." - J. I. Packer

"Bruce Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology is truly a great work from the hand and heart of a great evangelical biblical theologian. Bearing the marks not only of hard work and responsible exegesis, but also a lifetime of creative thought and reflection on central biblical texts, Waltke’s Theology will immediately join the ranks as the standard by which evangelical will measure all future publications in this field. " - John H. Sailhamer

"In An Old Testament Theology Bruce Waltke shares his lifetime of devout scholarly study of the Bible. He is a master interpreter, and all of us—scholars, clergy, and laypeople—benefit greatly from this tremendous insights into the text. This book is a must read for all who study the Old Testament. " - Tremper Longman III

(Westminster Bookstore is selling the book for 38% off.)


I recently received some CDs from Christianaudio and Hovel Publishing that I thought would be worth passing along:
Check out their site for a bevy of audio resources.

Ecclesiastes and the Problem of Pain

C. John ("Jack") Collins--OT professor and department chairman at Covenant Theological Seminary--once preached a sermon on Ecclesiastes 3 and the problem of pain after the loss of a child. I recommend reading it.

The sermon is helpful for thinking about God and pain in a fallen world, and is also helpful in thinking about how to read the book of Ecclesiastes.

What John Piper Said at His Granddaughter's Funeral

John Piper shares what it means to be Felicity's grandfather.

(Abraham Piper's colleague at DG, Tyler Kenney, wrote and posted a poem for Felicity this morning.)

God and Hillary

Michael Gerson writes in the Washington Post about Hillary Clinton's liberal Protestantism and how it might play out in the election.

The book he references is God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life, by Paul Kengor (author of God and Ronald Reagan; God and George W. Bush; and a professor of political science and director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College).

Crossway Book Report

The latest Crossway Book Report has just come out. You can download the whole thing as a PDF (450 KB). It features author interviews on the following books (the links below take you directly to the interview):
  1. The ESV Literary Study Bible
  2. Communion with the Triune God
  3. The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World
  4. He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
  5. Rethinking Worldview
  6. The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar
  7. The Call to Joy and Pain
  8. The Great Exchange

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pauline Scatology

Dan Wallace looks at some of Paul's colorful language that he used when the gospel was at stake.

DG Conference

This weekend I have the honor and privilege of once again leading the speaker Q&A time at the Desiring God conference. On Friday night I'll interview John MacArthur and John Piper. On Saturday afternoon I'll interview Randy Alcorn, Jerry Bridges, Helen Roseveare, and John Piper.

If you have questions you think I should ask, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.

Whether or not you are going to the conference, I think you’ll find the following DG Conference YouTube videos to be both instructive and edifying:

John Piper

Helen Roseveare (by Noel Piper)

Randy Alcorn

Jerry Bridges

Reading for New Believers

Tullian writes:
In response to my post a few days ago, A Small List of Good Books , some have asked me to provide a smaller list of books geared more specifically toward helping a young Christian grow in their understanding and application of the Christian faith. . . . Some of these are a bit more challenging than others, but I would strongly recommend that any new believer who is serious about growing in the Christian faith take two years to read each and every one of these books carefully. If you do, you’ll be glad.
His list is here.

Reading the Psalms

Lectures by Gordon Wenham on reading the Psalms:

The Gospel

This looks like a very helpful sermon from Denny Burk, entitled, The Gospel as the Power of God for Perseverance. Using 1 Cor. 15:1-8, he explains what the gospel is, what the gospel requires, and what the gospel does.

Monday, September 24, 2007

An Interview with Collin Hansen

Matt Hall interviews Collin Hansen about the Calvinistic resurgence among young American evangelicals.

Collin's book on this topic is due out from Crossway in the spring of 2008.

Evangelicals onTorture

In Books & Culture Keith Pavlischek examines the document, An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror, principally authored by David Gushee.

Pavlischek judges the document to be both superficial and incoherent.

A couple of years ago Joe Carter and I co-sponsored an online symposium on these issues, which you can find here.

Growing Up in Christ

Kevin Howard has written a book that he's posted online for free as a gift to the Church. It's called Growing Up in Christ: Biblical Teaching for New Believers.

Here are a couple of endorsements for it:
"Kevin Howard's book is doctrinally sound and communicates very well. I think it will have a broad use among Christians in high school youth groups and among new Christians of any age. It will give them a solid grounding in basic doctrine and, because of Kevin's experience in working with youth groups, will communicate effectively to that age group. It will also nourish their hearts and their walk with God as well as their minds."

Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible & Theology, Phoenix Seminary, AZ.

"Kevin Howard provides the church with a valuable tool for discipling new (and old!) believers with Growing Up in Christ: Biblical Teaching for New Believers. It is clear and concise, and it effectively introduces the reader to the basics of theology. Kevin has an eye both for the believer and the Word of God, and he successfully brings the two together. This is a fine work that I gladly commend to others."

Daniel L. Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC.


Adrian Warnock is blogging through Owen's Communion with the Triune God. Here are the posts thus far:

Respectable Sins

Tony Reinke reviews Jerry Bridges's new book, Respectable Sins.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Felicity Margaret Piper (2007)

John Piper posts about his granddaughter, who was due to be born this week--and was delivered stillborn on Saturday night at 11:54 PM.

Our prayers through tears tonight are with Abraham and Molly, John and Noel, and their entire family.

Revelation 22:20-21.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Gospel and the Jena 6

Pastor Lance Lewis offers some reflections on questions to ask and things to think about in connection with the civil rights unrest in Louisiana. Here's the conclusion:
Finally brothers, what is our responsibility to navigate the rough rapids of race in a way that demonstrates our unity, promotes the gospel, honors Jesus Christ and helps our society through this contentious issue? Will we just stand by, take our respective sides and watch our society continue to stumble in the haze of hostility or will we stand out, speak humbly and live boldly by standing side by side demonstrating the gospel’s power to bring unity despite our differences.

Question Authority?

An excellent article here by Thabiti Anyabwile on the meaning of authority and how we live in light of it.

Conferences in the Midwest

The Northbrook Conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (October 8-9) is going to have a 9Marks workshop on what it means biblically to be a church the displays the gospel.

And Omaha Bible Church will host a conference with Don Whitney (October 20) on Sharpening Your Spiritual Focus.

John Stackhouse Is Not in Love with Jesus

He explains why here.

(HT: Unashamed Workman)

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism

Mark Dever's important new work, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism , is now available. I previously posted an excerpt from C. J. Mahaney's foreword, but it may be worth reprinting the entire thing to explain the genesis of this book and why it is needed:
One of the first things I discovered about my very good friend Mark Dever is that he walks as fast as he talks. It was over ten years ago that I drove from my home church in the suburbs of Washington DC to meet Mark at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, where he serves as senior pastor. It was a pleasant day, so Mark suggested we walk the short distance from his church’s historic building to a nearby Subway restaurant. Even though I usually walk at a brisk pace myself, I had trouble keeping up with Mark.

Moments before entering the fast-food establishment, Mark explained that he ate there often, not because of the fine cuisine, but for the purpose of sharing the gospel. Inside, he greeted the owners—a Muslim couple from India—by name and engaged them in friendly conversation. As we sat down, I began to quiz Mark about his heart for unbelievers and his strategy for sharing the gospel. He told me that he intentionally frequents the same restaurants and businesses
so he can develop relationships and hopefully create evangelistic opportunities.

Since that day, I’ve attempted to follow Mark’s example and had the joy of sharing the good news with many people I meet along the seemingly uneventful route of daily life.

If you, like me, have walked through entire days unconcerned and unaware of the lost sinners all around you, or if you desire to share the gospel but are unsure how to build a relationship or start a conversation, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism will encourage and equip you. As you read, you will catch Mark’s contagious passion to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and receive practical instruction in personal evangelism.

While this book is for all Christians, it is also a gift to pastors. Cultivating evangelism in the local church is one of a pastor’s most important responsibilities and difficult challenges. Perhaps the most difficult. However, through the pages of The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Mark’s wisdom, teaching, and experience will support you in this vital work of ministry.

That’s why, for many years now, I’ve been pestering Mark to write this book. It’s so that by the grace of God, church members and pastors and you and I will notice those we once ignored. It’s so that we will befriend sinners who are without hope and without God. It’s so that we will share with them the good news of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. It’s so that someday those lost souls might turn from their sins and trust in the Savior’s death and resurrection on their behalf. And then, there will be some serious rejoicing—on earth and in heaven (Luke 15:10)!

Mark, thank you for writing The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. Thank you even more for your compelling example of compassion for the lost and for your faithfulness to proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified. May there be many gospel conversations and abundant evangelistic fruit as a result of this book.

I’m looking forward to our next lunch together, my friend. Let’s walk to Subway.

C.J. Mahaney
Dever's chapters are organized around seven questions:
  1. Why Don't We Evangelize?
  2. What Is the Gospel?
  3. Who Should Evangelize?
  4. How Should We Evangelize?
  5. What Isn't Evangelism?
  6. What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
  7. Why Should We Evangelize?
In February 2006 Dever delivered a number of messages on evangelism at Sovereign Grace's Pastors College Evangelism Conference. These four talks are available as free MP3 downloads.
You can also download for free the message that the book is based on: The Gospel and Evangelism.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Driscoll Profile in Christianity Today

Collin Hansen profiles Mark Driscoll in the latest issue of CT.

Christian Books and Prison

Read this post by Mark Earley of Prison Fellowship. In response to legitimate concerns about prison libraries containing violent or extremist literature, the government has overreacted, declaring that prison libraries can only contain 150 government-approved religious books. (No doubt, as Doug Groothuis points out, the Koran is on that approved list!)

I'm not usually the write-your-represntative-today-about-this-issue sort of guy, but in this case--for the sake of edifying our brothers and sisters in prison, and for the sake of evangelism--I think this is a cause worth writing about.

For help, go to Prison Fellowship's Legislative Action Center.

"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (Heb. 13:3).

HT: Doug Groothuis

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"In a Little While" CD

From the Sovereign Grace e-newsletter:
In a Little While, the newest CD from Sovereign Grace Music, is now available in digital form. Our first father-son album, In a Little While features twelve songs for worship, written and sung by Mark Altrogge and his son, Stephen. You can download the entire album ($10.00) or choose your favorite tracks ($0.99 each). (Please note, however, that the reprise of "Whatever My God Ordains Is Right" is available only as a bonus track with the downloadable album.) Plus, you can listen to song samples, download lyrics and sheet music, or purchase accompaniment tracks.
Tim Challies recently interviewed the Altrogges about this project.

Friendship and the Gospel

At Emergent Village, under the FAQ on their beliefs, they write:
We believe in God, beauty, future, and hope – but you won’t find a traditional statement of faith here. We don’t have a problem with faith, but with statements (read more here). Whereas statements of faith and doctrine have a tendency to stifle friendships, we hope to further conversation and action around the things of God.
In his chapter for the forthcoming book The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, John Piper responds:
I have two responses to this. One is to ask: Are there any statements which, if your friend really believes them, will destroy him? Statements perhaps like, “Jesus is not God.” Or, “God is unjust.” Or, “Jesus did not die for our sins.” Or, “I don’t need to trust Jesus to escape God’s wrath.” And if there are statements which, really believed, will destroy your friend, then denying those life-destroying statements and writing down the ones that lead to everlasting joy would sustain, not stifle, friendship.

The other response is to recall the distinction C. S. Lewis made between the love of romance and the love of friendship.

Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest” (C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves [London: Collins Fontana Books, 1960], 58.
In other words, in romance, two sit across from each other and tell each other how much they like about each other. In friendship, they don’t face each other, but stand shoulder to shoulder, facing a common challenge or a shared beauty or a great God.

For Lewis—and I think this is close to the biblical understanding of friendship—the greater the shared vision and the shared joy in that vision, the deeper the friendship. It’s true; there is a risk that when you make a statement of faith about what you see in God, someone will turn away and say, “I don’t see it,” or, “I don’t like it.” At that point, courtesy and tolerance are possible, but not any deep friendship.

It seems to me that the “emergent” ethos uproots friendship from the solid ground of biblical doctrine, and therefore preserves it in the short run as a cut flower. But in the long run, without the roots in shared biblical truth, it will not be able to weather the storms that are coming. And worse, while it lasts, it does not display the worth of God because it is not rooted in a true vision of his character and work.

The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Friendship hangs on believing the same gospel. The main joy of God-glorifying friendship is joy in a common vision of God.

Coming at the issue of friendship from a broader perspective, Sean Michael Lucas has recently been doing some posts pointing toward a theology of friendship: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Interview with Leland Ryken

Tony Reinke interviews Leland Ryken about the forthcoming Literary Study Bible (due out at the end of the month from Crossway).

Helpful Perspective on Global Warming

Pete Du Pont summarizes Danish scholar Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist and his most recent book, Cool It.

Science writer Michael Crichton has written: "Bjørn Lomborg is the best-informed and most humane advocate for environmental change in the world today. . . .Lomborg and Cool It are our best guides to our shared environmental future."

If you want a 15-minute overview of Lomberg's perspective, see this video:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good Reading for Growing in the Faith

Tullian Tchividjian provides a small list of good books for young believers. (These are great books for old believers, too, I might add!)

Crossway Photo Tour

If you've ever wondered what Crossway Books--and yes, my office--look like, Tony Reinke recently snapped a few shots.

T4G Ad #4

Transracial Adoption and the Gospel

Dan Cruver has an excellent interview with Thabiti Anyabwile on transracial adoption and the gospel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Crying for Justice

I recently saw that Peter Leithart referred to John Day's Crying for Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us about Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism as the definitive treatment on the imprecatory psalms, and also wrote that the book was "balanced, meticulous, and convincing."

Here are a few notes I took on some of the book's major principles:

Day's Thesis

“In circumstances of sustained injustice, hardened enmity, and gross oppression, it has always been appropriate for a believer to utter imprecations against enemies or to appeal for the onslaught of divine vengeance. In certain instances today, appeals to God for his curse or vengeance are fitting” (pp. 15-16). “It is legitimate at times for God’s present people to utter prayers of imprecation or pleas for divine vengeance—like those in the psalms—against the recalcitrant enemies of God and his people. Such expression is consistent with the ethics of the Old Testament and finds corresponding echo in the New” (p. 109).

Three Groups of Imprecatory Psalms

1. Imprecation against societal enemy (58; 94)
2. Imprecation against nation or community (68; 74; 79; 83; 129; 137)
3. Imprecation against personal enemy (5; 6; 7; 9; 10; 17; 28; 31; 35; 40; 52; 54; 55; 56; 59; 69; 70; 71; 104; 109; 139; 140; 141; 143)

Three Major Solutions

1. Imprecatory psalms express evil emotions that should be suppressed or confessed as sin (C. S. Lewis, Walter Brueggemann).
2. They are utterances consonant with old covenant morality but inconsistent with new covenant ethics (Roy Zuck, J. Carl Laney, Meredith Kline).
3. Such words may be appropriately spoken only by Christ in relation to his work on the cross and only by his followers through him (James Adams, Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

Why These Solutions Are Unsatisfactory

1. The first position fails to adequately account for the imprecatory psalms being inspired by God and the profusion of imprecations in the psalms, which were incorporated in the canon. It also does not sufficiently address the piety of the psalmists and their ethical rationale, the legitimacy of their utterance in light of their OT theological foundations, and the presence of similar imprecations in the NT.

2. The second position overly restricts the definition of love and minimizes the fundamental ethical continuity between the testaments in the outworking of progressive revelation. It does not sufficiently account for the enduring validity of the Abrahamic promise or the presence of personalized imprecations in the NT.

3. The third position overstates David’s position and function as a type of Christ, understates the reality of the historical situations that evoke the utterances, and evades the problem that David did not write all of the imprecatory psalms, let alone the other imprecations in Scripture.

In sum, these three perspectives all share the same fatal flaw: “each explanation ends up distancing the imprecatory psalms from legitimate prayers of God’s people today. This distance is fundamentally foreign to the use of the psalms as they were passed down through history. Indeed, the Psalter in its entirety was incorporated into the Christian canon with the tacit affirmation that it remained a book of worship for God’s people” (p. 35).

Foundations for Imprecation

The foundations for imprecation come most notably from:

1. The promise of divine vengeance in the Song of Moses (Deut. 32:1-43).

2. The principle of divine justice in the lex talionis (e.g., Deut. 19:16-21)

3. The promise of divine cursing in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:2-3).

How Can It Be Right for Christians to Cry Out for Divine Vengeance and Violence, as in the Imprecatory Psalms?

1. The vengeance appealed for is not personally enacted. Rather, God is called upon to be the Avenger.

2. This appeal is based upon the covenant promises of God, most notable of which are “He who curses you, I will curse” (Gen. 12:30, and “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Deut. 32:35). If God has so promised, then it would not seem wrong for his people to petition him (even passionately) to fulfill these promises.

3. Both testaments record examples of God’s people on earth calling down curses or crying for vengeance. Yet there is no literary or theological intimation of divine disapproval over such sentiments being expressed. Indeed, the implication is that, in its appropriate place, such utterances are commendable (cf. the imprecatory psalms and the Pauline and Petrine curses of Gal. 1:8-9 and Acts 8:20).

4. Scripture further records an instance in which God’s people in heaven, where there is no sin, cry out for divine vengeance and are comforted by the assurance of its impending enactment (Rev. 6:9-11). Since these martyred saints are perfected, their entreaty would presumably be “right.”

New Testament

The NT data speaks in two directions:

1. The ethic of enemy-love and blessing is indeed intensified, and the implications of that ethic are more extensively explored and applied.

2. The presence of justified imprecation also insists that, in some fashion, the utterance of imprecation remains allowable within this elevated ethic of enemy-love and blessing, as it did in the imprecatory psalms.

In the Scriptures of both testaments two reactions toward enmity are given:

1. The characteristic virtue of love shown by God and his people

2. The other ethical response is for extreme instances, used when God’s people face sustained injustice, hardened enmity, and gross oppression.


CT lists some podcasts on religion that might be worth listening to.

Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics

I know these posts are on the imprecatory psalms are raising good, hard questions. I'd recommend reading John Day's article, The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics, then his book, Crying for Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us About Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism.

Luther on Imprecation

"We should pray that our enemies be converted and become our friends and, if not, that their doing and designing be bound to fail and have no success and that their persons perish rather than the Gospel and the kingdom of Christ."

Martin Luther, Luther's Works, vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat, ed. J. Pelikan, A. T. W. Steinhaeuser (St. Louis: Concordia, 1956), p. 1100.

Carson on Contextualization

The following was in an email from D.A. Carson to Mark Driscoll, as cited in Driscoll's chapter ("The Church and the Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World") in the forthcoming book, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World:
Paul refuses to circumcise Titus, even when it was demanded by many in the Jerusalem crowd, not because it didn’t matter to them, but because it mattered so much that if he acquiesced, he would have been giving the impression that faith in Jesus is not enough for salvation: one has to become a Jew first, before one can become a Christian. That would jeopardize the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus.

To create a contemporary analogy: If I’m called to preach the gospel among a lot of people who are cultural teetotallers, I’ll give up alcohol for the sake of the gospel. But if they start saying, “You cannot be a Christian and drink alcohol,” I’ll reply, “Pass the port” or “I’ll think I’ll have a glass of Beaujolais with my meal.” Paul is flexible and therefore prepared to circumcise Timothy when the exclusive sufficiency of Christ is not at stake and when a little cultural accommodation will advance the gospel; he is rigidly inflexible and therefore refuses to circumcise Titus when people are saying that Gentiles must be circumcised and become Jews to accept the Jewish Messiah.
Driscoll also offers a crucial distinction, again from the pen of Carson: "No truth which human beings may articulate can ever be articulated in a culture-transcending way—but that does not mean that the truth thus articulated does not transcend culture."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Explaining the Imprecatory Psalms to a Child

How would you explain the imprecatory psalms to a child? Here is F. G. Hibbard's account:
I happened to be reading one of the one imprecatory psalms [in family worship], and as I paused to remark, my little boy, a lad of ten years, asked with some earnestness: "Father, do you think it right for a good man to pray for the destruction of his enemies like that?" and at the same time referred me to Christ as praying for his enemies. I paused a moment to know how to shape the reply so as to fully meet and satisfy his enquiry, and then said, "My son, if an assassin should enter the house by night, and murder your mother, and then escape, and the sheriff and citizens were all out in pursuit, trying to catch him, would you not pray to God that they might succeed and arrest him, and that he might be brought to justice?" "Oh yes!" said he, "but I never saw it so before. I did not know that that was the meaning of these Psalms." "Yes," said I, "my son, the men against whom David prayers were bloody men, men of falsehood and crime, enemies to the peace of society, seeking his own life, and unless they were arrested and their wicked devices defeated, many innocent persons must suffer." The explanation perfectly satisfied his mind.
F. G. Hibbard, The Psalms Chronologically Arranged, with Historical Introductions; and a General Introduction to the Whole Book, 5th ed. (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1856), 120. Cited in John N. Day, Crying for Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us About Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism.

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin / Love the Sinner, Hate the Sinner

Is our theology sufficiently biblical to understand statements where God not only hates the sin, but also is said to hate the sinner (see, for example, Ps. 11:5-6)?

I think we can find some wise counsel in an article by John McKenzie written over 60 years ago. He writes:
There is a lawful hatred of the sinner; and indeed there must be, since such a hatred is the obverse of the love of God. The love of God hates all that is opposed to God; and sinners--not merely sin--are opposed to God. And if such a sentiment is lawful, its expression is lawful; and one may desire that the evil in another receive its corresponding evil--provided that this hatred is restrained within the limits of that which is lawful. These limits are:

1. Hatred must not be directed at the person of one's neighbor; he is hated for his evil quality.

2. One may desire that the divine justice be accomplished in the sinner; but it must be a desire for divine justice, not a desire for the personal evil of another out of personal revenge.

3. The infliction of evil may not be desired absolutely, but only under the condition that the sinner remains obdurate and unrepentant.

4. It must be accompanied by that true supernatural charity which efficaciously desires the supreme good--the eternal happiness--of all men in general, not excluding any individual who is capable of attaining it. In a word, the sinner may lawfully be hated only when he is loved.
John L. McKenzie, "The Imprecations of the Psalter." American Ecclesiastical Review 111 (1944): 91. Cited in John N. Day, Crying for Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us About Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism.

Read-n-Grow Picture Bible

Someone recently asked by email if there were any other children's story Bibles I would recommend besides The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible. I think all families should own both of these books: the former gives a good framework for biblical theology (God's people in God's place under God's rule); the latter gives a good understanding of how all of Scripture testifies to Christ.

If I had to add another book to this list, it'd be the Read-n-Grow Picture Bible. It contains 1,872 drawings, arranged in a comic-book style arrangement--but the pictures are quite serious. They accurately reflect the culture and the storyline of the major stories. (For example, tonight I read my daughter the David and Goliath story and it showed Golitah decapitated!)

It's one of the best things I know of to convey the main points of all the major stories in a concise, accurate way.

Beeke in Chicagoland

Next Saturday, September 22, the Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church of Prairie View (Lincolnshire/Buffalo Grove area) is hosting a conference with Dr. Joel Beeke of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. The conference theme is "Holiness." It runs from 9:30am to 2:30pm.

Dr. Beeke is a treasure to the church; if you're in the area, this conference would definitely be worth your time. For more info, click here.

CBMW Website and Blog

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) has just relaunched their website, and it looks great. Go to

Also note their new Gender Blog (subscribe).

The CBMW folks are doing important, if not always popular work, so I encourage you to check out these sites and the number of free and helpful resources they provide.

If you're new to the debate between complementarianism and egalitarianism, see this helpful overview by Bruce Ware.


Tony Reinke was sneaking around the Crossway offices the other day and caught a picture of me with my favorite confidant and dialogue partner.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Touchstone Forum on Evangelicalism

Touchstone Magazine (forthcoming November issue) recently posed the following questions to Russell Moore, John Franke, Darryl Hart, Michael Horton, David Lyle Jeffrey, and Denny Burk:
  • “How do you define ‘Evangelical,’ in a way that distinguishes Evangelicals from other believing Christians? And has this definition changed over the last several decades?”
  • “Has Evangelicalism matured since the 1950s, and if so in what ways?”
  • “Has it lost anything in the process of maturing (if it did)?”
  • “Are there any fundamental differences within the Evangelical movement today, and do you think they will deepen into permanent divisions, or even have already? How might they be healed?”
  • “What does your movement, speaking generally, fail to see that it ought to see?”
  • “What would you say to an Evangelical tempted to become Catholic or Orthodox?”
  • “What has Evangelicalism to offer the wider world that it will find nowhere else?”
  • “What else would you like to say?”

Unfortunately, none of this will be made available on the web! (Bah humbug.) You can subscribe to the dead-tree version here.

(HT: Denny Burk)

Two Kinds of Dogmatists

"There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic."
--G. K. Chesteron, Generally Speaking, 22.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Truths We Confess: A Layman's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith

R. C. Sproul's trilogy on the Westminster Confession of Faith is now complete.

Volume 1
is on The Triune God; volume 2 is on Salvation and the Christian Life; volume 3 is on the State, the Family, the Church, and Last Things.

Some sample chapters are available; you can read Sproul on the holy Scripture (ch. 1 of WCF), free will (ch. 9 of WCF), the civil magistrate (ch. 23 of WCF).

Federal Vision

If you want some in-depth discussion about the Federal Vision and Reformed theology, it seems like the site De Regno Christi is the place to watch from Sept. 17 through Oct. 5.

They plan to discuss the following topics:
  • What is the problem in Reformed Christianity that Federal Vision is trying to fix?
  • Is it a real problem, and, if so, did/does the FV address it adequately?
  • If FV is inadequate, what alternative plan for addressing the problem do FV critics propose.

Participants include Richard Gamble, Peter Leithart, D. G. Hart, Douglas Wilson, John Muether, and Richard Lints.

(HT: James Grant)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Boyd Luter Repents . . .

. . . not for midwifing and publishing gossip and vague accusations, but rather for not insulating his anonymous professor friend from feedback and criticism.

Strange and sad. May God grant true repentance.

Kline for Dummies

Lee Irons is a very helpful interpreter and popularizer of Meredith Kline's biblical theology.

He's recently started blogging through Kline's By Oath Consigned. Thus far he's written on the introduction and the first two chapters.

(The title of this post is not meant to be condescending--it's a description of what I need!)

The Hansen Files

No, that's not CT's name for it, but that's what I'm christening it.

Here is Collin Hansen's latest web roundup.

The Closing of the American Mind: 20 Years Later

This year is the twentieth anniversary of Allan Bloom's bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind.

Here are some essays on how the book has stood up, 20 years later. The first three were published as part of a symposium for The Intercollegiate Review. The fourth was delivered at a conference on the book at Princeton and published by National Review.

The University Possessed (R. V. Young)

The Socratic Philosopher and the American Individual (Peter Augustine Lawler)

Recovering the Western Soul (Wilfred McClay)

Closing, Still Open (Stanley Kurtz)

Blog Review Opportunity

If you would like the opportunity to preview, review, and receive a free copy of John Owen's Communion with the Triune God--here's how:

1. Send an email to blogbookreviews [at], indicating that you want to review the book on your blog.

2. Crossway will email you a PDF of the book. They won't send out any more PDFs after October 1, however.

3. Write your blog review and cross-post it at

4. Send Crossway the link to your blog review, along with your snail-mail address, and they'll send you a free hardcopy of the book.

Christians Dating Outside the Fold

Naomi Schaeffer Riley has an article in today's WSJ on Christians dating non-Christians.

National Resurgence Conference 2008: Text & Context

Click here for more information on the Resurgence conference, Feb. 24-27 in Seattle.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The 2007 ETS program is now online (PDF).

(HT: Denny Burk)

Interview with Derek Thomas on Owen

Tony Reinke interviews Derek Thomas about John Owen and communion with God.

T4G Ad #3

Mohler's Motives and Ministry

Hershael York pens a must-read piece about the gossipy, cowardly attacks on Dr. Mohler by Boyd Luter and his anonymous friend.

Conclusion: "Little men with lots of time find it easy to discover faults in great men with little time."

But really do read the whole thing.

(HT: Scott Lamb)

Anonymity, Cowardice, Sin, and the SBC

I thank God for Tom Ascol.

Yesterday Boyd Luter--a pastor, author, adjunct professor at Liberty Seminary, and (in a stroke of irony) proprietor of a blog entitled Agree to Disagree Agreeably: Playing Nice While Blogging about Frustrating Issues--posted an anonymous letter from an SBC professor to the board of trustees containing a scurrilous attack on Paige Patterson and Al Mohler. Offering an anonymous public accusation of this nature is clearly unbiblical and a profound act of cowardice.

Ascol writes, in part:
After reading and rereading your letter what has become sadly obvious to me is that it demonstrates little understanding of biblical integrity and boldness. The accusations that you make under the cover of anonymity lack courage, plain and simple. You admit your reason, as if doing so justifies your action and alleviates your cowardly action. . . .

Your admission is an indictment of your failure of nerve. You have decided that maintaining a paycheck is more valuable than directly engaging the issues that cause you concern. So, rather than honor Jesus Christ in handling your concerns the way the Bible says to handle them, you sit in the shadows, under the cover of darkness and work like a sniper. Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15-18, and Paul's example in Galatians 2:11-21 all rebuke your way of handling your concerns.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Good Blog Advice

Dean Barnett: "I urge all beginning bloggers to wait a half hour after they’ve finished writing something to then decide whether or not they really want to hit that 'post' button."

Invitation to Biblical Hebrew

Jim Hamilton reviews Fuller and Choi's Invitation to Biblical Hebrew.

Preaching for Application

When Mark Dever prepares to preach, he takes the main points of his sermon and asks how each of them related to the following categories:

Unique Salvation History – What about the passage is important for the way God unfolds his plan of salvation in history? What’s unrepeatable by us but worthy of worshiping God for?

Non-Christian – How does the passage speak to the unbeliever? How does it call him/her to repentance and belief? How does it warn, rebuke, correct, or prod the unbeliever? What does it say about the danger of the unbeliever’s situation, the exclusivity of Christ, the sinner’s need for a Savior, or the sufficiency of that Savior as a substitute for the sinner?

Public – What does the passage say about our lives and roles in the public sphere, both as Christians and non-Christians (e.g., government, neighborhood)?

Christ – How is Jesus foreshadowed or typed? What particular perfection of Christ does that type depict? How is Jesus remembered or described in character, authority, glory, or essence?

Christian – What does the passage mean for the life of the individual Christian? How does it call him/her to deeper repentance and belief? How does it warn, rebuke, correct, motivate, comfort, or encourage the Christian?

Capitol Hill Baptist – What does the passage mean for the corporate life of our local church? How does it call the local corporate body to tend to its corporate life together and corporate witness to the unbelieving community around it?

At the 9Marks site they have posted a sample of this "application grid" from a sermon Dever delivered on Mark. They have also posted a blank one if you want to try it at home! (Obviously this is useful for preachers, but there's no reason it cannot also be incorporated into personal devotions and study.)

Mohler on Reading

Al Mohler has a great post on reading. This was a particularly enjoyable line: "I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. [Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here.] I remember the books -- do you remember the games?"

He offers some initial suggestions on reading:

1. Maintain regular reading projects.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture.

3. Read all the titles written by some authors.

4. Get some big sets and read them through.

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books.

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them yours.

Make sure to read the whole thing to see how he fleshes this out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Communion with the Triune God

Tony Reinke offers a preview of Communion with the Triune God.


What is "Ramadan"? According to Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb's book, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross, "Followers of Muhammad commemorate his receiving of the Qur'an by fasting in the ninth lunar month of Ramadan. They are expected to refrain from eating food during the daylight hours for this entire month. However, they are allowed to eat from sunset to sunrise during this time." For more info, see the Wikipedia article on Ramadan.

Ramadan begins this Thursday (Sept. 13).

Something you can do during this time is to use these 30 days of Ramadan to make Muslims a special focus of your prayer life. To assist with this, a website called 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World has some helpful resources.

In particular, you can download for free (or pay to order) their "50 page, illustrated prayer guide booklet [that] contains insight, prayer points and background articles."

Here's the link to a PDF of the booklet: 2007 30-Days Prayer Booklet.

They also have a version for kids, which is 36 pages, fully illustrated, and contains puzzles and solutions: 2007 Kids Edition.

A friend recently alerted me to this, but closed his email with this warning:
You should be warned that praying through this book could forever change your life. It was in 1997 when a friend first gave me the 30 days of prayer for Muslims during Ramadan. At the beginning of the month I didn’t care about Muslims anymore than I cared about other lost people. Thirty days later my heart was on fire to see Jesus glorified among Muslim peoples. I hope yours will be too!

Humble Orthodoxy

The New Attitude blog has recently been relaunched, and a number of us have written on our understanding of "humble orthodoxy."

John Webster on "Communion with the Triune God"

“Owen’s exceptional work is partly a biblical and dogmatic treatise, partly a searching reflection on the practice of fellowship with the triune God. This new edition deserves to claim many new readers for a classic of Protestant practical divinity.”
—John Webster, Chair of Systematic Theology, King’s College, University of Aberdeen

God, Politics, and Politicians

Al Mohler asks (and answers): "How are we to think about the religious commitments of political candidates? Are their actual beliefs off-limits in terms of public policy?"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Literary Study Bible

From the ESV blog comes a link to a talk from Dr. Leland Ryken on the Bible as literature, as well as a link to the new official Literary Study Bible site.

Download a 39-minute MP3 from Dr. Ryken’s topic is “Words of Delight: The Bible as Literature.” It’s a good introduction to the literary aspects of the Bible, especially if you never had the privilege of taking his Literature of the Bible course at Wheaton College. Dr. Ryken’s trademark wit comes across particularly well at several points.

(The site may ask you to register; press the “Later” button if you’re not inclined.) also has several other lectures by Dr. Ryken, including one about Bible translations and one about Puritan views of the Bible.

Dr. Ryken is a general editor for the forthcoming ESV Literary Study Bible. (Is that a new website devoted to the Literary Study Bible? Yes, it is.)

Epistemology 101

I may have posted this before, but I was re-reading John Frame's review of Esther Meeks's book, Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People, and thought it would be worth highlighting an excerpt:
This is a terrific book. I can’t begin in a short review to illustrate adequately the beauty of its writing and the cogency of its reasoning. But let me just say that I have never read a serious philosophical work (and this surely is one) that is as eloquently and delightfully expressed. Meek has a wonderful gift of illustration. Analogies and pictures fly from her mind like drops of water from a great fountain. Every page contains two or three of them, so there must be hundreds in this book. You’ll read about kitchen tables, golf games, copperhead snakes, children, weddings, on and on, as Meek seeks to show us how knowing happens in all the ordinary experiences of life. . . .

. . . . All in all, this is the best book on epistemology (let alone Christian epistemology) to come along in many, many years. It is a must for any serious student of the discipline and, indeed, for ordinary people who are trying to get clear on how to know God.

The Case Against Adolescence

Matthew Lee reviews Robert Epstein's The Case Against Adolescence. "Count me among those who love it–Epstein’s book is a timely word that should be heeded by anyone who has any sort of contact with those whom we currently call 'adolescents.'"

Spiritual Warfare 101

Several years ago I read David Powlison's book, Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare. (Sadly, no longer in print.) I found it extremely helpful and persuasive. I took notes, and thought it might be worth posting them here.

Reclaiming: Spiritual Warfare

“A great deal of fiction, superstition, fantasy, nonsense, nuttiness, and downright heresy flourishes in the church under the guise of ‘spiritual warfare’ in our time…. But the warfare we need to wage engages and implicates our humanity, rather than bypassing it for a superspiritual, demonic realm.”

Reasons for the Urgency

  1. We live in a society where the modern agenda has largely failed.
  2. We live in a society that has become increasingly pagan.
  3. Missions, anthropology, and modern communications make us aware of the practices and beliefs of animistic cultures.
  4. We live in a society of high-profile bondage to “addictions.”
  5. Bizarre or troubled behavior, often related to experiences of extreme abuse, seems to be appearing more frequently.
  6. Many people have sometimes experienced an uncanny, heightened sense of the presence of evil.
  7. A growing number of Christians teach and practice “deliverance” ministry in the quest to cast out inhabiting demons.

Powlison's Intentions

Truly all Christians believe in spiritual warfare; we all believe that Christ delivers us from evil. Powlison seeks to answer two crucial points of confrontation regarding spiritual warfare.

The first question engages how we understand the Christian life. What are we fighting? How does the evil one actually work? How does he exert—or attempt to exert—his dominion?

The second question engages our practice of the Christian life. How should we fight? What is the way God delivers us—and tells us to deliver ourselves and each other—from bondage to the devil? What is the mode of warfare?

Our Common Ground

The large majority of Christians give assent to four propositions, whatever our other differences.

  1. We are involved in spiritual warfare.
  2. Jesus Christ is the triumphant Deliverer and King.
  3. The modern age deadens people to the reality of spiritual warfare.
  4. Errors and excesses occur in deliverance ministries.

If deadly rationalism saps spiritual vitality on the one hand, the exorcistic mentality spawns mutant spiritualities on the other. Both the disenchanted world of modern rationalism and the charmed world of premodern spiritism are wrong.

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

Three competing visions vie for our allegiance:

  1. Capitulation to the spirit of the age by radically reinterpreting the Bible’s “spirit” realities as mythical projections of psychological, sociological, political, and medical phenomena. (Inadequate for all serious followers of Christ.)
  2. The demon deliverance ministries
  3. The “classic” Christian mode of spiritual warfare

The “Ekballistic Mode” [EMM] of Spiritual Warfare

An invented term to describe the demon-deliverance movement that might seem awkward at first. It is a grassroots practical theology that finds varied expression both in pastoral ministry and in methods of personal growth. It envisions the warfare of Christians as a battle against invading demons, either to repel them at the gates or eject them after they have taken up residence. Obviously based on the key assumption that demons of sin reside within the human heart.

The “Classic Mode” of Spiritual Warfare

Evangelism, discipleship, and personal growth. Follows the pattern of Jesus facing Satan in the desert. The textbooks are the Psalms and Proverbs, the ways that Jesus addressed moral evil, and the teachings of the NT epistles.

EMM’s Strengths

  1. They recognize and challenge the spiritual barrenness—the practical atheism—of the secular modern age.
  2. They encourage conservative Christians to reenvision the world as a spiritual place so that the fight for Christ’s kingdom and glory might be more effective.
  3. They challenge the notion that people’s personal problems can be reduced to purely psychological, social, physiological, or circumstantial factors.
  4. Many “spiritual warriors” demonstrate admirable love and self-sacrifice.
  5. They show that prayer matters.
  6. They usually believe and practice classic-mode spiritual warfare much of the time.

Cultures Dark with the Occult

There are three important features of the occult worldview and its degraded existence.

  1. Demonological explanations for all events and actions—good or bad—predominated.
  2. Occult idolatry and practices were the norm.
  3. Nations that practiced the occult also pursued other generic addictions, such as gluttony, drunkenness, varied forms of immorality, greed, blood thirst, and power.

All the contemporary “causes” are in place in the OT, but the Scriptures never identify or address spirit inhabitants as the problem nor cast them out as the solution. The OT, as a voice into these demon-filled cultures, exhibits two striking features.

  1. It minimizes Satan.
  2. The OT maximizes human responsibility.

Lifting the Curtain

Every so often in the OT God lifts the curtain to show the spirit realities at work behind the scenes. Six major passages:

  1. Genesis 3:1-15
  2. 1 Samuel 16:13-23
  3. 1 Samuel 28:3-25
  4. 1 Kings 22:6-28
  5. Job 1:6-2:10
  6. Zechariah 3

God’s Sovereignty in an Evil World

God uses evil for his glory and the comfort of God’s people. EMM advocates simply do not articulate this understanding of God’s sovereignty in the mist of evil. Consequently, their understanding of spiritual warfare becomes skewed. The demons become increasingly autonomous; sin becomes demonized; the world gains the look and feel of superstition rather than biblical wisdom. EMM advocates rightly seek to reestablish a worldview that recognizes spirit beings, both good and evil. But the drift in EMM thinking toward demonological explanations creates a world more precarious and spooky than the Bible’s world. Ironically, in the end, the EMM worldview has more affinities with the occult worldview than the Bible.

The Bible gives an opposite, theocentric explanation. There the love of God—love for his name’s glory and his people’s welcome—strikes the deciding blow in the battle. Psalms and Proverbs are the supreme manual for spiritual warfare, for fighting both flesh-and-blood and spiritual enemies. Knowing that the devil is God’s devil brings us incalculable joy and confidence in battle with our adversary.

A Different Mode

The OT teaches a worldview and method of fighting spiritual evil that is essentially different from EMM.

  1. There is a radical focus on the Lord—God is at absolute center stage.
  2. Human beings are always responsible moral agents and share center stage with God.
  3. Although the OT acknowledges the activity of Satan and his demons, it shows that God is sovereign and the demons are constrained.
  4. God’s sovereignty has striking implications for the OT’s mode of spiritual warfare, mode of ministry, mode of living the godly life, and mode of fighting multifaceted evil. The mode of warfare God taught was having faith in the Word of God, fearing God, turning from evil involvements, taking refuge in the Lord, and obeying his voice. EMM is never the mode of warfare.

Sin and Suffering

Proponents of EMM make two major arguments:

  1. Because Jesus and the apostles cast out demons, we should do likewise.
  2. Because EMM is not forbidden by Jesus or the rest of the NT, there is no reason not to use it.

Powlison argues that the Bible does not teach us to wage spiritual warfare using EMM. Rather Scripture teaches us a different way to live the Christian life and fight our ancient foe.

The Dominion of Darkness Entails Sin and Suffering

One key to understanding spiritual warfare in the ministry of Jesus Christ is to notice that he mounted a twin-pronged offensive against the powers of evil—against moral evil and situational evil. Jesus employed two modes of warfare to address two different facets of the evil works of the devil.

  • Moral evil = the evil people believe and do.
  • Situational evil = the evil we experience (suffering, hardship, unpleasant and harmful events, death)

The two meanings of evil are closely linked; Satan employs both for his evil purposes.

God consistently portrays inhabiting evil spirits as situational—not moral—evil that hurt and abuse people. Sins, such as unbelief, fear, anger, lust, and other addictions, point to Satan’s moral lordship, but never to demonization calling EMM. Jesus usually approaches the sick from the angle of sufferers needing relief, not sinners needing repentance. Contrary to EMM teaching, unclean spirits are never implicated as holding people in bondage to unbelief and sin.

Whenever and wherever Jesus addressed Satan’s attempt to establish or maintain evil moral lordship, he used the non-EMM, classic mode of spiritual warfare. Jesus always used the classic mode to deal with moral evil; he used both the classic and ekballistic modes to deal with situational evil.

Jesus’ Mode of Ministry and Ours

“Eleven examples of Jesus’ works that we are called to do in a fashion different from our master. Notice three things after each example.

First, Jesus addresses genuine human needs that continue today.

Second, Jesus performs a particular action in an unusually striking and authoritative way, a command-control mode: ‘I say it, it happens.’

Third, we are told—by precept or example—to accomplish the same work but in a different way, the classic faith-obedience mode.” (p. 77)

  1. Pay taxes
  2. Catch fish
  3. Walk on water
  4. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty
  5. Speak with God’s authority
  6. Call people to ministry
  7. Forgive sins
  8. Confront and curse sin
  9. Raise the dead
  10. Control the weather
  11. Heal the sick

Dealing with Demonic Affliction

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts portray Jesus and the apostles as using the command-control mode to address sickness, the weather, paying taxes, speaking with personal authority, and so forth. The rest of the New Testament, following the main approach in the Old Testament, exemplifies and commands a different mode. Is there a similar switch for dealing with demons associated with ailments and afflictions?

We certainly will not be surprised to find a mode shift. Scripture is ‘silent’ on the issue in the same way it is silent on paying taxes, performing resurrections, or stilling storms by words of command. The silence thunders. The mode of addressing demonically induced sufferings reverts to the classic mode: Live the Christian life of receptive faith and active obedience in the midst of life’s hardships….

The modern demon-deliverance ministries are predicated on two fundamental errors. First, they misread the biblical record and fail to distinguish between moral and situational evil. They cast out ‘demons’ of moral evil, something neither taught nor illustrated anywhere in Scripture. Second, they fail to reckon with the general mode shift away from the command-control mode and toward the classic mode.

Steps to a Far More Powerful Way

  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through discovering the Creator God who rules heaven and earth.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through learning to find refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through learning to dig into the Scripture in search of true wisdom.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through stopping fighting alone.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through growing to understand the thoughts and intentions of his heart.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through speaking words that do genuine good to others.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through honest work
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through learning to aim your heart at what true prayer intends.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through not giving in to cultivated lusts

Christian Publishing

Al Hsu offers some further reflections on the tension and balance between Christian publishing as a ministry and as a business.

The Jesus Legend

Here are some of the blurbs for the new book, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, by Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd. It looks excellent.

“This is one of the most important books on methodological issues in the study of Jesus and the Gospels to have appeared for a long time. It deserves to be widely read.” —Richard Bauckham, University of St. Andrews

“The Jesus Legend is the best book in its class. Eddy and Boyd demonstrate mastery of the disciplines essential for critical assessment of the Gospels and competent investigation of the historical Jesus. I recommend this book in the highest terms.” —Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College; author of Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels

“A clearly written, carefully researched, and powerfully argued defense of the historical reliability of the Synoptic Gospels. What makes this book noteworthy is the careful treatment of underlying issues in historical methodology and philosophy. A pleasure to read and a wonderful resource for those who have encountered troubling skeptical claims about the Gospels.” —C. Stephen Evans, Baylor University

“I am gratified that my friends and colleagues Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd have taken my work as seriously as they have in this comprehensively researched book. I urge any reader of my books to read this one alongside them!” —Robert M. Price, Center for Inquiry Institute and fellow of the Jesus Seminar

“Eddy and Boyd have provided a thoroughly compelling cumulative argument—one of the very best available—for the reliability of the Synoptic Jesus tradition. Their book constitutes a superb treatment of the various issues, involving both fresh research and a brilliant synthesis of material from a variety of relevant disciplines.” —Craig S. Keener, Palmer Seminary

“Eddy and Boyd have surveyed technical and popular writing alike, in meticulous detail, and present what can be concluded responsibly about the trustworthiness of the Synoptic Gospels and the portraits of Jesus they contain. They compile a detailed and erudite case that supports Christian faith. Highly recommended!” —Craig L. Blomberg, Denver Seminary

“Well-written and organized, containing a masterful command of the literature. Eddy and Boyd show the difference between an open historical investigation of the life of Jesus and much of today’s fictional writing that claims to be historical research concerning the origin of Christianity. A very useful introduction for college and seminary students.” —Robert H. Stein, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Baker has posted an excerpt of the book online.