Friday, November 30, 2007

Debate Thoughts

Peggy Noonan:
I will never forget that breathtaking moment when, in the CNN/YouTube debate earlier this fall, the woman from Ohio held up a picture and said, "Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr. Edwards, this is a human fetus. Given a few more months, it will be a baby you could hold in your arms. You all say you're 'for the children.' I would ask you to look America in the eye and tell us how you can support laws to end this life. Thank you."

They were momentarily nonplussed, then awkwardly struggled to answer, to regain lost high ground. One of them, John Edwards I think, finally criticizing the woman for being "manipulative," using "hot images" and indulging in "the politics of personal destruction." The woman then stood in the audience for her follow up. "I beg your pardon, but the literal politics of personal destruction--of destroying a person--is what you stand for."

Oh, I wish I weren't about to say, "Wait, that didn't happen." For of course it did not. Who of our media masters would allow a question so piercing on such a painful and politically incorrect subject?

I thought of this the other night when citizens who turned out to be partisans for Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards asked the Republicans, in debate, would Jesus support the death penalty, do you believe every word of the Bible, and what does the Confederate flag mean to you?

It was a good debate, feisty and revealing. It's not bad that the questions had a certain spin, and played on stereotypes of the GOP. It's just bad that it doesn't quite happen at Democratic debates. Somehow, there, an obscure restraint sets in on the part of news producers. Too bad. Running for most powerful person in the world is, among other things, an act of startling presumption. They all should be grilled, everyone, both sides. Winter voting approaches; may many chestnuts be roasted on an open fire.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Interview with Carl Trueman on John Owen

The Conventicle interviews Carl Trueman on John Owen. Here's the final question:
What relevance might Owen have for the contemporary evangelical church?

He offers a model for doing theology which connects biblical exegesis and systematic theology in a way that respects trajectories of previous theological discussion while at the same time grounding everything in pastoral concerns. He also demonstrates how the doctrine of the Trinity should permeate Christian thinking and devotion. Above all, he understands the holiness of God and shows how theological thinking should proceed in this context.

I get so tired of modern evangelical writers, whether biblical or theological, who have no grasp of the holiness of God and who treat scripture just like any old book, theology as a kind of entertaining crossword puzzle, and themselves as God’s gift to the church. God is not mocked, especially by those for whom theology seems to be little more than an idiom for self-promotion and patronizing previous generations. Owen was not a perfect theologian; but he knew the importance of that with which he was dealing, and his own comparative unimportance in the grand scheme of things.
Trueman's new book is entitled, John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man.

(HT: Jim Grant)

An Interview with Sam Storms

Gary Shavey interviews Sam Storms about his book Signs of the Spirit, which introduces and makes more accessible the arguments of Jonathan Edwards's classic on Religious Affections.

(HT: DG blog)

Interview with C.J. Mahaney on Biblical Masculinity

A must-read interview of C. J. Mahaney on practical, biblical advice on being a father and being a husband.

Download the audio here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

2008: Books to Read

Here are the five books I am most eagerly anticipating in the year ahead:

Fully God...For an Awfully Long Time?

NT scholar Craig Blomberg offers a very strange comment in response to a blog post by Rob Bowman. The question is whether Mormons like Robert Millett--co-author of Claiming Christ: A Mormon—Evangelical Debate (Brazos, 2007)--truly affirm Christ's full deity:

"Do Mormons not believe in the deity of Jesus? . . . [T]here is no question for him [i.e., Millett] that for an awfully long time and certainly today, he [i.e., Jesus] is fully God."

I'd respectfully suggest that if someone thinks one can be fully God for an awfully long time (but not always), then he doesn't understand the meaning of the term"fully God."

Am I missing something here?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What Christmas Is All About

With all the talk about faith and film, and Christians influencing the world through entertainment, has anyone stopped to think about a TV movie that--perhaps more than any other--has provided a faithful pointer to Christ?

No, it's not high art. But I'm thankful that year after year, one of the big network three put this show on TV and some of God's Word--containing the essence of the incarnation event--is relayed each year to children and adults. No small thing.

Whom Would Jesus Bomb?

Russell Moore (again) with an excellent article (again)--this time responding to the errors of pacificism and unbridled militarism. Here's the conclusion:

In truth, the guy with the "Visualize World Peace" bumper sticker is partly right. And so is Toby Keith when he talks about justice raining down with vengeance on the enemies of what's good and true. Both are grasping at something that can only be found in the gospel story of Christ Jesus. War is sometimes necessary, and we as Christians should be willing to support, fight, and die for our country in those times. But every time we see a war-even a just and necessary one-we should be reminded that it means we're still living in a world groaning under the weight of sin.

We shouldn't tie dye our shirts and pretend a United Nations enforced peace can end bloodshed. But neither should we callously cheer the violence of war, as if it were a video game. Yes, we should visualize peace-but only a real peace, when the true Emperor of the universe rules over a world so pacific that we cannot even imagine the violence we once saw on CNN, or on Animal Planet. On that day, and maybe not until that day, there won't be the sound of rattling swords, firing guns, or bombs bursting in air.

The Brotherhood of Sons

Russell Moore has an excellent article in the latest edition of Touchstone: The Brotherhood of Sons: What Some Rude Questions About Adoption Taught Me About the Gospel of Christ.

The Decline of African American Theology

Thabiti Anyabwile's The Decline of African American Theology is finally off the press.

From Mark Noll's foreword: "It is remarkable that, to my knowledge, there has never been a book that attempts what Thabiti Anyabwile's The Decline of African American Theology attempts. . . . For both historical and theological reasons, this is a very important volume. . . . Because I have already learned so much from its pages, I am delighted to recommend it wholeheartedly to others."

In a blog post today, Thabiti writes about what motivated him to write the book. Here's the conclusion:
The Decline of African-American Theology is a jeremiad, a long lament over a deep fall. Some will lament the decline, and others will lament The Decline. Of that I'm sure.

But after listening to Moyers and Cone tonight, I realized that I wrote the book because I am deeply sad. I'm sad about the state of the church in African American communities, and the very real eclipse of the gospel where African Americans gather and worship. And I'm sad because I love the Lord, His gospel, His people, and the nations who need the Lord, His gospel, and His people. The book isn't sad, I don't think, but its author is.

To be sure, my motives are alloyed with pride and some other things that need the sanctifying grace of Christ. But at bottom, I grieve that "my people perish for lack of knowledge" of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray this little book may be used by the Lord in the hands of good and faithful saints to turn the mourning of many into laughter.
Read the whole thing.

J. I. Packer on the Blessed Virgin Mary

First Things posts J. I. Packer's paper on what can be known about the Blessed Virgin Mary--a new topic of study for the Evangelicals and Catholics Together study group.

Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinists

The conference "Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism," sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Founders Ministries, is taking place Nov. 26-28 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center. Each session has two speakers who are presenting different perspectives on their respective topics.

Starting this afternoon, podcasts of the conference will be made available at this Lifeway page.

For more info, check out the blogs of Tom Ascol and Ed Stetzer.

Also of interest: Timmy Brister's Chronological Survey of the Calvinism/Arminanism Controversy in the SBC. {link updated}

Mission to Suburbia

Steve McCoy: I've started a new resource page called Mission to Suburbia (notice a link near the top of the left sidebar of my blog). There isn't much there yet, but I wanted to mention it to you all and ask for your help in finding missional, theological, statistical resources (books, articles, blogs, posts, etc) that will help those of us who are striving to bring the Gospel to the suburbs/exurbs. I hope Mission to Suburbia will be a handy tool for pastors, planters, churches and Christians...."

Anti-Religious Bigotry on Display in the Mainstream Media

Whether or not you are a fan of Mike Huckabee and his candidacy for the presidency, it's helpful to take a sober look at the transparent bigotry on display among some members of the mainstream media reacting to an evangelical who is unashamed of his faith and who has an integrated worldview.

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen doesn't mind if a candidate has religious beliefs, as long as those beliefs are completely irrelevant to the candidate's worldview. Cohen makes some classic, elementary blunders in his article--assuming that believing in intelligent design is "anti science" and believing that a faith commitment precludes argumentation. Because debate is essential to democracy, Cohen suggests that a robust faith is incompatible with the democratic process.

The Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi is more blunt and crude (warning: profanity in article). Here are a few of his descriptions of Huckabee as it relates to his faith:
  • "full-blown nuts"
  • "Christian goofball of the highest order"
  • "obvious and undisguised lunacy"
  • "full-bore nuts"

A couple of helpful articles in light of this kind of thing: First, John Piper's Taking the Swagger Out of Christian Cultural Influence. This is a great article to read and reread--to remember that we are exiles on this earth, who should faithfully serve with "brokenhearted joy," knowing that we will be hated for Christ's sake.

Second, Frank Beckwith's article about the religion of Mitt Romney--who has also been on the receiving end of no little bigotry with regard to the fact that he takes his religious beliefs seriously. Beckwith urges Romney not to commit the "Kennedy Mistake" (precisely what Cohen celebrates), and in so doing offers a concise and helpful explanation for the proper way that faith can be integrated with politics and policy.

Beckwith writes that claiming that one's "theology and church do not influence or shape his politics" would be a mistake:
For it would signal to traditional Christians that Romney does not believe that theology could, in principle, count as knowledge; but this is precisely the view of the secularist who believes that religion, like matters of taste, should remain private. Yet if a citizen has good reason to believe her theological tradition offers real insights into the nature of humanity and the common good—insights that could be defended on grounds that even a secularist cannot easily dismiss—why should she remain mute simply because the secularist stipulates a definition of religion that requires her silence? Why should she accept the secularist’s limitations on her religious liberty based on what appears to many of us as a capricious and politically convenient understanding of “religion”?
Again, the issue is not about what you think of Candidate Huckabee (or Candidate Romney). The important thing is to have your eyes wide open to the way in which religion is perceived and to have an informed response to this sort of thing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Kinder Kind of Calvinism

Some excellent thoughts here by Abraham Piper to a letter posted on Scot McKnight's blog.

(Abraham's analogy of fighting with his wife brought to mind Roger Nicole's classic article,
Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us, which repays careful [and prayerful] reading.)

Interview with Clark on Adoption

Dan Cruver interviews R. Scott Clark (Westminster Seminary California) about adoption.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Piper Responds to Witherington

Here.

Update: Sam Storms also weighs in.

N.T. Wright on "God and Politics"

Lee Irons looks at Wright's SBL address on "God and Politics."

"John Owen Today"

There will be a conference on John Owen at Westminster College in Cambridge, August 19-22, 2008.

Speakers are:
Here is the conference-related blog.

If you want to attend, email here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas Records

Tim Challies and Zach Nielsen are recommending some of their favorite Christmas records.

Barclay vs Wright on Paul and Empire

John Barclay and Tom Wright debate Paul and Empire at SBL: part 1 and part 2.

(FYI: Not the best audio quality.)

(HT: Lee Irons)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Self-Centered God?

NT scholar Ben Witherington finds the Edwardsean vision of God disturbing and narcissistic. Denny Burk offers some thoughts in response.

Christ and the Church

I've posted a short entry on the relationship between Christ and the Church over at the New Attitude blog.

Great Gratitude

John Piper responds to Christopher Hitchens and Bishop Spong on the joy and necessity of gratitude to God.

"The iPod of Reading"

Here's a very significant and helpful Newsweek cover story on Amazon's "Kindle" reading device: The Future of Reading. Steven Levy, the author of the piece, also takes it for a test drive.

How to Cook the World's Best Turkey

Here you go.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Do You See the Relevance of the Word?

I recently reread a post I did a couple of years ago, quoting from an article by David Powlison entitled "Do You See?" (reprinted in Counsel the Word). It's a very helpful analysis of the relevance of Scripture and how this plays out in practice among evangelicals.

Powlison asks his readers what they see when they look at the Bible:

What do you see when you look at your Bible? Do you see a book crammed with relevance? Do you see a book out of which God bursts as He speaks to what matters in daily life? Is your Bible packed with application to the real problems of real people in the real world: inexhaustible, immediate, diverse, flexible? Or is the Bible relatively thin when it comes to addressing human struggles?

Powlison then explains the two kinds of contemporary Bible‑believing, evangelical Protestants that he sees.

One sort has a Bible crammed with relevance to human life. The other sort has a Bible of modest utility. This difference in seeing underlies many of the conflicts and misunderstandings within Christian counseling.

He first discusses those Bible-believers whose Bible is only a moderately useful resource.

They may honor the Bible with noble‑sounding descriptions. God’s Word provides a framework of ultimate meaning. It is a “resource” for comfort in trials or for “spiritual” strengthening. Scripture maps out the way of ultimate salvation. It is useful for “theology,” for theoretical truths about God, heaven and hell, life and death, the kingdom, “the Christian view of…” It is an honored authority for reflecting on the “large” questions of life.

What is wrong with that paragraph?

On the surface, nothing, except that all is rather vague and highflying. Even theological liberals have uttered similar sentiments. The divide comes when you ask whether the Bible is truly useful in the trenches of daily life. Here this sort of Bible‑believer turns to other sources for insight and guidance. Some turn to new and personalized revelations, prophecies, leadings and intuitions. Others turn to the secular psychologies for understanding and guidance. In either case, the Bible doesn’t say enough about what really matters in daily life.

Powlison identifies these people, with their relatively thin Bible, as having a vision defect.

Their Bible is seen as a child’s eight‑key, tin toy piano. Those eight white keys may be of central importance in music theory: the key of C‑major, beginning with middle‑C, sounds the basic do‑re‑mi after all. They’ll do for the Sunday School songs. But you can’t play much of depth and interest. No sonatas. No fugues. No concertos. You can’t sound the nuances, the variations, the minor keys of life. And no mature pianist would bother plunking around on an eight‑key tin piano. There are more interesting and flexible instruments around.

He then goes on to describe the other type of Bible-believer:

But for the other sort of Bible‑believer the Bible is a grand piano. In fact it’s a grand piano, plus the rest of the orchestra, plus the great composers, plus the great pianists, plus the great conductors. It sounds all the notes, all the tones, all the rhythms, all the keys, all the special effects, all the nuances. That’s the vision biblical counselors have of the Bible. It’s crammed. The Composer, Conductor and Musician is active.

When people with thin Bibles hear people with crammed Bibles talk about the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling, they hear, “Something thin and incomplete is sufficient for a very complex job.” That sounds ridiculous. Biblical counseling sounds absurd, doctrinaire, obscurantist, the rantings of small‑minded know‑nothings who glory in their ignorance.

But when people with crammed Bibles speak of Scripture’s sufficiency they mean—or ought to mean— “Something living and active, inexhaustibly rich, comprehensive and relevant, is sufficient for a very complex job.” That sounds reasonable. And when in the trenches of face‑to‑face ministry the Lord Himself speaks to people, that profession of vision is vindicated.

Behold the Lamb

James Gordon, a former elder in our church, has a new book out on understanding the book of Revelation: Behold the Lamb: The Meaning of Revelation.

Here's an endorsement from Mike Bullmore, Senior Pastor of CrossWay Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin:

Many useful exegetical and theological studies have been written on the Book of Revelation. While these have served the church well, an ongoing need exists for warm-hearted devotional studies such as Behold the Lamb. It is a reassuring pastoral guide into the riches of encouragement for believers found in Revelation--especially the riches of Christ himself.

Moreland's ETS Paper

J. P. Moreland has posted a copy of his controversial ETS paper: How Evangelicals Became Overcommitted to the Bible and What Can Be Done about It.

He has also posted a response to the CT Liveblog summary.

I may have more to say in the future about Moreland's paper (which I heard live). I suspect that the "stir" about it has more to do what the way in which Moreland presented his arguments than with the actual thesis itself.

Amazon.com's Kindle

Amazon.com just launched a new wireless reading device, called Kindle.

Here's a product overview:
  • Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper
  • Simple to use: no computer, no cables, no syncing
  • Wireless connectivity enables you to shop the Kindle Store directly from your Kindle—whether you’re in the back of a taxi, at the airport, or in bed
  • Buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute
  • More than 88,000 books available, including 100 of 112 current New York Times® Best Sellers
  • New York Times® Best Sellers and all New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise
  • Free book samples. Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy
  • Top U.S. newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post; top magazines including TIME, Atlantic Monthly, and Forbes—all auto-delivered wirelessly
  • Top international newspapers from France, Germany, and Ireland; Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and The Irish Times—all auto-delivered wirelessly
  • More than 250 top blogs from the worlds of business, technology, sports, entertainment, and politics, including BoingBoing, Slashdot, TechCrunch, ESPN's Bill Simmons, The Onion, Michelle Malkin, and The Huffington Post—all updated wirelessly throughout the day
  • Lighter and thinner than a typical paperback; weighs only 10.3 ounces
  • Holds over 200 titles
  • Long battery life. Leave wireless on and recharge approximately every other day. Turn wireless off and read for a week or more before recharging. Fully recharges in 2 hours
  • Unlike WiFi, Kindle utilizes the same high-speed data network (EVDO) as advanced cell phones—so you never have to locate a hotspot
  • No monthly wireless bills, service plans, or commitments—we take care of the wireless delivery so you can simply click, buy, and read
  • Includes free wireless access to the planet's most exhaustive and up-to-date encyclopedia—Wikipedia.org.
  • Email your Word documents and pictures (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG) to Kindle for easy on-the-go viewing.

The Legend of Squanto (Free Audio Download)

If you need something to listen to while traveling for Thanksgiving, you can download for free The Legend of Squanto--a Focus on the Family, Radio Theatre Dramatic Production, "including a complete cast, cinema-quality sound, and original music."

This audio drama brings to light the story of one of America’s early legends — "Squanto." History remembers Tisquantum as the Native American who taught early settlers to fish and farm. He’s even credited with the first Thanksgiving. But few hear the story of the condemnation that dragged him outside America to a life in chains and what he discovered after his exile. It’s an inspiring true story of this little-known early American that triumphed over injustice and changed what would become the United States.

Click on the link above, go to the download option, and type in the coupon code THANKS2007.

ChristianAudio is actually offering 10 such free downloads from Nov 17-24, including helpful titles like Piper's Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce, Sire's The Universe Next Door--as well as a terrible book like Barna's Revolution. [see Sam Storms's extensive critique: (1) Part I; (2) Part II; (3) Follow-Up].

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Preaching "The Whole Counsel of God"

D. A. Carson, in his essay on "Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit" in the new book, Preach the Word, answers the question of what Paul meant when he said said that he had not shrunk back from declaring "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27):
When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years. In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time.

What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God's revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively. It embraced
  • God's purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God's people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).
(pp. 177-178; bullets and italics added)

Stem Cell Breakthrough

It's being hailed as "an extraordinary scientific discovery" and likely "the most important development in stem cell science since the first derivation of human embryonic stem cells in 1998."

More info and response here.

Wesley Smith: ". . . we now have the very real potential of developing thriving and robust stem-cell medicine and scientific research sectors that will bridge, rather than exacerbate, our moral differences over the importance and meaning of human life."

Update: Yuval Levin: "A huge flurry of coverage has begun of course, but (as usual on science stories) the most thorough and useful overviews are in the New York Times and the Washington Post. If you want to understand the basics, those two links are what you ought to read this morning."

J. Bottum at First Things.

Arkes on Abortion Politics 2008

Hadley Arkes, Ney Professor of American Institutions at Amherst College and one of the sharpest moral philosophers of our time, has a new article in First Things on Abortion Politics 2008.

His thesis: "The nomination and election of Rudy Giuliani would mark the end of the Republican party as the pro-life party in our politics. And that would be the case regardless of whether pro-lifers respond to his nomination by refusing to vote for Giuliani, forming a third party, or folding themselves into a coalition that succeeds in electing Giuliani."

Most interesting suggestion: "It is conceivable, then, that from the standpoint of the pro-lifers it might be better to lose to Hillary Clinton than to win with Rudy Giuliani. . . . The Republicans might be diminished, but they would be essentially intact as a pro-life party; and, when the electoral winds shift again, they have a chance of coming back with their character intact."

But the conclusion (pass the smelling salts to Joe Carter): "Faced then with the possibility of a Democratic presidency determined to weave the ethic of abortion rights more firmly into our law and to have its judges install same-sex marriage, a Giuliani candidacy could offer some slender grounds of hope. Under those conditions, I might bite my lip, vote for him, and indulge those hopes. But they would be the hopes of the supplicants. And they will be affected at every point by the awareness of just who has the upper hand, and just who, in this party newly reshaped, does not matter all that much."

Interview with Leland Ryken

Gary Shavey interviews Leland Ryken about the Bible and his work on the ESV translation.

Huckabee, Romney, and NRO

Joe Carter looks at National Review Online's selective criticism of Huckabee and silence on similar positions by Romney.

Peterson on Free Will

I recently received a copy of Robert Peterson's new book, Election and Free Will: God's Gracious choice and Our Responsibility . It is the first book P&R's new series, Explorations in Biblical Theology, edited by Peterson, who is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary.

The book looks excellent--a combination of exegetically grounded and pastorally sensitive theology.

I thought it might be helpful to provide an outline of Peterson's chapter on "free will." John Piper always used to say that the first task of a good theologian is to make distinctions, and Peterson makes a number of helpful ones in this chapter:

Free Will and the Bible's Story

1. Human beings as created had true freedom and freedom of choice.
2. Human being as fallen lost true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
3. Human beings as redeemed have regained a measure of true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
4. Human beings as glorified will be perfected in true freedom and will retain freedom of choice.

True freedom = "the ability to love and serve God unhindered by sin" (p. 131)
Freedom of choice or spontaneity = "the ability of human beings to do as they wish" (p. 126)

Free Will and Reasons Why People Are Saved and Condemned
1. Reasons why people are saved
a. People are saved because they trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
b. People are saved because the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to the Gospel.
c. People are saved because Christ died and rose to save them.
d. People are saved because the Father chose them for salvation before creation.

2. Reasons why people are condemned
a. People are condemned because of their actual sin.
b. People are condemned because of Adam's original sin.
c. People are condemned because God passed over them (reprobation).

Free Will and Its Relation to God's Sovereignty
1. The Bible affirms both divine sovereignty and genuine human responsibility.
a. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty.
b. The Bible affirms genuine human responsibility.
c. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty and human responsibility together.

2. Parameters for sovereignty and responsibility.
a. Fatalism must be rejected as an error.
b. Absolute power to the contrary must be rejected as an error.

3. To emphasize either sovereignty or responsibility at the expense of the other is to fall into the error of rationalism.
a. Hyper-Calvinism is an error.
b. Arminianism is an error.

Of course, to see these defended, explained, and synthesized, you'll have to read the whole thing!

Bruce Metzger, the Greek for Squirrel, and the Reliability of the Gospel Accounts

Dan Wallace creatively compares a myth about Bruce Metzger to the historical reliability of the gospel accounts.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Church in History

A couple of lectures by Carl Trueman (part 1, part 2).

Gentry on the Themes in the Lord's Supper

Based on 1 Cor. 11:17-34 Professor Peter Gentry sees six major themes in the Lord's Supper:

1. Saving Sacrifice (This is my body)
2. Covenant (This is my blood)
3. Commemoration (Do this in remembrance of me)
4. Participation (Community)
5. Expectation (Future hope)
6. Proclamation (Evangelism)

Read the whole article
; these are helpful themes to meditate upon as we gather to eat the bread and drink the cup.

(HT: iMonk)

Thank You, Zondervan

Hearty thanks are due to the folks at Zondervan (and the relevant authors, of course!) for producing what is now an undoubtedly indispensable four-volume collection of textbooks on the Bible.

Two introductions:
And two canonical theologies:
What a gift this is to the church. These truly are invaluable books--the fruit of years of labor by godly scholars helping pastors, students, and laypeople to come to a better understanding of God's holy Word.

(And to the nerdy bibliophiles out there--an added bonus is that these four volumes are all the same height and design, so they look great next to each other on a bookshelf.)

Christmas Picks

More recommendations (via GirlTalk)

Lee Irons on Rom. 2:13

    Lee Irons posts his SBL paper arguing for a hypothetical reading of Romans 2:13, and against the popular Christian Gentile view:

    The paper itself (PDF)
    The poster (a PowerPoint slide)
    An abstract (a previous blog entry)

    Romney's Turnaround Plan and Process

    A couple of helpful articles here (one by Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard; the other by Brian Carney of the Wall Street Journal) on how Mitt Romney plans to take his impressive business skills to Washington.

    Interview with Dave Garner on Adoption

    Dan Cruver interviews Dave Garner about a scriptural theology of spiritual adoption and its implications for earthly adoption. (Garner, the VP for Alumni Relations & Educational Advancement at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia,wrote his doctoral dissertation on "Adoption in Christ" at WTS in 2002.)

    Beowulf the Movie

    From John Miller's review: "By the end of the movie, the script has made a complete hash of the story it’s based upon."

    HuckChuck Facts

    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    We Are What We Sing

    Mark Noll's contribution to the Christian Vision Project is entitled Praise the Lord.

    Among other things, he asks, "What explains the power of song so powerfully to shape, anchor, encourage, disturb, unite, divide, and distract Christian communities?"

    The Challification of Christmas Book-Buying Recommendations

    Tim Challies offers his directory of books reviewed in 2007, along with recommendations.

    Bauckham Lecture

    You can download the audio of Richard Bauckham's lecture at Westminster Seminary California, entitled, The Four Gospels and the Other Gospels: Is Our Canon Right?

    (HT: James Grant)

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Mohler's Advice on Reading Bible Stories to Children

    In a follow-up post, Al Mohler recommends Catherine Vos's classic Bible story book for older children, The Child's Story Bible.

    He also offers "a few suggestions for maximizing the reading experience for school-age children." I'll post the outline here--for more, read the whole thing.

    1. Read at a specific time set as part of the ritual of the child's life.

    2. Read in a clear voice and avoid both excessive drama and a lifeless reading.

    3. When reading a Bible story, help the child to find the actual text of the account in the pages of the Bible.

    5. Recognize that many of the stories of the Bible teach a clear moral lesson -- a lesson that children clearly need to learn and take to heart. At the same time, recognize that these accounts are never merely morality tales. Point your child to the big picture.

    6. Never read down to your children, treating them as dull. Instead, give them a substantial story, lay out the narrative, and then trust that they will want to learn and to push themselves toward understanding. Then, be the human agent of that understanding by explaining the story with patience, creativity, and insight based in the fact that you know both the story and the child or children hearing it.

    7. Be as honest as the Bible in revealing the strengths and weaknesses of God's people.

    8. Ask your children questions about the story to measure understanding, and make sure to see if they have any questions.

    9. Ask older children to help with the reading and to grow accustomed both to reading for themselves and to reading aloud.

    10. Finally, teach them to pray the Scriptures, talking about the story just read and its biblical text as you pray. Pray that God will apply His Word to their hearts, thank God for His Word and for His love, remind them of Christ and His promises, and entrust them to God for the night and for eternity.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Piper Address to ETS on Justification

    Last night at the Evangelical Theological Society John Piper delivered a lecture to a packed house on Christ's justifying work (audio and manuscript). I highly recommend it.

    Update: The video is online also.

    Books for Your Bride

    On behalf of guys everywhere, let me say a hearty thanks to Karalee Reinke for this very helpful series on buying books for your wife!

    Packer's Lectures on the History and Theology of the Puritans

    Tony Reinke explains how to download (for free) J. I. Packer's famous lectures on the history and theology of the Puritans.

    Mohler on Bible Story Books for Children

    Al Mohler writes:
    On Wednesday's edition of "Ask Anything Wednesday" on The Albert Mohler Program I was asked about good Bible story books for children. I appreciated the question because I am concerned that many Bible story books treat the stories as nothing more than disconnected morality tales.
    Click here to see his answers.

    A Church-Based Hope for “Adultolescents”

    John Piper summarizes Christian Smith's analysis of "adultolescents" (i.e., the postponement of adulthood into one's 30s), and Piper offers his own recommendations on what the church should do to teach and promote maturity.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    The Revolution at Southern

    At the 2002 Bethlehem Pastors Conference, Pastor Sam Crabtree asked Al Mohler to tell the story of the remarkable turnaround that happened at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    I strongly encourage you to listen to this. As far as I know, there's nothing else on the web telling this story in this way. [Update: You can hear the fuller story via these MP3 downloads: The Cost of Conviction (Part 1) and The Cost of Conviction (Part 2).]

    Listen, thank God for his great work, and pray for God to continue to work.

    Grudem's Advice on Interpreting the Word

    In a new book (Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes), Wayne Grudem has a helpful chapter offering some suggestions for pastors and Bible teachers on right and wrong interpretation of the Bible. One of Grudem’s observations is that seminarians can often begin to despair due to the amount of information available and the number of viewpoints on any one passage. Therefore Grudem’s chapter represents some of the principles he has sought to impart to students throughout the years.

    I thought it might be helpful to list Grudem’s principles. Of course you’ll have to read the chapter itself to see how he flesh them out.

    General Principles for Right Interpretation

    1. Spend your earliest and best time reading the text of the Bible itself.
    2. The interpretation of Scripture is not a magical or mysterious process, because Scripture was written in the ordinary language of the day.
    3. Every interpreter has only four sources of information about the text [(1) The meanings of individual words and sentences; (2) The place of the statement in its context; (3) The overall teaching of Scripture; (4) Some information about the historical and cultural background.
    4. Look for reasons rather than mere opinions to give support to an interpretation, and use reasons rather than mere opinions to attempt to persuade others.
    5. There is only one meaning for each text (though there are many applications.
    6. Notice the kind of literature in which the verse is found.
    7. Notice whether the text approves or disapproves or merely reports a person’s actions.
    8. Be careful not to generalize specific statements and apply them to fundamentally different situations.
    9. It is possible to do a short or long study of any passage. Do what you can with the time you have, and don’t be discouraged about all that you cannot do.
    10. Pray regularly for the Holy Spirit’s help in the whole process of interpreting the Bible.

    Keeping the “Big Picture” in Mind: Some Observations about the Whole of Scripture

    Big Picture 1

    The Bible is a historical document. Therefore, always ask, “What did the author want the original readers to understand by this statement?”

    Big Picture 2

    The original authors wanted the original readers to respond in some ways. Therefore, always ask, “What application did the original author want the readers to make to their lives?”

    Big Picture 3

    The whole Bible is about God! Therefore, we should always ask, “What does this text tell us about God?”

    Big Picture 4

    The center of the whole Bible is Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament leads up to him and points to him, and the entire New Testament flows from him. Therefore, we should always ask, “What does this text tell us about the greatness of Christ?”

    Big Picture 5

    All history can be divided into several major “ages” or “epochs” in salvation history. Therefore, we should read every passage of the Bible with a salvation history timeline in our minds and constantly remember where every passage fits on the timeline.

    Big Picture 6

    Themes: Because the Bible is a unity (it has one divine Author though many human authors), there are many themes that develop and grow from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, for each significant element in any text, it is helpful to ask, (a) Where did this theme start in the Bible? (b) How did this theme develop through the Bible? and (c) Where is this theme going to end in the Bible?

    "The Pastor as Father and Son"

    Registration for the Desiring God pastors conference is now open. Be sure to read John Piper's letter of invitation, which explains the theme. DG is encouraging pastors to bring their fathers and sons to the conference (and have lowered the price to make this happen).

    Don Carson will be the plenary speaker. Crawford Loritts will give the pastoral address, and Greg Livingstone will deliver the missions talk. John Piper will do his annual biographical sketch on his dad.

    Lord willing, by the time of the conference Crossway will publish D. A. Carson's book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson. I am so thankful this book is being published. I first heard Dr. Carson talk about his father during a class I took at RTS on the Johannine epistles, and I was deeply moved.

    I know a number of readers of this site are pastors. But if you're not, one thing to consider is blessing your pastor by paying for his way to go to this conference. (A number of families could go in on this together.)

    "Inerrancy Is Not Enough"

    Lee Irons offers some reflections on a proposed amendment by Denny Burk and Ray Van Neste to expand the doctrinal basis of the Evangelical Theological Society.

    Re:Greek

    Zack Hubert has now launched the Resurgence Greek Project (www.regreek.com), "a free online Greek tool for those that don't have the software for your own personal Greek study."

    In an interview with Gary Shavey, Zack explains:
    My vision for Re:Greek is that it would be an Open Source project that could capture the imagination of software developers all around the world. I want to see dozens of developers and designers submitting improvements, new features, localizing Re:Greek into their local language, and innovating on this shared platform. I'll release more in the near future about how this will work, but it will be a model similar to Linux or Ruby on Rails if you are familiar with those projects.

    On Blog Commenting

    Dennis Prager recently wrote a provocative article (with a bad title) on internet comments that are anonymous. Here's his thesis: "The irresponsible, the angry, the obscene and the dumb have virtually taken over many Internet dialogues. But there is an easy fix, and websites owe it to society to use it. Just ban anonymous postings.”

    Prager’s right about the problem, though—as far as I know—his “easy fix” is not easy and it doesn’t fix anything. (Someone could just sign his name as Dwight Shrute, Scranton, PA.)

    Prager's main presupposition is that "Being identifiable breeds responsibility; anonymity breeds irresponsibility." He writes:

    That is why people -- even generally decent people -- tend to act so much less morally when in a crowd (the crowd renders them anonymous). That is why people tend to act more decently when they walk around with their names printed on a nametag. That is why people act more rudely when in their cars -- they cannot be identified as they could outside of their car. There is no question but that most people would write very different entries on the Internet if their names were printed alongside their submission.
    But doesn’t anonymity allow people the freedom to more freely express their thoughts? Prager says no. “Anonymity only enables people to more freely express their feelings. Anonymity values feelings over thought, and immediate expression over thoughtful reflection.”

    With regard to my own blog, I hope to leave the Blogger (blogspot.com) platform soon, and hopefully that will allow a greater ability to prevent someone posting as "anonymous." But a bigger problem for this blog is those who use do use their name. So I’ve been thinking that I might discontinue the comments option altogether. Though it has been the means of some fruitful discussion, it has also become a platform for some to engage in divisive chatter and slander.

    Here are some questions we should ask when writing blog comments:

    • Am I expressing love for my fellow believers? (John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.")
    • Are my words gracious and "seasoned with salt"? (Colossians 4:6, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.")
    • Are my words edifying, appropriate, and grace-giving (Eph. 4:29)?
    • Do my words convey a heart attitude of humility before God, contrition over my sin, and reverential awe at God's Word? (Isa. 66:2, "This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.")
    • Am I "speaking the truth in love"? (Eph. 4:15)
    • Am I "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"? (Eph. 4:3)
    • Am I pursuing "what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding"? (Rom. 14:19)
    • Am I "slow to speak" and "slow to anger"? (James 1:19)
    • Am I "quick to hear"? (James 1:19)
    • Is the fruit of the Spirit--“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control"--evident in my heart and through my words? (Gal. 5:22-23)
    • Am I increasing in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love? (2 Pet. 1:5-6)
    • Am I writing with eternal reality in view, remembering that my words will serve on judgment day as evidence about my heart? (Matt. 12:37, "By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.")

    I am not guiltless when I ask myself these questions honestly before God. So I would appreciate your prayers (if you think of it) that I would do better in modeling the sort of interaction I'm calling for.

    I would especially appreciate prayer for wisdom on how to handle this issue of blog commenting. I doubt that on the judgment day God will tell me that I should have allowed a greater forum for people to interact—but he may question me as to why I provided a public platform that often includes regrettable content.

    The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World

    The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World is now available. Contributors are John Piper, David Wells, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Voddie Baucham, and Mark Driscoll.

    If I had to recommend one chapter, it would be Tim Keller's. In the introduction to the book I summarized Keller's chapter in this way:
    Tim Keller suggests that our current cultural situation poses a crisis for the way evangelicals have been doing evangelism for the past 150 years, causing us to raise crucial questions like: How do we do evangelism today? How do we get the gospel across in a postmodern world?

    Keller believes that we need to rethink our ordinary way of doing ministry due to the cultural changes (especially in secularized Europe and places in the U.S. that are similar) and the fact that the church is now on a mission field.

    He proposes six ways that the church has to change, finding parallels of Jonah and his mission to the great pagan metropolis of Nineveh. Keller calls these six factors: (1) gospel theologizing (all of theology must be an exposition of the gospel); (2) gospel realizing (we can “know” the gospel and yet not truly know the gospel); (3) gospel urbanizing (many Christians must move to the city, urbanize the gospel, and create strong versions of gospel communities); (4) gospel communication (through evangelism that is intelligible, credible, plausible, thorough, progressive, and process-oriented); (5) gospel humiliation (Christ’s power is evident through your weakness); and (6) gospel incarnation (within a pagan city God’s people are to be neither withdrawn nor assimilated, but rather distinct and engaged). In conclusion, Keller asks if we might be insulting God with our small ambitions and low expectations for evangelism today.

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    The Incompleteness of Virtual Friendships

    An excellent post here by John Mark Reynolds (whom I've never met!) on why Facebook or virtual friendships are incomplete.

    Read the whole thing; here's the conclusion:
    I must be with my kids to parent them.

    I must be with my friends to be friends.

    I must be with my students to teach them.

    I must be with my wife to love her.

    God help me, but often I am too distracted to be with immortal souls. It is as if I am getting ready to be with people, by talking about them or writing about them, but run out of time to be with them. I am like the stupid business man who earns money for his family, but is never with his family while they spend it.

    This week I will work hard to be there. I am incarnate and I will not try to hide from it!

    Podcasts from the GodBlog Conference

    All of the talks are online.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    An Interview with Andreas Kostenberger about the Identity and Future of Evangelicalism

    The following is an interview with Andreas Kostenberger, who is the director of PhD Studies and professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Kostenberger is also the Editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and the general editor of the new book, Quo Vadis, Evangelicalism? Perspectives on the Past, Direction for the Future: Nine Presidential Addresses from the First Fifty Years of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. (Quo Vadis is Latin for "Where are you going?")

    Tell us a little bit about how the volume was conceived in the initial stages of the project.

    The 50-year anniversary of the publication of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society seemed to be a fitting occasion to celebrate with a special volume showcasing the importance of the Journal in the life of the Evangelical Theological Society. ETS, of course, is the major evangelical scholarly society in the United States, and so the idea was born to trace the development of the evangelical movement by featuring several selected ETS presidential addresses on the topic of “evangelical identity.” The purpose for this is not merely archival—chronicling the past—but forward-looking as well. In the conviction that we can learn from the past in order to understand our own identity as evangelicals better in the present and move into the future, these presidential addresses are important “guiding visions” that shed light on where we have been, where we are, and where we should be going.

    This seems to allude to the title of the volume, Quo Vadis, Evangelicalism? How was this title chosen?

    Well, the truth is, one day “Quo Vadis?” just popped into my head when thinking about the project (not that I necessarily claim divine inspiration here), and as I reflected about it some more, it seemed like a good phrase to engage the issue of evangelical identity. Also, as I mentioned in my answer to your previous question, the expression focuses on the future—“Where are you going?” (alluding to Peter’s question to Jesus in John 13:36)—rather than the past, of the ship “evangelicalism.”

    The issue of evangelical identity, I believe, is a fascinating one, because, unlike, say, Roman Catholicism or Anglicanism, which have a visible head and an institutional hierarchy, evangelicalism is centered on shared convictions regarding Scripture, Christ, salvation, and so on. This lack of formal structure makes it more difficult to define and to steer the movement into the right, or any, direction. In the ETS, too, recent controversy such as the “Open Theism” debate has focused attention once again on the question of what are our foundational beliefs—most notably inerrancy—and thus, I believe, the publication of Quo Vadis? is very timely indeed in that the volume can assist us in the ETS and as evangelicals to chart our course for the future.


    There may not be one dominant personality that can serve as the visible spokesperson or public representative of what the ETS in particular, or the evangelical movement at large, stands for, but it is vital to sharpen our understanding of who we are and where we want to go in the coming decades. The Journal, of which I serve as Editor, has an important part in this as well in that it can help set a standard of academic excellence in evangelical scholarship and serve as a reflection of the developing evangelical identity by publishing material on issues that define who we are as evangelicals.

    Which criteria did you use in selecting the nine presidential addresses that are included in Quo Vadis?

    As I mentioned, once “evangelical identity” was chosen as the guiding theme of the book, selecting the nine presidential addresses was comparatively straightforward. There were about 50 presidential addresses to choose from, and many of these addresses, though excellent, were on other subjects. An example of this is Carl F. H. Henry’s presidential address on the topic of justification. In the end, the nine presidential addresses that were selected nicely fell into three periods, “The Early Years” (1958–1970), “The Maturing Movement” (1971–1999), and “Recent Reflections” (2000–2007), with contributions by Ned Stonehouse, Warren Young, Gordon Clark; Stan Gundry, Alan Johnson, Mois├ęs Silva; Darrell Bock, Millard Erickson, and Craig Blaising, respectively. While there are, of course, recurring themes such as a focus on, and a proper definition of, inerrancy, as I edited these pieces I was able to detect certain characteristics of the group of essays in a given period and to discern a certain progression from “the early years” to the “recent reflections” on evangelical identity by those ETS presidents.

    What surprises did you encounter while preparing the volume? Is there anything you learned that you didn’t already know?

    Well, yes, there were several things I discovered that I didn’t already know, even though I have edited the Journal now for almost ten years. One of the things I learned was that several ETS presidential addresses were never published in the Journal! Examples of this are the addresses by Kenneth Kantzer and Gleason Archer. Several of these addresses would have been suitable for inclusion in the volume, so I did my best to locate these, but unfortunately I was unable to do so. Also, in my quest to find Carl F. H. Henry’s banquet address delivered at the very first meeting of the ETS I came across the volume Fifty Years of Protestant Theology, published in 1950, which still repays careful reading, even though it was not suitable for inclusion in Quo Vadis?, since it is a 100-page manuscript in its own right.

    What is your own personal assessment of the future of evangelicalism?

    Good question. I will talk about this in more depth in my ETS Banquet address at the upcoming Annual Meeting. Incidentally, for those who are planning to attend the meeting, which will be held in San Diego (see www.etsjets.org), the entire Banquet program will revolve around Quo Vadis, Evangelicalism? and feature addresses by Alan Johnson (representing Sam Schulz’s tenure as JETS editor), Ronald Youngblood (who edited the Journal for 23 years), and myself. This occasion will also include the formal presentation of the volume by Crossway president Lane Dennis.

    With regard to my assessment of the future of evangelicalism, this is hard to answer in one or two sentences! (Though, as I said, I will address this topic at the Annual Meeting.) In short, I believe a building is only as strong as its foundation, and in my perusal of these ETS presidential addresses it has become clear that a high view of Scripture, and inerrancy in particular, is a vital and distinctive foundation for our Society in particular and for our movement at large (though, as you know, not everyone who identifies himself as an evangelical believes in inerrancy, which is an interesting question in its own right).

    At the same time, even the best of foundations still needs a building on top of it. So, as I think you will be able to see when reading the volume, ETS presidents have addressed the question of evangelical identity with increasing sophistication. We have also seen a change to a new generation of leaders in recent years, which has brought new approaches and ideas to the table. Personally, I think the future of evangelicalism can be bright if we remember that God’s kingdom includes people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. This means we must become more globally minded—“missional”—and willing to move beyond our own confines to have our ranks reflect more accurately the makeup of Christianity at large.

    That said, evangelical scholarship should continue to strive for academic excellence. I, for one, think inerrancy is not a hindrance in this regard, but rather constitutes an indispensable foundation. For scholarship to be vibrant, however, I believe there must be a certain amount of freedom for new insights to be discussed, a theme that recurs as well in the presidential addresses included in Quo Vadis? Speaking in terms of scholarship, boundaries are vital, but not if they become a straitjacket that stifle academic work and engender a spirit of fear and suspicion.

    Dr. Kostenberger, thank you for editing this important work and for taking the time to answer these questions. My final question for you: Who should buy and read Quo Vadis, Evangelicalism?

    I would recommend the book to anyone who is interested in evangelical identity—in who we are as evangelicals—and in the future of evangelicalism and Christianity in the United States and worldwide. This includes pastors, seminary professors and students, and others committed to seeing the gospel spread to the ends of the earth for the glory of God. In fact, I believe many who will read these essays will be surprised that they are not only insightful and worth pondering but also in many cases entertaining and spiritually nurturing. I, for one, am grateful for these guiding visions of past ETS presidents and am looking forward to see what God will do in and through evangelicalism in the future.

    Olasky's Manifesto: A Biblical (and Practical) Theology of Politics

    If you're a Christian and if you're interested in thinking Christianly about politics, then this essay by Marvin Olasky is well worth reading. Very few will agree with every point he makes, but I think Olasky makes a number of thoughtful points in this essay (originally written as part of a symposium about Ronald Reagan and the future of conservatism).
    It first lays out a basic biblical exegesis that frees Christians from reacting defensively, and provides examples of how our goal should be to add, not subtract. It then explores some of the nuances, including: why America is not the new Israel, why theocracy is not biblically warranted here, what the minimal societal goals for Christians should be, how Christians can steer clear of spam evangelism, how the difficult issue of same-sex marriage should be approached, and how Christ’s expansive definition of “neighbor” fits well with the Constitution’s first three words: “We, the people.”
    One of Olasky's goals is to tweak both libertarians and conservatives--the former for tending to insist on liberty irrespective of the necessity for liberty, and the latter for tending to think that being "strong and courageous" requires ideological purity.

    Read the whole thing
    .

    "Horton, Sungenis, Justification and the Confusion Over Trent"

    Michael Spencer listened to the recent White Horse Inn interview, where Michael Horton talked to Roman Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis on justification and the Council of Trent. (Horton also interviews Mark Noll, co-author of Is the Reformation Over?)

    Sungenis maintains that any confessional Protestant who knowingly rejects the Trendentine Canons and Decrees is anathema (heretical, eternally condemned). Spencer asks some good questions, seeking more information.

    Advice for Bibliophiles

    Top Ten Things to Say on Returning Home with Conference Book Plunder.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    Books on Christ and Culture

    Tullian Tchividjian suggests 20 books on Christ and culture.

    I wrote an article once on suggested reading on this topic--but I think I like Tullian's list better!

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Hansen Files

    Collin Hansen's latest Theology in the News feature includes a discussion with ETS president (and Wheaton College OT professor) Hassell Bullock, who talks about Francis Beckwith, gives some suggestions on what papers to look for next week at the ETS annual convention, and offers some thoughts on justification, as well on as the proposed change to the ETS doctrinal basis.

    Driscoll's Confession on Pride

    A friend passed along this transcript of the beginning of that sermon by Mark Driscoll on humility:
    I believe that humility is the great omission and failure in my eleven years of preaching. I believe that this is my greatest oversight both in my example and in my instruction.

    I therefore do not claim to be humble. I do not claim to have been humble. I am convicted of my pride, and I am a man who is by God’s grace pursuing humility.

    So in many ways this is a sermon that I’m preaching at myself, this is a sermon you are welcomed to listen in on as I preach to myself.

    But I truly believe that were there one thing I could do over in the history of Mars Hill it would be in my attitude and in my actions and in my words to not only emphasize sound doctrine, encourage in strength and commitment and conviction but, to add in addition to that, humility as a virtue.

    And so I’ll start by asking your forgiveness and sincerely acknowledging that this has been a great failure.

    And I believe that it is showing up in our church in the lives of men and women who have sound doctrine but not sound attitude. They may contend for good things but their motives are bad and their methods are bad and their tone is bad and their tactics are bad and their actions are bad because their attitudes are bad even though their objective is sometimes good. I see this in particular with the men. I see this with men young and old, men who have known Jesus for a long time and should know better, and men who are new to Jesus and are learning sometimes the hard way.

    I will take some responsibility for this. Luke 6:40 says that when fully trained, disciples are like their teacher, and I am primary teaching pastor of this church and I can’t simply look at the pride in some of our people and say that I am in no way responsible or complicit.

    I’m a guy who is pretty busted up over this personally and it really came to my attention last December just in time for Christmas. The critics really brought me a lot of kind gifts of opposition and hatred and animosity. Merry Christmas. And some of those most vocal and nasty critics were Christians – some of them prominent Christians. So I was getting ready to fire back (my usual tactics). They hit you, you hit them twice and then blog about your victory. Which I don’t have any verses for and don’t say it was a good idea. But it had been a pattern in my life until a man named C.J. Mahaney called.

    I’d always considered humility to be cowardice and a compromise. In the name of humility you give up biblical conviction and passion and the willingness to contend for the faith (Jude 3) and to fight false teaching. What he was describing was orthodoxy in belief and humility in attitude and that those two together are really what God desires. And so it got me thinking and studying and praying through pride and humility and repenting and learning and growing. So I would start by saying that I thank my dear friend C.J. Mahaney for his ongoing friendship and the kindness he has extended to me and the things I’ve been able to learn through his instruction.

    Furthermore, I apologize and repent publicly to you, the church for whom I am responsible, for much pride in the history of my ministry that some of you have poorly imitated and for that I am deeply sorry.

    And thirdly, to say that I’m not a humble man but as result of study I’m a man who is acknowledging his pride and pursuing humility by God’s grace.

    -- Mark Driscoll, sermon on Philippians 2:1-11 (November 4, 2007), part 5 in The Rebel's Guide to Joy in Humility (3:16-8:40)

    C.S. Lewis Conference

    Last month there was a conference on C.S. Lewis at Southeastern Seminary. The audio of the plenary sessions are now available at the SEBTS chapel site for downloading:

    Walter Hooper's Work as Editor of C.S. Lewis Works

    by Walter Hooper, Literary Advisor to C.S. Lewis Estate

    C.S. Lewis: America's Bonny Fighter

    by Bruce Edwards, Editor of C.S. Lewis: Life, Work, Legacy

    C.S. Lewis: Reflections about the Man

    by Walter Hooper

    Culture and Public Philosophy: The Other C.S. Lewis

    James Como, Author of Remembering C.S. Lewis and Branches to Heaven

    Driscoll on the Pursuit of Humility

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    "From Adopted to Adopting"

    Boundless.org has published an article by yours truly on adoption.

    9Marks on the Church and the Transformation of Culture

    From the latest 9Marks e-newsletter:

    Coming Soon to a Planet Near You: Lausanne III
    By David F. Wells

    Pastors’ and Theologians’ Forum on Church & Culture
    We asked a roundtable of pastors and theologians whether Scripture calls the local church to the work of cultural transformation. Answers from Thabiti Anyabwile, John Frame, Michael Horton, David Jackman, Jonathan Leeman, Aaron Menikoff, Philip Ryken, Tony Payne, and Stephen Um

    Transforming Culture with a Messiah Complex
    By Michael Horton

    You can read the whole e-zine in PDF.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Technology, the Bible, and Missions

    Washington Post:
    Six months ago, Im [a 13-year-old Cambodian girl] couldn't read a word and had never heard of Jesus. Now, thanks to a literacy program run by the local chapter of an international Bible group, she has a book -- the Bible -- that she can read, and she says she wants to become a Christian.

    Using technological devices ranging from simple cassette tapes to solar-powered audio players and an iPod-like gadget called the Bible Stick, Christian groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to make one of the world's oldest books accessible in remote corners of the planet.

    Complete versions of the Bible can now be downloaded onto cellphones in parts of Africa. To reach those who can't read -- nearly one-fifth of the world's population, according to the United Nations -- Christian groups are rapidly increasing production of audio and video versions.

    Read the whole thing.

    (HT: Josh Harris)

    China Bans Bibles for Olympic Athletes

    The New York Sun reports that "The organizers of the 2008 Olympic Games in China have put the Bible on the list of items that athletes are banned from bringing with them to Beijing. . . ."

    (HT: STR)

    Update: Tim Ellsworth writes:

    "Apparently there are some conflicting reports out there. The information I found indicates that Bibles are not banned entirely, but that visitors to Beijing are being told to bring only one Bible. Here's a story I wrote for Baptist Press about it. Here's a link to the official policy."

    The Threat of Unbelief

    Richard Mouw on Princeton ethicist Paul Ramsey:
    One of my favorite stories along those lines was about a time that Ramsey was asked to address a gathering of denominational officials on peacemaking in the nuclear age. Throughout his presentation he regularly referred to the nuclear arms race as “the second biggest threat to the human race.” In the question and answer period that followed, a bishop who was known for his liberal theological views posed the obvious question to Professor Ramsey: “You kept referring to the arms race as the second biggest threat to the human race, but I don’t think I heard you tell us what the first biggest threat is.” “Oh, yes,” Professor Ramsey replied. “The first biggest threat. Well, it is something that you probably don’t know anything about. It is the problem of unbelief!”
    Mouw writes:
    On many occasions I have joined others in speaking out about peace in the Middle East, global warming, torture, the war in Iraq, and racism–to name some of more obvious topics.

    These are important issues to address. Working to promote justice and peace is a high priority for followers of Christ. But as urgent as these issues are for the health of the societies in which we live, we need to be clear about the fact that they are symptoms of a deeper problem–the unbelief that is in turn an expression of a rebellious spirit that permeates all of our lives, including the systemic dimensions of human interaction.

    (HT: Lee Irons)

    "The Future of Justification" (for the Rest of Us)

    David Mathis, John Piper's theological right-hand man, writes:
    Not everyone should read John Piper’s new book on justification. Some readers—perhaps those already aware of N. T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul (NPP)—will want to read The Future of Justification from cover to cover. But not everyone. . . . Don’t feel out of the loop or way behind if you haven’t heard of Wright and the NPP. You shouldn’t necessarily feel the need to familiarize yourself with them. But reading some of these key sections and chapters may help strengthen your theology of justification and ward off attacks on this precious doctrine when they come.
    Some helpful suggestions are found between the dots above. Read the whole thing.

    RTS President

    A new president has been announced at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte.

    (HT: Jake Hunt)

    Future of Justification Now Available

    John Piper's The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright is now available at Westminster Bookstore ($11.99).

    Pat Robertson to Endorse Giuliani?

    So they say.

    Well, I didn't see that one coming!

    Update: Here's the story.

    Jazz and Philosophy

    Doug Groothuis reflects on the ways that jazz shapes his approach to teaching philosophy--or more technically, "the connections between the artistry of jazz and the artistry of professorial pedagogy."