Friday, February 29, 2008


Tony Reinke reviews the rap album, Atonement.

Gospel Unity, Gospel Division

The latest 9Marks journal is online. (Also available in PDF).

Here's the table of contents:

Fellow Workers for the Truth
By Andy Johnson

Together for What?
By Mark Dever

A Senior Saint on Unity
By Iain Murray

Theological Triage
By R. Albert Mohler

When, Why & Where To Draw Boundaries
By Wayne Grudem

A Pastors' and Theologians' Forum on Fundamentalism

Potential and Pitfalls of Together For The Gospel
By David Doran

A Christian Fundamentalist Travel Guide
By Matthew C. Hoskinson

An Evangelical-Fundamentalist Convergence?
By Ben Wright

Video Review: NOOMA
By Rob Bell
Reviewed by Greg Gilbert

Book Review: Promise Unfulfilled
By Roland McCune
Reviewed by Andy Naselli

Book Review: Why We're Not Emergent
By Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck
Reviewed by Jonathan Leeman

Book Review: I Sold My Soul On eBay
By Hemant Mehta
Reviewed by Michael McKinley

Less Than the Least

Law professors David Skeel (University of Pennsylvania, and an elder in Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church) and Bill Stuntz (Harvard University) have started a new blog: Less Than the Least.

Here's their description:
We are both law professors and evangelical Protestants – a weird combination in our time. We hope it’s also an interesting combination. We plan to write about the things that interest us, professionally and personally: crime and criminal justice (Stuntz), corporate governance, credit, and bankruptcy (Skeel), the culture wars, politics, literature and the arts, and other topics.
HT: Phil Ryken

Paul Maier on the Date of Jesus' Birth

Andreas Kostenberger has posted a very helpful article--Kostenberger considers it the best article on the subject--on the date of the nativity by historian Paul L. Maier.

The Case for Civility: Interview and Review

Tim Challies reviews Os Guinness's new book, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It, and also has an interview with Dr. Guinness.

Black History Month and the Prolife Cause

John Ensor celebrates Black History Month and wonders what it will be in 25 years. Here's the gist: "There are people alive today, within the Black Christian community, that are pioneers and prophets. I expect history to show them forerunners in arousing the Black Church to provide the impetus for victory in the greatest moral challenge of this current age; making abortion as unthinkable as slavery."

Dever on Church Membership and Discipline

Andy Naselli has some audio and video of Mark Dever speaking on church membership and discipline at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Economic Facts and Fallacies

Below are summaries and links to a video interview with Thomas Sowell related to his new book, Economic Facts and Fallacies:

Part 1
The conventional wisdom instructs that the rise of women in corporate America in the latter half of the 20th century was due to the implementation of anti-discrimination laws championed by the feminist movement. In reality, a greater proportion of American women held high-level occupations in the first half of the 20th century. What gives? Thomas Sowell sets the record straight on this and other male–female employment fallacies.

Part 2
It has been reported that the incomes of most American households have remained flat in recent decades. But Sowell says this is a misleading statistic, since “households” are a moving target — varying over time in size, among population groups, and from one income level to another. Says Sowell, “Whenever I see somebody quoting household income, he's trying to make things look bad.” The mainstream media, it turns out, works overtime to make most income data look bad.

Part 3

Sowell discusses the outrage that is faculty tenure. Tenured faculty members, he says, run universities for their own best interests — not the interests of students. They schedule classes on their own time, not students’ time. They wield tremendous influence, in particular into areas where they have no expertise. Why, asks Sowell, should someone who teaches French literature decide whether ROTC should be allowed on campus? The trouble with tenure extends far and wide.

Part 4
We’re programmed to think that if we want to make it big in life we need to attend the crème de la crème of colleges. Thomas Sowell says that’s not true at all. Higher-ed institutions also spread the notion that the price of tuition — though astronomically high — doesn’t even cover the full cost of educating each student. Another misleading statement, says Sowell. How can one separate higher-ed truth from fiction? Sowell has the answers.

Part 5
Fallacies about race run rampant through our culture. For instance, racial discrimination is often listed as a root cause of criminality among blacks, but Sowell points out that black crime was declining prior to the 1960s and the civil-rights and anti-poverty laws that emerged during that decade. What then is the source of black criminality in the post-1960s? Simple, says Sowell: “They stopped punishing criminals.”

Cross References

Tony Reinke recommends five lesser-known but richly valuable books on the cross.

Peter Rollins on What It Means to Be a Christian

From an interview with the emerging church leader:

What then does it mean to be a Christian?

Peter Rollins: It means entering into a journey of becoming one. It does not mean accepting a worldview but rather entering into a healing journey of life.. To be a Christian also means that one is committed to exploring this life through the Judeo-Christian tradition, wrestling with it, learning from it, and being transformed by it. Being a Christian means learning how to be the opening of life into the world.

(You can read more of the interview here.)


From a post by Mark Dever:

Hey Friends,

Time for some fun! For the next few weeks, we're going to give away a free T4G 08 registration on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to whomever gives the best answer to a question we post.

Today's question is

If you could have anyone from history join the cast of speakers at T4G, who would it be and why?

Here are the contest rules:

  1. Questions will be posted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
  2. Post your answer in the "comments" section.
  3. Your answer must be accompanied with a working email address.
  4. Each question will remain open for 48 hours.
  5. The winner's name and answer will be posted sometime after that 48 hour period.
  6. Winner receives free registration for him/herself or a friend.
  7. Responses must be in 100 words or less.

Any takers?

(To leave a comment, go to Mark's post.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Theological Liberalism

H. Richard Niebuhr once offered a line that applies well to theological liberalism: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." Kingdom of God in America (1937), p. 193.

Today James Grant posted the following quote from the philosopher Richard Rorty:

From Ben Myers:

In an interview, Richard Rorty has offered a very memorable assessment of liberal theology:“I’m delighted that liberal theologians do their best to do what Pio Nono said shouldn’t be done – try to accommodate Christianity to modern science, modern culture, and democratic society. If I were a fundamentalist Christian, I’d be appalled by the wishy-washiness of [the liberal] version of the Christian faith. But since I am a non-believer who is frightened of the barbarity of many fundamentalist Christians (e.g. their homophobia), I welcome theological liberalism. Maybe liberal theologians will eventually produce a version of Christianity so wishy-washy that nobody will be interested in being a Christian anymore. If so, something will have been lost, but probably more will have been gained.”

I can hardly imagine a more acute commentary on certain forms of contemporary Protestant theology. Is this not, in fact, the precise goal of many theologians (e.g. Cupitt, Spong) – “to produce a version of Christianity so wishy-washy that nobody will be interested in being a Christian anymore”?

Preaching to a Post-Everything World

Here's a blurb from Tim Keller for the forthcoming book, Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons that Connect with Our Culture, by Zack Eswine of Covenant Theological Seminary:
"Zack Eswine moves the Christ-centered preaching movement forward with this volume. He not only calls us to carefully contextualize our message to various cultures, sensibilities, and habits of heart, but he also gives us a host of practical tools, inventories, and guidelines for doing so. All the while he assumes and strengthens the foundational commitment to preaching Christ and his restoring grace from every text. A great contribution."--Tim Keller, senior pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
Here is the book description from
Zack Eswine starts this unique pastoral resource with a captivating question: Could I now reach who I once was? Challenging the idea that today's preachers must do away with biblical or expository preaching if they are to reach non-Christian people, Eswine offers a way of preaching that embraces biblical exposition in missional terms. Recognizing all of the different cultural situations in which the gospel must be preached, he gives preachers practical advice on preaching in a global context while remaining faithful to the Bible. Pastors, seminarians, and church and ministry leaders who speak in various contexts will welcome this fresh, thoughtful examination of bringing the Word to today's multi-everything, post-everything world.

Do Muslims Worship the True God? A Bridge Too Far

Rick Love is the former International Director for Frontiers, an "international non-profit organization, recruiting, sending and serving teams of ordinary people for long-term service to the communities of the Muslim world." He is presently on sabbatical as a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Yale Reconciliation Program.

Rick and I have enjoyed good fellowship together during my time at Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is a tireless and insightful and articulate follower of Christ who longs to reach Muslims with the good news of Jesus as Lord and Savior. I deeply respect him. I mention this because the following post will criticize some of his recent comments, and I want it to be clear that my criticism is couched in admiration and appreciation.

For those keeping track at home, there are have been some exchanges between John Piper and Rick Love. As far as I can tell, the back-and-forth is over. And so now I wade in (where angels fear to tread!).

At the heart of their disagreement was this paragraph from Love (italics indicates my emphasis):

Christian and Muslim views of God are similar in that we both worship the one true God, creator of the heavens and the earth. We both believe this God will judge all peoples at the end of history. We both believe this God has sent His prophets into the world to guide His people. Christian and Muslim views of God differ primarily regarding the Fatherhood of God, the Trinity, and especially regarding the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I believe that Muslims worship the true God. But I also believe that their view of God falls short of His perfections and beauty as described in the Bible. Thus, I try to model my approach to Muslims after the apostle Paul who said to the Athenians: "What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you" (Acts 17:23).

This was clearly in mind when Piper wrote his article on loving our Muslim neighbors. His final point was: "Don't mislead them or give them false hope by saying, 'Muslims worship the true God.'"

In his final response, Love reiterates his view: "Muslims already worship God as the One Living God—Creator and Judge of the Universe. . . . I believe that Muslims worship the true God. . . . I believe that anyone who affirms monotheism—whether Muslim, Jew, Sikh or Tribal—are worshiping the true God. How can it be otherwise, since there is only one God?" At the same time, he pleads "not guilty" to misleading Muslims or giving them false hope. He sets his response in the context of his understanding of Pauline theology and methodology. His perspective in this post is helpful—but his statements about Muslims worshipping the true God are not helpful, because they are not true.

Love assumes that all monotheists (i.e., people who believe in only one God) de facto "are worshiping the true God." This proposition is unsustainable from a biblical perspective. First, Apostle James observed that even the demons are monotheists (James 2:19–20)—that certainly doesn't mean they worship the true God!

Second, consider what Jesus could say to his fellow Jews. Their leaders insisted to Jesus, "We have one Father—even God" (John 8:42). These are the Monotheists of Monotheism talking. If Love were consistent, he would say that by definition they are worshippers of the true God. But that's not Jesus' perspective. "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me. . . You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. . . . Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God' (8:43, 44, 47). Jesus is pretty clear here about these Jewish monotheists: (a) they do not have God as their Father and are not of God; (b) they do have the devil as their father—who has nothing to do with the truth. In light of this can we possibly imagine Jesus agreeing with a statement like "Jesus-denying Jews worship the one true God?" He is at pains to demonstrate precisely the opposite. If this is true for Jesus-denying Jews, how much more so for Jesus-denying Muslims.

Further, Love seems to see an obvious, necessary, logical connection between "X believes that there is only one God" and "X worships the one true God." But just as an "is" does not imply an "ought," so it is also the case that a "belief" does not entail a "fact." The first is a claim of epistemology (what/how we know), the second is a claim of ontology (reality). Love is making an illegitimate jump here.

The problem is not in the word "worship" per se. "Worship," in biblical terms, is a neutral term—it all depends on the object of the "worship" (e.g., Israel could worship Yahweh or worship a golden calf). The problem comes when we call the object of "worship" "the true God." This then becomes an evaluative statement, inexorably bound up with the character of who that God is.

Let me offer an example: there is only one President of the United States. We could say that everyone who (rightly) believes this is a mono-executivist. Now virtually all of us believe that George W. Bush is the current President. But someone could insist that, "No, Al Gore is the true President of the U.S, and therefore I honor and treat him as such." No one would say that from the mere fact that we're all mono-executivists, it therefore follows that the statement "we all honor the same true President" applies to those who honor Bush and those who honor Gore.

In wrapping up, let me say again how much I appreciate Rick Love and his work. I affirm his apostolic bridge-building. But in the case of claiming that Muslims worship the true God, I suggest we have a case of a bridge too far.

Update: For a good overview of Paul's evangelistic strategy in Acts 17, see this article by D. A. Carson.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Buckley at His Desk

As one who struggles (or rather, fails) to keep a clean desk, I couldn't help but smile tonight at this picture of Buckley in his office:

(Photo posted on The Corner)

BTW, to see Buckley being interview by Charlie Rose, here is an hour-long show with highlights throughout the years:

CT on Willow's Reveal: A Disturbingly Low View of the Church

From Christianity Today's editorial on Willow Creek's Reveal:
As admirers of Willow, we offer one critique, as well as praise.

Our ongoing concern about seeker-sensitive churches is not their willingness to change church culture so that it is not a needless stumbling block to the unchurched. We're only troubled when such churches uncritically accept the metrics of marketing culture, and let consumer capitalism shape the church's theology.

In Reveal, talk about the church is framed as if it were merely a distribution point for spiritual goods and services. For example, the study says that the dissatisfied, more than any other segment, have a much higher level of expectation "for what the church can and should deliver." Furthermore, the dissatisfied say that when it comes to engendering personal spiritual growth, "the church is letting me down."

The study's answer suggests a disturbingly low view of the church: It concludes that the dissatisfied need to realize that "much of the responsibility for their spiritual growth belongs to them" (emphasis in the original). And "We [at Willow] have to let people know early on in their journey that they need to look beyond the church to grow" (emphasis added).

But according to the apostle Paul, the church is where each one is given a gift "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12–13).

For Paul, solid spiritual growth cannot be found "beyond the church," but only in its midst. The study rightly says, "Our people need to learn to feed themselves through personal spiritual practices." Unfortunately, the study fails to hint that these spiritual disciplines are intrinsically grounded in the ongoing life of the church. This implicit dualism (between private and corporate spiritual growth) suggests something different from Paul's view that it is in the body of Christ that we are joined together to "grow up into him who is the Head" (Eph. 4:15).

Willow's study, of course, invites this very exercise in iron sharpening iron. It's precisely because of Willow's passion to grow people in Christ, its humility to undertake a self-study, and its vulnerability to publicize the results, that we're all thinking more deeply about what it means to be the church. Would that more congregations have such passion and humility.

Update: Jonathan Leeman blogged through the REVEAL book at the 9Marks website. Click here for his conclusion.

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

William F. Buckley Jr., the conservative writer and founder of The National Review, has died.

His first book, written in 1951, was God and Man at Yale and is still in print.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses

Vern Poythress's book, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, is now available online for free.

Here is the table of contents:

Part 1: Understanding the Different Aspects of the Law
  1. The Challenge of the Law of Moses
  2. The Tabernacle of Moses
  3. The Sacrifices, Prefiguring the Final Sacrifice of Christ
  4. The Priests and the People,
  5. General Principles for God's Dwelling with Human Beings Prefiguring Union with Christ
  6. The Land of Palestine, the Promised Land
  7. The Law and Its Order
  8. The Purposes of the Tabernacle the Law, and the Promised Land: Pointing Forward to Christ
  9. The Punishments and Penalties of the Law Prefiguring the Destruction of Sin and Guilt through Christ
Part 2: Understanding Specific Penalties of the Law

  1. The Principle of Penal Substitution
  2. Principles of Justice for the Modern State
  3. Just Penalties for Many Crimes
  4. Penalties for Sexual Crimes
  5. Deterrence and Rehabilitation
  6. A Critique of Prisons
  7. Our Responsibilities Toward Imperfect States
  8. Fulfillment of the Law in the Gospel According to Matthew
  1. Appendix A: False Worship in the Modern State
  2. Appendix B: Evaluating Theonomy
  3. Appendix C: Does the Greek Word Πληρόω Sometimes Mean "Confirm"?
HT: Keith Plummer

Keller Interview in First Things

First Thing's Anthony Sacramone has a substantial interview with Tim Keller on his new book.

(HT: Keith Plummer)

Larry Norman (1947-2008)

Larry Norman, the "Father of Christian rock," has died at the age of 60.

Guinness Reviews Crazy for God

Os Guinness reviews Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God in Books and Culture.

Simply put, this is one of the best book reviews I've ever read on any book. It is a masterpiece, offering not only insight into the book and its characters, but into life and family and ministry and God. Make sure to read the whole thing.

A Response to Inclusivism

I have not yet seen the published version of this book: Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism, ed. Chris Morgan and Robert Peterson. However, I saw portions of a draft of a chapter, and it was excellent. Further, the editors exhibit a rich and unique blend of irenicism and insight. Finally, it looks like they've assembled a very fine team to address this important issue:
1 Introduction by Robert A. Peterson
2 Inclusivisms and Exclusivisms by Christopher W. Morgan
3 General Revelation: Sufficient or Insufficient? by Daniel Strange
4 Exclusivism: Unjust or Just? by William Edgar
5 Other Religions: Saving or Secular? by Eckhard J. Schnabel
6 Holy Pagans: Reality or Myth? by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
7 Saving Faith: Implicit or Explicit? by Stephen J. Wellum
8 Inclusivism versus Exclusivism on Key Biblical Texts by Robert A. Peterson
9 The Gospel for All Nations by Andreas J. Köstenberger
10 God’s Zeal for His World by J. Nelson Jennings
11 Answers to Notable Questions by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson
Here are some blurbs for the book:
"The fate of those who have never heard the gospel is one of the great mysteries of our faith. Christians have long speculated about whether and how God may have spoken to those who have not been exposed to the church's preaching of salvation through Christ alone. This book deals respectfully with the different views of the subject which are found among evangelical believers while seeking to remain faithful to the teaching of Jesus himself. It is a model of how we should discuss such a delicate matter and come to a decision which upholds the uniqueness of the one and only Savior of mankind."
—Gerald Bray, Research Professor, Beeson Divinity School

"A helpful, scholarly critique of inclusivism by various evangelical authors."

—Donald G. Bloesch, Professor of Theology Emeritus, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa

"No greater challenge faces the church of Jesus Christ than religious inclusivism--the belief that sincere people of many religions have enough truth to be saved from spiritual ruin. In an age of tolerance for all that does not seem to hurt or inhibit, no note sounds more discordant than an exclusivistic requirement of faith in Jesus Christ. Yet--with patience, respect and biblical rigor--Morgan, Peterson et al. show such an exclusive claim is in the Bible. Nothing could be more insensitive and arrogant than repeating this claim--unless it is true. Then, nothing could be more gracious and necessary than this book's message."

—Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary

"For those who are more interested in faithful alignment with what Scripture says than in sentimentality on this extraordinarily challenging subject, this is now the book to read. Courteous in tone yet thoroughly engaged with those who take contrary positions, the contributors lead us with exegetical care, theological poise and pastoral sensitivity through a thicket of common objections. I warmly recommend this book."

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

"These thoughtful, irenic and informed essays provide an important response to more 'inclusivist' perspectives on the question of the destiny of the unevangelized. This is a helpful contribution to a complex and controversial set of issues."

—Harold Netland, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism is a refreshing voice in an increasingly confusing evangelical literary output on matters pertaining to human religions. This timely book is a very helpful guide to Christians who want to seriously examine the biblical and theological issues for themselves. Useful to specialists and nonspecialists."

—Tite Tiénou, Dean and Professor of Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The 10-Point Script of Popularly Driven Archaeology

Broadman & Holman just released a new book which looks excellent: Buried Hope or Risen Savior? The Search for the Jesus Tomb, edited by Charles L. Quarles.

Here's the publisher's description:
Buried Hope or Risen Savior? argues for the credibility of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, engaging the issue in relation to the recent “Jesus Family Tomb” claims that continue making headlines around the world.

Among the contributors, Steve Ortiz (professor of Biblical Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) discusses the general background of this type of tomb and the archaeology of the Talpiot tomb site. Craig Evans (New Testament professor at Acadia Divinity College) writes about ossuaries and tomb inscriptions. Richard Bauckham (New Testament professor at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews) gives the history of Jewish names, extrabiblical writings, and Mary Magdalene. William Dembski (SWBTS research professor in Philosophy) discusses the statistical evidence for the names found on the Talpiot tomb to have been “Jesus.” Mike Licona (North American Mission Board director of Apologetics and Interfaith Evangelism) responds to claims that finding the bones of Jesus would not disprove Christ’s resurrection. Gary Habermas (Apologetics & Philosophy chair at Liberty University) summarizes the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. And Darrell Bock (New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary) addresses the importance of the resurrection and how Christians should respond to challenges upon their faith.
Now, to be frank, I have to say that the so-called "discovery" of Jesus' bones in an ossuary in East Talpiot has turned out to be a major yawn. I'm aware of no scholar (Christian, Jewish, secular) who thinks these are the bones of Jesus of Nazareth.

But the value in a book like this is to show careful reasoning on how to think through an issue like this. The Talpiot ossuary "discovery" is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. So I think the book still holds significant value.

For example, Professor Ortiz has a very helpful chapter on "The Use and Abuse of Archaeological Interpretation." He writes (pp. 29-30), "The scripts for all of these amateur portrayals are similar and follow the same basic 10 points:
  1. The prevailing hypothesis affirmed by the consensus of the scholarly community is wrong.
  2. The "discoverer" is not a trained archaeologist but is self-taught, and he knows the "true story" that all others have overlooked.
  3. An expedition is planned for one season, and (lo and behold) at the first attempt they find exactly what they are looking for.
  4. This is all documented while a camera crew happens to be filming the discovery.
  5. The process is "detective work" that has been missed by the academic community, and they (amateur archaeologists) are the ones who are able to unravel the mystery or solve the problem that has perplexed the experts.
  6. No new date is presented, only a reworking of previously published data. A corollary is that not all the data is consulted.
  7. Upon the presentation of the discovery, the scholarly community scoffs at the find, and it is claimed that there is a secret monopoly by those in power to suppress the information.
  8. The amateurs sensationalize the "discovery" by claiming that it is so revolutionary that it will change our way or thinking and our lifestyle.
  9. The old "discovery" is presented to the media as a "brand-new" discovery.
  10. Usually a book or movie comes out within a week of the "new" discovery.

The presentation of The Lost Tomb of Jesus follows the above script."

Moreland: What Is Knowledge?

J. P. Moreland provides a good overview of epistemology (how we know) in this post.

First, he defines knowledge (to represent reality in thought or experience the way it really is on the basis of adequate grounds).

Next, he offers three important clarifications about knowledge: (1) knowledge has nothing to do with certainty or an anxious quest for it; (2) one can know something without knowing how one knows it; (3) one can know without knowing that one knows.

Third, he suggests three difference types of knowledge: (1) knowledge by acquaintance (happens when we are directly aware of something); (2) propositional knowledge (knowledge that an entire proposition is true); (3) know-how (the ability to do certain things for certain purposes).

Piper on Five Reasons to Trust the Bible

Here are the notes from John Piper's talk at Resurgence on why he trusts the Bible.

Review of "Why We're Not Emergent"

Jonathan Leeman reviews the forthcoming book, Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be (due out from Moody Press in April). Here's a line from the review: " I hope that those inclined to the 'emergent/emerging thing will themselves at least try to understand what these two men are saying, because it’s the closest thing that I’ve read so far that both 'gets' where the Emergents are coming from while at the same time offering a very good critique of the movement’s deficiencies."

You can also visit the book's official webpage to see endorsements, chapter 1, etc.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

Al Mohler: "A massive new study of the American religious landscape reveals big changes and powerful trends shaping the future. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life surveyed 35,000 Americans in one of the largest research projects yet undertaken. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey report is over 140 pages long, but the Pew Center for Research has provided a helpful summary."

Read Mohler's blog post
for a number of bullet points and observations. He writes, "The report is a credible and extensive review of the American religious landscape. Taken as a whole, the data point to big changes on the horizon. . . . Evangelical Christians and churches should look at this report closely. There is a wealth of data here that helps to define the mission field we face in America."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gelernter on He and She

David Gelernter--a national fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, and a professor of computer science at Yale--pens a jeremiad on Feminism and the English Language: Can the Damage to Our Mother Tongue Be Undone?

Muether on Van Til

Here are a few blurbs for John Muether's forthcoming biography, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman:

“An outstanding introduction to the life and thought of Westminster Seminary’s premier apologist. Muether writes with the spirit of Van Til’s apologetic: suaviter in modo, fortiter in re—‘gentle in persuasion, powerful in substance.’ Read and be persuaded by the powerful impact of Van Til’s gentle yet confrontational blend of vigorous thought, gracious service, and Presbyterian churchmanship. This is essential reading for understanding Van Til’s unique and creative integration of the best of the Dutch Reformed tradition with the strengths of American Presbyterianism, which gave birth to presuppositionalism and continues to energize interest in worldview analysis.” —Peter A. Lillback, President, Westminster Theological Seminary

“John Muether does a masterful job of tracing the personal history of this ‘father of presuppositionalism.’ He also shows the inextricable link between Van Til’s own call as a minister of the gospel and his task of training men for gospel ministry to be self-conscious in their apologetic method. As Muether weaves together the various strands of Van Til’s life and career, one can readily see, in a way not clearly seen before, that it was Reformed theology, and not philosophy, that shaped Van Til’s work as a Christian apologist. I could not put this book down.” —K. Scott Oliphint, professor of apologetics and systematic theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Highly interesting and engaging. Particularly helpful is how Muether sets Van Til’s work in the context of contemporary academic and especially ecclesiastical debates. He presents many new angles on Van Til’s life that promise to enrich our appreciation and evaluation of him.” —David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics, Westminster Seminary California

Text & Context: The Resurgence Conference Live on the Web

Over the next few days the Resurgence Conference will be broadcasting the conference live on the web. Click here.

I'm reprinting the schedule below.

Justin Buzzard will be there and blogging about it.

Monday, February 25, 2008
2:00 pm Session 1 – Mark Driscoll – Text & Context: Humble Incarnational Ministry
4:00 pm Session 2 – CJ Mahaney – Text & Context: Pastoral Character & Loving People
7:00 pm Session 3 – John Piper - Text: Why I Trust the Scriptures

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
9:00 am Session 4 – Jim Gilmore – Context: Fear and Trembling in the Experience Economy
10:45 am Session 5 – Matt Chandler - Text & Context: Preaching the Gospel in the Center of the Evangelical World

1:00 pm Session 6 – John Piper - Text & Context: How My Pastoral Ministry Shapes my Pulpit Ministry

2:45 pm Session 7 Mark Driscoll - The Ox: Qualifications of a Church Planter (Acts 29 Session)
4:15 pm Session 8 Matt Chandler - Vision of a Church Planter (Acts 29 Session)

7:00 pm Session 9 – John Piper - Text: How Do I Distinguish Between Gospel and False Gospel?
9:00 pm Q & A with John Piper

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

10:00 am Session 10 – Jim Gilmore – Context: Decoding the Future, the Phoniness, and the Shifting Sands
11:20 am Q& A with Jim Gilmore
1:00 pm Session 11 – Mark Driscoll – Text & Context: Preaching Jesus Christ To Pagan Culture
2:15 pm Q & A with Mark Driscoll

The Orthodoxy or Lack Thereof of Tony Jones

Tony Jones, commenting at Jesus Creed:
Sadly, this is happening more and more to me, and I continue to offer the same challenge: Will someone please show me where, in print, I have said something that is outside of classic, historic orthodoxy. I may not be evangelical, as it’s been defined over the past 150 years, but I’ve never claimed to be an evangelical. But surely Christian orthodoxy is much broader than modern evangelicalism. Was Augustine orthodox? Luther? Aquinas? Hildegard?"
Matthew Wilcoxen responds (ignore the snark and look for the substance), as does his co-blogger, Norman Jeune III.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Guinness on the Religious Right Playing the Victim Card

From Os Guinness's book, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It (pp. 93-94, emphasis added):
As one who believes that the call of Jesus is to a path of suffering that shuts the door to every form of victim-playing, I am angered by organizers fo the Religious Right who play the victim card and appeal openly to Christian resentment. . . .

Do they not know that those who portray themselves as victims come to perceive themselves as victims and then to paralyze themselves as victims? . . .

But whether "victimization" then or a "war on Christians" now, such tactics of the Religious Right are foolish, ineffective, and downright anti-Christian. The problem is not that these people are theocrats, but that they are sub-Christian. They do not violate the separation of church and state so much as they violate Christian integrity. Factually, it is dead wrong for Christians to portray themselves as a minority, let alone as persecuted. Christians are as close to a majority community as any group in America; what their fellow Christians are facing today in China, North Korea, Burma, and Sudan is real persecution.

Psychologically, victim-playing is dangerous because it represents what Nietzsche called "the politics of the tarantula," a base appeal to resentment. But worst of all, it is spiritually hypocritical, for nothing so contradicts their claim to represent "Christian values" as their refusal to follow the teaching and example of Jesus of Nazareth by playing the victim card and finding an excuse not to love their enemies. Shame, shame, shame on such people; and woe, woe, woe to such tactics.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"In My Place Condemned He Stood"

Some endorsements for the forthcoming book, In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement, by J. I. Packer and Mark Dever:

"A 'must read'—a tract for the times to call Christians to be Bible-based, Christ-centered, atonement believing and understanding, God-adoring people. Here is vintage J. I. Packer accompanied by some younger friends. The magisterial but too-little-known essay, 'What Did the Cross Achieve?' is itself worth the price of the whole book. And there is much more besides. Here, then, are gospel riches, and In My Place Condemned He Stood marks the spot where the buried treasure lies. Start digging!"
—Sinclair B Ferguson, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina

"The essays in this volume by J. I. Packer are some of the most important things I have ever read. I'm delighted to see them united in one volume and supplemented by other excellent chapters and studies on this crucial topic. If you want to preach in such a way that results in real conversions and changed lives, you should master the approach to the cross laid out in this book." —Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

“This book contains some of the finest essays that have ever been written on the death of Christ.”
—David F. Wells, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"What a joy and encouragement to have the three classic essays on the cross of Christ by J. I. Packer published in one volume. Furthermore, Mark Dever pierces to the marrow of the matter in his wonderfully clear essay on penal substitution. This book unpacks the significance of the cross so that we understand why we should glory only in the cross. Every student and pastor should own this volume, for the contents are so precious that they deserve more than one reading."
—Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"At a time when many are again questioning biblical fundamentals regarding atonement, secured for us by the death and resurrection of Christ, it is wonderful to see reprinted these four essays—each of which has proven to be enormously edifying to those who first read them. Putting them together in this way was a brilliant idea. I heartily recommend the widespread distribution of this little book.
—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"In a time of spiritual decline and doctrinal confusion, it is desperately important for us to be clear about the cross. Writing with the precision of learned theologians and the passion of forgiven sinners, Mark Dever and J. I. Packer explain the meaning of atonement, substitution, and propitiation—not just as words, but as saving benefits we can only receive from a crucified Savior."
—Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

"It is common knowledge that J. I. Packer's introduction to John Owen's 'The Death of Death in the Death of Christ' is worth the price of the book itself. But what a boon to have that same masterpiece bound in a single volume with his classic essays 'What Did the Cross Achieve' and 'The Heart of the Gospel'—forming a theological treasure trove on the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. The addition to this magnificent theological triptych of Mark Dever's winsome and penetrating "Nothing but the Blood" constitutes a mighty call to a Christ-centered, cruciform life. This is a book for our time—a galvanizing bulwark against today's attack upon the gospel of the cross of Christ."
—R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois

"This edition is a splendid expression of the biblical doctrine of the atonement. Those who deny a personal penal substitution cannot account for the immense suffering of Christ or for the justification of the redeemed."
—Roger Nicole, Professor of Theology Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary

"Given the current rebellion in many evangelical quarters against the biblical understanding of atonement, it is a great pleasure to see these classic essays of J. I. Packer once more in print, along with a new article by Mark Dever and a robust commendation by the four men behind Together for the Gospel. All those tired of the childish and therapeutic babble that passes for evangelical thought on the atonement these days will find this book to be an oasis in a dry and barren land."
—Carl R. Trueman, Academic Dean and Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

"J. I. Packer and Mark Dever have done a superb job in pulling together into one volume some of the most critical doctrinal issues facing the church today. No one in the West or in developing countries who wants to preach or teach the heart of the gospel should miss reading, and re-reading, these courageous articles on Christ's atonement for our sins. My prayer is that many copies of this book will come into the hands of those who preach and teach in Africa where doctrinally enlightening material such as this is scarce. It could go far in strengthening the church in Africa as it becomes the epicenter of Christianity."
—Rosemary Jensen, Founder and President, Rafiki Foundation

Prayer in Public School?

From Os Guinness's new book, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It (pp. 66, 67):
. . . supporters of school prayer have found themselves on the horns of a dilemma of their own choosing. Insisting on official Christian prayer in such pluralistic settings, they either ignore the diversity and pray as if everyone shared their faith--thus scandalizing those who do not; or they respect the diversity and pray in an inoffensive way that tries to appeal to as many faiths as possible--thus secularizing their own faith while still offending those who reject public prayer of any kind. . . .

The founders' first principles of religious liberty can of course be applied to school prayer in several ways. For example, the golden rule of equal liberty for all could be applied to school prayer as "One in, all in" and respected by praying a different prayer every day of the school month--Christian one day, Jewish the next, Muslim after that, then Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Scientologist, Wiccan, and so on, until all the faiths in the school are covered. Such a policy would surely lead to chaos and indifference rather than tolerance. . . .

The alternative application of the golden rule would be to say, "One out, all out," and to conclude--I think rightly, for religious even more than constitutional reasons--that public schools are not the place to have official teacher-led prayer, Christian or otherwise. A moment of silence, perhaps; and free to pray alone at any time; and freedom to pray in student-initiated groups after school hours, certainly; but not official prayer in public schools when contemporary levels of the social fact of pluralism mean that the principle of religious liberty for all is contravened. (As all these "equal access" freedoms show, it is a perverse myth that "children are not allowed to pray in public schools.")

Weaknesses of the New Atheism

An essay by David Aikman on The Weaknesses of the New Atheism.

Aikman, a former senior correspondent for Time Magazine and now writer-in-resident and professor of history at Patrick Henry College, is the author of the forthcoming book, The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, due out this April from Tyndale.

(HT: Gene Veith)

Why a Pro-Life President Matters

Joe Carter gives five examples of why it's important to have a pro-life president.

Here's the conclusion: "Christians have an obligation to the most vulnerable members of our society to elect politicians who have both a robust view of human dignity and the temerity to govern accordingly. We betray this duty when we downplay the role the executive branch in advancing the pro-life cause. Judges and legislators matter; but presidents matter too."

CT Interviews the Gettys

Christianity Today interviews Keith and Kristyn Getty.

(Their 2006 CD, In Christ Alone, is quite good.)

(HT: Denny Burk)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Political Ads

Political advertisements can be a fascinating window into politics, sociology, and the media.

Most ads, of course, are almost instantly forgotten.

Here are a couple of effective ads from 25 years ago that made a difference and that people remember: both from 1984 and both on behalf of Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign and each tapping into an emotion (fear and hope):

I've seen very few TV political ads this campaign season, but my sense is that almost all of them are entirely forgettable. What's changed is the presence of YouTube. It's free to post and it can be longer than a TV ad. It can also be distributed and therefore is potentially more effective.

Here are two on Barack Obama: one negative, one positive--but both leave the desired impression!

C.J. on "Andy Pettitte and My Confession of Sin"

C. J. Mahaney has a must-read post on steroids in Major League Baseball and what Scripture teaches about the necessity of truly confessing our sins.

The Calvin I Never Knew

Here's a wonderful 1 hour and 45 minute seminar by Frank James (church history professor and president of RTS in Orlando) on The Calvin I Never Knew (in iTunes). James shows that Calvin was a remarkable pastor and one of the greatest church planters the church has ever known.

(A shorter written version, which I've linked before, is available here.)

Books and Influence on Trueman

From an interview: Carl Trueman on the books that have influenced him most:

GD: Fair enough. Who has most influenced your theological development?

CT: Theologically, I'm deeply indebted to J I Packer. Martin Luther is a constant part of my theological diet. Other theologians I love to read are Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Owen, Blaise Pascal, B B Warfield, Cardinal Newman, and Herman Bavinck. Of more recent writers, D A Carson and C J Mahaney. CJ has had a deeper impact on my life perhaps than any other recent author -- the deceptive simplicity of his practical writings is simply beautiful and, on a practical level, very convicting.

. . . what is the most helpful theological book that you have read in the last twelve months? It is a must read because?
CT: Rober Kolb and Charles P Arand, The Genius of Luther's Theology. Just a great book on the central gospel truths as expressed by Luther. The older I get, the more I crave the simple stuff. This isn't simple, in the sense of being lightweight, but it focuses so beautifully and pastorally on the basics.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

TNR on NYT on McCain

The left-of-center The New Republic on the New York Times' front-page story on John McCain: "what's most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all. . . . The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves. . . ."

TNR investigates. Here's a summary:

What happened? The publication of the article capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn't. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable.
Looks like other leftward bloggers are not impressed, either.

Pirates of Christendom

This imaginative (though serious) dialogue was written a few years ago by by J. Budziszewski, but I thought it of the other day, as it addresses what I think has become an acceptable sin among many Christians: stealing music and software.

A Christian Counterculture

Douglas Groothuis provides a short list "to provoke thought and action" concerning the requirements of a Christian counterculture.

Storms on Colossians

Here are two of my favorite writers and thinkers on another one of my favorites:

"From years of friendship, conversation, shared burdens, mutual intercession, and the same vision of our great God, I trust Sam's biblical faithfulness. He brings a keen eye and a wakened soul to God's Word. The overflow for us is fresh insight and strong feeling. I thank God for Sam Storms. My life is sweeter because of the seasoning he brings."
John Piper, Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis

"Many devotional books lack biblical and theological depth. Storms's work is a striking exception. His meditations on Colossians faithfully communicate the message of the letter so that readers are enriched both biblically and theologically. Moreover, the meaning of Colossians is applied with wisdom and power so that I found myself encouraged, convicted, and challenged. Here is evangelical theology at its best."
Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Westminster Books has Storms's new book, The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians, available for $11.87. I started it last night, and it's quite good!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My First Books

For a total of about $5 you can get two of the best tools I've seen for instructing and discipling young kids. Both are by Carine Mackenzie. Links and descriptions below.

My First Book of Questions and Answers
Children always have questions about what it means to be a Christian. Do they need a long, philosophical answer? Not always—and it is simple answers to deep questions that feature in this book. If you have ever wanted to know how to explain the Christian faith to young children in bite-sized chunks then My First Book of Questions will be of great help to you. In 114 profound questions and answers, backed by scripture proofs, best selling author Carine Mackenzie provides an invaluable tool to get you started.
My First Book Of Christian Values
Children want to know what to do. They want to know why they do the things we do. They are full of questions and they need answers. As well as having amazing minds they have souls that need direction and care. The foundations that are laid in their young lives will stand firm in their adult live. With the work of the Holy Spirit these Christian principles and values will be eternal. Life changing values. In a world where basic moral standards are eroded and neglected children need to be taught the firm truths of humility, generosity, truthfulness, purity and respect. In this book are thirty one different values that show us what Jesus Christ is like and how we should behave. Each value has a scripture verse to learn and a brief explanation. You dont need to teach children to do wrong, but you do need to teach them to do right and to trust in the only one who is good, God!

Dever on the Bondage of "Guidance"

Mark Dever: "The way many Christians practice seeking God's will before they make a decision amounts to spiritual and emotional bondage." Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sarkozy, the Holocaust, and the Absence of God

Out of Paris:
President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell this week: Beginning next fall, he said, every fifth-grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis.

"Nothing is more moving, for a child, than the story of a child his own age, who has the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as he, but who, in the dawn of the 1940s, had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew," Mr. Sarkozy said Wednesday.

Mr. Sarkozy wrapped his plan in the cloak of religion, placing blame for the wars and violence of the last century on an "absence of God."

The Holocaust is already taught in French schools, but some psychiatrists and educators predicted that requiring students to identify with a specific victim could traumatize them.

Secularists accused Mr. Sarkozy, who is already under fire for his frequent praise of God and religion, of subverting the country's iron-clad separation of church and state.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Darrell Bock

David F. Wright (1937-2008)

Ligon Duncan writes:
My friend, Dr. David Reimer of New College, has just written to tell me of the passing of one of the great evangelical Patristic and Reformation scholars of our time, David F. Wright. David was for many years Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at New College, University of Edinburgh, then became (towards the end of his tenure there) Professor of Patristic and Reformation Christianity, then in his retirement, Emeritus Professor and Honorary Fellow. He died in Edinburgh, with his beloved wife, Anne Marie, holding his hand as he left Jordan's stormy banks.

Professor Wright inspired awe (and not a little terror) among a generation of postgraduates at New College, who often said of him: "David has read everything, . . . twice!"

An indefatigable editor and powerful voice for Bible-believing scholarship, David's last work was an article on the Great Commission (David Reimer tells me). How fitting.

David was my own PhD supervisor, and I owe him more than I can possibly express in words.
Here was a notice about his retirement in 2004 from the University of Edinburgh:
Professor David Wright retired in September, 2003 after almost 40 years of distinguished service to the University of Edinburgh. Born in London and educated in Cambridge where he studied classics and theology, David took up a lectureship in the former Department of Ecclesiastical History in 1964. Promoted to a senior lectureship in 1973, he was awarded a personal chair in Patristic and Reformed Christianity in 1999. The title reflects the breadth of his scholarship and research expertise. A lifelong interest in the career and writings of Augustine is apparent in a range of publications, while his dedication to the traditions of the Reformation has produced notable work on Bucer, Calvin, Knox and Peter Martyr Vermigli. In recent years, these two research foci have been united in work that explores the reception of early church theology in the Reformation, particularly with respect to the doctrine of baptism, a subject on which he has delivered lecture series in several countries. In addition to his own scholarly input, David has established a reputation as an editor of formidable qualities. With an attentiveness to detail, scholarly rigour and linguistic exactitude, he has edited important collections of essays, dictionaries and encyclopaedias, particularly in relation to the history and theology of the Reformed tradition.

Throughout his time in Edinburgh, he has also proved a popular and highly conscientious teacher of students. Attracting doctoral candidates from overseas, particularly the USA, he has proved a successful supervisor to many now in established teaching positions across the world. A Festschrift in his honour was published in 1997.

As an administrator, David has served in many different capacities, not least as Dean of the Faculty of the Divinity (1988-92) and Convener of the Senatus Postgraduate Studies Committee (1981-85). Here again his attention to detail and meticulous preparation were widely appreciated, as was his capacity to chair meetings in a calm, efficient and fair manner. These qualities have also enriched the work of external scholarly bodies and particularly the courts of the Church of Scotland. In 2003-4 he served as Moderator of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, the first elder to have held this post.

Since his retiral David’s scholarly work and overseas lecturing commitments have continued. It is hoped that a monograph on the doctrine of baptism will soon appear following his Didsbury Lectures in Manchester. Amidst all this he has completed a sponsored walk for charity, by reaching the top of Mount Sinai earlier this year. We trust that retirement will bring many more years of scholarly activity and vigorous walking, and extend our warmest wishes both to him and to his wife, Anne-Marie.

New Journal from SBTS

Owen Strachan posts about a new academic student journal that is being started at Southern Seminary.

Advance Praise for "Jesus Made in America"

Advance praise for Steve Nichols's forthcoming book, Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to "The Passion of the Christ".

"Stephen Nichols's account of how Jesus has been perceived throughout American history is long on wisdom and short on tedium. His lively account is especially noteworthy as it explains what the nation's first presidents made of Jesus and how he has been depicted by some of its most popular movie producers. Not the least of the book's many merits is Nichols's ability to sort through the extraordinary mix of cultural nonsense and profound theological insight that make up this story."

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

"Stephen J. Nichols loves Jesus and he loves America, but he does not love the way that many Americans have repackaged Jesus to conform to their own cultural assumptions. With the learning of a first-rate historian, the spiritual bearings of an orthodox theologian and the passion of a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, Nichols charts his way through the American religious experience from the Puritans to the present. Evangelicals who assume that distorted and undeveloped Christologies are just a problem among theological liberals particularly need to read this book. The real Jesus might have us attend first to a beam in our own eye."

—Timothy Larsen, McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College

"This is a fascinating historical chronicle of the many different ways we have attempted to 'Americanize' Jesus. But reading it is also an important spiritual exercise. Stephen Nichols points us beyond the distorted images of Jesus that so easily tempt us to the reality of a Savior who is the Lord of the nations."

—Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"I hate to say it, but Nichols is right: 'Too often American evangelicals have settled for a Christology that can be reduced to a bumper sticker.' My hope and prayer for this book is that our leading preachers will read it, learn from Nichols about the profound Christian heritage of reflection on the natures and person of Christ, and work to edify their audiences with meaty biblical preaching about this most important doctrine. I am more optimistic than Nichols about the potential of recent cultural trends to fortify such efforts--especially the recent emphasis on Jesus' concern for the poor. But I applaud Nichols's attempt to take us beyond our own little worlds and help us learn from other people, past and present, about the excellency of Christ."

—Doug Sweeney, associate professor of church history and director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Could it be that in their 'personal relationship with Jesus' evangelicals in the United States have gotten the better end of the deal? This is certainly one question that readers can plausibly take away from Stephen Nichols's imaginative and knowledgeable study of evangelical conceptions of Jesus. As he shows, 'having Jesus in my heart' often means reducing the eternal Son of God to the proportions of believers' limited imaginations more than it does being conformed to the image of God revealed in Christ. As somber and difficult as that lesson may be to receive, Nichols packages it in a lively narrative that is sure to entertain even while hitting the reader right between the eyes."

—D. G. Hart, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and author of That Old-Time Religion in Modern America: Evangelical Protestants in the Twentieth Century

Leadership Interview Series

Sovereign Grace has launched a podcast (also available on iTunes) featuring conversations with C.J. Mahaney, Jeff Purswell, and Joshua Harris. It's primarily geared for pastors, but (as they say) everyone is invited to listen in.

A Biography for the Rest of Us

C. J. Mahaney:
Normally, biographies are written about unusually gifted men. Edwards. Whitefield. Spurgeon. Calvin.

Biographers remind us of exceptional character, extraordinary gifting, and impressive intellects. And I'm grateful to God for these men and the effect of their example on my life.

But at times, reading these biographies is discouraging, rather than edifying, as we are reminded afresh about the difference between the great leaders in church history and our sorry selves.

And though we benefit from the example of these men, most of us cannot relate to them because we’re aware of our average intelligence, average gifting, and our preaching is—not surprisingly—average as well. (Raise your hand if you’re working with that package?)

As I read their biographies I know I should be inspired, but at times I find myself increasingly discouraged (and let me be clear—this is because of my pride). Rather than filled with faith to charge into my day and prepare a sermon, care for God’s people, and preach, I feel a bit hopeless.

And while reading these biographies I also hope my church members never read these books because they could only compare me to this individual and that would prove unfavorable!
What’s a pastor to do? Here is one recommendation.

For pastors like myself with average gifts, Dr. Don Carson has given us a unique biography of the life and ministry of an ordinary pastor—his dad.
Read the whole post. Carson's book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, is available for pre-order, and will be due out in the next week or two.

Luke 18.25

John Piper reprints "one of the best poems [he has] have ever read on a Biblical text."

Caedmon's Call, Adoption, and Ethiopia

If you're anywhere near Greenville, SC, as the end of the month, this looks like an enjoyable and edifying event: there will be a Caedmon's Call concert, the ticket proceeds of which will benefit Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency's new Ethiopia program.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thinking about Seminary?

If you've thought about attending seminary, here are a few resources I've come across that you may want to consider.

First, Owen Strachan--a former intern under Mark Dever, an assistant under Al Mohler, and a blogger at Consumed--recently completed his MDiv at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is now a PhD student a Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the managing editor of Trinity's Henry Center. He has written a helpful three-part series on the Seasons of a Seminarian (Beginning, Middle, End). Not everyone's experience will match Owen's, of course, but this is a helpful overview of the sort of things many experience in seminary. (There's also a helpful podcast interview with Owen related to this topic.)

In addition, I've found the following articles particularly helpful in the past for thinking about seminary and how to prepare for it:

B. B. Warfield, The Religious Life of Theological Students (1911)

Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (1962)

John Frame, Learning at Jesus’ Feet: A Case for Seminary Training

John Frame, Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus

Reformed Theological Seminary’s pre-seminary reading list (short version and extended version)

Introducing BDAG

Rodney Decker has a helpful Powerpoint presentation on the indispensable reference work, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (known as BDAG for the initials of its editors).

Election 08

Russell Moore:
The Ethics and Public Policy Center offers several thought-provoking essays on election 2008. Yuval Levin writes a piece,originally published inNational Review,on Sen. John McCain as an "honor politician," a breed of politico not quite "conservative" in a traditional sense but that's not necessarily, in Levin's view, an entirely bad thing. Levin concludes: "Conservatives should view McCain not as a hostile force, but as a foreign and unfamiliar presence, bearing real potential as well as real risk."]

Even more interesting is Christine Rosen's article on gender politics and the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Clinton offers the worst of American feminism, without its more positive claims. Rosen writes:

The political has always been personal for Hillary. It is this eerily seamless merging of the two that leaves some voters unsettled and others impressed with her discipline. In the final primary debate in Los Angeles, she avoided answering a question about her husband's role in the campaign by saying, "I have made it very clear that I want the campaign to stay focused on the issues that I'm concerned about, the kind of future that I want for our country, the work that I have done for all of these years. And that is what the campaign is about." Hillary's choice of language is noteworthy: she talks about "the kind of future I want for our country" rather than what the country needs. This is the language of paternalism, and just as "paternalistic" has become a pejorative term in political parlance, so too, might Hillary's unique brand of maternalism - a stern and instrumental, mommy-knows-best progressivism that has at least had the effect of irrevocably undermining the tenets of difference feminism.

Finally, James Bowman, in an article written for theAmerican Spectator, looks at the utopianism at the core of enthusiasms for the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama.

However much or little one thinks of any (or all) of these politicians, these essays speak to some of the more important underlying issues for Christians, issues neglected entirely by the horserace coverage of MSNBC, Fox News, Air America, and Rush Limbaugh.

Banning Human Cloning

Leon Kass suggests how to do it.

Luther vs. Zwingli on the Lord's Supper

Trevin Wax recently completed a seven-part series on the Marburg Colloquy.

Urban Church Planting Conference

This looks like a great conference: The Dwell Conference (April 29-30, 2008) in New York City:
Redeemer in New York City will be co-hosting and partnering with Acts 29 Network in a premiere church planting event to create a world-class training for urban church planters. It will be a great honor to have some of the most influential church planting leaders as speakers at this event: Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, Ed Stetzer, CJ Mahaney, and Darrin Patrick.

2008 Band of Bloggers Fellowship

Registration opens today for the 2008 Band of Bloggers fellowship in connection with Together for the Gospel on April 15. There will be a small registration fee of $15 to cover the cost for catered lunch.

I'll be joined on the panel by Tim Challies, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Mark Lauterbach.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

An Interview with Daniel B. Wallace (Part 4)

What are the different kinds of variants, and how do they affect the meaning of the texts?

The variants can be categorized into four kinds:
  • Spelling and nonsense readings
  • Changes that can’t be translated; synonyms
  • Meaningful variants that are not viable
  • Meaningful and viable variants

[Diagram taken from Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture; used with permission.]

Let me briefly explain each of these.

Spelling and nonsense readings are the vast majority, accounting for at least 75% of all variants. The most common variant is what’s called a movable nu—that’s an ‘n’ at the end of one word before another word that starts with a vowel. We see the same principle in English with the indefinite article: ‘a book,’ ‘an apple.’ These spelling differences are easy for scholars to detect. They really affect nothing.

The second largest group, changes that can’t be translated and synonyms, also do not affect the meaning of the text. Frequently, the word order in the Greek text is changed from manuscript to manuscript. Yet the word order in Greek is very flexible. For the most part, the only difference is one of emphasis, not meaning.

The third group is meaningful variants that are not viable. By ‘viable’ I mean a variant that can make a good case for reflecting the wording of the original text. This, the third largest group, even though it involves meaningful variants, has no credibility. For example, in Luke 6:22, the ESV reads, "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!" But one manuscript from the 10th/11th century lacks the words "on account of the Son of Man." That's a very meaningful variant since it seems to say that a person is blessed when he is persecuted, regardless of his allegiance to Christ. Yet it is only in one manuscript, and a relatively late one at that. It has no chance of reflecting the wording of the original text, since all the other manuscripts are against it, including quite a few that are much earlier.

The smallest category by far is the last category: meaningful and viable variants. These comprise less than 1% of all textual variants. Yet, even here, no cardinal belief is at stake. These variants do affect what a particular passage teaches, and thus what the Bible says in that place, but they do not impact essential beliefs.

Isn't the process of copying a copy of a copy somewhat akin to the old "telephone game"?

Hardly. In the telephone game the goal is to garble an original utterance so that by the end of the line it doesn’t resemble the original at all. There’s only one line of transmission, it is oral rather than written, and the oral critic (the person who is trying to figure out what the original utterance was) only has the last person in line to interrogate.

When it comes to the text of the NT, there are multiple lines of transmission, and the original documents were almost surely copied several times (which would best explain why they wore out by the end of the second century). Further, the textual critic doesn’t rely on just the last person in the transmissional line, but can interrogate many scribes over the centuries, way back to the second century. And even when the early manuscript testimony is sparse, we have the early church fathers’ testimony as to what the original text said. Finally, the process is not intended to be a parlor game but is intended to duplicate the original text faithfully—and this process doesn’t rely on people hearing a whole utterance whispered only once, but seeing the text and copying it. The telephone game is a far cry from the process of copying manuscripts of the NT.

One of Ehrman's theses is that orthodox scribes tampered with the text in hundreds of places, resulting in alterations of the essential affirmations of the NT. How do you respond?

Ehrman is quite right that orthodox scribes altered the text in hundreds of places. In fact, it’s probably in the thousands. Chief among them are changes to the gospels to harmonize them in wording with each other.

But to suggest that these alterations change essential affirmations of the NT is going far beyond the evidence. The variants that he produces do not do what he seems to claim. Ever since the 1700s, with Johann Albrecht Bengel who studied the meaningful and viable textual variants, scholars have embraced what is called ‘the orthodoxy of the variants.’ For more than two centuries, most biblical scholars have declared that no essential affirmation has been affected by the variants.

For those who want to explore further, could you give us a reading list of some of the chapters/papers you have written on textual criticism, from the most basic on up?

For starters, I’d recommend Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture. This is a book that I co-authored with Ed Komoszewski and Jim Sawyer. There are five chapters on the text of the New Testament.

Second, Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ, co-authored with Darrell Bock. The chapter on the text of the NT is called, “Claim One: The Original New Testament Has Been Corrupted by Copyists so Badly that It Can’t Be Recovered.” This chapter especially deals with Ehrman’s claims.

Third, Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis. This is a book produced primarily by the NT department of Dallas Seminary in honor of Harold Hoehner. The second chapter deals with the text of the NT.

I have also posted several essays at on the King James Bible, various textual problems, what the early fathers said about the text, etc.

Apart from those books and Internet essays, I have written several journal articles that address particular issues in textual criticism, and I am working on a book that will address the whole discipline. It’s still several years away, and I’ve been chipping away at it since 1987.

Tell us a little bit about the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.

CSNTM is a non-profit institute that I founded in 2002. It has 501(c)3 status (i.e., the IRS recognizes it as a legitimate tax-deductible charity). Our primary task is to take high-resolution digital photographs of all Greek NT manuscripts that we are allowed to photograph. There are 1.3 million pages of such texts, so it’s a daunting task. But with proper funding, we can get the job done by 2020. We have photographed manuscripts in Constantinople (a.k.a. Istanbul); Münster, Germany; Patmos, Greece; and Tirana, Albania, as well as other places. In the process, we have discovered about three dozen NT manuscripts, some of which are pretty significant for helping us understand the transmissional history of the NT and getting back to the original wording in the relatively few places that are still in doubt.

During 2008–09, my sabbatical year, we are hoping to visit eight or nine different sites and take as many as 200,000 photographs. We have posted several thousand images on our website. The next step is to transcribe the texts of all of these manuscripts. Currently, that can only be done manually and it would take an estimated 500,000 man-hours to complete. But some software engineers in Chicago are developing innovative technology for us that will be able to scan in these texts with a very high degree of accuracy. The work that would normally take ten lifetimes will be able to be reduced to one year.

Finally, our objective is to analyze these manuscripts, trace their lineage, and recover to a very high degree of certainty what the original text said. This will obviously have an impact on translations—the Bibles that we have in our hands—in some dramatic ways. You can see a two-minute video clip of our Patmos Expedition of 2007 at several websites, including our own and even on YouTube:

If your readers would like to get the full 21-minute video, all they need to do is write to me at csntm [at] runbox [dot] com and send me their physical address.

If someone wanted to support these endeavors, how would they go about doing so?
As you can imagine, these expeditions are not cheap to do. A four-person team goes to a site and brings very expensive, state-of-the-art camera and computer equipment. The average cost to CSNTM to shoot one page is $6. But in this next season, we believe we can cut that cost in half because our teams will be on-site longer, reducing the cost of airfare, housing, etc. To shoot one average-sized manuscript will cost only $1650. But to digitally preserve the Word of God is well worth it! We are seeking individual donors and foundations for the funds we need to accomplish our mission.

Donations can be sent in one of two ways: either through PayPal at our website, or by check to:
5729 Lebanon Road Suite 144, #403
Frisco, TX 75034 USA
Justin, thanks for doing this interview! And thanks, too, for your ministry on the Internet and in editing and publishing serious Christian books for those who desire to love Christ with all their being.

Dr. Wallace, thank you! Not only for doing this interview, but for the many hours of labor over God's Word in order to serve the church. We are deeply in your debt!

I would encourage readers to prayerfully consider supporting the work of CSNTM!