December 29, 2014

What Are the Best Books of 2014?

There were a lot of great books released in 2014. Here (in alphabetical order) are my ten favorite books from 2014:
The ESV Reader's Bible - This is an incredibly readable (and beautiful) new edition of the excellent ESV translation.

Everyone's a Theologian by R. C. Sproul - Sproul has gifted the church with a wonderfully readable introduction to Systematic theology.

God's Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement by R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec - In this short but substantive book, Geivett and Pivec offer a biblical response to a growing (and dangerously unbiblical) movement within Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Also, check out the larger and more scholarly A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement.

The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Covenant and Biblical Theology by Jeffrey Johnson - A wonderfully readable and unique exposition of the theological system that has come to be known as 1689 federalism.

The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever by Thor Ramsey - This book also might be the best book on Hell ever.

Southern Fried Faith: How the Bible Belt Confuses Christ and Culture by Rob Tims - I highly recommended this one for anyone who lives and ministers in the Bible Belt.

The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper - The only bad thing about this book is that it is the book I hoped to write one day. Unfortunately, Mike Cosper wrote it first.

Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World by Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw - This short, popular-level work of biblical apologetics could just as easily be titled Why Bart Ehrman Is Wrong About Everything. Again, you should also check out the larger and more academic Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Challenges to the Bible.

What Is Your Worldview? by James N. Anderson - The most original apologetics book in years. Christian philosophy meets the choose-your-own-adventure book.

Why God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation by Ben Stevens - This contemporary adaption of Edwards' A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which the World Was Created is an excellent introduction to the God-glorifying Calvinistic theology of Jonathan Edwards (it was also my favorite book of the year).


In addition to my top ten, here are my top picks from some of my other favorite genres:

BEST IN LANGUAGE ARTS: Gywnne's Grammar: The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English by N. M. Gwynne

BEST IN PARANORMAL: American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America by Linda S. Godfrey

BEST IN POLITICS/CURRENT EVENTS: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U. S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald

BEST IN TRUE CRIME: Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern

And, finally, here are two great books that didn't quite make the list:

Chance and the Soveriegnty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events by Vern Poythress
  
Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung


You can support the blog by using one of our Amazon Associate links to do your book shopping.

Disclosure: Faith Seeking Understanding receives compensation for any purchases made using Amazon Associate links.

December 26, 2014

Are You One of "#the 15"?

J. D. Hall:
. . . who are #the15?

1. #the15 are those who refuse to be shamed into silence.

2. #the15 are those who are willingly sacrificing our own reputations among men for the sake of God’s holiness among the nations.

3. #the15 are those who will sacrifice our careers and denominational or organization advancement in order to continue speaking prophetic truth to false teachers and those who sell false teachings.

4. #the15 are those who do not mind being made fools for the sake of the Gospel.

5. #the15 are those who will not relent to ask tough questions until we receive truthful answers.

6. #the15 are those who will not be intimidated by power or Christian celebrity.

7. #the15 are those who know people are listening, but would speak even if no one were.

8. #the15 are those who know that God has not called us to success, but to faithfulness.

9. #the15 are those who know this modern day Downgrade is reality, and will warn others of its seductive appeal and destructive nature.

10. #the15 are those who, despite being ignored, ridiculed or attacked are not going away any time soon.
Count me in.

Read the rest here.

December 06, 2014

Southern Baptists in an Age of White Guilt Manipulators

Russell Moore (along with several other prominent Southern Baptists) seems to suffer from a severe case of white guilt.

J. D. Hall:
[Moore] is clearly a man who feels strongly about racism, isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade, and is willing to speak clearly on why racism is sinful and just plain wrong. . . . While Moore should be applauded for speaking clearly on the issue of sin, he shouldn’t be applauded for reacting and responding to social issues in presumptive and irresponsible ways. Moore has made the Garner tragedy about race. To Moore, this is a race talking point. Why? Is it because this is out of a page of the social-progressive handbook? Must it always be about race?
Read the rest here.

Who Watches the Watchmen? (#5)

Joel McDurmon:
. . . while most people are decrying the fact that these police officers receive better treatment, the greater tragedy is not that police officers received it, but that thousands of non-police officers do not—when they in fact probably could and should. . . . the point of concern should not be that officers get this treatment, but rather that everyone else does not.
Read the rest here.

December 03, 2014

Who Watches the Watchmen? (#4)

More on police corruption at The Federalist.
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York City policeman. On December 3, 2014, a grand jury chose not to indict the officer who killed him. And unlike the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, which was murky and muddled at best, Garner’s completely unnecessary death was captured on video.

And what was his crime? . . . his apparent crime was selling cigarettes without paying taxes on them. And for that, he was killed.
Read the rest here.

November 20, 2014

Who Watches the Watchmen? (#3)

Over at American Vision, there are a couple of recent posts dealing with police corruption. Give them a read if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Police departments boast about civil forfeiture abuse

"Passionate" hero cop turns out to be rabid gun-grabbing tyrant

Where Have All the Open Theists Gone?

From academia to the blogosphere, apparently.
Much has changed since members of ETS wrestled with open theism more than a decade ago. You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today. Books are less likely to emerge from evangelical publishing houses to debate the merits or demerits of this theology over against the classical Christian view of God. Instead, open theism mainly finds its voice through more popular means. A quick internet search reveals numerous blogs written by pastors and laypersons espousing open theism. Open theism today makes its case not so much through books and refereed scholarly journals, but through the mostly unfiltered voice of the blogosphere.
Read the rest here.

November 10, 2014

BOLO: Upcoming Books in 2015

There are quite a few promising looking titles coming in 2015. Be on lookout for the following:

November 04, 2014

Are Pentecostals Evangelical?

The nature of evangelicalism (that is, what evangelicalism is and who the true evangelicals are) is a hotly contested issue.

In this post on ex-evangelical David Gushee's recent affirmation of homosexual behavior, Denny Burk defines an evangelical as one who "believe[s] that the Bible is the norm that is not normed by any other norm."

This prompted me to wonder, "Are Pentecostals and other charismatics truly evangelical?" For many within the movement, experience trumps Scripture. If Burk is right, then a significant portion of the charismatic movement has been ruled outside the bounds of evangelical orthodoxy. 

October 30, 2014

What's Up With All the Occult Symbolism in Music Videos?

I haven't watched music videos with any regularity since I was in high school (think Carson Daly on TRL), so I was a bit surprised to discover the recent proliferation of occult imagery in pop music videos. See for yourself:


Jay Z - On to the Next One
Lady Gaga - Alejandro
Kanye West - Power
Ke$ha - Die Young
Katy Perry - Dark Horse

Robin Thicke - Get Her Back


I'm kind of at a loss to explain this (apart from some sort of a far-reaching Satanic conspiracy involving the CIA and the Illuminati). Weird Stuff.

October 20, 2014

Did Good Theology Result in Mark Driscoll's Downfall?


Mark Driscoll recently resigned as pastor of Mars Hill (apparently in order to avoid being disciplined by his fellow elders, see here).

How did it come to this? There seems to be no shortage of corrupt megachurch CEOs guilty of the same sins as Driscoll (like Stephen Furtick and Perry Noble, just to name two). Why, then, is Driscoll the only one to resign in shame? It seems that, in most cases, the only thing that can derail one of these megachurch moguls is a sex scandal. Not Driscoll, though. He was brought down by the same sins (pride, quarrelsomeness, greed) that seem to be routine among the megachurch set.

So, what made the difference? I believe theology made the difference. Unlike most of his peers, Driscoll wears his theological commitments on his sleeve. And those commitments are, by and large, quite orthodox. Driscoll is neither a prosperity gospel charlatan nor a shallow, seeker-sensitive Pelagian. He doesn’t believe in downplaying doctrine because he knows that theology matters. And, obviously, Driscoll’s commitment to sound doctrine trickles down to the members of his church. Consequently, the average member of Mars Hill is much more biblically and theologically literate than the average member of most other multisite megachurches. So, ironically, there are many discerning Mars Hill members who know the Bible well enough to know that something is terribly wrong with the leadership culture at their church.

I’m speculating, obviously. But it seems to me that Driscoll’s greatest strength is the very thing that resulted in his downfall. Yes, theology matters. Driscoll got that part right. But, somewhere along the way, he seems to have forgotten that character matters, too.

October 10, 2014

Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary's New Church Partnership Program

Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary  (formerly known as the Midwest Center for Theological Studies) has recently introduced it's new church partnership program. Read all about it here.

http://www.cbtseminary.org/church-partnership-program/

As a student of CBTS, I can't recommended this highly enough.


Leaving Behind Left Behind (#3)

Jeramie Rinne:
But there’s another question we should ask, one that may surprise you: “Is the rapture taught in the Bible?” It may come as a shock to learn that many Bible-believing Christians today doubt the rapture, and that most Christians throughout history had never even heard of it. . . . The doctrine of the secret rapture emerged during the early 19th century through the teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). Darby was one of the early leaders of the Plymouth Brethren movement, and his teachings became known as “dispensationalism.”
Read the rest here.

October 07, 2014

Leaving Behind Left Behind (#2)

Craig Keener:
Many people in these churches take for granted that this [Left Behind theology] is what the Bible teaches. They may be surprised to discover that no biblical text specifically and unambiguously mentions believers being removed before the final tribulation. . . . Passages in the Bible do teach that Jesus will return, that he will gather his followers, and that he will bring justice by punishing those who chose evil rather than truth. . . . But no unambiguous passage supports Christians being "raptured" before the tribulation.
Read the rest here.


HT: Steve Hays

September 24, 2014

Leaving Behind Left Behind

Randall Hardman:
Unfortunately, however, while “Left Behind” may prove itself to be a mediocre box office success, it represents a severe misinterpretation of what the Bible actually says about the topic. To put it bluntly, and perhaps to the chagrin of some readers, the idea of a “rapture” is simply not biblically based (and that's where I've lost a third of you!) It represents, instead, a theology based on escapism and in the process does damage to what the Bible really does say about “the last days.”
Read the rest here.


HT: The Aquila Report

Why You Should Read the Biblical Genealogies

This article offers six reasons why you should read the biblical genealogies: 6 Ways to Benefit from Reading Genealogies | The Christward Collective


HT: Tim Challies

September 23, 2014

How a Young Earth Became One of the "Fundamentals"

Jefrey Breshears:
Most Christians assume that young-earth creationism has always been a core tenet of American fundamentalist Christianity—but this linkage is more tenuous than is often presumed. The story of how American fundamentalists—and, by extension, many conservative evangelicals—came to associate young-earth creationism with biblical Christianity is one that all contemporary Christians should understand.
Read the rest here (part 1) and here (part 2).

When It Comes to Corporate Worship, Your Preferences Just Aren't That Important

Scott Aniol:
Most Christians today assume that the styles of music chosen for worship are merely preference, like whether we put in red carpet or blue carpet, and thus accommodation to what is comfortable for various demographics in the church for the sake of unity is better than deciding which styles are best.
Color of the carpet? Yes. Merely preference, so let’s accommodate.
Music? No, because it’s not about comfort or preference but rather about what kinds of music best fit the weight of biblical doctrine, best express the kinds of reverent affections appropriate for expression to God, and best form mature, sober-minded Christians.
Read the rest here: The most significant misconception about music in worship | Religious Affections Ministries

Caucasian Christ

I once asked a black guy (a close friend) if he pictured Jesus as a black man (I honestly have no idea how the topic came up). I was a bit surprised when he answered, "Yes, when I think of Jesus, I picture him as a black man." I remember thinking at the time, "Wow, that's really weird. You know he's not black, right?" (I don't remember if I actually said it out loud, but I was definitely thinking it.)

Something recently occurred to me, however. Jesus wasn't a white guy either. He was a middle-eastern Jew. Yet, I have a really hard time picturing him as anything other than a white dude. Weird.

I'm not using this to illustrate an ethical principle or make a profound theological point. I just thought it was kind of funny. So, there it is.

September 16, 2014

TGC Reviews Crash the Chatterbox

Aaron Armstrong:
We can all agree, I think, about a kind of negativity that’s detrimental to our health and well-being. But Crash the Chatterbox lacks a nuanced view of negative thoughts—that while some are destructive, others are actually good for us. “Don’t put salt in your eye,” “Don’t walk in front of a bus,” and “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3) are negative thoughts, after all, but they’re also good for us. Putting salt in your eye is a bad idea. Getting hit by a bus can kill you. And hell is unspeakably horrific.
Read the rest here.

September 15, 2014

Haters Gonna Hate?

Andrew Quinn:
Whatever your ideology, then—whether it is to ancient redwoods or ancient ethics that you feel we should subjugate our selfishness—it is impossible to survey the scene and conclude that what Americans really need to do is exalt our own selves higher still—higher above preserving the past, higher above safeguarding the future, and higher above our duties to one another.
Impossible, that is, unless you’re a certain female singer.
Read the rest here: Taylor Swift’s New Single Will Make You a Worse Person | The Federalist

Check Your Jesus

Sam Storms:
I’m thoroughly convinced that people who declare their affection for Jesus but not the Church know little if anything about the Jesus they profess to admire. . . . This is the same Jesus who sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to inaugurate the life of the local church. This Jesus, says the apostle Paul, is himself the head of the church, which is his body.
Read the rest here.

September 11, 2014

Justification by Death Alone

Sam Storms:
. . . the default belief of most Americans is that when someone dies, indeed when anyone dies, he or she is assumed to go to heaven, or some such place. You hear it from athletes around the globe. Following the death of a parent it’s common to hear the football player or golfer declare: “Well, I’m sure dad is looking down on me now and I hope he’s proud of what I’ve done.” Or when a politician passes away after a tumultuous and difficult life, it’s not uncommon for many to say: “At least he is now at rest. He’s in a better place and for that we can all be grateful.” The inescapable fact is that the western world simply assumes the truth of universalism. The suggestion that those who left this life in unrepentant denial of Jesus Christ are eternally separated from God and subject to his judgment is regarded as elitist and inexcusably insensitive.
Read the rest here.

Confessions of a Christian Skeptic

Larry Brown:
I’ll never forget the time I was sitting in a boarding gate waiting area, and the man on my left was telling two ladies sitting with him about how his life was filled with wonder ever since he started praying the Prayer of Jabez daily. I kept my mouth shut.

Don’t even get me started on what I think about people like Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen and the Health and Wealth Prosperity Gospel!

I love my fellow Evangelicals. I only hope that they are diligent in checking their sources and doing the necessary verification so as to protect the credibility of the Evangelical Christian faith.
I feel like I could have written this post myself. Read the rest here.

September 05, 2014

Baptist Bureaucracies

Reformed Baptist pastor Paul Gordon has the following to say about the danger of unqualified leadership in church associations.

Gordon:
It may be objected that there really doesn’t need to be instruction specific to Formal Associations to determine leadership because every Pastor or Elder in good standing in their own churches should be eligible for church leadership and assumed to be fit to serve in associational positions by reason of the commendation of his own local church. My response would be that in a perfect church in a perfect world that would be true, but not in this present evil age, in this present imperfectly sanctified state of the church. As there may be spiritually unhealthy local churches in any Church Association, there may be a significant number of Biblically unqualified Pastors eligible for Association leadership. There is just too much opportunity in Formal Church Associations for men to obtain positions of influence and power far in excess of what their gifts and graces would otherwise call for. All that is really required to take a place of influence and leadership in a Church Association is the desire to do so and the skills of a church politician or parliamentarian.
Gordon's concerns have been realized in my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, where, from the local associations to the national level, good ol' boy networks seem to be the norm rather than the exception.

Read the rest here.

September 03, 2014

BOLO: Upcoming Commentaries

Be on lookout for these upcoming commentaries:

First up, coming in November, is an abridged version of G. K. Beale's commentary on Revelation.


Then, in February, is Thomas Schreiner's commentary on Hebrews.




HT: Steve Hays



Hail to the Chief

Over at Pulpit & Pen, Gene Clyatt has recently posted a critique of SBC president Ronnie Floyd.

Clyatt:
Now, I am the first to admit that I do not know Ronnie Floyd. I’ve never met him, never spoken to him on the phone, and never exchanged emails with him on any subject. Until a few months ago, I’d never even heard of the guy. But is it harsh of me to say that the guy comes across as maybe a little bit self-centered? I mean I can say this, because I’m a Baptist preacher, but a lot of Baptist preachers sure seem to come across as slick, smooth, fast-talkin’ used car salesmen. All the shameless self-promotion does nothing to moderate that stereotype.
Read the rest here.

August 23, 2014

Whoever Said the Good Life Was Easy?

Contrary to what some believers think, God has not promised any of us a life free from pain and suffering. This may seem counter-intuitive to comfortable, coddled Westerners, but it is patently obvious to believers in other parts of the world.

I try to keep this in mind when thinking about my problems. They are "first world" problems. I've been tremendously blessed. I have been given so much more than so many others. And I'm not thinking only of believers in other parts of the world who are facing real persecution. I look around in my own context, and I see people who are much worse off than I. People whose trials make my own look trivial.

My life has been free from any major difficulties. I've never lost a close friend or loved one. I've never had a major falling out with a family member. I've never been left at the altar or faced a major illness. I've never faced unemployment. I've always had clothes on my back, food on my table, money in my pocket, and a bed to sleep in. Yes, I've dealt with bouts of depression and anxiety, but even those have been relatively minor. I know several people who've been depressed enough to consider suicide. But even in my darkest moments, I never countenanced that. My problems with anxiety, too, are nothing compared to those of others I know of. By most standards, I've lived an easy life.

Despite this, I'm still often dissatisfied. I look at my life, and I know, objectively, that I have nothing to complain about. Despite the fact that my difficulties are relatively small compared to those of others, they feel no less difficult to me. The problems I face, trifling though they may seem to others, are still my problems.

I say all of that to say this: I am weak. Believing, as I do, in the providence of God, I can only conclude that God has blessed me with a relatively easy life because he knows that I can't handle anything else.

August 22, 2014

Ronald Nash on Disagreeing Agreeably

Ronald Nash:
. . . it would be a mistake to think that increasing Christian unity requires that Christians stop disagreeing with one another. Just because people disagree doesn't mean they cannot work together in love. . . . Anyone who seriously advances something like this as the grounds for ending Christian disunity just isn't being realistic. The fact that we disagree is not what is causing tension within the church; the way we disagree is the source of most of our problems. . . . relinquishing the beliefs that divide us is not a necessary condition for loving fellowship and cooperation in the gospel. . . . All of us are sinful creatures, and one persistent sign of that is our reluctance to admit our past mistakes. Perhaps a bit more self-honesty would lead us to admit that some of our convictions on these issues don't come from God's Word after all but are things we've picked up from our surrounding culture and are now reading into Scripture. [1]


1. Ronald Nash, Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians (NavPress, 1993), pp. 151-152.

Are Non-Dispensationalists Anti-Semitic?

Ronald Nash:
I do not believe that the Bible teaches that there is a special place in God's end-time plans for the nation of Israel. But I strongly support the right of Jews to exist in peace as a nation. I hold this belief in the same way that I believe the nation of Kuwait has a right to exist free from aggression from a nation like Iraq. I do not believe that the Bible teaches there is any special place in God's prophetic plans for Brazil. But it hardly follows that I or anyone else could reasonably infer that Brazil has no right to exist or that citizens of Brazil can become fair game for any aggressor nation. The absence of any nation-state in God's prophetic plans has nothing to do with the right of that nation to exist or the right of its citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [1]


1. Ronald Nash, Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians (NavPress, 1993), pp. 166-167.

August 16, 2014

Spiritual Gobbledygook

I've noticed that Pentecostal/Charismatic believers will often, rather than accuse one of pride or arrogance, say that one has a proud spirit or an arrogant spirit. It's not just those particular sins either. It goes for anything, really. It's never "Bob is overly critical." Instead, it's, "Bob has a critical spirit." Never, "Susan is a manipulative gossip." Always, "Susan has a Jezebel spirit" (the Jezebel spirit seems to be used as a sort of catch-all category for women).

What does all this talk about spirits even mean? Do the folks who talk like this even know? I guess it's supposed to sound more spiritual or something, but it just sounds weird to me. Are there any examples of this kind of talk in Scripture. Did the apostle Paul ever accuse anyone of having a lustful spirit or a divisive spirit?

August 15, 2014

Are We Supposed to Live the Gospel?

I've often heard the young, restless (and sometimes reformed) types talk about living the gospel. I want to ask, though, should we live the gospel? Can we?

Short answer: no.

Here's the longer answer:

All this talk about living the gospel is what I like to call bumper-sticker theology. It's short and pithy. It sounds nice and pious, but, in reality, it's actually shallow and simplistic. With the proper qualifications and explanations, it might even be true, but, taken on its face, it's just wrong.

We can't live the gospel (and we shouldn't try) because the gospel is the good news of the sinless life, substitutionary death, and miraculous resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. These events are unique. Unrepeatable. Christ lived the gospel. We are called, not to live the gospel, but to believe it. We are then enabled by it (through the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit) to live in a way that is consistent with the gospel. If that's what people mean when they talk about living the gospel, then they should say that instead because words matter, and there is a big difference between living the gospel and living consistently with the gospel.

August 14, 2014

The Villars Statement on Relief and Development

I recently finished reading Why the Left Is Not Right by Ronald Nash, an excellent book which introduced me to the Villars Statement on Relief and Development. I was so impressed by the statement, that I wanted to share it in its entirety. So, here it is:

PREAMBLE

In the spring of 1987, a group of forty evangelical Christians from around the world gathered in Villars, Switzerland, to examine the topic of “Biblical Mandates for Relief and Development.” For five days, we engaged in intense discussion, debate, and private reflection, our energies focused by a number of prepared study papers. As a result of our consultation, we who gathered at Villars have the concerns enumerated below. We encourage other believers to consider these issues in light of the Scriptures and their relevance for implementing Biblical relief and development.

A WORLD IN NEED

The extent of hunger and deprivation around the world is a reality haunting modern times. Confronted with disaster, disease, and chronic poverty, relief and development agencies have provided massive material assistance. Yet for all the resources expended, hunger and deprivation appear to be increasing. The sad reality is that so much effort has produced little in long-term results.

This reality calls us as Christians to reassess the work of relief and development in light of God’s Holy Word. It is our conclusion that the consistent application of Biblical teaching will require a reorientation of relief and development practices, and that this may involve a change in our understanding of human need and in strategies to relieve suffering.

“Relief and development” is an expression that recognizes two Biblical principles. Relief refers to the insistence in both Testaments that the people of God must help the hungry and oppressed. Development stems from the Biblical vision of a people exercising their proper stewardship of God’s gifts—of societies that are productive, healthy, and governed justly. Together, relief and development envision substantial improvement in economic and human well being.

We acknowledge our own sinfulness and fallibility, and we recognize that other committed Christians may not agree with all our convictions. Nevertheless, we are compelled by God’s Word and by the reality of human suffering to share our convictions with Christians and others. We do not claim to have spoken the final word. Thus, we offer the following conclusions of the Villars consultation for the research, dialogue, and open debate among all who claim Christ as Lord.

ISSUES OF CONCERN

With this as our goal, we raise our concerns over the following issues:
1. The failure to operate from a distinctively Biblical perspective in both methods and goals.
2. The tendency to focus on meeting material needs without sufficient emphasis on spiritual needs.
3. The attempt to synthesize Marxist categories and Christian concepts, to equate economic liberation with salvation, and to use the Marxist critique, without recognizing the basic conflict between these views and the Biblical perspective.
4. The emphasis on redistribution of wealth as the answer to poverty and deprivation without recognizing the value of incentive, opportunity, creativity, and economic and political freedom.
5. The attraction to centrally controlled economics and coercive solutions despite the failures of such economies and their consistent violation of the rights of the poor.
6. A disproportionate emphasis on changing structures without recognizing the frequency with which this only exchanges one oppressive structure for another.
7. The danger of utopian and ideological entrapment, whether from the left or the right.
8. Neglecting to denounce oppression when it comes from one end or the other of the political spectrum.
9. Focusing on external causes of poverty in exploitation and oppression without confronting those internal causes that are rooted in patterns of belief and behavior within a given culture.
10. The need to make conversion and discipleship an essential component of Christian relief and development work, and to carry this out in conjunction with the local church.
11. The need to apply the teaching of the Bible as a whole in the areas of personal life, family, and work, but equally in the shaping of the culture and social life.
12. The need to reaffirm the Biblical support for the family as the basic social and economic unit and its right to own and control property, and to stand against any ideology that would diminish the family’s proper role in any of these areas.
13. The need to oppose a false understanding of poverty which makes poverty itself a virtue, or which sanctifies those who are poor on the basis of their poverty.

BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

In response to these issues we draw attention to the following Biblical teaching and its implications for relief and development:
1. God created mankind in His own image, endowing man with freedom, creativity, significance, and moral discernment. Moreover, prior to the Fall, man lived in harmony with all of God’s creation, free from pain, suffering, and death.
2. The devastating reality of sin and evil, hunger, oppression, deprivation, disease, death, and separation from God is the result of man’s rebellion against God, which began at the Fall and continues through history.
3. The causes of hunger and deprivation, therefore, are spiritual as well as material and can only be dealt with adequately insofar as the spiritual dimension is taken into account.
4. Man’s rebellion against God affects every aspect of human existence. The Fall resulted in God’s curse on creation and in destructive patterns of thought, culture, and relationships, which keep men and women in bondage to poverty and deprivation.
5. The work of Christian relief and development, therefore, must involve spiritual transformation, setting people free from destructive attitudes, beliefs, values, and patterns of culture. The proclamation of the gospel and the making of disciples, then, is an unavoidable dimension of relief and development work—not only for eternal salvation, but also for the transformation of culture and economic life.
6. When people were held in bondage to hunger and deprivation by unjust social structures, the Bible consistently denounced those who perpetuated such oppression and demanded obedience to God’s law. The Biblical emphasis, then, is not on “sinful structures,” but rather on sinful human choices that perpetuate suffering and injustice.
7. God’s ultimate answer for suffering and deprivation is the gift of His only Son, Jesus Christ, who broke the power of sin and death by His own death and resurrection. The decisive victory was won on the cross in the atoning death of Christ for all who would believe Him. The final victory will be accomplished when Christ returns in power and glory to reign with His people. Until that time, all who claim Jesus as their Lord are called to care for those in need as the Holy Spirit enables them, and to share the only message of true hope for a broken world.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, in light of the issues raised and the Biblical perspective outlined here, we encourage research, dialogue, and debate among all who claim Christ as Lord, so that we may serve Him more faithfully and work together more effectively.

August 11, 2014

The Church Is Not A Business and Pastors Are Not Employees

"Anyone we can hire, we can fire."

I actually heard a church member utter words to this effect at a business meeting once. He was referring to one of his pastors.

This kind of thinking is rooted in the idea that the church is a business and the pastors are mere employees. There's a word for this kind of thinking. That word is worldliness, and it's a form of sin.

The local church is the outpost of God's kingdom on earth (Matthew 16:18-19). It is God's household—his temple, his family (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15). Yes, the church is an institution. It has members and meetings. But the fact that it conducts business does not make it a business.

A local church, biblically speaking, does not hire its pastor. The congregation recognizes men called by God and sets them apart for ministry (Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22). The congregation then supports those pastors—financially and otherwise (1 Timothy 5:17). Then the congregation must submit to those pastors (Hebrews 13:17). As long as the pastor meets the biblical qualifications (Titus 1:6-9) and faithfully carries out the duties assigned him by the Lord Jesus Christ in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and as long as he is willing to continue in those duties, the congregation has a duty to follow his lead and make his job a joy (Romans 13:1; Hebrews 13:17).

Brothers, treating your pastor like a hireling is worldly and sinful. He is your brother in Christ, and, as long as he meets the biblical qualifications for his office, he is appointed by God to watch over your soul. You have no right to undermine or buck against his God-given ministry because you just don't like his style or because he's just not a good fit here. Those are not biblical reasons to remove a pastor, and complaints like these reveal the immaturity of those who offer them. Nor are these excuses for gossiping or forgoing church attendance.

If you are one of those good ol' boys who treats the church like a business and believes your worldly success ought to translate into power and influence within the local church, then you need to ask yourself a few questions: Why is it that I cannot bring myself to submit to those whom Christ has placed over me? Why is it that I find it so difficult to respect spiritual authority? Why is it that I use my minor differences with others as an excuse to forsake the regular assembling of God's people? Why is it that I refuse to view my pastors as my brothers in Christ? Is it, perhaps, because they are not my brothers in Christ? Is it, perhaps, because I'm not actually converted at all?

Brothers, our pastors protect us from wolves (Matthew 7:15; 1 Timothy 1:3-11) . Let's do our best to protect them from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Timothy 5:19-20). Don't let these unwitting agents of Satan cause division among God's people (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10).

August 09, 2014

Has Lifeway Finally Grown a Backbone?

It seems that, in light of the recent controversies (see here and here), Lifeway has pulled Mark Driscoll's books (read all about it here).

I am puzzled by this decision. Lifeway continues to sell books by other scandal-ridden ego-maniacal mega-church CEO types (like Stephen Furtick and James McDonald). Not only that, Lifeway has no compunctions about selling the outright heresy being peddled by prosperity preachers like Benny Hinn and T. D. Jakes.

Ironically, though Driscoll is almost certainly unfit for ministry (this would be the case if only a fraction of the charges against him are true), he's much more theologically orthodox than these other teachers. In fact, despite Driscoll's many sins and shortcomings, his books are, for the most part, quite good. I'd recommend Driscoll's writings over those of Lifeway darlings Rick Warren and Beth Moore in a heartbeat.

I've been waiting for Lifeway to start taking some responsibility for the trash that they peddle for profit, but, unfortunately, this isn't it. If I had to guess, I'd say that this decision is a purely pragmatic one motivated by a desire to avoid controversy. If they were really serious, they'd be starting with a bona fide heretic rather than a controversial (though theologically orthodox) figure like Driscoll. Faux-integrity, it seems, is less costly than the real thing.

August 07, 2014

Dr. Strangefire, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cessationism

Over at Pulpit & Pen, Dustin Germain has recently posted a two-part series called How I learned to speak in tongues, and then never do it again. As a former Pentecostal, I can identify with many of the experiences recounted therein.

Here's an excerpt from part one:
He gripped my head with his hands. I braced my soul.  He blew a rush of air and spittle in my face and then  yelled “Spirit be released in Jesus’ name!”But I did not fall as almost every other had. No- instead I felt none of the impartation that I had hoped for, that I had built myself up for. I wanted my knees to go weak. I wanted my legs to buckle. I wanted my mind to be assaulted by a hundred million senses and to come up for air with new words and a heavenly language and the powerful rapture of being so close to God that we shared a secret language that only we knew. Instead my legs remained strong. I did not bend or bow. Instead, despite being nearly hurled towards the carpet, my instincts kicked in and I twisted my body in such a way that I was  able to catch myself on the front row chairs as I reeled back. The speaker, content with seeing me displaced, went back to the center and compelled the praise band up to keep on playing while my friends and strangers laid with their backs on the floor. Their hands were raised slightly at their side and facing heaven, weeping and laughing.
Read the rest here, then check out part two.

August 04, 2014

No Regrets?

I have regrets. Lots of them.

But, wait? How can I have regrets when I believe in the providence of God? How can I have regrets when I know that God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)?

It's simple, really. I've sinned. And, though repentance is more than simple regret, it is certainly not less. I have made mistakes, many of them sinful, and, by the grace of God, I have come to regret them. Yes, I've learned from them. Yes, God has used them for my good and for his glory. But, nonetheless, I regret my past sins and failures. If I could go back, knowing what I know now, I would do many things differently. And, if you're being honest, so would you.

It may sound pious to say, "I regret none of my mistakes because God was at work in every one of them teaching me, disciplining me, and making me more like Christ" but it isn't quite biblical. The fact that God uses our sins for good does not make those sins good in and of themselves. If that were the case, then the answer to Paul's rhetorical question, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Romans 6:1) would have to be, "Yes!" Instead, with Paul, I say, "By no means!" (Romans 6:2). Like Paul, we must praise God for using all things—even our sins—for our good, while simultaneously hating those very sins.

I can know that, given God's sovereign control over all things, everything in my life has worked out exactly how it was supposed to. Everything has been part of God's providential plan—his secret will. But, nonetheless, even though the course of my life has never veered from God's plan, I have still violated his revealed will. I have sinned against God. And besides that, I've made many other mistakes that, while not necessarily sinful, were the result of a lack of prudence and wisdom. These mistakes have resulted in much pain and anguish for me as well as others. Only a callous fool wouldn't regret mistakes like those.

Despite the fact that God has used my failures for good, they have not retroactively become victories. Here's a relatively trivial example: I once had a long, drawn-out text message exchange while driving at high speed on a dark road. It worked out in the end. No damage to life or property. Yet, it was still a terrible idea. And this terrible idea did not magically become a good idea just because it happened to work out alright in the end. Similarly, I have a friend who fathered a child outside of marriage. He loves his daughter. Much good has come from his sin. Yet, it was still sin. I know a believer who, years ago, began a romantic relationship with an unbeliever. That's sinful, and sin, of course, is always a bad idea. Yet, by the grace of God, that unbeliever eventually came to faith, and the two are now happily married. It worked out quite well for them, but that doesn't mean it was a good idea. Bad ideas don't become good ones just because they happen to work. Sin does not cease being sinful just because God uses it for good.

So, I praise God for how he has used my many mistakes for good. I've learned many valuable lessons. I've grown closer to God along the way. But, I still cringe at the thought of my past sins. I still regret every mistake.

I wish that I'd been patient those times when I acted rashly. I wish that I'd acted sooner those times when I was plagued by fear and indecision. I wish that I'd been obedient those times when I sinned. I wish that I hadn't taken so many wrong turns before I finally found the right path.

Just because God works all things for good, that does not mean that all things, in and of themselves, are good. The fact that God brought something good out of my sinful behavior does not excuse it. If I'd only done the right thing to start with, he wouldn't have had to.

No regrets? You must be joking.

July 31, 2014

All Opinions Are Not Created Equal

Recently, while perusing The Federalist, I stumbled across a post by Tom Nichols which elicited a hearty "Amen!" from me.

Nichols:
I am (or at least think I am) an expert. Not on everything, but in a particular area of human knowledge, specifically social science and public policy. When I say something on those subjects, I expect that my opinion holds more weight than that of most other people. I never thought those were particularly controversial statements. As it turns out, they’re plenty controversial. . . . This subverts any real hope of a conversation, because it is simply exhausting—at least speaking from my perspective as the policy expert in most of these discussions—to have to start from the very beginning of every argument and establish the merest baseline of knowledge, and then constantly to have to negotiate the rules of logical argument. (Most people I encounter, for example, have no idea what a non-sequitur is, or when they’re using one; nor do they understand the difference between generalizations and stereotypes.) Most people are already huffy and offended before ever encountering the substance of the issue at hand.
I feel like I could have written this myself. All one has to do is replace "social science and public policy" with "theological studies." Read the rest here.

July 30, 2014

Sam Storms vs. James Hamilton on the Millennium

At his blog, Sam Storms has responded to James Hamilton's recent post on premillennialism.

Storms:
Uh, maybe I’m missing something here, but how can Christ reign in an “undefiled, cleansed creation” when multitudes of sin-defiled and defiling unregenerate people populate the land? How can this kingdom be a “golden age of undefiled innocence” in the presence of so much guilt and unbelief? . . . Premillennialists cannot escape the fact that according to their end-time scenario people will continue to suffer the curse of physical death throughout the course of this 1,000 year period. . . . Bodies decay and suffer disease, die and must be buried. It is a time, therefore, when there will be sorrow over the loss of loved ones. Tears will continue to flow. Sorrow and anguish will remain so long as dying and death do. The natural creation will still be subject to the sin of mankind. . . . My reading of the NT, instead, leads me to the conclusion that when Christ returns in his Second Advent he will forever and finally put an end to physical death, wipe away all tears of sadness and sorrow from his people, judge all mankind, consign Satan to eternal suffering in the lake of fire, renew the natural order of things and inaugurate the new heavens and new earth.
Read the rest here.

Pagan Babbling

Over at The Cripplegate, Eric Davis offers eight arguments against the modern charismatic practice often erroneously identified as "speaking in tongues."

Read them here.

July 28, 2014

What Is Feminism?

Over at The Federalist, Leslie Loftus critiques feminism:
. . . one of the many versions of “feminism is the radical notion that women are people and people are equal.” . . . This is lovely sentiment, but actions speak louder than words. . . . contemporary feminism neither is nor was about simple equality. In practice, it is anti-domestic, anti-men, and frankly anti-woman.
Read the rest here.

Who Watches the Watchmen? (#2)

A. J. Delgado:
Imagine if I were to tell you there is a large group of government employees, with generous salaries and ridiculously cushy retirement pensions covered by the taxpayer, who enjoy incredible job security and are rarely held accountable even for activities that would almost certainly earn the rest of us prison time. When there is proven misconduct, these government employees are merely reassigned and are rarely dismissed. The bill for any legal settlements concerning their errors? It, too, is covered by the taxpayers. Their unions are among the strongest in the country. . . . I’m talking about the police.
Read the rest here.


HT: Steve Hays

Mark Jones Offers a Balanced Look at Balance

Jones:
Now, I do not deny that there is a "middle-way" that may in reality be the truth. Nor do I deny that we should strive after truth and reject error. But we should at least acknowledge that the vast majority of people who involve themselves in theological controversy aim to be "balanced, middle-men", who carefully avoid "errors" on both sides. Theological polemicists often decide what the errors are and firmly place themselves in the "centre" as gate-keepers of orthodoxy
. . .
So if you are one of these pastors or theologians who play the balance card, remember: you are not alone. And maybe your "balance" is actually unfaithfulness or error.
Read the rest here.

July 24, 2014

I Love Tullian Tchividjian Despite the Fact That He Is Terribly Wrong on Occasion

Hays is on fire today. After tearing apart Russ Moore's naive ideas about amnesty for illegal immigrants (see previous post), he turns his attention to Tullian Tchividjian's pious-sounding but shortsighted approach to cultural engagement.

Hays:
So is Tully's position that Christians should stop acting in the best interests of their children? Christians should stop protecting their children from becoming wards of the state? Christians should stop protecting babies, the elderly, and the developmentally disabled from abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia? Christians should stop defending the right of children to be raised by a real mother and father? Christians should stop warning people about the consequences of self-destructive lifestyles? Christians should stop defending their Constitutional right to preach the Gospel? Should we live to be "liked."
Read the rest here.

I Love Russell Moore Despite the Fact That He Is Terribly Wrong on Occasion (#2)

Over at Triablogue, Steve Hays critiques Russ Moore's position on amnesty.

Hays:
Moore is too nearsighted to see that amnesty is the magnet creating the crisis in the first place. The policy he champions precipitates the result he deplores; he then cites the deplorable result to expand the ruinous policy. A classic vicious cycle.
Read the rest here.

Help a Brother Out

You may have noticed that the e-mail subscription feature hasn't been working for a while. Well, it's fixed now. So, former subscribers, please re-subscribe. To the rest of you, I say, "Help a brother out and subscribe." If I get thirty e-mail followers, I can get more free books. You do want me to get more free books, don't you? Don't you?!

Thanks in advance.

July 18, 2014

Does Arminianism Make the Doctrine of Regeneration Superfluous?

Arminians believe that faith precedes regeneration. According to this doctrine, fallen sinners (due to God's prevenient grace) are able to exercise saving faith (thereby becoming regenerate).

Consistent Arminians also deny the perseverance of the saints. They believe that one who is truly regenerate can lose his salvation.

It seems to me that this makes the doctrine of regeneration superfluous. Regeneration is not necessary in order to be saved. Regeneration does not guarantee that one will stay saved. What good, then, is regeneration? I think this explains why, practically speaking, many Arminians seem to deny the biblical doctrine of the new birth. In its place one often finds a kind of "decisionism" or "decisional regeneration" (i.e. the so-called sinner's prayer).

This is similar to how Arminians treat the doctrine of election. Yes, they believe in (a form of) election on paper. However, when the rubber meets the road, it's a different story. When is the last time you heard an Arminian preach on the doctrine of election (angry, anti-Calvinist rants notwithstanding)?

This is, in my estimation, one of the greatest dangers of Arminianism. In order to preserve this man-made theological system, so many biblical doctrines must be downplayed or redefined to the point where they are practically denied (e.g. substitutionary atonement, total depravity, providence). Ironically, this is the very thing that many Arminians accuse Calvinists of doing.

July 15, 2014

Yes, That's Really in the Bible

No matter how many times I read the Bible, it still manages to surprise me. I read Deuteronomy at least once a year, but, somehow, I seem to have missed this passage.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12:
When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity. (ESV)

July 14, 2014

Spurgeon's Warrior Children or Why Can't We Calvinistic Baptists All Just Get Along?

Jim Newheiser has recently posted his thoughts on the Holding Communion Together controversy (though he doesn't mention the book or any names, it's fairly obvious what he's alluding to).



Newhesier:
I recently saw a photo, taken at a conference about forty years ago, of a large group of well-known Baptist leaders who were reformed/Calvinistic in their soteriology. It warmed my heart to see all of these dear men living in harmony together.  Accompanying the photo was the history of Calvinistic Baptists over the past four decades.  Sadly the story of our movement has been one of division and personal acrimony.  As I read each section, it was as if the authors were taking a pair of scissors to cut out a few more faces from the photograph until the few who share their perspective on the various battles were the only ones remaining.
. . . 
I also am disturbed by the fact that some have tended to view their fellow Calvinistic Baptists with whom they have differences as rivals or even enemies.  I fear that some expend so much time and energy disputing with those with whom they agree on the essentials that they have few resources left for positive ministry. Our cause is not our association or our confession. Our cause is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Amen, brother. 

You can read the rest here.

July 11, 2014

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Over at The Imaginative Conservative, Bonnie Kristian offers the following seven reasons for widespread police corruption:
  1. Many departments don't provide adequate training in nonviolent solutions.
  2. Standards for what constitutes brutality vary widely.
  3. Consequences for misconduct are minimal.
  4. Settlements are shifted to taxpayers.
  5. Minorities are unfairly targeted.
  6. Police are increasingly militarized.
  7. Police themselves say misconduct is remarkably widespread.
Kristian:
A Department of Justice study revealed that a whopping 84 percent of police officers report that they have seen colleagues use excessive force on civilians, and 61 percent admit they do not always report “even serious criminal violations that involve abuse of authority by fellow officers.” This self-reporting moves us well beyond anecdote into the realm of data: Police brutality is a pervasive problem, exacerbated by systemic failures to curb it. That is not to say that every officer is ill-intentioned or abusive, but it is to suggest that the common assumption that police are generally using their authority in a trustworthy manner merits serious reconsideration.
Read the rest here.

July 07, 2014

What Do We Mean When We Call God "Simple"?

Ironically, the doctrine of God's simplicity is one of the most complex in all of philosophical and systematic theology. Read all about it here:
8 Ways For God to Be Simple | Reformedish

In Defense of the Ordinary Means of Grace

Ligon Duncan:
Ordinary means of grace-based ministry is ministry that focuses on doing the things God, in the Bible, says are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, and which aims to see the qualities and priorities of the church reflect biblical norms. Ordinary means ministry is thus radically committed to biblical direction of the priorities of ministry. Ordinary means ministry believes that God has told us the most important things, not only about the truth we are to tell, but about the way we are to live and minister — in any and every context. Hence, God has given us both the message of salvation and the means of gathering and building the church, in His Word. However, important understanding our context is, however important understanding the times may be (and these things are, in fact, very important), however important appreciating the cultural differences in the places and times we serve, the ordinary means approach to ministry is first and foremost concerned with biblical fidelity. Because faithfulness is relevance. The Gospel is the message and the local church is the plan. God has given to his church spiritual weapons for the bringing down of strongholds. These ordinary means of grace are the Word, sacraments, and prayer.
Read the rest here.

July 04, 2014

The Doctrine of Eternal Security Is Essential to Orthodoxy

Jeff Robinson:
I want to suggest that there is one crucial doctrine that is sometimes relegated to the “good men disagree” category that should sit closer to the heart of Christianity: the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Why do I say this? Is it really heresy to reject the doctrine of perseverance, a doctrine often referred to as “eternal security?” I’m not certain I am ready to call it heresy to reject perseverance of the saints and embrace the possibility of apostasy by genuine Christians, but I think it is far more dangerous to reject it than perhaps first meets the eye. . . . a rejection of perseverance renders unstable many other critical doctrines that rely on it as a solid foundation.
Read the rest here.

July 03, 2014

Greg Welty on Infant Baptism

Greg Welty:
By now it is clear that the traditional arguments for paedobaptism, including the widely accepted “Reformed argument from the covenant of grace,” are greatly mistaken. As was stated at the outset, the traditionally Reformed version of covenant theology needs to be subjected to a more careful biblical scrutiny. Paedobaptists commit a fundamental and therefore fatal hermeneutical error with respect to the historical administrations of the covenant of grace. In doing so, they overlook significant discontinuities in the meaning and function of the covenant signs, misuse key biblical texts, raise insoluble but inevitable difficulties for their practice of paedobaptism, and (at times) make a degrading and unworthy sentimentalism masquerade in the place of genuine Scriptural argument.
Read the rest here.


HT: The Confessing Baptist

July 02, 2014

Bruce Ware on God, Freedom, and Evil

Ware:
. . . consider for a moment two persons, one with a serious smoking habit and the other without. Imagine the two walking together outdoors, away from the sight and smell of cigarettes. It may well be the case that in this setting there would not be anything present at that moment that would give rise in the heart of either person to a strongest inclination to smoke a cigarette. But if the two of them walked past an outdoor café where some people were smoking, just the sight and smell might elicit from the nature of the smoker a strongest inclination to light up a cigarette, whereas that same sight and smell might elicit from the nature of the nonsmoker a strongest inclination to walk quickly past the café and away from the smoke. In other words, what explains the choices each made is how their natures responded to the factors presented to them. Those factors do not cause the choices made, for notice that the factors were identical for the smoker and nonsmoker, yet the choices made by each were opposite in kind from one another. Nor would controlling the factors cause the choices made, because whether someone had “planted” smokers at that outdoor café or not would not affect the opposite choices of each in response. Rather, the causes of the respective choices were the two different natures of the respective individuals, each in response to the factors presented them, resulting in choices reflective of the natures of each person. The fact is, we act according to our natures, and what various factors in differing situations do is to elicit in each case the strongest inclination that our natures want in light of what factors are present. Perhaps we should think of God regulating the factors of a situation, then, as “occasioning” a particular choice to be made, rather than causing a particular choice to be made. Because God knows the natures of each person perfectly, he knows how those natures will respond to particular sets of factors presented to them. Thus, without causing a person to do evil, he nonetheless controls the evil they do. He controls whether evil is done, what evil is done, and in any and every case he could prevent the evil from being done. But in no case does he cause the evil to be done. In this way God maintains meticulous control over evil while his moral creatures alone are the agents who do evil, and they alone bear moral responsibility for the evil they freely do. [1]

1. Bruce Ware, "A Modified Calvinist Doctrine of God" in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God (B&H, 2008), pp. 118-119.

June 30, 2014

What Happened to Mark Driscoll's Seat Belt?

In the past, Mark Driscoll has described himself as a charismatic with a seat belt. For a while now, some of us have been wondering, "What happened to the seat belt?"

The latest incident to prompt this question is chronicled here.


HT: The Aquila Report

Review: The Moody Handbook of Theology

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology, revised edition (Moody, 2014), 809 pp.


In The Moody Handbook of Theology, author Paul Enns attempts to provide a comprehensive introduction to theological studies that is useful to pastors and seminarians while still being accessible to the average layman.

The book is split into five parts covering the following topics: biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, dogmatic theology, and contemporary theology. Part 1, in addition to covering the sub-disciplines of Old Testament Theology and New Testament Theology, follows the progressive unfolding of the themes of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Part 2 covers all the standard loci of systematics. Part 3 traces the development of theology throughout the history of the church. Part 4 deals with competing theological systems (Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Covenant Theology vs. Dispensationalism, Roman Catholicism) while part 5 covers various movements and developments in the field (liberalism, neoorthodoxy, postmodernism, feminism, etc.). This is quite a feat. I am unaware of any other single volume that manages to cover this much ground. For this reason alone, the MHoT is a valuable resource. The book's value is only increased by the glossary, the many charts, and the lists of recommended reading featured at the end of each chapter.

Although the handbook is quite helpful overall, some sections are stronger than others. Part 1 (Biblical Theology) in particular, is in need of a major update. No serious discussion of recent developments in biblical theology can be complete without even mentioning the works of Graeme Goldsworthy, James Hamilton, or G. K. Beale.

Part 2 (Systematic Theology) covers the major positions on each topic well, but Enns does occasionally argue in favor of one view over another. The overall perspective from which he writes is that of a moderately Calvinistic Dispensationalist. This may be viewed as either a strength or a weakness depending on whether or not his views are shared by the reader. This reviewer, for example, appreciated the author's arguments in favor of unconditional election (p. 342) while finding his arguments against limited atonement utterly unpersuasive (p. 341). I could nitpick and point out other places where Enns has given traditional Reformed theology the short shrift, but I won't. As a covenantal, amillennial, 5-Point Calvinist, there is more here that I agree with than I disagree with.

Parts 3 and 4 are helpful, but I wonder if perhaps the material in part 4 (Dogmatic Theology) could have been integrated into part 2 (Systematic Theology). Though Enns argues for a distinction between dogmatics and systematics (pp. 505-506), I remain unconvinced. Part 5 seems to serve as a sort of catch-all where Enns manages to cover all the major topics/developments that didn't quite fit into parts 2-4. The variety of topics covered in part 5 greatly adds to the usefulness of an already helpful reference work.

In a book like this, one is certainly bound to find a few things with which he disagrees. This reviewer certainly did. Also, there is little hope that a book this size which covers such a wide range of topics will deal with them all adequately. However, despite these shortcomings, the MHoT  remains a useful resource for the theological student or interested layman. Recommended.

June 27, 2014

What Do Young-Earth Creationists Have in Common with Darwinists?

The following is from Kenneth Keathley's article Confessions of a Disappointed Young-Earther in the latest issue of the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry (available here).

Keathley:
When reading the writings of Darwinists and young-earth creationists, I am struck by how presuppositions control the course of their thinking. The two positions are at opposite ends of the spectrum of position, yet they have some features in common. Significantly, both Richard Dawkins and Ken Ham recognize two things about the universe. First, the universe appears to be ancient and second, it appears to be very well designed. But they both believe these appearances are an illusion. What they disagree on is what part is the illusion. Dawkins believes the earth is old and the inference of design is a misconception. Ham argues that the truth is the other way around: the world is designed but its origin is very recent. What is going on here? Controlling presuppositions are at work.

June 24, 2014

#(*&@%#&!!!!!!!

I've been meaning to write something on whether or not it is appropriate for believers to use profanity in certain situations, but it looks like Dom Tennant beat me to it.

Tennant says pretty much everything I wanted to say on the matter. Read it here:
Why can't Christians swear, dammit? | Thinking Matters

June 23, 2014

Ten Reasons You Should Read Southern Fried Faith by Rob Tims

I just finished reading Southern Fried Faith: How the Bible Belt Confuses Christ and Culture by Rob Tims, and I would now like to offer my unqualified recommendation.

In order to whet your appetite, here are ten of the book's highlights:

  1. "There are few people groups that progressive liberals hold in contempt more than we who are fighting for America's soul in the South. We are heartbroken and angry at the loss of virtue we see taking place in our country. We are hard-working people who want the best for our children and grandchildren. We see the Bible and its Judeo-Christian ethic as foundational to a healthy society, and we are not about to simply let it slip away without a fight. This is an admirable thing, but the great threat to such churches is that they fall in love with the work they do for God in place of God Himself. And God has nothing to do with such churches. Indeed, God would just as soon let a church full of hard-working, truth-loving, culture warriors disappear if they loved being that way more than they loved Him." (p. 11)
  2. " . . . we fight harder for our earthly citizenship than our heavenly citizenship. We have fallen in love with the virtues that make our country great, treasuring them more than the gospel that brings them to bear. Love of country is biblical, but not at the expense of allegiance to the Kingdom of God." (p. 14)
  3. "A church void of conflict is void of the gospel." (p. 38)
  4. "Sometimes it's easier to believe that we are better than other people than it is to believe the gospel." (p. 47)
  5. "The major difference between doing what Jesus teaches and doing what we southerners think is polite is that Jesus' method gives all parties involved multiple opportunities to think about the gospel. Our southern fried methods only serve our self-interests." (p. 48)
  6. "A 'bless your heart' mindset may be polite and southern, but it is also very sinful. A message of grace and love mixed with an attitude of moral superiority is either rejected out of hand as the smugness it is or eagerly embraced by those who believe they, too, have much to be proud of. Either way, the end result is a church full of people who believe they are superior to the very community they are called to serve." (p. 62)
  7. "We fail to understand that if we primarily dig in and fight for American virtues, including liberty, we communicate that Jesus is less valuable than a free and virtuous America. It is a form of idolatry that is both seductive and destructive." (p. 89)
  8. "Whenever a group of people who are designed to primarily unite around one thing try to unite around something else, the result is devastating for all." (p. 91)
  9. "If our chief rallying cry is anything other than 'Christ crucified,' even something good and proper like 'God bless America,' we distort both the nature and message of God, and also divide the church." (p. 94)
  10. "We must be convicted that America is not God's chosen country, but that people from every tribe and language and people and nation are His chosen people (Revelation 5:9). We must labor for our faith to be understood not as a Western religion, but as the only true religion." (p. 104)

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