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).

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)

June 17, 2014

A Question for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Women's Ordination

Kevin DeYoung has Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage. One of his questions, however, could just as easily be applied to those who think that the Bible allows for female pastors/elders.

DeYoung asks, "How have all Christians at all times and in all places interpreted the Bible so wrongly for so long?" He continues:
Christians misread their Bibles all the time. The church must always be reformed according to the word of God. Sometimes biblical truth rests with a small minority. Sometimes the truth is buried in relative obscurity for generations. But when we must believe that the Bible has been misunderstood by virtually every Christian in every part of the world for the last two thousand years, it ought to give us pause.

June 13, 2014

Can Believers Lose Their Salvation?

Suppose you can see the future. Suppose you foresee that tomorrow I will die in a terrible automobile accident.

You warn me of my impending death. I heed your warning.

However, when tomorrow comes, for whatever reason, I decide to ignore your warning. I get in my car, go for a drive, and then die in a terrible accident just as you predicted.

Yesterday, you and I both thought that I was saved from this accident. One might even say that we both had faith that I was saved. But, in the end, it turns out that I was not, in fact, saved from death. It turns out, then, that our earlier faith was a false faith.

Yesterday, you and I both sincerely believed that I was saved. Today, it turns out that we were both wrong. Can it be said that I was ever truly saved from this accident if, in the end, I was not saved from the accident? No. Not if the word salvation actually means anything, that is.

As believers, we say that we are saved. The thing that we are saved from is the wrath of God to come (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). The wrath of God that will be poured out on unbelievers on judgment day (Romans 2:5; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6). If, on that day, we are not actually saved from that wrath, then we cannot be said to have ever been saved in any meaningful sense of the word.

The only way you and I, as believers, can have any assurance of salvation—the only way we can truly be said to be saved in any meaningful sense of the word—is if God, the Righteous Judge himself, assures us somehow that, on judgment day, we will, in fact, be saved.

That is exactly what he has done. He justifies—declares righteous—his people, and he then promises that all who are justified will, in the end, be glorified (Romans 3:24ff.; 5:1; 8:30, 33).

God's Word teaches that salvation consists of an unbreakable chain starting with the foreordination of his people and terminating with their glorification—their being made like Christ (Romans 8:28-30). God ensures that this chain remains unbroken by working in us (Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 13:21; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:12; Ephesians 1:19; 2:10) and for us (Romans 5:6; Ephesians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:9). He recreates us (John 3:3ff.; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3, 23). He writes his law on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16; Jeremiah 31:33). Christ intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25) as does his Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). The Father gives us to the Son (John 6:37). The Son does not cast us out, rather, he raises us up (John 6:38-40). Nothing can wrench us from his grasp or separate us from his love (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:35ff.). Our salvation, then, is ensured by God's work for us rather than our work for him (Romans 9:16). This means that, if a believer loses his salvation, it is not because he has failed God but because God has failed him. This is an obvious impossibility.

On judgment day, there will be only two groups—those whom God foreknew (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2), and those whom he never knew (Matthew 7:21-23).

There will be none whom he once knew.

June 12, 2014

Praise God for Polemics

In the last week and a half, I've been involved in two different doctrinal disagreements. While I love teaching theology, writing about it, and talking it over with others, I do not relish doctrinal disagreements. Frankly, I often (not always, but often) would rather avoid controversy.

This has a lot to do with the fact that I have Asperger's Syndrome. This makes it hard for me to think on my feet. It's difficult for me to respond to unexpected questions or objections. I also have a hard time restating things in other words, making it hard to correct misunderstandings. Additionally, I tend to be unnecessarily blunt. I get distracted easily. I lose focus. I often (unknowingly) ignore details, which sometimes makes it hard to appreciate and respond appropriately to questions or arguments. Sometimes I become unnecessarily animated or excited, and, when I get excited, I often come across as angry or upset. As a high-functioning autistic, these are symptoms I deal with, to one degree or another, on a daily basis, but they are particularly evident during fast-paced, back-and-forth discussions. As much as I like to remain logical and dispassionate during disagreements, my symptoms make it very difficult.

Having said all that, I still thank God for theological disagreements. As frustrating as they might be in the moment, when all is said and done, I always have reason to thank God for them. They always sharpen my thinking. They always expose sin in my own heart and lead me to repentance. And they always help me to better appreciate brothers with whom I disagree.

Praise God for polemics.

June 11, 2014

1806 Mississippi Baptist Association Articles of Faith

You'd never know it by visiting most Southern Baptist churches in Mississippi, but, once upon a time, Mississippi Baptists were unabashed Calvinists.

Here, in their entirety, are the Mississippi Baptist Association Articles of Faith from 1806:
1. We believe in one true and living God; and that there are a trinity of persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.

2. We believe the scriptures of the Old and New Testament were given by inspiration of God, are of Divine authority, and the only rule of faith and practice.

3. We believe in the fall of Adam; in the imputation of his sin to all his posterity; in the total depravity of human nature; and in man's inability to restore himself to the favor of God.

4. We believe in the everlasting love of God to his people; in the eternal unconditional election of a definite number of the human family to grace and glory.

5. We believe that sinners are only justified in the sight of God, by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is unto all and upon all them that believe.

6. We believe all those who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world are, in time, effectually called regenerated, converted, and sanctified; and are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.

7. We believe there is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, who by the satisfaction which he made to law and justice, "in becoming an offering for sin" hath, by his most precious blood, redeemed the elect from under the curse of the law, that they might be holy and without blame before him in love.

8. We believe good works are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, are evidences of a gracious state, and that it is the duty of all believers to perform them from a principle of love.

9. We believe in the resurrection of the dead, and a general judgment, and that the happiness of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked will be eternal.

June 09, 2014

The Sinner's Prayer for Muslims

Over at Reformation 21, William Schweitzer critiques Insider Movement proponent Carl Medearis:
Medearis relates the story of when he and a friend witnessed to a Saudi princess. At some point the princess asks, "Are you trying to tell me I should convert to Christianity?" Medearis quickly reassures her that they wish nothing of the sort: "'No, we're not.' I held up my hand for a moment." So if not converting to the Christian faith (which would seem to be what missionaries are there for), what does Medearis want the princess to do?  

"You spoke to us about hope, about significance, about meaning. If you can find these things with Allah, in this kingdom, would you not be the truest form of Muslim? Would you not be truly submitted to God?' (95) Intrigued, the princess asks, "How can I have this kingdom?" Medearis continues, "Allah sent a prophet. The Qur'an tells us he is the word of God, that he is a spirit from God and sits close to God. His name is Isa, and he is near to God now..... The first thing Isa preached was that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I believe that to be truly submitted to Allah is to be with him in spirit, in his kingdom, and I believe that Isa can open that door for you because he is near to Allah." (96)  Although the princess prays to receive this kingdom, Christian baptism and church membership are not mentioned. 
Read the rest here.

HT: Todd Pruitt

June 06, 2014

Treasuring the Word Ministries

I've spent this past week on vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. While away, I decided to take a break from blogging. Now that I'm back, I'd like to bring your attention to a ministry I recently discovered.


Here's the write-up from their website:
We maintain a rare Bible and book museum in Sevierville, Tennessee displaying in an interactive, chronological format the history of our English Bible. We are committed, in cooperation with Bibles International, to providing a conservative, “heart language” translation of the Scriptures for those people groups in need. We also provide Bible study tools to institutions and individuals who are training for the preaching/teaching ministry in underprivileged or mission-restricted countries. We revise and publish rare, out-of-print works relevant to the spiritual well-being of mankind.
 Stop by and check them out if you're ever in the area.

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