Friday, December 05, 2008

"Worthy Is the Lamb"

As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in the rear nave of the National Cathedral in Washington during "part the third" of Handel's Messiah. Just a few minutes ago about two thousand people rose to their feet for the Hallelujah Chorus. Though I have some appreciation for that tradition, the inescapable reality is that we who stood will one day, to a man, fall on our faces in full and final recognition that "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."

I live in Washington, where "the kings of the earth rise up, and rulers take counsel against the Lord, and against his Anointed." It's impossible to meditate on that Hallelujah without remembering that the one who is worthy of praise is the one who both "taketh away the sins of the world" and "shall laugh them to scorn" who cast off his reign.

Around the time Handel's oratorio debuted in London, a newspaper published a letter that warned that if an oratorio "is not performed as an Act of Religion, but for Diversion and Amusement only (and indeed I believe that few or none go to an Oratorio out of Devotion) what a Prophanation of God's Name and Word is this to make so light Use of them?"

Nevertheless, I do sing Hallelujah that the gospel is still clearly proclaimed, at least a few times a year, here in what so many consider our nation's place of worship. "Their sound is gone out unto all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Question for the Hard-Line Cessationists

Hypothetically speaking, imagine that you knew a person who told you something along these lines:
I was a devoted Muslim when a man appeared to me in a dream. The man told me to go see a foreigner in town who is a follower of Jesus. The man in the dream told me to ask him about Jesus, and to believe what he told me. The Christian man told me all about Jesus, and now I am a follower of Jesus too.
So what do you think. Is the guy delusional? Under demonic influence? Or is this sort of thing compatible with rigid cessationism? Hypothetically, of course . . .

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Props from Mohler to Fundamentalist Prof

The annual Evangelical Theological Society meeting is in Providence, Rhode Island, this week. Al Mohler is there. So is Jeff Straub, Associate Professor in Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. Straub presented a paper on the Rockefeller family and how theologically liberal causes were funded by people who, at least at first, were not theologically liberal.

Straub, who earned his PhD at Southern Seminary, got a nice shout out yesterday beginning in the fifth minute of the Albert Mohler Radio Program. You can listen to it here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Christians in the Public Square: Involvement Without Intoxication

John Hutchinson pastors McLean Presbyterian Church in the DC metro area. I found his recent Tabletalk article, "A Different Kind of Power," to be a helpful perspective on how Christians, particularly pastors, should engage in political issues. Praise God for a wise, godly Senator who advised Hutchinson on a particular matter:
John, I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I share your convictions on a subject that is very important. But as you pray about your decision, remember that you will have no control over how the press will quote you, and you will be labeled as a conservative advocate. You have been called here to be a minister of the Gospel of the kingdom that transcends political conservatism or liberalism. And as a minister you will have the opportunity over the years to give that Gospel to both conservatives and liberals.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Building Healthy Multi-Ethnic Churches: A Review

Here's a review I wrote for the 9Marks E-Journal on Mark DeYmaz' Building Healthy Multi-Ethnic Churches.

As I noted in the review, I would have some reservations with some of the methodologies DeYmaz describes. He also goes looking a bit too hard for a biblical rationale for pursuing ethnic diversity in a local church—harder than is necessary to make his case, in my opinion.

Nevertheless, it's worth reading if for no other reason than the fact that so many conservative evangelical-fundamentalist churches are so lily-white and never think much at all about how to cross entrenched ethnic divides. It was relatively easy to sift through the ideas I disagreed with on biblical bounds, while still profiting substantially from the exercise of thinking outside my comfortable position of the ethnic majority. On top of that, DeYmaz was clear on the priority of the gospel and the fact that pursuing ethnic diversity or harmony is not in any way the sum of the gospel message.

So here's my conclusion:
If you're pastoring or church planting in a context in which your church is less ethnically diverse than your community, or if you hope that God will raise within your congregation people who will pursue ministry in a multi-ethnic setting, DeYmaz' book is a worthwhile read. But absorb its biblical-theological argumentation with a discerning eye. That is, read DeYmaz' Scripture citations in their biblical context to confirm that the emphasis of the text is consistent with his argument. Consider the ecclesiological implications of prioritizing multi-ethnicity. The church is a body. It shouldn't be surprising if increased attention to one aspect of the body's life has effects, whether positive or negative, on the rest of the body

Also, read its methodology as description, not prescription. In other words, DeYmaz offers us one account of what worked well in one church in one context. But what worked in that context may not apply equally well in differing situations.

DeYmaz seems to recognize this, and he speaks of general principles as well as specific strategies. These general principles constitute a broad framework for the kinds of questions churches will need to consider as they pursue healthy multi-ethnicity. Whether those churches reach all DeYmaz's conclusions is probably not that important.

But two priorities are essential for every church that hopes to grow towards healthy multi-ethnicity. First, these churches should draw on DeYmaz' practical insight. Don't discard his advice lightly without a clear, biblical argument to the contrary.

Even more importantly, they should recognize that the power of the gospel is creating an eternal, universal, multi-ethnic community. No church that desires to reflect an accurate picture of how Christ's kingdom has broken into this age should be satisfied to display merely a monochromatic image.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The SBC and the Authority of Scripture: SharperIron Buries the Lead

The SharperIron headline that, according to a new LifeWay survey, just 69% of SBC church members affirm the authority of Scripture caught my eye. Sounds kind of discouraging, right? Cause to skewer the SBC? No doubt.

But what the lead misses is that 100% of the SBC pastors surveyed affirmed the inspiration of Scripture, and 97% unequivocally affirmed its inerrancy. Though I have no doubt (and am grateful for the fact) that the latter figure would be even higher among independent, fundamental Baptist churches, it should be neither surprising nor substantially discouraging for two reasons. First, thirty years ago the SBC was on the brink of theological disaster. That 100% of pastors affirm inspiration and 97% affirm inerrancy surely reflects a positive trend over the past thirty years.

Second, the pastors who would have been trained in the darkest days of the SBC seminaries—the 1970s and 1980s—would be largely in their 40s–60s today. I'm guessing that demographic comprises the bulk of men serving as senior pastors of SBC churches. Given the training they received in seminary, that 69% figure doesn't sound so bad, and the 100%/97% numbers are a bit more encouraging.

But let's put that 69% statistic in context. On any given Sunday, only about 6 million out of 16 million SBC church members even show up in church (PDF). So that means that about 5 million SBC church members who don't even attend church faithfully actually believe in inerrancy! So almost as many who DON'T attend church believe in inerrancy as DO. Not bad, huh?

Of course, that assumes a couple things. First, it assumes that all the members who DO attend church are the same people who believe in inerrancy. (No doubt, millions of that 69% who affirm inerrancy left the SBC years ago for IFB churches years ago and just forgot to resign their membership.)

Don't get me wrong. There's obviously still a massive problem when 10 million out of 16 million members don't show up for church. It's too bad there are no such statistics for IFB churches. It'd be interesting to compare. I really wouldn't know what to expect. But I suspect the problem is one of church membership and discipline much more than it's a problem of pastors teaching faithful attenders false things about Scripture. So let's get the story straight.

But I wonder if anyone's ever written anything on membership and discipline . . .

Or were you looking for something written by a fundamentalist rather than one of those Southern Baptists?

Friday, August 22, 2008

If you had the chance to lead in prayer at a national party convention, would you do it?

This pastor would.

I have no idea how much freedom of prayer this pastor possesses, but assuming you could pray whatever you wanted to pray, what would you do? Would it make a difference if you were a pastor or a layman? Or which party it was?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How Silly Youth Groups Create Calvinists

Jesse Johnson makes the case in his review of Colin Hansen's Young, Restless, and Reformed, available at the Shepherd's Fellowship blog.

According to Johnson, Hansen's argument is that . . .
cheesy youth groups realize very quickly that they do not have adequate answers to explain the basics of their faith, much less to stand up to their secular professors. When they reach the point of realizing they don’t have the answers, they generally find someone who does, and this person (or book, or CD) is usually unashamedly Reformed.
Here's Johnson's inference:
The more silly youth groups are, the more people will be driven to reformed circles upon graduation.
Of course that analysis is wildly optimistic. Anyone who's spent any substantial time around young people who grew up in silly youth groups knows that the number who are driven to reformed circles years later is a tiny sliver of the pie. The vast majority reach the conclusion (quite rationally) that the same tastes for entertainment, amusement, and shallow Christianity that were indulged in their youth groups should be similarly available in their churches. When they don't get what they want in the church where they grew up, they look for it elsewhere. And they find it. Or perhaps just as commonly, they stay home, where more professional entertainers deliver it to them via satellite or a DSL connection.

One Hundred Sixty-Five Years Ago Today . . .

. . . C.I. Scofield was born!!!

I have to admit that Scofield's Wikepedia entry opened up a whole world of surprising biographical information on the man that I'd never encountered before. You know, the kind of information that would prompt a KJVO'er to attack a "New Age PerVersion." Go figure. And if it's on Wikipedia, it must be true, right?

And as long as we're talking Scofield, I have a couple questions for the folks out there. If you're a dispensationalist, I'm assuming that the "day of the Lord" in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 is something of an umbrella term referring to the last days in general--from the Rapture to the Second Coming. Correct?

And if you're an amillennialist and you believe Christ could return at any moment, how do you sustain that conviction in light of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, where the man of lawlessness is revealed prior to the return of Christ?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Christianity and Liberalism

A better articulation of the fundamentalist idea you will not find than J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism.

A better deal you will not find than Westminster Bookstore's Classic of the Month special.

If you're a pastor and you haven't read it, you should. Chances are it'll change your mind or give you better arguments for what you already believe. If the next generations are to be persuaded of the historic, biblical idea of fundamentalism, it will be through this kind of argument.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Does John Piper Teach Separation?

You be the judge.

Here's just one relevant quote among many from today's radio program:
When a person departs from the doctrine that the apostles had taught, Paul sees this as a greater threat to unity than the disunity caused by avoiding such people. If we say: How can that be? How can dividing from a false teacher who rises up in the church promote unity in the church? The answer is that the only unity that counts for unity in the church is rooted in a common apostolic teaching. Isolating false teachers—avoiding them—is Paul’s strategy for preserving unity that is based on true teaching.
You can see the whole manuscript here or download an MP3 here.

The bottom line? Unity is a sham unless it's unity around truth. Piper discusses loving people and loving truth, purity for the sake of unity, a defined body of doctrine, and truth-based division for the sake of truth-based unity.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Spurgeon: Why Many Gifted Preachers Have Little Impact

This morning a bunch of friends from church were listening to and discussing a chunk of Spurgeon's autobiography. Spurgeon described the kind of talented, gifted preachers in England who pastored small churches and saw little fruit from their ministries. Spurgeon argued that these men had little impact because they had lost the gospel. Here's the climax of his conclusion:
They are afraid of real gospel Calvinism.
Amid all the talk among contemporary Southern Baptists and independent fundamentalists that the doctrines of grace are not a matter that demand division, I find myself wondering what Spurgeon would say were he around to see the things that masquerade as the gospel these days.

Now, of course, what Spurgeon would do doesn't make a thing right. But neither do contrary arguments from SBC and IFB history. What makes a thing right is ultimately whether that thing conforms to Scripture. How man-centered or repentance-bankrupt can a gospel be before it ceases to be the gospel? And how much cooperation or fellowship can take place when there's disagreement over the gospel? Perhaps that is a question the churches of this generation will need to determine.

Monday, July 28, 2008

This is the funniest thing you will ever read on the internet.

Here's the Sharper Iron comment thread, "You might be a fundamentalist if . . ."

Here's my contribution (I will send a special gift to anyone who can identify which 10 are personally true of me):
. . . you've ever thought throwing a stick in a fire would help you "get right with God"

1). . . you thought Ace Virtueson was cool

2). . . you never forget which side of your head you're supposed to part your hair on

3). . . you think Crusaders are something to be proud of

4). . . you've ever amused your neo-evangelical friends by showing them a youtube video of a radio hall meeting

5). . . you've researched whether there really is a chemical that explodes into flame upon contact with water

6). . . you still tell the joke about Omega after the Rapture 15 years after you graduated from college

7). . . you have a Hollywood Video card in your wallet but think "not supporting Hollywood" is a good reason not to go to the theater

8). . . you ever used extra hair gel because your non-boje hall leader warned you about hair check

9). . . you've ever been excited because you got a "I" rating in a preaching competition

10). . . you ever stood in a "DC" line for 45 minutes because you were late to class or didn't make your bed

11). . . you've ever had an argument about what year they dropped the women's hats on Sunday rule or when family style lunch was no longer required

12). . . you've ever snuck off campus to toss a football

13). . . you've ever been expelled from college for stealing an umbrella

14). . . you were ever impressed by an evangelist who "led 6 people to Christ" in 90 minutes

15). . . you use the term "slippery slope" in conversation at least once a week

16). . . you've ever been concerned about the direction of a church that meets in home groups for the evening service whenever there's a month with 5 Sundays

17). . . you've ever heard a person say about Jack Hyles, "I know it's in the Bible about Jesus, but 'never a man spake as this man!' "

18). . . you think CCM is a big deal but repentance isn't
And two special bonuses NOT appearing on Sharper Iron:

19). . . you've ever heard a full sermon on why leviathan and behemoth are dinosaurs*

20). . . you've ever seen a college promo video in which a "professor" claims the Apostle Paul used the KJV


*Call me crazy, but I think they are.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"When did evangelicals become liberals?": A Question for the Historians?

From Michael Lawrence's sermon on Mark 4-10 today at Capitol Hill Baptist Church:
I fear that a hundred years from now, church historians are going to have to answer the question, "When did evangelicals become liberals?" And the answer's going to be, "When they became so concerned with worldly respectability that they redefined kingdom work as cultural engagement rather than good old fashioned evangelism. When they became more concerned about Christians in the arts and the marketplace, than Christians that knew how to explain the gospel. When they became more concerned with redeeming culture than they were to see men and women who are the creators of culture redeemed by the gospel. Oh Christian, let it not be said that that happened on our watch. To paraphrase Jesus, what good is it if we gain the world, only to lose its souls?
The broader context begins about 15 minutes in.

I assume that this is one more in a long line of statements that will lead some fundamentalists to re-define their definition of neo-evangelicalism in order to maintain their convenient categories from the past 50 years. In so doing, they avoid the embarrassment of admitting that some churches outside fundamentalist circles better demonstrate faithfulness to Scripture and the gospel than a vast array of "fundamentalist" churches that run roughshod over Scripture and the theology it reveals.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Building Healthy Churches: A 9Marks Workshop in Minneapolis

Eden Baptist Church in Savage, Minnesota is set to host a 9Marks Workshop October 27-28. Registration and schedule info here.

If your church thinks it might be ready to host a 9Marks workshop, follow this link for more info.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Want to Grow in Prayer?: Read The Valley of Vision

I don't know what took me more than three decades of life to hear about The Valley of Vision. Worse yet, I don't know what took me more than a year after I heard about it to buy it.

I can't remember ever meeting a Christian who felt satisfied with his prayer life. I'm surely no different. This collection of thematically-arranged prayers recorded by Puritans is an ideal tool for thinking more deeply and praying more honestly and introspectively. And of course it's dripping with God-centered theology.

Here's a part I read recently as part of my quiet time that smacked me right between the eyes:
There is in all wrongs and crosses a double cross—that which crosses me and that which crosses thee.;
In all good things there is somewhat that pleases me, somewhat that pleases thee;
My sin is that my heart is pleased or troubled as things please or trouble me, without my having a regard to Christ.
It's even formatted, in more detail than I've replicated here, to help the reader follow the intricacies and parallelisms of Puritan thought and language. Buy it here for under $10.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Two Reasons Not to Infuse Your Sunday Services with American Patriotism

Mike McKinley writes at the 9Marks blog . . .
First, I don't want to have an American church. I want to pastor a church in America. We have members from 20 different countries. More than one in three of our members were not born in America. I don't presume that they consider the American military "our" military. I don't even presume that they think of America as "our" country. I want them to come to church and experience great unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture makes it clear that our unity is not to be based on nationality or culture.

Second, I think in our culture the evangelical church (especially the Southern Baptists with our God and Country celebrations) is often synonymous with right-wing patriotism. So I think it doesn't serve the gospel well to make a big show of patriotism in our worship gatherings. My fear is that it will hurt the Christians ("I must be a good Christian, I am a patriot and have a yellow ribbon sticker on my car") and the non-Christians ("Being a Christian means being a good American").
For a related conversation, check out yesterday's Al Mohler Radio Program, guest hosted by Russell Moore.

And now, after clicking "publish post," I'm heading out to put my full patriotism on display at the festivities here in DC.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Cal Thomas: How Religious Organizations Exchange Their Message for a Bowl of Lentils

I like Cal Thomas because he makes his point concisely and clearly and because he so often injects profound biblical wisdom into his commentary, couched in simple common sense. And, well, I agree with him almost all the time too.

In his WTOP radio commentary today [MP3], he addressed Barak Obama's commitment to continuing and perhaps even expanding George Bush's funding initiatives that seek to engage faith communities, saying that he thought the idea was bad from the start and will only get worse under Obama.

Here's the core of his argument:
When government gets involve in religious organizations, it requires that the very power which changes lives be muted. And when religious organizations take government money, they eventually compromise their message in order to keep the money coming in. They come to rely more on government than on God.


This faith-based business will ask that people put their trust in Caesar, not in God. It was a bad idea before, and it remains so now.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Southern Baptist on Racial Discrimination and Institutional Apologies

In the early 60s, Eugene Florence received a diploma from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 2004, Southwestern's faculty and trustees determined that Florence should have received a master's degree, but was awarded a diploma instead.

Because he is black.

That year, SWBTS president Paige Patterson invited him back to the campus to receive his master's degree.

Last month's Baptist Press article on that commencement ceremony includes this report of Patterson's words:
When the Southern Baptist Convention began in 1845, Patterson said, its founders had many things right. "But they made one tragic mistake. With regard to race, our convention took a very sad position that was unbiblical, ungodly and un-Christian in every way," Patterson said during the commencement. "It is one thing to make a bad mistake. It's another thing to never come to the point where you say, 'We were wrong.'" [emphasis mine]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Biblical Warrant for Corporate Repentance

Tom Ascol discusses the matter on the Founders blog, in reference to the recent passage by the SBC of a resolution that urges corporate repentance for failure to apply the biblical principle of regenerate church membership and for dishonesty in reporting statistics.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bob Jones University and Racial Discrimination: An Appeal for Honesty and Repentance

Last week I signed an online petition "to request that [a public statement of regret and apology for Bob Jones University's historic position on racial discrimination] be made, backed up by concrete actions that demonstrate its seriousness." I don't know who's behind it, and I don't know enough about the effort to encourage others to sign. I do appreciate what I've seen of this initiative and hope it bears good fruit. Other similar appeals of a more private nature have not.

In any case, fundamentalists from the Bob Jones camp think that today's conservative evangelicals need to publicly repudiate and apologize for the errors of previous generations of evangelicals. Though I believe that's a misguided demand, it seems to me as though people in the Bob Jones camp who want that kind of apology ought to set the example. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

One of the compelling aspects of the site is the historical documentation that's provided in the links on the front page. It's absolutely fascinating, and perhaps a bit chilling. Though I'd seen some of it previously and have mixed emotions that it's been exposed, perhaps it's better for alumni to do so rather than hostile media.

Here's what I wrote:
In 1995, four years before BJU dropped it's "no inter-racial dating" policy, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution formerly repudiating and repenting of its racist and racial discriminatory past.

When I was growing up in BJU circles, "What in the World" and other fundamentalist publications frequently instilled in me the notion that the BJU brand of fundamentalism was a far more accurate manifestation of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity than the "house of sand" that was the Southern Baptist Convention. Since part of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity is acknowledging and repenting from past wrongs in a circle as broad as the offense, this sort of public expression is simply the right thing to do. But the sins of others are always easier to see than our own.

It's the right thing to do, not primarily so alumni have an easier time getting jobs, or so more African-American students feel welcome attending the school, or so the school gets dragged through the mud less often in an election year.

It's the right thing to do, first and foremost, because the public sin of believers distracts from the message of the gospel and displays a distorted image of Jesus Christ.

What Is a Healthy Church Member?

Many of you have already benefited from 9Marks publications. The newest, Thabiti Anyabwile's What Is a Healthy Church Member, is available now. I doubt you'll find it cheaper than you will here.

The difference between this and other 9Marks publications is that this is the kind of book you can easily put in the hands of the average person in your congregation. It's the kind of material that will explicitly apply directly to them, not merely to the role of the pastor or more abstract matters of church leadership structure.

Here's another similar kind of resource.

No Unity Without Truth: Anglicans and Separation

Words from Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria and leader of a conservative Anglican alliance:
"There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified Communion ... Now we confront a moment of decision ... We want unity, but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another wise teacher, who can be obeyed or disobeyed. We earnestly desire the healing of our beloved Communion, but not at the cost of rewriting the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend. We have arrived at a crossroads; it is, for us, the moment of truth."
Here's the full story.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

September Weekender

I'm pretty sure that everyone who's ever read this blog has been to a Weekender by now, but just in case you haven't, registration just opened for September.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Disengagement doesn't solve anything. Direct conversation might.

The more I see theological evangelicals engaging with theological fundamentalists, the more encouraged I am. I realize they're fairly narrow slivers of the two movements, but many sense that they're growing. One thing is sure: The disengagement and mutual grenade-lobbing of the past 50 years has not proven healthy to either group.

Well, the latest installment of this nascent conversation is taking place in public, here on the 9Marks blog, where Dave Doran and Jeff Straub have responded to Mark Dever.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Somewhere Between Jesus and John Wayne (Part 3): On the SBC Resolutions

I’m not a big fan of resolutions passed by associations of churches. More often than not, I think they do more harm than good, and they often give the impression of having accomplished something when they’re really nothing more than spitting in the wind.

From time to time there are exceptions. For example, I think the SBC resolution from several years ago expressing corporate repudiation of and repentance for its slave-holding, racist origins and long-standing culture was worthwhile. This year’s SBC resolutions contained at least one of that helpful variety and a few that were unwise and counter-productive.

Just as food for thought, here’s my take on each of the resolutions that passed last week:
  • #1 on appreciation for the fine hosts in Indianapolis: FOR. Pretty much a no-brainer. Indy’s got a nice downtown. Someone should clue in the chamber of commerce to encourage restaurants besides Chick-fil-A to serve sweet tea when the SBC comes to town though. And even CfA’s was noticeably sub-par.
  • #2 on celebrating the growing ethnic diversity of the SBC: FOR. A fine thing to do even if it’s never noticed.
  • #3 in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary: AGAINST. I think the vote was about 7,214-3 in favor of this one. Not even any of the amillennial and similarly prickly people from my church voted with me here. It’s not that I have anything against Israel. I’m a big fan, though not for theological reasons. I just think the resolution is unhelpful, and I say that from the perspective of a person in a church in a city where we regularly have opportunities to evangelize Muslims. Though I agree with the words of the resolution, I don’t like the idea of making such a statement one of our priorities.
  • #4 on affirming the use of the term “Christmas” in public life: ABSTAIN. I can see arguments for and against. Again, I’m not sure it should be a priority, but I’m not going to gripe that it passed.
  • #5 on political engagement: AGAINST. Like the Israel resolution, I agree with the words and think it was surprisingly innocuous. I just don’t think this is the kind of thing pastors should be prioritizing. It further politicizes evangelicalism and the SBC in particular, advancing the perception that Christians are about political power, particularly Republican political power. This is the kind of resolution that the secular media picks up on. It’s difficult for me to see how this is consistent with the consensus calls for a “Great Commission Resurgence.”
  • #6 on regenerate church membership and church member restoration: FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR!!!. This was a decent resolution as reported by the committee, and a stellar resolution after it was twice amended. But it’s just a resolution. Why does it matter? As a pastor friend told me, this resolution gives him the opportunity to go back to his church and use the resolution as a tool to teach his skeptical church the importance and validity of church discipline and removing non-attending members from membership rolls.
  • #7 on the California Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage: FOR. I’m skeptical about speaking to specific legislation or court decisions, but I think it’s appropriate to address this kind of issue directly.
  • #8 on Planned Parenthood: FOR. See #7.
  • #9 in recognition of the centennial of Royal Ambassadors: ABSTAIN. I hear this is basically the SBC version Boy Scouts. I imagine they’re fine folks, but I just know nothing about them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Somewhere Between Jesus and John Wayne (Part 2): Why I Came Down from a Ledge in the RCA Dome

Just before I finished the previous post, messengers to the Convention had cast their first ballot for the presidency, and the results had not yet been announced. I don’t think anyone expected one candidate to gain a majority on the first ballot. But if anyone had a chance, it was Johnny Hunt, and he did.

Hunt was not the candidate with whom I would have the most in common, but folks who’ve heard him more than I say he’s consistent in his emphasis on the gospel and he’s crystal clear in his explanation of it. Although I sense that several of the candidates would have made good presidents, I’m not sure than any is more likely to maintain the SBC’s trajectory of further entrenching a conservative foundation. Hunt is a self-professed Native American who grew up in the projects of Wilmington, North Carolina. The work of God’s grace in his life has been profound. And like I said earlier, this man who used to take shots at Calvinism quoted A.W. Pink in his sermon. Others know him to be, as all pastors should be, a growing student of theology. I’ve never read a word of Pink in my life, which means he’s kicking my tail on that point. So that’s the first reason the third 24-hour period at the Convention was more enjoyable than the first two.

The second is that the group I was with was given the great gift of a couple hours with two leaders who gave us a great deal more context to think about what was eating at us. One emphasized the positive theological developments under the surface (contra the “public face” I talked about in the previous post. The other shed a bright light on the history of the SBC, particularly on the past nature of its public meetings, why some of the most frustrating parts are the way they are, and why they might get better soon.

Third, a resolution on regenerate church membership passed overwhelmingly, after being barred from the convention floor the past two years. Even this year, the Resolutions Committee presented something of a Frankenstein resolution that emerged from four that had been proposed. Unfortunately, it gutted some of the most important parts, including Tom Ascol’s call for corporate repentance for widespread dishonesty in reporting membership figures due to bloated membership rolls that exist because so few churches practice meaningful discipline.

Fuller accounts of the resolution’s passage are available elsewhere, but here’s the bottom line: A fine resolution became a stellar resolution with the attachment of two amendments, including one from Ascol that draws attention to the statistical dishonesty and the need for repentance. These amendments took the Resolutions Committee to the woodshed a bit for their emasculation of Ascol’s initial offering. Perhaps it might also expunge from the record the opposition to the resolution offered a couple years ago by the committee chairman that we shouldn’t remove non-attending members from church rolls because we need the names for evangelistic efforts.

In any case, the passage of this resolution and how it reached its final form renewed some belief in the wisdom of the rank-and-file membership of the SBC (again, in contrast to its “public face”). It also impressed upon me the differences between the different kinds of bloggers in the SBC. Ascol, the theologian-blogger failed for a couple years, but his cause gained momentum and ultimately triumphed. Others, who may have played a crucial role in electing the previous SBC president, were eventually rebuked by him for the vicious nature of their personal attacks and now seem to be marginalized. It’s still early to draw historical conclusions, but I wonder whether the end of the story won’t point toward the power of a meek and gentle argument over the blogposts of personal destruction.

Fourth, Al Mohler’s SBTS report always seems to follow providentially some momentous event on the Convention floor. This year he immediately followed the regenerate church membership vote, and he used it well. As he does year after year, Mohler pointed out that the SBC was discussing regenerate church membership while other denominations this summer will be debating homosexual marriage and other issues that are dominated more by contemporary culture than biblical fidelity.

Fifth, on Wednesday the Gaithers were replaced by the Gettys. ‘Nuff said.

Sixth, Al Gilbert’s sermon was excellent. It was expositional. It had direct, relevant application. And he busted the state conventions in the chops. He was a breath of fresh air. I wish he’d pushed a little past Ephesians 3:2-6 to the later verses that show how it’s ultimately the church that displays God’s wisdom to the world, but that’s niggling around the edges.

Seventh, on Wednesday I attended the Southeastern Seminary (my alma mater) alumni and friends luncheon. I cannot begin to express all the reasons that I respect and appreciate Danny Akin. In the course of his five years or so as president of Southeastern, he’s said and done quite a few things people didn’t like, and he took quite a bit of heat for it. Even though there may have been a time or two I disagreed myself, I think he was dead on the vast majority of those times. And of course it’s quite possible I was wrong when I disagreed. Akin is one of those rare kinds of individuals who will confront serious issues that everyone else wants to ignore, and he can do it with the kind of spirit that doesn’t create unnecessary offense. His main point at the luncheon is that he intends for SEBTS to be a “missions monster,” essentially an arm of the International Missions Board. My sense is that the foundation for that mission existed when I was a student, and it’s only advancing as his presidency matures.

Johnny Hunt also spoke. What stuck out most to me were his reservations about the regenerate church membership resolution. He said, “If we spend all our time tidying up the ship, we might arrive at port with no one on it.” My hope is that at some point, the message of Ephesians 3 will take root. The church is a display of God’s glory to the world. SBC hand-wringing about falling numbers and ineffective evangelism is a reflection of the fact that SBC churches (and the public face of the Convention as a whole) don’t yet grasp what the church is all about. Without healthy churches, all the evangelism cheerleading in the world will only lead to more failures.

Clearly, what needs to happen is that people who not only recognize the problem, but also perceive the solution, need to become the public face of the SBC. They need to be the ones who are teaching pastors how to get their churches on track. My guess is that anyone who’s still reading this pretty much knows who those men are. At the same time, we all can and should respect and appreciate the present leaders who were the foot-soldiers of the Conservative Resurgence. What they accomplished with theological instinct and the Holy Spirit, without the benefit of a sound, conservative theological education, ought to direct us younger folk towards a bit of humility and dependence on God.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

“Somewhere Between Jesus and John Wayne”: My Week at the Southern Baptist Convention

As I’m writing this, I’ve been here in Indianapolis since Saturday, and since the time the Pastors’ Conference kicked off Sunday evening I’ve been searching for words that could paint a picture of the experience.

But when the Gaither Vocal Band took the stage to perform their song by the above name, my search was over.

This has been a surreal experience. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SBC you can probably tune in online. I’ve done that in the past, and it was quite instructive. When a couple friends joined me in sharing online running commentary, it was also quite enjoyable. (Note: I'm NOT encouraging it as a wise investment of time.) But that was another day.

Today I’m here. To this point I haven’t been able to formulate a coherent, big picture analysis. Perhaps in the process of sharing some snapshot observations a metanarrative will emerge.

My SBC experience began with the Pastors’ Conference, which was formerly an strategic tool of the SBC Conservative Resurgence, but is now essentially a series of sermons preached by men chosen by the leader of the Conference for whatever reasons he chooses.

I’m not going to lie. My expectations were low as the whole thing began. But when Johnny Hunt kicked off the Pastors’ Conference quoting A.W. Pink, twenty ears way on the left side of the room perked up. Later he busted out some Spurgeon and J.I. Packer.

Those moments of encouragement were fleeting. The Pastors’ Conference incarnates the steep price the SBC must pay for years of theological indifference. Sadly, the sermons that interacted most faithfully with the text of Scripture and advanced the fewest unhelpful theological and methodological notions were the ones preached either by non-SBC pastors or by men who gained their theological foundation when liberalism in the SBC was less pervasive and therefore less stifling to conservative students.

Here’s a taste of the Pastors’ Conference:

We heard the “biblical theology” for a come-forward invitation: “I believe the invitation is God’s idea.” God invites people into the ark in Genesis. In the last five verses of Revelation, the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Time and again, Jesus says, “Come.” Therefore, we should invite people to come down the aisle to an “altar” to do business with God because biblical faith is always accompanied by works (true) and the invitation is a great way to demonstrate that (false).

We heard, “Laughter may be the best message you’ve ever preached.” Sadly, I fear this may be true for most of those who "Amen"ed.

We heard interminable appeals to win souls in order to get our numbers up. “Every number has a story.” We heard little if any mention (I’m trying to be charitable) of the fundamental biblical motivation for evangelism of proclaiming the glory of the name of Jesus Christ to all the nations.

We heard three shout-outs to bloggers so far. One encouraged us to use blogs to fight for a Word-centered reformation. Two suggested that bloggers are one of God’s chief tools in bringing unjust trials on pastors. Interestingly, the pro-blogger speaker was also one of few to this point who adopted the novel approach of interacting with the Word of God in his sermon. And even he spoke at a parallel event, not on the official program.

While the guys from my church were chatting at one of the tables in the cafeteria area, a couple friends of our church stopped by and listened to our frustrations. One of them quite plausibly pointed out that the men who have been in the pulpit to this point were the men who received their training in the darkest days of the SBC. They were drawing nourishment while they were in seminary from whatever sources they could find. Though those sources were evangelical, they weren’t theologically sound. So I’m grateful that God equipped those men to reclaim lost ground in the SBC in the 80s and 90s. Nevertheless, I fear that their ongoing influence is undermining the future.

Let me close with a few observations, some of which I’ll articulate in words borrowed from the friends with me. First, in the SBC God is a means to an end. We need to seek his presence because he is the source of revival, which is a way for us to get our numbers up. Second, last year Executive Committee President Morris Chapman berated Calvinists. This year he went after sex offenders. Hmmm . . . Third, SBC preaching is pervasively typological. Every character in the Bible is a type . . . of us.

Finally, the public face of the SBC is functionally atheological. The good news is that I was able to observe some very clarifying evidence that theology does matter in the convention. In particular, the issue of women in pastoral ministry has popped up in a couple of different contexts, and when the chips are down people are making decisions to guard the SBC’s cooperative statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message. Surely there is backbone encased by all the flab, but I wonder how long it can survive under such unhealthy conditions.

So the SBC is in a precarious position. The preaching put on display is counter-productive to the principles of the Resurgence. It’s not that anyone denies the authority, inerrancy, or sufficiency of Scripture. It’s not that anyone would explicitly reject expository preaching. The problem is that the prevailing majority of the preaching that’s on display reduces biblical authority to (at best) a trite series of mottos and (at worst) a jumping-off point for man-centered theology or a comedy routine.

Just as I’ve argued that fundamentalists who profess allegiance to Scripture are hypocrites when they tolerate (and even elevate) preaching that undermines it, so is a fundamentalistic SBC Conservative Resurgence that tolerates what we’ve seen and heard this week.

There aren’t many young people here. There will be fewer the longer the status quo continues. But some with the will and capacity to change that status quo are energized to do so. Keep your ears peeled for an alternative pastors’ conference in 2009 that features preaching that focuses on the good news about Jesus Christ from the pages of Scripture to the glory of God. To the glory of God ALONE.

P.S. As I was typing the above paragraph, an SBC presidential nomination speech referred to salamanders as “fish.” The more I think about it, “somewhere between Jesus and John Wayne” may be too charitable.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"I've always feared that I'll get to heaven and find out that God loves opera."

Bob Kauflin was Al Mohler's guest on his radio program yesterday. Hear Kauflin explain why the real "worship leader" is the preacher, why he thinks God doesn't have a preference for musical style, and perhaps most importantly, how he things of his role in church service.

Pick up his brand new book if you want to hear more of his perspective on these kinds of issues.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Don Carson Doesn't Believe in "Redeeming the Culture"

Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited is one the T4G book giveaways I'm most looking forward to reading. So it was with some anticipation that I scanned his interview with Derek Thomas. One snippet really caught my eye, since I think it nails an absolutely crucial point that is foreboding for the future of evangelicalism, given its current trajectory:
[M]any of those who speak easily and fluently of redeeming the culture soon focus all their energy shaping fiscal and political policies and the like, and merely assume the gospel. A gospel that is merely assumed, that does no more than perk away in the background while the focus of our attention is on the "redemption" of the culture in which we find ourselves, is lost within a generation or two.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"This Is Not Grounds for Separation in Ministry"

That's Sam Horn's view of the priority of one's view on the Great Tribulation. Listen to it for yourself here, in his sermon from 5/18/08, "The Power of a Promise." Make no mistake, he's staunchly and passionately pre-tribulational. He just doesn't think it's grounds for separation. He doesn't even think it should be grounds for church membership. Brookside Baptist Church's statement of faith doesn't address the issue.

A survey of the statements of faith of other dispensational churches will reveal this doctrine is more commonly understood to be grounds for separation than it ought to be. I applaud Pastor Horn for his clear statement of his convictions on the matter, both concerning his personal eschatology and concerning his willingness to covenant together with those who disagree.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Undermining Evangelism: Evangelists and Evangelistic Programs

In The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Mark Dever writes:
When we are involved in a program in which converts are quickly counted, decisions are more likely pressed, and evangelism is gauged by its immediately obvious effect, we are involved in undermining real evangelism and real churches. (p. 81)
Here's a quote from an e-mail I received, which describes an evangelistic meeting in a Baptist church:
He did the sinner's prayer thing, then had those who prayed to raise their hands, then asked them to come forward, which he'd done both times Sunday and probably did all week. I don't know about the other evenings all week, but last night he came and got a girl in the row in front of us, because she didn't step out on her own and go forward. Then he asked the Christians who were praying for someone specifically in the service last night to raise their hands. Then he had them talk to the person they were praying for to try to get them to go forward.
This didn't happen twenty years ago. It was 2008. And it wasn't in some right-wing, fire-breathing, KJVO, ultra-revivalist church. And it wasn't some young, brash, obscure evangelist trying to make a name for himself.

Of course, I do recognize and appreciate that many evangelists will be as repulsed by this methodology (and the theology it reflects) as I am. Nevertheless, as Dever writes, this kind of methodology undermines biblical evangelism. It strikes me as the kind of aberrance from which we should separate. It's one of the reasons authentic fundamentalism is too seldom found within the fundamentalist movement.

Don't Bother Reading Unless You Used the Nashotah House Library

I just found an interesting reference to Nashotah House in the Washington Post. I can't speak personally to the theological leanings of NH within Episcopalianism, but I was interested to see the explosion in its enrollment.

If anybody from NH happens across this, thanks for your kindness to the Maranatha students whom you allowed to use your library. I'd love to hear what you think has contributed to the increased enrollment.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Kind of Review That Makes You Buy a Book

Jeff Straub offers a powerful review of Don Carson's biography of his father.

This sums it up well:
Tom was a man who labored in relative obscurity most of his life. He was not a great leader among men in the popular sense of the term. He wasn’t invited to speak around the country, the continent, or the world like his more well-known son. He was just an ordinary pastor who likely would have remained in obscurity had not his son offered us a glimpse into his father’s life. In doing so, Don Carson has written a book that should remind those who read it of Paul’s important charge regarding faithfulness—it is required of stewards that they be faithful or trustworthy (1 Cor. 4:2). The steward needs to carry out God’s charge without regard to personal gain or professional aggrandizement. Tom did, and therein is his legacy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The 21st Century "Gospel": Subtraction by Addition

A couple recent Christianity Today articles make me wonder if there is anything some creative author could propose is "the gospel" that a CT editor wouldn't publish.

In "A Multi-Faceted Gospel," Al Hsu makes some reasonable arguments. No man-made summary of the gospel is perfect. All have deficiencies. Scripture does use a kaleidoscope of images to paint a comprehensive picture of what God accomplished on behalf of his people. The problem with Hsu's argument emerges in this statement:
Indeed, some might criticize Jesus for not presenting the gospel comprehensively on every occasion. Sometimes he mentioned "eternal life" or "the kingdom of God." Other times he didn't. Sometimes he called for repentance, but not always. Jesus, and the New Testament writers who followed him, modeled cultural creativity and contextualization by telling the Good News in multiple ways: "Come, follow me." "The kingdom of God is at hand." "Jesus is Lord." "Repent and be baptized." "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." "For God so loved the world."
Hsu overlooks several essential aspects of an orthodox understanding of biblical revelation:

1. Biblical narratives are selective. The fact that only certain statements are recorded doesn't mean that's all that Jesus or another speaker actually said.
2. The Bible is a coherent book. It's the written Word of God. That means we have to take it as a unit—follow the metanarrative, if you will. We can't lift out one illustration or facet of what the gospel is or does and pretend that component stands on its own.
3. We have to let God define the gospel. So when God's Word tells us that certain truths are central to the gospel (as in 1 Corinthians 15, for example), those are the truths that must be present in our summaries of the gospel.
4. Just because a popular phrase has been around for a while doesn't mean it's actually a valid expression of the gospel. "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," and "I once was lost, but now am found" are not the gospel. That doesn't mean they're necessarily incompatible with the gospel, but they can't stand alone as the gospel.
5. "New approaches to the gospel," the products of creative attempts to communicate to changing culture, are only valid if they are faithful to genuine biblical concepts.

I fear that the end result of Hsu's proposal is the kind of "Open-Handed Gospel" advocated by Richard Mouw, also in Christianity Today. Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, tells the story of a rabbi who prayed for King Abdullah of Jordan. In response to that stirring event, Mouw writes:
I believe with all my heart that the God I worship, the God of Abraham, looked down on that scene, where a descendent [sic] of Isaac gave a blessing to a descendent [sic] of Ishmael, and smiled and said, "That's good! That's the way I want things to be!" I'm not entirely clear about how to work this into my theology, I confessed, but I'm willing to live with some mystery in thinking about that encounter.
I don't know exactly what Mouw means by that. I'm not sure he does. In fact, he seems to recognize he has no idea what he means. There is a sense in which I suppose the image of God in humanity distorts God's character less when non-Christians pray for each other than when they kill each other.

But that's not the argument Mouw is making. His argument is not that God's name is less sullied than it might otherwise be, but that he is genuinely and actively pleased.

It's this sleight-of-hand that enabled Mouw to attack a statement from John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel earlier in his piece. The difference between Mouw and MacArthur is that MacArthur doesn't believe people can be converted if they knowingly and willfully reject doctrine that's at the heart of the gospel, while Mouw wants to believe that people can be both confused and converted.

I have to agree with Mouw's statement in the CT article that people can be confused about some pretty important doctrines and still be Christians. For example, I wouldn't suggest that only Calvinists can be saved. (John Piper made some great comments on that point recently, which I hope to share eventually.) But I simply don't agree that what Mouw is saying in CT is what ECT is all about. ECT is about consciously affirming common ground between professing evangelicals and Roman Catholics over mutually acceptable language, knowing all along that the Roman Catholic signatories assigned different meaning to the language than the participating evangelicals.

I don't mean to question Mouw's motives or, for that matter, Hsu's or the CT editors'. I simply see a great danger in where this magnanimous, lenient approach to biblical doctrine is taking Christianity. Though this kind of open hand appears at first to expose, broaden, and liberate the gospel, it's the very same open hand that throughout history has let the gospel slip away, dropped it in the dust, and eventually trampled on it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Evidence That American Evangelicalism Is About Politics, Not the Gospel

If your pastor thinks making politics the priority of his preaching in the way advocated here is a good idea, get out of that church now. You're very likely not in a Christian church.

Last Minute Weekender Registration—Here's Your Chance

So if you're a college student just done with finals or one of Al Mohler's perpetually adolescent 30-year-old single guys playing Halo 3 Live 24/7 who can't commit to anything, here's an opportunity for you. I hear that there are still a couple slots open for the 9Marks Weekender that begins Thursday. Register here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Soccer and Faith

Since I like soccer and theology, and I get to post on whatever I'm interested in, I wanted to save a link to the article on Kaka in this year's list of Time's 100 most influential people. I certainly don't have any inside info on Kaka's profession of faith, but I was interested to see that the article was written by Kasey Keller, long-time US Men's National Team goalkeeper.

Coach C, if you're reading this, e-mail me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Brian McLaren and Willow Creek: "Serpent Sensitive"

Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary, tends toward the provocative. Never have I seen him more so than in this commentary that expresses revulsion at Willow Creek giving its platform to Brian McLaren:
When McLaren questions the existence of hell and the hope of the Second Coming, he is not a "new kind of Christian." Such things are neither new nor Christian. They are instead a repetition of the voice of a snake in a long-ago Garden: "Has God said?" and "You shall not surely die." It is tragic that one of the world's most renowned evangelical churches would highlight this kind of Serpent-sensitive worship.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why do we make a big deal over gender roles in the church?

To the guys I had lunch with on Wednesday during T4G, this one's for you.

We talked about why the T4G affirmations and denials would include a statement on gender roles when Dever just got done saying in his T4G talk that it's not a gospel issue. Well, here's some of his related thinking on the matter, in the introduction to his sermon this Sunday, "Gender Roles in the Church."

I think the key components are 1) the relationship between this issue and the authority of Scripture, and 2) Dever's explanation of why egalitarianism ought to be outside the bounds of cooperation when paedobaptism isn't.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

For All the Sailhamer Junkies out There

John Piper gave Dr. Sailhamer a nice little shout-out in his talk at T4G.

Two of Mark Driscoll's recent sermons, one on the Trinity, and another on Creation, both channel a good bit of Sailhamer, whether it's from Genesis Unbound, Pentateuch as Narrative, or his Genesis volume from the Expositor's Bible Commentary series. But on the other hand, I thought his Genesis series from a few years ago (follow this link and then click on "books of the Bible") was much more steeped in Genesis Unbound than these recent sermons.

And now, after writing most of the previous paragraph, I finished listening to Driscoll's QnA after the sermon on Creation. In it he described taking a class on the Pentateuch from Sailhamer somewhere in Portland and recommended the Genesis commentary and Genesis Unbound to his congregation. (I can't find a link to the QnA online, but you could get it from the podcast, I expect.)

Ed, if you're reading this, e-mail me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

T4G Leaders on the Blinding Power of Personal Relationship

I realize there are many pastors in fundamentalist circles who aren't too sure yet about where these T4G leaders really stand on the essential nature of the gospel, the contemporary condition of evangelicalism, and the legitimate grounds of cooperation. That kind of understanding only comes by continued exposure to how they're drawing lines.

Last week, just after the close of T4G, Al Mohler hosted Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and C.J. Mahaney on his daily radio program. They discussed not only T4G, but also some of the theological issues that threaten orthodox Christianity now and in days to come.

In the immediate context of their veiled discussion of an ongoing controversy at a flagship evangelical seminary, Duncan made some comments that are quite relevant to these matters (17:23 into the program):
It shows you again, and you saw this up close and personal here, how much personalities and relationships play into this, where a personal relationship will blind you as to the theological issue at stake, to the well-being of the Church, and you don't do the hard thing that's the right thing for the people of God and for fidelity to the Scripture because of a personal relationship.
This is certainly not unique or out of character for Duncan and these others like him. It's certainly the kind of spirit that's in keeping with the message of the affirmation and denial proposed by Dave Doran:
We affirm that all genuine fellowship is in the gospel and that true gospel ministers and congregations must not grant Christian recognition or assistance to those who have denied the faith or turned away from the biblical gospel. We further affirm the biblical responsibility of elders and congregations to be vigilant in watching out for those who teach false doctrine and to turn away from and have no fellowship with them.

We deny that the biblical calls for unity and separation are contrary to one another, and that refusing Christian fellowship to false teachers and false congregations is schismatic. We further deny that confessional subscription necessarily contradicts soul liberty. We also deny that the glory of God and good of the church are properly advanced through theological and ecclesiastical union with those who have denied the gospel.
More on this soon to come.

At Last

Someone's writing about modesty with an emphasis on the heart. And go figure, it's C.J. Mahaney. Pastor friend, if you're wondering why your young people are inexplicably attracted to Reformed Charismatics, this is one reason why.

T4G Free Audio Links

Andy Naselli has compiled a helpful post with all the MP3 links.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mark Minnick on Mark Dever

For several years, the best part of Frontline Magazine, a publication of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, has been columns by Sam Horn and Mark Minnick in the central supplementary "Sound Words" section. Here's a snippet by Minnick from the Jan/Feb 2008 issue:
In connection with a series last year on the church, I read 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Crossway Books, 2004) and The Deliberate Church (Crossway Books, 2005) by Mark Dever. Dever pastors Capital [sic] Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and has shown the courage to depart from much that has been merely traditional in church ministry for the sake of attempting to forge a theology of Biblical ministry. He's a Southern Baptist with almost no exposure to Fundamentalism but with many Fundamentalist instincts. If you're not familiar with his website,, you might want to take a look at it, especially the interviews section, which consists of downloadable informal discussions with many current Evangelical leaders about a wide range of contemporary issues.

Another impacting book on the church is Josh Harris's Stop Dating the Church (Multnomah, 2004). It's the book you'd like to give to every attender who won't join, but may not dare to. Still, maybe if you just left it lying around . . .

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"John Piper Is Not Where We Are"

Every now and then, you hear somebody say something along the lines of the title quote. Maybe it's about Piper. Maybe Mohler. Maybe MacArthur. Take your pick.

A thought struck me while I was listening to Piper's talk at Together for the Gospel, "How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice."

You can download it for free here. Give it a listen and see if you don't agree with me on this:

John Piper is NOT where we are.

Woe unto us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Men and Missions: What Are Guys Afraid Of?

I was intrigued by some of David Hosaflook's thoughts since I've had several conversations along these lines recently. One seminary professor even told me about a strategy a missions agency had pursued to create unusually challenging job descriptions to reach radically difficult places, hoping that the adventure instinct in men would be engaged.

The only people willing to apply were women.

Here's Hosaflook's theory:
I think the real problem--the elephant in the room--is sin. Two great missionary qualities are boldness (Acts 4:13, 29, 31) and a passion to evangelize (Acts 4:20). Spirit-filled people, even despite natural inhibitions, have those two qualities. But when sin is in your life, your lion heart cowers (Proverbs 28:1) and your burden for the lost is sucked right out of your soul (Psalms 51:13).
It's not at all difficult to imagine how the sin patterns that are so common among younger Christian men in contemporary American culture could paralyze them from pursuing overseas work. But for whatever reason, there's not the same shortage of men heading into pastoral ministry. So regardless of the reason for the deficiency, it does seem to be a widely recognized phenomenon.

What do you think the solution is?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

T4G Video Highlights

Carolyn McCulley is posting clips from the talks.

Some Very Brief T4G Notes

This is the midst of a very small and rare break from a relentless schedule, but I wanted to pass on what's struck me so far.

First of all, if you had told me 5 or 6 years ago that I’d be standing outside a door to an auditorium passing out stuff while Gretchen (everyone’s friend at MBBC) passed out other stuff, and then out of the blue we'd greeted by a former MBBC professor, I’m not sure where I’d have guessed I’d be and what I’d be doing. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that it would be at a Southern Seminary chapel, with Gretchen passing out bulletins and me with 9Marks contact cards.

The fellowship has been (not surprisingly) stellar, with loads of friends from BJU, MBBC, and Northland Camp days, not to mention many former Weekenders and enough CHBC members to meet a quorum for a Members' Meeting. When Mark Dever described in his talk an e-mail resignation letter he'd received this morning, I thought for a moment we might vote on it right there.

It's even more thrilling for me personally to see who's at this T4G than the one in 2006. I get the sense that more and more people, particularly older men, from backgrounds similar to mine, are finding in the T4G convictions and ethos something they resonate with. With Chris Anderson's help, I'm estimating the FQ (Fundamentalist Quotient) at roughly 5% of the total in attendance. That's not a large percentage, but in real numbers it's something like 250 people. I've counted 22 from MBBC, and there are more than that from NBBC and BJU backgrounds. Some also from Clearwater and Pillsbury. I trust that's as encouraging to some of you as it is to me. Perhaps more on that later.

I think the talk I'd recommend most that you download (to this point, anyway) is Thabiti Anyabwile's. He talks about race and the gospel, or to put it better, why there should be no such category. Dever's would probably resonate most with readers of this blog, but his talk might be less thought-provoking since the level of agreement and shared perspective is much higher at the outset.

That's all for now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Serious men are not indifferent to any of the facts of history."

Dissidens makes a good point. Here's the punchline:
For a culture to work one cannot proceed by disavowing the shameful bits of the movement, defending the bits he's familiar with (or the bits he's chosen to become familiar with), or commending only those bits he decides are worthy of the name. Wouldn't it be grand if we could all do this? The neo-evangelical could disavow the goofier statements of Harold Ockenga, the seeker-sensitive could disavow the premature confessions of Bill Hybels, the fundamentalist could disavow the scandalous behavior of Richard Hand, the emergent could disavow the happyface piffle of Tony Jones....

Monday, April 07, 2008

One More Reason to Abandon the Language of "Calling"

Over the past five or ten years, I think I've made more than a few people think I'm either out to lunch or just plain obnoxious. Of all the possible grounds for those conclusions, none provokes those reactions more than when I've expressed opposition to using the term "calling" to describe the internal personal desire for pastoral ministry or the subjective sense that God has designated someone for that work.

But once again, I'd like to offer a little real-world evidence for how this language is abused. Wade Burleson, Southern Baptist pastor and blogger who gained notoriety for his concerns that Southern Baptists have excessively narrowed the boundaries for their cooperation, has most recently focused his energies on Southern Baptists and women in ministry. In a post today he describes a situation that illustrates how Southern Baptist women are being squeezed out of military chaplaincies.

Now, I think that the matter of women in chaplaincies is more complex that I intend to examine here, but two things are worth noting in Burleson's illustration. First, though it's not stated explicitly, it seems pretty clear that the female chaplain in question is preaching to men, given the fact that "every Sunday [she] can be heard preaching the gospel at 10:30 a.m. during the Protestant worship service at the beautiful West Point Military Academy Cadet Chapel."

Second, this chaplain's rationale (and Burleson's in his defense of her) is grounded in her internal sense that God wants her to be doing her work as a chaplain. Consider their words:
[My] heart "aches for the Southern Baptist Convention and the stance our convention has recently taken on women in missions and ministry." On the one hand Southern Baptist churches are training girls in G.A's (Girls in Action) and Acteens that they are to listen to the voice and calling of God and serve Him. Yet, when those same girls fulfill the call of God on their lives, the very Convention who trained them then turns their collective back on them.
Notice how teaching to listen to "the voice and calling of God"—the kind of teaching we've all heard, and the kind of language we've all heard used to defend personal choices—is used here to defend a particular form of ministry that many would argue is incompatible with biblical directives for the role of women in public ministry.

I realize that some will want to say, "Hey, the West Point Chapel isn't a church, so she ought to be permitted to preach." I understand that argument introduces some complexities, even though I think those folks are still wrong at the end of the day. But what I wish everyone could recognize and apply to all aspects and complexities of who does what in pastoral ministry is that an internal sense of "the voice and calling of God" ought to be about the last argument we use to defend our or someone else's personal choices.

Our hearts are deceitful, and their desires aren't fully transformed yet. Not even close. I don't know why it surprises us when these kinds of heart-tugging rationales are used to give account for unwise and even ungodly human actions. So how is your terminology teaching future generations to make decisions and form a justification for them?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Bad Questions to Ask When Establishing Doctrinal Boundaries

Wayne Grudem's article in the recent 9Marks E-Journal on separation and cooperation offered some helpful suggestions for establishing new boundaries as the theological landscape shifts. Perhaps the most helpful was his discussion of questions we shouldn't be asking when we make these sorts of decisions. It seems to me that his advice has equal application to evangelicals and fundamentalists. Here it is:

There are some questions that should not be part of our consideration in deciding which doctrinal matters to exclude with new boundaries. For example:

“Are the advocates my friends?”
“Are they nice people?”
“Will we lose money or members if we exclude them?”

Such questions are grounded in a wrongful fear of man, not in a fear of God and trust in God.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Can Your Church Be Too Congregational?

Greg Gilbert's post today at the Church Matters blog is thought-provoking on this topic.

Graven Images

I thought I'd posted this a couple weeks ago, but apparently hit a wrong button or two in the midst of all the fun. So here it is, finally.

On Friday I saw this post by Greg Linscott.

Saturday morning I sat in on a Bible study led by a friend at this place. Afterward, he gave me a tour where I saw the paintings and sculptures in the photos, along with many, many more.

When I returned home, I read an e-mail that told me about this. (Extraordinarily attractive website, by the way.)

Food for thought.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools

Every year since I started blogging, I've toyed with the idea of an April Fools post. Every year I've had an idea, but resisted the urge, probably due to some unusual (and providential) moment when I hit the self-edit button.

This year I just can't resist, though I hope to be provocative without being obnoxious. So I offer you this question: If you saw one of the below statements, posted on April 1st, which would you most easily believe to be true and why? Which is the most unthinkable and why? Which would you be most pleased to see occur? Which would best serve the cause of the gospel?
  1. [Pick-your-favorite-summer-camp] stops trading in come-forward invitations.
  2. John MacArthur appears on BJU's Bible Conference schedule.
  3. The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship releases a resolution rebuking the too infrequent presence of expositional preaching and church discipline in fundamentalist churches.
  4. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary renames the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.
  5. A book written a self-identified separatist fundamentalist is given away in a gift bag to all Shepherd's Conference attendees. (Yah, I know, that already happened.)
  6. The Leadership Conference hosted by Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, incorporates a 9Marks regional workshop into its program.
  7. A significant fundamentalist institution admits and apologizes that its past policies were rooted more in latent racism than religious conviction.
  8. Someone hosts a theology-centered youth ministry training conference with both fundamentalists and someone from the MacArthur orbit . . . and none of the speakers cancel.
  9. Together for the Gospel incorporates Dave Doran's proposed article in its affirmations and denials.
  10. The author of this blog admits it's all been a colossal waste of time and shuts down the operation.
I'm still thinking about my own answers. Perhaps I'll post them in a day or two.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Offensive Words from Mark Driscoll

I know that [the biblical insistence on qualified male elders] is, in many ways, the dividing line between various kinds of evangelical Christians. I believe that male eldership is like a border between two nations. If you live on the other side of the line, you're in a different country. You may still speak the same language, and you may still operate in love and collegiality. But the truth is, the way you see God, family, Bible, is different. That line has to be drawn, and it has to be kept. That doesn't mean that there can't be women who are deacons and leading and using their gifts in the church, but that complementarian issue is incredibly important.
This quote is taken from Driscoll's talk at a recent conference hosted by Mars Hill Church. Justin Taylor blogged about the relationship between Driscoll, C.J Mahaney, and John Piper (both of whom also spoke at the conference) here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Soul Winning Made Easy"

Here's a classic from the chapter, "How to Press for the Decision," in C.S. Lovett's book, Soul Winning Made Easy, pages 78-79.
You have just said to your prospect . . . "Jesus is waiting to come into your heart. Will you open the door? Will you let Him come in?" He makes no reply. Great forces are at work inside him. His soul is a battlefield. The Holy Spirit and Satan want his decision. You wish you could jump into his heart and help him, but you can't. So you do the one thing you can do . . . press him to make a decision . . . one way or the other.

CAUTION: You can't leave him in "no-man's land." The Longer you wait, Satan's advantage increases. So silently start your countdown . . . 5-4-3-2-1. That's it. You wait no longer. Lay your hand on his shoulder (or arm if a man is dealing with a woman) . . . and with a semi-commanding voice say . . . "Bow your head with me."

Note: Do not look at him when you say this. He won't act if you do. Instead, bow your head first. The sight of your bowed head, the authority in your voice, the touch of your hand on his shoulder and the witness of the Spirit combine to exert terrific pressure. Out of the corner of your eye you will see him look at you with wonder. Then, as his resistance crumbles, his head will come down in jerks. When your hand feels the relaxation of his shoulder, you'll know his heart has yielded.

Note: If your man is going to say, "NO," he has to do it now. You've brought him to the place of decision under terrific psychological pressure. If he can't bring himself to receive Christ, he'll say to you . . . "I can't do it." Then deal with him as you would the person who says, "NO."
Sound familiar at all?

[Emphasis and punctuation are original.]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Audio Summary of the Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy

If you're interested in the topic but have never made time to read up on it, Dave Doran has a really helpful audio summary here. He actually has a series going on the broad topic. I've only listened to part of it and can't remember how to differentiate between the different talks, but it's worth checking out.

While we're at it, Al Mohler's conversation with Phil Johnson on the contemporary state of evangelicalism is pretty interesting.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Elon College Fightin' Christians

Funny story here. North Carolina seems to be a hotbed for odd religious-themed mascots. Demon Deacons, Blue Devils, and who knew about this one? I've heard Elon students break out retro mascot t-shirts for their occasional home games against Liberty.

Just wondering, though--is "Fightin' Christians" more or less offensive than "Crusaders"?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Read this if you're considering a pastorate. Otherwise, . . .

. . . I'm just posting this so I can find it later—when I really need it.

Matt Schmucker's suggested questions to ask when you're considering a pastorate.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dave Doran in the 9Marks E-Journal: Why I Think He's Dead Right

When I learned that Dave Doran was writing "Potential and Pitfalls of Together For The Gospel," I was thrilled. I would have been thrilled even if I had disagreed with him, for two reasons. First, Doran is a well-reasoned articulator of his convictions, which are well within the mainstream of theological fundamentalism. Second, I believe evangelicals would benefit from hearing the fundamentalist arguments for separation, even on those occasions when fundamentalist arguments overreach the biblical text and are inappropriately applied.

But I don't disagree with Doran. Not at all. Not one word.

Like Doran, I was a bit disappointed with the absence of an article about separation from false teaching in the 2006 T4G affirmations and denials, and I said so at the time. I suspect that both Doran's and my expectations were raised when we heard John MacArthur talk at the 2006 Shepherds' Conference about T4G and how "there ought to be a price to pay" for an unwillingness to get inside the box of orthodoxy.

I simply cannot think of any way to improve on Doran's proposed addition to the affirmations and denials. I believe it would be an excellent addition, and I hope it's incorporated in 2008. Here it is:
We affirm that all genuine fellowship is in the gospel and that true gospel ministers and congregations must not grant Christian recognition or assistance to those who have denied the faith or turned away from the biblical gospel. We further affirm the biblical responsibility of elders and congregations to be vigilant in watching out for those who teach false doctrine and to turn away from and have no fellowship with them.

We deny that the biblical calls for unity and separation are contrary to one another, and that refusing Christian fellowship to false teachers and false congregations is schismatic. We further deny that confessional subscription necessarily contradicts soul liberty. We also deny that the glory of God and good of the church are properly advanced through theological and ecclesiastical union with those who have denied the gospel.
Now, before I make my main point, I should clarify one thing. Doran calls for conservative evangelicals to repudiate "the 'official' strategy [to] work cooperatively with theological liberals from outside evangelicalism." If that is the official strategy, that is. Now, I think Doran is making a valid rhetorical point, but I suspect he actually knows there is no "official" strategy that is universal to evangelicalism at this time, any more than there is an "official" fundamentalist list of who we're to separate from and what we're to separate over (as he frequently points out in online discussions).

But here's the real point. Read Doran's proposal. Read it twice. Read his whole article ten times. There's something you will find several times: a call for separation from false doctrines and false gospels. There's also something you won't find once: anything remotely resembling a call for secondary separation. Doran's call to conservative evangelicals is to take a clear stand for cooperation around the gospel that excludes all who are unwilling to get inside that box of a biblical, historic, orthodox gospel.

This isn't a new concept. It's historic fundamentalism. It's Gresham Machen's argument in Christianity and Liberalism--that a false gospel is no gospel, that a church with a false gospel is no church, and that a religion without the biblical gospel is a false religion, not Christianity. And it must not be called Christianity.

Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals should find fellowship on these grounds, as Doran has delineated them in the direct opportunity he accepted to define what could make T4G a success. If this is the test of fellowship and biblical faithfulness as fundamentalists now understand it, my hopes that confessional fundamentalists and evangelicals can come together for the gospel are as high as my confidence that the T4G organizers already affirm Doran's proposal.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

But Duke Also Produces Some Stellar Theologians (or, This Is What I've Been Trying to Say About Social Ministries)

The 9Marks blog has been batting around the issues of social/mercy/justice ministries. You may want to catch up on the whole series, but Michael Lawrence's post hits the nail on the head. This paragraph is the essence of it:
It seems to me, anyway, that Reformed evangelicals' talk about social engagment is largely motivated by the correct sense that the Kingdom of God should be felt and seen wherever Christians are: in the workplace, at school, in the neighborhood, etc. But being creatures of modernity, we immediately think in terms of programs and strucutres, which leads us to the church, and wondering why the "organization" we're a part of isn't more engaged. The initial impulse is correct, but where it leads us is confused. It's not the church's responsibility to address the problem of homelessness in society at large (though it better make sure that it's own members aren't homeless!) It's Christians' responsibility, as servants of the King, individually and together, to address that issue, as we seek to display the saving reign of God in every sphere of life.

As If We Needed More Reasons to Hate Duke

I was in Duke's apparel store recently. Apologies for the low picture quality, but here's a snapshot of Duke's old logo:

I'm told the Latin phrase at the bottom means "study and religion."

And here's a picture of the new one:

So drop the study, and swap in a new religion, maybe?

Easy, I'm just kidding. Or not.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Open Mike: A Little Weekend Fun

Early next week I intend to post some thoughts on the article in the current 9Marks E-Journal that I find most intriguing. Until then, I'm really curious to hear which of the 19 answers to the question, "What can we learn from the fundamentalists?" you most agree with . . . and which you agree with least.

I'm still making up my mind. But what do YOU think.

Christian Cooperation and Separation: The 9Marks E-Journal Now Online

See it here.

PDF here.

My thoughts coming soon here.

Preliminary discussion already going on here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stepping Out of This World's Parade

Not long ago I had the opportunity to spend several days with some teenagers who've grown up overseas because of the work their parents do. We spent some time discussing parts of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God. One of Tozer's comments jumped off the page at me after hearing them describe their experiences both overseas and in the United States, particularly the American materialism that is so obvious to those who've grown up outside it. Concerning man's restoration of worshipful submission to the Creator, Tozer writes:
The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all, we step out of the world's parade. We shall find ourselves out of adjustment to the ways of the world, and increasingly so as we make progress in the holy way (94).
I think it's a similar sentiment that motivated these words from Paul Pressler, architect of the SBC conservative resurgence, in his book, A Hill on Which to Die:
In any great movement are individuals who sit back and watch to see which way the battle will go. When they see which side will prevail, they attach themselves to that side (297).
And it's not at all unlike Jason Janz' appeal to American believers to do something with their lives that doesn't make sense to pagans (or, if I may add, Christians who are virtually indistinguishable from pagans):
I’m afraid that when the lives of most Christians are examined, they make complete sense to the average pagan. Materially, we have houses, cars, retirement plans, and five kinds of insurance so that we can have “risk-free” living. When it comes to our time, we spend more time having fun than serving the poor. We spend more time playing with our toys than meeting as believers, provoking one another to love and good works. I’m afraid that our diversions have become our delight in America. When it comes to what we live for, I’m afraid we display Babylonian desires for the latest and greatest . . . just like the pagans.
So whether it's central city church planting or sacrificing reputation and status for the sake of the truth or spending your life in overseas missions work or something completely different, how are you stepping out of this world's parade?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"What can we learn from fundamentalists?"

Here's my answer. The body is what will appear in the upcoming 9Marks E-Journal. I cut the introduction and conclusion for length, since even without it I was over the word count limit.
Fundamentalists make easy targets. They’re convenient foils for many an argument, and if you want to set up a straw man, they’ll give you more chaff than you could hope to stuff into any flannel shirt. But if you’re willing to look objectively at the past 50-80 years of evangelical history, you’ll see that they were largely right in their assessment of the direction of the movement, even if you disagree with how or why they said it. Decades ago, fundamentalist leaders prophesied the very same outcomes men like Francis Schaeffer, Carl Henry, and David Wells have decried only much more recently.

So what can we learn from fundamentalists? Which of their principles have been proven true, and how can we apply those principles to our contemporary evangelical context? Fundamentalists are most often criticized for their attitude towards the world and their attitude towards other Christians, and they would certainly acknowledge their differences with broader evangelicalism on these points. That’s exactly why we should examine these particular attitudes for fundamentalists’ unique contribution.

Fundamentalists are right to conclude that Christians shouldn’t expect the world to like Jesus or the Bible—assuming of course, that the gospel is faithfully proclaimed as the offense Scripture describes it to be. They recognize far better than most evangelicals that organizations that call themselves Christian churches but deny the doctrines essential to the gospel are, in fact, no churches at all. They perceive, as Machen did, that these “churches” are simply temples for a different religion—just another segment of a world in rebellion against its God. Over the past century, many in the evangelical movement have glossed over these fundamental differences, believing that sincere engagement and better arguments would win hearts and minds. Despite the prevalence of revivalistic anti-Calvinism among fundamentalists, they better understand the implications of depravity than many of their more Calvinistic evangelical brethren. They know that human effort alone cannot mitigate the effects of the Fall, and they resist any strategy that compromises the gospel in an attempt to make it more palatable to those fallen hearts and minds.

Fundamentalists also withhold fellowship and cooperation from many people whom they understand to be genuine believers. They recognize that when a genuine believer treats as a Christian brother one who professes Christianity, but denies it in doctrine or deed, that genuine believer may do harm to the gospel. Cooperation and fellowship with unbelief is unconscionable to fundamentalists because it blurs or compromises foundational biblical truth. Though this kind of separatism has been widely disdained by evangelicals who pursue broad unity, fundamentalists recognize the pitfalls that accompany an age of ecumenism and mass evangelism. These evangelical efforts have created an interlocking network of alliances between people, churches, and parachurch ministries that do not always share the same set of foundational theological convictions. Fundamentalists discern how participation in this network fosters a perception of affirmation and endorsement of those who deny or marginalize crucial facets of Divine truth. Fundamentalists fear that this form of engagement compromises the non-negotiables of the gospel more than cooperation could ever advance it. Fundamentalists gladly exchange this kind of ecumenical unity for biblical fidelity and a clear conscience. In so doing, they remind evangelicals that Christian unity is only authentic when it is unashamedly and undeniably Christian in its essence.

I have full confidence that every reader of this article will be able to think of a specific example of a fundamentalist who’s swung too far to the right in his application of the principles discussed above. I wonder whether we often reject the true ideas within fundamentalism simply because we’ve seldom met fundamentalists who grasped them. But instead of slouching into the intellectual laziness of dismissing an argument because some apply it foolishly, why not pause and consider the ways in which the underlying idea is true? And having done that, let’s consider how we ought to apply it to our thought and practice.