Wednesday, November 30, 2005
My initial instinct was that only the first marriage was biblically valid because God created marriage to be one man and one woman; therefore, subsequent marriages were not actual marriages in God's eyes and divorce would be appropriate and not really divorce at all. Then it occurred to me that the OT seems to recognize polygamous marriages as genuine marriages even if they arose outside God's intent, so perhaps the marriages should remain intact.
If that's not tough enough, the answer and the reasoning also has implications for how we address the problem of homosexual marriage. If we do concede that polygamous marriages can be valid in God's eyes even if they are outside His creative intent, then how can we use the argument that "marriage is one man and one woman" to repudiate homosexual marriage? Both polygamous marriages and homosexual marriages are contrary to this divine intent, but we cannot use that argument to say homosexual marriages are invalid if we concede that polygamous marriages are valid (but wrong).
Of course, that does not mean that there is no other way to make the case that homosexual marriage is invalid, but it does take away a common argument. I don't have the answers, so as Ross Perot used to say, "I'm all ears."
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Wells is certainly one of the premier deconstructors of modern and post-modern thinking and culture from an evangelical perspective. His central theme in both lectures is that in recent decades the Church has been infiltrated by a desire for spirituality apart from religion. By religion he refers, I believe, not to ritualistic trappings but to authentic faith. Wells describes this desire for spirituality as a tourist mentality—a satisfaction with a journey that peruses a variety of perspectives, rather than a pursuit for the singular prize of objective truth. Wells analyzes how both the Emerging Movement and the Church Growth Movement are ultimately oriented similarly towards a therapeutic or felt-needs spirituality at the cost of truth and doctrine.
He quotes B.B. Warfield who spoke presciently a century ago:
No one will doubt that Christians of today must state their Christian beliefs in terms of modern thought. Every age has a language of its own and can speak no other . Mischief only comes when instead of stating Christian beliefs in terms of modern thought, the effort is made rather to state modern thought in terms of Christian belief.I was encouraged by Wells' closing remarks:
God draws near to us through His Word by the work of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with that Word. It is only through His Word that He lifts the fallen with His promises, and He fills the hungry, and He corrects the wandering, and He rebukes the self-sufficient. And every time He speaks, He leaves behind the fragrance of His grace. And so, may we be preachers of His Word.
Evangelicals maintain headship in the sphere of ideas, but practical decisions are made in most evangelical homes through a process of negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus. That's what our forefathers would have called feminism -- and our foremothers, too.I think his overall argument is also similar to my contention that evangelical de facto acceptance of divorce is the foundational reason that we are losing the battle on traditional marriage. The fact is that we abdicated the battle when we failed to take divorce and church discipline seriously. Since marriage means very little, homosexual marriage is now only a small step. If the Church were serious about marriage, it might still be a great leap.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
- The State Department of Transportation is educated in the ice-melting properties of NaCl and has snowplows that distribute it.
- The absence of wretched humidity makes it possible to see stars.
- It is the current location of my nephew and niece.
- People speak a pure version of the English language.
- It offers the opportunity to watch OSU-Michigan on an ESPN Classic Instant Classic with my whole family. Speaking of which, I must get back to the game.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Jeremy, if you're reading this, I'll be praying for you this week.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
[* By "militantly conservative" I mean individuals not only whose personal beliefs were orthodox, but were also committed to appointing to leadership positions in the SBC only those individuals who were also orthodox. Previous "non-militant" presidents may have been orthodox themselves, but because they valued denominational unity over loyalty to truth, they appointed modernists and non-militant conservatives to key positions of denominational leadership.]That story is not over yet. Just about every year the agencies are making more definitive steps towards thoroughgoing conservatism, but there are more steps yet to take. The pragmatic strategies that led to a healthier denomination do not apply to thousands of local churches that may be orthodox but are patently unhealthy. Over the long term, the health of the SBC is grounded in the health of the churches. I believe the primary denominational strategy is to churn out thousands of pastors from the renovated seminaries. Those young men will fan out into churches that have deteriorated theologically, spiritually, and numerically in order to infuse new life into them by the power of the preaching of the gospel. The secondary strategy is to continue to plant new churches in the Northeast and the West. Will it work? There is no way to know but to wait and see (and work, if you are in the SBC).
That brings us to the question of the day: Were Adrian Rogers and the other leaders of the conservative resurgence right to remain in the SBC, or should they have withdrawn and separated from the convention because of the presence of modernists and non-militant conservatives? I see three responses to this question that are rational and consistent with theologically conservative principles.
- The denominational incrementalist approach. This view is essentially represented by what did happen and what is still happening. Militant conservatives are winning the major battles but are proceeding in a measured fashion. They are trying to maintain a delicate balance by proceeding slowly and carefully so that they do not drive away churches (and their Cooperative Program contributions) that might be reformed in time.
- The independent separatist approach.This view says that by the 1970s militant SBC conservatives should have realized that the convention was beyond repair. They should have withdrawn from the convention to form independent agencies led by local churches. The implication of this approach is that the SBC, all its agencies, and many of the churches that have now been reformed would likely have been lost, but a new, much smaller fellowship of militantly conservative churches would have sprung up. From this perspective, the SBC will never be purified because even the leadership is still too tolerant. The overwhelming love in the SBC for all things Graham and Warren is offered as evidence to this view. Those who subscribe to this view grudgingly acknowledge the good that has been accomplished by the denominational reform approach, but are highly skeptical that it will go far enough.
- The denominational reformist approach. This approach says that what has taken place in the convention represents amazing progress but still falls far short of what needs to take place. I think this is a relatively small group. Individuals who hold to this view value theological purity over denominational unity, but they appreciate the pragmatic benefits of denominational cooperation. They do not share the independent separatist's understanding of secondary separation, but they share their distaste for the theology and methodology of Warren and Graham. Denominational reformists speak constantly about the purity of the gospel and say things like this:
I am concerned that the gospel would go forward better if most Southern Baptist churches in America were closed down. So I think most of the churches I am familiar with—many evangelical churches—are not good witnesses for the gospel.
Regardless, I do see some irony. I'm an independent fundamental Baptist. Not the fire-breathing, fight-picking, KJV-only kind, but a fundamentalist nonetheless. Sort of like the kind President Carter was taking shots at, but without the tendency towards political power-grabs. I'm the kind that loves America but doesn't want an American flag in the church.
The irony is in the fact that separatist independent fundamentalists would, not surprisingly, advocate the "independent separatist approach," but when they talk about their fundamentalist heritage, they have to admit that the early fundamentalists did not follow this approach. They were at best denominational reformists. They cooperated with non-militant conservatives in the publication of The Fundamentals. Some of them even left the Convention and started a new group in willing cooperation with non-militant conservatives. Only later when this strategy failed did they become independent separatists.
Make no mistake, however. They did not leave because they could no longer in good conscience partner with non-militant conservatives. They left because they lost their battle with modernists for the purity of the Northern Baptist Convention. Had they won the same victories in the NBC that Adrian Rogers and friends won in the SBC, I wonder if the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship would be speaking Denominationalese. I'm glad they're not, but perhaps not for the same reasons others give thanks.
So was Rogers right to fight for the purity of the denomination? Should he have led a mass exodus instead? Will the SBC ever be reformed as thoroughly as it ought to be? I don't have the answers to these questions. But let's be honest. Northern fundamentalists lost their battles. He won his. The fact that we left denominationalism because we could no longer control it doesn't make our history more principled. On the other hand, the fact that Rogers led a resurgence that has won great battles does not prove Rogers was right, and it certainly doesn't mean the war is over.
As I said before, I'm not a Southern Baptist. I'm glad that I am not sending any of my money to support in any minute sense whatever vestiges of modernism remain in the Convention. Neverthless, I'm a bit queasy when I hear independent fundamentalists take men like Rogers, Patterson, and their successors to task for not being militant enough.
I have experienced precious little persecution for being an independent fundamentalist—little more than occasionally having people assume I'm KJV-only and paying double tuition at Southeastern (which does sting a little, I promise you). Some living fundamentalists have payed a far greater price than I, but I'm having a hard time imagining that they have paid a heavier price for their militancy than Adrian Rogers did. If you doubt that, do a little research and read the slander.
One might rightly say that Rogers should have been more separatistic—that he should have gone further—but I'm having a tough time swallowing allegations that he was not militant. All too often, the friends who say these things have sacrificed comparatively little for their principles. Rogers and many others paid dearly for theirs. Rogers did battle royal for the fundamentals of the faith, and he deserves my respect. I think we all owe him the same.
This article in WORLD Magazine won't make me watch the sport, but it will make me appreciate some of the major players some more. The short version is that Interstate Batteries ("a distinctly Christian firm whose mission statement begins, 'To glorify God' ") has partnered with with Joe Gibbs Racing Team (yes, the Redskins' Joe Gibbs—his kids went to a Christian school with my brother-in-law years ago) to place an advertisement for Care-Net, a network of 900 pregnancy centers that offer "women facing unplanned pregnancies compassionate alternatives to abortion."
To Dennis Brown, a Care-Net board member, the matter is personal:
Mr. Brown's involvement with Care-Net has given him an opportunity to "be more of an adoption advocate," he said, noting that the group's emphasis on life gives more women the opportunity to make the same decision [his daughter] made. "It's not the kind of thing I wore on my sleeve before, but working with Care-Net allows me to talk about compassionate caring for women, and about adoption as a viable choice."
Thursday, November 17, 2005
My employer, Positive Action For Christ, has just published a reprint of John Fawcett's classic work, Christ Precious to Those that Believe: A Practical Treatise on Faith and Love. Fawcett, an 18th century English Baptist pastor, is perhaps best known for authoring the hymn, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds." Christ Precious is less well-known, out of print, and almost impossible to find in a decent quality reprint.
If you, like me, are convicted by the need to read more works by dead authors, this exposition on the incomparable treasure believers possess in Christ is a great place to begin. If you'll read the book and blog your thoughts or review, we will send you this beautiful hard-bound reprint for free. Here's the deal:
- Send me an email at paleoevangelical [at] gmail [dot] com.
- Include a link to your blog.
- Agree to do a review of the book on your blog.
If you don't have a blog and just want to buy the book, it's a great deal at $14.95 for a hard-cover.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Although I’ve written about how moving this book is (and I could have written much more), a question arose in my mind. Is Piper overemphasizing “people groups”? Can we be obedient if we reach people groups but fail to go to the ends of the earth to do it? If we reach individuals who are from people groups that are primarily remote in their geographic concentrations, but we only reach those individuals who have taken residence in population centers, have we really “reached” that people group? Have we really obeyed Acts 1:8?
When I finished the book recently, I read the last footnote to Piper’s contribution. (He wrote the overwhelming majority of the book, but the afterword was written by another pastor at Piper’s church.) I’m quoting this footnote in full because it was quite interesting to me:
David Doran, in his book, For the Sake of His Name: Challenging a New Generation for World Missions (Allen Park, Mich.: Student Global Impact, 2002), 131-154, has written a chapter called “The Territory of the Great Commission.” In it he gives a corrective to a lopsided emphasis on the people-group focus in missions at the expense of the geographic focus. In spite of our interaction, I do not think it necessary to change anything I have written. But I do alert the reader that Doran interacts with me in his book and so may provide a perspective that I am neglecting.Obviously, you’ll need the second edition of Piper’s book, published in 2003, to get the footnote. I do not know whether Doran’s analysis is remotely similar to mine. If there is similarity, his thoughts and exegesis is clearly far more developed than mine. I plan to order For the Sake of His Name soon, but I don’t know when I’ll dive in. I plan to post an update when I get there.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
Flash forward more than ten years to the past two weeks of my life. In these two weeks, I've been able to be a small part of a youth ministry training conference and to exhibit for Positive Action Bible Curriculum at an educators' convention in Pennsylvania. I'm privileged to be a part of an organization that views both of those events as opportunities for ministry, not merely for marketing. One of the ways that we have done that is to provide free-of-charge several God-centered resources to pastors, teachers, and school administrators that will help them foster love for and worship of God in the hearts of those to whom they minister. This love and worship ought to be the motivation for our obedience.
Some of these resources may be beneficial to you, as well. Whether or not you are a teacher or a pastor, you ought to be discipling someone. I hope these resources, which are just a sample of what we often give away, encourage and equip you in your ministry. They are yours to download or order online.
"A Biblical Theology of Youth Ministry" MP3 CD, a look at what three biblical authors had to say about discipling young people.
"Encourage a Passion for God," a message for Christian school educators on the purpose of Christian education
"Bolts and Nuts," a look at the basics of discipling young people in the local church
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtorO that day when freed from sinning,
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Go ahead. Call me an optimist. I dare you.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
I almost agree. The only point on which I differ is that if “b” stands for “bull,” then “Hyles” is missing at least two or three consonants.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
Very seldom in my life have I been immediately conscious of being a part of something overwhelmingly important. I don't think that is because God has seldom given me anything worthwhile to do; it probably has more to do with the fact that I have blown far too many opportunities for service because I wasn't tuned in to their eternal significance.
My small part in the God Focused Youth Ministry Training Conference was simply overwhelming to my soul. None of the credit for anything good that happened goes to people, and if it did, very little of the credit would have been mine. I am indescribably grateful for the work that God did in my spirit as He exalted His name through the ministry of the speakers and conference leaders and servants.
I think the reason this training conference is so important is that it caused several dozen church and ministry leaders to take a hard look at our personal character and devotion, our view of Scripture, our approach to ministry, and our methodology for discipling other believers. It is patently easy for us who profess to be biblical to cast stones at churches that never cease to find new ways to compromise the gospel. Last week denied the opportunity for stone-casting because we were directly challenged not just to look at what the Bible says about how we are to live, but to test our motivations for why we live the way that we live to ensure that those motivations are focused on exalting the name of our God. My recent post on gospel-centered parenting is a good example of this distinct emphasis.
I've been fortunate to attend a pretty fair number of ministry-related conferences, almost all of which have been beneficial. I have never attended or even heard of one in which the focus has been more about helping pastors exalt the name of God before the eyes of His people. I've also never attended any kind of conference at which I was more directly reproved about the condition of my own spirit and built up in my dependence God alone.
The Positive Action leadership team spent most of the day today directing a critical eye on the past week and making some plans for the future. We found ourselves talking so much about what we want to improve for next year (tentatively set for November 6–9) that it was easy to forget about how grateful we need to be to our gracious God for how He worked in our hearts and those of the attendees despite our deficiencies. May His name alone be praised!
Is this true? Do educational institutions really drive the bus, or do churches? Did the denominations of the 19th and 20th century fall into disrepair because the schools hired modernist faculty, or because churches were in such disrepair that they failed to lead and exercise oversight? Is the SBC conservative resurgence succeeding because the seminaries changed, or because churches rose up and began to fight for the gospel and purge the seminaries?
This raises an interesting question. Fundamentalist leaders decry the the trend of younger men who are leaving "the movement." Is this because fundamentalist seminaries are unhealthy, or because fundamentalist churches are? I'm only one dude, but I'm pretty sure it's the latter.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Similarly, some fundamentalists would argue that certain individuals cannot be fundamentalists because they reject the label. I have no interest in arguing whether or not these folks are fundamentalists. I do have some interest in seeing people use valid argumentation.
The point is that we are what we are because it is what we are, not because it is what we say we are. We cannot cease to be what we are merely because we say that we are not what we are. Likewise, we cannot deny that someone else is what they are simply because they reject the name for themselves.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Now to the point of this post. Much of the theological/philosophical message of the conference was familiar to me since I spend time every week with Frank Hamrick. Frank is not the originator of God-centeredness (God is), but he is a pretty good articulator of it. One concept that was not familiar to me but was one of those "Aha!" moments was Rick Holland's discussion of Gospel-centered parenting. I hope my paraphrase from memory does it justice. I will post a link to MP3s when they're available.
Children are responsible to obey. Parents are responsible to teach their children, not to obey, but that it is utterly impossible for them to obey. That is the point of the gospel. We cannot obey. We cannot meet God's standard of righteousness. Gospel-centered parenting teaches children that although they are responsible to obey, they cannot fulfill this responsibility. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ applied to their accounts can remove sin's penalty and reconcile them to God. Parental discipline is a tangible reminder that they cannot please God by their own efforts.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Thoughtful independent Baptists are ahead of the game in that they had this conversation several years ago in the context of the Leadership Conference at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary. I found Tim Jordan, Dave Burggraff, Dave Doran, Jeff Straub, and others' willingness to discuss these theoological issues openly, directly, and irenically quite refreshing as I listened to the recordings a few days later. I expect that those recordings of the sessions are still available from the seminary.