Tuesday, February 28, 2006

MacArthur, Fundamentalism, and the Emerging Church

On the flight today I started listening to the Master's Seminary lecture series on the Emerging Church, which includes presentations from John MacArthur and four seminary faculty members. I'm only about halfway through one session, so I'm not yet able to comment on the primary message of the series.

What has been most interesting to this point is MacArthur's description of the four primary battles over Scripture in which he has been involved over the past four decades. The first was the battle for the authority of Scripture, which dealt with inspiration and inerrancy. The second was the battle for the sufficiency of Scripture in which Charismatics and the psychiatric community added to the Word of God. The third was the battle with the seeker movement over the priority of the Word. Today's battle is for the clarity of the Word, and the opponent is the Emerging Church. MacArthur argues that the EC, largely in the person of Brian McLaren, applies its "hermeneutic of humility" to deny the possibility of doctrinal certainty.

I'll have to listen to the rest to see this theme fleshed out and documented. What's most interesting to me is that although many believe MacArthur has distanced himself from the name "fundamentalist" in the past, in his introductory lecture in this series he is certainly not doing so. Although I've not yet heard him say, "I am," he leaves no doubt that the only opponents of the errantists and the emergents are the fundamentalists, and he identifies himself as one of those opponents.

Could an announcement be on the horizon? Stay tuned.

More on Cancer

By now no doubt many of you have seen John Piper's article, "Don't Waste Your Cancer." Albert Mohler recently blogged about responses from both Piper and Donald Whitney, who has also received cancer treatment. A recent Mohler radio program featured as a guest Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and other books.

Would You Want Your Daughter to Marry an Ex-Homosexual?

Albert Mohler responds to this question posed to evangelicals by Dan Savage, an openly homosexual journalist, in the New York Times [free registration required].

The lynchpin of an evangelical answer must be a robust view of God' grace, according to Mohler, his guest (Alan Chambers of Exodus International), and various callers on his recent radio program devoted to the topic. It's worth a listen.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Shepherds Conference Shout-Out

Had to take a brief break from a ridiculously busy day at work to say I'd love to meet any readers who'll be at Shepherds' Conference this week. Although I did enjoy an opportunity to visit Grace Community on two Sundays last fall while I was in California for work, this will be my first visit to Shepherds'. You'll be able to recognize me because I'll be wearing this t-shirt. I only have one, so by the end of the week you'll probably be able to smell me too.

I'd love to get a group photo of all the self-professed fundamentalists in attendance. I thought perhaps right after Phil Johnson's "Dead Right Part Deux" might be a convenient time. For those of you who would like to maintain your anonymity (you know who you are), I will bring a healthy supply of paper bags with eyeholes.

Anybody else on a 10:00 a.m. flight tomorrow out of O'Hare?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Belated, Counter-Cultural Holiday Observance

I had grand schemes of observing last week's holiday with a thorough review of some of the recent literature on singleness. Maybe I was just oblivious to what existed before, but it seems as though a wealth of teaching on the subject has sprung up in the years since Josh Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Some of what is out there is enlightening, some is provocative, and some is just downright annoying. A healthy portion is helpful.

Of all that I've read and heard, nothing yet has surpassed the very first text I read on this theme—John Piper's foreword to Recovering Biblical Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Looking back now, it seems a little strange that this was the first chapter from Piper that I had ever read. The whole book is worth reading, but I doubt you'd regret buying the book for the foreword alone.

Piper observes eight principal themes related to life as a single person in the life and ministry of Jesus and his followers:
I. Marriage, as we know it in this age, is not the final destiny of any human.

II. Jesus Christ, the most fully human person who ever lived, was not married.

III. The Bible celebrates celibacy because it gives extraordinary opportunity for single-minded investment in ministry for Christ.

IV. The Apostle Paul and a lot of great missionaries after him have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God.

V. The Apostle Paul calls singleness a gift from God.

VI. Jesus promises that forsaking family for the sake of the kingdom will be repaid with a new family, the church.

VII. God is sovereign over who gets married and who doesn't. And he can be trusted to do what is good for those who hope in Him.

VIII. Mature manhood and womanhood are not dependent on being married.

Where Did All These Worms Come From?

Oh, someone opened a can of them.

I disagree with some of Dan Burrell's specific conclusions, particularly in his second article on this theme. For example, I have a much more positive view of independent Baptist seminaries, but the ones he's thinking of are probably different from the ones that I think of. Second, I don't expect myself to be endorsing some of the non-fundamentalist institutions he praises for a number of reasons. Finally, I'm not quite as optimistic about the SBC as he seems to be. My appreciation for the conservative resurgence in the SBC is tempered by some serious concerns with the prevailing winds in the churches and the halls of power (see yesterday's post). Perhaps I should emphasize that my concerns are substantially different from those that are typically thundered by independent Baptists. I don't doubt that Burrell senses similar concerns to mine, so perhaps we don't really disagree all that much.

Enough of the caveats.

This is a conversation that needs to take place. The concerns that Burrell articulates about Christian colleges are held widely enough that either a gross misperception exists, or there is a real problem. Either way, I sense a prevailing tendency to squelch criticism—constructive or otherwise—of Christian educational institutions. I'll gladly admit this is opinion and my breadth of experience is limited, but it seems to me that we fundamentalists have become more emotionally involved in the health of our colleges than the health of our churches, and I cannot imagine that we will avoid paying a heavy price for our priorities.

I'm particularly grateful for Burrell's emphasis on transformation over conformity, articulated succinctly in these paragraphs:
In the end, most Christian college students would benefit from a structured and discipline environment, but one that has as its goal “transformation” and not “conformity.” Conformity is always dependent upon “control”. Once the control is gone, you’ll find out to what extent they have been “transformed.” But across Christian education, we have become quite content expending our energy on “control” rather than mentoring, training, counseling, growing, developing, leading and interning our students toward greater accountability, personal responsibility and spiritual transformation. [emphasis mine]

A school without rules is impossible. Standards are necessary. But let’s face it, some of the battles we fight in Christian schools today are unnecessary and not even Biblical. Sure, a case can be made for dismissing the whole “excessive control” issue as a battle against compromise worth fighting, but is it not time for some reasonable discussion of eliminating stumbling stone rules which present an inaccurate image of Christian holiness, institutional excellence and the personal liberty of each believer?
Maybe the reason I agree so much is because I wrote something along these lines several months ago. Although if I had to do it over again, I'd call it a "different" paradigm rather than a "new" one.

Keep challenging our thinking, Dan. We need senior pastors like you to be asking these questions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Draft Dever

I'm not exactly plugged into the SBC grapevine, but I first heard talk that Johnny Hunt would be the insider candidate to be the next Convention president about a year ago, so some of the recent scuttlebut isn't a surprise. Last fall, I saw a low-key plea for a Mark Dever presidency here, but I didn't make too much of it.

Last week, Tom Ascol at Founder's blog linked to some informed speculation here that the Johnny Hunt rumors are about to become reality. Almost immediately, more pleas for a Dever candidacy immediately sprung up in the comments section of Ascol's post, in his subsequent post, and on this "unofficial, unserious" blog.

Now, I realize that some readers may have no idea who either of these men are, and sense no real reason to care. I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. Suffice it to say, however, that though they are both theological conservatives and are both considered fundamentalists by their detractors (Dever calls himself one; I don't know about Hunt), they stand in very different strains of SBC tradition.

I don't know if Dever has the slightest interest in being elected. I don't know if he has a chance of winning. (Read Ascol's second post for the best analysis you are likely to encounter.) I also don't know if everyone who would share his emphasis on ecclesiology and his strong stand on the gospel would be willing to risk the thin veneer of SBC unity for the dream of a Dever presidency.

What I do know is this: I heartily agree with Ascol that support for a Dever presidency should be about far more fundamental issues than Calvinism. There should be no doubt that the doctrines of grace are closely related to the gospel, but they are not the primary issues the SBC needs to address. As I see it, a diluted, downgraded gospel; the sufficiency of Scripture; regenerate church membership; three-ring-circus evangelism; and a bucketfull of other issues are at the heart of the reformation and transformation that SBC churches need to weigh seriously.

Aside from my membership in the universal Church, I don't really have a dog in this fight. On the other hand, maybe that membership alone is enough to make one dog worth rooting for (sorry for the analogy, any CHBC friends reading—I couldn't find another one that would work). And maybe a broader platform for Dever's reformational ideas would lead to some spillover among my "unaffiliated Baptist" (i.e. independent) brethren in some places where they are sorely needed. Maybe.

There I go, sounding like an optimist again.

A Screwtape Letter for the Media Age

KB sent me this today. It doesn't read quite like Lewis, but it gets the point across.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

UW-Oshkosh Goes Religious?

Stunning news. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has been using its official web site to promote a special event in local churches!

Hard to believe? Mmm, not so much.

They're promoting Evolution Sunday, honoring Charles Darwin's birthday.

One wonders when Barry Lynn and the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State will go to war against UW-O on this one. After all, they have an active chapter in Madison, Wisconsin, which is 90 minutes tops from Oshkosh. And yet all we hear is silence. Perhaps they spent all their resources suing the mainline denominational and African-American churches that were actively promoting the Kerry presidential campaign a couple years ago.

Olasky, You Can't Be Serious

As if we needed any more evidence that evangelicals have far too high a view of the value of religious movies, Marvin Olasky had this to say in the February 18th issue of World:
Fifth, praise and thank the filmmakers who, having made a mistake, made the best of it. Haven't we all made worse mistakes? A chorus of "gotchas" has rained on what should be a parade. The filmmakers should be hearing "attaboy" comments from those who wait for Christian-themed movies as old Simeon waited to see the Christ child.
Olasky makes some reasonable points in this editorial (full text), he also makes several bad ones and at least one plain factual error. Forget all that, though. The analogy in this conclusion is simply preposterous. The arrival of Christian-themed movies (which apparently need not even mention Christ) should be welcomed with a joy comparable to that appropriate to the arrival of the King? I wish I could imagine that this were intentional hyperbole.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dever on Entertainment and Church Dramas

Thanks for reminding me of this, Paul.
Many American churches have used entertainment-based methods of evangelism—theotainment, as it has been called by some—in sharing the Gospel with both adults and children. With adults, it often takes the form of surveying target audiences and creating an evangelistic service in which everything from the music to the sermon is geared toward making them feel comfortable—a "sit back and enjoy the show" approach. With children, it takes the form of youth groups or Sunday schools that spend most of their time thinking up fun activities that will sneak the Gospel in through the back door.

Now there is no reason to argue against communicating the Gospel in an understandable, creative, or even provocative way. But evangelism that takes the form of entertainment has some harmful side effects. Remember—what you win them with is likely what you'll win them to. If you win them with entertainment, they're likely to be won to the show rather than the message, which increases the likelihood of false conversions. But even if they're not won to the show, entertainment-based methods make repentance virutally impossible. We are not encouraged to forsake our sin by having our senses amused or our preferences coddled. The Gospel is inherently and irreducibly confrontational. It cuts against our perceived righteousness and self-sufficiency, demanding that we forsake cherished sin and trust in someone else to justify us. Entertainment is therefore a problematic medium for communicating the Gospel, because it nearly always obscures the most diffficult aspects of it—the cost of repentance, the cross of discipleship, the narrowness of the Way. Some will disagree, arguing that drama can give unbelievers a helpful visual image of the Gospel. But we have already been given such visual images. They are the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper and the transformed lives of our Christian brothers and sisters. [emphasis mine]
Mark Dever, The Deliberate Church, pp. 54-55.

Don't Waste Your Cancer

John Piper is using his cancer to exalt God's name. Why am I not surprised?

Key points:
"If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it."


"The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him."


"Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ."


"This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life."
Here's the latest update on his surgery and recovery.

Global Warming Is Real

Planetary temperatures are rising. The south pole is melting. From an article on this phenomenon:
New impact craters formed since the 1970s suggest changes to age-estimating models. And for three . . . summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near [the] south pole have shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress.
Craters? Where?
Oh, I forgot to mention that this planet is Mars. Apparently, the Martians are addicted to Jupiterian oil and have failed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Here's the whole article.

So what's really causing the Martian warm spell? It seems that the Martian atmosphere is a complex system, but some radical scientists are beginning to argue that maybe increased solar output has something to do with it.

Hmm. Nah, it's got to be overuse of hairspray and air freshener.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Spurgeon on Invitations, Decisions, and Public Responses

By attributing the following quote to Charles Spurgeon and admitting that I'm reading Iain Murray's The Forgotten Spurgeon, I realize that I am forfeiting a wealth of guessable quotes for our recurring game. Oh well. I simply think the weight and insight of Spurgeon's words are too incisive to the state of today's Baptist churches and para-church ministries to make any kind of game out of it. Concerning the subtly manipulative strategies of public response-oriented decisionism that became popular in the 1890s, Murray reports that Spurgeon writes:
The gospel is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." If we think we shall do more good by substituting another exhortation for the gospel command, we shall find ourselves landed in serious difficulties. If, for a moment, our improvements seem to produce a larger result than the old gospel, it will be the growth of mushrooms, it may even be the growth of toadstools; but it is not the growth of trees of the Lord.
An All-Round Ministry, p. 376
Murray also says that a recurring warning in Spurgeon's later sermons was that "God has not appointed salvation by enquiry-rooms."

"I don't know the mind of God on every issue. I know it on some."

If you thought Pat Robertson was apologetic over his statements about Hugo Chavez and Ariel Sharon, you'll want to read Marvin Olasky's interview of him. I've been anticipating this article since I heard it was in the works. I expected some conciliatory meekness. I was wrong. This is more like appalling brazenness with an unhealthy dose of denial. Olasky lets Robertson speak in this piece, and he digs his own grave.

This was my favorite section:
Mr. Robertson explains, "It's not conceited. We ask for leading . . . God did speak to me directly concerning this university, and it was real simple. He said, 'I want you to buy the land and build a school for My glory.'. . . This is the heritage of every Christian believer. If some people haven't had that blessing, I'm sorry, but I have. . . . You read Jeremiah. He said, 'The word of the Lord came to me.'. . . You read the Torah, 'the word of the Lord came to Moses,' 'The Lord said to Moses, tell the people.' The Lord spoke to Joshua. The Lord spoke to David."

Asked how he's certain that it's God speaking to him, Mr. Robertson proclaimed, "The apostle Paul said, the peace of God be an umpire in your heart. Well, the peace of God is the way God speaks to us. That peace lifts when we're doing something wrong. . . . Over the years, and I've walked with God for years and years and years and years, you get your senses exercised." [ellipses Olasky's]
The conclusion is inescapable to me that the traditional Baptist view of divining God's will has little if any qualitative difference from what Robertson describes. That ought to frighten us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

Gospel-Centered Preaching

Dan Cruver has written a three-part series on "The Functional Centrality of the Gospel" that is well-worth reading. A couple of his comments should give a succinct summary:
One of my main concerns for preachers and teachers of the Word is that the gospel would not merely have the stated centrality (i.e. “The gospel is central in all that we say and do here.”) but also the functional centrality in the life of the church.
. . .
I have become convinced that true gospel-centered preaching recognizes the necessity of demonstrating how every text finds its ultimate reference point in what God has accomplished in the Messiah.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Carson on Redeeming Cuture

Friend KB called me today to share a quote and some context from D.A. Carson that he read this morning in For the Love of God, vol 1. February 10th entry (yeah, he's a day behind).
As Christians, we are called to engage our culture, not for the purpose of redeeming our culture, but for the purpose of seeing those within our culture redeemed.

Friday, February 10, 2006

He Wasn't Kidding

Apparently, when Mark Noll gave a largely affirmative answer to the question, "Is the Reformation Over?", he took his own conclusion seriously that we have an all clear to return to Rome. (HT and thanks to Justin Taylor who reads CT so I don't have to.) Carl Trueman has written a review of Noll's book.

More on Sovereign Grace Ministries

In light of some of the feedback I've received from yesterday's post, I thought it might be worthwhile to link to the SGM statement of faith since some readers are presumably unfamiliar with this fellowship. Of particular interest is an article by Jeff Purswell, dean of the Pastor's College and one of the seminar teachers, called "Empowered by the Spirit: Room for Differing Views." In it he outlines some of the theological background of SGM and explains a fairly recent change in the statement of faith. It's available as a PDF download here.

Why Entertainment Fails to Communicate the Gospel

Philip Ryken shares some insight that he encountered.

This has further crystallized my thinking on the recent discussions. Criticizing the producers of a Christian movie for their failure to present the gospel sufficiently is like criticizing a bartender for serving low-grade liquor. I don't mean to imply moral equivalence, but I'm increasingly convinced that the innate spiritual value in both activities is pretty much nil.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Day I Made Some "Charismatic" Friends

I've been rather tardy on my report from the one-day seminar I attended a couple Saturdays ago at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Covenant Life is best known for its former pastor, C.J. Mahaney, and its current pastor, Josh Harris, both of whom are respected authors and teachers. Covenant Life is more or less the "mother church" for Sovereign Grace Ministries, a fellowship of churches that call themselves "Reformed charismatics."

This seminar
was about "the pathway to pastoral ministry in Sovereign Grace churches." I am not on that pathway, but I have appreciated Harris' writing and Mahaney's speaking. Since it was a great opportunity to get together with some friends who would be attending and some others in the area who would not, as well as learn more about this group with the curious way of describing themselves, I drove up with three friends from North Carolina.

I'm not exactly sure what I expected. Given their charismatic leanings, I expected some passionate communication and some rather subjective discussions of divining God's will and call. Given their Reformed leanings, I expected some sound teaching from Scripture. I had not reconciled that juxtaposition in my mind as I entered the day.

Almost immediately, I was floored. In my life I cannot remember teaching from Scripture on the call to ministry (a term that I do not prefer, but one that they did employ) that was as thoroughly biblical. It was precisely the opposite of the subjectivity I anticipated. Their description of the internal "sense" of calling was essentially equated with the desire to the office in 1 Timothy 3:1. More importantly, they painstakingly defined this sense as merely the starting point toward pastoral ministry. They argued that the internal sense of call must be confirmed by the demonstration of character that is consistent with the office and a recognition of giftedness by the pastors of the church. Some direct quotes from the notes include:
View your sense of call not as an authoritative event, but as an invitation to begin the process of evaluation, testing, and preparation.

An internal "sense" ≠ an authoritative call

The "internal call" is not merely a subjective sense, but a comprehensive work of grace in a man's life that qualifies him for ministry.
The overwhelming bulk of the teaching focused on the nature and purposes of the One who calls, the gospel mission of the church, the paradox of ambition and the pitfalls associated with it, and the priority of character in pastoral ministry.

Some observations were inescapable to me. First, not all "charismatics" are cut out of the same cloth. I'm tempted to think of this fellowship of churches as "wannabe charismatics." Second, despite some differences that we should not ignore, I believe Baptist do have some important lessons to learn from these friends. C.J. Mahaney wrote a book called Humility. I haven't read it yet on printed pages, but I think I read it already in the lives of the men he has discipled. They taught me that humility is not just having a low view of myself in contrast to a high view of God. It also includes recognizing the work of grace that God is doing in the lives of believers around me, particularly in ways that surpass what has yet taken place in my heart. The men leading this seminar demonstrated that kind of humility to me. And humility is only one lesson. I could take far more space to talk about community, discipleship, and admonition.

Finally, many Baptists are more subjective than these charismatics. I see this as a substantial problem. If a young person says he's been called, it seems that we often take this as a Baptist "word of knowledge," offering very little guidance or counsel in the form of church leaders working with him to discern his giftedness and character. Bible majors in Christian colleges and sometimes seminary degrees, as well, are viewed as professional tracks for individuals to pursue independently. We minimize the value and necessity of communities of believers recognizing willing, qualified individuals in their midst and calling them out to prepare for and enter vocational service. I have heard others call this subjective approach to decision-making "the new liberalism." It is simply a more insidious, albeit perhaps unintentional, way of divorcing ourselves from the authority of the revealed Word of God.

Thinking Biblically

I read with interest Part 2 of Dr. Rolland McCune's article published on SharperIron today. Both portions are worth reading, but I thought the latter contained some particularly worthy advice. In it, he enumerates several issues that will demand biblical thinking and teaching from pastors in the closing years of the 20th century (he was writing in 1989): the importance of thinking theologically, feminism, divorce and remarriage, abortion, civil disobedience, homosexuality, various bio-ethical issues, and immortality and eternal punishment. McCune's advice:
These are old heresies to be sure, but Fundamentalists must be able to articulate the truth of Scripture on these issues. We can no longer consign them to the thinking of the Modernists. Many Fundamentalists have New Evangelical friends and relatives who are being exposed to these teachings. The Fundamental pastor and leader of today will have to be informed and able to teach the Word of God correctly on these subjects. Mere dogmatism and a string of illustrations will lose the day.

The battle of ideas is a gigantic struggle that demands a thorough biblical education and training. After that there is continuous and arduous study of the Scriptures. These matters are doctrinal issues in the last analysis, and must be met with clear theological and biblical thinking. No amount of hillbilly evangelism or flurry of church activity will make them go away if we Fundamentalists want to be God's messengers to modern man in the 1990s and beyond.
These are wise words. I immediately pondered where a pastor might go for biblical insight on these issues. I only spent about five minutes looking, but I found everything but bio-ethical issues here. In fact just a couple days ago these folks were talking about the eternality of hell here (text). If there really is nothing on bio-ethical issues there, I know you can find it here.

Nullifying Grace

Moments ago I fired up the January 26th broadcast of Desiring God Radio. In the lead-in sound byte, John Piper says, "If you attempt to work for God to get right with God, you nullify grace." This was a timely reminder to me of my innate insufficiency that is overcome only by God's freely-given and wholly-sufficient provision of righteousness on my behalf.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Counsel Me, Immoderate

Ryan Martin wrote:
For the time being, I will simply say that the use of drama in evangelism has no warrant from Scripture, which remark will hopefully temporarily suffice.
As much as my brain wants to agree, my heart fears what would happen to the Christmas cantata industry and the John W. Peterson heirs. I also fear that I might have to repent for my past participatory activities.

Another Installment of the Quote Game

No Googling. I will put a TNIV* on the table for anyone who gets it in the first seven guesses. It is only with great trepidation that I loosen the requirement from five, but I'm getting complaints. Ingrates.
Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God [the idea that God needs our help]. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his hearers, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support. I fear that thousands of young persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underpriviliged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.
*I do not recommend the TNIV, but I have several copies to give away for study purposes. Just having a little fun here.

Piper on Being Mocked: The Difference Between Christ and Muhammad

Piper argues concerning recent Muslim rioting over mocking cartoons that "the work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery." I've read my share of Piper, and seldom has he been better.

I also can't help but wonder about declarations of victory when the latest cultural slaps at Christians are averted. I'm opposed to blasphemy, but I wonder if God is cheering.

Piper's conclusion about the meaning of the difference between Christ and Muhammad is instructive:
It means that a religion with no insulted Savior will not endure insults to win the scoffers. It means that this religion is destined to bear the impossible load of upholding the honor of one who did not die and rise again to make that possible. It means that Jesus Christ is still the only hope of peace with God and peace with man. And it means that his followers must be willing to “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
I guess I wonder if we are enduring insults or trying to beat down the scoffers with our sanctified economic and political power. And what does this say about our view of our Savior?

For My Fellow Duke-Haters

I would say I found this amusing, but I think "plausible" might be a better adjective.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

People Who Are More Abrasive Than I Am

John McCain (not very brief but worth the read; HT)

But, as it seems, a heretic is a wicked thing in truth, and in every respect his heart is depraved and irreligious. for behold, though convicted on all points, and shewn to be utterly bereft of understanding, they feel no shame; but as the hydra of Gentile fable, when it former serpents were destroyed, gave birth to fresh ones, contending against the slayer of the old by the production of new, so also they, hostile and hateful to God, as hydras, losing their life in the objections which they advance, invent for themselves other questions Judaic and foolish, and new expedients, as if truth were their enemy, thereby to shew the rather that they are Christ's opponent in all things.
Second Discourse Against the Arians, Chapter XXX, §58.
And there's more where that came from. (Granted, he was responding to people who denied the deity of Christ so perhaps he deserves some slack.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Read and Ponder This Article

Sorry to overload with reading anyone who actually follows my recommendations, particularly on a Monday, but these are good ideas.

Read This Post

This is quality stuff. Great ideas, and great resources.

[Update: Some valuable testimony from a pastor on this subject as well.]

Prepare for More Controversy


A Game of Let's Pretend: The Unconditional Surrender Edition

Anybody else remember Mr. Rogers' world of Make Believe? Let's all go there for a moment and live a little fairy tale. Let's pretend that Every Tribe Entertainment and the New York Times (does it really deserve the italics?) apologized for irrationally insinuating to the FBI and the cultural elites who read the Times that Kevin Bauder is a crazed lunatic. Let's pretend that ETE offered a public apology for casting someone as the lead character in The End of the Spear whose worldview is diametrically opposed to that of the martyrs. Let's pretend that ETE promised never to minimize the gospel and always to cast only evangelical Christians whose lifestyles stand up against extensive investigations. Let's pretend that they pulled the movie, burnt all the copies, and started over, producing instead a movie with a clear presentation of the gospel.

Exactly what would we have accomplished? Someone please edumicate me.

Seems to me that Shakespeare wrote a play with an appropriate title. Just replace "Nothing" with "Very Little of Any Eternal Consequence" and I would be satisfied.

I will now hang up and listen to your answers.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Halftime Blogging

I'm sure some fundamentalists and even perhaps some of the most hardened of you non-fundamentalist evangelicals may be basking in smug superiority at the fact that your church didn't cancel services tonight or even abbreviate it in some subtle way. Well, I'll see your smug superiority and raise you some overt self-righteousness by proclaiming that our church had a pretty standard-length service and then tacked communion onto the end. Ha! Take that.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Occasional poster Michael Riley e-mailed me yesterday to ask me if anyone had ever told me that when you Google "paleoevangelical," Google asks you if you meant "televangelical." I had noticed this before, but he was the first person to point it out to me. So for your Saturday reading pleasure, here are the results of a Google search for "televangelical," just in case you arrived at Paleo by mistake.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Three-Dimensional Approach to Ecclesiastical Cooperation and Separation

This is a theory, not a proclamation. I am not the one to offer a robust exegetical or philosophical defense of this paradigm, but I'm going to propose it just the same and let better-equipped folks tear it apart. Also, every idea you are about to read is unabashedly stolen from someone else. If there is anything original, it is simply the way in which the ideas are being tied together.

Enough of the caveats.

It seems to me that just about everyone who discusses biblical teaching on ecclesiastical cooperation and separation recognizes several unavoidable factors that affect how much we are able to cooperate in gospel ministry with other professing believers, how much we are compelled to withdraw from such fellowship, and when we are required to expose and rebuke error. I believe these factors include at least three specific dimensions:
1. Proximity to the gospel
2. Nature of the cooperation in view
3. Exegetical certainty
Proximity to the gospel means that some doctrines are so essential to the nature of the Christian gospel that to deny the doctrine is to deny the gospel itself. The nature of the cooperation in view recognizes that different levels of fellowship and joint gospel ministry impose different demands on agreement. To serve as an elder-pastor in a church, I would need to have a very high level of agreement on most (but not all) issues with the other elders. My level of agreement with non-elder members of the church would be less. We could permit a person to speak in our church who might not qualify for membership. We might even be able to support other churches or ministries in some specific venture whose leaders we would not permit to speak in our church. Finally, exegetical certainty means that we do not possess equal certainty on all biblical doctrines. "Baptism for the dead" is not as clear as "Jesus is Lord." A more relevant example might be some matter of soteriology that could be very close to the center of the gospel, yet be less clear in the understanding of some than of others.

To me, at least, it seems that denying the need to evaluate differences in light of these three factors will lead to complete separation of all professing believers from every other professing believer. In other words, demanding unanimity on any of these points precludes all Christian fellowship and cooperation with everyone who does not believe and behave precisely as you do, which I am pretty sure is everyone. If all doctrines are equally necessary, all forms of cooperation are equivalent, and exegetical certainty is irrelevant, then we must withdraw from everyone who does not agree with us on every possible issue in every possible pursuit.

I really need a graphic for this, but try to imagine a cube, obviously possessing width, height, and depth. Consider point #1 above to be width, #2 to be height, and #3 to be depth. Scenario 1: If a doctrine is essential to the gospel, the level of cooperation is quite high, and the exegetical certainty is likewise high, you have an issue that falls in a remote corner of the cube. Scenario 2: When a doctrinal difference has little to do with the gospel, the level of fellowship is minimal, and the biblical support for the doctrine is unclear, this issue falls in the opposite corner from Scenario 1.

A necessary corollary to this approach is some measure of independency. By that I do not mean that individuals or churches are islands unto themselves with no accountability to any other part of the body of Christ. I do mean that no individual or church is likely to possess precisely identical understandings of how to evaluate every issue of orthodoxy and orthopraxy and where it falls in the three-dimensional grid. These diverse understandings should be subject to discipleship and edification within and among local churches. On the other hand, the forces of shrewd maneuvering should not be used to foster control or to cultivate lording leadership of one local church (or para-church institution) over another local church. Similarly, a local church certainly should not abdicate its own autonomy in favor of blindless sycophancy to a church, institution, or movement.

I'm chewing on a potential fourth dimension. For lack of a better term, I'm calling it "the spirit of the age." This means that a doctrine might rise in importance because of its prominence in a contemporary groundswell against sound doctrine. An current example might be egalitarianism, the belief that both genders should share equally leadership roles in the local church and the family.

Some excellent and relevant discussions:
P.S. Please write the book. You know who you are.


"Real men do not use smiley faces on e-mails."

I generally agree with Mahaney, except for just a couple exceptions. One is when you are communicating with a female. My opinion is that sometimes when you are trying to be funny or excessively rational, you can get yourself in trouble when you do not give a non-verbal expression of tone (not that I speak from experience). The other exception is when you are communicating with men who, well, just read the previous sentence again.

Fundamentalism, Politics, Irony, Marsden, Fuller

Friend David reports on a lecture delivered by George Marsden at Fuller Seminary. I fear we may have lost him when they bought him off with that free book, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

His report follows the theme of church, culture, and politics (particularly the recent, ironic fundamentalist obsession with it) that's been beaten (seemingly) to death in recent days. I still have a few licks to get in though. The horse is definitely still breathing.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Debaters Are the New Missionaries"

Interesting article on debate programs in evangelical-fundamentalist colleges.
Debaters are the new missionaries, having realized they can save a lot more souls from a seat at the top—perhaps even on the highest court in the land. "Evangelicals have always wanted to persuade people to the faith," says John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "The new thing is that evangelicals want to be more involved in the world now.

You Are Being Robbed

I have never recycled articles before, but the State of the Union address reminded me how much our current Social Security system ticks me off. Here I describe a fairly simple approach that will help you analyze your annual statement of "benefits" (i.e. how long you have to live to get back what has been stolen from you).

A Question for the Serious, Cultured Fundamentalists

Is this serious?

Dr. Bauder's at Heart Conference. I think that leaves you, Aniol, unless someone wants to send the Snowmobile Express after him.

[Update: After some technical difficulties with the link, we are back online. Apologies for the inconvenience. If for whatever reason you cannot access this link, Google "maestro.wmv" and you should be able to get it somewhere.]