Wednesday, May 31, 2006

T4G: Observations and Reflections: (Part 2)

Al Mohler has been a convenient target of fundamentalist ire in the degrees of separation game ever since he chaired a crusade (that excluded Roman Catholics and liberal Protestants) for a prominent evangelist a few years ago. Through that decision and a conversation with a fundamentalist leader in which he is said to have claimed that he would do it again, Mohler became a nifty link in a chain that stretches between folks like John MacArthur and the Pope. This is important to the fundamentalist doctrine of separation because it enables everyone from the Mohler on down the chain to MacArthur and beyond to be labeled a "disobedient brother" from whom we must separate.

Now, anyone who has read this blog for any length of time can pretty well guess whether I think chairing this crusade was a good idea. Would it stun you if I said that there are plenty of non-(movement)fundamentalists who share that opinion? Nevertheless, this dead horse is hardly worth beating any more than it already has been.

What all this has to do with T4G is the fact that I gained a tremendous appreciation for Mohler and what God has used him to accomplish, as we gathered near his home turf. Never mind the fact that he's one of the most articulate speakers you'll ever encounter. Never mind the fact that he has an uncanny ability to distill abstract concepts into simple statements—a veritable walking sound byte. Never mind the fact that he's addressing the kinds of issues that only fundamentalists talked about for decades—except he's doing it much more thoughtfully and biblically than (most) fundamentalists were doing back then.

The simple fact that crystallized in my mind was that Al Mohler was 33 years old when he became the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993. In 1993, Southern was infested with rank theological liberalism in the faculty and the student body. What Mohler accomplished at that age in steering such a large ship back to theological conservatism is simply stunning. It made liberals so mad that they had to make a movie about it, levying all kinds of accusations of power politics and opportunism.

Now, I don't have any way to judge what Mohler's motivations have have been at any point in his life, least of all in 1993. I do know this: We're supposed to judge teachers by their works, not just their words. Maybe we who have not shed the blood and dripped the sweat that Mohler has in the spiritual battle of recovering a theological institution can find it in ourselves to grant a healthy recognition of what has been accomplished, even when we do find specific choices to criticize.

He was 33 years old. Just think about that for a minute.

Wishing I Were There

Here's a blog worth following for the next couple weeks. I'm sure your prayers would be appreciated.

This Should Make for an Interesting Scene at the Bema

You know what I mean—that day in the future when our lives are replayed for all to see on the ultimate HD big-screen. As imaginative as this book must be, I think I'll wait for the movie version.

HT: Lumpy

Fun on Planes with Cameras and Blogs

My friend Ken decided to stage his big coming out party on the SoloFemininity blog on the plane ride back from this weekend's New Attitude conference.

Feel free to post a brief congratulatory note to Ken here. I'll be sure that he sees them. No last names, please. He has a phobia.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Don't Waste Your Cancer" (A Reprise)

Today I'll attend the funeral of a long-time family friend. In fact, the older children in this family are the first friends I can ever remember outside my own extended family. Although I wish this day had come years from now, I'm glad that the holiday weekend allowed me to be nearby.

On this day my mind is inescapably drawn to John Piper's recent piece, "Don't Waste Your Cancer." These friends of mine have not, are not, and will not. They've offered plain evidence that Piper's words are grounded in biblical truth and divine grace that is sufficient even when the treatment is not.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Must Be a Legal Resident to Enter"

Seldom do I squawk about specific political issues, but every now and then elected representatives will do something so amazingly ridiculous and stupid that I can't restrain myself. Such is the case with the immigration bill the Senate passed Thursday.

The simple fact is that this bill does incomprehensible things like permit illegal aliens to receive Social Security benefits when they pay taxes through SSNs that they've stolen. It gives employers of illegal aliens shelter from prosecution when they've cheated on their taxes. The list goes on and on. The one conservative senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint, published a list of these and other reasons for voting against the bill.

The bottom line is that the kinds of contests you find on cereal boxes and run on local radio stations' cheesy promos now have more stringent standards for entering--"must be a legal resident to enter"--than the United States Senate has for our national borders.

Here are a few of the Senate's conservative "posers" that are the chief culprits in this debacle: Brownback, DeWine, Frist, Graham, Hagel, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Voinovich, Warner.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bloggers vs. Traditional Religious Authority Structures

Interesting article on the impact of religious blogging here (HT).
Now, thanks to Web logs (called blogs) and other Internet postings, critics in every faith tradition are getting a hearing far beyond the synagogue, church or mosque parking lot. Forced to listen because others are, religious leaders are responding in ways that show how religious authority is shifting in the 21st century.

All authority structures deriving power from beliefs or creeds are getting tested, it seems, as bloggers match wits with established vessels of information. The news media provide a case in point. The hastened retirements of CBS News anchorman Dan Rather and New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines were attributed at least in part to bloggers who showcased information that proved more accurate than what appeared in news reports.

In religion, bloggers well-versed in Scripture and church rules as well as in offering personal testimonies are challenging official policies and winning followers of their own. Traditional authorities, meanwhile, are seeing problems and opportunities alike in the new milieu. How they respond depends to a large degree on what their respective theologies say about the value of voices from the proverbial peanut gallery.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mohler on the Evil of Prohibiting Inter-Racial Marriage

Al Mohler delved into racial discrimination in his radio program last Monday in a discussion of how same-sex marriage advocates are trying to claim the same protections from discrimination as are guaranteed based on ethnicity. In other words, they say (and have for some time) that homosexuality is equivalent to race and deserves equal protection. In this context, Mohler had some strong words for the seriousness with which we ought to view racial discrimination:
We as a society rightly celebrate the fact that [racially discriminatory laws] are gone, and we rightly look back with horror and embarrassment that they ever had existed because we now understand as a society that discrimination on the basis of skin color is morally abhorrent. It is a scandal to God's purpose in creation . . . We understand that discrimination on the basis of race is not only wrong, it's evil, but not only evil, it's illegal.
He also alluded briefly to the Bob Jones University inter-racial dating policy that caused BJU to lose its tax exempt status in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling:
I believe it was a morally abhorrent position. I believe it was wrong because it created a scandal for the gospel on the wrong line of discrimination. It's a university that in so many ways has stood for the truth. But in this case, it was a policy that led to a scandal, and it was a scandal that became a national issue, and there was litigation, and Bob Jones University was stripped of its tax exempt status because of that policy.
This issue has been beaten to death in the fundamentalist blogosphere, so I'm not particularly interested in re-hashing the facts pertaining to BJU. What I'm wondering is if anyone would disagree with Mohler when he says that racial discriminatory policies in general and this policy in particular are evil and morally abhorrent. Some of the conversations on which I've eavesdropped seem to have nimbly skipped the central issue in an attempt to defend BJU's right to the policy and the fact that it no longer exists.

So how about it? Does anybody still think these kinds of policies weren't evil and abhorrent in fundamentalist culture, even if they should have been constitutionally protected?

This was a terrific show. Mohler had a great guest and did some concise analytical work on how same-sex marriage opens Pandora's box to all sorts of eventual perversions of marriage in his discussion of the Mary Cheney interview that I alluded to last week.

Abstinence Pledges Fail

Here's a great article by Lauren Winner on the failure of teenagers' abstinence pledges (free registration required). This article might contain more truth than the NYT usually prints in a month.

Winner's thesis is that "Christians concerned about the rampant premarital sex in our communities need to rethink, rather than simply defend, young people's abstinence pledges."

Here's the point that I think we Christians too often miss:
Pledgers promise to control intense bodily desires simply by exercising their wills. But Christian ethics recognizes that the broken, twisted will can do nothing without rehabilitation by God's grace. Perhaps the centrality of grace is recognized best not in a pledge but in a prayer that names chastity as a gift and beseeches God for the grace to receive it.
Winner's solution?
Perhaps pledges for chastity need to be made not only by the individual teenager. Perhaps we also need pledges made by the teenager's whole Christian community: we pledge to support you in this difficult, countercultural choice; we pledge that the church is a place where you can lay bare your brokenness and sin, where you don't have to dissemble; we pledge to cheer you on when chastity seems unbearably difficult, and we pledge to speak God's forgiveness to you if you falter. No retooled pledge will guarantee teenagers' chastity, but words of grace and communal commitment are perhaps a firmer basis for sexual ethics than simple assertions that true love waits.
In other words, the disease is proud individualism and self-centeredness, not hormones. The solution is the grace of God and the power of the Spirit in the community of the church, not a signature on a piece of paper.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mohler Steps on Brides' Toes

I was appalled to hear women scold Al Mohler over his plea for modesty in weddings in a recent radio program. One told him that she didn't think women needed to hear about modesty from a man (never mind the fact that Mohler's wife also appeared on the program), and another said, "I think a wedding is about celebrating beauty and celebrating women."

Of course, the really funny part of the program to me was hearing people accuse Mohler, the "compromising neo-evangelical," of rampant legalism and moralism.

Kudos to Mohler for taking on this subject and the artillery fire that accompanied it. It's well worth the trouble to listen to the MP3, but you can also get the condensed version in his blog post.

Lewis Debunks Da Vinci in His Sleep (So to Speak)

Put the Wall Street Journal and C.S. Lewis together, and you're bound to get some common-sense perspective. I'm simply amazed that a national secular newspaper would print this piece.

Bears Will Be Bears

I suppose I'm the only one who is disappointed that there's no video of this. Can't you just imagine the horrified zoo patrons? I can hear them screaming at the zoo management for subjecting them to such a thing—just as soon as they were finally able to tear their eyes away.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Must Remember This Day

I found out that Jimmy Carter said something I agree with.
[The Jimmy Carter-James Baker election reform commission] backed a requirement that voters show some form of photo identification. They argued that with Congress passing the Real ID Act to standardize security protections for drivers' licenses in all 50 states, the time had come to standardize voter ID requirements.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why the Gospel Should Permeate Everything You Do

I appreciate the work Dan Cruver has been consistently doing to build the case for the centrality of the gospel in the life of the Church and the lives of believers. He has an important summary post from a couple days ago that includes links to messages I plan to hear.

Those messages are free, but for the premium price of $2 you can dowload this message from Mike Bullmore on "The Functional Centrality of the Gospel." I've heard that one, and I can guarantee it will be thought-provoking. I need to listen to it myself a couple more times.

The Beginning of the End

Well, tomorrow is the day that Christianity begins to crumble. Why? Duh, The Da Vinci Code opens.

Seriously, if you want a sound, straightforward resource at a popular level that will be useful to answer questions, check out Kevin Bauder's recent series in his "In the Nick of Time" articles. Archives that include the series are available here. If you're looking for a great deal on a small book to put in someone's hands, check out Bauder's book, Evaluating the Da Vinci Phenomenon here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Debate About the Debate at Liberty

Anyone who's been following the recent discussions at Founders Blog (either of the deceptive reports of church attendance and membership statistics, the James White & Tom Ascol vs. the Caner brothers debate, or Ronnie Floyd's fire engine baptistery) will want to hear White's "Dividing Line" broadcast from yesterday with Ascol as a guest.

If you want to read more about this debate, check out this post from Ascol, which gives some background to the debate planning and links to White's posting of the e-mail exchange between White and Ergun Caner. Truly amazing stuff.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Denominational Politics Makes Me Confused

Follow this link to hear Paige Patterson call the fire engine baptistery at Ronnie Floyd's church "blasphemous."

Follow this link to read Paige Patterson's endorsement of Ronnie Floyd for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Or just read Tom Ascol's excellent analysis at Founders blog here and here and here and here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mary Cheney on John Edwards

On a note related to the last post, I watched Chris Wallace's interview of Mary Cheney on Fox News Sunday. The transcript includes discussion both of the FMA and also Ms. Cheney's reaction to John Kerry and John Edwards' allusions in the 2004 debates to Cheney's her homosexual relationship. This portion was rather amusing:
WALLACE: You were sitting in the audience that night in Edwards' line of sight. What did you think and what did you do?

CHENEY: I was in the very front row, and I was very angry, as was the rest of my family, because it was such a cheap and blatant political ploy on behalf of Senator Edwards.

You know, my initial reaction was one I'm not necessarily sure is appropriate to share on television, but...

WALLACE: You mouthed an expletive, correct?

CHENEY: That would be a good way to put it, yes.

WALLACE: And your mom and your sister?

CHENEY: My mom and my sister took a slightly higher road. They stuck their tongues out at him.

WALLACE: And did the senator see the Cheney women?

CHENEY: I honestly don't know. We were in the front row just a few feet from him. I don't see how he could have missed us. But I honestly don't know.

Defending Marriage: A Top Priority (In Even-Numbered Years)

I'm detecting a pattern. It's almost funny.

Anybody else notice how Republicans in Congress seem to start talking about the Federal Marriage Amendment every other year? In other words, every election year.

Just for fun, I Googled, "federal marriage amendment" + [date] for the last four years. Here are the results:

2003 (non-election year): 181,000
2004 (election year): 307,000
2005 (non-election year): 212,000
2006 (partial election year): 268,000

Before people start squawking, I realize my experiment isn't scientific, and there could be other reasons for the pattern. Believe that if you want.

But here's what's about to happen. Republicans will put on the appearances of a valiant effort in an attempt to stir up turnout of the evangelical base this fall. That effort will fall far short of the super-majorities necessary to propose a Constitutional amendment, but the fight will energize "the base," at least a little.

With any success, Republican majorities will be preserved, and you won't be disturbed by any discussion of the FMA in Congress again. Until 2008, that is.

College Shakeups: Must Be Something in the Air

Patrick Henry College has received quite a bit of interest in the press recently for its objectives to place Christians in government. But the shakeup that has been in process for several months now makes the resignations at Maranatha and Pensacola in recent days seem pretty tame. There are also strong indications that there's more to this story than meets the eye.

See the links at the bottom of the CT article for other articles on PHC. Also, Gene Veith of World Magazine and Concordia University of Mequon, Wisconsin (ironically a member of Maranatha's athletic conference) recently blogged about accepting the position of academic dean at PHC.

Friday, May 12, 2006

An Adoption Story

My friend and co-worker Shannon Brown is in China right now with his wife to bring back their adopted daughter. Your heart will melt at some of their blog entries. Their daughter Allie's comment on the "Huffin' and Puffin' " entry really got me.

This Is a Relief

Imagine the horror if they weren't.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Google Earth for Mac

It's here. Sorry if this is old news, but I just found out. I spent a couple minutes on it today, and I have already detected something fishy. Stay tuned.

T4G: Observations and Reflections (Part 1)

Just a few more posts in the T4G series. These will consist of some key ideas that struck me during the conference—hopefully the kinds of things you won't have seen in the other summaries you might have read.

First of all, I was struck during the opening session by Mark Dever by some of the similarities between his message and Tim Jordan's that opened Calvary's Leadership Conference in February. I wasn't able to attend Leadership, but SharperIron posted the MP3. Unfortunately, it was lost in the great SI crash of '06, but perhaps it can be re-posted eventually.

The point is that Dever's central idea was that pastors are stewards of the mysteries of God. Jordan's central idea was that pastors are tools of God's truth, not craftsmen who hold God's truth in their hands. I thought Jordan's message would have fit nicely into either Shepherd's Conference or T4G. I greatly appreciateed his emphasis on the pastor's responsibility to preach God's truth, not his personal preferences or convictions. We worship a God who is sufficient to accomplish His work in the lives of our congregations without us having to use our wiles to bring them to where He (or we?) wants them to be.

Both Dever's and Jordan's messages would be excellent investments (if you have a couple bucks to spare).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Movements . . . Blechhh!

Someone recently wrote the following words in the comments of another blog. They were part of a response to someone who was deploring the condition of the fundamentalist movement and contemplating abandoning the USS Fundamentalist in favor of some more seaworthy vessel (even if it is just a lifeboat). His identity wasn't precisely defined, and I really think it's irrelevant because this is a sentiment that seems to be widely held.
I am a fundamentalist and I always will be. I don’t need to be a part of any movement although I naturally am because of my beliefs. I am an independent fundamentalist. I’m not happy with some things other fundamentalists do. That is okay. I have talked with many men over the years who, in seeing the warts of fundamentalism, looked to go elsewhere . . . Where is there to go? So the problems you see in fundamentalism will not resurface wherever else you go?
This kind of thinking is completely foreign to me. That doesn't mean it is necessarily bad or wrong. I just don't get it. Maybe the best way to explain where I'm coming from is to break down the statement sentence by sentence.

I am a fundamentalist and I always will be.

Yeah, me too. Provided, of course, that being a fundamentalist does not demand that I also be a revivalist or separate from anyone who does not agree with me on every point of biblical teaching and practice.

I don’t need to be a part of any movement although I naturally am because of my beliefs.
I'm not sure what this means. If a church in the remote Nevada wilderness believes and practices biblical teaching but never has contact with any other churches, are they part of a movement? Aren't they just practicing biblical Christianity? I've seen lots of people say that we can't avoid being part of a movement, but I simply don't understand this presupposition.

I am an independent fundamentalist.
I am too.

I’m not happy with some things other fundamentalists do.

I agree, and I'm also not happy with lots of things I do.

That is okay.

I have talked with many men over the years who, in seeing the warts of fundamentalism, looked to go elsewhere.

I haven't talked with very many (if any), but I'm sure it's true that they exist.

Where is there to go?

This is what I simply don't understand. Why do I have to go anywhere? Why can't I just be biblical? I don't want to play some moral trump card, but this just sounds like a self-centered craving for affirmation. I don't think that's the intent of this writer, and he said above that he does not "need to be part of a movement," so I'm going to take those words at face value. But how do we slide so easily into this thinking that we must align ourselves with one ship or another?

That's the failure of the whole ship analogy that was propagated (albeit humorously) by the SharperIron cartoon and by the original author of the post I'm tangentially discussing. It implies that we need to align ourselves with a circle or a movement or a group, when I can't see how we need to be aligning ourselves with anything other than orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The whole idea that "If I leave fundamentalism, where would I go?" implies that we must have broader associations outside our local church and also that we must adopt associations with one group to the deliberate exclusion of another group. And I wouldn't be the first to suggest that the priority of the associations very quickly becomes far greater than the priority of the essential ideas that generated the associations.

So the problems you see in fundamentalism will not resurface wherever else you go?
Some will. Some won't. Some problems will be greater, and others will be diminished. Al Mohler made that point rather well, as I documented in my recent post.

Here's my experiential argument: By the nature of my job and my status in life, I wind up spending a fair amount of time every year at conferences and conventions. People who would identify themselves as fundamentalists or evangelicals are most of the attendees of those conferences, and typically, the evangelicals gravitate towards their own conferences, and the fundamentalists gravitate towards their own. Most of the time, the people I meet at either kind of conference have a great deal in common with me theologically. Sometimes, however, I meet people who are radically different from me, and that happens at both kinds of conferences.

During the rest of my life, I'll probably not have the opportunity to cooperate directly in ministry with more than 1-2% of the people that I'm privileged to meet. I do know that I would be violating my own convictions—some might call me a "disobedient brother"—if I were to cooperate either with the theologically reductionistic ("fuzzy') evangelicals I've met or with the fundamentalists I've met that Mark Minnick has called cantankerous legalists.

So here's this question: "Where should I go?" Should I want to set sail on either ship? Do I really have to pick one?

I think we need a new paradigm. You don't need to go anywhere. You simply need to be. You need to practice biblical Christianity in your church and "let goods and kindred go." I don't mean you should be an isolationist. Make friends. Seek those older and younger, wiser and less experienced. Learn from them all. Seek to edify them all.

Or maybe I'm just an optimist.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Molding Spurgeon in Our Own Image

I think we all want to believe Spurgeon's theology was just like ours. Some folks are willing to go to extreme lengths to make this happen. Reglerjoe documents this phenomenon, and Mark Dever gives authoritarian Baptist pastors everywhere reason to fear Spurgeon's specter.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Quote Game Returns

Have fun with this one. I've got a free copy of Future Grace for anyone who can get this without hints.
There is a social responsibility that Christianity has—that Christians should seek justice in a society through the means that society provides, that Christianity should seek right and honest things, and that Christianity should speak the truth of God against an unjust, unrighteous society.

Mohler on Second Degree Separationism and Fundamentalism

Mohler discusses these ideas in his daily radio program from last Wednesday as a response to a caller. The question begins 18:35 into the program, and the discussion continues for about six minutes.

The short story is that Mohler acknowledges "a real danger" in both fundamentalism and evangelicalism. With evangelicalism, before long "you can't tell the difference" between liberals and the evangelicals who cooperate with them. With fundamentalism, "you wind up talking to yourself" because you have no fellowship with people who share the same beliefs but are in liberal denominations.

He says that fundamentalists "think they're more separated than they are," which raises an issue with which fundamentalists need to grapple, even though Mohler explains it awkwardly, illustrates it poorly, and does not acknowledge the difference between merely existing in culture and willingly cooperating with unbelief.

Hear C.S. Lewis

The BBC has some footage, and Christianity Today gives some background, as well as a link to clips on a Lewis fan site.

Friday, May 05, 2006

T4G: The Post-Conference Commentary

It didn't take Mohler long to kick off the post-conference discussions. In the very afternoon after the conference ended, he explained the meaning of the article in the statement about loyalty to the gospel over ecclesiastical associations. This is part of his response to the final caller to his radio program last Friday:
You can't let your ministry be undermined in a denomination or in a situation or in a congregation where you would have to compromise the gospel. You know, in the statement we just were talking about in the Together for the Gospel Conference here this week, we said that loyalty to the gospel must take precedence over loyalty to any denomination or fellowship of churches or organization. You know, we were just singing with the pastors today, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." You remember that line, "Let goods and kindred go." You know, we work for recovery, pray for recovery, Steven, but we've always got to be willing to let it go if that's what faithfulness to the gospel would demand.
Dever writes about our responsibilities looking forward:
Pray that we would have wisdom about many discussions that are being encouraged, cooperations that are being proposed. I don't desire to see a new organization. I do desire to see the Lord's work cross-fertilized--let's drink together from the riches of Calvary. Let's observe each other doing that as well, and so undermine our prejudices. Let's learn from each other and pray for each other. And let's see if God will not once again own the ordinary means--the preaching of His gospel, the life of our churches, prayer--in extraordinary measure. Will God give us revival? Will He give us great ingatherings? We cannot say. But, we can pray and labor and preach. And we can know that it may be so.
Duncan writes about the objectives for the future (be sure to read the whole post):
May the Lord raise up such a ministerial fraternity – not on the basis of doctrinal minimalism but rather on the basis of shared conviction of the truth and Gospel forbearance in the areas where we differ; not to the detriment of our convictions regarding our distinctives in faith and practice in the local churches and families of churches we serve, but to their enhancement.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

T4G: Key Quotes (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I cannot guarantee the precise accuracy of these quotes, so please confirm them with the audio files available here or treat them as paraphrases.

Mohler on religion and patriotism:
There is a patriotism that I find conflicting with the gospel. I think it goes back to the fact that evangelicals have felt so at home here. The fact that one would be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and not a faithful American is a real conflict with this thinking. We should be prepared to betray any earthly kingdom and any earthly king. A lot of our people are more concerned with being good Americans than faithful Christians. There is no ground for cultural optimism here, either going backward or forward.
Sproul on justification by faith:
We are not justified by the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Mental assent and a simple profession are not efficacious. It is the possession of faith, not the profession of faith, that transfers us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
Piper on preaching that is aware of the glory of God:
God did not ordain the crucifixion of Christ or create the lake of fire in order to minimize the significance of belittling His glory . . . God planned for his Son to be crucified and for hell to be terrible so that we would have the most seriousness witnesses of what is at stake when we preach.
Piper on preaching as a display of the glory of God:
Nothing affects preaching more deeply than to be struck almost speechless by the passion of God for the glory of God.
Piper on enjoying God:
You do not honor fully what you do not enjoy. God is not glorified fully only by being known.
Piper on dealing with the inevitable rejection of the gospel message:
There are people who are going to fail to see the truth of what you have to say. Are you going to let their failure affect your method?
Piper on expository exultation:
If it is the purpose of God to display His glory in the world, and if we display it because we have been changed by knowing and enjoying it, and if we have come to know and enjoy it by beholding it and if we behold it in the gospel and if the gospel is the word/proclamation, then the implication is that preaching is essential and proclaiming the glory of Christ in the gospel is our central job.
Piper on the state of contemporary evangelical churches:
There is a famine of seeing and savoring God’s glory. I don’t see a sense of the weight of glory [in the American evangelical churches]. There should be in the gathering for corporate worship, significant elements of the greatness, majesty, and glory of God. Instead, I see the weight of church growth methodology driving us exactly the opposite direction. It seems that laughter is the only way we have to get things rolling.
Piper on the contemporary rebirth of Reformation theology, particularly in younger generations:
If theology precedes doxology and ecclesiology, then we are in for some happy developments.
Mahaney on the necessity of faithfulness in life as well as in doctrine:
It is much easier to study doctrine than to study your heart . . . We have not truly learned until we have practiced.
Mahaney on the necessity of the community of believers to advancement in the Christian life:
We cannot effectively watch ourselves by ourselves.
MacArthur on the connection between Scripture and the body life of the church:
If you want to have a church that is really committed to love, that is going to be driven by a common affection for Scripture.
MacArthur on culture:
I don’t care about the culture. I just care about the Word of God . . . I don’t want to be a student of the culture. I want to be a student of the Word of God, which confronts the culture. Just be an expert on the Word of God, and you will always know what to say to the culture.
MacArthur on teaching your people to study the Word:
People learn how to study the Bible by listening to how you preach.
MacArthur on depth in teaching the Word:
Transcendent worship experience is directly related to the depth of divine truth. You have to go down if you’re going to lead your people up.
MacArthur on the worship experience:
People need more sound because they can’t invest their singing with theology. People are calling something worship that is really just emotion.
MacArthur on reforming a church:
I’m not one who feels promptings or messages from God. I did what I felt in my heart what I needed to do and the rest was subject to the providence of God. If I went to a church I would preach through John and seek to exalt Christ without trying to change anything about church order or doctrines of grace . . . We get so caught up trying to fix this life that we . . . forget about the reality of waiting for His Son.

This May Be the Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen on a Blog . . .

. . . not named Purgatorio. Who says there's no "fun" in fundamentalism.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ascol on Owen on Sin (with a Funny Picture, to Boot)

Ah, the ubiquitous Rick Warren. See Ascol's post.

Food for Thought, If a Bit Crunchy

Check out this interview with Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons. Here's a related article from today's Washington Post. I haven't read the Post article yet.

T4G: A Hymn You Should Know

Other than "I Will Glory in My Redeemer" after Piper's message and "In Christ Alone" (I forget when we sang it), the best musical moment was "How Sweet and Awful Is the Place" by Isaac Watts. The haunting sound of this hymn matches perfectly the lyrics of awe, wonder, and humility. This link will take you to the hymn text, as well as a loop of an organ playing the accompaniment.

There seems to be some disagreement over whether the title should include the word "awful" or "awesome." I can't speak authoritatively to the original, but we sang it as "awful." Knowing how the T4G men view church history, I suspect we were historically accurate.

Next time you pick up your modern hymnal, look and see how much Watts and Wesley you find. If your church uses the MH, compare the quantities of Wesley and Watts to the FG and the RH.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Do the T4G Guys Believe Scripture Demands Separation from Disobedient Christians?

It has recently been implied that the answer to this question is "No."

Chris wrote:
Most of these men have gone on record saying that they don't believe that separation from disobedient brothers is a biblical mandate. Some have written off separatism as a dead or dying idea.
Whether by accident or providence, I know not, but a short while ago I came across this article by Al Mohler when I wasn't even looking for it (HT: Nate Busenitz). Mohler is the member of this group whom I have found most often to be castigated for his unwillingness to affirm the mandate to separate from disobedient Christians, and yet he writes:
The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers. When Christians organize themselves into congregations and denominational forms, these boundaries become evident . . . Christians across a vast denominational range can stand together on the first-order doctrines and recognize each other as authentic Christians, while understanding that the existence of second-order disagreements prevents the closeness of fellowship we would otherwise enjoy.
My perception is that the tendency to deny the separatist convictions of other believers is not that they are not separatists, but that they are not separatists like us.

T4G: Key Quotes (Part 1)

In this post I’ll stitch together some of the most salient quotes from the plenary sessions and the panel discussions. Disclaimer: Most of the time I was typing like a madman, so I can’t guarantee the precise accuracy of the quotes. Please don’t rely on my transcription, but listen to the recordings if you plan to quote the speakers.

Dever on the minister as a steward of the mysteries of God:
We are the mailmen of God’s message, not the source of the message. Apart from His message, we are not called.
Dever on creativity in the pulpit:
We are not concerned to be original, but reliable.
Dever on the cross-centered life of the minister:
True ministers are happy to be despised if somehow through them being despised the gospel is displayed.
Dever on discipleship:
God has entrusted your people to your care as an example—so you can show them that you care more about them and their relationship with Christ than you care about yourself.
Dever on the centrality of the Word in church reform:
The important issue for recovering churches is putting the Word at the center, and that occurs most fundamentally through preaching.
Dever on the need for discernment:
Wolves don’t come with business cards that say “Wolf.” They dress up like sheep, talk like sheep, and are published by sheep publishers.
Mohler on his role as a seminary president:
My hope is that we get to put the seminary out of business. What we need to see is more biblically-grounded, theologically-driven churches training pastors, because the local church is the place where pastors need to be trained . . . Churches think they can “franchise out” their responsibility to train pastors . . . Don’t send someone to me that you wouldn’t call back to your church.
Dever on the failure of churches that demanded Mohler’s battle for the soul of Southern Seminary:
Al Mohler went through what he went through in the early years at SBTS because of the failure of pastors to discipline.
Duncan on preaching the OT:
We ought to be able to preach Christ exegetically from the OT. That does not mean we force Christ into the OT in an unnatural way. We realize that there is a way to Christ and the cross from every passage in the OT . . . [Preaching the one plan of redemptive history from the OT] does not in any way downplay the distinctives or discontinuities between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant . . . One of the grave dangers of neglecting the OT is that we will produce a generation of Christian that is deficient [of the knowledge of the attributes of God].
Mohler on culture:
I see in our times something of a polarity of dangers. Some take the culture of no seriousness at all. Others make the culture the whole rising of their ministry. There is a double-edged danger in the polarity . . . Our concern for the culture is because the culture is the place where we find sinners. Everything else about the culture is irrelevant . . . Do we really think of ourselves to be elect exiles of the dispersion? Our temptation in evangelicalism is to feel quite at home in this culture, but we are starting to realize that perhaps we are not at home, and that to live as though we are would be to deny our identity. We have no reason for optimism about culture.

Churches that Abandon the Gospel Eventually Die

That was my initial reaction to this post on the World Magazine blog. But then I paused and pondered. Are liberal denominations losing more adherents because they deny the gospel or because they now tolerate homosexuality? Are American evangelicals more repulsed by abandonment of the gospel or by toleration of gay sex?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Gas Prices, Chuck Schumer, and U.S. Oil Reserves

I realize this has nothing to do with Paleoevangelicalism, but this quote from an editorial in Saturday's Journal reminds me how much Chuck Schumer ticks me off:
The dirty little secret about oil politics is that today's high gas price is precisely the policy result that Mr. Schumer and other liberals have long desired. High prices have been the prod that the left has favored to persuade Americans to abandon their SUVs and minivans, use mass transit, turn the thermostat down, produce less consumer goods and services, and stop emitting those satanic greenhouse gases.
And I drive a Honda Civic.

T4G: The Conference Statement

If we weren't together for music and what to wear, what could we possibly have been together for?

The "core four"—Dever, Mahaney, Mohler, and Duncan—clarified some core issues directly related to the gospel on which they were "together." Chris Hinton has posted this statement.

Now, although I had a few initial impressions, I'm no authority on creeds and statements of faith, so over lunch I asked my fundamentalist friends "Bob, Chris, Joe, Mark, and Tim" what they thought. "Joe" made an excellent observation that it seemed peculiar that the statement included sections on gender issues and racial reconciliation but nothing on creation or eternal punishment. Others are blogtificating on other perceived flaws, and perhaps some of those opinions are helpful.

I was surprised that no one in our group of fightin' fundies brought up the absence of any article on separation. Those of you who think I'm one step away from Joel Osteen might want to sit down now since I'm just going to go ahead and say that I do think it's important to clarify that the refusal of professing believers (evangelicals) to express agreement with this statement must have profound implications for our ability to fellowship and cooperate with them. During the conference I found myself wondering how many people in the crowd were "together for the gospel" for a couple days, but would be "together for an evangelistic crusade" or "together for youth ministry" or "together for whatever" a few weeks later with folks who would reject the T4G statement.

One might argue that the essential idea of T4G implies that the gospel must be primary in every aspect of our ministry and relationships, and that is true. On the other hand, it seems to me that even conservative evangelicals would be well-suited to receive reminders that not all who claim the name of Christ are genuinely of Christ.

Regardless, this statement advanced the discussion within evangelicalism on the need to define and affirm sound doctrine and also to expose what is false. I think it also ought to reveal to even the most rigid of the separatists that not all evangelicals are alike. Some of them are actually quite committed to raising up a generation that will stand for sound doctrine and contend for it unashamedly and unreservedly. This will no doubt be a stunning revelation, should such separatists choose to believe it.

As has been reported, after the "core four" finished reading through the articles and discussing them briefly, Piper, MacArthur, and apparently Sproul as well all expressed their desire to have their signatures added at the bottom. It was about that time that I raised my hand and said that I would like to, as well, but I was ignored. I probably needed to speak louder.