Friday, September 22, 2006

Will Evangelicals Vote for a Mormon?

Here's an interesting and entertaining conversation on Al Mohler's radio program. I laughed out loud when Mohler responded to a self-proclaimed "right-wing fundamentalist Christian zealot" with the line, "Someone who calls himself a zealot usually isn't."

"Young, Restless, and Reformed" Now Online at CT

You may have heard of this cover story published a few weeks ago by Christianity Today. Discussions of Piper, Harris, Mahaney, Driscoll, Mohler, Dever—all the usual suspects. Read the full text here.

***Edit: Add link to sidebar article.***

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Death or a Pinch of Incense?

David Wells argues that today's Christianity wouldn't have shed much blood in ancient Rome:
The kind of Christianity that is being nurtured in our churches is one that does not have the sort of fiber to take people through the great conflicts of life.
Watch the video, "Suffering and the Church," here.

Piper on Islam and the Pope

John Piper suggests ten ways Christians should respond to Islam, particularly in light of the pope's comments and the subsequent controversy.

Akin Chapel QnA Follow-Up

After I posted a link to Dr. Akin's chapel QnA last week, he took the time to e-mail the student body answers to several questions that he hadn't had time to address in chapel. Both of the ones that I asked were among them, although in somewhat modified form. I'll reproduce the answers to those two questions here since I mentioned them in the previous post. The original versions of the questions are available via the above link. The wording that appears below corresponds to what was distributed in the e-mail, not to how the original questions were worded. Modifications presumably reflect the combination of related questions or perhaps prudence in public answers to public questions.
Q: What can we learn from the ministries of those whom we might not completely agree? (e.g.: Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, Erwin McManus, etc.)
A: I believe we should learn from as many people as we possibly can, including those with whom we disagree. These particular persons are very good at engaging the culture, and Mark Driscoll is a solid expositor though his use of profanity in the pulpit is inexcusable. Each of these men provides insight for us in how we can sense the heartbeat of the culture. My counsel is though as we study these men, and we should, and as we learn from these men, and we must, we will always filter what we see and hear through the purifying waters of the Word of God. We are to be culturally sensitive but scripture driven.

Q: What should be our response and relationship to those who affirm that people can be saved through false religions or without even hearing the name of Christ?
A: I believe that we must confront such persons as propagating a false teaching. We must point out that though they may be brothers in Christ, and aligned with us in many ways in terms of theology, in this particular area they are simply out of bounds and their view does not line up with scripture. One certainly can not affirm universalism from the Bible. I believe one also can not affirm inclusivism from the scriptures either. For those who reach an age of moral consciousness, or as is popularly known the age of accountability, I believe they can only be saved through a conscious faith commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In that context, Al Mohler and I several years ago wrote an article and are on record as affirming that we do believe that those who die as children who never reach that age of moral discernment, or those who through some mental handicap never reach an age of moral discernment, are objects of God’s saving and electing grace and that they will indeed be in heaven. This by the way is also the view of John MacArthur, and has been a consistent position of the church throughout her history including most reformed thinkers.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Good Taste?

Scott Aniol has shared some thoughts on the objectivity of good taste.

Here are a couple pictures of "good taste" in China.

The top photo is leeches and water beetles. The second photo is silkworms. Rest assured, they're not being sold as household pets.

In other words, chalk me up in favor of some degree of subjectivity in good taste.

Monday, September 18, 2006

More Evidence That Evangelicals Have No Idea What Worship Is

A friend recently directed me to a job posting for a "worship leader" in a Baptist church. Whether or not you have quarrels with that title isn't an insignificant issue, but it pales in comparison to what I saw when I read further:
If you have a calling to reach this generation and the next for Christ and a calling to lead worship for Christ-followers and not-yet-Christ-followers, [name omitted] Church may be the place for you.
The optimist in me is still convinced that these folks don't really believe that "not-yet-Christ-followers" are actually capable of true worship. But it certainly ought to warn us of the theological bankruptcy that appears to be the logical end of seeker-driven philosophy and methodology.

"Amoral" Doesn't Mean Anything Goes

I've never quite grasped how folks can declare dogmatically that something not in possesson a soul capable of morality must still be "moral" or "immoral." For that reason, I'm glad to see Buffington Powers, a Wisconsin pastor, articulate the problems with that view as they relate to our musical choices.

Perhaps the debate is, to some degree, semantical. I think most everyone would agree that vehicles of communication deliver messages, and those messages are certainly not limited to the words. Messages may be communicated in images, as well. I'm not sure it can be proven that any image certainly communicates a moral act. Some certainly may communicate morality or immorality, depending on the context. I'm convinced it's true that some images certainly depict immorality.

In other words, human hearts are the center of morality, not the things that human hearts produce. Powers puts it this way: "You cannot attach a label of 'moral' or 'immoral' to anything other than the heart of a man or woman."

That doesn't mean anything goes in our choices, even our musical choices. It does mean that the object that deserves the real scrutiny is the human heart and its lusts, motivations, and deceitfulness. As Powers says, music is a tool, and . . .
Tools are created by mankind as an expression of either the righteous or evil intentions in his heart. The tools are used by the individual for carrying out the designs of the heart. The man will be judged by God not the tool.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

Strong leadership is a liberated leadership, enslaved only to the will of God. It takes real manliness to stare down self-righteousness and say, “You play your music, but I won’t dance.”
Bixby's in the zone this week. Read the full post here (but don't go there if you'll be offended by provocative metaphors).

The Televangelists of the 1980s: Lunatic Fringe or Cutting Edge?

An editorial in today's Journal argues that they were ahead of their time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On Young People Leaving Their Home and Their Church . . . and the Church

With the recent flare of discussion about young adults leaving the church tied to Barna's research release, I think some words from William Still (posted by Ligon Duncan) are worth passing on. Here's a snippet:
It is where Christians pathetically put their trust in external techniques and artificial stratagems that young folk go astray. Nothing takes the place of the realism of holy living and secret wrestling before God in prayer for our youngsters. We must commit them to God so utterly that we dare not interfere or tamper with their precious souls.

WSJ on Purpose Driven® Church Splits

Driving off church members is just the price of progress.
During a session titled "Dealing with Opposition," Mr. Clyde [a leader of Church Traditions, Inc., a Saddleback-affiliated ministry] recommended that the pastor speak to critical members, then help them leave if they don't stop objecting. Then when those congregants join a new church, Mr. Clyde instructed, pastors should call their new minister and suggest that the congregants be barred from any leadership role.

"There are moments when you've got to play hardball," said the Rev. Dan Southerland, Church Transitions' president, in an interview. "You cannot transition a church...and placate every whiny Christian along the way."

Mr. Warren acknowledges that splits occur in congregations that adopt his ideas, though he says he opposes efforts to expel church members. "There is no growth without change and there is no change without loss and there is no loss without pain," he says. "Probably 10% of all churches are in conflict at any given point, regardless of what they're doing." That, he contends, "is not just symptomatic of changing to purpose-driven. It would be symptomatic in changing to anything."
I'm guessing these folks aren't big fans of David Wells' books.

Danny Akin's Chapel QnA

Audio available here. The first two questions address blogging and Calvinism. Towards the end of the session he talks about the new SBC International Mission Board guidelines on baptism and tongues.

Here are the two questions I submitted online since I couldn't make it to chapel:
1. What can we learn from Rick Warren, and in ways should we be cautioned about his theology and philosophy of ministry? I'm particularly interested in your thoughts on his social ministry agenda. In what ways do missions appropriately incorporate mercy ministries?

2. What should be our response and relationship to conservative Baptist leaders who affirm that people can be saved through false religions or without even hearing the name of Christ?
Neither made the cut. (I did submit the second one a little after the deadline.) But he was only able to answer a few in the chapel time, and mine were among the 14 chosen of the 50ish submitted. Perhaps we'll find out if SEBTS plans a follow-up, as Dr. Akin suggested they might.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

SBC 2006: Analysis from Timothy George

This is an interesting perspective from an SBC theologian who's respected by many. At the very least, it's informative if you want to understand what's going on in the SBC today.

I'm not sure I'm as excited about these particular observations as George seems to be:
Yet some of the most substantive theology being written by Baptist scholars today comes from a little-known circle of mostly younger moderates who have shown a surprising interest in quite traditional themes such as the deeper meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the covenantal disciplines of congregational life, and the positive role of creeds and confessions in the life of the church. Steven Harmon’s recent book Towards Baptist Catholicity is an example—and it stands in marked contrast to the older libertarian, Emersonian version of Baptist identity. These younger scholars are not so much a part of the coalition that elected Page as they are potential allies for conservatives within a reconciled Baptist future.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"The Path to 9/11" Deleted Scenes

I have no idea whether the scenes that were deleted from ABC's "The Path to 9/11" miniseries are remotely accurate or not, and I didn't spend a second watching what did appear on TV. I do know that you can see here the footage Bill Clinton and his associates persuaded ABC to delete. If you want to see it, watch it now. I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be online for long.

See also: John Fund in today's Journal explains why docudramas make bad history, attacks Democratic hypocrisy, and opposes FCC censorship of these films.

UPDATE: My mistake. I linked to the WSJ article twice and never gave you the link to the videos. It's corrected now.

An Argument Against CCM: Can It Cut Both Ways?

One of the more powerful arguments used against CCM is that so much of it borrows its musical style from the rock genre, and the rock genre is inseparably associated with sex and rebellion. In other words, people who grew up in a rock culture or listening to rock music can do nothing other than associate the style of CCM with the music that was a defining characteristic of their previous worldly, immoral lifestyle. Personally, I'm inclined to believe there is much to commend this argumentation as valid.

While I heard this argumentation being advanced recently, a thought struck me for the first time. Hypothetically speaking, what if some people grew up in a hypocritical, legalistic, self-righteous, pharisaical atmosphere where hymns and gospel songs were sung? What if these people could do nothing other than associate those hymns and gospel songs with their bankrupt, anti-Christian religious heritage?

Would this mean that these individuals should not sing or listen to recordings of hymns or gospel songs? Would it mean that churches whose members suffer from these associations should not use hymns or gospel songs in their services. Can it possibly mean that the whole genres of hymns and gospels songs are inherently immoral?

Of course I'm not suggesting an answer. I certainly hope we don't have to chuck all the hymns (but as for the gospel songs . . .). I don't believe that we do. I simply wonder how the argument can and should be consistently applied.

Three Fun Things from This Weekend

  1. Watching THE Ohio State University "mess with Texas."
  2. Singing "Come, Christians Join to Sing" at church. (In my life there has been a strange coincidence in which the hymn that shares the tune of THE Ohio State University alma mater has been sung the day after key games.)
  3. Chatting with an author and speaker on the topic of Christian music about how the Majesty Hymnal contains about 180 songs by people named Hamilton or Garlock and only about 30 by people named Watts or Wesley.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Misconceptions About Plural Elder Led Congregationalism

Once every few months I find myself in a conversation about church polity. When I describe what I believe, more often than not people hear something different from what I'm saying. In the interests of clarity, I thought I might offer a few of these misconceptions and how I respond to them

For starters, however, I believe that the biblical pattern of church leadership is a plurality of elders responsible for the oversight and spiritual leadership of the church. Deacons are the servants of the church, not the spiritual leaders. (Just like non-deacons in the church, they may well be capable of spiritual leadership and provide spiritual leadership even though it is outside the parameters of their office.) The elders lead the congregation, but 1 Timothy 5:17 and Hebrews 13:17 imply that their office includes some sort of ruling function.

Despite the elders' role of leadership, the congregation is the final human authority in the church. Scripture either teaches directly or implies that the congregation is involved in selecting the elders and deacons and the final stages of church discipline. The congregation may or may not be involved in decision-making beyond those matters, depending on the wisdom and prudence in specific situations in specific churches.

Within that context, here are the misconceptions I've encountered most often about people who hold to plural elder led congregationalism.
  1. We deny congregationalism. [Certainly not. As I noted above, the congregation is the final decision-making authority in the most important matters the church faces. In many such churches, the congregation is also involved in other matters, such as the budget, building plans, specific expenditures, etc.]
  2. We deny the role of a senior pastor. [Not at all. Although Scripture does not suggest that a senior elder is the ideal, there does seem to be substantial evidence that specific individuals frequently functioned as senior elders/pastors.]
  3. We believe in lay elders. [No way. Perhaps some folks do believe in distinction between pastoral and lay elders, but this is certainly not a universal practice. It seems clear to me from 1 Timothy 3 that all elders are to be involved in the teaching ministry of the church, even if they do not frequently or ever participate in the pulpit ministry.]
  4. We're playing make-believe because the senior pastor always gets his way. [Again, this may be the case in some multiple elder led churches, but it is certainly not the case in all. It seems that some folks are so familiar with the pastor-dictator personality-driven model that they struggle to conceive that some churches are not enslaved to it, and some senior pastors are humble enough not to demand or even expect it.
One other misconception I've occasionally encountered is that a church thinks it is led by a plurality of elders because it has "assistant pastors." Technically, this may meet the definition of a plurality of elders, but my sense is that the assisant pastors in those churches are essentially "junior pastors," not real pastors of the church. More often than not, it seems, the senior pastor is the chairman of the board, the deacons are the board of trustees, and the assistant pastors are the executive vice presidents or middle managers.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Church Growth News

Some of my family members had occasion to be on a Christian high school campus last week. There they saw a plaque with a large picture honoring the school's chancellor, who also happens to be the pastor of the parent church.

The dedicatory text of the plaque proclaims that since 2001, the church has become the fastest growing church in the world, averaging church growth of 4,000 per week and 10,000 baptisms per year.

Three questions remain in my mind:
  1. What kind of mindset does it take to be duped by this kind of asininity? (Oh yeah, this one.)
  2. How could this kind of mindset have been acceptable in the fundamentalist mainstream for so long?
  3. How in the world can a Baptist church grow by 4,000 people per week when it's only baptizing 10,000 per year? (And no, this church is not Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis.)
Oh, the plaque is in the school hallway near the drinking fountains and the restrooms.

If Anybody Knows John Tors in Toronto, Ontario . . .

. . . please pass on my kudos for this letter to the editor responding to World Magazine articles on mainline denominations and homosexuality:
Long before the North American Anglican/Episcopal churches began choosing homosexuals as bishops they were choosing outright heretics as bishops. These people denied the very fundamentals of the faith, such as the deity of Christ and the physical resurrection, and thereby put themselves beyond the pale of Christianity. Yet very few of the theological conservatives complained or threatened to split away over this. Their objections now to the very important but secondary issue of homosexuality ring hollow indeed.
I think I've said this kind of thing before, but I've certainly never said it quite this well.

Phil Johnson posted on related issues a couple days ago. To make a long story short, some evangelicals (and I use that term as loosely as possible) think that the homosexuality controversy will spur the closeted (pun intended) conservatives in mainline denominations to rise up and retake their denominations.

Yeah, right. They wouldn't fight for the inspiration and authority of Scripture generations ago, but now that sodomy issues make their fur bristle, they'll contend for the faith.

Forgive me if I don't hold my breath.