Saturday, January 31, 2009

Community or Affinity?

About a year ago at some event in Peoria, Mark Driscoll discussed evangelicalism's fad du jour, "community." He says:

"Today the big buzzword is community. And really what it is, is affinity. Community is people who are different coming together. Affinity is people who are alike hanging out. We live in a world where, in the name of community, there's a lot of affinity."

So whether your church is full of 20ish dudes with soul patches wearing untucked black shirts and carrying ESVs with stylized crosses on the cover, or whether it looks more like a couple hundred 40 to 60-something white people carrying 18 pound KJVs and wearing sport coats and flowered dresses, you're probably looking at an unhealthy organism. To put it another way, your church is probably not displaying the character of Jesus Christ and his plan to call out a people to himself from all languages, tribes, and nations.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ed Welch to Speak at CBTS Leadership Conference

Ed Welch, lecturer, counselor and CCEF faculty member, is slated to serve as a special guest lecturer at this year's National Leadership Conference sponsored by Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary.

For more on Welch, listen to Mark Dever interview him here.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Doctrinal Pride

I was just reading Jerry Bridges' recent book: Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, for possible application to our church's Core Seminars. His discussion of doctrinal pride caught my eye:
Closely akin to moral pride is doctrinal pride, the asumption that whatever my doctrinal beliefs are, they are correct, and anyone who holds another belief is theologically inferior. Those of us who care about doctrine at all are susceptible to this form of pride. It doesn't matter if we are Arminians or Calvinists, whether we subscribe to Dispensational or Covenant theology, or perhaps have embraced some form of eclectic theology, we tend to think our doctrinal beliefs are the correct ones and look with some disdain on those whose beliefs are different from ours.

And then to complete the spectrum of this type of pride, there are those who don't consider doctrine important and so look with disdain on those of us who do. In other words, this form of pride is a pride in our particular belief system, whatever that may be, and an attitude that in our beliefs we are spiritually superior to those who hold other beliefs. (p. 92)
I think it's important to hold theological beliefs that you believe are correct, and Bridges discusses that in successive paragraphs. But he's right to point out the pride in assuming that you could not be in error, and that something must be true since you believe it. He's also right to focus on the disdain for those who disagree.

This is a pretty good book—very practical and useful for directing our attention to sins we don't think about quite as much. And there's a study guide available as well for classroom use.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is Church Membership Biblical?

Greg Gilbert's post on the Church Matters blog answers folks who argue that the notion of membership isn't in Scripture. Here's some historical/etymological perspective I'd never considered:
I really don't understand how some Christians can object to the idea of church membership. I mean, Paul uses the word in Scripture. It's not like we have to deduce the idea from vague emanations and penumbras.

1 Corinthians 12:27: "Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it."

I know that's a metaphor, but that's also the point---The metaphor Paul uses here is precisely where we get the idea of membership. The word "melos" means "integral part, member." I think sometimes people have the impression that the church stole the idea of membership from Columbia Records or something. Not so. In fact, Columbia Records, the Rotary Club, the Lions' Club, and all the rest stole it from us!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Root of Indifference Springs Up and Troubles Us

The last time I listened to Matt Olson's talk on contemporary issues in fundamentalism, I caught a sentence I'd missed before. he said, "For the Christian, everything should be considered important and weighed out according to the Scripture."

Amen to that. Whatever Olson said or meant or why he said what he said rather than what he meant on the points we've previously discussed ad nauseam, I want to wholeheartedly affirm that statement above.

That's why I don't think the right way to respond to bad ways to talk about doctrine is to minimize the value of talking about doctrine.

That's why, when some expressed surprise that good things Olson said were being ignored, and the one really bad thing was getting all the press, I wasn't dissuaded. Olson is right that fundamentalism has often got it wrong on music. He's right that the associations argument on music doesn't hold much water. And he's certainly right that not all people who are serious about creating the right appetites in music are going to land in the same place. He's right that dogmatizing our personal conclusions puts us in trouble. (And as dissidens points out, he's just a hair outside the historic fundamentalist mainstream on that point.)

But biblical fidelity and robust theology are more precious than the freedom to sing sanitized Sovereign Grace music.

"Everything should be considered important and weighed out according to the Scripture."

We need to labor to squeeze every drop of divine truth out of the biblical text. We need to acknowledge that our differences may often not place significant limitations on our cooperation and fellowship, but that doesn't mean those differences are meaningless.

I wonder if the common binary mindset has produced the functional indifferentism in fundamentalism. The mindset seems to be that either something is a separation issue or it’s not important. Because if it’s important, we have to separate. And if fundamentalists have never separated over it, or if we just have a gut feeling that we shouldn’t break fellowship over a doctrine, then we ought to minimize or marginalize it.

Does this impulse explain why fundamentalist leaders discourage discussion about difficult theological issues in institutions that are perpetuated by support from a marbled constituency? Because they recognize the movement's separatist DNA and don't want that DNA to metastatize to historic non-issues and create new divisions that would further splinter the movement? I can't know with certainty whether that's related to the conversation we've just had, but we'd be fools to pretend it's implausible. And we'd be greater fools if pretend it doesn't matter.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Fruit of Revivalistic Christianity

From Tom Brokaw's November 30th interview of Ted Turner on "Meet the Press":
MR. BROKAW: You were in an early stage in your life, as you once said to me, kind of a hellfire and brimstone guy. You went...

MR. TURNER: I was. I went to a very religious school that had evangelists come periodically and I was saved, I don't know, six or seven times, including once at Billy Graham's Crusade.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Peggy Noonan on Fur Proliferation and PETA

From today's WSJ:
This is what you saw. Knit caps, parkas, plaid scarves, face warmers, hoods up, braced against the wet cold, flags on light posts, security tents, motorcades, police vans, checkpoints, flashing lights, people hopping from foot to foot when crowds slowed and they had to stand still. Stately African-American women in sweeping mink coats. A friend, a canny social observer, said, "The antifur people aren't going to take them on!" I laughed and realized yes, PETA just took one on the chin. Mink wearing will be safe in the new era. A former GOP ambassador told a friend, after walking the streets, "There is a feeling of good." Not happiness or gaiety, he said, but good—good feeling, good humor.
Just remember, you heard it here first.

And here's her little postscript on this week's Right to Life march:
There was another great gathering in Washington this week, of those who themselves are not always invited or included, because of their unflinching views. The Right to Life march was marked, according to participants, by an air of peacefulness, and unusual sweetness. The attitude toward President Obama? They prayed for him. As great Americans, which is what they are, would.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Piper on Planes, Presidents and Providence

As much as I reject Obama’s stance on abortion, I am thankful to the bottom of my soul that an African-American can be President of United States. The enormousness of it all is unspeakable. This is God’s doing. The geese were God’s doing. The landing of Flight 1549 was God’s doing. And the Obama presidency is God’s doing. “He removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

And I pray that President Obama has eyes to see. The “miracle on the Hudson” and the “miracle in the White House” are not unrelated. God has been merciful to us as a nation. Our racial sins deserved judgment a thousand times over. God does not owe America anything. We owe him everything. And instead of destruction, he has given us another soft landing. We are not dead at the bottom of the Hudson.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fundamentalist Indifferentism?

It's a curious thing, this fundamentalist impulse to attack labels and "-isms." Truth is, fundamentalists pick and choose. That's how you know what's important to them.

Gresham Machen, Dave Doran, and Kevin Bauder all agree*: In theological controversies, those who deny the historic faith aren't the final arbiters in the direction a fellowship or movement takes. Neither are those who stand ready to defend biblical truth at all costs. No, the people who decide the direction are the great bulk in the middle—men who claim to be biblicists but whose slinky spines bend whatever direction seems to keep peace. When they refuse to take a stand, those who deny the faith win since there is no collective will to expel error. Bradley Longfield's The Presbyterian Controversy documents this thesis well.

Machen, Doran, and Bauder call these men in the middle "indifferentists." I've believed for some time that fundamentalism is saturated with its own forms of indifferentism. Matt Olson's recent sermon at NBBC, discussed here and here, is just the latest example of it, no worse than many others that preceded it.

Olson's attitude is summed up in the statement, quoting a previous NBBC President, "We're no-point Calvinists. There's no point in talking about it. Don't be on either side—hyper about it or hyper against it."

To be fair, Olson attempted to clarify his words in the comments section of Bob Bixby's post, saying, among other things,
I do place great value on theology and discussing systems like Calvinism. It is part of education and growth in the life of any believer. By [sic] burden for students is when it becomes a point of pride and arrogance and when a system becomes the standard over the Word of God - and hero worship.
As much as I'm grateful for that clarification, I don't believe that he chose his words without purpose, just as I believe that spoke with purpose when he made the following comments:

I've found myself stymied in my attempts to find coherence in Olson's talk. In just 32 minutes, he struck two seemingly incompatible chords. First, he emphasized NBBC's ongoing identity as "an independent, fundamental, Baptist college and emphatically identified himself as a separatist Baptist.

Second, he outlined his opposition to adopting the Calvinist label and some imprecisely defined level of inquiry into Calvinist theology. His assertions include:
I am a little bit troubled when I get around people who are riding a system.

When you start to use labels, I think you can get yourself into trouble on a number of fronts. It becomes confusing. It becomes divisive.

[It is not healthy to the body of Christ] to be hyper-Calvinist to where you're always trying to figure out the mind of God. The secret things belong to the Lord.

There comes to a place where you just have to leave it with God.

You have to come to that place where you are in awe of God . . . not in awe of your own mind or your own ability to process those things.
I've never quite grasped why so many ministry leaders attack the Calvinist label when they would be horrified if their constituencies caught wind of some compromise on the systems and labels of fundamentalism, separatism, dispensationalism, pre-Tribulational Rapturism, cessationism, independent and Baptist. Why would men like Olson embrace some labels enthusiastically, even shaping their relationships and associations around them, and proceed to call other labels divisive?

Notice, Olson's not arguing that Calvinism is wrong. He's arguing that it's not that important and creates unnecessary divisions. But why is Calvinism more divisive than so man other "-isms"?

What's even more curious about this address is that Olson notes in a caution to aggressive anti-Calvinists that Hudson Taylor, Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, and John Paton all happily described themselves as Calvinists. Would Olson consider those men to have caused confusion or created division? Would he have been troubled to have been around them because they were riding a system? Does he really consider people who are trying to figure out the mind of God to be hyper-Calvinists? Who is suggesting that we should go beyond what Scripture affirms in order to construct a rationalistic, speculative theology? Are we not obligated to squeeze every ounce of biblical truth out the revelation we have? History is not on Olson's side, and he makes that case against himself.

I can't imagine that this sort of indifferentism is what Olson really means. But it is what he said, and the slice of the blogosphere that hears his clarifications won't include all the students who were conditioned to think in a certain way about certain dimensions of theology and the people who speak seriously about it.

It does seem that Olson used a certain style of rhetoric in an attempt to address another problem. He discussed in both his address and his comments on Bixby's blog that he was really trying to confront pride. I respect and appreciate that. I don't share his perspective that rhetoric is the right approach. Describing a theological position as "not worth talking about" is an ineffective way to address the destructive attitudes that my accompany it. That strategy may have worked in the past. It doesn't work now, and it undermines credibility among sincere, inquisitive theological minds.

The solution to proud Calvinists is not theological reductionism. A better solution would be to embrace authentic Calvinistic soteriology. Nothing could be more humbling than to grasp the depths of one's own depravity and hopelessness apart from God's sovereign work to create a new heart within us. Nothing impresses humility upon the human soul than grasping the reality that we respond to his effectual call in a way that we never would or could have apart from his unconditional election.

For that matter, why not recommend that students read C.J. Mahaney's Humility? If anyone can talk to young Calvinists about humility, he's the guy. Of course, he's not an independent-fundamental-Baptist-dispensational-cessationist. But does that make it too much to ask?

*One of my axioms for life and ministry is, when Machen, Doran and Bauder agree, I'd be an idiot to disagree.

PETA Cannot Be Pleased

I believe I saw more dead animals on the Mall this weekend than on all the berms of lonely Midwestern county roads in all my life. It's not that I have a problem with wearing furs. I just found it a bit . . . ironic, given the special interests gaining influence in Washington.

Just a little FYI: These are not all women.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I just got back from a jog on the Mall and around the White House, and it's crazy out there. Thousands of people—I'm guessing in the tens of thousands—are just walking around looking at the setup and buying lots of stuff. I don't think there's anything else going on, except for MSNBC's outdoor broadcast booth.

There's more energy in the air than yesterday when the Mall was full from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument for the concert. The trip was exhilarating—probably a combination of the chilly weather, the electric atmosphere, and the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of my favorite former President.

The sense I take away, and I could certainly be reading my expectations into this, is that African Americans are enjoying this moment when America really feels like their country—perhaps for the first time. No matter what policies shape the next four or eight years, I'm convinced that is a welcome and long-overdue hurdle we've crossed in American history.

One other observation has stuck out to me this weekend, but it deserves some photojournalism. Hopefully that'll happen tomorrow.

For what it's worth, there was also a little bit of pandamonium in town this weekend.

Plane Crash/Rescue Video

Those of you who live in the land where people watch TV may have already seen this a bajillion times, but this video shows how stunningly fast passengers got off the plane and how quickly NYC ferries arrived. The plane comes into view about 2 minutes in.

"Wall Street did get "drunk" but Washington had set up the open bar."

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting narrative on how government policies created the economic crisis.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Ponzi Scheme That You're Falling For


That's the number of years it'll take Social Security just to pay me back the principal that I'll have been forced to hand over for decades.

In other words, when I'm eligible for retirement benefits at age 67, I will have to live past the age of 80 just to get back the exact same amount of money that I started paying them when I was a teenager. I won't see the first penny of interest until I'm well past the actuarial charts. I'd be better off stuffing the cash in my mattress, because at least then I'd get all the principal on the day I retire.

I did the math. When you get your annual Social Security statement, you should do it too. Here's the formula I used. And of course, this is assuming the system's still afloat in a few more decades.

We've all been hearing about Bernard Madoff's $50 billion dollar fraud, but that's dwarfed by the $40 trilion scam our federal government is running with Social Security and Medicare. John Stossel lays out all the details in this article at Don't read it unless you're in the mood to be infuriated.

Live from DC: It's Inauguration Weekend (Plus a Media Bias Bonus)

Hey friends and non-friend readers, let me know if there's any boots-on-the-ground info you'd like from my 'hood 5 blocks from the Capitol. I'm hoping to make it out for a few events this weekend, at least to watch from a safe distance. At the very least I expect to be able to catch then-former President Bush's departure from the east plaza of the Capitol, which is just a stone's throw away. For some reason I'm thinking the crowds will be thinner on that side of the dome.

And now for the real purpose of this post. Here's an old but hysterical article from the Washington Post back in campaign season. The gist of the article is that research confirmed that Fox News election coverage was harder on Obama and more positive on McCain than MSNBC. No big surprise there, right?

Well here's the kicker. Look at the actual research numbers.
Nearly three-quarters -- 73 percent -- of MSNBC's reports on McCain were deemed negative, compared to 57 percent in the media overall. Just 14 percent of the channel's Obama stories were negative, compared to 29 percent in the rest of the media. In the week of Sept. 8, when McCain was enjoying a post-convention bounce, MSNBC's negative stories on the Republican nominee outweighed positive stories by more than 7 to 1.

At Fox, 40 percent of the coverage of Obama was negative, while 40 percent of the McCain coverage was negative. That amounted to rough parity within the Fox universe, but the network was significantly harder on Obama and easier on McCain than others in the media world. Fox was also more favorably disposed toward Sarah Palin, with 37 percent of its stories positive, compared to 28 percent in the media generally.
Did you catch that? "That amounted to rough parity within the Fox universe, but the network was significantly harder on Obama and easier on McCain than others in the media world." So in other words, while Fox was equally critical of both candidates, MSNBC ran more than five times as many negative stories on Obama than McCain. But Fox had a pro-McCain bias because they weren't as pro-Obama and anti-McCain as everyone else.

I didn't like either candidate, and I didn't vote for either one. But this kind of myopia, intellectual bankruptcy, and complete lack of objectivity is simply astonishing.

P.S. Sorry you have to look at that picture of Keith Olbermann. Not much I could do about that.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Kingdom and the New Evangelicals: A Conscience in Search of a Theology?

About a year ago I finished reading Russell Moore's The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective. This book isn't primarily about the controversies that provoked the division between the Fundamentalist and (New) Evangelical movements. Rather, it's an examination of the theological arguments advanced by the New Evangelicalism that are too easily lost in the shadows of the controversy that arose when so many of the New Evangelicals went off the theological rails.

Moore takes us back to those discussions of kingdom eschatology, ecclesiology, and soteriology and shows how New Evangelicals proposed a theological system that was on many points distinct from both traditional Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. My sense is that eschatology is the cornerstone issue, though not as much the eschatology of Daniel and Revelation as the eschatology of the Gospels and the Epistles. In other words, in what sense are we living in the last days? How, if at all, have the Kingdom promises of the Old Testament been fulfilled through Christ's incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension? What is the relationship between the Abrahamic Covenant and the establishment of the Church? What effect should the answers to those questions have on our understanding of the mission of the Church?

If these are questions you'd like to understand better, this will be a helpful book even if you don't fully agree with Moore. His documentation is voluminous, and the footnotes are well worth reading even though they'll probably triple the amount of time it takes to read the book. More importantly, he offers a wide perspective on the Dispensationalism-Covenant Theology debate that's unlike anything else I've encountered. The icing on the cake of this book is that it connects the dots [mixed metaphor, yeah I know] for those who, like me, have wondered why Fundamentalist Dispensationalists are so quick to divide over eschatology and to be so harshly critical of Progressive Dispensationalism. Moore paints the historical picture of how revisions to traditional Dispensationalism and its eschatology in particular are so closely associated with a movement that deliberately repudiated and distanced itself from the Fundamentalist movement. It's not hard to see why people who saw the New Evangelicalism devolve would react strongly against anything that carries a whiff of the old, familiar scent of gospel compromise.

An analytical approach that was useful to me as I read was to weigh whether the New Evangelical perspective was really driven by exegesis, or whether it was a civic conscience in search of a theology to justify itself. Though I'm far closer to a conclusion now than I was before I started reading, I'm not sufficiently convinced to shoot my mouth off, at least not on that point. At least not yet. In any case, in our current theopolitical climate, this is a matter in which we need careful thinking from believers much more than we need emotional manipulation from vapid mush-head young evangelicals.

What prompts this conversation now is that Moore recently posted a tight little article on his blog, "Is There a Future for Israel?" If you've never thought much about the issues, or you've only heard one side of the Dispensationalism-Covenant Theology conversation, this would be an accessible and thought-provoking piece to read. If it piques your interest, it might be worth giving his full volume a shot.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The People Who Can Convict Hearts While They're Talking About Worldliness

I plan to read C.J. Mahaney's Worldliness in the next few weeks. Right now I'm finishing a series of sermons delivered at Covenant Life Church on what it means to be in the world and not of it. I've been told Mahaney's book was developed largely from those sermons.

As I've listened to them, I've been struck by how much these pastors are leading their congregation to weigh the same kinds of worldliness issues any church in the fundamentalist orbit would. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying or my memory fails, but it seems to me that the only meaningful issues difference is that Kauflin dismisses as ridiculous the notion that a rhythm with an off beat is innately carnal.

What's really striking is how consistently Mahaney, Kauflin, and Harris circle back to deal with heart issues. Especially Mahaney. So we hear him saying, "Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline." He asks his church to consider internal priorities and motivations and values—the kinds of questions that aren't likely to create universal standards or binary decisions, but are designed to help believers understand the condition of their own hearts.

Seems as though there's a big difference between that and "I can tell a lot about how spiritual a guy is by the length of his hair," or "Am I telling you that because my wife and daughters don't wear slacks that you shouldn't either? Yes, that's exactly what I'm telling you!" (True stories, both of them. Somewhere out there are about a thousand of you who heard the latter.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Paleoevangelical of the Year 2008

I've previously argued that ethnic discrimination propagated by professing Christians, churches, or Christian organizations is antithetical to the gospel.

For that reason, I want to recognize the organizers of as the 2009 Paleoevangelicals of the Year.

I can't entirely explain the cocktail of cultural and religious pressure that affects so many BJU alumni, leading them to tolerate and even defend the intolerable and indefensible. I know that it affected me for far too long. The fear of man brings a snare.

What I appreciate so much about the organizers is that they not only broke free from that pressure, but did so in a gracious, humble, gospel-centered fashion. I have much to learn from them.

Not to be overlooked in this conversation is the fact that BJU released an apology. Though I have no way of knowing who all was behind that decision, it seems inescapable to me that Stephen Jones deserves public acknowledgement and thanks for his leadership. Although my initial reaction to the BJU statement focused on its obvious deficiencies, further reflection and other perspective shared with me in subsequent days led me to focus on the positive. For the University that stands without apology to apologize may have seemed like a small step, but it was more like a giant leap.

BJU is not simply a school; it's a culture. The people who created that culture—former administrators, influential constituent pastors, major donors, and perhaps most significantly, long-time members of the Board of Trustees—may well remain personally invested in the mindset that created discriminatory policies. Stephen Jones' decision to apologize was made in the midst of that culture, and any deficiencies in the wording are more than offset, in my opinion, by the sincerity and courage it took to say what was said.

Finally, it seems that the reactions from the kind of people who were discriminated against have been largely forgiving and grateful. This suggests to me that through an apology, a faithful picture of the gospel has been put on display to a watching world. That many haters of the gospel find another opportunity to mock BJU is finally a credit to the school since that mockery now arises from Christlike humility rather than, well, ugly things. Thanks to the men and women who served as catalysts in eliciting that apology.

A Hermeneutic of Diversity

Mark DeYmaz' Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church is a terrific book. It makes a powerful case that one of the central purposes of the work of the gospel is to break down ethnic barriers in order to create one people of God in the Church. Therefore, the ongoing propagation of unjustifiable ethnic barriers or discrimination is antithetical to the gospel. DeYmaz' argument pulled together several strands of thought that had been present in my mind and provoked me to voice my support for the recent appeals from BJU alumni that the school's leadership acknowledge and apologize publicly for decades of such unjustifiable barriers and discrimination.

Several months ago, I posted a link to my review of the book and added a few other comments. That review contained some criticism of the author's exegesis of a few passages and the ecclesiological implications of his practical suggestions. The author responded and requested that I offer specific examples. I promised a reply in a day or two. That was just over four months ago. So while I apologize for my tardiness, I want to follow through on that commitment. In doing so, in no way do I want to undermine my appreciation for DeYmaz' worthy contribution on an important matter in 21st century American church life.

Here, then, is a chronological list of the passages where I'm unconvinced that DeYmaz' arguments are supported by the text.

Page 22: DeYmaz suggests that the unusual presence of cross-ethnic relationships in the church at Antioch is the reason the disciples first called Christians in that city. Though that's possibly true, the text offers no clear affirmation of that notion.

32-33: DeYmaz argues that something has been lost from the text after the Greek phrase “in the heavenly” in Ephesians 3:10. He believes that something has been lost from the original text since Paul would not have ended the sentence that way and since it’s inconceivable to him to limit “God’s display of wisdom to those rulers and authorities dwelling only in heavenly places.”

The problems here seem so obvious and substantial that I almost wonder whether I’m missing something. First, the last word in the phrase quoted above is a plural noun, not a singular adjective—heavenlies, not heavenly. Second, there is no significant textual variant whatsoever (according to my UBS Greek text) in the verse. Third, this same phrase, “in the heavenly places,” appears four other times in Ephesians (1:3, 20; 2:6; 6:12). In none of those identical usages is there any textual evidence whatsoever that anything has been lost from what Paul wrote. For these three reasons, DeYmaz’ analysis is wholly speculative and imprudent.

35-37: Commentators acknowledge that the first love from which the church at Ephesus departed is difficult to identify dogmatically. Is it possible that this first love was love and fellowship across ethnic divisions? Perhaps. But this is certainly not stated by in the text, and DeYmaz’ proposal that this is the first love simply on the grounds that it is the first quality for which the Ephesians are commended in Paul’s epistle to them is exegetically unsupported.

59-60: DeYmaz argues that churches should accommodate approaches to ministry and cultural expressions that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable to the ethnic majority. I agree that we should not assume from the start that either the majority or the minority cultural expressions are superior. But DeYmaz approach seems to assume that cultural expressions are neutral as media for communicating biblical truth. I do not accept that presupposition, and a faulty presupposition can have severely detrimental effects on churches that adopt expressions in an attempt to attract and accommodate groups. We must not compromise the clarity of the biblical message in an attempt to mold it into the shape of cultural expressions that may be incompatible with that truth. I believe DeYmaz is right to propose accommodation in the sense of not forcing others into our preferences, but wrong to assume that all forms are created equal.

71: DeYmaz builds many of his arguments on specific details nested in narrative texts. I think he often pushes the significance of these details too far, but other interpreters too often ignore the significance of these details. I think DeYmaz is correct to recognize the significance of the broad range of ethnicities present in the church at Antioch. So despite my disagreement with many of his conclusions, I don’t reject his approach categorically. In other words, I agree that Luke intended to demonstrate the power of the gospel to transcend ethnicity when he wrote about the multi-ethnic character of the church in Antioch. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that this is an example of choosing leaders based on their ethnicity. The presence of a broad range of ethnicities in the leadership may simply reflect the presence of a broad range of ethnicities in the membership.

71: DeYmaz suggests that Paul chose Timothy because of his multicultural heritage. Though it’s impossible to suggest this could not be true, the text simply does not affirm it. The reality is that of all the NT discussions of the qualifications for pastoral ministry, ethnic diversity is never offered as a decisive factor, or even a worthy consideration.

99: DeYmaz argues that the story of Ruth offers an example of cross-cultural competence (CCC). I think CCC is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think the message of Ruth is to pursue CCC. We find lots of examples of qualities and attitudes in Scripture that the text is not teaching us to imitate.

112: DeYmaz uses Philippians 2 to defend the neutrality of styles of worship, but there’s more to the conversation than that. Can all styles equally communicate truth about God, or is it possible that some styles are less equipped to do so? The discussion is not that simple. A blanket assertion that we should consider others’ interests above our own doesn’t trump that conversation. DeYmaz” argument overlooks the possibility that we may not serve the interests of an ethnic minority by appealing to its preferences. Of course, we must also remember that appealing to the preferences of the ethnic majority may be equally or even more contrary to its genuine interests.

Having said all that, I still recommend the book. Its central thesis is sound. Just read critically.