Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monday, January 30, 2006

Enigmatic Driscoll

I don't want to be one of those guys who wildly take pot shots at everyone, relishing any justification to check off one more evangelical as a validated apostate. So, in order to be fair, I want to point out Mark Driscoll's strong if not [warning] a bit crass stand against Brian McLaren's foolish prancing around biblical teaching on homosexuality. Clearly, not everyone in the broad emerging movement is cut out of the same cloth, even though I don't understand how Driscoll can defend Schuller one moment and condemn McLaren the next, particularly in light of what Schuller has to say about homosexuality.

"The Christianoid Trump-Card"

Re: Our recent debate on senses, impressions, and the mystical view of God's will: [Dan Phillips—correction] articulates my thoughts exactly.

Here We Go Again

For your daily dose of Christians falling all over themselves to claim another victory in the culture wars, read this.

Or don't.

As Charlie Brown would say, "Good grief."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gospel-Centered Cooperation (Part 2)

Here's the section I promised that addresses the new evangelical strategy.
Mohler: I think the whole idea of the evangelical dream of Carl Henry and Harold John Ockenga and . . . Dever: Christianity Today, the National Association of Evangelicals . . . Mohler: in the period right after World War 2 is one of those critical times we need to go back and look at. And I just have to acknowledge that Dr. Henry is a mentor to me and to many of us in this room, but very personally was like a theological father to me in a lot of ways, and yet I have to say that I think the evangelicals of that generation had a far too optimistic understanding of how easy it would be to stand on the gospel, and because of this, they just abdicated ecclesiology, and so they became a para-church movement, and I think that's the worst thing we can do in retrospect.

[Dever comments about Henry's faithfulness late in life to the church that Dever pastored and of which Henry was a member.]

Dever: Ecclesiology does not seem to play a prominent role [in Henry's theology], and so what you have are these big concepts that he wants a united front on, and they're all great concepts, but the enfleshment of them you don't see in the church. Mohler: Yeah, I think that's our generation's task . . . I think [the new evangelicals] saw themselves in a moment of cultural opportunity, and my thesis is that we're now in a moment of cultural crisis where we're not going to be seduced by that false impression, but we can be very much seduced by things we're not seeing in our own times as the danger.

Dever: I think we have a particular responsibility to talk to pastors because if we try to recongregationalize Christianity, not anti-Presbyterian in the sense congregational, but in the sense to, you know, just have people in churches that we would all think it is a good thing . . . Mohler: Local churches loving the gospel . . . Dever: Yeah, that's going to display different lives that are then going to begin to address some of those issues, so it's not a full-on Anabaptist separatism, but it's saying that the best way we can witness to the world and the culture, or one of the best ways—an indispensable part of it and the trunk of it—is by having disciplined communities of people who are effectively demonstrations.

Mohler: The lack of that discipline was the fatal absence in the evangelical structure. In other words, there was no way to say who was and wasn't. There still isn't any way to say who is and isn't an evangelical, and therein lies the problem.
And that is precisely what D.G. Hart is saying in Deconstructing Evangelicalism, as I have commented. Finally, I'm not going to take the time to transcribe it, but in the closing minutes they critique what has been called a "sell-out" to Rome in Mark Noll's book, Is the Reformation Over?

Parables Are Fun

At first I thought this team-blogging thing would be subtraction by addition. I might have been wrong. I couldn't possible have said it any more pointedly or concisely than Centurion's post yesterday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Gospel-Centered Cooperation

I want to whet your appetite to listen to a great conversation between two Baptists (Mohler and Dever), a Presbyterian (Duncan), and a Reformed charismatic (little c, at least in my opinion) (Mahaney). For some insightful analysis, you can read Ryan Martin's thoughts here. I'll stick to a few of the more pointed quotes. They are not contiguous, but scattered throughout the hour-plus conversation.
Dever: I think that this generation is used to thinking, "If you've got the gospel in common, you've got everything in common.

Mohler's response: "I think the true scandal of denominationalism is not that we are a part of separate churches. It is that somehow due to our sin, and due to our deep embeddedness in interpretive traditions and all the rest, somehow, brothers who passionately and equally love the gospel have not yet in this age come to a like mind on some very important issues having to do with how you would constitute a church, how you would understand baptism, and many other issues. I don't see the scandal as institutional . . . I think the real scandal is that it is a humbling issue for us to recognize how much we need what only Christ can bring when we see him face to face and where we will find out that these issues really are more important than we understood them to be, and yet we will understood them fully.

Dever (to Duncan): I think it makes sense that I could have you come and preach but that you couldn't join our church. Now does that make sense to you?

Duncan: Yes, it does.

Mohler (in response to Dever's question about inter-church cooperation in evangelism: It certainly, from a New Testament perspective, can't be wrong to be about common cause in declaring the gospel. [Note: This statement will likely be interpreted as an "anything goes" approach to ecumenical evangelism. You'll want to listen to the last 15-20 minutes to hear Mohler clarify how to him, proclaiming the gospel means far more than just an evangelistic activity. Proclaiming the gospel inherently demands the purity of its proclamation]

Dever: I did a membership interview yesterday with a family who had been—this guy had been made not a deacon in his local church because they sent their daughters to Liberty, and that was considered too liberal, so this man had been removed from his diaconal service in his church because of that. [Assuming this is the whole story, yikes.]

Mohler: One of my concerns is that we not cooperate in a way that would imply that someone's a believer when they don't believe that they are.

Mohler: If [any] of you heard me say something that you believed was injurious to the gospel, you would love me enough to tell me.

Mohler: Let me say say as a Southern Baptist, there are Baptist churches I would not want a lost person to visit because I would be unassured that they would be confronted with the saving gospel.

Mohler: I love what we do. When we talk about being together for the Gospel, it's because, you know, we're unashamed to say that I think at least some of my brethren in this room are just wrong on some issues . . . Dever: Oh, I have called Lig a sinner in the blogosphere that I rarely go into. Mohler: Well, and they're certain that I'm wrong, and I love them for believing I'm wrong—for loving the truth more than they love me and loving me enough to talk about the truth in this way. Duncan: But that's the difference between a genuinely Christian cooperation and a politically correct cooperation . . . that minimizes the truth. It's cooperation and unity at the expense of truth, not because of unity in the truth. And again, that's why I think that this kind of cooperation where commitment to truth is not compromised is a better witness to the world about the nature of true Christian cooperation than a kind that says, "Well, after all, it really doesn't matter what you believe about this or that."

Mohler: When we talk about the gospel, we're not just talking about how one is saved, we're talking about the gospel as the great good news of what God has done for us in Christ. And so there again, we're talking about thick gospel, not thin gospel.

Duncan: The relationships represented in this room have, because of the particularities of the convictions of each one of you, those have not been detriments to cooperation or to personal benefit. Those have been enhancements to cooperation and personal benefit. One, because there is a core commitment to what the Bible teaches about salvation in a comprehensive way—not in a minimalistic way—but in a comprehensive way. And that is so much on the battle line in the world in which we live, both inside the church and outside of it.
I must stop there. There are a couple more quotes I'd like to share. Perhaps tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Deconstructing Evangelicalism (Part 3) [or] One More Good Culture Rant

I've briefly discussed D.G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham in two previous posts, one a general overview, and the other on his chapter on church music. I had planned for one more, but due to the recent wave of cultural commentary, I thought it might be worthwhile to insert some bonus Hart.

As I briefly noted in my overview post, Hart argues that evangelicalism has grown to stand far more for conservative politics than for any coherent statement of biblical faith. He writes:
Evangelicalism came to national attention when believers claiming that identity entered the drama (stage right, of course) of electoral politics. That occurrence gave academics who study religion in the United States lots of material to analyze. The emergence of evangelicalism as a political lobby may also have spelled the demise of this particular faith because it diverted born-again Protestants' attention from spiritual to temporal realities [emphasis mine].
p. 176
So is this all we're about? Political power? Maybe I should go a step farther because Hart may have stopped short. These days, evangelicals (fundamentalists too!) can do more than vote. We can also buy. We are every bit as much materialistic consumers as the secular left and center. We evangelicals are getting rich, and we're acquiring a refined taste to go with it. So now, we don't have to wait for elections and the great levelling "one man one vote" principle for our voices to be heard. We can do like big business and the mainline denominations have always done and just go buy our power like everyone else.

One can certainly argue that the recent spate of evangelical furor over "The Book of Daniel" and "The End of the Spear" is an accurate rebuke of real error. But are these culture wars really where we want to focus our efforts? Is our politicial/economic weight really that for which we want to be known?

Someone, please make it stop.

I love the conclusion of Charles Marsh in his New York Times op-ed from January 20th, "Wayward Christian Soldiers":
What will it take for evangelicals in the United States to recognize our mistaken loyalty? We have increasingly isolated ourselves from the shared faith of the global Church, and there is no denying that our Faustian bargain for access and power has undermined the credibility of our moral and evangelistic witness in the world. The Hebrew prophets might call us to repentance, but repentance is a tough demand for a people utterly convinced of their righteousness.

Yay! Another Win in the Culture Wars!!!!!

"The Book of Daniel" is dead. Evangelicals win again, dawg. How you like that, Hollywood?


Bulletin: Evangelicals may now stop sending boycott e-mails and return instead to their regularly scheduled five hours per evening of TV that embraces every other sin besides homosexuality.

When Is It Wrong to Discuss Public Error?

In the comments to a recent post, I was rebuked for, well, I'm not exactly sure what for. Maybe missing the point of the post on another blog to which I linked.

I really do think I got the point. I just didn't appreciate it because the post either didn't provide enough information to be justifiable, or else it was just plain harmful to the exclusivity of gospel and to the name of Jesus Christ.

Today, I'm minding my own business eating lunch and reading Adrian Warnock's interview of Justin Taylor when I stumble on some thought that seem relevant. Concerning proper responses to the emerging church, Taylor says:
[I]t is possible elevate “tone” and “manner” in such a way that any critique or concern must be couched in such nuance and qualification that it loses all of its prophetic edge. Compare how Paul wrote to the Galatians and the Philippians. To the churches at Galatia he was justifiably angry and condemnatory due to the introduction of a false gospel. But we don’t find that same attitude when he writes to the Philippians. There are people there who are preaching in order that Paul would be persecuted. (More gospel preaching meant more persecution.) But Paul rejoices! What’s the difference? In the one situation, the tone and attitude is ungodly, and yet Paul is overjoyed because the truth is nonetheless being proclaimed. In the other situation, the motives may have been sincere, but the content of the no-gospel led Paul to speak in the harshest of terms. I think this example should be instructive for us not to put “tone” out of its biblical perspective.
I'm not sure whether the criticism is of my tone or the fact that I explained the basis for my disagreement. I do know this: It is very easy for me to delve into an inappropriate tone. In light of the fact that I do not write under inspiration, when I write about what seems to be harm to the gospel, I will do my dead level best to have a more gracious tone than Paul.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Should Pastors Target Their Preaching to Fix Their Church's Immediate Problems?

John MacArthur says no. In a Q&A from the series, "Insights into a Pastor's Heart: Convictions and Observations About Preachers and Preaching," he answers a question about how to cultivate a congregation's appetite for expositional preaching:
I would say do two things. Preach exposition that exalts Jesus Christ. Nobody will argue with that. So preach a gospel. Preach Hebrews. Preach Colossians. Preach particularly the gospels because the text is narrative largely, it has drama, it has pathos, it has interest. Rather than going in there and say, doing a series on the church or a series, you know, trying to change the church, preach Christ. Exalt Christ.

And secondly, preach material that is going to have a dramatic effect on their own spiritual lives. And if they see the power of the Word of God to change their lives, they'll be open to the power of God to change their church.
Exalting Christ is critical. It should be being done all the time anyway. And then I think emphasizing the things that change peoples lives before you go in and try to restructure the church, and I did that by getting into Ephesians. And Ephesians [shows us how] we were once dead in trespasses and sins and how the Lord had changed our lives, and now we need to walk worthy. And we got into all of that, and we saw the Lord begin to change some lives, and then they were eager to have Him change the church. And it was after that that I went into the book of Acts and showed how the church ministered. And then I went into 1 Corinthians to show them what the church needed to be, and we got more refined in that area.

So I would say, exalt Jesus Christ. Lift up Christ, and lift up God.

Today's Quote: Guess Away

This may well be too easy. But I'm really wanting to get rid of these TNIVs. I'll send one to the winner if it's one of the first five guesses.
If [any] of you heard me say something that you believed was injurious to the gospel, you would love me enough to tell me.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The End of the Spear Controversy: Cleaning up Other People's Messes

From the moment I heard last week that criticism of The End of the Spear was about to break out, I had an internal sense that something was off-target. My problem was that I could not find the ideas, let alone the words, to articulate this sense. I must say clearly that I do not disagree with anything I have read from the critics of the casting choice and the sparcity of the gospel (Janz, Bauder, Mohler, Challies, and Bixby).

Let there be no mistake, I believe that these decisions of Every Tribe Entertainment (ETE), the production company, were at best incomprehensibly foolish and at worst reprehensible. And I lean toward the latter. Therefore, my complaint here is not with the message of these authors or the stand they have taken. In substance, I'm convinced they are dead right.

What crystallized my thinking on this issue was an e-mail from a friend today discussing an article on the controversy that was sent to us by a mutual friend. (By the way, Josh Scheiderer has been a long-time source of wisdom in my life, and he really ought to be blogging.) Here's the first sentence of his e-mail to me today:
I'm sorry, but if this is the where the "Christian worldview" has taken us (movies about the power of the gospel without overtly declaring the gospel, not in sermonic form but in theatric fashion) then Christians have been duped again.
Bingo. It clicked.

The source of my sense of unease is that Christians are shooting at the wrong target. The root problem is not Steve Saint or ETE. It is in Christians themselves who have unrealistically optimistic expectations for the redemption of culture. You've heard it all before when evangelical leaders have talked about the newest, biggest victory in the battle to inject Christianity into the culture. I don't need to go through a recital of recent blockbuster movies and religious-themed pop music and sports stars who point at the sky or bow for two seconds to pray when they score a touchdown.

What really seems to be ticking Christians off is that the grand evangelical strategy is blowing up in our faces. We've fought so hard to get a seat at the table, and now we find out that the food stinks. Haven't we gone through this song and dance before? Why are all our eyes bugging out and our chins dragging on the floor as if this were some big surprise?

I realize putting this in bold italics will not make a believer out of anyone, but I'm going to do it anyway: WE ARE NOT GOING TO REDEEM CULTURE. The problem is not that we don't like the movie; it's that we care. The problem is not that the production company blew it; it's that we're surprised. The root problem is not even the production company's choices; it's with those who are foisting this cultural mandate on evangelicalism as if it were the grand pinnacle of the Church's mission.

To my fellow dispensationalists (of whatever stripe ye may be—likely even more of one than I): Your arguments are right, and you're not wrong to take it public. I just don't quite get why it's such a big deal. This is somebody else's mess, and it's a big one. Don't spend too much of your valuable time trying to clean it up. They're just going to start another foodfight sooner or later.

Driscoll on Schuller

Many think of Mark Driscoll as the conservative edge of the Emerging Church movement. His preaching is largely expositional, and he has been quoted as saying that to imbibe the frequent emerging church denial of historic doctrine is "drinking from the emerging church toilet."

Those who think of him in this way may be surprised to hear his reflections on his recent visit to Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral.

HT: Paradoxum

Amen 2

Kevin Bauder on "getting over it":
I’ve learned one lesson from the whole conversation about “getting over it.” There appears to be nothing that fundamentalists (young and old, Left and Right, present and former) love to talk about so much as themselves. Moreover, a sizable minority (young and old, Left and Right, present and former) has a kind of prurient fascination with the ugly side of fundamentalism. I am all for being frank about our faults, but much of that fascination fails to rise above the level of infantile self-absorption. This is where we really do need to get over it.

May I be pardoned if I admit that I get bored with this kind of thing? Beyond a certain point, introspection is not only morbid, it is monotonous. No wonder people find fundamentalists to be tedious—living in a world filled with wonders, surrounded by the marvels of civilization and culture, overshadowed by the mighty God, and showered with the unsearchable riches, the thing that we most delight in discussing is ourselves! Yes, getting over it would be a very good thing to do.

World on The Book of Daniel

Gene Veith makes a great point about The Book of Daniel (NBC's new show on a liberal Episcopal priest) that had not occurred to me. He writes:
And yet, those critics are wrong when they say that The Book of Daniel does not accurately reflect America's churches. It actually captures very well many of America's churches. At several points, the clergymen and clergywomen in the show refer to the current conflict in the Episcopal church between orthodox believers and progressives like themselves. "We have an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire," exclaims Daniel, defending his son's homosexuality. "It's time we stumble into the 21st century."

Daniel is simply the face of liberal theology. The same kind of worldliness, cultural conformity, sexual permissiveness, and baptized secularism is rampant in mainline Protestantism. And it is creeping into evangelical circles.
Duh. Why hasn't this observation been obvious? How could Hollywood get the Church right when the vast majority of churches don't get the Church right? Why should Christians be more upset and vocal about the distortions in Hollywood's picture of the Church than they are about their own church's distortions of Scripture?

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Don't feel like you must wade into the whole the thread, but read this post. Better advice has seldom been offered. (The general context is a debate over whether we should or should not expose the past sins of fundamentalism.)

Cessationism Arguments

I imagine Phil Johnson's excellent posts (1 2 3 4) on cessationism are old news by now; however, you may not have seen Nate Busenitz's series at Faith and Practice (1 2 3). I fully realize this is a ton of content for blog-dazed minds to process. I'm posting it to make it easier for me to reference more than anything. If you do wade in, I would encourage you to read the comments in Busenitz's posts 2 and 3. They contain some good questions and clarifications.


"[I]t is required of the loyal servant of King Jesus to maintain all His crown rights and stand up for every word of His laws. Friends chide us and foes abhor us when we are very jealous for the Lord God of Israel, but what do these things matter if the Master approves?"
-Charles Spurgeon

"I am absolutely unconcerned with what any person might think."
-John MacArthur

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Implications of the Origins of Musical Styles

Chapter 6 of Deconstructing Evangelicalism is titled "Worship in Rhythm and Tune." It examines the history and objectives of music in contemporary evangelicalism. After arguing that contemporary praise and worship music grew out of the charismatic movement, he develops a conclusion in conjunction with some comments from Donald P. Hustad's forword to Barry Liesch's book, New Worship. The thought-provoking quote block below is a quotation of Hart that contains quotes from Hustad.
"[C]harismatic believers have a right to develop their own theology and exegesis, and they have done this well." After all, it's a free country, and in the United States that freedom especially gives believers the liberty to design worship and forms of devotion geared to popular sovereignty rather than beholden to an official church or governmental liturgical agency. The trouble, however, as Hustad explained, is that charismatic forms of worship are not readily compatible with non-charismatic religious traditions. For this reason, he warned that "noncharismatics should not thoughtlessly copy or imitate [charismatics'] worship formulae, unless they expect to enter the same "Holy of Holies in the same way." Instead, religious adherents of historic Protestant traditions "should develop their worship rationale based on their scriptural understanding, and then sing up to their own theology."
I offer this as food for thought, not as dogma. I don't profess to be a worship expert or even one of other fine minds. What is significant about this argument to me is that it is a discussion about music grounded in its overt theological purpose, not merely abstract arguments about form and message. The question is to what degree the form of music is shaped by the theological intent. Can non-charismatics sing non-charismatic words in a form adopted from charismatics in authentic, biblical worship? Is a form necessarily affected by the purpose of its origins? Are there other questions, perhaps even more important ones, that have not yet occurred to me?

To take it a step further, what if we applied this reasoning to conservative fundamentalist music? Given that so much of the music written in the past 150 years or so was explicitly revivalistic, or intended to prepare for or to elicit an emotional response to an evangelistic sermon, would the same line of reasoning not hold true? If Hart's argument is right, then those who are disturbed by invitation responses that are motivated primarily by emotions need to abandon forms that are rooted in revivalism.

Together for the Gospel Blog

I expect this to be quite good.

Deconstructing Evangelicalism: A Brief Overview

D. G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham makes the point that the term "evangelicalism" is essentially meaningless. Those who coined the term were intending to create a broad coalition of conservative Christians to function as a countervailing force to the liberal mainline denominations. In so doing, they reduced the baseline for calling oneself an evangelical to so little that the term and the movement says virtually nothing about a theological commitment to anything.

What the term did was provide a useful tool for historians and pollsters. In the past 30 years a body of literature on evangelicals and evangelicalism has exploded. Hart argues that the reason is that publishers are more likely to buy a book that can be sold to a broader market than analysis of just one distinct denomination. Folks like Gallup and Barna love evangelicalism because it likewise makes their data more interesting to more people. Of course, Hart argues that this is hardly surprising since the questions and characteristics pollsters have used to identify and track evangelicals has far more to do with social conservative politics than with theology that is faithful to the gospel.

I intend to follow this post with a couple more on some specific issues Hart addresses. This book probably is not a must-read for all evangelicals or fundamentalists since it is fairly technical and demands some prerequisite knowledge, but his conclusions ought to be discussed more than they seem to have been to this point. If you are committed to understanding the history of evangelicalism, you will not want to miss Hart's analysis.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Best of David: A Passage to Ponder

I read this passage yesterday and had that experience of reading a text and feeling as though I had never read it before. David's expression of the majesty and wonder of God on the occasion of his gathering of offerings for the building of the temple is a statement of his heart of worship that is simply breathtaking to me. Since it's in the last chapter of 1 Chronicles rather than Psalms, I suspect that it is overlooked and under-preached. I hope it grips you as it did me.
1 Chronicles 29:10-22

10Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: "Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

14"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 15For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.[a] 16O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. 17I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. 18O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. 19Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision."

20Then David said to all the assembly, "Bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and paid homage to the LORD and to the king. 21And they offered sacrifices to the LORD, and on the next day offered burnt offerings to the LORD, 1,000 bulls, 1,000 rams, and 1,000 lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel. 22And they ate and drank before the LORD on that day with great gladness.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Forgiveness Is About God Too

Lest we be tempted to think it's all about us, here are some great thoughts from the mysterious Bob and his friend Charles.

Pat Robertson Pays a Price

Israel has now dropped the hammer on Robertson's planned amusement park by the Sea of Galilee. Maybe every cloud does have a silver lining.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

An SBC Insider Critiques Church Growth Philosophy

William Brown, associate professor of Evangelism and Church Planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a great article in SBC Life on church growth and Finneyism. He doesn't go as far in his critiques as I might, but I see his willingness to address the pragmatism-driven mindset in the SBC as a great step in the right direction, particularly given the prevailing winds in SBC evangelistic philosophy. I see this statement as the crux of his point:
One of the first rules of wilderness survival is stay in one spot. The more one tries to not be lost, the worst his situation becomes. Lost seekers can not find salvation, only another spiritual fix. Seeker theology has damaged the lost and the church. Many seekers have become "Christians" without experiencing conversion and becoming followers of Christ.

Vaccinations work by exposing the patient to a dead or weakened form of the disease, thereby promoting the body's immune system to reject the real disease. Have we inoculated a generation of Americans against biblical Christianity's call to discipleship? I am afraid so.

Rather than trying to attract the lost, the Good Shepherd went in search of the lost sheep. The Great Commission commands us to go. [emphasis mine]
HT: Tom Ascol at Founders Blog

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Tougher Quote This Time: Guess Away

No Googling, but I don't think that will help. I'll put a complimentary copy of the TNIV on the line for anyone who gets it in the first five guesses. Please, I really want to get rid of them.
Fundamentalists lost [the fundamentalist-modernist controversy because] they reduced the theology of the Bible to the five-fold points: the virgin birth of Jesus, the sinlessness of Christ, the substitutionary atonment, the bodily resurrection, [and the] personal return of Christ. This was all biblical, but it was a much better way of dealing with the theological concessions of the modernists than it was a full-orbed statement of biblical theology.

Man Knows Not His Time: An in-My-Face Reminder

Whatever you do, don't read this story and think that I'm a model evangelist. Far from it. This is just one story, but I hope these events push me a step towards that goal.

I do almost all my grocery shopping at a small chain store a mile from my house—usually on Monday nights, often fairly late. Wally World isn't much further away, and the selection there is better, but the lines are a nightmare. Over the past couple years, I had been developing a friendly relationship with an older gentleman named Edward—I think in his late 70s—who waxed the floors and did other work during the day. He seemed to be there no matter what time of day or day of the week I popped in. I don't know if I've ever met a kinder, more helpful, more diligent employee in any retail sales job, let alone someone stuck working until 11 p.m. in a grocery store.

As we talked more and more, I felt increasingly compelled to talk with Edward about the gospel. For several weeks in October in November of last year, there was always a reason why I couldn't. I was in a hurry, or he was tied up in his duties. December 12th was the last time I saw him before I left town for Christmas, and as providence would have it, we had the chance to talk. Before long in our conversation I talked with him about my faith and the gospel, and I asked him if he had ever trusted Christ for salvation. He said that he had a long time ago, and he talked about the change Christ had brought about in his life. We talked about his church and how God had worked in our lives. Here in the south it can be difficult to know whether you're talking to a nominal Christian or a genuine believer, but he gave much evidence of a credible profession of faith.

After I got back into town after Christmas, I had been in the store a couple times, but I hadn't seen him at the usual times. Last night I didn't see him again, so I asked the guy working on the floor if Edward was doing all right. This man told me that the week before Christmas, Edward collapsed at work, went into a coma, and died a couple days later.

That news gave me a sick feeling in my stomach, but not nearly as sick as if—by God's grace—I hadn't had (or made) the opportunity to talk with him just a few days before his death. I don't want to moralize or make some emotional appeal out of this. I'm just thankful that, in this instance at least, God worked in such a way that my conscience is clear. My hope is that I'll see Edward in eternity, and my prayer is that these events will spur me forward in my sanctification. May God do the same for you.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Al Mohler Rips Ted Haggard

Maybe the verb "rips" is too strong, but he certainly made my sarcastic response to Ted Haggard's theological hedge on the Barbara Walters special seem pretty mild. Said Mohler on his radio program:
If that's the best evangelicals can do, we're in big trouble. If the best we can say is that the only way to heaven that is guaranteed is Jesus Christ, then I just have to wonder what in the world do we think the gospel is? . . . I would have to say, tremendously distressing the fact that he would say that Jesus is the only guaranteed way to go to heaven. And I think the worst thing he said was . . . "Then they will have to work that out. They have to work out their own eternal life, and there's no guarantee provided for them." I don't know what to say in response to that, other than if this is where evangelicalism now stands theologically, we are in big, big trouble. If all we can say is, "There's only one guaranteed way," as if Jesus in John 14:6 said, "I am the guaranteed way, the guaranteed truth, and the guaranteed life. I can't assure anyone of getting to the Father but by me," then that's where we'd be left, but that's not what Jesus said.

Carson on God-Centered Exegesis

Ryan Martin cites a great comment from D. A. Carson. I find it interesting that Carson would draw a distinction between exegesis that is "formally 'correct' " and that which fosters worship.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Impending GOP Split

I haven't written anything political in a while, and I'm pretty ok with that. The next couple years might get pretty interesting though—the most interesting part to watch will be how divisively the Republicans split. The primary decisive factor will be the 2008 presidential nominee. There are some folks for whom the cultural right just will not vote, even against Hillary Clinton. The other factor is the undeniably hypocritical coziness of many Republicans with the insider D.C. power/money elites, which could devastatingly deflate and drive away the idealistic segment of the base. The WSJ is hitting the rampage on the current Abramoff scandal, and I applaud them.

Today's "Review and Outlook" is great, including the following:
More broadly, however, the Abramoff scandal wouldn't resonate nearly as much with the public if it didn't fit a GOP pattern of becoming cozy with Beltway mores. The party that swept to power on term limits, spending restraint and reform has become the party of incumbency, 6,371 highway-bill "earmarks," and K Street. And it's no defense to say that Democrats would do the same. Of course Democrats would, but then they've always claimed to be the party of government. If that's what voters want, they'll choose the real thing.
. . .
Republicans won't escape voter anger by writing new rules but only by returning to their self-professed principles. Gradually since 1994 they've decided they want to reform and limit government less than they want to use government to entrench their own power, and in the case of the Abramoffs to get rich doing so. If Speaker Dennis Hastert, interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt and other GOP leaders are too insulated to realize this, then Republicans need new leaders, and right away.
Peggy Noonan was also pretty good yesterday.

Pray for John Piper

Justin Taylor shares news of Piper's cancer. Not surprisingly, Piper has a biblical, God-centered perspective:
This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.

A Mission for Any Friends in Virginia Beach

Surely someone must know where the breaker box is for Pat Robertson's CBN satellite dishes. You know what to do.

In case you haven't heard the latest wit and wisdom from Robertson, find it here.
NORFOLK, Va. - Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing God's land."

"God considers this land to be his," Robertson said on his TV program "The 700 Club." "You read the Bible and he says `This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, `No, this is mine.'"
. . .
Sharon "was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU (European Union), the United Nations, or the United States of America," Robertson said.

In discussing what he said was God's insistence that Israel not be divided, Robertson also referred to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had sought to achieve peace by giving land to the Palestinians. "It was a terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless he was dead," he said.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Young Fundamentalists vs. New Evangelicals: Comparisons and Contrasts

Many fundamentalists, often but not always members of generations that lived through the ‘50s and ‘60s, bristle when other fundamentalists, often but not always members of generations that did not live through those decades, reject the prevailing fundamentalist opinions on issues of theology and application. Some examples of these attitudes include: 1) openness to progressive dispensationalism or forms of covenant theology; 2) affirmation of some Christian responsibility for social action; 3) rejection of secondary separation; 4) openness to non-pretribulational or non-premillennial eschatological views; and 5) openness to some level of participation in the historical “big five” fundamentalist sins—smoking, drinking, dancing, card-playing, and theater attendance.

I sympathize with them. They have in mind treacherous pitfalls, and they are right to warn younger generations.

When they bristle, they say that they have seen it all before. They have certainly seen gross errors and dismal failures, but I'm not sure that what they saw then is equivalent to what they are seeing now. Reading George Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism gave me a fuller (pun intended) understanding and appreciation for why red flags immediately fly high at the first intimation of perceived compromise.

For my part, I find nothing whatsoever to endear me to the objectives of the original New Evangelicals. I agree with some of their specific critiques of the fundamentalist movement, but I think they proposed solutions that were thoroughly wrongheaded and more damaging than the problems they intended to resolve. Although I possessed these opinions before I read Marsden, they were powerfully reinforced by his perspective of the history of Fuller, and, more specifically, the motivations and attitudes of the original new evangelicals—Ockenga, Henry, Fuller, Carnell, and others.

On the other hand, I sensed several substantial differences between the original new evangelicals (hereafter NE) and today’s questioning fundamentalists (hereafter QF) that could encourage traditional fundamentalists (hereafter TF) to reconsider drawing such direct correlations.

1. NE’s wanted to “redeem culture.” Their observation that American culture was increasingly secular and hostile to Christianity was accurate. Their hope to revitalize authentic spirituality in American culture was noble. Nevertheless, the NT does not impose such a cultural mandate on the Church. The NT mission of evangelism and discipleship is targeted towards individuals and ecclesiastical communities, not cultures. Invariably, making disciples of all the nations will impact national culture. That does not change the fact that nations are not disciples; people are. My sense of the QF’s is that they are interested in personal evangelism and discipleship (at least in word if not in deed), not cultural revitalization.

2. NE’s possessed a flawed theology. I do not know enough to say whether it was a flawed ecclesiology, anthropology, or theology proper. Perhaps it was all three to varying degrees in different individuals. The essence of their strategy was that American culture and the apostate mainline denominations could be won if only fundamentalist-evangelicals would engage in a scholarly academic dialogue. They were convinced that the force of their arguments would carry the day.

This strategy reveals a faulty ecclesiology in that the vehicles of their strategy were para-church educational institutions (Fuller, Christianity Today, etc.), not the Church itself. Carl Henry deplored the direction Fuller took, but even very late in his life, he said that his great regret was that evangelicals failed to establish a first-rate university in the New York/New Jersey area at the height of Graham Crusades. To him, this was a turning point. Interestingly, not at all unlike Henry's perspective is the pervasive fundamentalist opinion that "As go the schools, so goes the movement" (scan about 35:00 in to the interview at the link above and listen for the next few minutes). Christ’s promise, wholly to the contrary, is that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

Their anthropology was also likely faulty in that they believed that unregenerate minds would respond to superior intellectual arguments. This tendency seems incongruous with their professed Calvinistic inclinations. This high view of man that minimized the effects of the fall and exaggerates his innate capacity to respond to the gospel may well point to a corresponding low view of God Himself. YF’s certainly do not have everything figured out in their theology, but my sense is that they are far more pessimistic about institutions and human nature and far more interested in the priority of church health than the NE’s and perhaps than their fundamentalist forbears as well.

3. NE’s unabashedly pursued academic prestige. This objective of recognition and respect was necessitated by their belief that superior intellectual arguments would redeem American culture and recover mainline denominations. They believed that they first needed prestige in order to gain a hearing. The vociferous nature of their rejection of dispensationalism seems to have been motivated more by the intellectual elites’ scorn for the system than by actual exegetical argumentation.

Fundamentalists occasionally allude to the trend among QF’s towards attending seminaries such as SBTS, TMS, or RTS as evidence of a similar quest for prestige. (Several people have told me that more RTS Charlotte students are alumni of BJU than of any other institution.) I simply do not sense this motivation at all among QF’s. QF’s do seem to be attending these particular schools in increasing numbers, but it seems to me that they are going to these schools because they like the theological distinctives and ministry training these institutions will provide, not any elevated academic prestige that they offer. I do not sense a similar trend towards institutions such as TEDS, DTS, Westminster, or others that are as prestigious if not more so. Quite to the contrary, my prediction for the future is that more QF’s will attend infant institutions with little or no academic stature, such as Bethlehem Institute or Sovereign Grace Pastors’ College. The motivation for this trend will certainly be theological affinity, not intellectual prestige.

4. NE’s wanted to make the gospel attractive to the world in order to make it more likely to be accepted. Ironically, the easy believeism/free grace theology common in traditional fundamentalism demonstrated similar tendencies. QF’s seem much more likely to hold a “hard to believe” lordship salvation view. They demonstrate little desire to package the gospel in slick marketing in hopes that its attractiveness will be enhanced.

5. NE’s pursued evangelistic success through institutions and succumbed to movement politics to sustain those institutions. QF’s seem more likely to pursue unity around doctrines that are central to the gospel without regard for institutional loyalties. Concerning doctrinal differences, they seem more affected by the proximity of those doctrines to the heart of the gospel than by the pattern of toleration of those differences in fundamentalist history.

6. NE’s elevated social action to a priority near or equal to evangelism. Although it is not altogether clear to me whether they were attempting to appeal to the social concern of the mainline denominations or simply trying to obey their understanding of biblical imperatives to care for the poor, I’ve seen precious little evidence that the NE’s social concern was specifically connected to evangelistic strategy in any coherent fashion. QF’s demonstrate a similar interest in social concern, but I sense no interest in a social concern that is divorced from evangelism. To the contrary, the demonstrations of social concern that have been most evident among QF’s are specifically tied to evangelism. It is rather difficult for me to understand how this approach is inconsistent with the singular stipulation that James, Peter, and John placed on their endorsement of Paul’s ministry of the gospel—“to remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10).

7. NE’s repudiated separation from apostate mainline denominations as an essential part of their strategy. They wanted to dialogue with apostasy in order to win it. A common misconception about NE’s is tied closely to this observation. It seems that many fundamentalists believe that NE’s practiced separation from unbelievers and apostates but refused to practice secondary separation (from those who refused to separate from those who refused to separate, etc.) The simple fact is that NE’s always wanted to maintain the closest possible ties with the mainline denominations regardless of how far they deviated from orthodox doctrine. Although it is true that the NE’s wanted to foster some autonomy by creating institutions that were organically independent of the denominations, when the denominations counterattacked with power plays of their own, the NE’s consistently folded in a pattern of compromise and repudiation of their separatist heritage. Despite the affinity of QF's for some conservative evangelical leaders (who do not fit the historical distinctives of the NE’s), they demonstrate little evidence of a desire to cooperate with actual apostates.
These observations are simply my opinions. My understanding of the NE’s is based on my reading of what both fundamentalists and evangelicals have to say about them, particularly in the context of the history of NE’s and Fuller as told by Marsden. My understanding of QF’s is based on my exposure to them through those that I know, those that I’ve read, and what I’ve observed through others’ observations. My estimation of neither group is scientific, and I could be way off base; I offer this perspective merely as food for thought. Well, let me take that “merely” back. I also offer these thoughts as a warning to QF’s that they take extreme care to avoid the motivations and attitudes of the NE’s that led to devastating results.

If I am right, that doesn’t make the tendencies of the QF’s acceptable; it simply exposes some flaws in the analogy between the QF’s and the NE’s. The discussion of the merits of the perspectives and opinions will continue, and it should. The essence of my argument is that similarities between some of the ideas of the QF’s and the NE’s do not necessitate similarities in their motivations, strategies, methods, and outcomes. A key step will be taken towards dealing with the central issues when more TF’s engage those theological issues rather than relying on argumentation that poisons the well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Proposal Withdrawn: More from Bethlehem on Baptism

The statement from the Bethlehem web site. HT: AC (with a helpful summary/chronology) via a comment from JC at KB.

Just for Fun

I enjoyed Dave Barry's look back at the year that was. Some highlights:
March: In a related story, a California jury finds that actor Robert Blake did not kill his wife. The jury also rules that John Wilkes Booth had nothing to do with the Lincoln assassination, and that bears do not poop in the woods. In other celebrity legal news, Martha Stewart is released from prison. The next morning, in a chilling coincidence, all of the witnesses who testified against Martha wake up and discover, to their utter horror, that their sheets no longer match their pillowcases . . . In entertainment news, controversial anchorman Dan Rather retires from CBS News with a poignant farewell speech, cut short when Dan is felled by a tranquilizer dart fired by his producer.

As April draws to a close, the nation focuses its eyeballs on bride-to-be Jennifer Wilbanks, whose claim that she was abducted just before her wedding is undermined by a widely circulated photo of her in which her pupils appear to be the size of dinner plates.

July: Abroad, the news from London is grim as four terrorist bombs wreak deadly havoc on the city's transit systems, prompting Greta Van Susteren to do a series of urgent personal reports from Aruba on how these attacks could affect the investigation into the Natalee Holloway disappearance.

In sports, Lance Armstrong rides down the Champs-Elysées, raising his arms in a triumphant gesture, which causes the French army to surrender instantly.

No, sorry; that was a cheap shot. One unit held out for nearly an hour.

September: The month's biggest drama takes place at Los Angeles International Airport, where, as millions of people watch on live TV, a JetBlue airliner with the nose wheel turned sideways manages to land safely, after which it is immediately purchased by NASA.

Market Driven Ministry: It Cuts Both Ways

Great post from Tom Pryde: "Market Driven Fundamentalists?" Here are some of his observations:
* “Bait and Switch Sunday” - some event used to attract the unsaved like a time-share marketing program.
* “Better Christian Living” - various programs and life recommendations designed to help the believer to know how to live in a Christian way.
* “Music to Prepare the Heart” - music used as a means to soften the individual for the preaching (can be conservative or contemporary).
I'll add a couple of my own:
* Selecting an evangelist based on the number of public/visible decisions he typically generates.
* Judging spirituality by external conformity.

Sometimes I think we don't realize how easily we mirror the philosophies we repudiate as we subtly adapt them to our own proclivities and preferences.