Friday, March 31, 2006

Can Goals Hinder Evangelism?

Mark Dever responds to this question from C.J. Mahaney: "What is the most serious threat to the gospel in the evangelical church today?"

I can't decide which of Dever's steps 5 or 6 are more poignant, so I'm just going to quote them both. But I urge you to read the whole post.
5) Goal-setters ascend; gospel-definers are ignored; society changes; new challenges come. The very people who could have helped us stay on track have been shut out. Organizations promoting numerical goals rarely have increasingly defined ideas of what constitutes a Christian, or a church. The gospel becomes more and more assumed and less and less articulated.

6) Evangelists--from Schleiermacher to John R. Mott--resist traditional distinctions and Biblical clarity on the gospel. Constituency widens, enthusiasm crests, goals are met but having no effect. Organizational officials have interest in the organization continuing. Falling enthusiasm. Eventually declining organization. Is this not the description of too many evangelical associations in the last few centuries. They become the seed bed of theological liberalism. They even become opponents of the very gospel they were established to spread.

For Men Only

Here's the excuse you've been looking for.

An SBC Worth Saving

Douglas Baker draws a worthwhile distinction between being conservative and being theological. He writes:
What is needed is a precise theological understanding of the protracted struggle with theological liberalism. Without it, policies of inerrancy and the “the cause” become a recipe for drift and ultimately defeat.
In other words, let's be serious about doctrine. He proceeds to say:
Pragmatically, the conservative resurgence could be in trouble. The prevailing ethos of the day held by critics of the Southern Baptist Convention is that the modern conservatism of the SBC holds no specifically theological ideas –- only political ones -– which are not worthy of serious consideration by the thinking class. Could this be true? Many critics say the level of preaching by “conservative” preachers across the SBC all too easily resembles something between an Anthony Robbins self-help seminar and a used-car salesman peddling his latest deal.
Exactly. I see many parallels between Baker's ideas and Bauder's, although Bauder is obviously more exhaustive. Two more quotes are crucial. This one:
Without the recovery of a denominational imperative that a local congregation is the most important and indispensable agent for Christ and his kingdom, the denominational beast easily could eat her own young. The current cultural and political milieu of the 21st century offers little evidence to sustain the hope that an explicitly theological movement is necessary, desirable or even possible.
And this one:
The third and most pressing need yet to be realized fully by the reformation of the SBC is a focus on local churches as the primary agent in Gospel ministry to the world. As to this third issue, despite the revolution in theological thought initiated by the seminaries and others, restraining the appetite for big numbers and big Baptist programs has proved, thus far, beyond the human agency -– even for theological conservatives.
Tom Ascol also discusses this briefly.

When You Only Think Your Sermon Is Christ-Centered

Dan Cruver posts some extended quotes from a book and author with whom I am unfamiliar. Although I would articulate some of these concepts differently from Wilken, it's some great food for thought, particularly this portion:
“Often, the difference between good preaching and bad preaching is not in what is said, but in what is left unsaid. More often, what is left unsaid is the Gospel itself.”

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Quote Game Entry from a Man Who Is Not Shy

This is a pretty familiar name. I expect some readers will know it quite well. Even more than most of these quotes, the identity and milieu of the person who is saying these things is rather significant.
To me, for a man to stand and preach a topical sermon (I don't mean to be unkind) but it is ultimate gall.
I'll send a TNIV to anyone who gets this one unless I have to offer more than three hints (if necessary). He also said this in the same context:
Regrettably, I have to believe that anytime you stand up and face a congregation these days in the average [Baptist] church, you're looking at thirty to forty percent that have neve been born again.

How to Comprehend Your (Our) Insignificance

“[M]en are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter I, ¶3

Someone's Getting Older

Chris Anderson jovially wishes a happy 19th birthday to Scott Aniol, but inside sources tell me it's really his 14th. Scott, I would sing you the "Happy Birthday" song, but I'm not sure the form is acceptable or the text scans well.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Common Ground on Music and Worship

This is infinitely more valuable and healthy than the "anything goes" approach. It is also vastly superior to the "it has either been acceptable for the past 50 years or it was produced recently by fundamentalists for fundamentalists" approach.

This Could Be Interesting

This will be interesting if you've been following any of the recent discussions about SBC leadership on Founders Blog. Tom Ascol talks about the debate here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Could the Majority Text Be Superior to the Critical Text?

This afternoon I dropped by Dr. Maurice Robinson's office to pick up for $8 a copy of his hardbound work, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, 2005. Dr. Robinson compiled and arranged this NT text in cooperation with the late William Pierpont. Dr. Robinson is one of if not the leading advocate of the Majority or Byzantine Greek textform. He was also gracious enough to share about 45 minutes in a most informative and entertaining conversation.

Dr. Robinson is not a TR advocate, and he's certainly not a KJVO guy. What he does is provide a scholarly, reasonable argument that the Byzantine textform is superior (i.e. more faithful to the originals) to the Alexandrian and other textforms, which provide the bulk of the foundation for the Greek texts that support almost all modern translations of the NT.

In my Greek studies, the best argument I encountered for the Byzantine textform was that the fact that we have more Byzantine manuscripts in our hands than any other family. Since that argument fell far short in my mind, I gravitated towards the critical or eclectic texts, which relies more on the age of the manuscript than the number of them. (I realize I'm vastly oversimplifying.)

One of the great features of Dr. Robinson's Greek NT is the appendix that includes his article, "The Case for Byzantine Priority." In the interest of academic honesty, I want to expose myself to the best possible arguments for the opposing side, so I'll do my best to digest his case. You can access the full text of his article here. If you're interested in the book, you can get it for $11 (shipping include) if you contact him directly. Visit the faculty directory at the SEBTS website for contact info. He'll also have recommendations for quantity purchases.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Evidence to the Failure of Fundamentalist Ecclesiology

Read this article, then scroll down for my analysis of the central problem with Flanders' thinking.

I don't know if you agreed or disagreed with Flanders' point. Frankly, I'm not very concerned whether people prefer the Majority or the Eclectic Greek Text. Besides, that whole debate completely ignores the Old Testament, which is rather frightening. But I digress.

So let me ask you one question. What, if anything, troubles you most about that article?

My greatest concern has nothing whatsoever to do with the text/translation arguments. Rather, I am grieved over the fact that Flanders identifies "most fundamentalist leaders" as "heads of influential institutions" and "the directors or presidents of the following organizations."

One of the great ironies I have observed in Baptist fundamentalism is that the people who speak most forcefully for the primacy and autonomy of the local church are also the people who look to evangelists and para-church ministries for leadership. Does anyone else see the problem? Like the old "new evangelicalism," we have abandoned our ecclesiology.

Maybe I should not blame Flanders' for his definition of the leaders of fundamentalism. After all, he does refer later to pastors as among the leaders of fundamentalism. Perhaps his primary reference to institutional leaders is simply a reflection of the reality that they are the de facto leaders. When you read the article, did it ever occur to you that seeing institutional leaders as the leadership of an ecclesiastical movement is problematic? Or perhaps he is simply identifying these leaders because it is easier to count institutions than churches. (Of course, that strategic approach would argue for the TR over the MT, but I digress again.)

Regardless, my sense is that fundamentalists—laypeople and pastors alike—often think of the people at the helm of the grand institutions as the leaders of the movement. I simply think that is a dangerously flawed ecclesiology.

Credit to Whom Credit Is Due

I've been critical here of Franklin Graham for his statements a year ago about Pope John Paul II and of Pat Robertson for, well, about everything he has said in the past year. I also believe it is important to recognize these men for the stand they have taken publicly about Islam as an evil religion.

This blog
summarizes what they've said, and Al Mohler discussed on last Monday's radio program what they said and how he defended them on the O'Reilly Factor.

Case Dismissed

This blog shares some important perspective on the release of Abdul Rahman. Rahman is the Afghani Christian who was facing execution for converting to Christianity from Islam. His release is good news, but it is no clear indication of a move towards religious freedom in the Middle East.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Evangelical Scandal You're Not Hearing About (Part 1)

World Magazine has been doing some great reporting on evangelical leaders tied into the Tom Delay-Jack Abramoff money-for-influence story. My reading of the story as reported by World is that Abramoff was representing Indian tribes that operate casinos in Louisiana and Mississippe. When other tribes tried to advance legislation that would permit to open their own casinos in Alabama and Louisiana, Abramoff gave money from the casino interests to Ralph Reed and others to fight such legislation.

Reed took that money and spread it around, trying to gin up evangelical opposition. Reed was "fighting gambling," but he was doint so on behalf of gambling interests, and he never told anyone that he was being paid by a them. Reed also worked to persuade James Dobson to rally his radio audience and mailing list for the cause. The basic characters in the story are Abramoff as the puppet-master, Reed as the pawn, Dobson as the dupe (which he denies), and evangelical footsoldiers as the brainless drones, easily manipulated by evangelical personalities.

Here are links to World's major articles: 11/19, 1/14, 2/4, 3/4, 3/11, 3/25.

Also worth reading are the ridiculously weak and narrow response from Ralph Reed (who has repeatedly denied interview requests and completely ignores the central issues in this letter) and Marvin Olasky's explanation for why this story needs to be reported. The fact that he would have to explain is appalling to me, but it should not be surprising given how the sole unifying feature of evangelicalism seems to be a desire to squelch anything that would serve as an obstacle to blind unity among churches. That World would lose subscribers over reporting this story (as Olasky implies in his sidebar to the 3/4 article) is almost beyond comprehension.

Part 2 will review some perspectives on the backgrounds of the strange bedfellowship made by fundamentalist-evangelicals and politicians.

Friday, March 24, 2006

T4G News

More info here.

By Popular Demand

Well, three of you, anyway.



If You're Within Driving Distance of Raleigh . . .

. . . you shouldn't miss this Table Talk with Mark Dever.

Topics Dever is to address include the role of elders in congregational government, how membership guards the "front door" of a church, and the centrality of the gospel in the life of the church. Stephen Davey will discuss the role of church discipline in pursuing the prodigal. On Sunday Dever will preach at Colonial on the wrath of God and the providence of God.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Visible Evidence of How Much More Spiritual I Became Yesterday

Ever hear a preacher say, "I can tell how spiritual a guy is by the length of his hair!"? I have. Not very often, of course.

So anyway, for the past year or so I've been letting my hair grow out. Not long-long, but long-ish.

Well, yesterday I discovered a shortcut to sanctification—an amazing way to become waaaayyy more spiritual in about 15 minutes. Here's a picture of the evidence of my progress. I offer it for your edification.

The Quote Game Is Back

This one will be a little warm-up for a special edition that I'm working on. No prizes for this one, but believe me, the prizes for the special edition will be the stuff of yore.
John MacArthur and John Piper . . . are concretely and publicly doing more to defend the fundamentals than most fundamentalists.
No Googling.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Can We Believe That God Exists?

I am in no way an apologetics guru, so at the encouragement of Bob Roberts I listened to a debate between the late Greg Bahnsen and atheist Gordon Stein on the existence of God. You can access the debate for yourself at Bob's blog.

He provides a great summary of Bahnsen's presuppositional approach, so I'll leave you to his analysis. From my perspective, what Bahnsen did most effectively was to show how Stein's presupposition that a debate itself over the truth or falsehood of an idea was possible and worthwhile demonstrated that Stein had already accepted Bahnsen's theistic worldview. In other words, Stein had no valid atheistic explanation for the laws of reason and logic that governed the debate and that he employed in it.

If you're interested in learning more about apologetics, Bob's post is a pretty good place to start, and Bahnsen's approach is powerful, even though I am still convinced that no one will ever come to believe in the God of the Bible apart from a direct redemptive action on the part of the Holy Spirit. For more discussion on that topic, tune in to this interview of Carl Trueman by Mark Dever. This part of the discussion begins 34:45 into the interview, and at 36:49 Trueman makes this excellent statement:
It's patently obvious that it doesn't matter how convincing an argument you offer to somebody. They're never going to believe on the basis of the argument you offer to them.
Be sure to listen for the full context, which continues through minute 39.

Feminism in SBC Seminaries

During my years at Southeastern, I've been pointed towards some amazing illustrations of what went on in SBC seminaries in the 1980s. What I link to here is only a sample.

The first link is to an article that follows up on the lives and ministries of women doctoral students at Southern Seminary in the pre-Mohler years. Well, actually it was during the Mohler-as-student years, which you'll see described rather colorfully if you read closely. The link to download the document is about 2/3 down the page under the title "Once There Was a Camelot."

The second link is to a blog that transcribes a liturgy titled "Celebration of the New Humanity" that was read (or whatever you do with liturgies) in the Southeastern Seminary chapel in 1983. Oops, now I see that you "recite" a liturgy. Both of these snapshots of the past are absolutely fascinating and have reminded me of how great a gift is a God-centered education, and what an empty religion is that which is man-centered (oops again, "person-centered").

Perhaps I should mention, for those who believe that SBTS and SEBTS are still theologically liberal, that Southeastern has preaching in chapel now. That preaching uses the Bible in a remarkably similar way to how it is used in fundamentalist institutions.

You Know It's Got to Be Good When . . .

. . . an OBF guy quotes an SBC guy favorably.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Piper on the Faithfulness of Younger Generations

In Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen, Piper writes about Athanasius' role in combatting the Arian heresy denying the full deity of Christ:
Athanasius was a little over twenty when the controversy broke out—over fory years younger than Arius (a lesson in how the younger generation may be more biblically faithful than the older 12).

12 The Bible encourages us to hold older people in honor. "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:32). In general, wisdom is found with age and experience (1 Kings 12:8), but not always. Timothy is exhorted in 1 Timothy 4:12, "Let no one despise you for your youth." There are situations when he would have to correct the elderly (1 Timothy 5:1). And in the book of Job the young Elihu proved to be wiser than Job's three older friends. "Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger. And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: 'I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, "Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom." But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right' " (Job 32:4–9).

Monday, March 20, 2006

Interesting Perspective

I'm glad someone else said this. Read the whole thread if you want to see what happens when well-intentioned people try to be consistent enough to apply their principles of secondary separation to the "right" as well as the "left" (terms that are wholly inaccurate but commonly used). If it looks like they're working through unplowed ground, that's because it often is.

How to Make All Fundamentalists Instantly Become Calvinists

Tell them that Calvin would be opposed to CCM.

The Americanization of Soccer

I would believe there is something to this if it weren't published by the New York Times (by the way, you have to earn the italics, NYT).
National team coaches face constant second-guessing in soccer-consumed nations. But [German national team coach Jürgen] Klinsmann's management style has been especially provocative: spending half of each month in California, communicating with his players via e-mail and telephone, following their club matches on satellite television.

He would do the same thing if he lived in Berlin or Rome, Klinsmann said. But to some soccer officials, "e-mail and PowerPoint is an American way of doing things," said Bierhoff, who is Klinsmann's second in charge.

Constitutional Government and Religious Persecution

I'm all for democracy and constitutional government, but it's no panacea.
"We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law," the judge said. "It is an attack on Islam. ... The prosecutor is asking for the death penalty."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Can We Argue Against Alcohol Without Quoting Scripture?

I think this is a pretty good argument against drinking alcohol. I'll concede that the analogy breaks down at points, but they all do. Ironically, the strength of the argument is based largely on the fact it is grounded in wisdom and prudence, not a forced exegesis or application of Scripture. Such arguments are counterproductive because they make the debate more about deconstructing bad "biblical" arguments than about making good choices. Sometimes it seems as though many Christians' desires to make all choices black and white for everyone cheapens biblical and historical decision-making processes that emphasized wisdom and prudence.

The God-Centeredness of God

Scott Aniol has a stellar post on "The Supremacy of God in All Things." I think it's an excellent start towards a biblical theology of the God-centeredness of God. If such a book has been written, could someone point me towards it? (Piper's The Pleasures of God might qualify, I suppose.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mohler on O'Reilly Tonight

From an SBTS release today:
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Host, The Albert Mohler Program
(a daily, nationally syndicated radio show with the Salem Radio Network)

Dr. Mohler is scheduled to appear tonight on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor.” Mohler will discuss how evangelical Christians should talk about and relate to Islam, in light of recent comments by evangelist Franklin Graham. In an interview, Graham stood by an earlier statement that Islam is an “evil and wicked religion.” Graham’s comments sparked controversy in the national media, but Mohler has said that Christians have no choice but to speak the truth about other religions, including Islam, which he has said represents a false gospel, a false god and a false salvation.

“The O’Reilly Factor” airs at 8:00 PM (EST) on the Fox News Channel and repeats at 11:00 PM (EST).

The New National Sport

So at the past two Olympics we've found out that we stink at basketball and been reminded that we stink at hockey. Then last night we found out to our great surprise that we stink at baseball too. At least the United States of America is good at something.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Good Ecclesiology Helps Good Evangelism"

Mark Dever just touches on this idea, which was originally articulated by Lloyd-Jones. I would love to see how he fleshes out the concept.

I wonder, though, if good ecclesiology and a healthy Christian life in a church isn't like being a "biblicist." Everyone claims it; few demonstrate it.

I Thought It Was Just a Mass of Tissue

Turns out it's actually a person after all! At least Elizabeth Vargas, coanchor of ABC World News Tonight, thinks so.
Vargas' pregnancy also impacts the show. Most notably, there won't be any more trips to Iraq. Her last was in mid-December.

"Any war zone is off the table," she says. "... Even if I might be willing to go to Iraq right now, somebody else's life hangs in the balance."
Surprisingly enough, seems to agree.

Looks Like Driscoll's Influence on Schuller Didn't "Take"

Here's the latest exhibit in the "I could not make this stuff up if I tried" gallery.

HT: Pyros (as if they needed it from me)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

This Made Me Laugh and Laugh and Laugh

I seldom monitor the commments sections of blogs. Glad I checked back on this one, though:
Dave said: As for the comments by Mr. Brandenburg; you have now heard from an officer of the cruise ship pictured at SI. [link added by me]

More Great Stuff from the World's Biggest "Evangelical" Youth Ministry Organization

Some Lent ideas here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mahaney on Sports and Discipleship

C.J. Mahaney wrote an excellent post today at the T4TG blog on how sports can be a vehicle for discipleship. Here's the central idea:
Playing sports holds great potential for growth in godliness for our sons, but only if we as fathers lead our sons theologically and strategically. I fear that all too often our sons devote significant time to playing sports with little growth in godliness.
Many people think and teach that music has inherent value for the church (and in Christian schools), but sports is an evil that may be (or perhaps should not be) tolerated. I think that argument is preposterous.

Athletics can, and perhaps most often are, misused and over-emphasized. But I'll argue that music is, too. The performance-orientation in athletics programs is just as prevalent in fine arts programs. In fact, it may be even more dangerous in fine arts programs since we're not alert to it. The carnality that is demonstrated on the soccer field or on the basketball court (or in the coach's box) is no more reprehensible than the carnality on display at the fine arts festival. Oh, it's far more subtle in the high culture of Bach, Beethoven, and John W. Peterson, but it's there. I've heard parents say that parenting boys is easier than girls because you know when the boy is sinning. I don't know if that's true, but perhaps (don't blame the messenger, ladies) the people who say such things offer an analogy that is relevant to this discussion of athletics and music.

The bottom line to me is that music is not inherently more valuable than sports simply because you can play the piano in a church service but not kick a soccer ball. Worship is marked by spirit and truth, not by the external forms of activity that are taking place. If athletics can be melded with discipleship in such a way as to create young worshipers, then I'm on board. Sounds like that's what Mahaney is doing.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Things I Found Amusing Today

Gubernatorial candidate disses my old stomping grounds.

Mayor wants innocent bears exhumed and memorialized
after being put down for rabies tests.

I don't expect this in eastern North Carolina anytime soon.

"A Pulpit Minus the Politics"

Here's a great article from the Raleigh News and Observer on Stephen Davey's views on the role of church in culture and politics. Davey is the pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC. I understand that Davey is working on a book that details his views on this subject. I'll post more info on it as it becomes available.

In the meantime, here are some of Davey's key comments from the article:
"The mission, energy and investment of the church is not to clean up the evils of society. The mission of the church is to evangelize society."

"I believe the greatest danger facing the evangelical church is not the destruction of its values but the distraction of its focus."

"The investment of the church's time and energy is not to see that Christmas greetings are shared, but that Christ's gospel is shared."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"What Bigger Passion Can God Have Than Himself?"

". . . There is nothing else." Steve Pettit, 3/9/06

The unifying theme in the sessions I've attended this week at the Wilds Youth Workers' Conference has been the transforming power of the glory of God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. Frank Hamrick and Steve Pettit (and I believe Les Ollila as well, although I omitted it from my notes) have parked on 2 Corinthians 3:18. Sam Horn's workshop today on "Preaching Ancient Truth to a Contemporary Audience" incl a distinct emphasis on preaching for transformation, not conformity. Hamrick unpacked the same idea in both his workshop sessions.

Pettit's message yesterday from Hebrews 12:3-6 established the Christ-centered foundation ("Consider Him") for endurance in trials and in the struggle with sin. Tonight's message asked two questions: 1) What is the glory of God? and 2) How is it that this glory transforms us? His glory is His perfections on display—the sum total of His intrinsic nature. His perfections are put on display in His Word, the person of Jesus Christ (esp. John 1 and Matthew 17), and in the church (Ephesians 3). He said, "The work of the church is to put on display to the world who God is."

His answer to the second question began with a great explanation of the context in 2 Corinthians 3 of the distinctions between the old and new covenants with a particular awareness of the theme of glory traced through this text. The key is that the veil is now removed so that believers have direct access to the Lord through His Word. When you sit down to read your Bible, "[y]ou have in your lap the divine revelation. This is how He reveals Himself." There is no other way for us to change ourselves or for us to change our teenagers other than through the transformational work of the Spirit of God through His Word.

This would well be a recording worth purchasing. 828-884-7811.

And my optimism grows.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I couldn't make this up if I tried.


Apparently the CIS internet filter where I am this week isn't impressed with Paleoevangelical. Of course, you can imagine how difficult this will be for the always-serious Ryan Martin to accept since he got the same message. I can get to Scott Aniol quite seamlessly though. Take that, Ryan.

Frank Hamrick on God-Focused Ministry

During the first breakout session today at the Wilds Youth Workers' Conference, Frank Hamrick of Positive Action For Christ (my place of ministry) taught on "The Characteristics of a God-Focused Ministry." His session explained the full message of Romans 12:1-2, with particular emphasis on how the commands in this passage are grounded in "the mercies of God" as expounded in Romans 1-11.

Hamrick argued that we need to approach Scripture with a presupposition that its primary purpose is to reveal to us the glory of God Himself, with the result that we might know Him. He turned to the introductory words of both Genesis and Revelation as evidence that God's purpose is to reveal Himself. In past conversations, he and I have also talked about this theme in the introductions to Matthew, John, and Hebrews. (I also believe personally that the final verses of 2 Chronicles, which fall at the end of the Hebrew OT canon, are distinctly Messianic.) Hamrick also discussed John 5:39, in which Christ pointed out how Jewish legalism obscured God's purposes in Scripture.

So what are the characteristics of a God-focused (youth) ministry? Hamrick offers four suggestions. A ministry is God-focused when:
  • Its leaders recognize that the purpose of the Bible is primarily to reveal the glory of the Godhead and is only secondarily to teach men how to live.
  • Its leaders are preoccupied with revealing Him in every Scripture passage (John 5:39; Col. 3:1-10)
  • Its youth leave youth meetings in awe of God, not of Esther, David, Moses, or the speaker.
  • Its youth speak more of spiritual things than of material things.
These characteristics will begin to be manifested in our ministries when our preaching falls in line with the full force of Romans 12:1-2. Preaching must not be merely decisional ("present") or conformational ("do not be conformed to the world"). Preaching must be transformational ("by the renewing of your mind") It must be exaltational, not just expositional. (We cannot preach a text and miss what it reveals about God. If the text doesn't say something about God, our text is too narrow.) Preaching must also be doxological, not just pedagogical.

Update: I can't comment because I'm at the Wilds and can't access any Blogspot sites, although I can access to post and edit. Apparently, the Wilds' filter has classified Paleoevangelical as an "entertainment site." Ouch.

Response to Dave: First, I don't think it's insignificant that Paul says first that Scripture is profitable for doctrine. Without right doctrine, our reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness will be flawed. Second, is the maturity and equipping tied to the reason for the inspiration or to the four things for which Scripture is profitable? Also, is the maturity and the equipping the purpose or the result? Both? I'm genuinely asking. I'll also come back to that on my last point. Third, other texts specifically tie the teaching of Scripture to knowing God. Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78 are good examples of passages Hamrick teaches frequently in which knowing or remembering or fearing God are inextricably linked to His works, wonders, and words (commmandments, laws, etc. Sorry, couldn't resist the alliteration). I can't begin to catalog how many times Scripture says that God did or said something so that someone "might know that I am the Lord" (or other similar phrases). John was written so that we might believe. Fourth, I don't think that maturity and equipping for good works is equivalent to "how to live."

Finally, and this a key point, Hamrick's use of "primarily" should not be construed to mean that God-focused ministry does not teach people how to live. It does mean that we should not jump ahead to the results/behavior stage without establishing the essential theocentric foundation. His workshop tomorrow will flesh this out some more by explaining how godliness or maturity is the "ultimate purpose," but we too often bypass in our preaching the necessary steps toward this purpose and try to find shortcuts to conformity.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

When Fundamentalists Absorb CCM

I love it when Scott Aniol uses presuppositional strategies to expose the flaws in the prevailing fundamentalist arguments on music. He writes:
Inconsistency, in my opinion, is potentially one of the most harmful vices.
Demanding consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but you can chalk me up with Scott on this one.

I should point out, though, that "There Is a Redeemer" does not seem to appear in the most recent (7th) edition of the Wilds songbook. Since I happen to be there right now, I checked. Pretty sure it's still in the Majesty Hymnal though.

We May Not Be Dead Right, But We Sure Are Dead Funny

Check this out.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hail to the Chief

Dr. Danny Akin is the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which I currently attend and from which I hope to graduate later this year. Tom Ascol at Founder's blog links to and analyzes an article by Akin on a Southern Baptist response to divine sovereignty and human responsibility. I largely agree with the postition Akin articulates, but my appreciation actually has more to do with his courage than his theological position.

In a convention atmosphere marked by ridiculously dishonest caricatures the doctrines of grace from key SBC leaders, many of whom send substantial numbers of students to SEBTS, Akin might well have lain low. Some of his own students won't like this article at all. As to the faculty, I won't even hazard a guess.

This quote seemed to be rather significant:
Pelagianians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our Southern Baptist family. We will love them while also disagreeing with them. Is there a place for differing positions on the issues of election, the extent of the atonement and calling, as well as how we do missions, evangelism and give the invitation? I am convinced that the answer is yes. Further, I believe we will be the better for it theologically and practically as we engage each other in respectful and serious conversation.
The mere fact that anyone might not be welcome in the SBC might come as a shock to some folks, let alone this suggestion that Arminians could be among those out in the cold. Perhaps Akin's article is more evidence of a broader trend towards a willingness to stand on theology rather a pragmatic ministry philosophy that evaluates success and leadership by inflated growth statistics and cooperative program giving. Something's happening in conservative evangelicalism, but it's too soon to say exactly what that is. I hope my cautiously reserved optimism is vindicated.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Power of Ideas

“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?”
Joseph Stalin

I visited the Reagan Presidential Library with friends today. I was there for the first time last fall, but the Air Force One pavilion opened just days after I was there. This new wing contained a striking display including the above quote. A nearby display highlighted this one from Reagan:

"There is no security, no safety, in the appeasement of evil. It must be the core of Western policy that there be no sanctuary for terror. And to sustain such a policy, free men and free nations must unite and work together."

There Ought to be a Price to Pay

One of this week's highlights was Friday's roundtable discussion between John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, and Steve Lawson. They spent the largest portion of their time discussing the purpose and distictives of the upcoming Together for the Gospel Conference (visit the blog here). MacArthur, who was leading the discussion, repeatedly referred to their intentions to create "a new movement of faithfulness to the truth."

The details are still rather unclear to me, but the men at the center of all this are formulating a set of affirmations of what is essential to the gospel—truths for which we must contend. MacArthur pressed the point, expressing hopes that some method might be devised for finding out who will or will not sign these affirmations. "There ought to be a price to pay if you don’t get inside the box of orthodoxy," he said. At this very moment Mohler is speaking and expanding on that quote. He just said that a true Christianity and a true Christian pulpit must be composed of both affirmations and denials. A Christianity without denials is dangerous.

The discussion was marked by clear optimism. Just before moving on to the next topic, MacArthur said, "I think God is starting to build a phoenix out of this evangelical wreck that’s going to fly." This has been a major theme of the conference—that a renewal of authentic biblical preaching (not that which masquerades as such) may be heralding a new Reformation. Steve Lawson summed up this theme well when he said Friday in his exegesis of Nehemiah 8 that every true reformation and every great revival has been ushered in by a recovery of great preaching.

That's what these men want. I pray they succeed. I hope you will too.

Shepherd's Photoblogging

It's been great to reconnect with Jeremy Scott this week and hear about how God has given him and his wife amazing opportunities for ministry in the Katrina-ravaged region. He's been sharing his perspectives of Shepherd's Conference and posting some great photos as well.

You can see I'm not much into graphics myself. I surveyed people who read blogs, found out they liked photos, and followed the advice of John MacArthur and gave everyone the opposite.

Friday, March 03, 2006

When Fundamentalists Make Phil's Point for Him

If you think Phil Johnson was way off base when he argued that fundamentalists are more obsessed with the movement than the principles, just read the comments here for some excellent illustrations of that very point.

I am appalled but not surprised at how quickly the debate became about whether Johnson and MacArthur are fundamentalists rather than about whether Johnson's ideas are valid. Folks, let's please not fall prey to this classic tactic (common not just among fundamentalists, but among all those who don't want to interact with ideas) of ignoring the message of a presentation and attacking instead the person who articulated it. Kudos to the site owner for recognizing this and challenging it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Phil Johnson on Neo-Evangelicalism

From today's seminar session, Dead Right Part Two: Taking a Second Look at Fundamentalism
I'd love to give a short history of neo-evangelicalism. In fact, I got some criticism last year because I didn't say much about neo-evangelicalism, and someone who doesn't know me very well evidently surmised that my silence meant I am sympathetic with that point of view.

I'm not. I never have been. In fact, I would love to spend an hour with you someday dissecting the utter irrationality of the neo-evangelical perspective, because it's shot full of fallacies; it's self-contradictory, it has been utterly and completely detrimental to the evangelical movement—and it's therefore pretty easy to critique. Iain Murray did a great job of unmasking the follies of neo-evangelicalism from a British perspective in his book Evangelicalism Divided.

But I'm really feeling the constraints of time, and this is, after all, a seminar about fundamentalism; not neo-evangelicalism. So if someone came hoping to hear me go off against neo-evangelicalism, you're going to be mostly disappointed again, I'm afraid.

But I will say this: the essential philosophy behind neo-evangelicalism was entirely wrong-headed from the start. The whole principle that makes neo-evangelicalism distinct from historic evangelicalism is by definition a compromise.

Furthermore, the motives that drove neo-evangelicals were pretty clearly tainted from the get-go. There was too much craving for academic respectability (even though the secular academy itself is inherently hostile to the gospel). There was too little attention to the many biblical admonitions reminding us that "friendship with the world is enmity with God." In fact, according to James 4:4, worldliness is the worst kind of spiritual adultery. And as Jesus told the disciples repeatedly, if we're faithful, the world will hate us. Why should we crave respect from the same world-system that hated Him and put him to death? Isn't that the epitome of unfaithfulness, and the very spirit of Judas Iscariot? So the drift of neo-evangelicalism was predictable, and the ecumenical breakdown of the entire evangelical movement over the past two decades is its inevitable fruit.

It seems to me these days that neo-evangelicalism has pretty much gained complete control of the entire evangelical movement. Today the visible evangelical movement is so overwhelmed with shallow neo-evangelicalism that most people in the movement think that's what historic evangelicalism is. Frankly, if you're looking for examples of virile, dynamic, doctrinally-rich historic evangelicalism, you're not likely to find it very prominently displayed on the best-seller racks in evangelical bookshops, on the pages of Christianity Today, or in press releases from the National Association of Evangelicals. In other words, neo-evangelicalism is living and graphic proof of how easily and how quickly a little leaven can leaven the whole lump.

So those are the definitions I'm starting with. And although I have some criticisms to make about the fundamentalist movement, I hope it's clear that I am not trying to recruit young fundamentalists to the evangelical "movement." Nor am I suggesting that evangelicalism as a movement has somehow succeeded where fundamentalism failed.
I'm pleased, but not surprised, to see this analysis. I posted some similar thoughts earlier this year here. Read the full transcript (with apparently a few alterations) of Johnson's seminar here. You might not agree with every point, but a friendly critique from a theological ally is worth consideration from those who intend to be intellectually honest and ecclesiastically constructive, particularly for those in a movement that has published fairly little self-examination.

"That Was Almost Charismatic"

So said John MacArthur after 3,500 men just raised the roof singing "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place" and "It Is Well."

And I would agree. Almost.


Joel Tetreau is an optimist, and I love him for it. Maybe it's impossible not to be an optimist when you're the pastor of a church plant that God is blessing with growth—in depth, not just breadth. I visited his church—oops, a cell group from his church—when I was in Phoenix on a Wednesday night last fall. He is a terrific encouragement, and it's been great to see him again in LA this week. He's got some optimistic thoughts on last week's Leadership Conference, too.

Someone Who's Working Harder Than I Am

Tim Challies' Shepherds Conference posts are far more detailed than mine. So detailed, in fact, that I haven't even had time to read them yet. By some strange coincidence, he's been to all the same sessions I have. If it happens again today, I'm going to alert the conference security staff that I'm being stalked. I hear they're packing heat—and with good reason. This is a pretty rough crowd.

Quote of the Epoch

“Show me a man-centered ministry, and I’ll show you a ministry that helps Satan.”
John MacArthur, 3/1/06, in reference to Matthew 16:23

But of course, we're all God-centered, aren't we? I'll say you are if you'll say I am.

Phil Johnson on Evangelicalism Slouching Towards Rome

When I first saw the title of Mark Noll’s book, Is the Reformation Over?, I naïvely assumed that he was critiquing Protestant evangelicalism’s recent ecumenical rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, I was dead wrong. So when Noll asks if the Reformation is over, and he implies a positive answer, one might think Phil Johnson would have disagreed vehemently with him. After all, his seminar today was titled “Is the Reformation Over: Rethinking Evangelical Détente with Rome.”

At the end of the day, though, I’m not sure Johnson disagreed with Noll’s conclusion much at all. But don’t take that to mean that Johnson likes Noll’s thesis or the state of evangelicalism that facilitated it. To the contrary, Johnson said, “What has really failed is Protestantism, replacing Reformation doctrine it with quasi-cultural evangelicalism.” Later he said that evangelical ecumenical efforts “do not signify the triumph of Luther. They signify the complete failure of 20th century evangelicalism.”

As an interesting side note, if any fundamentalists need some motivation to pick up Noll’s book, Johnson offered it when he said that Noll is shocking in his (sympathetic) frankness in the section that exposes Billy Graham’s early relationships with the RCC. Johnson said that Noll’s documentation validates the fundamentalists’ early protestations at Graham’s politicking.

[Please note: quotes may not be precisely word-for-word since I have transcribed the oral presentation, not quoted from printed notes.]

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

MacArthur on Redeeming Culture (5 Minutes Ago)

I wasn't intending to live-blog, but this (from John MacArthur's opening session on a biblical definition of a church from Matthew 16) was too good to resist, in light of recent conversations here and elsewhere.
The church has no role in rearranging sinners into more acceptable lifestyles . . . We are not called to create a Christian culture. We are called to penetrate it with a saving gospel.
Here are a couple of free bonuses, just for fun:
The biggest mission field in America is professing Christianity.


My idea for planting a church is to do a survey of an area, find out what people want, and then tell them the opposite.