Monday, July 31, 2006

Perfuming the Gospel

I thought I might share this quote from Dave Doran's recent sermon, "Not in Word Only: Spirit-Empowered Preaching":
If you don't like the stench of death, you try to overcome it by perfuming the gospel so it's more attractive.
And then this one is a bonus that I bumped into at the end of the sermon:
C.H. Spurgeon never gave a public invitation--never once asked anybody to come forward, to raise their hand, to do any of that stuff. But they saw thousands converted because what they did bank on was that if God worked, it would show. That is, if God converts a soul, there's life. And so instead of picking green fruit, that is, forcing people to do something--make them make a decision or get them to do something quickly--they just kept preaching God's Word . . .
And this is just dead funny (because it's true) and deadly serious at the same time:
If we were planning a conference, we would have Jonah as the speaker--Isaiah would be an attender--because Jonah went and preached and everybody did something, so Jonah's the great guy. He saw everything happen. When Jonah was disobedient and fleshly, Isaiah was committed to God, devoted to his purposes, but God's assignment for them was different. It is entirely possible that faithful people may be put in a position where God is doing a work of judgment.

Just a Little Reminder

Less than three weeks left until Shepherd's Theological Seminary's Table Talk with Mark Dever near Raleigh, North Carolina.

I'd provide a direct link to the schedule and registration info, but they have a strange URL system that doesn't permit me post one that will last more than a few minutes. If you don't see the Table Talk link on the front page, just wait a few seconds and it will pop up.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hanging Out with Sinners

I realize the idea of going into a bar to meet sinners will be unthinkable to many Christians. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. But the root question this interview addresses, "What are you doing to get to know unbelievers?", may have other answers that are more feasible to our immediate mindset.

What are we doing to get to know unbelievers for the purpose of evangelism? Are we content to hang out with Christians? Sports leagues aren't just for recreation. Dramatic productions, civic groups, and community meetings can be about more than culture and public policy. Coffee shops and diners are good for more than caffeine and cholesterol (as much as I like bacon).

Peruse all the speaker interviews for the 2006 DGM Conference here.

Note: Some of the subject matter of the interview may be inappropriate for some potential listeners. Nothing explicit, but rather frank on sensitive subjects.

The Battle for Baptist Colleges

A plethora of Southern Baptist-affiliated colleges are scattered across the Southeast and South Central states. Conservative Southern Baptists readily admit that these colleges are a morass of modernist theology and liberal social activism.

All but three of these colleges are funded by state conventions, not the national convention. The three that are funded by the SBC's cooperative program are those that operate under the auspices of Southern, Southeastern, and Southwestern seminaries. Those three are also thoroughly conservative theologically.

All that to say this: The battle that is taking place for the soul of the vast majority of these colleges has been taking place at the state convention level. Most of those battles have been lost, and state conventions are steadily severing ties with more and more of these colleges.

The New York Times published a story (free registration required) on one of these battles last week. Terry Mattingly's analysis of this story is worth reading, particularly for his extensive links to other vignettes in the broader story.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Piper on Emergent

You'll find a link to a brief audio statement from John Piper on the Emergent Church at the new Desiring God National Conference Blog.

Is Secondary Separation Defensible?

Nate Busenitz addresses this question in his follow-up post to his recent analysis of the diverse ways fundamentalists have applied separation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"We Are Much Closer to Armageddon Today"

Here's an interesting run-down (with video) on what evangelical prophecy pundits (Robertson, Van Impe, Lindsey, etc.) are saying about events in the Middle East. More "I don't know"s and "we're not sure"s than I might have expected.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quote of the Day

From a sermon preached by Stephen Davey at a 2006 event highlighing Capitol Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina:
What if homosexuality was made illegal? What if abortion was outlawed? What if sexual relations outside of marriage were unacceptable? What if prayer was back in the classroom and the Ten Commandments back in the courtroom? What then? Are people going to heaven? Has the mission of the church advanced one inch? Suppose we could turn the clock back to the good old days, wherever they were, with shared boundaries of morality, a basic respect for God, a basic underpinning of absolute truth. . . . Would we breathe a sigh of relief then? Would we think that we have somehow completed our job?

What if we had our way in Washington or here in Raleigh? What if every evangelical viewpoint was respected and every piece of legislation that we wanted presented [was] supported and applauded? Would we wipe the sweat off our brow? I fear the church at large in America would, because the church at large has forgotten the nature of the battle.

That doesn't mean we don't care about what society does. Given our current freedoms, we vote every opportunity we have. We rejoice when our culture respects moral purity. For those called into civil and political service, we rejoice when they shine as lights in the arena God has called them to for the glory of God.

But true victory, true reformation, however, is not changing the behavior of our culture unless we first change their belief in who Jesus Christ is. And when their belief in who Jesus Christ is changes by virture of spiritual life, then reformation truly occurs.
Unfortunately, no link is currently available. If this changes, I'll post an update. Here's the real kicker though:
I had a leader engage in conversation with me some time ago, and he said, "You know, what we're trying to do is keep for you your freedom so you can preach." And I asked him how he knew that I should have my freedom. Maybe the best thing for the church in America is for men like me to go to prison for what we preach and what we believe. It does not take a strong and free culture to have a thriving church. Go to China. I fear that our mission as a church has become one of distraction rather than of disciple-making.

Separation and Historic Fundamentalism: Some Essential Perspective

Nate Busenitz has written a valuable analysis of the diversity of views on separation within the historic movement known as fundamentalism. Ironically, his analysis indicates that 21st century militant Southern Baptists are as separatistic, if not more so, than Bob Jones, Sr.

His conclusion:
Could it be that, for many of the first-generation fundamentalists, second-degree separation was not viewed as an explicit biblical doctrine, but rather as a wisdom issue in which biblical principles were to be applied on a case-by-case basis? This certainly seems like a plausible explanation. After all, it would explain why such godly men with similar convictions could respond so differently on the separation issue.

Of course, if it is correct, it may mean that some contemporary fundamentalists will need to rethink their own one-size-fits-all application of secondary separation... if they want to stay true to the history of their movement.
I think J. Gresham Machen may have had something to say about this. More to follow . . .

Quote Game with a Great Prize

Google away on this one. I don't think it'll help. I'll put my spare copy of Piper's Future Grace on the table if someone can get this one by 5 pm eastern on Wednesday. These two paragraphs are not consecutive:
So when Paul says "the things which you have heard of me" in [2 Timothy] 2:2, we have really that as sort of a summary statement of apostolic truth--the standard of sound words. . . . It is the gospel and the truth that the Scriptures reveal to us. There may be some debate about what exactly belongs in the core and what does not belong in the core, but we certainly should not ever adopt the mindset of a reductionist approach--that really only a few things matter--because that very mindset compromises the authority of God's Word. Whatever the Word teaches clearly is to be passed along so it can be taught to other people.

We believe that the focus should be on our responsibility, not necessarily our results, because it's required in stewards that a man be found faithful. I mean, it would be great to walk around and tell everybody how big our churches are and how wonderful everything is, but the bottom line is that that's a reflection of our preoccupation with our egos, rather than the work of God.
By the way, someone really ought to be able to get this.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Is America the Center of God's Activity in the World Today?

I think it's interesting and helpful to hear perspectives on Christianity from outside American culture. Obviously, not all perspectives are created equal—particularly in their commitment to biblical evangelicalism. I can't offer any background information on Reverend Niringiye from the Church of Uganda, but I found his gentle admonishment in a Christianity Today interview concerning the "Ameri-centrism" of evangelicalism in the United States worthy of consideration:
God very often is working most powerfully far from the center. Jesus is crucified outside Jerusalem—outside—with the very cynical sign over his head, "The King of the Jews." Surprise—he is the King of the Jews. "We had hoped … " say the disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus, but he did not fulfill our criteria. In Acts, we read that the cross-cultural missionary thrust did not begin in Jerusalem. It began in Antioch, on the periphery, the margins. But Jerusalem is not ready for Antioch! In fact, even when they go to Antioch, it's just to check on what's happening.

I have come to the conclusion that the powerful, those at the center, must begin to realize that the future shape of things does not belong to them. The future shape of things is on the periphery. The future shape of things is not in Jerusalem, but outside. It is Nazareth. It is Antioch.

If you really want to understand the future of Christianity, go and see what is happening in Asia, Africa, Latin America. It's the periphery—but that's where the action is.
African churches with Anglican/Episcopalian roots are often reported to be more evangelical than their sister denominations in Europe and the United States. I didn't see any overt evidence to the contrary in this assistant bishop's comments. In fact, I thought this was a great point:
We need to begin to read the Bible differently. Americans have been preoccupied with the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission: "Go and make." I call them go-and-make missionaries. These are the go-and-fix-it people. The go-and-make people are those who act like it's all in our power, and all we have to do is "finish the task." They love that passage! But when read from the center of power, that passage simply reinforces the illusion that it's about us, that we are in charge.

I would like to suggest a new favorite passage, the Great Invitation. It's what we find if we read from the beginning of the Gospels rather than the end. Jesus says, "Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men." Not "Go and make," but "I will make you." It's all about Jesus. And do you know the last words of Jesus to Peter, in John 21? "Follow me." The last words of Simon Peter's encounter are the same as the first words.
This seemed rather God-centered to me, and I'm grateful to be reminded that American Christianity is not the once-and-for-all apex of the history of the Church.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Al Mohler Has Changed His Mind on Gender Issues

Earlier in the summer, I watched a documentary on the conservative reformation at Southern Seminary. (See previous comments here.) Mohler attended SBTS in the 1980s during the seminary's theological nadir. The documentary accused Mohler of advocating women in ministry (egalitarianism) until his theological opportunism got the better of him. They alleged that Mohler's aspiration was to the presidency of SBTS, and when the conservative resurgence blew into the SBC, he saw an opportunity to get what he wanted only if he abandoned his egalitarianism.

After watching that documentary, I hoped I'd eventually have the opportunity to hear the other side. That came today when Mohler published a commentary on the subject, in the context of a similar change in position on the part of the new president of the SBC, Frank Page. Mohler shares his own story to offer some perspective on what might have happened in Page's mind.

Interestingly, Mohler credits Carl Henry, one of the founding fathers of neo-evangelicalism, with giving him a stiff shove in the right direction—towards embracing complementarianism and a return to biblical authority:
Thus, during my years as a seminary student, I accepted the position that was presented as “standard,” scholarly, and acceptable. Worse that that, I actually helped lead a protest of the 1984 SBC resolution on women in ministry.

Then, I also had to change my mind. Embarrassingly enough. I, too, was caught in the act of changing my mind.

It started with a general unrest in my thinking. But then it exploded with a comment made to me in personal conversation with Dr. Carl F. H. Henry in the mid-1980s. Walking across the campus, Dr. Henry simply stopped me in my tracks and asked me how, as one who affirms the inerrancy of the Bible, I could possibly deny the clear teaching of Scripture on this question. I was hurt, embarrassed –and highly motivated to answer his question.

[Discussion of the process that led to his new convictions omitted.]

Nevertheless, my study of the question led me to a very uncomfortable conclusion — my advocacy of women in the teaching office was wrong, violative of Scripture, inconsisent with my theological commitments, injurious to the church, unsubstantiated, and just intellectually embarrassing.

"These Boys and Girls Are Not Spare Parts."

Watch the video of President Bush announcing his veto of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. (You might be distracted by some rambunctious children in the background who were once frozen embryos themselves, now being raised by their adopted parents.)

Don't be surprised if this is the last clear moral stand on biblical principle by an American president for a long, long time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dear Disillusioned College Students,

A while back I wrote a short piece reflecting with mixed emotions on times past. In light of recent events that profoundly affect an institution that had a crucial effect on me, I suspect that there are quite a few hurting young adults out there right now. Perhaps you might benefit from some advice that was given to me. Here's what I wrote:
A long, long time ago I was wrestling with a desire to pursue vocational ministry, which had recently awakened in my heart. Not having much of any idea how to take those first steps or even how to make the decision, I went to a man who for a long time had been in vocational ministry and who had been a great help and encouragement to me. He gave me a gentle shove in the right direction, and he also said a few words that for some reason stuck like a treble hook in my mind. He said, “Ben, the politics you’ll see in ministry will break your heart.”
His point was that as I faced a future life in ministry, I would see things that would make me retch—things that would make me question whether I wanted anything to do with Christian ministry, and perhaps even Christianity itself. It took me a few years to see tangible evidence of the truth of his prediction, but I did, to be sure.

The most important part of what he said was that my only responsibility was to be faithful. A year later, I was wrestling with the frustrations (most of which were caused by my own incompetencies) of my first year in vocational ministry. A Maranatha alumnus who was one of my bosses for the summer told me the exact same thing that I'd heard almost a year before: God rewards faithfulness.

Since those days, those conversations have frequently returned to mind during frustrating times. Somewhere along the way a passage from Scripture was filed in my brain right next to those conversations: John 21:18-23. Now, I don't expect to die a martyr's death, and I don't even think that I've been treated unfairly. But the point is that I need to be faithful to the work God has given me regardless of what happens to those around me. Even when authorities are dishonest to me. Even when heroes let me down.

It doesn't matter.
I need to be faithful. I need to follow Christ.

What happened to me over the course of time was that my exhuberant idealism got a healthy dose of reality. In the piece I wrote a while back, I said something that might be relevant today:
The bottom line is that the optimism of my youth is now dead—but it needed to die. It was largely an optimism that was based on hope in flesh. Read any biography or history of an institution. It will either be a stark record of human failure, or it will fall short of objectivity and accuracy.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that my optimism is not dead and gone—just the optimism of my youth. The optimism that remains is a gift from God. It is a reinforced hope in His changelessness and His faithfulness to do as He has said. It is, by His grace, an optimism grounded in His eternal purposes, His sovereign plan, and His kind intention to bless His people. And somehow, he’s chosen me to share in those riches.
So what are you trusting right now? What's your anchor? If you're hope is grounded in a beloved leader made of clay or a group of distant, faceless names (also men of clay) unknown except for their prowess at collecting offerings, then one of two things is true. Either 1) they've let you down, or 2) they'll let you down pretty soon. (And if you haven't noticed, you'll let yourself down far more than anyone else will.)

God has never been elected. He is sovereign. His power and His purposes are not contingent on whether a person or a group of people makes wise decisions.

Follow Christ, not men, particularly when you don't know whether to believe what men are telling you. He is all you have. He is all you need.

Jim Tressel Is a Fundamentalist

Seldom have I been so bursting with Ohio pride over a blog post as I am right now. Check out Jim Tressel's message in a Cedarville University chapel service here.

Unfortunately, some technical glitch is preventing me from hearing the audio, but I have confirmation from an OBF fundamentalist that Tressel is indeed speaking on "The Fundamentals."

I kid you not.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Implications of Bauder on the GARBC

This first paragraph is tangential, but this entire post is about to bore most of you out of your minds, so I'll make this observation at the beginning: I have a suggestion for every Baptist association: Hire Kevin Bauder to write your annual resolutions. Did anyone else wonder, after reading his summary of the GARBC-Cedarville discussions, whether the issues might not have been more clear to the delegates if he had defined the history and the issues rather than the GARBC itself?

A couple observations:
First, based on Bauder's argumentation, The Master's College and Seminary and some SBC seminaries should not be considered neo-evangelical institutions. This will come as a great surprise to many fundamentalists.

Second, Bauder has once again demolished the prevailing fundamentalist theology of separation via his "levels of fellowship" argumentation. Perhaps the most obvious relevant implication of Bauder's arguments is that separation need not always be complete and total; however, there is another significant implication as well.

One common and articulately-defended fundamentalist argument on separation is that all separation is "primary" (contra "secondary separation"). This means that even though an individual or institution may not associate with apostasy itself (Cedarville in this scenario), it can become disobedient by maintaining associations with others that do maintain associations with apostates (the SBC in this scenario).

The argument goes that the theologically-sound-but-compromisingly-affiliated individual or institution (SBC) becomes an object of primary separation because of its failure to observe biblical mandates to withdraw from apostates. Fundamentalists who adhere to this argument extrapolate the requirement for primary separation to other individuals and institutions (Cedarville) that are theologically sound and have no affiliations with apostates but that do have affiliations with those that have affiliations with apostasy.

It seems inescapable to me (if one holds to this logic) that anytime an entity is supposed to separate and does not, it has failed to uphold its own biblical responsibility and thereby becomes an object of primary separation itself. However, Bauder has acknowledged that "the individual churches of the GARBC will make their own decisions about Cedarville University, and it is right that they should."

In other words, Bauder assumes that the GARBC should not censure or separate from GARBC churches that maintain some level of association with Cedarville. In this statement, he denies that Scripture demands disassociation from entities (GARBC churches) that maintain affiliation with other entities (Cedarville) that maintain affiliation with still other entities (SBC) that maintain affiliation with apostates (liberal churches within the SBC).

I understand that this whole discussion sounds rather convoluted, but it is an argumentation that pervades the fundamentalism in which many of us have lived our lives. Bauder's piece contains nothing other than a devastating repudiation of it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

How Do We Know What's Best for Us?

The strangest thing happened to me a couple nights ago. While reading Future Grace by John Piper I encountered a quote from John Sailhamer's Pentateuch as Narrative. Not an hour later I was reading from the early chapters of Genesis and from Sailhamer's accompanying notes in his NIV Compact Bible Commentary, which is part of my regular Bible study plan. To my complete surprise, I encountered the same quote—almost, if not precisely, word-for-word. I think it's worth your consideration:
[W]e read for the first time in [Genesis 2:16] that "God commanded" the man whom he had created. Enjoyment of God's good land is contingent on "keeping" God's commandments (cf. Dt. 30:16). The inference is that God alone knows what is good for the man and what is not good for him. To enjoy the "good" he must trust God and obey him. If he disobeys, he will have to decide for himself what is good and what is not good. To people today such a prospect may seem desirable, but it is the worst fate that could have befallen the human race; for only God knows what is good for them. (pp. 14-15)

Tools for Manufacturing "Worship"

If some folks try to manufacture worship with things like this:

then isn't possible that others try to manufacture worship with things like this?

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Beautiful Post on the Beautiful Game

This should serve as a helpful primer for those of you more enraptured with the sport called "football" in the USA. You know, the game in which the only players who actually use their feet are scorned as "non-athletes" by the 350 pound lumps who push people. Great thoughts on the social/cultural implications too.


Read it and make up your own mind.

This Is Completely Off-Topic

But it's still funny.

And true.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Something for the Single Guys

What I Really Like About Fundamentalism

This is what I like about the fundamentalists I've known: When someone points out inconsistencies, faulty theology or practice, or hypocrisy, they usually don't call the critic arrogant or a pontificator. They realize that ideas matter—truth matters. That doesn't mean all self-proclaimed fundamentalists grasp it or apply it, but at least fundamentalists will agree that there is something objective and tangible that can be debated and disagreed upon.

Don't get me wrong. Fundamentalists will certainly argue for their point of view, but they seldom (not never) attack the critic's right to protest. And besides, a healthy, mature debate can be valuable to both sides. Granted, now and then you'll find folks implying that the younger rabble-rousers should just hold their opinions in abeyance until they have a head full of gray hairs, but advice along those lines that is genuinely condescending is relatively rare. Most of the "you're arrogant/pontificating/unloving" comments (at least the shots I've taken) come from the Christian-bookstore-bestseller-devourer crowd.

I like the way Dan Phillips contrasted Paul's letter to the Galatians with contemporary syrupy-spined evangelicalism today at Pyros:
So some pneumatic phlegmatics can be passive, calm, indifferent and unengaged in the controversies over the nature of the Gospel today. Some of them speak and write as if the Reformation were much ado about nothing. They seem to think it was an unfortunate mistake. They are unwilling to contend for this, the sola Gospel, the heart of the Christian faith. Worse, they instead gladly contend with those who are willing to contend for the Gospel.

I have to conclude that their problem is the opposite of their own estimation. It isn't that they are just so abounding in love that they won't fight. It is that they are bereft of love. For if they truly loved their fellow humans, they'd be unable to rest easy as men and women are sold the poison of a false, damning "gospel" -- no gospel at all, no Good News, but a dyspel, bad news. And if they loved God's Word, they'd never accept seeing its core message perverted and subverted.

And if they loved the Savior, they'd never make peace with His perfect and final sacrifice, His love, and His accomplishment on the Cross cast to the ground, there to be mixed with the dung and muck of human merit.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Podcast Flash

I recently subscribed to a couple new podcasts. One is from Mount Calvary Baptist Church. I've only listened to a handful so far, but Stephen Jones' sermons from Hebrews 5:1-4 ("Cling To The One Who Can Meet Your Every Need") and Deuteronomy 5:21 ("Covetousness: The Sin We Overlook") are excellent.

Here's the catch. They're only available for purchase unless you subscribe to the podcast, and I can't find a link on Mount Calvary's site for the podcast. Here's a link that should allow you to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes, but I'm not too sure you'll be able to access it there. Even if you have to pay, the cost is only $1 per sermon.

So All This Fuss Was About a Table in an Exhibit Hall?

The GARBC is straining out gnats and swallowing camels.

That doesn't mean I think the Cedarville vote was wrong. I think it can be a good thing that the GARBC told the SBC that it has a long way to go (not that the SBC noticed). But after all the shooting and shouting, wasn't it all really about a booth in an exhibit hall and a talent contest? The deeper issues of cooperation and association of the autonomous GARBC churches with Cedarville really weren't up for a vote, as some of the cyberdiscussion seemed to imply. Now that the GARBC website defines what action was taken and the reasoning for it, these matters are a bit more clear.

I really have no desire to beat up on the GARBC, but I think this controversy is illustrative of the mindset that is prevalent in contemporary fundamentalism. It seems as though individuals and institutions are far more willing to address the external behaviors of other individuals, churches, and institutions than they are to confront the internal theological-philosophical motivations.

Ken Fields and Tom Pryde
have been right to point out that in addressing the Cedarville controversy, the GARBC has swept under the carpet the more fundamental issues of theology and philosophy of ministry that point to far deeper rifts in the Association than what people think about Cedarville.

So I wish the GARBC well. I hope that the dreams Fields and Pryde and Ketcham (via Fields) have articulated come true. Forgive my skepticism. I just don't think that the tenor of this debate gives any indication that the real issues are even on the radar.

So good luck choking down that dromedary, GARBC friends. I don't know how it would taste BBQed up Memphis style, but I'd be willing to chow down on my share if I'm not a disobedient brother to the point that you're not prohibited from eating a meal with me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Making Church Membership Matter

Thabiti Anyabwile, a pastor in a church that has made membership mean something, has some practical suggestions.

What's Mark Driscoll All About?

If you haven't made yourself familiar yet with Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, I suspect that before long you will be. I think this lengthy session on church discipline is a good introduction since it's really a wide-ranging discussion of the church as a community of believers, what is a false gospel, how Mars Hill ministers to a pagan city, biblical church leadership, and the dangers of the prevailing church culture that is steeped in religious hypocrisy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Bad Music

We are again reading a defense of the indefensible. Between the bright light of right ideas and the gloom of truly deviant ideas there lurk some who prefer to lounge in the shade. They want a reputation for desiring the good while they continue to enjoy the bad they don’t personally find offensive.
This paragraph introduces dissidens' arguments at Remonstrans against tolerating fundamentalist CCM while abhorring its non-fundamentalist cousin. In other words, . . .
The small problem is that we have bad music, the big problem is that we defend it. It is a shame that our devotional verse is so insipid and mindlessly repetitive. It is worse that we excuse it. It is a sorry thing that our worship is so unimaginative. It is unforgivable that we cannot even admit it . . . . There are our Shadow People who want us to hate CCM. Fine, it is loathsome, who can doubt it? What the Shadow People cannot do is admit that their own music is CCM, and when it is pointed out, they excuse it because it is targeting children!
Check out the whole series by reading the previous and successive posts, "On a Scale of One to Ten," and "Compare and Contrast."

Yes, I Am Gloating: A Post-Cup Review

I just thought I'd review my pre-Cup predictions:

"USA results: I think we get a tie against one of Italy and CR and lose to the other."


"I think we narrowly beat Ghana to finish with 4 points and fail to advance on goal differential."

But for a really crummy PK call, I might have got the results right, but then USA would have advanced. So at least I got the ultimate result right: an early exit.

World Cup champion: "I think it's safe to say that the winner will be one of Brazil, Germany (the host country advantage), Italy, England, and the Netherlands."

Bingo again.

"Brazil is the easy choice. Germany is attractive since they are the host, but they have a serious problem if Ballack's not healthy. So I'm taking Italy despite some health concerns there as well."

Bingo thrice.

And by the way, in a previous post I had talked about how European teams dominate Cups in Europe. Of course, you might have noticed that all four semifinal teams were European.

This was a Cup marked by extremes: truly memorably performances of greatness and, well, truly memorable performances for their putridity.

The good: Germany, both as a team and as a host nation. Reports were that the Germans were remarkably efficient and precise (even for Germans); the first 99.99% of Zidane's minutes.

The bad: Officials; Landon Donovan; Kakanaldodinho; Golden Ball (MVP) voting regulations that allowed votes to be submitted before Zidane's expulsion, leading to two consecutive World Cups in which the winner was the goat late in the final match.

The ugly: The last .01% of Zidane's minutes; diving, particularly Portugal's world-class exhibition.

Farewell until 2010.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Christianity Today Interviews Mark Driscoll

Among several interesting comments here, the most enlightening is Driscoll's explanation for why megachurches don't appeal to me:
The major blind spot of megachurches is that they tend to be very effeminate with aesthetics, music, and preaching perfectly tailored for moms. Manly men are repelled by this, and many of the men who find it appealing are the types to sing prom songs to Jesus and learn about their feelings while sitting in a seafoam green chair drinking herbal tea—the spiritual equivalent of Richard Simmons. A friend of mine calls them "evangellyfish" with no spiritual vertebrae.

KJV 2011: Mark Noll Kicks Off the Party

In April, Mark Noll delivered a lecture at the Library of Congress in Washington on "The King James Version in American History." A summary of this tribute appears in today's Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ecclesiastical Associations and Fellowships . . . Blechhh!

Ken Fields is attempting to answer the question of why a church ought to be a part of a fellowship of churches. He even brings a weighty voice from the past to his aid. I'm not convinced. Hopefully, the conversation will dredge up something worthwhile though.

Here's some raw opinion. Associations are to groups of churches what programs are to local churches. Local churches create evangelism/discipleship/youth/women's/men's/yaddayaddawhatever programs to provide a magic bullet—a simple solution to a difficult, painful task of building up one another in the body of Christ. Programs are relatively pain-free, un-dirty mechanisms that help us feel like we're doing the work of the ministry without getting too involved in one anothers' lives. The last thing we American Christians want to do is invade someone's personal space, or worse yet, have our own space penetrated.

Church fellowships or associations are no different. We want a nice, neat statement of faith and some black/white lines of separation that will keep the rank-and-file churches in line without anyone actually having to expend any real effort to invest spiritually and emotionally and energetically in one another. We'll have our conferences where we'll get together for three days and hear some preaching and cheer on the missions agency and pass a few resolutions on somebody else's problems (and watch one anothers' heads get grayer and balder). Then we'll go home for 11.9 months and function independently again. If there's a problem (a church joins the SBC, hires a female associate pastor, or puts TNIVs in the pews), we do what democracies do—we vote and throw the bums out. Simple. Quick. Clean. Painless (relatively).

Is that supposed to be attractive? Is there a better alternative somewhere that is actually functioning proactively? I'm wondering if the regional (secular) accreditation models for colleges and universities might not be a better model—requiring intense self-study, statements of mission, specific, quantifiable goals, and outside accountability. If you really want an association that fosters church health, wouldn't that be more helpful?

Not that such a model would be a good idea either. Not that I know anything, for that matter.

The 24 Roundtable

Obviously, I would personally never watch TV. But no doubt some readers are not as removed from this world, so for your consumption I thought I might provide a link to the video of the roundtable discussion on "24 and the Perception of Counterterrorism" hosted recently by the Heritage Foundation and moderated by Rush Limbaugh.

I watched it, and it seemed pretty interesting, but I just couldn't figure out who this Jack Bauer fellow is. He seems ruthless but rather effective.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Religio-Political Edition of the Quote Game

Whenever [the agenda of the religious right isn't getting a fair shake in Washington], I pick up the phone and call whoever I need to call, and take care of it.
A pastor has to be media-savvy if he's going to reach everybody. I don't mean to be ugly and harsh, but to be forthright and candid. And the result is that people that don't like you start listening.
I think this is just too easy for a prize, but I'll throw a TNIV into the mix anyway just because I want to get rid of them. No googling, and the TNIV is up for grabs in the first ten guesses.

The Mission of the Church on the Fourth of July

The church's mission is not to make bad people good. Our mission is not moral reformation. It is spiritual transformation. And spiritual transformation, which is our mission, will filter our into moral reformation.
The church in America today has come to believe that a strong America is necessary for a strong church. Yet our relationship to society is not to reform it, but to redeem it. That's Stephen Davey's diagnosis of a very real problem. His explanation of the biblical response to this problem can be found in a series of sermons that began today at Here's a direct link to the first sermon in this series, "Missing the Mark."

In coming days I'll post a brief review on Davey's forthcoming book I Pledge Allegiance, which is adapted from the sermons in this series. Interestingly enough, Davey includes the same quote from C.S. Lewis that appears on the banner of this blog.