Monday, April 28, 2008

Brian McLaren and Willow Creek: "Serpent Sensitive"

Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary, tends toward the provocative. Never have I seen him more so than in this commentary that expresses revulsion at Willow Creek giving its platform to Brian McLaren:
When McLaren questions the existence of hell and the hope of the Second Coming, he is not a "new kind of Christian." Such things are neither new nor Christian. They are instead a repetition of the voice of a snake in a long-ago Garden: "Has God said?" and "You shall not surely die." It is tragic that one of the world's most renowned evangelical churches would highlight this kind of Serpent-sensitive worship.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why do we make a big deal over gender roles in the church?

To the guys I had lunch with on Wednesday during T4G, this one's for you.

We talked about why the T4G affirmations and denials would include a statement on gender roles when Dever just got done saying in his T4G talk that it's not a gospel issue. Well, here's some of his related thinking on the matter, in the introduction to his sermon this Sunday, "Gender Roles in the Church."

I think the key components are 1) the relationship between this issue and the authority of Scripture, and 2) Dever's explanation of why egalitarianism ought to be outside the bounds of cooperation when paedobaptism isn't.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

For All the Sailhamer Junkies out There

John Piper gave Dr. Sailhamer a nice little shout-out in his talk at T4G.

Two of Mark Driscoll's recent sermons, one on the Trinity, and another on Creation, both channel a good bit of Sailhamer, whether it's from Genesis Unbound, Pentateuch as Narrative, or his Genesis volume from the Expositor's Bible Commentary series. But on the other hand, I thought his Genesis series from a few years ago (follow this link and then click on "books of the Bible") was much more steeped in Genesis Unbound than these recent sermons.

And now, after writing most of the previous paragraph, I finished listening to Driscoll's QnA after the sermon on Creation. In it he described taking a class on the Pentateuch from Sailhamer somewhere in Portland and recommended the Genesis commentary and Genesis Unbound to his congregation. (I can't find a link to the QnA online, but you could get it from the podcast, I expect.)

Ed, if you're reading this, e-mail me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

T4G Leaders on the Blinding Power of Personal Relationship

I realize there are many pastors in fundamentalist circles who aren't too sure yet about where these T4G leaders really stand on the essential nature of the gospel, the contemporary condition of evangelicalism, and the legitimate grounds of cooperation. That kind of understanding only comes by continued exposure to how they're drawing lines.

Last week, just after the close of T4G, Al Mohler hosted Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and C.J. Mahaney on his daily radio program. They discussed not only T4G, but also some of the theological issues that threaten orthodox Christianity now and in days to come.

In the immediate context of their veiled discussion of an ongoing controversy at a flagship evangelical seminary, Duncan made some comments that are quite relevant to these matters (17:23 into the program):
It shows you again, and you saw this up close and personal here, how much personalities and relationships play into this, where a personal relationship will blind you as to the theological issue at stake, to the well-being of the Church, and you don't do the hard thing that's the right thing for the people of God and for fidelity to the Scripture because of a personal relationship.
This is certainly not unique or out of character for Duncan and these others like him. It's certainly the kind of spirit that's in keeping with the message of the affirmation and denial proposed by Dave Doran:
We affirm that all genuine fellowship is in the gospel and that true gospel ministers and congregations must not grant Christian recognition or assistance to those who have denied the faith or turned away from the biblical gospel. We further affirm the biblical responsibility of elders and congregations to be vigilant in watching out for those who teach false doctrine and to turn away from and have no fellowship with them.

We deny that the biblical calls for unity and separation are contrary to one another, and that refusing Christian fellowship to false teachers and false congregations is schismatic. We further deny that confessional subscription necessarily contradicts soul liberty. We also deny that the glory of God and good of the church are properly advanced through theological and ecclesiastical union with those who have denied the gospel.
More on this soon to come.

At Last

Someone's writing about modesty with an emphasis on the heart. And go figure, it's C.J. Mahaney. Pastor friend, if you're wondering why your young people are inexplicably attracted to Reformed Charismatics, this is one reason why.

T4G Free Audio Links

Andy Naselli has compiled a helpful post with all the MP3 links.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mark Minnick on Mark Dever

For several years, the best part of Frontline Magazine, a publication of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, has been columns by Sam Horn and Mark Minnick in the central supplementary "Sound Words" section. Here's a snippet by Minnick from the Jan/Feb 2008 issue:
In connection with a series last year on the church, I read 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Crossway Books, 2004) and The Deliberate Church (Crossway Books, 2005) by Mark Dever. Dever pastors Capital [sic] Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and has shown the courage to depart from much that has been merely traditional in church ministry for the sake of attempting to forge a theology of Biblical ministry. He's a Southern Baptist with almost no exposure to Fundamentalism but with many Fundamentalist instincts. If you're not familiar with his website,, you might want to take a look at it, especially the interviews section, which consists of downloadable informal discussions with many current Evangelical leaders about a wide range of contemporary issues.

Another impacting book on the church is Josh Harris's Stop Dating the Church (Multnomah, 2004). It's the book you'd like to give to every attender who won't join, but may not dare to. Still, maybe if you just left it lying around . . .

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"John Piper Is Not Where We Are"

Every now and then, you hear somebody say something along the lines of the title quote. Maybe it's about Piper. Maybe Mohler. Maybe MacArthur. Take your pick.

A thought struck me while I was listening to Piper's talk at Together for the Gospel, "How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice."

You can download it for free here. Give it a listen and see if you don't agree with me on this:

John Piper is NOT where we are.

Woe unto us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Men and Missions: What Are Guys Afraid Of?

I was intrigued by some of David Hosaflook's thoughts since I've had several conversations along these lines recently. One seminary professor even told me about a strategy a missions agency had pursued to create unusually challenging job descriptions to reach radically difficult places, hoping that the adventure instinct in men would be engaged.

The only people willing to apply were women.

Here's Hosaflook's theory:
I think the real problem--the elephant in the room--is sin. Two great missionary qualities are boldness (Acts 4:13, 29, 31) and a passion to evangelize (Acts 4:20). Spirit-filled people, even despite natural inhibitions, have those two qualities. But when sin is in your life, your lion heart cowers (Proverbs 28:1) and your burden for the lost is sucked right out of your soul (Psalms 51:13).
It's not at all difficult to imagine how the sin patterns that are so common among younger Christian men in contemporary American culture could paralyze them from pursuing overseas work. But for whatever reason, there's not the same shortage of men heading into pastoral ministry. So regardless of the reason for the deficiency, it does seem to be a widely recognized phenomenon.

What do you think the solution is?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

T4G Video Highlights

Carolyn McCulley is posting clips from the talks.

Some Very Brief T4G Notes

This is the midst of a very small and rare break from a relentless schedule, but I wanted to pass on what's struck me so far.

First of all, if you had told me 5 or 6 years ago that I’d be standing outside a door to an auditorium passing out stuff while Gretchen (everyone’s friend at MBBC) passed out other stuff, and then out of the blue we'd greeted by a former MBBC professor, I’m not sure where I’d have guessed I’d be and what I’d be doing. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that it would be at a Southern Seminary chapel, with Gretchen passing out bulletins and me with 9Marks contact cards.

The fellowship has been (not surprisingly) stellar, with loads of friends from BJU, MBBC, and Northland Camp days, not to mention many former Weekenders and enough CHBC members to meet a quorum for a Members' Meeting. When Mark Dever described in his talk an e-mail resignation letter he'd received this morning, I thought for a moment we might vote on it right there.

It's even more thrilling for me personally to see who's at this T4G than the one in 2006. I get the sense that more and more people, particularly older men, from backgrounds similar to mine, are finding in the T4G convictions and ethos something they resonate with. With Chris Anderson's help, I'm estimating the FQ (Fundamentalist Quotient) at roughly 5% of the total in attendance. That's not a large percentage, but in real numbers it's something like 250 people. I've counted 22 from MBBC, and there are more than that from NBBC and BJU backgrounds. Some also from Clearwater and Pillsbury. I trust that's as encouraging to some of you as it is to me. Perhaps more on that later.

I think the talk I'd recommend most that you download (to this point, anyway) is Thabiti Anyabwile's. He talks about race and the gospel, or to put it better, why there should be no such category. Dever's would probably resonate most with readers of this blog, but his talk might be less thought-provoking since the level of agreement and shared perspective is much higher at the outset.

That's all for now.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Serious men are not indifferent to any of the facts of history."

Dissidens makes a good point. Here's the punchline:
For a culture to work one cannot proceed by disavowing the shameful bits of the movement, defending the bits he's familiar with (or the bits he's chosen to become familiar with), or commending only those bits he decides are worthy of the name. Wouldn't it be grand if we could all do this? The neo-evangelical could disavow the goofier statements of Harold Ockenga, the seeker-sensitive could disavow the premature confessions of Bill Hybels, the fundamentalist could disavow the scandalous behavior of Richard Hand, the emergent could disavow the happyface piffle of Tony Jones....

Monday, April 07, 2008

One More Reason to Abandon the Language of "Calling"

Over the past five or ten years, I think I've made more than a few people think I'm either out to lunch or just plain obnoxious. Of all the possible grounds for those conclusions, none provokes those reactions more than when I've expressed opposition to using the term "calling" to describe the internal personal desire for pastoral ministry or the subjective sense that God has designated someone for that work.

But once again, I'd like to offer a little real-world evidence for how this language is abused. Wade Burleson, Southern Baptist pastor and blogger who gained notoriety for his concerns that Southern Baptists have excessively narrowed the boundaries for their cooperation, has most recently focused his energies on Southern Baptists and women in ministry. In a post today he describes a situation that illustrates how Southern Baptist women are being squeezed out of military chaplaincies.

Now, I think that the matter of women in chaplaincies is more complex that I intend to examine here, but two things are worth noting in Burleson's illustration. First, though it's not stated explicitly, it seems pretty clear that the female chaplain in question is preaching to men, given the fact that "every Sunday [she] can be heard preaching the gospel at 10:30 a.m. during the Protestant worship service at the beautiful West Point Military Academy Cadet Chapel."

Second, this chaplain's rationale (and Burleson's in his defense of her) is grounded in her internal sense that God wants her to be doing her work as a chaplain. Consider their words:
[My] heart "aches for the Southern Baptist Convention and the stance our convention has recently taken on women in missions and ministry." On the one hand Southern Baptist churches are training girls in G.A's (Girls in Action) and Acteens that they are to listen to the voice and calling of God and serve Him. Yet, when those same girls fulfill the call of God on their lives, the very Convention who trained them then turns their collective back on them.
Notice how teaching to listen to "the voice and calling of God"—the kind of teaching we've all heard, and the kind of language we've all heard used to defend personal choices—is used here to defend a particular form of ministry that many would argue is incompatible with biblical directives for the role of women in public ministry.

I realize that some will want to say, "Hey, the West Point Chapel isn't a church, so she ought to be permitted to preach." I understand that argument introduces some complexities, even though I think those folks are still wrong at the end of the day. But what I wish everyone could recognize and apply to all aspects and complexities of who does what in pastoral ministry is that an internal sense of "the voice and calling of God" ought to be about the last argument we use to defend our or someone else's personal choices.

Our hearts are deceitful, and their desires aren't fully transformed yet. Not even close. I don't know why it surprises us when these kinds of heart-tugging rationales are used to give account for unwise and even ungodly human actions. So how is your terminology teaching future generations to make decisions and form a justification for them?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Bad Questions to Ask When Establishing Doctrinal Boundaries

Wayne Grudem's article in the recent 9Marks E-Journal on separation and cooperation offered some helpful suggestions for establishing new boundaries as the theological landscape shifts. Perhaps the most helpful was his discussion of questions we shouldn't be asking when we make these sorts of decisions. It seems to me that his advice has equal application to evangelicals and fundamentalists. Here it is:

There are some questions that should not be part of our consideration in deciding which doctrinal matters to exclude with new boundaries. For example:

“Are the advocates my friends?”
“Are they nice people?”
“Will we lose money or members if we exclude them?”

Such questions are grounded in a wrongful fear of man, not in a fear of God and trust in God.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Can Your Church Be Too Congregational?

Greg Gilbert's post today at the Church Matters blog is thought-provoking on this topic.

Graven Images

I thought I'd posted this a couple weeks ago, but apparently hit a wrong button or two in the midst of all the fun. So here it is, finally.

On Friday I saw this post by Greg Linscott.

Saturday morning I sat in on a Bible study led by a friend at this place. Afterward, he gave me a tour where I saw the paintings and sculptures in the photos, along with many, many more.

When I returned home, I read an e-mail that told me about this. (Extraordinarily attractive website, by the way.)

Food for thought.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools

Every year since I started blogging, I've toyed with the idea of an April Fools post. Every year I've had an idea, but resisted the urge, probably due to some unusual (and providential) moment when I hit the self-edit button.

This year I just can't resist, though I hope to be provocative without being obnoxious. So I offer you this question: If you saw one of the below statements, posted on April 1st, which would you most easily believe to be true and why? Which is the most unthinkable and why? Which would you be most pleased to see occur? Which would best serve the cause of the gospel?
  1. [Pick-your-favorite-summer-camp] stops trading in come-forward invitations.
  2. John MacArthur appears on BJU's Bible Conference schedule.
  3. The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship releases a resolution rebuking the too infrequent presence of expositional preaching and church discipline in fundamentalist churches.
  4. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary renames the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.
  5. A book written a self-identified separatist fundamentalist is given away in a gift bag to all Shepherd's Conference attendees. (Yah, I know, that already happened.)
  6. The Leadership Conference hosted by Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, incorporates a 9Marks regional workshop into its program.
  7. A significant fundamentalist institution admits and apologizes that its past policies were rooted more in latent racism than religious conviction.
  8. Someone hosts a theology-centered youth ministry training conference with both fundamentalists and someone from the MacArthur orbit . . . and none of the speakers cancel.
  9. Together for the Gospel incorporates Dave Doran's proposed article in its affirmations and denials.
  10. The author of this blog admits it's all been a colossal waste of time and shuts down the operation.
I'm still thinking about my own answers. Perhaps I'll post them in a day or two.