Friday, May 23, 2008

"I've always feared that I'll get to heaven and find out that God loves opera."

Bob Kauflin was Al Mohler's guest on his radio program yesterday. Hear Kauflin explain why the real "worship leader" is the preacher, why he thinks God doesn't have a preference for musical style, and perhaps most importantly, how he things of his role in church service.

Pick up his brand new book if you want to hear more of his perspective on these kinds of issues.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Don Carson Doesn't Believe in "Redeeming the Culture"

Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited is one the T4G book giveaways I'm most looking forward to reading. So it was with some anticipation that I scanned his interview with Derek Thomas. One snippet really caught my eye, since I think it nails an absolutely crucial point that is foreboding for the future of evangelicalism, given its current trajectory:
[M]any of those who speak easily and fluently of redeeming the culture soon focus all their energy shaping fiscal and political policies and the like, and merely assume the gospel. A gospel that is merely assumed, that does no more than perk away in the background while the focus of our attention is on the "redemption" of the culture in which we find ourselves, is lost within a generation or two.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"This Is Not Grounds for Separation in Ministry"

That's Sam Horn's view of the priority of one's view on the Great Tribulation. Listen to it for yourself here, in his sermon from 5/18/08, "The Power of a Promise." Make no mistake, he's staunchly and passionately pre-tribulational. He just doesn't think it's grounds for separation. He doesn't even think it should be grounds for church membership. Brookside Baptist Church's statement of faith doesn't address the issue.

A survey of the statements of faith of other dispensational churches will reveal this doctrine is more commonly understood to be grounds for separation than it ought to be. I applaud Pastor Horn for his clear statement of his convictions on the matter, both concerning his personal eschatology and concerning his willingness to covenant together with those who disagree.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Undermining Evangelism: Evangelists and Evangelistic Programs

In The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Mark Dever writes:
When we are involved in a program in which converts are quickly counted, decisions are more likely pressed, and evangelism is gauged by its immediately obvious effect, we are involved in undermining real evangelism and real churches. (p. 81)
Here's a quote from an e-mail I received, which describes an evangelistic meeting in a Baptist church:
He did the sinner's prayer thing, then had those who prayed to raise their hands, then asked them to come forward, which he'd done both times Sunday and probably did all week. I don't know about the other evenings all week, but last night he came and got a girl in the row in front of us, because she didn't step out on her own and go forward. Then he asked the Christians who were praying for someone specifically in the service last night to raise their hands. Then he had them talk to the person they were praying for to try to get them to go forward.
This didn't happen twenty years ago. It was 2008. And it wasn't in some right-wing, fire-breathing, KJVO, ultra-revivalist church. And it wasn't some young, brash, obscure evangelist trying to make a name for himself.

Of course, I do recognize and appreciate that many evangelists will be as repulsed by this methodology (and the theology it reflects) as I am. Nevertheless, as Dever writes, this kind of methodology undermines biblical evangelism. It strikes me as the kind of aberrance from which we should separate. It's one of the reasons authentic fundamentalism is too seldom found within the fundamentalist movement.

Don't Bother Reading Unless You Used the Nashotah House Library

I just found an interesting reference to Nashotah House in the Washington Post. I can't speak personally to the theological leanings of NH within Episcopalianism, but I was interested to see the explosion in its enrollment.

If anybody from NH happens across this, thanks for your kindness to the Maranatha students whom you allowed to use your library. I'd love to hear what you think has contributed to the increased enrollment.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Kind of Review That Makes You Buy a Book

Jeff Straub offers a powerful review of Don Carson's biography of his father.

This sums it up well:
Tom was a man who labored in relative obscurity most of his life. He was not a great leader among men in the popular sense of the term. He wasn’t invited to speak around the country, the continent, or the world like his more well-known son. He was just an ordinary pastor who likely would have remained in obscurity had not his son offered us a glimpse into his father’s life. In doing so, Don Carson has written a book that should remind those who read it of Paul’s important charge regarding faithfulness—it is required of stewards that they be faithful or trustworthy (1 Cor. 4:2). The steward needs to carry out God’s charge without regard to personal gain or professional aggrandizement. Tom did, and therein is his legacy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The 21st Century "Gospel": Subtraction by Addition

A couple recent Christianity Today articles make me wonder if there is anything some creative author could propose is "the gospel" that a CT editor wouldn't publish.

In "A Multi-Faceted Gospel," Al Hsu makes some reasonable arguments. No man-made summary of the gospel is perfect. All have deficiencies. Scripture does use a kaleidoscope of images to paint a comprehensive picture of what God accomplished on behalf of his people. The problem with Hsu's argument emerges in this statement:
Indeed, some might criticize Jesus for not presenting the gospel comprehensively on every occasion. Sometimes he mentioned "eternal life" or "the kingdom of God." Other times he didn't. Sometimes he called for repentance, but not always. Jesus, and the New Testament writers who followed him, modeled cultural creativity and contextualization by telling the Good News in multiple ways: "Come, follow me." "The kingdom of God is at hand." "Jesus is Lord." "Repent and be baptized." "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." "For God so loved the world."
Hsu overlooks several essential aspects of an orthodox understanding of biblical revelation:

1. Biblical narratives are selective. The fact that only certain statements are recorded doesn't mean that's all that Jesus or another speaker actually said.
2. The Bible is a coherent book. It's the written Word of God. That means we have to take it as a unit—follow the metanarrative, if you will. We can't lift out one illustration or facet of what the gospel is or does and pretend that component stands on its own.
3. We have to let God define the gospel. So when God's Word tells us that certain truths are central to the gospel (as in 1 Corinthians 15, for example), those are the truths that must be present in our summaries of the gospel.
4. Just because a popular phrase has been around for a while doesn't mean it's actually a valid expression of the gospel. "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," and "I once was lost, but now am found" are not the gospel. That doesn't mean they're necessarily incompatible with the gospel, but they can't stand alone as the gospel.
5. "New approaches to the gospel," the products of creative attempts to communicate to changing culture, are only valid if they are faithful to genuine biblical concepts.

I fear that the end result of Hsu's proposal is the kind of "Open-Handed Gospel" advocated by Richard Mouw, also in Christianity Today. Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, tells the story of a rabbi who prayed for King Abdullah of Jordan. In response to that stirring event, Mouw writes:
I believe with all my heart that the God I worship, the God of Abraham, looked down on that scene, where a descendent [sic] of Isaac gave a blessing to a descendent [sic] of Ishmael, and smiled and said, "That's good! That's the way I want things to be!" I'm not entirely clear about how to work this into my theology, I confessed, but I'm willing to live with some mystery in thinking about that encounter.
I don't know exactly what Mouw means by that. I'm not sure he does. In fact, he seems to recognize he has no idea what he means. There is a sense in which I suppose the image of God in humanity distorts God's character less when non-Christians pray for each other than when they kill each other.

But that's not the argument Mouw is making. His argument is not that God's name is less sullied than it might otherwise be, but that he is genuinely and actively pleased.

It's this sleight-of-hand that enabled Mouw to attack a statement from John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel earlier in his piece. The difference between Mouw and MacArthur is that MacArthur doesn't believe people can be converted if they knowingly and willfully reject doctrine that's at the heart of the gospel, while Mouw wants to believe that people can be both confused and converted.

I have to agree with Mouw's statement in the CT article that people can be confused about some pretty important doctrines and still be Christians. For example, I wouldn't suggest that only Calvinists can be saved. (John Piper made some great comments on that point recently, which I hope to share eventually.) But I simply don't agree that what Mouw is saying in CT is what ECT is all about. ECT is about consciously affirming common ground between professing evangelicals and Roman Catholics over mutually acceptable language, knowing all along that the Roman Catholic signatories assigned different meaning to the language than the participating evangelicals.

I don't mean to question Mouw's motives or, for that matter, Hsu's or the CT editors'. I simply see a great danger in where this magnanimous, lenient approach to biblical doctrine is taking Christianity. Though this kind of open hand appears at first to expose, broaden, and liberate the gospel, it's the very same open hand that throughout history has let the gospel slip away, dropped it in the dust, and eventually trampled on it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Evidence That American Evangelicalism Is About Politics, Not the Gospel

If your pastor thinks making politics the priority of his preaching in the way advocated here is a good idea, get out of that church now. You're very likely not in a Christian church.

Last Minute Weekender Registration—Here's Your Chance

So if you're a college student just done with finals or one of Al Mohler's perpetually adolescent 30-year-old single guys playing Halo 3 Live 24/7 who can't commit to anything, here's an opportunity for you. I hear that there are still a couple slots open for the 9Marks Weekender that begins Thursday. Register here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Soccer and Faith

Since I like soccer and theology, and I get to post on whatever I'm interested in, I wanted to save a link to the article on Kaka in this year's list of Time's 100 most influential people. I certainly don't have any inside info on Kaka's profession of faith, but I was interested to see that the article was written by Kasey Keller, long-time US Men's National Team goalkeeper.

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