Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Financial Breakdown: A Spiritual Diagnosis

Lots of things make me think of fellow CHBC member Paul Mills as a rather bright guy. He's a Cambridge PhD in economics. He knows more about theology than many seminary grads. He became a senior economist for the IMF after years of working in Her Majesty's Treasury doing things like managing the balance sheet of the United Kingdom. He's written several articles about the precarious implications of the housing bubble and things like derivatives and leveraging credit. But so have lots of people. Paul was writing those articles in 2007.

And he's a redhead with a British accent. Need I say more?

So last Wednesday night Mills was the guest lecturer at a CHBC Henry Forum. I understood some of it, but I especially liked the pretty pictures on the screen thingy.

If you want to know more about what happened in the financial crisis of the last six months, especially from a Christian perspective, you might benefit from listening to Paul's talk. And you can even download a PDF of the pretty pictures.

Update: Audio is back online.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dispensationalism: 150 More Years to Get It Right?

As I was reading Andy Naselli's interview of Rolland McCune on his newly-released Systematic Theology volume, a couple things sent my mind in motion. But one of those simply floored me.

Naselli's twelfth question was a provocative one: "What issues have been lingering difficulties in your theological reflection?" It strikes me as the kind of question many theologians would have dodged—it's not especially fashionable for a professional theologian to admit he doesn't have everything figured out.

But McCune doesn't dodge or even unload a squid-like ink blob of obfuscation. Though I'd need some more explanation to grasp his broader point, the implications of his closing comments should be inescapable. Here's what he said:
When I was in seminary in the later 1950s, Dr. John C. Whitcomb opined in class that dispensationalism could take possibly two hundred years to be fully integrated into ST. Dr. Ryrie was reported to have said he thought dispensationalism was about thirty percent developed back then.
I've lived the vast majority of my life in unabashedly Dispensational contexts, and that Dispensationalism has been pretty dogmatic—the kind that sees Covenant Theology as serious error. In many cases, it's seen as the kind of error from which one needs to separate. Some might think of Covenant Theology as "uniquely precarious." Exposure to that sort of dogmatism seems to be the experience of quite a few people my age.

No doubt there are Dispensationalists who don't demonstrate that level of separatist dogmatism. No doubt many CT'ers are similarly dogmatic and condescending to Dispensationalists. And which system is right isn't really the issue here.

So what is the issue? Well, it simply seems to me as though advocates of a system that needs a bit more time to ripen—according to some of its most ardent advocates—might want to demonstrate some reserve when they critique other systems. I'm not suggesting that energetic debate is unfruitful. I've benefited immensely on a personal level from evaluating the clash between the best presentations of mutually exclusive views. And I'm certain that critical interaction has helped both camps move towards better articulations of their views. But I am wondering if a bit more charity and humility, coupled with less rhetoric and fewer straw men, might not serve the cause of the gospel well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Creating a Culture of Grace in Your Christian School

I haven't reviewed this audio CD set from Paul Tripp. But if I had any level of oversight in a Christian school, it would be on the way to my address right now. The contact I've had with Christian schools of many stripes in many places has convinced me that the product description for this CD set is asking precisely the right questions:
Is your school something more than a system of rules, offenses and punishments? What is the vision that propels the mission of your Christian school? Are you content with behavior control and the dissemination of knowledge? Are you asking the law to do what only grace can accomplish? Rules restrain sin, rules expose sin, but rules will never deliver a child from sin.
Unless I'm missing my guess, Tripp's answers will be just as precisely true.

If there is another author/teacher who more effectively combines exegesis of Scripture and the human heart than Paul Tripp, that person's name isn't coming to my mind. Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands and A Quest for More are prime examples.

Let me know what you think once you've heard it, or better yet if you already have. If this set shouldn't be a cornerstone in any Christian school administrator's staff development toolbox, it'll be useful to me to hear the reason why.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

What If a Pill Could Help You Stop Sinning?

Would that be a good thing?

NPR tells the story of how a drug intended to combat alcoholism also reduces impulsive theft—kleptomania. (The audio version contains extra detail.)

In a nutshell, the drug functions as an opiate to reduce the high that accompanies addictions, whether it's derived from narcotics, theft, or other activities.

This story made me wonder: Would we be helped if medication really could reduce the frequency of our sin? Is it a good thing to see quantitative progress in living a moral life, wholly apart from the gospel? I'm not suggesting it's a good thing to be as bad as we can be; I'm wondering what might be the implications for a person who needs the transforming power of the gospel—regardless of whether or not they've been converted—if that person finds behavioral transformation through other means.

So if you knew it would help curtail your sin, would you take the medication or not?

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Scope of the Gospel: A Response to McKnight and Wright

Greg Gilbert's been working through a hefty project on the gospel, with particular focus on how contemporary theologians are trying to redefine it and the Church's mission. Though this blog hasn't been a venue for those battles, Greg's post today gets to the heart of the issue so pointedly that I couldn't resist posting a link.

Here's the conclusion:
In the NT, the good news is always the proclamation of forgiveness of sin through the substitutionary death of Jesus, and the call to repent to believe in him. Sometimes that's all the NT mentions as the "good news"; sometimes it also seems to zoom out to include in the good news all the promises that flow to those who are so forgiven. What the NT never holds out as the gospel, however, is the bare declaration that the kingdom has come apart from the means of entering it (faith in Christ's substitutionary death). Speaking biblically, the gospel is either Cross or Cross-and-Kingdom. But it is never Kingdom alone.

Can Christians Sing "Father Abraham"?

Notice, I didn't say should (that's a different conversation); I said can.

So can Church age believers correctly affirm, concerning Father Abraham's "many sons," that "I am one of them and so are you"?

And if you say no, please help me understand how you read Galatians 3:7.