Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Christian and Drinking: Get 'Em While They Last

I just bought mine on Amazon. Looks like you won't get it from the publisher.

P.S. I wonder if this might not be another example of how the rise of faithful, biblical exegesis in fundamentalist circles creates conflict (or perhaps merely perceived conflict) with elements of a culture that is more loyal to its tradition than its professed principles.

Things I Thought I'd Never See (#1920)

I don't know exactly how to describe the Resurgence so I'll let it's website speak for itself:
The Resurgence is a movement that resources multiple generations to live for Jesus so that they can effectively reach their cities with the Gospel by staying culturally accessible and Biblically faithful.
I don't know much about the history either, but I think it's fair to say that Mark Driscoll is the driving force behind it. Recently, the Resurgence blog has been running a series by Colin Hansen on the Reformed Resurgence, with installments so far on John Piper, Al Moher, C.J. Mahaney, Tim Keller and "Reformed Rap." (Hansen is the author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists.)

Well, in predictable Resurgence humor, Hansen follows his installment on Reformed Rap with one on . . . you guessed it, Fundamentalists [ok, no you didn't guess it].

But that's not all.

Read the whole thing
for special hat tips to Danny Sweatt and Kevin Bauder.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music Crossing Cultures

Scott Aniol's article on whether we should import Western music into non-Western cultures is thought-provoking and worth a read. Scott's done some careful thinking, and even if you don't accept all his conclusions I think you'll profit from his contribution to the discussion.

This isn't merely an issue for missionaries to grapple with. It's also relevant if your church is as ethnically segregated as most, and you'd prefer that your church better reflects the demographics of your community (and Christ's Kingdom).

UPDATE: Looks like a similar discussion is just starting at the Resurgence blog.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Driscoll and the Hour of Power

In light of some comments here a few weeks ago, I wanted to follow up on Mark Driscoll's preaching trip to the Crystal Cathedral. Driscoll reports briefly here:
On Sunday, June 14, I preached two sermons at the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California. The trip went well. I paid my own travel expenses and preached without an honorarium as a way to ensure I was just serving Jesus. Everyone was super kind and allowed me to preach Jesus without edits. The sermons will be broadcast to 12 million people nationwide on the “Hour of Power” TV show, so please pray that people meet Jesus. They don’t have a firm date yet for when the show will be broadcast, but we’ll let you know on the Resurgence and on my Facebook and Twitter , so keep checking back. My first sermon was on Jesus’ claims to be God, and the second was a brutal tour of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in our place for our sins.
Robert Schuller hasn't aired the program yet. (We'll see if he ever does.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Amillennialists and Premillennialists: What Do We Agree On?

I am a better Premillennialist for having interacted with Amillennialists on the same church staff for the past two years. I understand the Amillennial position better, and I'm better equipped to explain and defend the exegetical foundation for Premillennialism. I'm also far more acquainted with the soft spots in the Amillennialist position and far less likely to toss around the common Premillennial caricatures and canards.

Perhaps most importantly, I've grown to comprehend what Premillennialism and Amillennialism have in common. No doubt there are as many permutations of Premillennialism as there are of Amillennialism—probably more. Nevertheless, as a Premillennialist, I'm going to attempt to create a list statements I can affirm—and that I believe every Amillennialist I personally know would agree with. Here goes:
  1. We should interpret the Bible literally where God intended us to understand it literally.
  2. We should interpret the Bible figuratively where God inspired imagery.
  3. Jesus is returning.
  4. Jesus could return at any moment.
  5. Satan's power is presently limited by God.
  6. Satan cannot stop the spread of the gospel to all nations.
  7. The 1000 years may be symbolic for a long period of time.
  8. At the end, God will give Satan widespread freedom to deceive the nations.
  9. Jesus will crush Satan and the rebellion he incites.
  10. Jesus will rule over the nations.
  11. God will judge all sin and pour out his wrath for eternity on all who are not redeemed by his Son.
  12. All the Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled in the way God originally intended for them to be fulfilled.
  13. All the promises to Abraham will be fulfilled in and through his promised seed.
  14. That seed is Jesus.
That's a start. I'm sure we could come up with more; feel free to try.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Editing Calvinism

So it turns out that Sword of the Lord editor Shelton Smith wasn't the first person to reprint theological works while editing out the Calvinism. Last week I happened upon a brief Christianity Today fact sheet that describes how John Wesley did the same thing to Jonathan Edwards. Here's the relevant portion:
Wesley read Edwards appreciatively and reprinted his Religious Affections, revising where the Puritan theologian's Calvinism was most strongly expressed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"I'm saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular Millennial view."

Revelation 20 didn't convince Mark Dever on Premillennialism as it did Tom Schreiner. Nevertheless, our disagreement on that exegetical question does not preclude our ability to live as members of the same local church. In fact, Dever spoke forcefully on that point. No matter how we disagree on our eschatology, I couldn't agree with him more when he says:
I am suggesting that what you believe about the Millennium—how you interpret these thousand years—is not something that it is necessary for us to agree upon in order for us to have a congregation together. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:21 that we Christians might be one. Of course, all true Christians are one in that we have his Spirit, we share his Spirit, we desire to live out that unity. But that unity is supposed to be evident as a testimony to the world around us.

Therefore, I conclude that we should end our cooperations together with other Christians, whether nearly (in a congregation) or more at length (in working together in missions and church planting and evangelism and building up in the ministry) only with the greatest of care, lest we rend the body of Christ, for whose unity he's prayed and given himself. Therefore, I conclude that it is sin to divide the body of Christ—to divide the body that he prayed would be united.

Therefore, for us to conclude that we must agree on a certain view of alcohol or a certain view of schooling, or a certain view of meat sacrificed to idols, or a certain view of the Millennium, in order to have fellowship with one another is, I think, not only unnecessary for the body of Christ, but it is therefore unwarranted and, therefore, condemned by Scripture.

So if you're a pastor and you're listening to me, you understand me correctly if you think I'm saying you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith that requires a particular Millennial view. I do not understand why that has to be a matter of uniformity in order to have Christian unity in a local congregation. [The context begins about 25:00 into the audio; emphasis mine.

Some will no doubt misunderstand Dever, thinking that he denies that fidelity to Scripture ever demands that believers withhold some level of fellowship from other professing believers who are unfaithful to Scripture. Those folks would merely display their naivety. To the contrary, the clear implication of his words is that people who deny or compromise the gospel have themselves divided the body of Christ. And people who, for example, disobey Christ's command to baptize believers are sinfully dividing the body of Christ, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned their errant beliefs and practices may be.

The point is this: When we are forced by human blindness to truth to grapple with disagreements among believers, we have to make judgment calls whether those disagreements preclude fellowship (at the very least) at the local church level. That's simply unavoidable. Those judgment calls are not always easy, but far too often good judgment gives way to recklessness and pettiness. Like Dever, I do not understand why churches must demand uniformity on the timing of the Millennium. I have not heard anything approaching a compelling argument to that end, and it is utterly incomprehensible to me when I hear of godly, fruitful men who lose their positions in ministry over the timing of the Tribulation. May God grant us repentance when we needlessly divide the body of his Son.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How I'm Celebrating Calvin's 500th Birthday

I think what I'll do most is pray for a one family of dear friends, and another family of my close relatives, who've left the United States in the past month for opposite ends of the continent of Asia. They have a few things in common. One is that both families have taken up the cause of the proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Another is that both have moved to nations whose governments hate the gospel. And the third is that they're all Calvinistic in their soteriology—the adults, that is.

Here's a hymn I've grown to love, which I'll not soon sing without them in mind:

Words: Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)
Music: The Sacred Harp, 1844; harm. James H. Wood, (1921- ) [not quite sure who holds the copyright on the music]

Oh, and I'll also be hoping that the Baptist's who've been placed in prominent positions and who like to slander either them or what they believe might just take the day off.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Web Roundup on Christianity and Patriotism

Russell Moore guest hosted in last Friday on the Albert Mohler Radio Program and offers a balanced view: Patriotism in church can marginalize the gospel, but if you don't acknowledge the holiday in some way, you're probably failing to contextualize prudently.

Moore also said in a forum at Southern Seminary related to Billy Graham and Southern Baptist political influence:
If we want to reshape American culture, we need to give up on reshaping American culture. We need to turn to reshaping Southern Baptist churches. In order to save our influence, we must lose it.
Stephen Davey, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, has written an excellent book on the topic—I Pledge Allegiance: Politics for the Citizens of Heaven. Read about it (and related products) here, but buy it here. Seriously, you can't beat the price!

Chris Anderson has written an excellent article for the OBF Visitor, published on his blog in two parts (part 1 and part 2). There are more punchy quotes in this series than I can begin to reproduce here, but I think this is the most powerful:
We have traded in our spiritual birthright for a bowl of political influence. Sometimes the cost has been orthodoxy, as evangelicals have aligned with political and social conservatives from a variety of false religions. The fact that Jews, Roman Catholics, and Mormons can form a united front for political purposes should be sufficient evidence that such causes are not distinctly Christian. Other times, the gospel hasn’t been denied, but merely displaced. We have been distracted from the main thing.
If you want to read his specific words to fundamentalists, you'll need to check it out for yourself.

Chris refers to Irwin Lutzer's excellent Why the Cross Can Do what Politics Can't.

Also worth a read is Blinded by Might, by Cal Thomas, well-known DC commentator and disillusioned former aide to Jerry Falwell, and Ed Dobson, who also worked for Falwell.

Speaking of Cal Thomas, he hit the nail on the head in a Christianity Today interview, explaining why he changed his view on the Church and politics:
I'm not looking for a savior; the one I have is sufficient. I'm certainly not looking for a political deliverer because our major problems in America and the world are not economic and political — they're moral and spiritual. The real problem is that we're sinners, not dysfunctional people. We don't need reformation, we need redemption.
Frankly, Thomas argues more radically than I would, suggesting that believers shouldn't even be involved in politics because it takes time that could be used to share the gospel. Ok, but so does writing newspaper columns . . . I'll actually argue that believers should work in politics. Churches, on the other hand, need to lead people to worship Jesus, not exalt America, as I hear a certain Christian song leads the kiddies to do.

One final observation: Has anyone else ever noticed how many preachers who take 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a promise to Christians in America so often proceed to preach about how bad the culture is and say nothing about that verse's call to repentance for God's people—the ones who are called by his name?

Monday, July 06, 2009

"Then conquer we must when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: 'In God is our trust'

Over the weekend I was reminded of the above lyrics to the final stanza of our national anthem. Then this morning I read Leonard Verduin's assessment in The Reformers and Their Stepchildren of Constantine's conversion, his establishment of Christianity as the state religion, and his appropriation of Christianity in his military exploits. Verduin writes:
Is the Cross of Christ then a thing whereby emperors' ambitions are realized? A device that sees the political aspirations of a power-hungry ruler through to victory? Surely Constantine had grasped little or nothing of the ideas set forth in the Cross of Christ!
The coincidence of the anthem and reading Verduin led me to reflect not only on how American politicians piggy-back on cultural Christianity, but also on how churches confuse patriotism with worshiping Jesus. A friend told me this morning about an extreme example this past weekend in which the point of the sermon was to prove that George Washington was a Christian. That church is committed to biblical inerrancy; the Bible was left unopened.

Now, I doubt whether many readers here experienced anything rising to that level. But I do wonder how many of us who sung "of thee" yesterday sang to Jesus and how many sang to "my country." I wonder whether importing American patriotism into a Christian service is ever prudent. Frankly, I wonder whether it's even Christian.

Perhaps that raises a more fundmental question: What do we really gather on Sundays to do?