Saturday, May 29, 2010

Do People Really Watch TV for the Theology?

If people are going to watch TV, I like the idea of that happening with brains turned on, and I'm grateful for people who help that happen. I just don't grasp disappointment when Hollywood botches the gospel.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fun Stuff from the Browser Tabs

1. If you think this video begins with a pointless dodge to a perceptive question, John Piper would agree. (The link is well worth a read, as it differentiates his view of culture and preaching from Driscoll's.)

2. But watch further, because the answer to the second question is a provocative observation from Ed Stetzer on cooperation in missions: "Missions in general has historically been the pathway for theological compromise." A couple weeks ago I heard him say the same thing about inter-church cooperation. Watch for his fuller explanation in the video, which articulates the wise conclusion that varying levels of cooperation demand varying levels of theological agreement. "The markers are going to be determined by the level and intent of the cooperation."

3. Kevin Boling's interview with Ligon Duncan on the Manhattan Declaration isn't new at all, but it didn't seem to get much play. Duncan answers all the questions that have quite appropriately been asked, and far more thoroughly than others have done.

4. Sally Jenkins, thoughtful sports columnist for the Washington Post, asks a useful question tied to current events, but I wonder how many really want to hear the answer:
What has happened to kindness, to the cordial pleasures of friendship between men and women in the sports world? Above all, what has happened to sexuality? When did the most sublime human exchange become more about power and status than romance? When did it become so pornographic and transactional, so implacably cold?
5. And finally, Bob Bixby is vlogging. Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pastors, Learn to Equip: Trellis and Vine Workshops Across the U.S.

I can't remember a non-inspired book not written by John Piper that so many people have so consistently described to me as transformational to their thinking than The Trellis and the Vine. The paradigm of pastoral ministry focused on discipling people, rather than managing programs, is plain in the text of Scripture but largely alien to American church culture.

The irony is that it took Australian authors to teach American pastors how to read our Bibles. Perhaps it's most difficult for us who are most steeped in American consumer-driven, programmatic ministry to step outside our culture, critique it, and re-shape it. "Pastors need to focus on equipping people in the congregation who will do the work of the ministry and equip others. And they need to focus particularly on raising up more elders." Duh. Why does that seem so profound?

Let me say briefly: I don't see this as a small church vs. large church issue, as some might cast the debate. Small churches can overemphasize programmatic trellis work just as badly as megachurches. And I hope Baptists in America don't pretend this is an Australian Anglican problem. We will marginalize or neglect raising up (particularly male) leadership from within our congregations at their own peril.

But all that was intro.

Now these principles are coming to the US in the form of workshops scattered across the country this fall. Limited to 100 participants in each location, these events are designed to equip church leaders to design and implement a training plan for their churches. "Sounds like trellis work," someone quipped to me. Yeah, maybe, kinda. But I suspect these workshops are not intended to set up another training program for your church. Rather, I'm guessing they'll ingrain priorities and habits in your ministry—a pattern of grabbing the guys who are already going the same direction you are, and equipping them to lead others to the same place.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spurgeon on Physique

To my shame, I'm only now reading Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students. This portion may not hit at the heart of his message, but I wanted to pass it on as an example of Spurgeon's witty if not a bit dogmatic perspective:
I would not . . . judge men by their features, but their general physique is no small criterion. That narrow chest does not indicate a man formed for public speech. You may think it odd, but still I feel very well assured, that when a man has a contracted chest, with no distance between his shoulders, the all-wise Creator did not intend him habitually to preach. If he had meant him to speak he would have given him in some measure breadth of chest, sufficient to yield a reasonable amount of lung force. When the Lord means a creature to run, he gives it nimble legs, and if he means another creature to preach, he will give it suitable lungs. A brother who has to pause in the middle of a sentence and work his air-pump, should ask himself whether there is not some other occupation for which he is better adapted.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

That Sound You Hear Is Fundamentalism Imploding

Dave Doran grapples with the implications of his separatism. I think this is the most fascinating paragraph:
Once I have decided that someone is violating biblical principles and that I must withdraw or withhold ministerial fellowship from him, does the failure of others to go along with my decision necessarily mean that I must withdraw or withhold ministerial fellowship from them too? And does the same question come up at a new level after each decision? I believe I must separate from Pastor A because of his disobedience to biblical truth, but Pastor B isn’t ready or willing to do that yet. Must I separate from Pastor B too? If you say yes, then what do I do about Pastor C who won’t separate from Pastor B (even though he might separate from Pastor A)?
Many fundamentalists have incoherently and hypocritically answered these questions. I believe that's a large part of the reason so many men who grew up in fundamentalism are convinced that, regardless of what might be the most healthy set of pastoral and church associations where they might teach and apply the convictions they learned from fundamentalists, the fundamentalist movement most certainly is not it.

Doran's answer in the next paragraph of his post is that he would vehemently disagree with some of the people in that alphabet soup. Certainly A. Maybe B. Possibly even C. I can't tell. He doesn't say. And in a sense, I don't blame him, because several of the "C"s are guys who speak at his church and/or graduated from his seminary and/or invite him to preach at Bible Conference.

I appreciate the fact that he's exposing the complexity of his dilemma. I agree with his conclusion: "I need to leave room for them to differ with me on this call or else I run the risk of making my conscience the standard for everybody else." What he says there, without explicitly saying it, is that the case for secondary (tertiary, quadruciary, etc.) separation that so many fundamentalists have championed is neither biblical nor viable.

But of course, if you're reading this, you probably already knew that.

Update: Doran just posted again. Read this part, at the very least:
For instance, when well-known fundamentalists make a questionable decision, it is sometimes explained with reasons like: (1) personal friendships with the hosts; (2) assurances that the hosts do not agree with the stranger views of the other speakers; (3) explanations that while those guys do hold some strange views, they really love souls (or have some other commendable trait); (4) in spite of their errant views, we think we can help that circle move toward a more biblical position; and/or (5) lack of knowledge regarding who all was involved in the event.

Yet, when some “non-fundamentalist” speaks alongside a person with questionable theology or ministry practices, he might offer the exact same kind of explanations and be soundly rebuked for (in corresponding order): (1) putting friendship ahead of the truth; (2) failing to realize the confusion that platform fellowship creates; (3) exalting man above God; (4) embracing an end justifies the means mindset; and/or (5) being careless about his ministry and with the Truth.
Of course Doran's right. And if you think the approach he critiques sounds like hypocrisy, it's because it is. And if you think you've been hearing people say that for years, it's probably because you have.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Down With the Bloggers!

Liberty University won't listen to bloggers, but it will listen to . . .

. . . the mainstream media?

Ha! Irony just doesn't get old.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Do Legalism and License Converge? (and more . . .)

Whether J.D. Greear's case that license is secular legalism holds water or not, I'm not yet sure. But I am sure he's dead right when he says:
Trying to correct a sinning, selfish Christian’s behavior by preaching a rousing sermon to him about what he must go and do to be a “faithful” Christian is the WORST thing you can do… because he will go and do what you tell him to the degree he feels like he needs to for his conscience to be satisfied. But when the sting of your sermon wears off he’ll go right back to his old selfish ways because his heart has never really been changed.
His point reminds me of how moralistic fundamentalist preaching so ironically mirrors moralistic liberal preaching. Both cut the heart out of the over-arching story of Scripture—how the only remedy to inevitable human failure is the gospel.

We need heart change. We need God to change our hearts. That's the foundational message we need to preach. That's what we have to make clear before any of the downstream implications of that message can advance.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dispensational vs. Covenantal: What's the Central Question?

Rattling around in my head lately has been the question whether the crux of the debate between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology (and other perspectives) isn't a hermeneutical approach, or whether the church replaces Israel, and certainly not whether the Davidic kingdom has been inaugurated.

Instead, could the key question be, whether the OT promises necessarily speak of Israel as a political entity (distinct from the other nations of the earth), or whether they speak of ethnic israelites as recipients of the promise?

Some oversimplification in a brief post is inevitable, but here's what I'm getting at: If the promises demand the re-establishment of Israel as a distinct political entity, then it's not as obvious how the Church can be incorporated. I'm not suggesting it's at all impossible, but it would certainly give Dispensational arguments more weight.

But on the other hand, if the OT promises directed to "Israel" refer to ethnic Israelites receiving the promises, then it's much less difficult to understand how both ethnic Israelites and Gentiles can share in the promises, particularly when Christ, an ethnic Israelite, is the one in whom and through whom all the promises are bestowed on the seed/offspring (see Romans 4 and Galatians 3).

It's a sort fulfillment to a sort of offspring that might not have been entirely clear in the OT. In fact, it certainly wasn't entirely clear. But it could be the sort of thing that the NT describes as a mystery, unveiled in the last days. Possibly even like what we read about in Ephesians 3.

Franklin Graham, Sounding Livid

In a Newsweek interview, on Islam and his Pentagon disinvitation. Strikes me as though this scenario is the inevitable outcome of the collision between a pluralistic society, the façade of public faith, and a man who'll say publicly that some forms of religion are reprehensible. It's where the American experiment hits a bit of a snag.