Friday, April 29, 2011

"Fourteen dead in this Alabama neighborhood . . . now for more on Kate's dress . . ."

Not an exact quote, to be fair, but surely representative of news coverage the past couple days. James Davison Hunter addresses some of these same issues that Neil Postman previously addressed. Hunter writes:
[E]lectronic media such as the radio, television, and Internet compartmentalize the world and place its parts together in incoherent ways, as when a news report on a famine in Africa is followed by an advertisement offering pharmaceutical help for erectile dysfunction, which is then followed by the latest results of the NCAA basketball tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina; the stock market news from New York, London, Frankfurt, and Tokyo; a murder trial in Los Angeles; a trailer for a new coming-of-age movie; and so on. The format of the newspaper also compartmentalizes this way with no overarching narrative structure, but the new electronic media does it more seamlessly, rapidly, and intensely. The fictional and the real, the comical and the serious, the insignificant and the significant, all blend together flattening out the distinctions among them. The net effect is that all content is trivialized (p. 209).
Sadly, far too often our churches are similarly guilty. I suspect it wouldn't take a great deal of effort to start a nice list.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Schreiner: How We Become Heirs to God's Promises to Abraham

I've found Tom Schreiner and Shawn Wright's Believer's Baptism to be helpful reading on many counts, including some that reach far beyond the nuts and bolts of baptism. Here's one example from Schreiner's chapter, "Baptism in the Epistles" (88-89):
The eschatological thrust of baptism is also evident in Gal 3:27. Paul argues in Gal 3:15-4:7 that with the coming of Christ the covenant with Abraham has been fulfilled, and thus the covenant with Moses is no longer in force. Jesus is the seed promised to Abraham (Gal 3:16), and in him the pledges made to Abraham are realized. The age of childhood and infancy under the Mosaic law has ended (Gal 3:22-25), and now "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26).

What Paul meant by "sons" is that all believers are now "adults" through faith in Christ; that is, they are no longer in the period of infancy under the Mosaic law. They are mature and grown up because the promises made in the Old Testament have come to fruition. Believers are the seed of Abraham because they "belong to Christ" (Gal 3:29). Since Christ is the only seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), then belonging to Christ is the only means by which one can become part of the family of Abraham and receive the promises.

How does one know that one belongs to Christ? Verse 26 says we know we are Christ's if we have faith. And v. 27 says that those who are baptized have clothed themselves with Christ. In other words, baptism signifies that one is united to Christ. And since Christ is the only seed of Abraham, then baptism signifies not only that we belong to Christ, but also that by belonging to Christ we become part of Abraham's family. The unity in Abraham's family is what Paul has in mind in Gal 3:28 when he says that we "are all one in Christ Jesus." In baptism we become part of Christ and become heirs to the eschatological promises made to Abraham.
[Paragraph divisions and emphasis are mine.]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Off Topic [Budget Rant]

For perspective on the federal budget and the "$38 billion" "cut," divide by 100,000,000:
We have a family that is spending $38,200 per year. The family’s income is $21,700 per year. The family adds $16,500 in credit card debt every year in order to pay its bills. After a long and difficult debate among family members, keeping in mind that it was not going to be possible to borrow $16,500 every year forever, the parents and children agreed that a $380/year premium cable subscription could be terminated. So now the family will have to borrow only $16,120 per year.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Do We Get What We Honor?

Dave Doran briefly addressed the validity of the adage, "You get what you honor" in the process of making a related point:
Many of us have heard the short leadership quip, “You get what you honor.” The point is that what you hold up for admiration is what receives imitation. The quip calls us to recognize the power of example and use it for the purpose of leadership. I’ve always had some hesitation about its use with regard to spiritual growth and developing leaders because the last thing we need is Christian leaders who are motivated by an ambition for public recognition. I know it doesn’t have to work that way, but lurking beneath “you get what you honor” is the potential that some will do what needs to be done to receive that kind of honor.
As it happens, I'd just recently had a conversation with a friend about the same phrase. Here's the argument I made to him:
I think it's partially true. Some things are more or less within our control to produce. Human beings can condition behavior. But you know as well as I do that we cannot accomplish heart transformation. That's a work of the Spirit. We can honor heart transformation all we want (assuming we even know how to identify it with certainty), but no matter how much we honor it, we can't make it happen.
Last night I had the opportunity to talk about parenting to reach children's hearts in a non-religious setting. The parents who were there clearly recognized that we can control behavior—to an extent. Our reward-punishment schemes will succeed with children as long as they want what we can give them (candy, prizes, recognition, honor) more than they want what we don't want them to have (unlimited internet access, acceptance with their friends, sex). As one mother put it, "My kid can say he's going to youth group, but if he can always lie to me and sneak out with his friends."

Of course, I had to admit to them that the fundamental need for heart change that both their children and they need is something that no parent—even no human can accomplish. If you want to produce great athletes, honor great athletes [/SkinCrawl]. If you want to produce memorizers of Scripture, give kids stuff when they do it. But if you want godly children (or adults) no human scheme is sufficient to change the heart. Whose power and ingenuity do we really trust? Or whose should we?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Quick Hitters: More Stuff Than You Have Time to Read

1. I don't know what really happened in the churches that will be discussed on 20/20 tonight, and given the options (mainstream media vs . . .), it'll be hard to know whom to believe. I do think it's worth noting that institutions like the Wilds make clear statements about their conclusions of what happened (surely not indifference to it?!) when they continue to affirm that those men are examples of biblical leadership.

2. Dave Doran:
The church was never made by God to become some kind of "show window" that the world looks at and thinks, Wow, that's really attractive. I want to be a part of that. That's really impressive. They have everything together. They have beautiful buildings. They have wonderful programs."
Yeah, but what about a Christian college? Ah, never mind. Y'all are too young.

3. Taking us back to a recent post, tonight's the big night for the latest edition of "the red carpet on the sawdust trail." I wonder what would happen if a local movie theater wanted to show it. Or if 5,000 nationwide did.

4. Does anybody know off the top of their heads how the Bob Jones family reached Baptist convictions? Though Bob Jones, Sr. was a long-time member of United Methodist churches, my understanding is that Jones, Jr. was a member of a Baptist church in eastern North Carolina in at least the latter portion of his life. And I don't know where Jones, Sr. was a member at the end of his life. Just curious . . .

5. And speaking of Bob Jones, bet you didn't know that Shoeless Joe Jackson is buried just down the street from BJU.

6. Synchronize your clocks, people.

7. The truth finally comes out. I am Dave Doran's puppet.

8. Speaking of Doran and slander, I soon expect some looney blogger to accuse him of being a closet evolutionist for his reference to "vestigial organs."

9. Quote of the Whatever Time Period It's Been Since Michael Riley Wrote It:
[T]o the degree that our music and liturgy promote sentimentalism, we have tilled the soil in which heresy grows. We don’t preach Rob Bell’s universalism; we simply prepare his audience to receive his message.
Full post here.

10. John Stott is surely right:
We seem in our generation to have moved a long way from this vehement zeal for the truth which Christ and his apostles displayed.

But if we loved the glory of God more, and if we cared more for the eternal good of the souls of men, we would not refuse to engage in necessary controversy, when the truth of the gospel is at stake.

And finally, some old stuff I found as I was cleaning out iTunes:

11. Dever as a guest on Mohler's old radio show back in 2009:
It is shocking how many people who call themselves evangelicals really don't know what the good news [of the gospel] is. I find this all the time in conversations. I have divided more than one organization by pressing that question.
12. Mohler, speaking to Sovereign Grace pastors back in 2003, as he told the chilling story of his early years at Southern Seminary: "We are dying in evangelicalism of the terminal sin of niceness. We cannot afford to be nice. Nice means, "I'm going to be polite and not raise your heterodox teaching with you." Brothers, if you ever hear me to teach anything that is in conflict with the Word of God, love me enough to tell me. Force me into confrontation with the Word, so I will either have to harden my sin in resistance against the Word and be judged for that, but obviously you pray, as I know you would, that the Holy Spirit would open my eyes and I would see.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

You Have Not Come to Mount Sinai

A few more thoughts on Covenant Theology before I move on:

1. I probably should have mentioned in the previous post that I understand the matter of the continuity of the covenants to be a foundational building block to the system. Essential unity to the covenants reverberates through it all. If it falls, the system falls, as best I can tell. (I'm curious to hear if any CT'ers out there would disagree.)

2. This 9Marks interview with O. Palmer Robertson was helpful to me. It's been a while since I listened, but it might be a nice introduction to some of the issues from a CT perspective if you're looking for one.

3. Finally, if you're trying to teach people to affirm Dispensationalism, you are not helping your cause if you do not lead them to grasp the fundamental tenets of Covenant Theology on terms CT'ers would recognize. And I suppose the vice versa applies as well. Disdain is not an argument.

4. UPDATE: I just stumbled upon this, which is a helpful breakdown of some different positions, including one I'd not encountered.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Why I Reject Covenant Theology

Like Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology is not monolithic. Still, I understand O. Palmer Robertson's Christ of the Covenants to be a well-respected and representative work on the theological system. (Incidentally, if you're a D who's never read anything on CT, or vice versa, you really should.)

Robertson argues that "the covenants of Abraham, Moses, and David actually are successive stages of a single covenant" (41). I'm not going to unpack out his whole case, but I trust it's reasonably obvious how this conclusion also serves as a necessary premise for fundamental continuity in God's relationships with mankind after the fall. IOW, if those three covenants aren't essentially the same covenant, the CT argument for strong continuity can't stand.

Here are a couple other examples of this piece of the CT argument:
Jeremiah's classic prophecy clearly relates the new covenant to its Mosaic predecessor (cf. Jer. 31:3ff.). This "new covenant" with the "house of Israel and with the house of Judah" will not be like the Mosaic covenant in its externalistic features. But the law of God as revealed to Moses shall be written on the heart. While the substance of the law will be the same, the mode of its administration will be different. The form may change, but the essence of the new covenant of Jeremiah's prophecy relates directly to the law-covenant made at Sinai. (41)
. . . and . . .
The covenants of God are one. The recurring summation of the essence of the covenant testifies to this fact. (52)
On the very next page, Robertson argues that the covenants are one structurally and thematically; however, they are distinct in their administration. In other words, the essence of the covenants are indistinguishable, but God uses different mechanisms and structures to implement that covenant.

That argument reminds me of some words from one of my profs at Southeastern, which even now echo in my ear: "Covenant Theology is an amazing theological system. The only problem is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bible." Though that may have been a bit of hyperbole, his conclusion is nowhere more clear to me than on this particular point that Robertson asserts. Robertson is helpful in many ways, particularly in demonstrating how Gentiles were incorporated into the Abrahamic Covenant from its inception. (Why should we be surprised if they are incorporated today via the Church?) But when I read Scripture, I find evidence that is incompatible with the notion that the biblical covenants are essentially the same.

We can begin at the text Robertson notes above: Jeremiah 31. Robertson argues that the "new covenant" is the same covenant as the covenant established through Moses at Sinai. But Jeremiah says this new covenant is not like that old covenant. He doesn't say the administration of the covenant changes. He says the covenant changes. The administration is part of the very essence of the new covenant. That's the argument Jeremiah makes in verses 33-34 when he says, "This is the covenant:" and then proceeds to tell us that part of the essential change in covenant is administration. Administration change is part and parcel to covenant change. Hebrews 8 quotes this passage and concludes (v 13), "In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one [covenant] obsolete."

We could walk through other texts in Hebrews, but let's instead back up to Galatians 3-4—a passage, incidentally, which presents no small problems for many Dispensationalists. Covenant Theologians will quite reasonably argue from 3:15-22 that the Sinai Covenant did not abrogate the earlier Abrahamic Covenant. But 4:21-31 explicitly declares that there are still two covenants (not two administrations of the same covenant). One of them—the covenant of Sinai—leads to slavery. The other—the covenant to which we are parties ("the Jerusalem above . . . is our mother") leads to freedom and inheritance of the promises.