Monday, July 11, 2011

Things You May Have Missed, and Opinions You Might Not Share

Just a little collection of comments that intrigued me over the past few days:

1. Kudos to the GARBC for addressing openly the need to protect children from sexual abuse in the church.

2. Should you be considering showing your church a movie produced to propagate the gospel because the "older forms of Christian expression aren't as effective anymore," consider these words of caution from Dave Doran [MP3]:
Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism have both been guilty of an inordinate desire to keep up with the latest things. Okay, the latest technological advances, the latest deals to do it, so let's go back—gospel and films. I mean, it looks like the way to reach people, so all of a sudden people say, "Let's start doing that," without necessarily thinking about, "Does something happen that undermines the power of the spoken word when we move to drama?"—not even necessarily thinking about that. So I'm just saying we shouldn't chase any fad because it doesn't give us enough time to decide, and it's usually a misguided quest for relevance.
3. Some more Doran . . . I have to admit, I've barely skimmed the linked CT article, but I have no doubt he's right: "[P]rofessing evangelicals keep getting hoodwinked into publishing documents that never accomplish their purpose, but do in fact erode the boundaries of the faith." My take: The term "classic Christians" is code for "ecumenical unity is more precious to us than gospel clarity."

4. You've probably read a pastoral statement of repentance. The one you may not have heard is from Josh Harris. Give it a listen and see if any of the concerns people have voiced to CLC leadership sound familiar.

5. I'm a bit surprised that Master's Seminary alum Francis Chan is squishy on annihilationism. And it strikes me a bit odd that those comments aren't part of the story in a post that refers to arrogance in trying to attract people to Jesus by hiding things about him.

6. Though I'm not as optimistic about the future of the SBC as this author, I think he's dead right about the generation gap in its leadership:
We are merely experience the ramifications of twenty years of moderate/liberal theology in our seminaries. When it comes to strong theological training, which produces strong leadership, the SBC has a generational gap. The students in our seminaries when our schools were in such bad shape the Conservative Resugence began, are now in their 50s and early 60s. That is the age group that usually gives leadership to our convention. Many, but definitely not all, of this group tend to be atheological. Men of God who love Him and are deeply committed, but didn't have the theological training from a mentor like an Adrian Rogers or a school like our seminaries of the last 15 years. The theological void was filled by methodology and programs which has led to the rise of pragmatism over theology, which in turn produced the slippery slope down which we are currently sliding.

The last theologically driven generation is in their very late 60s, 70s, and 80s and sidelined by the convention. The next theologically driven generation is still under 45, which means lots of biblical grounding, but still very inexperienced when it comes to the ability to lead at a national level.

Friday, July 08, 2011

What Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology Have in Common (But Shouldn't)

I want to wrap up the series I started several weeks ago on biblical covenants, rooted initially in Steve Wellum's chapter, "Baptism and the Relationship Between the Covenants" [PDF], in Tom Schreiner and Shawn Wright's Believer's Baptism.

A summary of where we've been so far: Part 1 provided a brief summary of main contours in Covenant Theology. Part 2 focused on the "seed" theme in the Bible, reaching the conclusion that the term is used in four related but distinct ways. Part 3 traced Wellum's argument that Christ fulfills ALL the OT covenants. Part 4 highlighted two of Wellum's conclusions.

Now in Part 5, I want to give a bit more attention to John Reisinger's Abraham's Four Seeds, a book that's been quite helpful to me in holding both Dispensationalism (D) and Covenant Theology (CT) up to the mirror of some pivotal biblical texts. In it, Reisinger examines four biblical usages of the theological term, "seed"—natural, physical, unique (Christ) and "special" natural (the Nation of Israel). (Regardless of your personal convictions, it's worth a read, if for no other reason than that it'll help you look at those texts from outside the comfortable confines of your theological system.) Be aware that he's primarily critiquing the D of Scofield and the CT of the Westminster Confession, so your particular flavor of revised D or CT may not overlap precisely.

Most everyone would agree that D and CT differ strikingly over the matter of continuity in Scripture, related to the covenants and the people of God. D sees less; CT sees more. So you can get a sense of where Reisinger's coming from, here's how he describes that difference:
Dispensationalism drives a wedge between the OT and the NT and never the twain shall meet as specific promise (OT) and identical fulfillment (NT); and Covenant Theology flattens the whole Bible out into one covenant where there is no real and vital distinction between either the Old and New Covenants or Israel and the Church. (p. 19)
But Reisinger also notes a surprising point of similarity between D and CT. In fact, it's a recurring point of his book. (As much as I'm tempted to blog through the whole book, I'm choosing simply to quote the point rather than attempt to develop it. We'll see if I pay for that in the comments . . .) I think you'll see how it largely dovetails with Wellum's arguments:
What we are really saying is this: (1) Every promise that was made to Abraham and his seed is either now fulfilled spiritually in Christ; or will be fulfilled in the new heavens and new earth; or else it ended when the Old Covenant was done away; or there will be, in some cases, a 'double' fulfillment. (2) Every single thing given to a believer 'in Christ' is far better than anything in the natural world, including all of the land of Palestine. Every believer, whether Jew or Gentile, will ultimately be united to Christ and be part of his bride (Rev. 21) and experience the "better things" of Hebrews 11:39, 40.

Both the Dispensationalist and the Covenant Theologian want to bring the promise of Abraham and his seed into the present age in a physical sense via the lineage of their physical children. They both insist that the promise made to Abraham and his seed is an unconditional covenant and is therefore still in effect for physical seeds. The Dispensationalist naturalizes the seed to mean physical Israel, and the Paedobaptist naturalizes the seed to mean the physical children of believers. The Padeobaptist [sic] wants to make the Abrahamic covenant to be a special covenant with believers concerning the salvation of their physical children that is still in effect today. The Dispensationalist wants the same covenant to be a special covenant still in force with Jews concerning the land of Palestine. In the end, the Paedobaptist does exactly the same thing with Abraham's seed as the Dispensationalist! He merely does it for a different purpose. (p. 94)
In the final post of this series, I plan to reproduce a helpful chart that shows how God's single goal is advanced through two different covenants and two distinct nations.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Should we insist that our unregenerate children pray, ask forgiveness, or attend church?

Scott Anderson of Desiring God Ministries interviews Elyse Fitzpatrick on her new book, Give Them Grace, and asks her those kinds of questions. You might be surprised, or even appalled, at her answers. Whether or not you agree with her conclusions, I think you'll see that they emerge from a biblical understanding of human depravity and the Spirit's work in accomplishing regeneration. I hope you'll find it thought-provoking and maybe let it simmer for a bit.

The bottom line: Fitzpatrick is convinced that we focus far too much on behavior and teach far too little on the gospel as we go about our parenting labors. Her point isn't that we shouldn't train behavior, but that we must lead our kids to understand that, apart from God's work in them, they really can't change in any meaningful way. And even if they could, it wouldn't get them anywhere with God.

Speaking from some experience as one of the formerly people-pleasing and falsely-professing-Christ kids Fitzpatrick describes (the "older brothers" and outwardly religious Pharisees), I think she's on to something. Video is embedded below, but this DG post has some helpful time-stamps.

Monday, July 04, 2011

"What kind of Christians do contemporary services produce?"

This is an insightful piece from a Baylor prof, published in Christianity Today, and well worth a read. Among several poignant quotes, this one seemed to sum up the point best:
[A]esthetics is never mere aesthetics; the medium may well override the message, or worse, become confused with the message. Tailoring the message to personal styles can easily result in adapting the faith to one's own needs. Instead of allowing the gospel to challenge us, we alter the historic faith to fit the trends of our age.