3/29/2008

Christ is the Center

It is good for Baptists to listen to the voices of their critics. I found a great post here that reminds me of this fact. Here’s a bit of it:

The charge is bandied about that the new breed of Evangelical Seeker-Sensitive pastors are preaching a Me-Centered Gospel, a watered down gospel or are preaching a Christless form of Christianity. But in my conversations with Church Planters and in taking the time to listen to thousands of hours of their sermons I can definitively state that their theology isn't technically 'Christless' and that they believe with ALL of their hearts that they are fulfilling the calling to which they feel Christ has called them.


The problem lies in their popularized form of Baptist theology and its Material and Formal Principles. The center of their religion is off and as a result they are focusing on the wrong things and are trying to produce the results they are seeking with the wrong tools. I know this sounds like an outrageous and conceited charge on my part. But, please bear with me…




By the way, I have made many of the same criticisms myself, so I hope the post author doesn’t lump all Baptists in the same boat. If the heart of the matter is my changed life, then anyone who follows me around for any length of time will find Christian theology heartless. I don’t do to well.

Christ crucified is the only hope many of us have, and His cross is the heart of our spiritual lives.

Many Issues Need to Be Discussed

Thanks once again to Between Two Worlds for a link to an interesting Walk Street Journal article here. A radio program I enjoyed, Issues, Etc., has been recently canceled by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. The show’s passing has also been lamented by my friend at Extra Nos and my friend at Extreme Theology.

The show’s abrupt cancellation leaves us without one strong voice for historic, confessional Christianity in the mainline Lutheran church. The show will be missed, and I pray God would bring it back.

3/26/2008

Can We Trust What Our Hearts Tell Us About the Bible?

Do we always need complicated historical arguments for the Bible? Do we have to prove that the Bible is God’s Word to everyone?

While I do think there are good reasons why we can trust our Bibles (see here), I do not think all people need this kind of persuasion.

The gospels are the Word of God written by men empowered by the Holy Spirit to write directly and forcefully. In John 14:26 and 16:13-14, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit’s presence to help the Apostles remember His teaching. This power is evident in the writings themselves. One church historian puts it like this:
"They carry about them a self-evidencing quality. They carry their
uniqueness on their face. They have always exercised, and still exercise,
an unparalleled power upon the lives of men." (Bruce L. Shelley. 1995. Church history in plain language, Second edition. Dallas, Texas: Word
Publishing. p. 61)
This self-evidencing quality lead Charles Spurgeon to say that we do not defend the Bible in the same way we do not defend a roaring lion, the lion can fend for itself.

Another perspective, given by a modern theologian, is also instructive. Wayne Grudem says, “It has been the testimony of Christians throughout the ages that as they read the books of the Bible, the words of Scripture speak to their hearts as no other books do” (Wayne Grudem. 1994, 2000. Systematic theology. Joint Published by Great Britan: InterVarsity Press and Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishering House, p. 66).

This is important to recognize because many Christians accept the Bible on this basis alone. They never seek to understand the evidence from history. This is not the best approach to understanding the gospels, but it would be wrong to say that these Christians accept the gospels without evidence. They find their evidence in the words themselves.

3/24/2008

'They Want Jesus Instead' is an article from Chuck Colson that outlines some hopeful trends in the Muslim world. The text is here.

See more information on conversions to Christianity for Islam here.

3/23/2008

Passion Week Map

Thanks again to Between Two Worlds for a great link.

A satellite map overlay to the approximate places of key events of Passion Week with a harmonization and sequence can be found here.

This Easter

I had a difficult time getting into the Spirit of the Easter Holiday this year. I started a couple of posts, but I just find it difficult to add to the words of the Apostle Paul.

The Passion

"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” - 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, ESV

The Resurrection

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” – 1Corinthians 15:20-26, ESV

Happy Easter!

3/21/2008

That Elusive JAMA Article – Especially for Good Friday

Thanks to Between Two Worlds for the link to a JAMA article here.

I’ve heard about this article for years, and I’ve always wanted to read it. The conclusion, based on the testimony of the gospels, is that Christ did in fact die on the cross. Hardly seems startling news to me, but some people need more convincing than I do.

Interesting Movie Coming

Ben Stein has produced a movie called “Expelled.” It will be running in limited theaters soon. The movie is about the experiences some science professors have as a result of commitments to the intelligent design movement. More details can be found here.

I hope to see it soon, or at least rent it when it hits stores.

3/15/2008

Faith + Works

I have spent many hours contemplating the relationship between faith and works. I have found it difficult to establish this relationship in my mind. Christ often speaks in such a way as to warn us that works are the basis of our judgment before Him (e. g. Matthew 16:24-26 and Matthew 25). Jesus also speaks of the fact that we are justified by faith (Luke 18:9-14, John 5:24, 6:47). I have found one illustration to be helpful to me, and I have come to the place where I accept the truth behind the illustration completely.

I am taking this example from a series of lectures by John H. Gerstner on sale from Ligonier Ministries here. Another example of Gerstner’s writing on this subject is here.

The relationship between faith and works in church history can be summarized by three equations:

FAITH + WORKS = SALVATION

FAITH – WORKS = SALVATION

FAITH = SALVATION + WORKS

I’ll take these in turn.

FAITH + WORKS = SALVATION
This is a summary of the traditional Roman Catholic approach. Our faith leads to justification, but that faith also leads to righteousness being put into the heart of a person. The works which come from this heart of faith earn salvation for us. Salvation is dependent on faith, but in a sense, it is also dependent on works.

This approach can be seen in books by certain modern authors, Brian McLearen for one. I wonder if this is also to a measure the approach of N. T. Wright. There are places he seems to affirm that justification is by faith alone, but there seem to be times when he relates salvation to the entire life that a person lives.

This approach is easily answered by an appeal to two passages. The first is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. This is a parable told by Jesus that teaches very clearly that a person who cries out to God in faith is saved. There is no reason to think that works played any part in the tax collectors justification. The Pharisee is condemned for basing his cry to God on his own works. The tax collector, an example of a social outcast who most of Jesus’ hears would consider beyond the hope of salvation, is different. The tax collector’s cry of “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” is followed in short order by Christ’s declaration that, “This man when down to his house justified rather than the other."

Paul is most clear in Romans 4:1-8. The person “who does not work” is “credited with righteousness” because of his “faith.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

FAITH = SALVATION - WORKS

There is another version of false teaching that I personally have been exposed to by dispensational teachers (e. g. Charles C. Ryrie). In this scheme, faith leads to salvation without any works whatsoever. A person can claim to have faith by praying a prayer, walk an aisle, being baptized, etc. That person is then saved, even if he continues to live just as he did before he professed faith.

This teaching leaves out the idea that a person who comes to Christ in faith is born again (John 3:1-8). it ignores Christ’s clear teaching that if we do not trust Him when he tells us how to live our lives, we will not trust Him when He teaches us how to get to heaven.

Paul is very clear that anyone who is born of God “…is a new creation, the old has passed away … the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). He gives specific examples of the ways in which a person’s life must change when he comes to Christ (e. g. Galatians 5:16-24).

The faith that saves is the faith that works.

FAITH = SALVATION + WORKS

The last approach is the only one which satisfies the conditions of the verses cited above, namely that faith leads to salvation and works. Works do not earn our salvation, but they are absolutely necessary if we are saved. “The only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). James is also quite clear that …… (James 1:22-27, 2:14-26).

Our good works demonstrate to ourselves and to others the true nature of our profession of faith. Do you have a faith like this? Have you come to Christ in the faith that works? Christ clearly commands us to “… come follow [him]” (Luke 9:23). I pray that you do.

3/13/2008

Another Blog of Note

Ligonier now has a blog here. This should be well written and informative.

3/12/2008

Horton and NPP

I found the article here regarding the New Perspective on Paul by M. S. Horton to be very helpful.

3/08/2008

Ned Flanders

Matt Chandler over at the Resurgence has an interesting post here. He uses the Ned Flanders character from the Simpson’s show as an embodiment of the things he is troubled by in evangelicalism / fundamentalism. As a guy that was raised in a fundamentalist church, I identified with much of he post.

Here’s an excerpt:

…For years before I began to pastor a church I knew just what the problem was in American evangelical culture, and it wasn't sin, it was church people, it was Ned and his friends. The "frozen chosen" I think I have heard them called. They were old, tired, non missional, unmoved by the gospel, and thought the Left Behind movies were a great idea. They had driven our precious Lord's bride into the ground and deserved at least to be mocked in our young, hip, missional conversations and sermons and maybe even killed in some sort of Old Testament fashion…

It's a strange thing to wake up and find out you are the very thing you hated and rebelled against to begin with. Judging men not by the content of their souls but by how they dress, talk and drink…


In an analogy I am borrowing from Steve Brown: We looked down our noses at the ignorant, backward, fundamentalist, with allot of extra rules. We said, “I thank you that I am not like that man.” At the same time the fundamentalist was on his knees saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Who in this scenario “went down to his house justified?” (Luke 18: 9-14)

3/07/2008

If the article here turns out to be true, I think ice is now forming in a formerly very hot place.
Excellent commentary on the tornado which struck Union University in Jackson, TN, can be found here. Donations to rebuild the campus after the F4 tornado struck on Feb. 5 can be made here.

3/06/2008

Islam and Women

Thanks to Debbie for a link to an article here. The article highlights the plight of women in Islamic society. This is a list of legal cases tried an sentenced in Saudi Arabia, a country supposedly friendly to our interests in the Mid-East.

See more information on the life of women under Islamic rule here.

Islam at Home

Recent conversations with John on this blog reminded me of an article I had seen a couple of years ago called “The convert” by Cal Thomas. The full text of the article is here. An excerpt follows.

…[Sam] Soloman was brought up in the Islamic tradition and became a "recruiter," which he says is something like an assistant teacher. One of his responsibilities was "brainwashing people in the Koran." He tells me "The suicide bombers go through stages, and the most important stage is not when they blow themselves up. The most important stage is conforming them to the [Muslim] ideology. Once they are conformed to the ideology, the rest is easy. That is the role I had."

…Mr. Soloman is in double trouble. Not only did he abandon Islam and the terrorists' objectives, he has become a Christian, which has marked him for death…

Mr. Soloman speaks with knowledge, credibility and conviction. He has memorized large sections of the Koran and tells me, "There's not a single verse in the Koran talking about peace with a non-Muslim, with the Jews and the Christians. Islam means submission. Islam means surrender. It means you surrender and accept Islamic hegemony over yourselves." I ask him about the best strategy for fighting it: "It cannot be combated simply by force. It needs to be combated ideologically, spiritually [as well as] through arms."

...He says: "They are infiltrating and undermining every part of this society...There are 29 banks in the United States promoting Islamic banking. Since 1999, Dow Jones has launched Dow Jones Islamic Index and has subjected itself to be governed by an international Shariah board." (Shariah is the religious law of Islam outlined in the Koran.)

Mr. Soloman adds, "The Islamic organizations have their missionaries and
there are active or sleeping cells in this country." He mentions one, Tablighi
Jamaat, "a Pakistani organization that is hand-in-glove with the Wahaabis,
strong Muslim sects known for their strict observance of the Koran, and a strong
facilitator of al Qaeda and other factions of terrorism. They alone have 1,000
missionaries in New York, 50,000 across the United States. This is only one
organization. In 1994, I took a map and started putting pins in it. I found
there is not a single state without a mosque. Since then [the number] has
increased."

(See also information on life under Islamic rule here.)

3/01/2008

Doctrine and Drama

It is discouraging to see the Christian church in America abandoning whole-sale the pursuit of doctrinal education. I find the remarks below to be a firm prophetic voice.

“… It is the neglect of dogma [or, doctrine, the official teaching of the church] that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama…

That Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God “by whom all things were made.” His body and brain were those of a common man; his personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms. He was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”; he was God…

So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull—this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero…

If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggests a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand...

Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all.” - Dorothy Sayers

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