Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reforming Culture or Transforming Lives

This past weekend I attended the NICHE (Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators) graduation. As over 105 home-schoolers walked across the stage, each receiving their diploma from their parents, the words of the guest speaker continued to ring in my ears. Henry Reyenga (who is actively involved in the Ill. chapter of home schooling) gave the commencement address and used a phrase that proved troubling. He implored these young students to continue the fight their parents started -- and that fight was to "Transform Culture". As each of the graduates stepped to the stage to receive their diploma, brief statements were read about the graduates from their parents. It was here that the true definition of Reyenga's term "cultural transformation" was given its legs. While parents used different words, the base definition seemed to promote transformation -- not through the gospel -- but through social agenda (ie. creationism, restoration of a biblical world view, and the reign of OT cultural law). I was stupified as I had given the speaker the benefit of the doubt (thinking he was at least advocating for a regenerational approach to transformation), but to hear from these folks (who were less careful in their choice or words) that they understood their calling to be cultural transformation through education wreaked of social post-millennialism. After talking with a few friends and reading broader on the subject, it seems that it is not just the homeschool movement that is to blame but that it, (the home school movement) sprung from the failures of Christian Schools. Our education in the Christian school had failed to bring in the kingdom, so as opposed to changing our theology (or presuppositions) we changed our method. This thinking has grown to be known as "dominion theology". It has been defined as . . .
Its most common form, Dominionism, represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought. Its followers, called Dominionists, are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the "Kingdom of God" in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it. All that needs to be done is to properly explain it to them.
This definition was taken from a lager article on the subject entitled Christian Reconstructionism. This movement seems to be multi-denominational and very persuasive. Love to hear your thoughts concerning its scope and the end game produced in the lives of these kids and the "God" they worship.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tim Keller on Spiritual Fruit and Ministry

(ht: eucatastrophe)

Darryl Dash posted this from a talk by Tim Keller:

Last Saturday morning, I attended the President's Breakfast at Gordon-Conwell. I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore when I asked the gentleman next to me how long he'd lived in the area, and he replied that the King had granted his family their property in 1626. Lots of other fascinating stories and some good food, but I was really there to hear Tim Keller.

If you know Keller's ministry, you know that he is going to remind us of the Gospel in relation to whatever he's talking about. I was curious to see what he'd talk about to donors, trustees, and D.Min. graduates.

Dr. Keller gave one insight into ministry. We in ministry, he said, tend to mistake spiritual gifts with spiritual fruit, maturity, and character. It's one of our most deadly mistakes. He then unpacked this in three points: a biblical perspective, practical perspective, and the question, "What do we do about this?"

1. Biblical Perspective

1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that we can have great gifts, visionary leadership, and be active in social justice. If we have the qualities he mentions in verses 1 to 3, our church will likely grow big. But without love, none of this matters.

You can grow your church, and at the same time be almost spiritually dead inside. You can grow a church but it can be driven by insecurity. You can have abilities and talents, and God can use you, but you can lack grace in the heart.

Preaching and pastoring can be effective without grace - but your inner life, your love and character, can't be. Charity and Its Fruit by Jonathan Edwards is helpful in this area.

2. Practical Perspective

In ministry, it's inevitable that we'll have to tell people of the greatness of God when, at times, we don't have a sense of it in our own lives. There are only two ways to respond to this.

One option is to realize that we need a prayer life beyond what we've ever known. What about the dry times? Even in the dry times, there is power in confessing our fragility. It brings us back to grace. We become more dependent, less arrogant.

The other option is to throw ourselves into the busyness of ministry looking for results. It's like a spiritual sugar. It's like eating Twinkies. It fills the hole but not for long, and we're going to need a lot more in the morning. We often try to fill ourselves with ministry success rather than God's grace.

Gifts can't substitute for fruit. We can be do ministry out of fullness or emptiness. Our spouse will know the difference. This is where all the hidden stuff reveals a lot, such as pornography and binge eating.

Practically, grace can even compensate for a lack of giftedness. There are three basic clusters within ministries: public speaking, pastoring/counseling, and leading. Nobody does all three well. Godliness compensates for weakness in any one of these areas. For example, you can be godly and a poor speaker, but your godliness will lead you to keep your message short, and if you are truly godly you won't be boring for 15 minutes. You can be a poor counselor but if you are godly you will be a good listener. Grace compensates for a lack of giftedness.

3. What Do We Do About This?

It's both simple and hard. Spurgeon said don't save souls to save our own soul. Dr. Keller said that he never used to understand this. Now he realizes that it's possible to save souls to try and fill the hole in our hearts.

At one point, Dr. Keller came to realize that he was seeking his own justification through his preaching. He was being his own functional Savior. We often make the mistake of identifying our self-worth with our ministries.

The solution is to use the Gospel on our own hearts.

Before Robert Murray McCheyne died, he preached on Isaiah 60:1. They found a letter by his bedside when he died. The letter was from someone who heard him preach his last sermon. That sermon, the letter said, brought him to Christ, but it wasn't what he said in the sermon. It's what he saw in McCheyne. "I saw the glory of the Savior resting on you."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

G.K. Chesterton on Misplaced Humility

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed."

G.K. Chesterton

Piper on Baptism

Anyone (like me) who was confused about what exactly Piper was thinking about infant baptism recently should read chapter 18 of Brothers We Are Not Professionals. He lays out his position on believers baptism. Here are a couple quotes:

Here's how my thought has progressed. There have been three stages--not unlike childhood, adolescence, and (I hope) maturity.

First, I saw that every baptism recorded in the Bible was the baptism of a person who had professed faith in Christ...But I gradually came to see that these observations were only suggestive, not compelling. The fact that no infant baptisms are recorded does not prove that there weren't any...But Colossians 2:12 and 1 Peter 3:21 seemed to me to be problematic for the paedobaptist view...It seems therefore, that Paul is saying that baptism is an expression of the faith of the person being baptized. I did not see how an infant could properly receive this ordinance as an expression of his or her faith...

(aside concerning 1 Peter 3:21)
This text frightens many Baptists away because it seems to come close to the Roman Catholic notion that the rite, in and of itself, saves (baptismal regeneration). But in fleeing from this text, we throw away a powerful argument for believer baptism. For as J.D.G. Dunn says, '1 Peter 3:21 is the nearest approach to a definition of baptism that the NT affords.'

According to Peter, baptism is "an appeal to God." That is, baptism is the cry of faith to God. In that sense and to that degree, it is part of God's means of salvation. This should not scare us off any more than the sentence, 'If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). The movement of the lips in the air and the movement of the body in water save only in the sense that they give expression to the single justifying act, namely, faith (Rom. 3:28). Baptism is the outward appeal of faith to God in the heart.

(end aside)
...Since then I have been shown by a long succession of arguments in my church membership classes that even these texts leave open the remote possibility that an infant can be baptized on the strength of its parents' faith and in hope of its own eventual "confirmation." The argument says it is possible that those passages from Colossians and 1 Peter have relevance only for the missionary setting where adults are being converted and baptized. If Paul and Peter had addressed the issue of infants born into Christian homes, maybe they would have sounded like good Presbyterians...I doubt it. For there is now a third stage of reasoning in favor of believer baptism. There is a grand Biblical and Baptist response to the Heidelberg Catechism's answer to question 74 as to whether infants are to be baptized"...(see Heidelberg Catechism)..."In other words, the justification of infant baptism in the Reformed churches hangs on the fact that baptism is the New Testament counterpart of circumcision.

There is in fact an important continuity between the signs of circumcision and baptism, but the Presbyterian representatives of Reformed theology seem to have undervalued the discontinuity...I am a Baptist because I believe that on this score we honor both the continuity and discontinuity between Israel and the church and between their respective covenant signs...This implies that entry into the old covenant people of God was by physical birth, and entry into the new covenant people of God is by spiritual birth. It would seem to follow then, that the sign of the covenant would reflect this change and would be administered to those who give evidence of spiritual birth.

p.s. Is this infant immersion?!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

God is Love and God is God

This is cited from Brothers We Are Not Professionals, by John Piper (pg. 102-103):

Consider that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and that God is God (Isa. 45:22, 46:9). In the truth that God is God is implied that God is who He is in all His glorious attributes and self-sufficiency. But in the truth that God is love is implied that all of this glory is moving our way for our everlasting enjoyment.

Now those two truths from the Bible have unleashed different impulses in the world. And we will see that a balance is introduced here, lest we make of Christianity an elitist affair, which it definitely is not.

- That God is love unleashes the impulse of simplicity, and that God is God unleashes the impulse of complexity.
- That God is love unleashes the impulse of accessibility, and that God is God unleashes the impulse of profundity.
- That God is love encourages a focus on the basics, and that God is God encourages a focus on comprehensiveness. One says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). The other says, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
- That God is love impels us to be sure that the truth gets to all people, and that God is God impels us to be sure that what gets to all people is the truth.
- That God is love unleashes the impulse toward fellowship, and that God is God unleashes the impulse toward scholarship.
- That God is love tends to create extroverts and evangelists, and that God is God tend to creat contemplatives and poets.
- That God is love helps foster a folk ethos, and that God is God helps foster fine ethos. The folk ethos revels in the intimacy of God and sings softly,
Lord, You are more precious than silver.
Lord, you are more costly than gold.
Lord, you are more beautiful than diamonds,
Nothing, I desire compares with you.
(Lynn Deshazo)
And the fine ethos revels in the transcendent majesty of God and sings with profound exultation:
Far, far above thy thought
His counsel shall appear,
When fully He the work hath wrought
That caused they needless fear.
Leave to his sovereign will
To choose and to command:
With wonder filled, thou then shalt own
How wise, how strong His hand.
(Paul Gerhardt)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

KJVO and Fundamentalism

Perhaps this subject has become passe, but after sitting through a class on contemporary theology, the issue has again been brought to the forefront of my thinking. Our professor began the class by defining the term "fundamentalism". He stated that at its foundation, fundamentalism is an idea. It is an idea that seeks to revere the Bible as the very Word of God, and as the Word of God, it must be believed and obeyed. Assuming this is an accurate definition of the movement (which can be debated as not even the professor stuck to this definition seeing "ballroom dancing" as from the Devil) then the KJVO movement strikes at the heart of our very ideology. They haphazardly disregard our view of the priority of "original manuscript inspiration" crossing over in many cases into "bibliolatry" (a term I first heard used by a professor I had at NBBC). Have we become so yellow as to point our fingers at men like Piper as "in error" for mere hermeneutical issues but then accept a blatant denial of our doctrine of bibliology. I guess I send this out to those of you who are devoted fundamentalists. This is a big reason (along with our aptitude to Arminian theology) that I have become increasing fed up with the hypocritical nature of the movement. Is it worth holding firm to a movement that "winks" at PCC and other schools and pastors that deny and undermine our view of scripture?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Biblical Alter Calls (What is an Oxymoron?)

Is our movement plagued with easy-believism. The GARBC (in general) seems so quick to reject the "Lordship salvation" issue out of hand. Perhaps the reason for this relates more to our ties with Finney and his Arminian, decision-based view of regeneration. It was from the tail end of the second great awakening that we see the beginning of the "old fashion alter call." Our emphasis on the great issues of spiritual life transformation has become increasingly external or physical. Has this not shaded the issue of the internal life transformation! I have yet to be in any of our churches (GARBC, Independent, Fundamental, Baptist, etc.) that do not invite men to "come to Jesus" -- by walking down the aisle! J. E. Adams has written an excellent document on this subject entitled Decisional Regeneration. Should we remove this practice from the end of our services -- or remain joined arm in arm with such men as Charles Finney? Is it possible to preach and teach the need for spiritual growth and yet not give an alter call? The Puritans seem to be an excellent example of this paradigm.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Amusing Ourselves to Death

From the preface of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another--slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would be come a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisted, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Conformance: The Only Bible Software You'll Ever Need

Credit to Joe Weeks Here

Mac users will love this one. Check it out

Brothers Fight For Your Life

From the tenth chapter of John Piper's Brothers We Are Not Professionals:
I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that the fight to find time to read is a fight for one's life. "Let your wife or anyone else take messages for you, and inform the people telephoning that you are not available. One literally has to fight for one's life in this sense!"

Most of our people have no idea what two or three new messages a week cost us in terms of intellectual and spiritual drain. Not to mention the depletions of family pain, church decisions, and imponderable theological and moral dilemmas. I, for one, am not a self-replenishing spring. My bucket leaks, even when it is not pouring. My spirit does not revive on the run. Without time of unhurried reading and reflection, beyond the press of sermon preparation, my soul shrinks, and the specter of ministerial death rises. Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food and meditation.

The great pressure on us today is to be productive managers. But the need of the church is for prayerful, spiritual poets. I don't mean (necessarily) pastors who write poems. I mean pastors who feel the weight and glory of eternal reality even in the midst of a business meeting; who carry in their soul such a sense of God that they provide, by their very presence, a constant life-giving reorientation on the infinite God. For your own soul and for the life of your church, fight for time to feed your soul with rich reading.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Academic Bias Against Evangelicals?

Dr. Mohler has reported on this.

The Institute for Jewish and Community Research recently conducted a poll of American college professors, asking them to rate their feelings toward specific religious groups. The report points to one glaring fact -- a majority of the polled faculty members said they held "unfavorable" views of American evangelicals.

Gary A. Tobin, the Institute's chief pollster and director, called this finding "explosive," according to The Washington Post.

Read on

Monday, May 07, 2007


What is the purpose of a "label" within today's church? Within our conservative circles, there seems to be a debate raging regarding the need to label ourselves. If you do not have the right label, you are "snubbed". Students that attend FBTS are told that for a church to be approved, it must carry the label "baptist". Our culture today (call it post-modern or whatever label :-) you like) has sought to remove these labels. Often, the removal of these labels from our churches is met with fierce criticism by our fundamentalist brothers. One wonders, though, if this fierce opposition is rooted, not in the text itself, but in the modernistic reality of their previous culture. Modernism, with its insistence upon scientific reality, seemed to attract labels to itself. The modernist liked to define and label things (whether they be world views, or historical categories). Is the same true of our "older" fundamental/evangelical movement? Did the "older fundamentalist" buy into this aspect of culture, enjoying labeling and being labeled? Now, they react to the removal of these labels, not due to the biblical mandate to label (if there is one?), but based on a reliance upon their cultural bias (being raised and taught within a modernistic culture). The follow up question is then obvious. . . what is the purpose of a label? . . . and what label are important (fundamentalist, baptist, evangelical, reformed, new-fundamentalist)? Love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Exagerations and Responses

It is worth a look to check back with Denny Burk's site for some clarifications about exaggerations (#1 and #2) in the last post as well as some of the reactions from the Dallas News. Very interesting posts. #1 and #2

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Men of Whom the World Was Not Worthy

"On Wednesday April 18 many people in America were still focused on the aftermath of the massacre at Virginia Tech and had already moved on to inane debates about who to blame (besides the gunman) for the awful tragedy there. On the same day in Turkey, 46 year old German missionary Tilman Geske made his way to his office along with two other Turkish Christians, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel. The three men were heading to a previously arranged bible study with some Islamic “seekers” who had expressed interest in the Christian faith."
Read the article

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Podcast Worth Listening To: White Horse Inn

Most Recent Episode: Christ's View of Scripture
Because there are numerous theories about the nature and origin of the Bible, things may get confusing at times. But there's a simple test to apply to any theory about the nature of Scripture, and that is to compare every view with Christ's own statements about the character and reliability of God's sacred Word.

If you're thinking about getting an ipod, yet another reason to get one.
Click Here