Friday, February 29, 2008

Quote of the Day

ht: Blog and Mablog
"Real people are never cool; only their projected identities are. Smooth guys far too often have child support to pay. Fine dressers are often broke, party animals look a whole lot better at midnight than at four, and a lot of world-traveling backpackers are really just hiding from their parents" (Paul Grant, Blessed Are the Uncool, p. 21).

Bloom on Machen

Harold Bloom argued that much of American religion is gnosticism. Listen to the White Horse Inn for more details.
I found this interesting, from Bloom's book, The American Religion:
"There are only two people who stand out as antithesis to what I'm describing here as American Gnosticism...(Barth and Machen)...Barth knows the difference between the Reformed faith and gnosis. Where Barth was confident in a transcendent God and deeply suspicious of human experience, morality, or religion as a way of scaling the wall separating creator and creature, pietism and liberalism were locked in victory mode. The other anti-gnostic figure is J. Gresham Machen. What we call fundamentalists are really gnostics of an anti-intellectual variety. If there were a possibility of an anti-gnostic version of fundamentalism, such proponents would find their archetype in the formidable J. Gresham Machen, a remarkable Presbyterian New Testament scholar at Princeton who published a vehement defense of traditional Christianity in 1923 with the aggressive title of Christianity and Liberalism. I have just read my way through this with distaste and discomfort, but with reluctant and growing admiration for Machen's mind. I have never seen a stronger case made for the argument that institutional Christianity must regard cultural liberalism as an enemy to the faith. In contrast to this defense of Christianity, those who came to be called fundamentalists are more like the Spanish fascism of Franco, heirs of Franco's crusade against the mind. They are not the legatees of Machen."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Introduction to Bondage of the Will

Have to love Luther... LOL
THAT I have been so long answering your DIATRIBE on FREE-WILL, venerable Erasmus, has happened contrary to the expectation of all, and contrary to my own custom also. For hitherto, I have not only appeared to embrace willingly opportunities of this kind for writing, but even to seek them of my own accord. Some one may, perhaps, wonder at this new and unusual thing, this forbearance or fear, in Luther, who could not be roused up by so many boasting taunts, and letters of adversaries, congratulating Erasmus on his victory and singing to him the song of Triumph—What that Maccabee, that obstinate assertor, then, has at last found an Antagonist a match for him, against whom he dares not open his mouth!

But so far from accusing them, I myself openly concede that to you, which I never did to any one before:—that you not only by far surpass me in the powers of eloquence, and in genius, (which we all concede to you as your desert, and the more so, as I am but a barbarian and do all things barbarously,) but that you have damped my spirit and impetus, and rendered me languid before the battle; and that by two means. First, by art: because, that is, you conduct this discussion with a most specious and uniform modesty; by which you have met and prevented me from being incensed against you. And next, because, on so great a subject, you say nothing but what has been said before: therefore, you say less about, and attribute more unto "Free-will," than the Sophists have hitherto said and attributed: (of which I shall speak more fully hereafter.) So that it seems even superfluous to reply to these your arguments, which have been indeed often refuted by me; but trodden down, and trampled under foot, by the incontrovertible Book of Philip Melancthon "Concerning Theological Questions:" a book, in my judgment, worthy not only of being immortalized, but of being included in the ecclesiastical canon: in comparison of which, your Book is, in my estimation, so mean and vile, that I greatly feel for you for having defiled your most beautiful and ingenious language with such vile trash; and I feel an indignation against the matter also, that such unworthy stuff should be borne about in ornaments of eloquence so rare; which is as if rubbish, or dung, should he carried in vessels of gold and silver. And this you yourself seem to have felt, who were so unwilling to undertake this work of writing; because your conscience told you, that you would of necessity have to try the point with all the powers of eloquence; and that, after all, you would not be able so to blind me by your colouring, but that I should, having torn off the deceptions of language, discover the real dregs beneath. For, although I am rude in speech, yet, by the grace of God, I am not rude in understanding. And, with Paul, I dare arrogate tomyself understanding and with confidence derogate it from you; although I willingly, and deservedly, arrogate eloquence and genius to you, and derogate it from myself.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Challenge of the New Atheism

Hitchens goes to absurd lengths to try to show that people of great faith who are widely admired for their achievements were not really people of faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), for example, who was hanged in the last few weeks of the war for heroically resisting Adolph Hitler is described by Hitchens as having exhibited “a nebulous humanism.” Let’s look at that assertion a little more closely. Here is what the camp doctor at Flossenberg prison, who witnessed the execution of Bonhoeffer by hanging, said of after watching the courageous German Lutheran hours before his death, “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. . . . In the almost fifty years I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” Hitchens’ blind refusal to acknowledge that people of religious faith might, just occasionally, be motivated by their faith to perform charitable, even sacrificial acts gets him into real trouble with an American here, Martin Luther King, Jr. Hitchens seems to think that if Christians perform meritorious acts to implement social reform, it is because the advocates of what he calls “Christian reformism” had the ability to contrast the Old Testament from the New. Because King failed to preach hell and damnation, he is relegated by Hitchens to the ranks of the infidels. Hitchens asserts of King, “In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was he a Christian.” This would certainly be news to every single African-American who knew King or worked with him, or for that matter to the Nobel Committee that awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and made the observation, “Martin Luther King’s belief is rooted first and foremost in the teachings of Christ.” None other than Al Sharpton took Hitchens briskly to task in a May 2007 debate about Hitchens’ book at the New York Public Library. “In terms of the civil rights movement,” Sharpton said in rebuke of Hitchens, “it was absolutely fueled by a belief in God and a belief in right and wrong. Had there not been this belief that there was a right and a wrong, the civil rights movement...would not have existed...There is no question that he [King[ himself saw that the basis of the movement was God-based."

From David Aikman's critique of the new atheism.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

America's Changing Religious Landscape

ht Justin Taylor
A massive new study of the American religious landscape reveals big changes and powerful trends shaping the future. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life surveyed 35,000 Americans in one of the largest research projects yet undertaken.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey report is over 140 pages long, but the Pew Center for Research has provided a helpful summary. Among the major findings:

Read Molher's blog post.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Introduction to Our Romans Study

Before I begin I want to say a couple of words by way of introduction. One of the most practical implications of the doctrine of justification is that we are not discouraged by our failure. Our failure is a revelation of mercy. The point of justification is that our verdict is secure provided we truly are children of God. So with the recognition of failure is a gracious act of mercy because it shows us that God isn't finished conforming us to himself. The very fact that God continues to shape and mold us is an evidence that God is working in us, that we are indeed children of God. But I want to apply this today to our study.

The problem with many of us is that when our lives are measured against the ideal, we a more content to move the ideal than to face the condemnation and discouragement that comes from facing our failure. The implications of this when it comes to the gospel is that we are faced with the ideal of Christ's teaching in Matthew 5-7 and we fail. We couldn't even keep the lesser standard of the law. But God says, I've done it, I'm only asking that you receive it by faith, a faith that serves in love. Faith says, I know you've done this! You ask me to come to you for more grace to fight.

We will never stand in judgment with the verdict hanging over our heads. But he will look at us and say, did your lives evidence faith in my promises? Is the stamp of my grace on you?

Many in this room could be sitting here discouraged rather than encouraged by our study of Romans. You may say to yourself "I could never do what Mark is doing." I just couldn't read this way. Normal people don't do what Mark does. The standard is too high, to intellectual. Bible study is just not me. What we're asking is not perfection in the study. You'll never be better or worse as a person based on whether you can do what Mark does. But by the grace of God, perhaps he can give you grace to fight, to try.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Naulty, a True Confession

(ht: Maheny)
With all the news about Pettitte and Clemons it's disappointing to see Pettitte, a professing Christian, to give this sort of apology.
If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize.
From the bottom of my heart, I know why I did this. I didn’t do it to try to get an edge on anyone, I didn’t do it to try to get stronger, faster or to throw harder. I did it because I was told that it might be able to help me. That’s for other people to decide. If people think I’m lying then they should call me a cheater. Do I think I’m a cheater? I don’t. God knows my heart.

God knowing anyone's heart isn't good news...
Compare this with the words of Dan Naulty, twins reliever in the 90's:
"I stole people's jobs," said Naulty, who now lives in Colorado. "That's the part for me that was so wrong. I have to explain to my boys that I took people's jobs by cheating, and that penetrated my soul a number of years ago and still haunts me today."
From the Star Tribune
Now the consequences mean more to Naulty, a former Twins pitcher who spent 1996-99 in the majors. The mental snapshot that pops up the most: the sight of Mike Trombley packing his bags in 1996 after being a late spring training cut.

Naulty cheated his way onto the team while the popular and hard-working Trombley was misty-eyed over barely missing the cut.

Mark Dever in the Nine Marks Report Card

Pages 1 and 2 of the report card. Click to enlarge.

I want you to try a thought exercise. Suppose a business school class on non-profit organizations assigns its students the task of building a successful church. And Assume all the students are non-Christians. Could they succeed?

Sure they could! With the right poll-tested methods, just about anyone can draw a crowd. If ambiance sells coffee, why not use it to sell Jesus? If music sells clothing, why not use it to market the church? The church might even with a "Most Innovative!" award.

Yet think about this: what does it say about God if we need to market his glory and gospel with the same tools we use to sell toothpaste and laundry detergent? Is he really that desperate?

God is so much more glorious. He has declared a mighty gospel and then backed up his words by changing a group of people. There's the church's appeal: The wisdom of God. The might of God. The love of God. On display in the lives of a changed people for all the world to see!

Is you church is relying on natural appeal or supernatural? Whose glory does it display?

- Mark Dever

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quote of the Day

From Blog and Mablog
"Take heed you do not reject any from being your brother whom Jesus Christ, at the great day, will own as His, and whom God the Father will call His child" (Burroughs, Irenicum, p. 391).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vintage Jesus

Challies Review of Driscoll's Vintage Jesus. He offers some balanced thoughts on the book.

Also from Abraham Piper:

A few recommendations of Mark Driscoll's new book Vintage Jesus:

Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears combine profound understanding of modern culture with weighty Christian doctrine that is faithful to the Bible. It's written in such an interesting style that it's hard to put down. I strongly recommend it!

-Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary, Phoenix, Arizona

This new book by Driscoll, one of the most promising young pastors I've met, and his theological partner Gerry Breshears, tells the old, old story in a contemporary, exciting, in-your-face manner. Though written to appeal to today's younger seekers, nothing of classic Christian theology is omitted. Those of my generation may bridle at some aspects of the book—but it's good if we do. This book is just what's needed for us to understand how to reach the postmoderns and a great tool to help all of us connect with young seekers. This is both bold and uncompromising. I can highly recommend it.

-Chuck Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship

If you think that you already know Jesus, think again. This book will open the eyes of many who have yet to see the radical nature of Jesus' life and teaching. For the spread of the gospel and the advancement of the kingdom, I can only hope many will read this book and embrace Jesus as the true Lord, God, Savior, and King that he is.

-Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Age of Unreason?

Susan Jacoby has an interesting point. What interests me especially is whether or not Jacoby will blame this "unreason" on religious persuasion rather than at the real culprit, our consumerist media saturated culture. And for what it's worth, I think that evangelical Christianity is a prime example of what she's talking about.

Watch the video; let me know what you think.
(My internet connection only got through half of it.)

Are We Teaching Our Children to Lie?

From Albert Mohler
The most disturbing reason children lie is that parents teach them to. According to Talwar, they learn it from us. "We don't explicitly tell them to lie, but they see us do it. They see us tell the telemarketer, 'I'm just a guest here.' They see us boast and lie to smooth social relationships."

Consider how we expect a child to act when he opens a gift he doesn't like. We instruct him to swallow all his honest reactions and put on a polite smile. Talwar runs an experiment where children play games to win a present, but when they finally receive the present, it's a lousy bar of soap. After giving the kids a moment to overcome the shock, a researcher asks them how they like it. About a quarter of preschoolers can lie that they like the gift--by elementary school, about half. Telling this lie makes them extremely uncomfortable, especially when pressed to offer a few reasons why they like the bar of soap. Kids who shouted with glee when they won the Peeking Game suddenly mumble quietly and fidget.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Harder Task

As much as I differ with dissidens, he's right on here:
Tozer is telling us that creating worshipers is far more important than training workers

Read it in context.

Carson on Bell

And a taste of Nooma videos for yourself.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sermon of the Day

Why should we be unwilling to do for others what has been done for us by God, of whose blessings we are far less worthy than anyone can be of our help?

10. Now we see how utterly we fail to walk in faith when we presume to arrive at goodness and happiness by any other good works than those done to our neighbor. So numerous are the new works and doctrines daily devised, everything like a correct conception of a truly good life is wholly destroyed. But the fact is, all Christian doctrines and works, all Christian living, is briefly, clearly and completely comprehended in these two principles, faith and love. They place man as a medium between God and his neighbor, to receive from above and distribute below. Thus the Christian becomes a vessel, or rather a channel, through which the fountain of divine blessings continuously flows to other individuals.

15. Now, if you steadfastly believe, if you rejoice in God your Lord, if you are alive and his grace satisfies, if your wants are all supplied, how will you employ yourself in this earthly life? Inactive you cannot be. Such a disposition of love toward God cannot rest. Your zeal will be warm to do everything you know will be to the praise and glory of a kind and gracious God. At this point there is no longer distinction of works. Here all commands terminate. There is neither restraint--nor compulsion, but a joyful willingness and delight in doing good, whether the intended achievement be insignificant or difficult, small or great, requiring short service or long.

47. True, the self-righteous perform works similar to those of the regenerated; indeed, their works are frequently the more brilliant. They pray, fast, contribute money, erect institutions, make pilgrimages and conduct themselves with great ostentation. But Christ calls their works "sheep's clothing" (Mt 7, 15) wherein move ravening wolves. None of the self-righteous are really humble, mild, moderate and good in their hearts. This fact is revealed when one crosses them and rejects their works. Then they bring forth their natural and identifying fruits: temerity, impatience, arbitrariness, obstinacy, slander and many other evil propensities.

58. Our faith and all we may have received from God is insufficient to salvation, wholly inadequate, unless faith rests beneath the wings of Christ and firmly trusts that not we but he can render, and has rendered, full satisfaction to the justice of God for us; and that grace and salvation

Titus 3:4-8 by Martin Luther

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sometimes Only God Can Feel Hope

ht: Desiring God

Was the carnage of this past week in the USA extraordinary? These things came at us so fast that we did not click on them. Only when someone assembles them do they take our breath away.

Consider this from AP National Writer Ted Anthony:

Ugly things. Violent things. Elemental things. Epic things. The forces of nature and human anger unleashed in concentrated form across the land. Water and fire, gun and sky, bringing destruction, death and misery. And tears.

America's body count for the week from Feb. 2 to Saturday tops four score. Fifty-nine dead from the tornadoes in the South. Five dead after Edwin Rivera opened fire on his family and a SWAT officer in Los Angeles. Six killed in Kirkwood, Mo., when Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton opened fire at a city council meeting and was slain by police. Five women herded into the back room of a suburban Chicago Lane Bryant store and gunned down by a man still at large.

You can't even fit it into a single paragraph. Here's more: Three dead in an Oregon plane crash, three dead in a Louisiana vocational college shooting, five dead and three missing in a Georgia sugar refinery explosion. An Ohio teacher stabbed in front of her grade-school students after her estranged husband walked into the classroom and pulled a knife. Across the state, hundreds of homes damaged in severe flooding. Hordes of motorists stranded on Wisconsin roads by snow.

Continue Reading

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bill Piper: Fundamentalist Full of Grace and Joy

This is worth watching or listening to. LINK

Quote of the Day

At one time I used to hang with a group of Barthians; when gathered in a pub, it was never too long before one of us would utter the immortal phrase, `God’s being is in his becoming’ and the rest of us would nod sagely, mutter `So true, so true’

Carl Trueman

Multi-Cultural Worship

When you really think of the postmodern pressure which relativizes all truth claims I have to wonder: "Our cultural homogeneity really works against our message does it not?"

Great article by Matthew Kingswood, click to read

Multiculturalism, officially enshrined in 1971, is perhaps the most salient aspect of the Canadian societal landscape. Toronto has been dubbed the most multicultural city in the world. With all the beauties and benefits of such a cultural mosaic also come serious potential pitfalls. The multicultural mindset has proven to be fertile soil for the relativism of post-modernity. If East Indian curry is palatable, perhaps aspects of Hinduism are as well? But such curious openness on the one hand is often outweighed by a resulting lack of conviction on the other.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Friday is for Funnies

So I think I'm pretty much the best husband in the world. For Christmas I bought my wife a viola. But not only this. Since she hasn't played in years I've been extremely helpful in getting it all set up. Oh yes, it did come with strings on it. But I've helped with things like figuring out how to turn on the tuner and googling what notes the strings are "supposed to be" (CGDA BTW) But thus far I have to say the thing I've been most proud of is that only I, not the accomplished violist, has been able to tune this thing. It's nearly impossible. See Figure "A"

What I'm up against is this. You see that the diameter of the pegs is (sorry for the sideways view) rather large. Additionally, you might have noticed that the pegs are thicker toward the knob getting skinnier as they go in. The idea seems to be you loosen the pegs by pulling them out and tighten them by putting them in. The difficulty is when you turn the peg just 1/100th of a millimeter you drop about four octaves. So literally, I'm skipping back and forth about 3-4 steps and after about ten minutes of trouble I can get the note moderately close. If God's got a sense of humor, he's rolling about now. Because even after two months and a few painfully-close-to being-in-tune practices I finally noticed these little miracles on the other end...

Two Quotes from the Q and A at the DG Pastor Conference

"The reason God is God-centered is because that's the only way he can love you."

"For God to lift up his glory is not megalomania it is love."

- John Piper

Link (don't read the notes, listen to the audio)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Two Recommendations From the DG Pastor's Conference

Crawford Loritts offered a tremendous "Call to Courage" which is well worth a listen.

Also, Piper's biography on his father was excellent. He honored his father with this tribute.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rumors are Flying, Driscol is a Heretic?

Deerfield, IL.

Mark Driscoll may not be as hip as was once thought.

Driscoll, the co-founder of Acts 29 and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, was reportedly seen using a Dell laptop at the A29 Boot Camp recently held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. During the fifth session, led by Mark Dever, Driscoll sat in the back of the A. T. Olson Chapel working on a Dell laptop.

Long assumed that someone of Driscoll's "cool" factor-- which goes up to eleven-- would be a Mac user, many of the Boot Camp participants were floored.

"I mean, I use an HP, but that's just because I don't consider myself as cool as Driscoll," stated a despondent Joe Thorn. "I just don't know how he's able to reach the today's culture on a Dell."

Keep reading...

Inside-Out Living

I know this has been Tim Keller Saturated lately, but I'm plowing through his MP3s because I think he's worth my time. Keller and I have disagreements, but this message is crucial. I hope I'm beginning to see with gospel eyes and living humbling from the "inside, out."

Inside-Out Living