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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation Day

This week you'll notice some longer than usual posts, only one of which is from me. I asked some friends to write articles in celebration of the courage and faith of those involved in the Reformation nearly 500 years ago. They received no direction, just simply an email asking them to share whatever it is that the Reformation stirs for them.

I understand the curse of the long blog entry. Blogs seem to be most effective when they offer short, concise bites of information. . These are longer than usual, but I think you'll be glad you persevered, if you sink your teeth into them. I will not be updating my blog the rest of the week, so you could read one a day if you wanted.

In addition to the articles below, I'd also encourage you to check out:

Reformation Day Reflection by Mark Harmon
Reformation Day Reflections by Thabiti Anyabwile

Counted Righteous; Martin Luther’s continued relevance to 21st century

[Jason Bradshaw is a friend and fellow pastor at our church. He's the best music pastor I know, but is just a medicre fantasy football owner. He also designed the banner for this series, sparing you my Eye of Sauron graphics.]

Counted Righteous; Martin Luther’s continued relevance to 21st century
by Jason Bradshaw

Thursday night, I spent the time between 9:00 pm and 2:00 am gorging myself on the last few episodes of the second season of Lost. My wife and I purchased the season on a Monday evening and finished watching it that Thursday; 24 episodes in less than 3 full days. I hate to admit that I’m officially addicted.

The thing that gets me the most fired up about the show is the complexity of its characters. If you’ve ever seen the show, you’ll recognize that many of the characters are driven by guilt; pushed along by the complexities of their past even though they are seemingly left in a different world. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find guilt driven characters in even our classic pieces of media; Lady Macbeth, Willie Lowman, Raskolnikov, even Charlie Brown found themselves motivated by their wrongdoing.

Guilt is universal. It is part of our very nature; passed on like a trait in our own DNA. We are sons of Adam, as Lewis would say, and as such, bear the marks of his trespass.

This guilt was alive and well during the reformation and few people knew it as well as Martin Luther. Looking back on his life as a monk he wrote:
I hated that word [at Rom. 1:17], ‘the righteousness of God,’ which according to the custom and the use of all teachers, I had been taught to understand in the philosophical sense with respect to the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner… though I lived as a monk without reproach I felt, with the most disturbed conscience imaginable, that I was a sinner before God. I did not love, indeed I hated the righteousness of God who punishes sinners and secretly (if not blasphemously and certainly with great grumbling) I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if indeed it is not enough that miserable sinners, certainly lost through eternal sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Ten Commandments, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel’s threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!
Obviously, the gospel was something different to the early Luther; a gospel of penance and payment for sin to take years off our punishment in purgatory. Kittelson describes 16th century Christianity;
The religion practiced by people of the 16th century was much like the world in which they lived. They struggled to gain spiritual security, just as in their daily lives they struggled to achieve material security. Salvation was something to be earned, and so theirs was a religion of work.

People were exhorted to travel in groups to this or that shrine in order to work off the penalties for the sins they had committed. Frequently enough, they temporarily took up the life of apostolic poverty and begged for their sustenance as they traveled.

The faithful were taught that praying to the saints or venerating their relics would atone for individual sins of both omission and commission. To assist them in this work, the major churches and shrines collected pieces of bone and hair that were alleged to have come from the body of one saint or another. Some boasted drops of milk from the virgin’s breast or splinters from the cross of Christ.”
Thus, we now understand why Luther could “hate” God’s righteousness. It was, after all, God’s righteousness that provided the barrier between God and man. And it was God’s righteousness that, for Luther, provided the reason for human anguish and suffering; trying to constantly appease an angry God.

The god worshipped in the 16th century bears little resemblance to the god we know in the 21st. I would submit that these two concepts of god were at odds more so than any other two periods in history. The “god” of the 16th century was tight-fisted and stern while we worship a “god” that is the king of liberality (and liberality only--choking out the concept of God’s sovereignty); the means to attain all of our innermost delights. The “god” of the 16th century called no human righteous, while we are perfectly content to call everyone God’s children.

So then, is modern Christianity a mere outworking of Luther’s thought? Did Luther set the cogs in motion to produce such a fickle state in the church? No, rather somewhere along the way, we’ve abandoned the thoughts of the reformers and replaced them with half-truths.

Luther’s concept of the righteousness of God carried two parts, Kittleson describes;
[Luther] had told [his students] that the righteousness of God had two different meaning, but he had only been taught the second one: God’s righteousness was God’s possession and the quality by which he found sinners wanting. But Luther’s first and longer explanation was powerfully opposed to this traditional teaching. There he spoke of God’s righteousness as a quality God gave to believers and by which he made them acceptable in his presence.
Luther would later say that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. Obviously, this was central to his theology.

He coined the phrase simul iustus et peccator (“at once saint and sinner”). Rome called this a “legal fiction” since God could not call anything righteous that, in fact, was not. Thus, the fault lines developed and the central question of Christianity became this; who needs to placate the righteousness of God?

The bottom line is this; we need God’s righteousness to eradicate our guilt. Not simply our felt guilt but our actual guilt before a righteous God. Sin put a tab on our account that we could not pay, and so, Christ paid it for us, for those who place their faith in Him.

Yet, somewhere in 500 years of history, this was lost. The need for atonement is no longer central to our gospel presentations. Sin is barely mentioned. If there is no mention of guilt, there is no need for atonement. Yet, our world is constantly telling us of their guilt. They wear it on their faces and the loving thing would seem to be to abandon politically correctness and share who they have offended and how to be forgiven.

How do we pay for sin? Who pays for it? Does sin affect all of humanity? As relevant as those questions are, they are generally ignored and replaced with concepts of purpose and fulfillment. Perhaps the church needs to return to the monastery with Luther and feel the weight of sin along with him. Perhaps we need to remember that sin is not just a description of action, but a description of our nature. Perhaps we need to be brought back to the foot of the cross and remind ourselves of the consequence paid for our shortcomings. It’s time for the church to wholeheartedly embrace their identity as sinful man and fall hard upon the grace of a loving, righteous God.

Solus Christus: One Mediator Between God and Man

[I have just recently been reacquainted with Brad Peppo. We both grew up in the same Grace Brethren distict, and though he is now OPC, and thinks it's cool to get babies wet, I still consider him one of "us."]

Solus Christus: One Mediator Between God and Man
by Brad Peppo

Before the Reformation, Christians properly understood that, because of sin, direct access to God was impossible for man. They understood that no one could enjoy a right relationship with God without first going through Christ. The problem, however, was in the widespread belief that even Christ could not be approached directly. Vast multitudes of additional intermediaries had been imagined, through whom it was necessary to go if one desired communion with God. The worshipper might begin with a priest. If that were not enough, he might have to pray to the proper departed saint. If his relationship with that saint was somewhat strained, he might have first to find another departed saint more sympathetic to his plight. From there, perhaps, he could find some path, some chain of intermediaries by which, if he were fortunate, he might eventually gain access to Christ, and then to God.

As the Protestant Reformation dawned, however, God began graciously to open the eyes of his people to many biblical truths that had nearly been forgotten. One of these was the teaching that there was only one person qualified to serve as mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. Upon this rediscovery, the Reformers began to teach that, even though unmediated access to the Father was not possible, man could approach Christ directly and through him alone enjoy a reconciled relationship with God. This truth later came to be summarized by the Latin phrase, Solus Christus, or “Christ Alone.” This is the doctrine that, other than Christ, no other mediator between God and man is possible, and that in addition to him, none other is necessary.

Conflicts arise in every human relationship. Sometimes these conflicts grow so acute that these relationships are fractured, even to the point where direct reconciliation is no longer possible. A mediator, then, is one who steps in between two parties at this critical point in an effort to help restore peace between them. Effective mediators must possess unique qualifications. They must understand the interests of the person who sends them. They must have access to and a favorable relationship with the offended party. They must be able to help the opposing parties facilitate a solution to the conflict responsible for the damaged relationship.

The scriptures are clear that all men have sinned, and that sin has effectively destroyed man’s relationship with God. The enmity between God and man is infinitely more severe than any conflict arising from mere human relations. Man in his natural state hates God, and God stores up eternal wrath against man. Without a mediator, without someone to bridge the gap, their relationship is doomed; and man will certainly fare the worse for it. Who could possibly mediate such animosity? He must be one who deeply comprehends the nature of man, one who has full favorable access to God himself, and most importantly, one who can effectively facilitate a solution to the seemingly insurmountable problem of sin.

Consider, then, the qualifications of Christ for this ministry of mediation between God and man. Because he has partaken of our nature and experienced our sufferings and temptations, he fully understands our needs and weaknesses; because he is the obedient beloved Son of God in whom the Father is well pleased, he enjoys unfettered access to the very throne of God; and because he is the spotless Lamb of God, who has shed his perfect blood, he has done more than facilitate- indeed, he has become the solution to the problem of sin. Through him, therefore, we can be completely restored to peace with God. How could another ever do the same? Without the mediation of Christ, man has no hope. If we would be reconciled to God, it is in him alone that we must place our trust. In addition to him, we need no other.

The Radically Emergent Church

[David Mohler is a recently made friend and co-laborer for the gospel. You will often hear him say "pusillanimous" but quickly see he is the farthest thing from it.]The Radically Emergent Church
by David Mohler

Growing up in Grace Brethren circles, one thing I do not ever recall hearing was the term, "Reformation Day". But I do recall hearing from time to time names like Martin Luther, Conrad Grebel, and Alexander Mack mentioned (more or less) in passing. As Brethren, the forging oven of the Reformation should not be understated, let alone be forgotten. Nothing less than the Truth pierced Martin Luther's soul, and the rest is history.

The Lutheran and Reformed churches of the sixteenth century were the product of spiritual renewal, a Spirit-directed course correction in the understanding of repentance and the Doctrine of Justification, at the least. Those early reformers produced the rough-draft of the evangelical Church emergent from idolatrous worship, and false teaching. Such emergence, like a baby's birth, was not without accompanying pain.

Many historians affirm that the real radicals which emerged out of the Reformation were the Anabaptists who refused to be weighed down with the yoke of religious-political compromise. Arguably, the father of those radicals was catalytic to the Anabaptist extrusion from Lutheranism. That man was Andreas Karlstadt. His writings are second only to Luther in quantity before 1530, even though he may not be as much as household name as Luther or Calvin.

Karlstadt was on the faculty of Wittenberg, and was the one who conferred the doctoral degree upon Martin Luther. Both were excommunicated on June 15th, 1520. It was under Karlstadt that the first town ordinance of the Reformation was issued, specifically directing the taking of the bread and cup by the people (with their own hands); the care of the needy in the church through dedicated funding; church discipline of adulterers; and removal of images of Mary, the saints, and crucifixes from the church. On Christmas Day, 1521 -- little more than four years after Luther's posting of the Ninety-Five Theses -- 2,000 people in Wittenberg assembled in the Castle Church to hear Andreas Karlstadt preach. For the first time in their lives, the words were spoken in their native German tongue, "This is the cup of my blood of the new and eternal testament, spirit and secret of the faith, shed for you to the remission of sins." Today, we Brethren all mumble some form of 1 Cor. 11:25 at communion without a hint that such a privilege was forbidden to the pew until 1521.

Luther had a profound influence toward emboldening Karlstadt, even though Luther was the academic underling (only by two years). But once empowered by the Truth, the break with Rome was clearly more distinct for Karlstadt than for Luther. The doctrinal seeds planted on Karlstadt's side are so significant that merely mentioning them illustrates the distinction between Brethren and Lutheran thinking to this day: rejection of infant baptism; rejection of baptismal regeneration; a teaching of believer's baptism (actually, adult repentance as an antecedent to baptism); discarding of national and territorial churches; the installment of lay ministers, including the lay administration of the Eucharist, and lay baptizers; the rejection of "reverential" titles; and plainness in dress rather than clerical robes. Karlstadt was consumed by a passion for holiness, and pursuit of piety. But Luther was not so likeminded, eventually agreeing to banish Karlstadt from Saxony. The separation was so distressful that Karlstadt called Luther a papist and a cousin of the Antichrist!

While Karlstadt did not appear to preach re-baptism of adults, it didn't take long for the logical conclusion to occur to someone. Taking cues from Karlstadt, two contemporaries became the instruments through which the Brethren Church would eventually come into existence: Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz. Grebel corresponded with Karlstadt, and distributed his tracts throughout Zurich, trying to win favor with the Zurich Reformers. Favor, however, was ultimately not granted. In fact, just the opposite ultimately occurred.

The history of the Reformation interests me at this point because of the prompt martyrdom of Felix Manz in 1527 -- only 6 years after Luther posted his theses. It is one thing to marvel at the movers-and-shakers of the Reformation: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, et al. It is another thing altogether to recognize that our own branch in the Reformation Tree began immediately with martyrdom, approved by a man (Zwingli) who ordered several hundred copies of the Ninety-Five Theses to be distributed among the Swiss people. Continued persecution, by Reformed Christians against Anabaptist Christians, eventually drove later generations, including Alexander Mack, to America. Herein is a solemn warning that man's sinful nature is ever-present, and that Satan applies incredible pressure to disrupt the preservation of a faith once for all delivered to the Saints.

Anabaptism, sans its own two aberrations (the inspirationists, who were mystics, and the rationalsists, who rejected the Trinity) provides an incredible testimony for the 21st-century church. The Anabaptists rejected anything outside of the framework of scripture (especially anything outside of the New Testament) as authoritative. Creeds were abandoned; human reason was dangerous; methodology was suspect. Preservation and propagation of the Truth was to be accomplished at all costs, lest we find ourselves in bondage again. And that approach was anything but "popular" with the scholastic church.

Today, for whatever reason, as we appeal to a reputation of warm, inclusivism under the guise of wanting people to "know Jesus" (in spite of Matthew 7:22-23), we are rejecting cold, authoritative declarations like "the Bible, the Whole Bible and Nothing but the Bible". The scholastics and "deep thinkers" have us all befuddled. As a result, I would argue that we have allowed our collective conscience to turn faith into philosophy, trade Truth for reason, and value method over Message. Without the Truth, we are blind children searching for black toys in a room without light, running this way to pray the Prayer of Jabez, that way to be Purpose Driven, another way to be a New Kind of Christian, and then something else again as satisfaction wanes on the merry-go-round of fantasy Christianity. "But Lord, Lord, didn't we do this and that in your name?", cry the people in the pew. Just like in 1520, the people in the pew don't know any better.

The Truth for which Luther and Karlstadt were excommunicated, and for which Manz died for, was the very spark which ignited the Reformation fire. Ultimately, thousands in Europe were set free because of the Truth. But the Radically Emergent Church of the 16th century is vanishing nearly 485 years later. Our only hope against a dark age is to preach the Truth. If we shall know the Truth, the Truth shall make us free. And If the Son, therefore, shall make us free, we shall be free indeed. And the Reformation flame will continue into the next generation.

When the Reformation Began

by Danny Wright

When Luther nailed his ninety-five thesis to the Castle Church door, many count that as the start of the Reformation. From that perspective, the Reformation started 489 years ago. Of course, Luther wasn’t alone. David gave us well known names…Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, as well as some names many are not as familiar with…Grebel, Mack, Karlstadt, and Manz.

Some have suggested that the Reformation is over. Though many try to minimize the wedge between Rome and Protestants, there is still a great divide in theology and practice. Perhaps, if we knew when the Reformation began, we’d be able to capture when it ends.

As Jason pointed out, a key to understanding the reformation is found in understanding God’s righteousness and man’s depravity. Brad showed how such a distortion creates further perverse doctrines and practices. But when did we first see a variance from orthodox theology and practice.

The first challenge comes in practice. The church had grown at record pace. Along with new people added daily, there was the added strain of articulating and defending doctrine. But as the church continued to grow, so did her complexity of need. But what would be the practice? Would the elders reject the ministry of the gospel to make sure widows were fed? Would widows be left to fend for themselves, as the elders would not have any time to assist their need? Neither. The church reforms, developing the ministry of deacons so that widows can be fed and elders can focus on the ministry of the Word and prayer.

A second challenge came in doctrine. God’s sovereign salvation to Gentiles created an area of confusion for Jewish converts. (Take comfort brothers, even the early church struggled to clearly articulate the Israel/Church relationship!) Should the gentiles adhere to Jewish law and custom, potentially contaminating the church with legalism? Should the law be abandoned completely, leading to antinomianism? Again, the elders step up and present neither as an option. The apostles and elders circulate a letter to the churches instructing them to avoid legalism, yet deny antinomianism as well.

If the church, in the age of the apostles (which has passed) needed reform, what hope is there for us? There are two answers:
    There is no hope.
There is nothing wrong with the plan of the church, nor with the truths of God. The church does not need reform because the culture shifted. Reformation is necessary because we are sinners. Until we lose this flesh, we will all be “prone to wonder.”
    There is great hope.
If the apostles found the church in need of reformation, how can we say we have hope? Because we have the faith which was once for all handed down for the saints beautifully recorded for us in His Word (Jude 3). As long as we have the Word—and we always will (1 Peter 1:24-25)—we have cause for hope and our source for reformation. The apostles still speak to us, through the words inspired by the Holy Sprit, calling us to reformation.

The moment man followed the teaching, “Has not God said?” the call for reformation began. It carries through the saints of the Old and New Testaments. The torch was passed to men like Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin. It didn’t start with Luther and Calvin, so the question begs, “Does it end with them?”

The work is not done. Let us dive into the Word of God, with the battle cry for the church corporately and each of us individually…Semper Reformanda!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Evangelism

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
Faith is not created by reasoning, but neither is it created without it. There is more involved in witness to Christ than throwing pre-arranged clumps of texts at unbelieving heads; the meaning and application of the gospel must be explained to men and women in terms of their actual situation. This requires hard thinking. THe biblical revelation was given in terms of Eastern culture, environment and thought-forms, all very different from our modern, industrial, Western world, and it has to be translated into modern terms before modern men can fully grasp its relevance. Biblical terms and images (sin, justification, sacrifice, covenant, holiness, priest, blood, spirit, for instance) are not self-explanitory; it is therefore our task as witnesses for Christ to seek out ways and means of making their meaning clear.
Notice, Packer does not say the answer is to avoid these themes, but rather to explain them. We don't redefine them, nor to we ignore them. We define them for people.
Not that we may alter or revise the gospel in order to make it more palatable to our modern mind. That would be treachery to Christ. Our business is to present the Chrsitian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms. Our business is to interpret and criticize modern thought by the gospel, not vice versa.
Just for note, he does not mean "modern terms" in the sense of modernity/postmodernity, but rather contemporary.
Nor, again, may we present the faith as a philosophy, to be accepted (if at all) on grounds of rational demonstration; we must always declare it as revealed truth, divinely mysterious and transcending reason's power to verify, to be received humbly on the authority of God. Faith involves the renunciation of intellectual self-sufficiency; we must always proclaim the gospel in a way that makes this clear.
As a bonus, Packer quotes J Stott:
In evangelism, then, we shall need to recognize that the men whom we preach have minds. We shall not ask them to stifle their minds, but to open them, and in particular to open them to receive a divine illumination in order to understand the divine revelation. We shall not seek to muder their intellect (since it was given to them by God), but neither shall we flatter it (since it is finite and fallen). We shall endeavour to reason with them, but only from revelation, the while admitting our need and theirs for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
You've heard good words from Stott and Packer, you don't need any further thought from me.

Friday, October 27, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Truth

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
The Word of God consists of revealed truths. This is nowadays an unfashionable notion. It is commonly said that there are no revealed truths; God revealed Himself, not by words, but by the redemptive works through which He became the world's Saviour. Revelation is by action, not by instruction. The Bible is not revelation, but memorial and legacy of revelation: a record of observations, impressions and opinions of godly men involved in redemptive history. It has the relative authority of a first hand account, written with thought and care by men of good faith and great insight, but it has not the absolute authority of the truth.
Again, that was his take on the climate in 1958. Now groups that do not call themselves "liberal" adhere to the above mindset. But Packer counters...
But according to Scripture, God reveals Himself to men both by exercising power to them and by teaching truth to them. The two activities are not antithetical, but complementary. Indeed, the biblical position is that the mighty acts of God are not revelation to man at all, except in so far as they are accompanied by words of God to exlain them...Therefore, verbal revelation--that is to say, propositional revelation, the disclosure by God of truths about Himself--is no mere appendage to His redemptive activity, but a necessary part of it.
Those who want to reject propositional truth swing the pendulum too far, claiming that those who hold to it see the Bible as nothing more than a systematic theology proof text. But that is not so.
Not that the text of Scripture is made up entirely of formal doctrinal statements; of course, it is not. The Bible is not a repository of isolated proof-texts, as the Mediaevals, unconcerned about the literal sense of passages, were prone to think...It should be clear, therefore, that when we assert that what Scripture contains is a body of truths, embracing both matters of fact and general principles about God and man, and that these truths together constitute His Word, we are not prejudging the literary character of Scripture as a whole, or of any part of it. There is nothing in this position to cramp one's exegetical style, as some of the critics of Evangelicalism seem to fear. We do not suggest that every passage should be treated according to the same prearranged formula (as the Mediaevals did by putting all texts through the same allegorical mincing-machine), but rather the very opposite--that we must recognize the complexity of Scripture, and do full justice to all the varied types of literary material which Scripture contains.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Subjectivity

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
Again, whether or not we call ourselves Liberals, we are all in fact inclined to sujectivism in our theology. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and the God-centered approach which the Bible makes to problems of life and thought is in the highest degree unnatural to the minds of sinful and self-centered men. It calls for a veritable Copernican revolution in our habts of thought, and is slowly and painfully learned. On the other hand, it is entirely natural for sinners to think of themselves as wise, not by reason of divine teaching, but through the independent exercise of their own judgment, and to try to justify their fancied wisdom by admjusting what the Bible teaches to what they have already imbibed from other sources ('modern knowledge'). Professed re-statements of the faith in modern terms often prove to be revisions of the faith to make it square with popular intellectual fashions. This process of assimilationg God's revealed truth to the current religious and philosophical opinions of men is the essence of the speculative method in theology which Scripture repudiates. Yet we all constantly do it, more or less; for sin is present with all of us. As usual with sinful habits of mind, we are largely unconscious of our lapses, and only become aware of them as we test ourselves by Scripture and ask God to search our minds and teach us to criticize our own thinking. This once again, is a discipline that none may shirk.
While many tout man's subjectivity as if it were a new discovery, using it to question the clarity of the Bible, Packer is not insisting we abandon confidence in what the Word says. Many use their subjectivity to approach the Word and say, "Why couldn't it be saying this?" when the real questions should be, "Does the text indicate this is what it means?" "Does this fit into general theme of Scripture?" and "Would the original audience understand the meaning I am giving to the text?" Subjectivity is not a green light to give a text whatever meaning we deem, supposing any possibility is equally valid, but should rather be a caution light, encouraging us to slow down, and make sure we are on the right path. Packer continues...
The principle illustrated here is that no synthesis between the gospel and non-Christian systems is permissible. The gospel is complete in itself; to supplement it with extraneous ideas is not to enrich it, but to pervert it; to amalgamate it with pagan religions and philosophies is, indeed, to destroy it. The apostolic gospel, which is the word of God, says Paul, must judge all such speculatvie syntheses. This principle still holds good, although we now have apostolic word in written not in oral form.
Subjectivity is like dirt. Even the most sanitized operating room still has contaminants. None of us can completely rid ourselves of subjectivity. But today, many surgeons of the Word are rolling in the mud of subjectivity before the operate. They claim that this is humility, since they know their is subjectivity in their preaching, they may as well revel in it. However, the skillful surgeon knows that it is because of his subjectivity that he must work extra hard to reduce contaminants. He will wash, put on gloves, and wear sterile clothing. He knows that he can not reduce all dirt (subjectivity), but because he knows how devastating it can be, he does all he can to limit it.

Our gospel must be a message presented to those in our culture, but the message itself must transcend our culture. (And praise God it does, otherwise the gospel that saved so many in the first century would not be sufficient to save people today!)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Authority

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
Others tell us that the final authority for Christians is not Scripture, but Christ, whom we must regard as standing apart from Scripture and above it. He is its Judge; and we, as His disciples, must judge Scripture by Him, receiving only what is in harmony with His life and teaching and rejecting all that is not.
Again, this is a man in 1958, speaking directly to a current trend in the church today. It sounds quite pious, until you look a little further.
But who is this Christ, the Judge of Scripture? Not the Christ of the New Testament and of history. That Christ does not judge Scripture; He obeys it and fulfils it. By word and deed He endorses the authority of the whole of it. Certainly, He is the final authority for Christians; that is precisely why Christians are bound to acknowledge the authority of Scripture. Christ teaches them to do so.
"But this sounds like Bible-worship," some protest. "Wouldn't that be idolatry?"
A Christ who permits His followers to set Him up as the Judge of Scripture, One by whom its authority must be confirmed before it become binding and by whose adverse sentence it is in places annulled, is a Christ of human imagination, made in the theologian's own image, One whose attitude to Scripture is the opposite to that of the Christ of history. If the construction of such a Christ is not a breach of the second commandment, it is hard to see what is. It is sometimes said that to treat the Bible as the infallible word of God is idolatry. If Christ was an idolater, and if following His teaching is idolatry, the accusation may stand; not, however, otherwise. But to worship a Christ who did not receive Scripture as God's unerring word, nor require His followers to do so, would seem to be idolatry in the strictest sense.
Not reason, not logic, not culture, not pragmatism must rule the day. Scripture must sit as the authority alone.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Conservatives

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
It is a great mistake...to suppose that we who are called 'conservatives' hold desperately to certain beliefs merely because they are old, and are opposed to the discovery of new facts. On the contrary, we welcome new discoveries with all our hearts, and we believe that our cause will come to its rights again only when youth throws off its present intellectual lethargy, refuses to go thoughtlessly with the anti-intellectual current of the age, and recovers some genuine independence of mind. In one sense, indeed, we are traditionalists...But on the whole, in view of the conditions that now exist, it would perhaps be more correct to call us 'radicals' than to call us 'conservatives'...We are seeking in particular to arouse youth from its present uncritical repetition of current phrases into some genuine examination of the basis of life; and we believe that Christianity flourishes not in the darkness, but in the light. A revival of the Christian religion, we believe, will deliver mankind from its present bondage. Such a revival will not be the work of man, but the work of the Spirit of God. But one of the means which the Spirit will use, we believe, is an awakening of the intellect...The new Reformation, in other words, will be accompanied by a new Renaissance; and the last thing in the world we desire to do is discourage originality or independance of mind.
Here, Packer is actually quoting J Gresham Machen in What is Faith?. It seems, according to the comments I receive from people, that my views typically do not line up with my demographic. Like the sopranic voiced linebacker, whose voice betrays his stature, it seems that my blog causes some to picture me different. He must be older. He must be angry. He must be Amish! At my age, I many suggest, I should be questioning all that I have heard, trusting no one, and wanting to forge new paths. But this does not seem the radical way to me. "There is a way that seems right to a man." Our sin nature causes all of us to design a god to our liking, to assume our own reason can formulate a more divine being that the One revealed in Scripture.

Whether issues of egalitarianism, the atonement, and even the centrality of Scripture, it seems the assumption is toward that which is new. If you align yourself with the thoughts of Augustine, Athanasius, John Calvin or Charles Spurgeon, you are considered antiquated and must be handled with an air of suspicion. And certainly, we should not hold to a view simply because we trust the advocate, however, if it is "the faith once for all handed down to the saints" shouldn't we see the thread throughout history?

It is natural to see culture shift and immediately challenge our view of orthodoxy because there appears to be a contradiction. Quite frankly, it is the easier (and less intellectual) thing to do. One the surface, truth appears one way, so we immediately adjust our thinking. However, the more radical, the more difficult, the more intellectual work is to look for the thread of truth that runs throughout all cultures of all generations. It may be called conservative, but it is far from simple.

Monday, October 23, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Unity

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
We agree that no single human formulation of God's truth can be final or exhaustive; we agree that it will take the combined insight of the whole Church to grasp the whole truth of God, and that all groups within Christendom have much to learn from each other; we know that weare all prone to misunderstand the views of others, and to do so in an unfavorable sense; we recognize that there is at least a grain of truth in every heresy, and that views which are partly wrong are also partly right. It is indeed important in theological discussion to bear these things in mind. But it is even more important to remember that the essential step in sound theologizing is to bring all views--one's own as well as those of others--to the touchstone of Scripture. This is a step which much ecumenical theology seems to overlook. It tells us that older theology was woefully one-sided in its habit of treating opposing views simplyy as forms of error; but it is itself no less one-sided in its own habit of treating them simply as aspects of truth. Indeed, the last state is worse than the first; for the older theology, whatever its faults, was at least vividly conscious of the difference between truth and error, whereas the modern dtermination of judge the doctrinal disputes of Christendom as the Dodo judged the caucus-race ('Everybody has won, and all must have prizes') seems to show a degree of theological agnosticism and indifference to truth which is, to say the least, disturbing. The truth is that it is not enough to labour at assimilating various views to each other. Such labour may serve to promote better mutual understanding; but we are not entitled to infer from the fact that a group of people are drawing nearer to each other that any of them is drawing nearer to truth. Our first task must be to test all the words of men by the authoritative Word of God, to receive only what Scripture endorses, and to reject all that is contrary to it.The essence of right thological method is thus reformation rather than conglomeration. For we may not assume in advance that all views are simply aspects of truth. Some of our fancied insights and charished taditions may prove to be radical perversions of truth when tested by Scripture. We must take seriously what the Bible says about the reality of error in the Church (Matt 7:15; 1 Tim 4:1; 1 John 4:1). So, when the Evangelical is assured by his critics that they do in fact approve of most of what he says and does, and is asked on that account to come and join them in further ecumencial enterprise, he declines. He thinks that the differences are being minimized and that the unity to which he is invited would prove a hollow pretense. Instead, the Evangelical asks his critics to come and join him in submitting the methods and condlusionsof their respective theologies to the judgment of the written Word of God.
It is hard to believe that such a quote was written in response to the culture of 1958. What was true of Packer's observations then is certainly much more true today. A man should not be counted as divisive when he strives to know whether a person really deems the Word of God as authoritative, for it is the man that does not see it as authoritative who has drifted, not the first.

To acheive unity, we must be united around the Word of God. Anything else is just silly lipservice.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How'd We Get Here?

Like all things on my blog, this is entirely experimental. I've been thinking a lot about the condition of the Church (at least in America) lately. Semper Reformanda was a cry of the Reformers, knowing the church would always need to be called back to obedience to God's design.

Yesterday, I was in a meeting with other pastors when the discussion of women elders came up. After the meeting, I mentioned to one pastor that churches that allowed women elders 40 years ago are now the churches debating homosexuality. These two seemingly unrelated issues really are intertwined. If you see no distinction between man and woman, it is only a matter of time, or generations, before a group sees no reason to call homosexual relationships sinful. This pastor had never thought of that connection before. (An idea that hardly originated with me. I have heard this point validated from several different sources.)

However, it did get me wondering. Are some of the issues I've been thinking through lately related? Could there be a thread winding through each topic?

Join me in the game

Here's my proposal. I'm going to offer some different issues I think may be tied together. Since I am young, and lack the perspective time provides, I am not placing dates on these issues. You may either supply dates, change the order, question my conclusions, offer other related issues, or ridicule this entire process. I'd love participation (again, this is simply a theory...help me tweak it). If you are gun shy about commenting, email me, and I will post your comments under a pseudonym.
    1. Gospel Hermeneutic Lost
Rather than seeing the redemption meta-narrative in the Word of God, we began to handle the Bible as a series of short stories, not necessarily related to one another. The cross ceased to be our center for preaching, and instead we began to preach more about life issues.
    2. Evangelism Services
Since the gospel was not clearly heard each week at church, we then felt it necessary to hold special services occasionally for evangelistic reasons. There is nothing wrong with an evangelistic meeting, however these meetings can bring two unfortunate side effects: a) The gospel is only preached at this time, and not from the pulpit every week. b) Because, the gospel is seen as something only the unsaved needs, and no longer to be focused on by the believer.
    3. Special Meetings Must be Justified
Of course, these do not have to be special Evangelistic Meetings only, an occasional evangelistic sermon (perhaps on a "Friend Day" or other outreached focused morning) may require the same response. The speaker is finished preaching the gospel and must now validate that it was a worthy endeavor through response. Therefore, the speaker begins to call for a decision time, right at the conclusion of the message.
    4. Altar Calls Becomes Holy
This probably still belongs under #3, but I don't want the points to get too long, and it is another development. Somewhere along the line, the public, often emotionally driven, Finney-esqe altar call became an idol of worship. Thoughts become adopted: Pastors who do not do altar calls are not serious about the lost or evangelism. Only pastors who preach with altar calls are truly confronting the culture and unashamed of the gospel. Salvation can be assured of by participation in an altar call. "I was there when you went down the aisle, sure you are saved!"
    5. Message is Adjusted
Nothing is more embarrassing than giving an altar call and having no response. Perhaps the gospel call is just too difficult. Therefore, we divorce repentance from faith (something Scripture never does) and simply call people to add Jesus to their life. We hope to ease them into seeing Christ as Lord, almost as if it will sneak up on them someday. We lower the bar to simply feeling bad about your sin and not wanting to be punished. When we do this, responses to altar calls swell again.
    6. Permanence becomes a Problem
The church can celebrate "decisions made" and pat itself on the back for its outreach endeavors. However, a problem arises when we look for long-term effects. Many people who make decisions lack any markable difference in their life. We are either left to assume they did not truly convert (a humbling confession for a church that has celebrated their decision) or we must construct a theological system that explains this phenomenon not articulated in Scripture.
    7. Discipleship becomes a Program
Desperate to stop the "falling away" process, discipleship becomes a class or a temporary mentorship. The emphasis of discipleship is trying to get the person to "stick." The church blames themselves for a lack of follow up if a person makes a decision, yet does not follow through. In general, the entire doctrine of preservation of the saints is ignored, and discipleship curriculum becomes the cure.
    8. Carnal Christianity is Defended
To further validate this perspective, the church begins to support the view that a person can be a legitimate convert, yet have no fashion of conforming to Christ. (Do not get me wrong, we are not saved by works, however, God sanctifies those whom He justifies.) Contrary to James, our faith and our actions are segregated. We then allow for views suggesting disciples and converts are two completely different things. Some even (like Z Hodges) claim that a person can currrently be an atheist, as long as they made a decision at one time in their life, and still be a Christian.
    9. Church Discipline goes out the Window
The church looks at the process commanded by Jesus and Paul and considers it to be antiquated. Why should we care how a person acts as long as they are deemed a convert? When a person questions their salvation, why would we call them to the cross, when we can simply remind them of the decision they made? Church discipline starts to look like a bunch of overly-righteous-holier-than-thou people who just want to nitpick and condemn. As long as the person raised their hand, why worry about it?
    10. Church Du Jour
The church is no longer a collection of believers committed to one another, but becomes a spiritual gas station. It's the place I go to get filled back up. Find the same feeling at a lower price (require less of you but get the same emotional high)? Why not start going there? Run into a conflict with someone? What's the big deal with going to the place down the street? The draw to a church is no longer based on a person's committment to Christ, but instead is based on the churches ability to wow or please them.
    11. Legalism
Regardless of conservative or liberal origin, legalism becomes the kneejerk reaction. The conservative begins to isolate those who do not fit their means, focussing inward and ignoring the grace found in the gospel. The liberal becomes so passionate about the actions that should accompany belief that they applaud anyone with those actions, regardless of belief system. Both parties ignore the gospel, instead pleading with people to act differently than they do now.


Is it possible, that at the heart of all of these problems, is really an abandonment of the pure gospel message? We no longer preach that the cross was about justification from my sin. We ignore that Christ took on my sin and offers me His righteousness. We no longer call people to this through repentance and faith, but adopt a "try Jesus" perspective. With this change we embrace carnality, diminish the role of the church and become legalists. Could the effects of the far liberal and far conservative branches come from the same root? What do you think?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Words from D Martyn Lloyd-Jones

During T4G, we received a booklet from The Banner of Truth Trust on Dr. Lloyd-Jones. I had heard very little of this man, so I was not compelled to read the booklet. I finally began reading it, and wanted to share from MLJ's first sermon at Westminster Chapel (29 December 1935) on John 6:66-68.
I feel it is an interesting and profitable subject to try to decide which is the more dangerous position for a man to be in-to state openly and avowedly that he is notat all interested in Christ and religion, or to follow Christ for a wrong and false reason. I know that, ultimately, there is no difference between these two men. The one who follows Christ for the wrong reason is as much outside the kingdom as a man who makes no pretence to follow Christ at all. That is perfectly true. But I do think there is an important distinction between the two when you regard things merely from the human standpoint. The difficulty with the man who follows Christ for a wrong reason is that he not only deludes himself, but he also deludes the church. When you are confronted by one who says he does not believe in Christ, then you know exactly what to say and what to do with him. When a man presents himself as a religious person, the church tends to take him for granted; it would be an insult to question him. The church assumes that because he acknowledges himself to be a religious man, therefore he is a Christian. One of the most dangerous places for a such a man to be in is the church of the living God.
I am not at all sure but that one explanation for the present state of the church is to be found at just that point: she has been far too ready to associate church membership with true discipleship, and to assume that all who join the church are really following Christ. I know the church may have a very good motive for doing so. She has felt it a very good thing for people to be within the home of the church so that she may protect them from the temptations of the world. But the tragedy is that so often she takes it for granted that these people are truly Christians, and addresses to them messages that are quite appropriate for the true Christian, but not of much value to those lacking the essence of the faith.
Reading this caused me to wonder:
    1. How often have I asked "Why?" when a person tells me they want Jesus/religion/God?
    2. Without clearly articulated the gospel weekly, is there any way for the church to welcome the visitor yet make sure they understand their attendance does not include them in the fellowship?
    3. How could a Brit in 1935 have the American church pegged so well?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Foolishness of Preaching

Brian Orme mentioned an article by Dan Kimball. In that article, Kimball mentions an article about preaching on the next wave ezine. (How's that for a paragraph of blogspotting?)

I love Brian, and I think Kimball is usually spot on, but while I understand David Allis' concerns with preaching, I think he missed the mark somewhat. His conclusions are certainly accurate for much preaching that can be heard, but don't have to be accurate for biblical teaching. His reason for concern are:
    1. Preaching is Extra-Biblical.
The author suggests that most preaching in the New Testament is evangelistic in nature. He may have a point here. But he also argues that we don't see preaching in Scripture taking place for people that are established in their faith. When we search the Word of God, we don't see believers regularly hearing sermons to grow in their faith. He has a point. Of course, this can be explained by the fact that the New Testament we read was being written at the same time these churches existed. But we do see Paul encourage the flock to read his entire letter in the hearing of the church (Colossians 4:16).
    2. Preaching is an Ineffective Form of Communication.
Allis argues that most people (preacher included, he claims) do not remember the sermon for any length of time. This obviously proves sermons are antiquated. Scientific studies suggest that passive learning (as he calls the monologue of sermon) is the worst way to learn. This is probably true, if you are not talking about the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Two things he does not mention.
    3. Preaching Limits Learning, Discussion & Debate.
Allis mentions that people are not allowed to ask questions, or debate conclusions. And while Paul does not wish to stiffle any person, he does state that things must be orderly and proper (I Corinthians 14:26-40). Debates may be popular on Springer and Oprah may be able to captivate people with a conversation, but that doesn't appear to be God's design for the church. Perhaps, those discussions are best kept for small group meetings or conversations in the pastor's office. (Allis cites that many preachers are ineccesible. However, that problem is not with preaching, but with the preacher.)
    4. Preaching Doesn't Usually Change Lives.
I'm not sure where he validates this. I know of a few sermons that have changed me and have spoken to many others who feel the same. However, I am most surprised that Allis seems to believe the corporate nature of a sermon and singing songs together stiffles the multifacited nature of the Body. However, it seems seperate people gathered around different texts, all singing different songs is not the Body, but a bunch of severed limbs.
    5. Preaching Can Foster Biblical Illiteracy.
Allis says
Much contemporary preaching is based around themes, usually with little biblical basis. While these sermons might teach some truth, and are often done in creative ways, they don't teach how to personally learn from the Bible. It is common for believers to come to church regularly and listen to well-crafted sermons about how to live, yet rarely read the Bible personally. It is not that people can never learn from a sermon, but that they don't learn as effectively as they do with other methods.
I AGREE COMPLETELY! The problem is preaching...topical preaching. I don't think the problem is solved when we quit preaching, I think that problem is solved by expository preaching. If we don't preach through the Word of God, people could see it as a code book that they can't decipher. Preach through the Book, and they indirectly learn study habits.
    6. Preaching Disempowers People.
Who says people can not also study the text and discuss it before it is preached? (We do that at our church.) Also, who says people within the Body can't teach and preach at given opportunities?
    7. Preachers are a Problem.
Yet another reason for expository teaching. If illustrations or even application are the driving engine of the sermon, then the church will grow from only one personality. Yet, if the text is the driving engine, the preacher, or even his culture should not be an overly influential force. (Granted, you can not avoid this influence, nor should we completely strive to, but it can be mitigated.) Also, in our society people can download sermons from all over the world. No one in America is forced to only hear the preaching from their pastor.
    8. Preaching Has Misleading Implications.
Allis seems to assume it is bad for the entire Body to hear the same thing, and to hear another more sermons. He seems to believe a day is coming when the member of the church has heard enough sermons and wouldn't need another. I just don't share his perspective. It seems the more good sermons I hear, the more I want to hear.
    9. Preaching is Expensive.
Allis argues that preaching costs a lot of money when you consider the time a pastor spends preparing his sermon compared to his wage. However, the elders in Acts (6) claim that their ministry is to the Word and prayer. Time in the Word of God is one of the primary callings of the pastor.
    10. We are Preaching to Different People.
People can read today. They have access to multiple resources for the Word of God. It isn't necessary for a preacher to share the Word of God, it's at their fingertips. No offense to my good buddy but even though the resources are readily available, the world isn't becoming a better place.
    11. We are Preaching in a Different Context.
This one amazes me. We see preaching in the Old Testament. We see it in the New Testament. Fathers like Augustine preached. Reformers preached. We see preaching in urban areas and rural places. Yet, now we are going to claim we learn differently than everyone else. Am I really supossed to believe that preaching was appropriate for about 6000 years in every context and culture, but just recently (a generation or two) the entire thing has shifted? Seems a little short sighted.

Certainly if we want to hire assessment panels, run surveys and create statistics, it can seem like preaching is a rather foolish endeavor. For years, we've changed how we preach, getting away from the Bible and telling more fun stories or more advice for a better life. Now it seems there is a call to give up preaching altogether. But it seems to me that God rather enjoys using the foolish things to stun the wise (read: I Corinthians 1).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On the "Eve" of Error

Lately, it seems there has been a resurrgence of egalitarianism in different circles.
    Thabiti Anyabwile has an article about the Vineyard Churches shifting to allow women pastors.
    Jeff Robinson, from Gender-News.com has an interesting article about Rob Bell's Mar's Hill Church changing its position to egalitarian.
    Mark Driscoll listed complementarianism as one of the things we must contend for, during his presentation at Desiring God's recent conference.
    Steve Makofka asked in a blog post if our own Fellowship was begining to have second thoughts about complementarianism. (And according to one comment he received, it seems his suspicions are justified). As far as I know, however, Steve has not receieved any further comment.
This seems to be a big issue that is only going to get bigger. Proponents of egalitarianism typically come from a two sided attack. First, they claim a cultural distinction that allows for their perspetive. Second, they claim the issue is not that big a deal, and complementarianists should just back off and allow everyone to have their own opinion. However, no complementarian is allowed to argue that since it isn't a big deal, we should just leave things as is (for no change = no progress to most).

However, I hold to Mark Dever's observation:
As Lig the paedo-baptist has often said "If there were a verse in I Timothy saying 'I do not permit an infant to be baptized . . .' we wouldn't be having this conversation about baptism! There is such a verse about women serving as teacher/elders!"
Dever continues by saying:
Of course there are issues more central to the gospel than gender issues. However, there may be no way the authority of Scripture is being undermined more quickly or more thoroughly in our day than through the hermenuetics of egalitarian readings of the Bible. And when the authority of Scripture is undermined, the gospel will not long be acknowledged. Therefore, love for God, the gospel, and future generations, demands the careful presentation and pressing of the complementarian position.
It's not so much the error of turning "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority" into "I do allow a woman to teach or exercise authority" that concerns me (though I find it greatly concerning). It is the question of what is next? What does this hermeneutic allow us to change in the future?

A quick look at many mainline denominations today shows the end results.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

DG Summaries on Line

Everything you could need from the conference is found here.

audio messages
topically arranged exerpts from the messages
even a list of the worship songs sung during the conference

I've listened to three sessions and they are incredible. I really can't understand why anyone interested in the issues of postmodernity and the church would not check these out!

(HT: JT)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wells on Postmodernity

Desiring God held their most recent conference "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World" from September 29-October 1. Though I did not get to go to the conference, I have downloaded the messages (you can too.) and plan to offer a thought or two from each message.

If you are not familiar with David Wells (not that one, nor this one...but this one.), he's incredibly brilliant and has a very sharp wit. His book Above All Earthly Powers was the inspiration for the conference.

Wells kicked the conference off with his message, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. Wells calls the listener to delight in the "all-ready-not-yet" tension; that Christ is seated on the throne now but He is not yet manifesting all His authority in the world. As Wells lays out, this impacts the way we counsel during suffering, our motivation for seeing the world improve and obviously gives us our hope. Wells shares that much of the history of Christianity involved people being afraid of persecution. In the west, we do not fear not surviving, but we fear not succeeding. Our audience may not want to hear of a Christ above all, but our only message is of Christ as unique, central, indispensible, and supreme.

Though it was not a main point, in the midst of discussing the implications for seeing Christ's supremacy today, Well's mentions those who dilute this message to be less offensive. It's not that they change doctrine, it's just that they avoid certain teachings, to avoid alienating the post modern mindset. People interviewed the non-churched, found out they wanted to hear, and don't want to hear, and chose to determine their teaching by these findings.

However, 20 years later, Wells shares the result:
    45% of Americans consider themselves to be born again.
    Yet, less than 9% have a minimal understanding of what it means to live your life as a disciple.
In giving the unchurched what they want, all we have done is moved unregenerate people into our church building, but have not seen them submit to Christ.

Referencing statistics by Thom Rainer, Wells exposes what was wrong with asking the unsaved what they would tolerate hearing from a church. The problem? They are not our goal. If an unregenerate person is asked to give their unregenerate opinion of what they are looking for in a church, you simply increase the population of unregenerate people in our church. (If they even check out your church, which most do not, despite asking their opinion.) However, if one were to interview the recently converted, and were to ask them what it was that brought them to church, then you hit your target group. Your goal is to see people come to saving knowledge of Christ. Therefore, we shouldn't be interviewing those who don't know Christ yet, but rather, we should be interviewing those who recently made that transformation, and we should find out what things helped them do so.

Do you know what those people (recently converted and new to church) say brought them to church? According to Rainer's findings:
    90% say the preaching
    88% say they came to hear doctrine
In our attempt to preach a "more acceptable" Christ, we actually fail to give the lost person what he is truly seeking. But Wells continues by reminding the conference that even if the research were to show otherwise, we only have One Christ that we can preach; the Christ who is above all earthly powers. For that is the Christ of the Scriptures.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

5 Questions

As evidence that I do not profess to have all things figured out (as questioned by some), and as a way from taking a break from my blog for the rest of the week, I offer these five questions for discussion:

5. Can someone please hire Lou Pinella as a manager for next year so that we don't have to listen to him on Fox broadcasts? Anyone else willing to take up a collection to make this happen?

4. How should you respond when your child celebrates the discipline of a sibling?

3. Was it foolish to trade players (in my fantasy football league) to make myself stronger in the playoffs when I'm not even playoff eligible right now?

2. Where did this idea that disciples and believers are distinct from one another come from? (And no Brad, I will not accept that dispensationalism is to blame!)

1. No one would watch a football game, if all the players were only as talented as the viewer. No one would go to an art museum if all of the art was only as good as what the attender could produce. No one would want to watch a movie if the actors were only as talented (and as good looking) as the viewer. Why is that? Why in a society where self is exulted do we delight in seeing things superior to ourselves?
(Actually, Piper has a great answer. HT: JT)

[Not listed: Obvious questions like, "Is Tressel the best coach in NCAA?" "Can the Buckeyes win the national championship?" "Should every Bengals fan be worried about their inability to stop the run and vunerable offensive line?" The goal is to get conversation started.]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Error of Absence

I have the privilege of leading a group of men through Alexander Strauch's "Biblical Eldership." On page 21, he quotes D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
We have somehow got hold of the idea that error is only that which is outrageously wrong; and we do not seem to understand that the most dangerous person of all is the one who does not emphasize the right things.
Seemed timely. Not as a call out of a particular person, but as a reminder that we need to evaluate things.