Archive for June, 2007

Straining for the redemptive while swallowing the world

I hear folks say all the time that the reason they watch, listen, read, and become spectators of modern cultural trash is that they are looking for redemptive meaning for the sake of being “all things to all men.” You’ve no doubt have heard this as well. The common defense is that “well, God can use anything He so chooses to bring glory to Himself” to which I respond with a hearty “AMEN!”. After all is that not what lies at the root of passages like Isaiah 46:11 and Romans 8:28? But therein lies the rub that so many in this larger discussion seem to miss. It is not up to us to redeem garbage and call wickedness “good” or even worse “redemptive.” The one bringing about the action in Romans 8:28 is God. I simply raise the point that much of what takes place in the name of “redeeming culture” could actually be a form of incipient worldliness that has infected us in ways we can only begin to imagine and I for one am not immune to this deception either. As usual there is someone else who has communicated this point far better than I ever will. Flannery O’Conner in her Mystery and Manners said the following:

“We have plenty of examples in this world of poor things being used for good purposes. God can make any indifferent thing, as well as evil itself, an instrument for good; but I submit that to do this is the business of God and not of any human being.”

Downes and Dever

Our friend Martin Downes in Wales has delivered yet another interview. This time with Mark Dever

N. T. Wright’s “Simply Christian”

I recently read N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian because I heard one well-known blogger say that it was the best distillation of Christianity in print anywhere. That’s a bold statement and it made me curious. I’ve also been curious of the phenomenon that seems to purport that the only ones to truly understand Wright are those who are sympathetic to his views….if you’re not sympathetic then you obviously don’t understand him or so the spin goes.

I’ve read a good amount of Dr. Wright’s work and like most I find his style fluid and winsome yet I constantly find myself asking why he seems intent on exalting such an ecumenical vision of the faith to the detriment of a clear christology. But some will say, “didn’t you read his book on the resurrection?” I say “yes indeed” but I believe more about Christ in addition to the resurrection. One may be a minimalist when it comes to eschatology and the like but with Christ such will not do. I would expect a book about Christianity to be a robust defense and exposition of the person and work of Christ but that is not what I found. To say that Simply Christian misses the mark and the hype would be an understatement. If this book is a summary of Wright’s vision of “mere Christianity” then I have to admit I’m not swimming in the same waters. That is not to say that everything is off or misguided but that crucial items are missing. Andy Davis’ review rings true with my own reading of Simply Christian and most notable is the following quote:

But for all of Wright’s laudable efforts and obvious gifts, Simply Christian
clearly fails to articulate some key fundamentals of the faith: the deity of Christ, the Old Testament prophecies about his coming, God’s purposes in Israel’s history, the purpose of the Law of Moses, Christ as King over the kingdom of heaven, the substitutionary atonement in Christ’s blood shed on the cross, the perfection of the word of God, the Great Commission of gospel preaching to every tribe and language and people and nation, justification by faith alone, progressive sanctification by the power of the Spirit, Judgment Day, the personality and power of Satan and his dark kingdom, and the eternity of hell’s torments. Most pointedly, I do not believe Simply Christian tenderly and clearly warns individual sinners of their peril or calls upon them to flee to Christ and to his cross as the only remedy for personal guilt
and sin before a holy God.

Kingdom or Church?

I was reading this and thought that the word choice was theologically and practically confusing. Besides it makes a distinction in the here-now that is not helpful. I think I know what he is getting at but the following logic seems forced:

“Among churches today, the conversation – a long overdue one – is
moving from church growth to Kingdom growth,” wrote Ed Stetzer,
director of LifeWay Research, in Outreach Magazine’s July/August 2007
issue.

Then I read this and I see that someone much smarter than I had a similar reservation about this shift in terminology. Although he is addressing another context entirely I think he is wise to ask,

In what sense is the Church a kingdom? Is there a kingdom of Christ
today that is apart from the Church? Is there any advantage to using
the word Kingdom instead of Church? I wouldn’t say that all of the
references to kingdom in the NT are to a future age (e.g., Col 4:11),
but most are, and I just think it’s better to keep the terms distinct.

Some edits made…

I have made some edits as I’ve continued to study the Acts 2:41ff text.  If you’re interested you can go back in our archives (June 14th) to find it.

 Blessings in Christ,

Caleb

Nota bene

In light of our blog award it is only fitting and a bit ironic that we have very little to say at the moment. For most of our contributors the summer season is one of increased travel for both family and missions. Over the next week we will take a step back from writing here to give ourselves a short break but this does not mean that things here will be idle or silent.

I plan to finally get to that series I promised a few weeks back. I will be blogging through Sidney Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. This book has paved the way for more recent books like Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures. I think these two books have both made valuable contributions but there is also something very unsettling about them both. You’ll find out what I mean when I get around to it in another couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

In the interim I would like for our readers to consider a few questions. Please feel free to discuss these in the comments here. We will also try to interact as time allows.

1) What does it mean to “preach Christ”? Furthermore, how is this accomplished in your preaching?

2) How do you carry out your responsibilities as a shepherd? Does your answer to this question reflect what you actually do or what you hope to do?

3) What do you do as a preaching pastor to stay fresh and to keep your perspective clear? In other words what or who ministers to you? Keep in mind that others can be encouraged by your answer.

Here are a few notable things from the blogworld offered here for your edification:

It’s not a lamp it’s a major award!

For a bunch of guys who rarely have the time to write anything of eternal importance it’s nice to know that this blog has had some positive impact on the lives of others. For a year and a half we have tried to stay “on topic” which for us is “preaching and preachers.” In a day gone by we were once named “King for a Week” by the world famous Challies Empire, Inc. Today I received notice from Adrain Warnock that we are now the recipients of another major blog award…the “Warnie.”

Adrian WarnockOn some days Dr. Adrian Warnock seems to be the only gentleman left in Britain who still believes in penal substitution and a lot of other things that we think are important. He loves expository preaching as much as we do and has done his own to uphold the need for preaching amongst his faithful blog readers. So on behalf of the fellows here at Expository Thoughts and our reader(s) we gladly appreciate Adrian’s notice and encouragement to us. May the Lord increase your bandwidth and may your blog posts flow like Cadbury chocolate.

All blessings in Christ,
Paul Lamey

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