Archive for January, 2009

Jay Adams on the Use of Commentaries:

Speaking of exegesis, how do you do it? Do you cobble together bits and pieces from various commentaries into some explanation of the preaching portion? Or do you do the hard work of figuring out for yourself what the passage says, using various commentaries to help you? Between these two approaches to the text, there is a large difference. That for which you have worked will come through in your preaching as authentic. That which has been cribbed from some commentator who did the work, will come through as inauthentic (unless, of course, you are an astute actor). Hard work requires using a goodly number of sources to help you come to valid decisions about a passage. But it doesn’t mean abusing them by mere copying. Are you guilty of this sin, preacher? If so, repent, and begin to do the right thing that you know, down deep, you ought to be doing. Rightly handling the Word of God is not only work, but a great responsibility.

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Here We Go Again

In a recent interview in Christianity Today, Charles Colson makes the claim that Pope Benedict affirms a biblical understanding of the doctrine of justification, pointing as evidence to a homily delivered by the Roman pontiff on November 19, 2008, in St. Peter’s Square. Toward the end of that homily, Pope Benedict says this:

 

Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St. Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5:14).

 

In other words, according to the pope, Luther’s phrase “faith alone” is true as long as “faith” is defined in such a way that it includes being conformed to the life of Christ, which is love.

 

So my question is this: Do people like Colson just not understand what it means to be justified through faith in Christ? Or do they simply pretend that the pope has it right even though they know he doesn’t?

“When” have we reached a culture?

If you follow the SCI-FI show LOST, the island philosopher/shaman John Locke asked a question in the season opening that was really interesting. After seemingly jumping time again he said, “when am I?” Not “where am I?” but “when.” So in the spirit of LOST I offer a question for your consideration. Since many believe it is a forgone conclusion that we should reach the culture, when has this ever been done and how do we know when we have reached a particular culture? For extra credit, what is a “culture”?

Maybe someone can point this out for me but I have not found anyone grapple with this in some of the “reach the culture” books (various takes on this: Calvin, Kuyper, Dabney, H. Van Til, C. Van Til, Niebuhr, Mohler, Driscoll, Carson, et al.) and conferences that I have listened to.

Feel free to discuss in the comments below.

The Bible doesn’t say “pray for the President”

So it’s the morning after. Like you I watched some of the Beatlemania Obama Inauguration yesterday. As one who is not wrapped around the axle of the current political system (which means I didn’t vote for him/him or him/her), the whole guffaw over the new President is a bit unsettling. I’m not a Presidential historian but I’ve read my share of biographies. The first few guys who served in the office would not even recognize what it has become today (which is not new with Obama but probably with John Quincy Adams who expanded the office powers way beyond what the Constitution allowed). They’ve all done it so it’s really apples to oranges. On to more pressing issues.

I watched Warren offer a homily dressed up like a prayer at the beginning and a fellow Huntsville pastor offer a ridiculous benedictory diatribe/prayer at the conclusion. I wonder if the crowd would respond the same way if one of the pastors would have simply read Daniel’s prayer from Daniel chapter 9. How many blogs have you read that have exhorted you to pray for the President. I agree that we should pray for the President but let’s not pretend that heaven and earth hang in the balance of his every decision. More importantly, praying for the President never was nor is the point of 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Paul argues that we should not discriminate in our prayers so we should even pray for, by way of example, our pagan Roman leaders (“on behalf of all men”). This leads to Paul’s more pressing point that God is the savior of all kinds of men (Roman, Jewish, etc.). The bottom line coming in 1 Tim. 2:5 that no mere man (Emperor, President, or otherwise) can represent man before his creator except the God-man (see Dan Wallace’s treatment of the special use of the genitive, pg. 135). Only a man can represent us and only God can save us so He gives us the “man Christ Jesus.” So by all means pray for the President but don’t loose sight of the real issue: there is one God and one mediator between God and man. Some trust in chariots but we will trust in the Lord our God.

For additional reading, file this in your “My kingdom is not of this world” archives. Wilson, I believe, is spot on here (full article here).

The over-the-top adulation of Obama that we are seeing is not just silly — it is wicked. When Obama puts his hand on the Bible to take his oath of office, that Bible really should be opened to this text.

“And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:20-24).

God takes this kind of thing seriously, and we must do so also. What should Herod have done? What could he do, when all those tee-shirt vendors were so out of control as to be hawking their “Herod is god” wares? Well, he needed to rebuke all of it, and give glory to God instead. One time at an Elvis concert, a row of young girls stood up in the middle of the concert with a long banner they had made which said, “Elvis is king.” Elvis stopped, pointed at them, and said, “No. Jesus Christ is king.” They all sat down, abashed, which several millions of politico-idolaters today need to be taught how to do. And things have gotten pretty bad when Elvis is a model we have to look up to.

“The Shack”

Our “Contributor Emeritus” Jerry Wragg made the following observations that we wanted to share with our readers.

In my relatively short 26 years of Christianity, I’ve marveled at the endless stream of bestselling fiction that induces the church to such strong “This-book-changed-my-life” sentiment.

It happened in the 70’s with “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” – And again in the late 80’s-early 90’s with Peretti’s series on spiritual warfare (touted by Peretti as “fiction” in one interview, then as theologically driven in another) –
All through the 90’s, Christian’s became intoxicated (pun intended), not with book-fiction, but with the supernatural-fiction of the laughing “revivals.” Once again, the latest “totally-changed-my-life fad was served up to a voracious evangelicalism hardly stopping to take a breath.

We seem perennially seduced by “answers” to life’s trials coming from every corner of human opinion and experience, in spite of weekly corporate-worship affirmations about the sufficiency of Scripture.

How can “The Shack” teach us anything objective about facing the terrors of life in a fallen world?  How does one man’s fictional encounter with fictional deities provide more comfort than real revelation from the one true and living God? Has it come to this? Do evangelicals really prefer fiction to divine revelation?

I can only conclude that some professing believers often seem more interested in fashioning truth after their own experiences. In other words, though human drama IS our experience, we often would rather assess and face challenges in our own strength and wisdom rather than humbly submitting to God’s yoke. Why would we prefer the inferior perspective of humans? Because it’s just plain easier. God gets to fit Himself through our grid, respond to our burdens according to our timing and comfort, and allow us the pride to “save face” in the event a weakness appears.

“The Shack” is nothing more than the inner-musings of one person advertised and sold as the potentially universal and unconventional way God manifests Himself. And someone says, “This book changed my life!” Oh really? How? In what way were you sanctified by the truth? How was your mind renewed and constantly nourished on the words of faith and sound doctrine? Did you become more holy? Do you now have a greater understanding of the love of Christ which surpasses human, earthly knowledge?

But we are called to be sanctified in the truth…His word is truth (John 17:17). Jesus calls us to “abide in [Him],” and to let His words “abide in [us]” (John 15:7). No human drama, truth or fiction, can fashion our minds and hearts after the Lord Jesus Christ. Beware the novel that pretends fiction with a trojan horse of lies against the truth. Fiction can be fun…but then again, eternity is no fiction!

An Exhaustive List of What I Liked about the Book “The Shack”:

  1. The chapters were short.
  2. The font was just the right size.
  3. The cat’s name was Judas.

Call it

Make your call: there are no ties and you can only pick one from each category. Feel free to explain yourself in the comments.

Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh ?

Philadelphia vs. Phoenix ?

More continuity vs. more discontinuity ?

Unaccompanied Psalms only vs. Sovereign Grace music ?

Old perspective vs. New perspective ?

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