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.

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 ?

Nothing to see here, move along

I read an interview recently that the nice folks at Logos conducted with Hugh Ross. I’m confident that Ross is an intelligent man and a well-meaning scholar but his continued proposal of a “two-book” revelation (i.e., God speaks in Scripture and creation with the same force and effect) is misguided and should be seen for what it is. Mankind will never see Christianity as something scholarly, noble, or worthy of saving unless Christians sell their birthright and kiss the feet of Baal.

At any rate, Ross fails to grapple with a key distinction when it comes to the revelation of God. I offer a few basic ideas in this regard. 1) God only saves through the special revelation of Christ which is exclusively found in the Scripture. 2) External evidences add nothing to the final revelation of God’s will. 3) If you don’t believe you won’t believe. Calvin is good on this:

“God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men’s hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit.” (1.7.4)

“Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men. We seek no proofs, no marks of genuineness upon which our judgment may lean; but we subject our judgment and wit to it as a thing far beyond any guesswork!” (1.7.5)

How young was Calvin’s music leader(s)?

In his extremely helpful book, The Writings of John Calvin, Wulfert de Greef makes a passing reference to the articles that John Calvin used for the regulation of worship after he became a minister in Geneva (January 16, 1537). This document was entitled the Articles concerning the Organization of the Church and of Worship in Geneva. I found the following to be an interesting note regarding congregational singing in Calvin’s church:

The ministers expect the singing of psalms to have a positive influence on the prayers and on the glorification of the name of God. A number of qualified children are to be selected to lead the congregation in the singing of the psalms (pg. 111).

Mark Driscoll and the NY Times

One of the things i have learned about blogging is that some of the best Biblical posts often receive the smallest amount of press.  Typically the most read posts are ones that “stir the pot”.  In other words, just like in marketing “controversy sells!”  The temptation for those of us who enjoy Christian blogging is obvious. 

One of my best read blogs (and i have not had many) was a critique of a Ligonier Pastor’s Conference i attended where the guest speakers were escorted in limos.  Let me say again that I love Dr. Sproul and the conference itself was wonderful.  In this particular instance, I allowed myself to be played like a pawn by a group of bloggers that had it out for R.C. and R.C. Jr.  What i said in the blog i believed but i allowed this post to be used in a way that i did not agree with.  At the end of the day it was a good learning experience. 

With that said, I am still puzzled when i read articles like this about Mark Driscoll in places like the NY Times.  “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?”

Under the picture the following caption reads,  “Mark Driscoll whom conservatives call ‘the cussing pastor.‘”

 The article then begins like this, Mark Driscoll’s sermons are mostly too racy to post on GodTube, the evangelical Christian “family friendly” video-posting Web site. With titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse,” his clips do not stand a chance against the site’s content filters. No matter: YouTube is where Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, would rather be. Unsuspecting sinners who type in popular keywords may suddenly find themselves face to face with a husky-voiced preacher in a black skateboarder’s jacket and skull T-shirt. An “Under 17 Requires Adult Permission” warning flashes before the video cuts to evening services at Mars Hill, where an anonymous audience member has just text-messaged a question to the screen onstage: “Pastor Mark, is masturbation a valid form of birth control?”

Driscoll doesn’t miss a beat: “I had one guy quote Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’ ” The audience bursts out laughing. Next Pastor Mark is warning them about lust and exalting the confines of marriage, one hand jammed in his jeans pocket while the other waves his Bible. Even the skeptical viewer must admit that whatever Driscoll’s opinion of certain recreational activities, he has the coolest style and foulest mouth of any preacher you’ve ever seen.

 Mark Driscoll is now a well known pastor, author, and Christian conference speaker.  Perhaps no conservative minister has done more to help promote Driscoll’s ministry than Dr. John Piper.  If you have not listened to Piper’s recent conference sermons you can find them here     I found it ironic that the conference theme was titled the power and wonder of words.  At the very least, i thought Driscoll was an odd choice for this particular conference (theme).  I guess John Piper likes to stir the pot a bit too.

Pastor John MacArthur addressed some of these issues with regards to Contextualization at the last Shepherd’s Conference.  I thought his analysis was spot on and indirectly speaks to the issue at hand.  You can find that sermon here   (It is the sermon that addresses the ‘church growth movement’)

In case anyone wants to get on me for not talking to Mark Driscoll directly let me say I have written Mars Hill/Mark a letter expressing some of my concerns with regards to his teaching ministry (choice of words, etc).  I never did receive a response back. 

I am grateful for Mark’s commitment to the gospel and for his love for the lost.  He is reaching a tough crowd and we should all praise God for that.  Mark we love you brother; some of us are simply concerned that many young pastors believe your way of teaching and model for how to do church is the way to go.  No doubt, being hip and controversial can help draw young people and the unchurched to church…Yet for me the ultimate verdict is still out.  More on this point another time.

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