Saturday, November 11, 2006

Luther and Erasmus: Together for the Gospel!

I know it's a little late, but I really like this picture of my pastor and I as Luther and Erasmus... Together for the Gospel!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dr. York on the Heartbreak of Sin

"You can debate theology all you want, but you better remember that you are preaching to idiots like me and you need to say it so we can understand it."
-a Baptist layman speaking to Southern Seminary students.

Dr. York doesn't have time to blog a lot (for the reason why click here!) But when he does, it's usually worth your time to read it. Dr. York has certainly made headlines among SBTS students in the last year, as he was one of the first to publically defend the IMB baptism policy. Despite what anyone's opinion may be on that matter, Dr. York is certainly a man of God who deserves the respect commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 as he labors over both his church and seminary students. He has posted a very convicting post on the heartbreaking effects of sin. His final two paragraphs really cut to the heart of the Christian ministry. Check it out, it's worth a read:
The Heartbreak of Sin

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Teenage Mutant Christian Turtles?!?

What if Master Splinter had instructed the Turtles in the Bible instead of martial arts and the Renaissance masters?

By Andyc140

Now I think I've seen everything...
Personally, I think Splinter should have started teaching hermeneutics way earlier in the lesson plans. At least he takes a hard stance against a man-centered gospel.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Mother Never Told Me Not to Pee in the Neighbor's Yard"

Most students I know hate being required to do anything, especially things that require the use of their time. Even in Christian schools and seminaries, it is becoming increasingly rarer to find students who enjoy going to required chapel services. Yet, when the chapels are made voluntary, human nature takes over to persuade us that our time would be better spent in pursuits other than the worship of God in the community of our fellow peers and professors. My friend, Shane Walker, was one such student until recently.

Shane is a seminary student who will be graduating this May. He is one of the most careful and thorough thinkers I have ever met. Though possessing a benevolent demeanor, Shane will often hit you over the head with his intellectual hammer, forcing you to think seriously about issues you may not have given much thought to before. But more importantly, Shane can also hit you where it really counts... with thoughtful words that convict the heart. By his request, I have decided to post this moving confession which he felt compelled to create and share with others.

In Defense of Chapel and Good Manners
By Shane Walker

I once found a man relieving himself on my lawn. He did not appear to be mad or drunk. I was so shocked that my first comment was idiotic and unintelligible. He smiled and continued. My wife and daughters might come outside at any moment, another woman might pass. This affront had to stop. So, I yelled a clear, precise command and started advancing toward him. Frightened he ran away.

I bring this up to vividly illustrate manners. They are a group of mostly unwritten rules that help us function together as a group by smoothing communication and increasing civility. Without them there is increasing complexity and confusion in social relationships. My mother never told me not to pee in the neighbor's yard or not to type the words I yelled. These things are imbued in us by our culture, affinity groups, families, and so on. We don't generally talk about them, and all groups, small and large, have them.

The case can be made that God gave us manners as part of his common grace. They exist as law without legislation and order without tyranny. Manners are the actions by which we love each other socially. In Japan they bow, in Russia they kiss, and in America we shake hands, but in every case the manners serve to communicate social acceptance or love.

And with this all said, I now have a confession. I have only attended chapel three times since coming to seminary two years ago. This was rude. It was bad manners. It was a sin (and I don't use the word lightly) of omission.

Let me explain why this is so in a very individual case. I have a coworker who lives overseas. His father-in-law is a brilliant scholar who visited campus and gave a chapel address. In his sermon he attempted to demonstrate how it is that we can love our Savior through using the book of Psalms in worship. Afterwards, he stood at the back of the chapel with Dr. Mohler and shook peoples' hands. If I had attended chapel, I could have stood in line, thanked him briefly for showing me how to worship our mutual Lord, and told him how much I appreciated his son-in-law. He might have been encouraged in the Lord. Here he was away from his everyday life, and his son-in-law's friend had stood in line and said hello and talked about the things that he loved. It would not only have been good manners, it would have been the godly thing to do.

But I didn't go to chapel. No, instead I came out of the gym wearing my exercise clothes, recognized him in the hallway, forgot his name, bungled shifting my gym bag to shake hands, and attempted to introduce myself. It was rude, I shamed myself, my friend, and confused a kind Christian scholar away from home.

If I had been in chapel, I would have been dressed appropriately, his name would have been clearly printed in the bulletin, and he would have been ready to be introduced to new people. But in my selfishness, I rejected all of the structures presented to me for the purpose of allowing one Christian to get to know another in a large group. I decided to not love the visiting professor, my friend, or Southern Seminary, but I did love my smallest, least attractive self.

When this behavior that I exhibited is repeated hundreds of times in the same community, something happens, there is a decline in civility and manners within the community. We don't think about manners until they begin to break down. And I suspect within our seminary we are beginning to experience such a tottering.

Every community is defined by what they love. At Southern chapel serves as a time to adore the person we most love, Jesus Christ, as a community. On Sunday mornings we go our separate ways and worship Christ as congregations, but at chapel we worship Christ as a seminary. Further, Christ taught us in the parable of the good Samaritan that it is proximity that creates a neighbor. And we find that chapel is the only time when we can consider as a full community how it is that we should love each other.

Because one cannot preach from the Word without addressing these issues-love of God and love of neighbor-chapel serves as time to consider how to love Christ, our seminary neighbor, and those who are not members of our community. Each speaker, regardless of his denominational commitments or theological loyalties, opens a Bible that can only be applied to teaching us the manners of heaven.

When a speaker comes and is greeted by a half empty chapel, he is not being loved. When we refuse to meet with each other to worship, we are saying not only something about our love for each other, but about our corporate love for Christ. The issue then is that when I didn't attend chapel for any excuse but necessity, I was not loving you my neighbor or Dr. Mohler or Southern Seminary or other Southern Baptists or a visiting professor with a burden to share from the Lord, but I was loving myself. I wasn't quite up to the obvious rudeness of my opening illustration, but it was close, and it was certainly bad manners.

And how did I discover this? Well, the administration is making me go to chapel as a requirement for a class. You see, when manners break down, law becomes necessary. The unspoken understanding must be written down, enforcement mechanisms must be created, and I was proven more uncouth and immature than I had ever understood.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You Might Be a Theological Liberal If...

1) If you haven't brought your Bible to teach Sunday School in 15 years...

2) If you don't think a loving God would really send anyone to Hell for doing something wrong...

3) If you think you understand the Old Testament better than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

4) If you think what Jesus really wanted to hear when He asked the disciples to identify the Son of Man was something like, "You're the demythologized essence of kerygmatic truth!"

5) If you cringe whenever someone prays, "Our Father who art in Heaven..."

6) If you think that Jesus went to the Cross merely to show us a good example of obedience and self-discipline...

7) If you believe Jesus was the first socialist...

8) If you refer to Christians who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as "ultra-conservative fundamentalists"...

9) If you think that 19th-20th century German theology was the bastion of orthodoxy...

10) If you fear that confessions of faith may lead to a general doctrinal consensus...

Then you might be a Theological Liberal.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

You Might Be an Old-School Christian Fundamentalist If...

1. If you refer to the NIV translation of the Bible as "the Not Inspired Version"...

2. If you refuse to allow people to stamp your hand at amusement parks for fear it might be the Mark of the Beast...

3. If your school cheerleaders wore ankle-skirts hemmed with lead weights...

4. If you believe merely donating money to send Jews back to Israel qualifies as missionary work...

5. If you ever found yourself alone in the house as a child and feared you had missed the Rapture...

6. If you both know who Patch the Pirate is and like him (and I'm actually not ashamed to admit to this one)...

7. If you boycott Disney theme parks and movies but still watch ABC or ESPN...

8. If you consider Christians who don't believe in a 7-year Tribulation to be liberals...

9. If you consider John Walvoord, Hal Lindsey, and C. I. Scofield the top three theologians of the 20th century...

10. If you fear that mixed bathing may lead to dancing...

Then you might be an old-school Christian Fundamentalist.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Want a "Greater Read"? Check out God's Greater Glory

Ware, Bruce A. God's Greater Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004. 256 pp. $17.99.

This is by far one of the best books I've ever read.

In many ways, it helps bring a great degree of resolution to one of my theological struggles. For years, I struggled to make sense of the apparently paradoxical concepts of God's sovereignty and human responsibility, the glory of God and the problem of evil, and the relation of God's love for man to God's love for Himself. I was enthralled for a time with a pseudo-Erasmianism, then I shifted and hesitantly entertained Luther's strong determinism. I finally came to appreciate the subtleties of Jonathan Edwards' concept of "free will," namely that our will is free as long as it is able to act on its strongest inclination. Consequently, a fallen human nature of an unsaved person will never desire the glory of God and will never be able to seek God's grace apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit. But Dr. Ware has taken all the best of Edwards' massive theology and contemporized it into an easily readable book.

He is fundamentally concerned with advocating a biblical doctrine of God, not with defending a certain tradition or rebuking an opponent. Ware, a proud Reformed Calvinist (4 points, at least), is all about the exhaustive sovereignty of God. But he is not insensitive to concerns about how to explain the problem of evil or human responsibility. Ware actually believes in free will, but he defines it carefully and biblically as "freedom of inclination" and shows how human beings make decisions based on what they most want to do in a given situation. The sovereign God of Scripture knows what every person will desire in a given set of circumstances, and is able to structure His sovereign, perfect plan through meticulously ordaining the specific circumstances that result in a human agent choosing "freely" given his or her strongest inclination at the time of decision.

In our materialistic choice-driven, hedonistic culture, Ware is able to demonstrate that for all our assumptions about freedom, we will always be bound to our own greatest inclination. Ultimately, Ware stakes his doctrinal case upon a rock-solid biblical foundation. His analysis of Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt is a convincing argument for compatibilist freedom, as are his references to God’s employment of the military conquests of nations such as Assyria in Isaiah 10 in order to accomplish His sovereign will.

In my opinion, Ware’s explanation of how God uses evil men’s free will to accomplish His own purpose is a considerably more helpful articulation of man’s total depravity and God’s divine sovereignty than even Martin Luther’s infamous horse and rider analogy, which implied that human agents are unthinking puppets in the service of greater powers. While Ware is clearly convinced that nothing escapes the knowledge of God and nothing can frustrate the purposes of God, he is comfortable enough to affirm that the choices humans make are indeed real choices. Human beings are certainly responsible for their own choices because they always relent to their greatest inclination, and God cannot be blamed for permitting anyone to choose as they most desire. Yet, in the spirit of John Piper’s Christian hedonism, Ware also makes it clear that only God can transform our depraved minds so that His glory becomes our greatest delight.

God’s Greater Glory succeeds partly because it presents logical and biblical answers to age old questions of predestination and free will. Because of Ware’s sensitivity to the problem of evil and human moral responsibility, this book should even be appreciated by non-Calvinists with a high view of God and Scripture. He explains and defends the Reformed tradition well but is not afraid to employ new terminology to describe old ideas. Yet, in spite of all Ware’s sensitivity to human arguments, this book is primarily concerned with promoting an exalted view of the God of the Bible and the historic Christian faith. This book is more than simply a response to evangelicalism’s problem of Open Theism. It is a product of a man whose faith is founded upon a glorious and sovereign God. Ware speaks prophetically to our generation by calling Christians back to a God-centered theology and promises that our joy will be well-founded once our vision of God is conformed in accordance with Scripture.
Buy it. Read it. Praise the Lord God. And thank me later.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Here's a preacher's story that I absolutely loved.
Some of you will be rolling over in your chair when you hear this.Others (maybe most of you) will probably sympathize with the punch line:

When Jesus heard that Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and Paul Tillich (the 3 most influential German theologians of the 20th century) had died, He decided to hold an audience with them. Jesus asked them, "Who do you say that I am?"

Karl Barth replied, "You are the unreachable, unknowable, impenetrable Holy Other!"

Rudolf Bultmann said, "You're the unaculturated, demythologized essence of kerygmatic truth!"

And Paul Tillich said, "You're the unverbalized, the unfathomable, the untraceable ground of our being!"

And Jesus replied:"Huh?"

Good day to you all. And my hope and prayer is that you can say with Peter in Matthew 16:16 that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Oh, the goodness of God our Father who illuminates our dark, dull minds to behold the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and to be transformed into His image from glory to glory. Amen!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jesus apart from Scripture isn't Jesus

Last Friday night, I tuned into NBC’s premiere of its new drama, “The Book of Daniel.” This show had nothing to do with the Old Testament book between the Major and Minor Prophets, but instead chronicles the life of an Episcopalian priest with a seriously dysfunctional family and who only gets by with a little help from his friend, Jesus. Now, I don’t usually watch much network TV, but I felt that it might be an educational experience to become acquainted with pop-culture’s preference of what Jesus should be.

In case you don’t know the show’s plot, I’ll summarize:A New England Episcopalian priest named Daniel must maintain his responsibilities to minister to his congregation while also trying to protect his family from falling apart. He has two sons and a daughter who’s arrested from selling Marijuana to finance her internet fascination with creating Japanese manga comics. One son is an adopted teen of oriental ethnicity (more on that later) who becomes sexually active with the mayor’s daughter. The other son is openly gay, but the family hasn’t yet broken the news to his grandfather (the elder bishop of the diocese who is having an affair with a female bishop who oversees Daniel’s sermons). Daniel himself is developing an addiction to prescription painkillers, and his wife turns to alcohol as a diversion from the tension in the home. Daniel’s brother-in-law is suspected of embezzling the church’s building fund money, so Daniel makes a deal with a Roman Catholic priest with Mafia connections to recover the fund. But it soon becomes apparent that his wife’s sister may have murdered and framed her husband because of a lesbian affair with his secretary. When everything seems to be falling apart, Jesus appears to Daniel in private in order to give him some advice and offer the obligatory quirky comic relief, ala “Wilson” from “Home Improvement.”

Positives from a Christian’s Perspective (in all fairness):
There is just enough of morality and spirituality presented in this drama to deceive us into sympathizing with its agenda. The show succeeds in portraying all characters as flawed, sinful, and rebellious. Some people believe ministers are perfect people, but this show makes it clear that the oversight of souls is not an easy job, nor is leading a family. It also attempts to promote the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus (but it fails horribly as will be seen in the next section). The “Jesus” character utters a couple of profound lines in dialogue with Daniel:
Jesus (when asked by Daniel why he talks to him):“I talk to everybody. Few hear me. Some hear what they want. Most don’t listen.”

Daniel (feeling guilty about cursing his brother-in-law):
“I really cared about Charlie. I would never damn anybody. I couldn’t. I’m sorry.
Jesus: “Don’t worry; you don’t have that much power.”

Problems from a Christian’s Perspective (and, yes, they are legion):
Some have considered this show an irreverent satirical attack on the Christian faith. While the show cannot be considered amoral, it does presents a perverted view of Christianity. Unlike the blasphemous mockeries of devout religious people found on a show like “Family Guy,” this show takes itself seriously. But the perversion of the truth are evident in the show’s opening scene, where Daniel gives this sermon the morning after picking up his drug dealing daughter from the police and popping some painkillers in private:
“Temptation. Is it really a bad thing? I don’t think so. What I mean is that if there were no temptation, how could there be redemption? If we never did anything bad, how could we repent and be stronger for our weakness? Doesn’t good need evil in order to be good? If temptation corners us, maybe we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for giving in to it. Maybe we shouldn’t ask forgiveness from a church, or from God, or from Jesus, or from anyone until we can first learn to forgive ourselves.
Let us rise for the profession of faith. ‘We believe in one God’…”

In this short paragraph, the show reveals its value code. Where does Daniel get the authority for this sermon? Certainly, not the Bible (though in defending it to the bishop he tries to cite 1 Cor. 10:13 out of context). No, the center of this sermon is that the final authority we must answer to is ourselves; we redeem ourselves, and we get stronger by forgiving ourselves. It doesn’t matter so much that we sin against God or repent to Him, but that we learn to live with ourselves. But notice the irony that this self-centered value-code still pays lip service to historic Christianity. It claims to profess faith and to believe in one God, but in doing so it proves hypocritical.

While the drug-dealing and painkiller abuse are not promoted by the show, there are hardly any ethics concerning sexual immorality. The most obvious example is the openly gay son whom the parents actually encourage him that he’ll find “that special guy” someday. Love is defined as the family’s willingness to accept his homosexual lifestyle and to encourage him in his search for a partner. The other son (remember the adopted boy of oriental ethnicity?) leads a pretty lewd lifestyle with the mayor’s daughter. After he gets busted in her room, the girl’s parents decide the teens shouldn’t spend any time together. Makes sense right? Not to the boy or his mother, and it is revealed that the people the audience should despise is not the boy or girl but the girl’s parents because “they don’t want oriental grandkids running around the house.” Once again, the show spins the real issue (a sexually dangerous lifestyle among two teens) by making it into an issue of racism.

But the coup de gra must be the show’s portrayal of Jesus, the real reason I watched this show in the first place. This Jesus doesn’t so much reflect the Messianic Son of God as much as he embodies a talk-show host on Comedy Central. He tells Daniel not to worry too much about his children but just to let them grow up because “they’re good kids.” Jesus doesn’t approve of Daniel’s painkiller abuse, but offers him life lifesavers instead. He also makes the statement that “Life is hard for everyone. That’s why there is such a nice reward at the end of it.” It sounds comforting, but is it? The real Lord Jesus made clear that there is only a “nice reward” at the end of life for those who labor in faith for His name. This concept of obedience under Christ’s lordship is absent from the show. Instead, Jesus is a kooky but wise sage who offers words of wisdom but who certainly doesn’t demand worship.

And that watered-down version of Jesus makes sense when you consider the show’s creator, Jack Kenny. He considers himself a “Christian” but lives an openly gay lifestyle and prefers to think of Jesus as laid-back and benevolent. Through his show, he has created a god according to his own preference, wholly divorced from Scripture. To quote the late Bible scholar, F. F. Bruce: “To sit loose on Scripture is thus to sit loose to the Christ whom it bears witness, and to sit loose to Him is to relax our Christian faith and life.” And this is exactly what this drama demonstrates.

I believe that this line from the show itself provided a sufficient summary of itself when the “Jesus” character said:
“I talk to everybody. Few hear me. Some hear what they want. Most don’t listen.”
This is sadly true of this show’s creator. He needs our prayers, as does everyone who watches this show and believes that Jesus can be our friend without being our lord. It is only acceptable to believe in Jesus as our friend as long as He is first our lord and savior (John 15:14-17).