Links I like

Fred Phelps and the Anti-Gospel of Hate

Albert Mohler:

Fred Phelps became infamous due to one central fact — he was a world-class hater. He brought great discredit to the Gospel of Christ because his message was undiluted hatred packaged as the beliefs of a church. Even Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to Westboro Baptist Church as “this so-called church.” The damage was due to the fact that his platform for hatred was called a church. That provided the watching and listening world with a ready target and case study for the accusation that Christian conviction on questions of sexual morality is nothing more than disguised hatred for homosexuals. And, like radioactivity, Fred Phelps’ hatred will survive in lasting half-lives of animus.

Flee youthful passions

Ray Ortlund:

In this world of blatant, horrible wrongs, it is not hard to get angry.  It is hard not to get angry.  But “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  It just doesn’t.  Because it can’t.  No matter how right the cause is, the anger of man only makes things worse.  Sometimes the youthful don’t see how clever evil is, how easy it is for us to add to evil while intending good, how hard it is for us to be angry and not sin and complicate things further.  Exposing and confronting wrongs — real wrongs with real victims — is good, but not simple.  Not for us.  What is simple is creating more victims by rushing to judgment with guns ablazing and a golden heart pursuing a noble cause.

The Problem With Victory Focus

Mike Leake:

There is a difference between obedience and victory.

In my mind I picture a team of solider bunkered down behind enemy lines. They are mostly surrounded by enemies and at the point of frustration and despair; death seems certain. Then a most wonderful word is transmitted to them—a decisive victory has been won and rescue is coming. They are given instructions on how to do battle while they await ultimate rescue.

Was Jesus Still God in the Tomb?

David Murray:

Yes, it was right to worship Jesus as God in the womb, in the manger, on the breast, at play, in school, in the workshop, in the court, and on the cross; but in the tomb? Surely not. Jesus was in heaven for these few days, His human soul still united to His divine nature, rightly being worshipped there for His saving work of suffering and dying for sinners. Yes, that worship is theologically sound and totally appropriate. But was Jesus not also on a cold slab of rock in a Middle Eastern cave? Yes, He was. While His human soul was separated from His body, His divine nature was separated from neither and never will be. His divine nature was as united to His lifeless body on earth as it was to His glorified soul in heaven. That means I can worship Him equally in the grave as in glory!

Justin Taylor offers a very interesting counterpoint here.

How Should We Understand this Promise of Jesus?

R.C. Sproul Jr. on Jesus’ promise in John 14:14, “if you ask anything in my name I will do it”:

But what about when we are asking for things we know God would approve of? In my home I and the children pray nightly that God would be pleased to help us to grow in grace and wisdom. What we are seeking is that we would be made fully into the image of Christ, that our sanctification would be complete. That sounds like a good thing to ask in Jesus name. Second, every night we pray that God would be pleased to magnify His name by rising up and protecting all the unborn in Orlando, Florida, these United States, and around the world. How could that not be a prayer in His name? And yet, thus far our prayers have not been answered.

Sad but not strange

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

It is sad that Jesus finds it necessary to exhort the followers closest to him to believe his words, and therefore to believe that he is himself the revelation of the Father. Sad, indeed; but not strange. Is not our own unbelief proof enough of the commonness of unbelief? Even after we have been assured of God’s love for us again and again, of his sovereign pleasure to bless his people with what he judges good for them, do we not retreat to practical skepticism when difficult circumstances seem to call in question his goodness or his power?

Jesus’ first disciples in John 14 are experiencing difficulties of several kinds. They are perhaps intellectually slow to believe the daring claim on Jesus’ lips, made repeatedly, that he is in the Father and the Father in him. Worse, they are bound up emotionally as well as intellectually as they wrestle with talk about death, betrayal, Jesus’ departure, their inability to follow him at present, and the like. What they need more than anything else is to believe Jesus, to believe that what he is saying is true. If only they believe, then the uncertainties surrounding these other large matters will be swallowed up by confidence that Jesus is none other than the revelation of the Father. There is no belief more basic to spiritual triumph than that.

D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Kindle3_1

Every week there are tons of great eBook deals. Here are some of the latest:

Under $2

How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home Derek Thomas—FREE

The Bible’s Promises for Life—99¢

The Bible’s Promises for Women—99¢

The Essential Works of E.M. Bounds—99¢

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by JD Greear—$1.79

Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message by Ravi Zacharias—$1.79

What Every Christian Ought to Know: Solid Grounding for a Growing Faith by Adrian Rogers—$1.79

The King James Version Debate by D.A. Carson—$1.99

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight For Joy by John Piper—$1.99

Contentment by Lydia Brownback—$1.99

Otherworld: A Novel by Jared C. Wilson—$1.99

Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock—$1.99

Under $4

Selected works of A.W. Tozer:

The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense out of Life by Justin Buzzard—$2.99

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace—$2.89

Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton—$2.99

The Life of A.W. Tozer by James Snyder—$2.99

3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare by Clinton E. Arnold—$2.69

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Tim Keller—$2.99

Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ by Robert Peterson—$2.99

Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching by Walter Kaiser—$3.44

True Friendship by Vaughn Roberts—$3.59

The Kingdom of the Occult by Walter Martin—$3.59

Original Jesus: What he really did and why it really matters by Carl Laferton—$2.69

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts On Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds of Finding Your Soul Mate by Stephen Altrogge—$2.99

Supernatural Living for Natural People by Ray Ortlund—$3.99 (general rule of thumb: when there’s a deal on a Ray Ortlund book, take advantage of it)

The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre—$3.99

He Gave Us a Valley by Hellen Roseveare—$3.99

Under $6

Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J.I. Packer—$4.84

Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian—$5.99

“It fell to be seen no more.” Pilgrim’s Progress conversations (2)

He ran till he came to a small hill, at the top of which stood a cross and at the bottom of which was a tomb. I saw in my dream that when Christian walked up the hill to the cross, his burden came loose from his shoulders and fell off his back, tumbling down the hill until it came to the mouth of the tomb, where it fell in to be seen no more.1

Personal reflection

A friend once told me one of his frustrations with The Pilgrim’s Progress was the placement of the cross—we don’t find Christian relieved of his burden until chapter three, which seemed oddly placed:

He’s already on the path to the Celestial City. He’s passed through the slough of despond, although not without being trapped in it for some time. He went astray following the devilish advice of Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, who encouraged him to take an “easier path,” that of morality and legalism…

So why do we have the cross here?

As much as we might prefer the book begin with Christian’s burden dropping from his back, we need to stop and consider whether or not this reflects our own experience? When you first became aware of the burden you carried—the weight of your sin—did you immediately know to run to the cross? Perhaps, perhaps not.

The journey itself is reflective of Bunyan’s own walk with Christ—one which was mired with despondency and futile attempts to justify himself through legalism and moralism, things “intent to rob you of your salvation by turning you away from the way in which I directed you,” as Evangelist told Christian.

As an adult convert, I certainly resonate more with Christian’s journey—one of haphazardly walking the path to the cross, and not finding relief until I stood at its foot. But the point, arguably, is not when Christian finds relief from his burden, but where.

Relief, true relief, is found only at the foot of the cross. Run to it!

Reading with Ryken

The importance of this leg of the journey is disproportionate to the small amount of space given to it. Losing the burden of sin at the foot of the cross is one of the two most important events in the first half of Pilgrim’s Progress (the other being Christian’s entry into Heaven). Whereas the obstacles to spiritual progress that have befallen Christian up to this point have painted a picture of the life before conversion, the ones that happen now represent impediments in the spiritual progress of someone who has been converted to the Christian life.

At the level of travel story, the physical events in this episode are threats to someone who needs to reach a destination. Viewed thus, the events in this chapter resemble those that any traveler encounters—distracting characters, people who give bad advice, the physical ordeals of traveling, losing time by falling asleep, and needing to backtrack to find a lost passport. On this plane, this unit is one of Bunyan’s nightmare passages.

But of course the second level at which the journey unfolds is the spiritual. We should view all the people whom Christian meets in this unit and the physical difficulties he undergoes as pictures of the temptations that befall Christians in their spiritual walk.2

Next week

Next week’s discussion of The Pilgrim’s Progress will be centered around chapters four and five.

Discussing together

This reading project only works if we’re reading together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. A few questions and points to consider:3

  1. What spiritual realities did you resonate with in reading these two chapters?
  2. How are the early days after Christian’s conversion like the experiences of other people you have known?
  3. Why did Bunyan choose the specific spiritual vices that he did, as represented by their allegorical names?
  4. What real-life experiences or observations are embodied in Bunyan’s personified vices?

Post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

Links I like

3 Ways to Support an Author You Like

Barnabas Piper:

This post is self-serving. Many of you know I have a book releasing in July called The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, so yes, I am giving you pointers on how to support me. But I’m also asking you to support Stephen Altrogge, who has written several books and is nice enough to let me blog on his site. And these tips apply to any author, whether they are a NYT best seller or a self-published specialist in something. You might also find it to state some rather obvious ideas. Ok, but are you doing them? These three simple actions can have a remarkable collective effect on the success of authors and their books.

More on Millennials

Joe Thorn:

Earlier this week I was playing cards with some locals at the cigar shop in town. I spend a lot of time in this place both studying and hanging out with people in the neighborhood. At the table with us was a young lady—college student studying music at the local university. We had a good conversation about the Millennial generation, and their lack of interest in the local church and even the Christian faith. We talked about what is that keeps Millennials distant from the church. She agreed with the current research that shows that they find the church to be irrelevant and insular, over-interested in politics, and under-interested in social justice. What can we do to bring them to the faith, or back to the local church?

Introducing Logos Reformed base packages

Logos Bible Software has recently unveiled a new series of base packages exclusively featuring resources from a Reformed theological perspective. If you’ve been hesitant to try it out prior to this, now might be a good time to jump in! (I’ll also be sharing some thoughts on one of the base packages in the coming weeks.)

Five Things We Teach Our Kids When We Don’t Know They’re Watching

Melissa Edgington:

Kids have minds like gloriously uncluttered steel traps.  If she remembers some completely inconsequential thing that her daddy told her four years ago, before she even started kindergarten, how much more does she remember about the important stuff she’s seen and heard?

As adults we often tend to believe that kids aren’t paying attention.  But, we teach them so many things when we don’t even realize that they’re tuned in.  And, for the record, kids are always tuned in, even when they seem mesmerized by the TV.  Here are five things we teach our kids when we don’t know they’re watching.

Get God in Our Midst in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • A Survey of Church History (vol 1) teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (audio & video download)
  • The Beatitudes teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Whither the Prosperity Gospel?

Russell Moore:

The prosperity gospel isn’t just another brand of evangelicalism. It isn’t “evangelical” at all because it’s rooted in a different gospel from the one preached and embodied by Jesus Christ. The prosperity gospel is far more akin to the ancient Canaanite fertility religions than it is to anything announced by Jesus, the prophets before him, or the apostles after him.

Links I like

Mohler on Spurgeon

This is long, but worth your time:

HT: Justin Taylor

The Osteenification of American Christianity

Hank Hanegraaff:

Osteenian Scriptorture is not unique. His words and phrases are now mimicked in pulpits throughout the land. As a result, Christianity has been plunged into an ever-deepening crisis. If occult sources such as those referenced in The Secret pose the greatest threat to the body of Christ from without, the deadly doctrines disseminated through the Osteenification of Christianity pose the greatest threat to Christianity from within. To avert the carnage, a paradigm shift of major proportions is desperately needed—a shift from perceiving God as a means to an end, to the recognition that He is the end.

3 Ways to Recognize Bad Stats

Ed Stetzer:

Often times, a statistic is like a piece of candy thrown at a parade—you really don’t know if you should bite into it or not. We’ve all heard Mark Twain’s famous quote about lies and statistics. There is a reason so many people have had skepticism toward stats. Too frequently, people repeat inaccurate, bad, or explicitly made-up numbers.

I’ve written about the issue before—on many occasions. Here at the blog, you can read about a lot about stats, including specifics about bad marriage stats and why we like bad stats in general.

Still, I keep hearing statistics quoted at conferences and through blogs and social media that make me scratch my head in amazement. I’m not sure where some of these stats originate, and I’m the president of LifeWay Research.

So how can you really discern good stats from bad?

How Did Jesus Read the Old Testament?

Nick Batzig:

Another reason why this question has not been asked more frequently is that the Reformed are rightly zealous for application and experientialism. The Bible shoud make a difference on my life. The precious truths contained in it should lead me on to godly living. This is taught everywhere in the pages of Scriptures (e.g. Titus 1:1 and 1 Timothy 4:16). Some have mistakenly thought that if we say that the Scriptures are first and foremost written to and about Jesus that this will somehow lead on to a denial of my need for transformation. In fact, it is only as we see that the Bible is written to and about Jesus that we will experience Gospel transformation in our lives.

With these things in mind, here are 10 ways to help us understand how Jesus would have understood the Old Testament to have been written to and about Himself.

Outrage Porn and the Christian Reader

Tim Challies:

We as Christians are also easily outraged. Sometimes we seem to forget that we are sinful people living in a sin-stained world and that sinners—even saved ones—will behave like sinners. Sometimes we appear to hold the people we admire (or admired) to the impossible standard of perfection. We don’t mind if our historical heroes are deeply flawed, but we can barely tolerate the slightest imperfection in our contemporary heroes. When they fail, or even when they falter, we respond with, you guessed it: outrage. For a few days we light the torches and lift the pitchforks in our empty protests. And then we move on.

Captain Context

So good:

God might call you to be ignored

word-balloons

In Isaiah chapter six, in one of the most stunning pictures of the pre-incarnate Christ recorded in the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah experiences a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne. When he lays eyes on Him, he cries out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Isaiah is so distraught that he curses himself—he knows that no one can see the Lord and live (Exodus 33:20). But he doesn’t die—instead, an angel takes a piece of coal from the altar and cleanses him, touching the burning coal to his lips. His guilt is taken away; his sin atoned for (Isaiah 6:7).

And then the Lord speaks: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah responds, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Almost every time this story is shared, this is where it stops. We get to see Isaiah boldly answering the Lord’s call, in what I always imagine is a rather heroic fashion, as though he’s saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle this!”

And this is how so many of us treat this passage—as though it’s a call to “our” moment to go and do great things for God. To move mountains and make the sun stand still.

At least, if we stop reading at verse eight and totally ignore Isaiah’s marching orders. This is what God commands:

Go, and say to this people:

Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed” (v. 9b-1o).

Essentially, Jesus tells Isaiah he’s going to be ignored by the people to whom he will be sent. He will preach judgment upon Israel, and promises of the coming of the Messiah to rescue His people…

And they’re not going to listen to a word of it.

Isaiah’s ministry, like so many of the prophets, is marked by stubborn disobedience that comes as a response to his preaching. The people won’t hear, because they cannot. That’s the point. His ministry is to “make the heart of this people dull.”

Can you imagine how difficult that would be? To know that your calls to repentance will have the exact opposite effect?

Maybe this is what God’s calling you to, as well.

This isn’t a pretty thought for many of us. This is not the stuff mega-churches are made of. And yet, it’s probably the reality for more of us than we realize. We speak, we pray, we plead… and there’s nothing. For many, your words are nothing more than the incoherent mutterings of Charlie Brown’s school teacher.

This is the reality I deal with on a regular basis, in fact, as I try to share the gospel—it’s like it passes right over them. And it can be unbearable, if you don’t remember where to find hope in the midst of discouragement. Again, Isaiah helps us:

…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

There’s a confidence here that grounds the exuberance of Isaiah’s cry of “send me!” It puts flesh on the bones of Isaiah’s cry, if you will: God’s word does exactly what it is purposed to do. It means some hearts will be hardened by the unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word, while others will turn and be saved. As Spurgeon said so well, “The same sun which melts wax hardens clay. And the same Gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.”

This truth should cause us not to despair, but to rejoice. We need not be ashamed of the gospel, and we need not be despondent when its truth goes unheeded. God’s word will still accomplish all that He purposes. Whether we’re heard or ignored, that has to be enough for us.


An earlier version of this post first appeared in May 2009.

Links I like

Real forgiveness

Ray Ortlund:

“And if he repents, forgive him.” I wish we were all so tender before the Lord that obvious sin, lovingly rebuked, always evoked repentance. Sadly, that is not so. Hence, the word “if,” rather than “when,” in this verse. But if the relationship is to be restored, the offender must confess his sin as sin and repent of it. How can a sin be forgiven, if it’s never been confessed as sin? So hopefully the offending brother will say, after carefully considering your rebuke, “You’re right. I didn’t see it that way at the moment. I was too riled up. But now I see what I did, and I see what the Bible says about it, and I am making no excuses. I was wrong. I’m sorry. And, God helping me, it won’t happen again. Is there anything I can do that might make a positive difference?”

Why I Don’t Typically Pray For “A Hedge of Protection”

Mike Leake:

I’ve had something similar prayed over me before. And I really appreciate it. But I have a confession to make. The phrase “hedge of protection” makes me laugh. You see, I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s. When I hear the word hedge I don’t think of a row of thorn bushes–I think of Sonic the Hedgehog. So what I hear when someone prays for a hedge of protection is a group of angry hedgehogs watching out for me like my own personal line of attack dogs.

That is one reason, to my knowledge, I’ve never once prayed a hedge of protection around someone. There is another reason.

Where does this hedge come from?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of new Kindle deals:

New deals from Westminster Books

Westminster Books are highlighting a number of books geared to women with some fantastic specials. Here are a few of the titles:

Being a Missions-Centered Local Church

Perhaps the most missions-centered local church I’ve ever visited is Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. Pastor Bryant Wright, the elders and staff at Johnson Ferry have by God’s grace led the church to an inspiring level of mission activity. They have adopted ten unreached and unengaged people groups. Last year nearly 50 percent of their active membership took part in short-term mission trips (just under 2,000 people). This year, Lord willing, they plan to take over 80 short-term trips and support over 90 full-time missionaries on the field.

I had the honor of joining Bryant and the saints at Johnson Ferry for their missions conference called Move (audio here). That’s just what they’re doing–moving! I learned a great deal during my time there and thought I would summarize five things in this short post.

Announcing Stephen Nichols as RBC President and Chief Academic Officer for Ligonier

This is great news for Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College:

God has shown Himself gracious to Reformation Bible College in providing rapid growth to the young institution and in confirming ongoing plans to have the right people in place at every stage of the college’s expansion. As such, Dr. R.C. Sproul and the Board of Directors of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Stephen J. Nichols as the second president of Reformation Bible College. This appointment is concurrent with Dr. Nichols accepting the position of chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries.

Links I like

Christians, We Are Repenters

Trevin Wax:

When I was living in Romania and learning the language, one of the first words I encountered was pocăit. Roughly translated, it means “repenter.” It was a derogatory label given to evangelical believers last century. There were cultural “Christians,” and then there were pocăiții - “repenters” who believed an ongoing life of repentance was essential to the Christian life.

As a Baptist, I was one of the repenters. What separated our church from cultural Christianity we came into contact with was our insistence on repentance in response to God’s unmerited favor. In light of God’s grace, we called people to repent of their sins, their self-justification, and devote themselves wholly to Christ.

Idolatry in corporate worship

Bob Kauflin:

What’s your greatest hindrance to worshiping God as you gather with the church for corporate worship?

I can think of a number of possible answers: Our song leader isn’t very experienced. The liturgy is too stifling. The band sounds bad. The preacher is uninspiring. Our church is too small. Or, Our church is too big.

While I don’t want to minimize the importance of faithful planning, musical skill, and wise leadership, our greatest problem when it comes to worshiping God doesn’t lie outside us, but within our own hearts. It’s the problem of idolatry.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Yesterday I shared a great big list of books. Here are a few new deals:

The Fate of Richard Dawkins

Brendan O’Neill:

Dawkins is forever landing himself in hot water over his tweets. He’s tweeted about how few Nobel Prizes Muslims have won, followed by a barb disguised as a compliment: “They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” He’s tweeted his bamboozlement as to why the New Statesman employed a practising Muslim as its political editor. His tweets are generously peppered with exclamation marks and CAPITAL LETTERS and hectoring phraseology, making it pretty clear that we are getting a glimpse into his unedited thoughts, into the inner recesses of his mind, into that part of the human brain that has always existed – the bovine, often prejudiced bit – but which until recent times was not given public expression. We are seeing how Dawkins’s mind works prior to his exercise of thought and self-editing, and it isn’t pretty.

Is God a Pluralist?

Derek Rishmawy:

It was in my freshman composition class at the University of California, Irvine, that I first heard a professor say, “Well, you know, most of the differences in religion don’t matter. The main point is that God just wants all is just to love each other, right?” It’s a claim that’s become increasingly familiar to me ever since.

But is it true? Is God indifferent to religion? Does he care how he’s worshiped? In other words, is God a pluralist?

10 things you want to say at the border but really shouldn’t

canadian-flag

“Do you have anything to declare?”

I get asked this question every time I return to Canada, and every time I have to stifle a giggle. This is mostly because I’m terribly immature. But seriously, every time I cross the border, I have to fight from making a silly comment that’s sure to send me straight into the loving arms of Canadian or American security personnel.

On our way home from Nashville this past weekend, Emily and I were laughing about the things we could say when asked this question. Here are a few of the answers we thought were pretty funny:

  1. “We had a wonderful time, thanks for asking!”
  2. “I’m a little gassy, sorry.”
  3. “Bankruptcy!”
  4. “Do you know they’ve got beer in their grocery stores?”
  5. “A monkey and a jetpack.”
  6. “I forgot my passport, can I just show it to you next time?”
  7. “I love lamp.”
  8. “The only things we bought were a bunch of Guns… [uncomfortably long pause] and Roses t-shirts.”
  9. “These aren’t my kids.” (See also, “These aren’t my parents.”)
  10. “Not really, do you?”

What about you? What are some ways you’ve always wanted to answer the declaration question at the border?

Links I like

Stop Citing “All Things Are Lawful” in Cultural Arguments

Justin Taylor, quoting from Denny Burk’s excellent What Is the Meaning of Sex?:

. . . [T]he Corinthians had twisted Paul’s law-free gospel into a justification for bad behavior. Thus the phrase “all things are lawful” is not an expression of Christian freedom from the apostle Paul but rather an expression of antinomianism from fornicators! Paul’s aim in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is to correct the Corinthians’ misunderstanding. One of the reasons for the Corinthian error was the fact that they viewed the physical body as inconsequential in God’s moral economy (see 1 Cor. 6:13b). Yet Paul refutes the Corinthians on this point and gives them an ultimate ethical norm with respect to their bodies: “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). . . . Paul’s question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify God with my body?”

The False Teachers: Ellen G. White

Tim Challies on the founder of Seventh-Day Adventism:

In many respects Ellen G. White appeared to hold to the historic Christian faith. She believed in Christ’s imminent bodily return, she held to the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and she taught that we are saved by Christ’s righteousness rather than our own. But amid that truth were some dangerous false teachings. I will focus on only two.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

You’ll also find a whole lot of Tozer’s works on sale:

Why we argue like jerks

Bradford Davis:

Diving headfirst into an endless vortex of insults and insinuations is incredibly tempting in the heat of the moment. I have felt the tug and I have regrettably given in many times to coarse tweets and ad hominems. Maybe considering the why behind our inability to argue well will help us move forward.

Off to the pub to pray

Mitch Smart:

Emerging communities are provocatively calling us to be part of a radical change in the Christian faith. Almost everything they write sounds like a revolutionary movement in the manner of the Reformation that we should join before we get left behind. There are books like Neil Cole’s Church 3.0 and Brian McLaren’s Church on the Other Side. If we were to have them over for a barbeque, it wouldn’t be out of place for them to speak of themselves as agents of a brand new type of church in a new type of world. It’s all very urgent.

The church is closest to heaven-sent revival when…

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

The authority of Jesus to heal and transform is implicit in his person and mission. The authority is already his. He needs only to will the deed, and it is done. Few lessons are more urgently needed in the modern church. Hope for reformation and revival lies not in campaigns and strategy (as important as such things may be), but in the authority of Jesus.…

Our generation is in danger of forgetting this.… The church is closest to heaven-sent revival when it comes to an end of its gimmicks, and petitions the great Lord of the church, who alone has the authority to pour out blessing beyond what can be imagined, who alone opens doors such that none can shut them and shuts them so that none can open them, to use the full authority that is his (Matt. 28:18) to bless his people with repentance and vitality and thereby bring glory to himself. Only his authority will suffice.

Links I like (weekend edition)

 I Reject Christianity Because….

Matt Smethurst with a great interview with James Anderson about his book, What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (reviewed here). Here’s a snippet:

It’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim Jesus is the only way to God. No religion has the whole truth—including yours.

If it’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim that Jesus is the only way to God, then Jesus himself must have been narrow-minded and intolerant, because that’s exactly what he claimed about himself (see, for example, Matthew 11:27 and John 14:6). Jesus also claimed to be the Son of God from heaven and that only those who believe in him will have eternal life. Yet when we read the four Gospels, we don’t encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant, arrogant man. Rather, we see a wide-hearted, selfless, and humble man, full of grace and compassion toward others.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here’s a roundup of a number of Kindle deals that have come up this week. Be sure to take advantage while you can:

Celebrity Pastors: A Retrospective

Carl Trueman:

If there are people out there who still believe that there is such a thing as reformed evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement, if they believe that this movement will play a key role in the future of the church, and if they believe that they are important leaders in this movement, then they need to speak directly, clearly, and firmly to precisely these issues.  You cannot be a leader without leading publicly on the major issues and major personalities of the day who impact your movement and your chosen constituency.

Who Was St. Patrick?

Kevin DeYoung:

Determining fact from fiction for Patrick is difficult, in part because his writings were not always passed along reliably. More important, Patrick wrote in particularly poor Latin.… But here’s what most scholars agree on: Patrick–whose adult life falls in the fifth century–was actually British, not Irish. He was born into a Christian family with priests and deacons for relatives, but by his own admission, he was not a good Christian growing up. As a teenager he was carried by Irish raiders into slavery in Ireland. His faith deepened during this six year ordeal. Upon escaping Ireland he went back home to Britain. While with his family he received a dream in which God called him to go back to Ireland to convert the Irish pagans to Christianity.

The Problem of Christian Unity

Michael Patton:

When it comes to objections to Christianity, there are striking similarities. We stress the problem of evil (if God exists, how do we explain all the evil?), yet fail to realize the “problem” of good (if God doesn’t exist, how do we explain all the good?). Atheists say theists must give an answer to the creation by God, while at the same time dismissing their own obligation to explain the existence of everything else! Skeptics talk endlessly about the discrepancies in the Gospel stories, but are silent about the myriads of agreements which far outweigh what appear to be disagreements, both in number and significance. The unfortunate consequence is that many people (including Christians) become discouraged and full of doubt due to the many disagreements that Christians experience among themselves. Catholic vs. Protestant. Baptist vs. Presbyterian. Calvinist vs. Arminian. Premillennialists vs. Amillennialists. Young Earth vs. Old Earth. The truth of the matter is that for centuries Christians have disagreed among themselves concerning many issues from the interpretation of certain Scriptures to the role of tradition as an authoritative norm in our faith. However, I would encourage people to gain some perspective here. It is time to call on Christians, as well as non-Christians to focus not only on our respective disagreements, but also observe and gain strength from the many areas in which we agree.

Are Christians really free to smoke pot?

marijuana

Yesterday, Andy Crouch wrote a thoughtful piece on marijuana and Christian liberty. In it, he explains that while the editorial position of Christianity Today is that Christians are free to smoke marijuana recreationally where it is legal, “when it comes to pot in our particular cultural context, we think it would be foolish to use that freedom.”

This subject is not an easy one to deal with, but it’s an important one. Marijuana is legal in several states, and its legal status has been disputed in my homeland for well over a decade1—so it’s a subject we’re all going to have to deal with sooner or later.

Now, there’s a lot I agree with in Crouch’s article, particularly its conclusion that Christians shouldn’t smoke weed, even if they’re free to do so.

“The Christian’s freedom is a gift that leads to serving others, with care, attention, skill, and singleness of heart,” Crouch writes. “It’s a freedom that willingly sacrifices easy pleasures in order to serve. And by that standard, it’s hard to imagine that pot will be helpful any time soon.”

So while I agree with his assessment that if we are free to do this, we still shouldn’t, I’m honestly uncertain about the if itself. In other words, I’m not certain the Bible actually allows for this to fall under the domain of Christian liberty. Here are two points to consider:

1. Is it really lawful? The Christian liberty argument centers on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” One of the challenges we face is with how to read Paul’s words. His quoting of the Corinthians insistence that all things are lawful or permissible may not have been approvingly. In fact, based on his response, “but not all things are helpful… not all things build up,” it could well be that he was outright refuting their claim.

Further to this, we see Paul’s insistence on a life of Spirit-fueled self-control (Galatians 5:22; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:2, 8). While we should be careful to not read into this an outright prohibition of substances that can impair our self-control (after all, the Bible does not forbid the consumption of alcohol), we should take it seriously: If something impairs my ability to think clearly or to practice moderation, am I really free to partake?

2. Is it really good? This is probably the more fundamental issue. Crouch writes that, “Christians despise no created thing. The marijuana plant is a part of a world that was declared good by its Maker every step along the way.”While God certainly did create everything “good” in the beginning, we also have to recognize that all things are not as they should be.

In the beginning, the first man and woman were free to eat of everything in the Garden—everything but the fruit of one tree. But when they sinned, the entire world was affected, and today it groans under the curse, as it awaits the inauguration of the new creation (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:17-19; Romans 8:22). As a result of the curse, we see that plants that were once created “good” are now “bad” for us.

Before the Fall, no mushroom existed that would poison us if we ate it, and no leaf would cause a rash if it touched us. Simply, we need to recognize that—just as with certain types of wild mushrooms and Poison Ivy—the effect of marijuana on the mind is likely not the original intent as seen in God’s good creation . In fact, it is more likely the result of the curse! Thus, we should be careful about classifying it as “good,” lest we inadvertently call something “evil” “good” (Isaiah 5:20).

Which takes us back to the beginning.

I agree with Crouch that even if Christians were free to use marijuana in moderation for recreational purposes, they should not—but, I’m uncertain that the if in this case is really an if at all. I’m just not sure the Scriptures support such a position.

What are your thoughts on this?