Why I’m excited about For the Church

ftc_logo

Today’s an exciting day for my friends at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: their new venture, For the Church, launches today! What’s even more exciting for me (from a purely selfish perspective) is that I get to be a part of it as a contributor.

Here’s why I’m particularly keen on this new site:

1. The vision. For the Church is all about  engaging, encouraging, and equipping the Church with gospel-centered resources that are pastoral, practical, and devotional:

This tone—being practical, pastoral and devotional–is really important, especially in a world where we have far too much bad news thrown at us, including from our fellow believers. I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired and depressed after reading 18 posts on the latest violation of Americans’ fundamental freedoms, or the continuing crisis in the Middle East. By no means should we stick our heads in the sand; but we do need to remember that if all we’re getting is this message—difficulty, trial, persecution, suffering—then we are going to be living our saddest life now.

We need fuel to face the bad news that constantly assails us. We need to encouraged in the gospel, and to be strengthened for what lies ahead. We need to inform our heads, yes, but we also need to strengthen our hearts. That’s For the Church is offering, and it’s something I am eager to read.

2. The contributors. MBTS has put together a phenomenal crew of writers for this site, including Brandon Smith, Michael Kelley, Joe Thorn, Erik Raymond… these are guys I enjoy learning from and folks whose writing makes me want to be a better one. That is pretty exciting to me—and I hope it will be to you, as well, especially if you’re an aspiring writer. Just as with preaching, you need to read a lot (and read a lot of different styles) to really find your own voice. Reading work from as diverse a group as For the Church’s contributors will go a long way.

3. Jared Wilson. I’m not gonna lie: Jared Wilson is one of the guys I most respect, both as a pastor and a writer. His writing has been consistently helpful to me (and he’s been kind enough to put up with periodic emails from a knucklehead like me for years). So, him asking me to contribute is not something I take lightly, and I’m grateful to be a part of the team.

So what will I be writing on? 

One of my first posts should be up on today called “The Challenge of Contending.” This is a post that gives a snapshot of how to contend for the faith without being contentious. Following that, I’ve got a new series that will be starting sometime in the near future based upon the things I wish I’d known as a new believer.

There’s lots more that I could say about this new endeavor, but for now, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the exciting  the most important is to encourage you to check it out for yourself. Enjoy the first batch of articles, and be sure to add For the Church to your favorite feed reader today!

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Zondervan’s put Brian Croft’s Practical Shepherding series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

Preston Sprinkle:

Most people answer this question either with an adamant “Yes!” or passionate “No!” Too often, though, both sides fail to understand or represent the other side. Not everyone who says that the Bible contains contradictions is an angry, arrogant, card-carrying atheist. And not everyone who believes there aren’t any contradictions is a backwoods, unscientific, raging fundamentalist with his head in the sand.

 The God of Justice Hates False Reports

Kevin DeYoung:

lease, please, please, let us be more careful with our words. Let our blogs be based on knowledge and our tweets be founded on facts. Let us be among the last to speak our minds if we are not one of the first to know the truth. Let us not confuse a social media scroll with actual research. Hearing a report is not the same as the right to speak.

10 Things Young Singles in Romantic Relationships Ought to Know

Yes!

Do You Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with God?

Erik Raymond:

What is so troubling to me is how many professing Christians have a similar relationship with God, let’s call it a dysfunctional relationship. In every counseling situation and in an alarmingly high rate of regular conversation with Christians, I have observed that many people do not pray regularly, read their Bibles devotionally, or prioritize the Lord’s Day gathering of the church.

Being an iceberg pastor

Andrew Haslam:

But there is one rule that I think ought to underpin every pastor’s understanding of his calling, which is that he needs to be an iceberg. What do I mean? Simply this: that whatever public ministry he engages in (that bit above the surface) needs to be built upon a lifetime of preparation, growth, character, learning, and reliance on God (the mass under the surface). Public prayers ought to be a taste of how he prays in private. Preaching ought to be the cream scraped off the top of his brain.

Earth Day, religious devotion and creation care

earth-day

The first time I heard about Earth Day was when it interrupted my Saturday morning cartoons. I was probably seven or eight at the time, and this particular weekend NBC decided to air one of their NBC All Star type shows. This one featured the Huxtable family talking about how we shouldn’t be taking long showers as it wastes water. This was a way we could take care of Planet Earth. Next, came the announcement at school: because we had to do our part to care for the planet, we’d be spending a couple hours on Earth Day cleaning up trash in the school yard and the surrounding neighborhood.

Things escalated from there: recycling clubs (yep, I’m old enough to remember when recycling was a new thing), more posters, more TV specials, Ferngully, and Captain Planet:

As a child, I was heavily exposed to the fear of global warming and acid rain. But it didn’t really change my life that much. Nor did it really seem to change the habits of anyone else I knew, either. But I did slowly see it starting to change how people wanted to present themselves. Though there was little overt pressure, people seemed to want to appear to be environmentally conscious, even if they didn’t really care all that much.

Because thinking about something is just as good as doing it, right?

But over the years, I noticed a change as the message shifted and the rhetoric took on a more overtly religious tone. The local coffee shops put up posters exposing the dangers of styrofoam cups and their continued existence over the next 1000 years in landfills (despite only having been invented in the 1940s). Garbage and recycling programs have escalated to require separate bagging of items—paper, plastic and metal, compost, and other (yet still crushed in the same bins in the pickup truck). Our government has even got in on the action, instituting environmental fees on your electronic products (a sure sign of environmentalism being mainstream). Earth is no longer the place we live, but “the mother of my mother,” and the use of fossil fuel is comparable to human slavery.

And then there’s the public schools. I’ll be honest, even though I noticed the changes in behavior, it didn’t really hit home until a few years ago, when my daughter came home from school with a handout that talked about how we were hurting the earth because we drove cars, and should really be using public transit or bicycles instead. This led to the following conversation:

Abigail: “We shouldn’t drive our car. We should take the bus.”

Me: “Okay… So, let me ask you something. Does your teacher take the bus to school?”

Abigail: “No.”

Me: “Does she ride a bike?”

Abigail: “No.”

Me: “So how does she get there?”

Abigail: “She drives.”

Me: “So does that mean your teacher is bad?”

Abigail: “No…”

Me: “So if your teacher isn’t bad for driving a car, then why are we bad for driving one?”

Abigail: *Lightbulb moment*


Now, obviously, I’m not going to declare we should all start driving gas-guzzlers to the arctic circle for a wild weekend of seal hunting. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying don’t bother recycling (even if I question its efficacy at times). But as we come up to Earth Day and the increase in environmental messages and rhetoric, I want us to consider the question:

What does it really teach?

The more I consider it, the more I wonder if what it really teaches is that humanity is simultaneously the problem, and the solution. We are to be our own saviors, even as we lament our existence. Our world is overpopulated.1 We are consuming our resources at an unheard of rate and within the next 50-ish years, we’ll be running out of water, fossil fuels and possibly even air, as the doomsday prophesying goes. We’ve gotten ourselves into a horrible mess, and we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of it.

Notice the religious contours of this: there’s a state of perfection that’s been lost. There’s a problem to be resolved. And there’s a promised salvation from the problem we face. The problem, of course, is it all centers on us. It’s a religious system without God.

This sort of environmental hoobity-boobity is rooted in what Peter Jones would call Oneism—a radical rejection of the Creator/creation distinction. Because we ignore or outright reject the Creator—the one who created all things and supplies all our needs—the creation becomes the object of our worship. Thus, environmentalism becomes a matter of life and death.

And this religious devotion is fundamentally what Christians must reject. We are not worshippers of the creation. We have dominion over it. Not to abuse, but to carefully use its resources as God’s image bearers—his representatives—in the creation. So what does this mean for us?

1. We don’t worship the earth. A Christian caring about the environment is a good thing. But we must reject anything that smacks of placing any created thing (including the planet) in a position it does not deserve.

2. We consume responsibly. As I’ve written elsewhere, while I’m skeptical that a styrofoam cup in a landfill will still exist in 15,000 years, I’m all for being responsible as a consumer. Don’t buy more than you need. Buy things that last. Just because you can be conspicuous in your consumption doesn’t mean you should be.

3. We trust the Lord to provide for all our needs. If God provides for us—if he makes it rain on the just and unjust alike—then we have nothing to fear. Ever. This means it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever run out of clean drinking water, or appropriate fuels, or lose the ability to produce food to eat. Our problems around these things really have more to do with distribution than actual shortages (even in the case of California).

As wonderful as the earth is, it does not deserve our devotion. There is only one who does, and that is our Creator, the maker of the heavens and earth. Caring for the environment is a good thing, but only if we understand it in relationship with the ultimate thing.


photo credit: Full Disk Image of Earth Captured August 24, 2011 via photopin (license)

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week there are 13 books by A.W. Tozer on sale for $3.99 each:

Also on sale is A Life Observed by Devin Brown ($2.99).

But Jesus didn’t say…

If you only read one article today, you can’t go wrong with this one by Karen Swallow Prior.

15 Doctrines That Ought to Bring Comfort In Suffering

Derek Rishmawy:

One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming.

Religious Liberty Is Not Freedom from Ridicule

Russell Moore:

In my mind, I was upset because I was protective of the reputation of evangelical Christianity. I thought: “Are you so ignorant that you’ve never heard of Augustine or Justin Martyr or Blaise Pascal or Carl Henry?” And, years ago, I thought I was protective of my home state. I thought, “Yes, I think maybe William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams read more than I do.” But in both cases, I was wincing at a personal slight. I’m a born Mississippian and a born-again Christian. When one insults these categories, one is insulting me—and I didn’t like it.

Every pastor needs a theology coach

Joe Thorn:

Many of us have seen recent, and very public, theological train wrecks driven by pastors who do not appear to be under the coaching, or tutelage, of seasoned theological leaders. As I observe and talk with pastors from different denominations and networks I can’t help but get the impression that many pastors limit their theological investment to seminary (if they went to one), or the occasional doctrinal issue. This is dangerous not only to ourselves, but to the church as well.

7 Things I Learned From Going Viral

Aaron Earls:

Having become temporarily “Twitter famous” (which is one step below Internet famous and still another step below reality TV show famous), here are 7 things I learned from going viral.

Don’t Be A Commentary Junkie

Ryan Higginbottom:

Let’s be honest: a good Bible commentary is awesome. A scholar spends years studying a book of the Bible, gathering wisdom both from centuries of Christian history and from his own encounters with God in his Word. Then you get a chance to peek over his shoulder! Commentaries can be a great blessing from God.

While they can be terrific as a reference, commentaries are a poor substitute for studying the Bible yourself. I understand the temptation to rely on commentaries. The research! The analysis! The footnotes! But when we become enamored with the work of a Bible scholar, we miss out on the beauty of the Bible’s author.

What do true teachers do?

true-teacher

What do all faithful teachers have in common? What separates a good teacher from a bad one? And what do they actually do?

It’s easy to become confused about this. After all, there are plenty of speakers and teachers who are technically excellent. They are captivating personalities and incredibly gifted, yet they are a total train wreck.

Assuming the primary issue is understood—after all, the Scriptures place little emphasis on an individual’s abilities and focus almost entirely upon his conduct and character—there is really only one thing that determines if a teacher is a true one, a faithful one: how firmly he holds to Scripture. Martyn Lloyd-Jones made the point well in Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John:

The most important test is the conformity to scriptural teaching. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” How do I know that this is a scriptural test? All I know about Him, I put up to the test of Scripture. Indeed, you get exactly the same thing in the sixth verse of 1 John 4 where John says, speaking of himself and the other apostles, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” The first thing to ask about a man who claims to be filled with the Spirit and to be an unusual teacher is, does his teaching conform to Scripture? Is it in conformity with the apostolic message? Does he base it all upon this Word? Is he willing to submit to it? That is the great test.

Your ability to teach matters, make no mistake. But what’s more important than your ability that you hold fast to the Scriptures. That you grab hold and never let go, no matter how tempting it may be (or how popular it may make you). Pastors, bloggers, conference speakers and authors should always be the first to say, “Do not simply take my word for it. Check the Scriptures—listen to them above me.” He doesn’t encourage closing the book, nor turning off your brain. He doesn’t imply infallibility in his ministry. He is subordinate to the Word of God. He conforms and submits to it.

That’s what a true teacher does.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals focus on biblical authority:

Be sure to also check out Cross edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99) and Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99).

When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected

Paul Maxwell:

The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties; emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question — transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.

How should writers and editors work together?

Aspiring writers, you’d do well to take this advice from Gavin Ortlund seriously.

Does Open Theism solve the problem of evil and suffering?

Randy Alcorn:

I don’t enjoy opposing a doctrine that seems to comfort some suffering brothers and sisters. However, I believe open theism redefines God Himself, altering one of His most basic attributes, omniscience, in a misguided and unsuccessful attempt to make it more compatible with His love.

4 Things the ‘Hate Psalms’ Teach Us

Wendy Stringer:

My husband and I spent the first 15 years of our life together with a church that sang the psalms in corporate worship. They were set to old hymns and anthems, with language similar to a sonnet and sung a cappella. Opening burgundy psalters, waiting for four notes blown on the pitch pipe, we would break into harmony and sing our hearts to God.

It was a beautiful experience, but every once in a while we would come to an imprecatory psalm, and I couldn’t choke out the words. Singing Psalm 137, for example, felt offensive and unnecessary; Jesus is not explicitly present, so why sing as though he has not come and saved us?

Why these imprecatory psalms? Why Psalm 137? What do these psalms tell us?

Faithfully Delivering the Gospel

Erik Raymond:

If we really believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation we probably would not mess with it. It is not wise to edit perfection; we have not been given proofreading writes by God to add or delete elements from his masterpiece of Christ exalting truth.

What teaches us the preciousness of the Creator?

A little while ago, I started a new periodic series called “Going beyond inspirational gobbledygook.” Much of what’s offered to us as inspirational quotes (and much of what we see shared on social media) is little more than sub-biblical nonsense (or worse), so I wanted something for the rest of us—something that encourages us personally, but also truly inspires others in the gospel.

While occasionally, these will be original quotes, often they will come from saints older and wiser than me. Today’s  comes from Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon, “Order and Argument in Prayer”:

precious-creator

(Be sure to save and share this image with your friends!)

And just for fun, here’s some additional context for this quote:

My brethren, nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator as when we learn the emptiness of all besides. When you have been pierced through and through with the sentence, “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,” then will you suck unutterable sweetness from the divine assurance, “Blessed is he that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Turning away with bitter scorn from earth’s hives, where you found no honey, but many sharp stings, you will rejoice in him whose faithful word is sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.

Got a quote you’d like to see in this series? Let me know in the comments!

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

Traits of leaders who hire well

Eric Geiger:

In my role, I interact daily with leaders and managers who hire people, who invite others to join the teams they lead. I have observed these seven common traits in leaders who hire well, leaders who seem to excel at attracting the right players to their teams.

Batman v Superman: the first teaser trailer

Well, this is pretty impressive:

Paul Was Inspired, Yet He Wanted Timothy to Bring Him Books to Read!

This is a great from Spurgeon, courtesy of Justin Taylor.

What Kind of King Is This?

Mike Leake:

I think if we are being honest we can all identify with Clapton. None of us likes to be disrespected. We especially don’t like being forgotten. Who of us hasn’t been a bit insulted because someone has forgotten our name?  We have a certain idea of our standing in society and our dignity before our fellow man. If someone treats us in a way that does not match up to our perceived worth and dignity we respond with anger.

Teens react to the 90s Internet

A mild language warning for those who might appreciate it aside, this is a lot of fun:

3 favorite teaching moments from #TGC15

tgc15

From April 13-15, 2015, around six thousand Christian men and women came together in Orlando, Florida, for The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, to consider the new heavens and the new earth. Yesterday, I shared three personal reflections on the conference, and today, I wanted to share a few of the standout moments from the plenary sessions:

1. John Piper on Christians as radical truth-tellers. As Piper applied his texts, Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 (the whole message was terrific), he declared that Jesus is “calling us to be people of radical truthfulness. To not make judgments on appearances, but on truth.… We are to be radically truth-driven Messiah people.”

His key example? Ghostwriting among Christian authors:

“If you write something, put your name on it! If you didn’t don’t put your name on it! If someone wrote it with you, put both names on it. We do not use the ways of the world to write a book or win a soul!”

2. Keller on what a circumcised heart is. “When the Bible talks about the heart it’s the control center of the whole being. Hearts put their trust in something. They face things. … The thing your heart looks to is what you think about when you don’t have anything to think about. What the heart wants, the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find desirable.”

And this is why God commands us to have circumcized hearts. This, external sign of being obedient to the law of God. Circumcision of the heart, he said, “means that the innermost will wants to do those things. Our pleasure and our duty are the same. What you ought to do and what you want to do are the same things.”

But it’s the illustration he gives about why God commands that particularly intimate part of the body be involved in physical circumcision that got me. It’s to remind us of the grossness, the vileness of sin.

3. Ligon Duncan on why the “not yet” matters right now. Most Christians are familiar with the idea of the already/not yet, or the now and not yet of reality. The gospel has present affects, but has future implications. And yet, so many people seem to think that if you pay too much attention to the “not yet” you’re good for nothing right now. As he preached on Romans 8:16-25, Duncan politely called bunk on this idea. “There are a lot of people who say if you care about the ‘not yet’, you won’t care about ‘now’, and you’ll be escapist in your view of the Christian life. But the Bible says that the ‘now’ matters forever, and ‘forever’ matters right now.

You must have your eye on that future hope. If you’re just hoping in the now, you’re not hoping as Paul is telling you to hope. The reformed doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone ended slavery in the British empire. We’ve been told our doctrine isn’t “social” enough. We need to modify it to make it more social. No.

It is the doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone that caused Wilberforce and his coworkers to expend their last breath to set captives free! You can’t live now unless your hope is in the not yet. The now is so overwhelming, if you really look at it, you can’t survive without the not yet.1

(Sadly there’s no clip of this available, but it was great.)

Were you at TGC15 or watching the livestream? What was a top moment for you?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian by Ron Gleason (paperback)
  • The Psychology of Atheism teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond (hardcover)
  • What Is Reformed Theology? teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

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

This. Is. The. Day.

Michael Kelley:

The statement is simple: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Despite its simplicity, the rejoicing of the day is contingent upon the weighty assumptions packed into the first section. It’s only by embracing what’s between the lines of part A that we can really get to part B. Here’s what it might look like.

How to become gluten intolerant

This is shared in good fun (note: the last 30 seconds or so are a bit gross):

The Seed of Divorce

Tim Challies:

I recently sat with a group of young adults, men and women in their late teens and early twenties, and we spoke about singleness, dating, and courtship. Eventually the conversation advanced to marriage and to both the joys and the difficulties of marriage. We realized together that as these young adults are considering relationships and begin to pursue marriage, they are wondering how they can divorce-proof their marriages. Many of them have grown up surrounded by divorce and its effects. Some are afraid of commitment because they are afraid they may not be able to keep that commitment.

The latest Star Wars trailer

Jesus, the Gentle Pastor

Jared Wilson:

These words of Christ really minister to me. The immediate context is this: Jesus has resurrected and he is issuing warnings and promises to his disciples. He is consoling them about his soon departure, saying he is going to send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. He’s going to keep speaking to them, only now through the Holy Spirit, primarily through the Spirit-inspired new covenant Scriptures.

3 personal reflections on #TGC15

tgc15

This week, around six thousand Christian men and women came together in Orlando, Florida, for The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, the theme of which was the new heavens and the new earth. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a few reflections on the teaching we all received, but I first want share a few of personal reflections from the event. As you may know, for many of us, these conferences are as much about relationships as about the material (if not more so). Here are three highlights:

Connecting with friends, old and new. When most people think a conference full of introverts, they usually don’t think relationship stuff would be high on the list of priorities. Yet, one of the best things about TGC and other conferences is catching up with friends, and making some new ones. Yesterday, I finally reconnected with Julian (a pastor who lives in Toronto), spent time with Noel (also a pastor in the Toronto area), Andrew and Gary (both of whom minister north of my community). I also enjoyed a great lunch with Kevin Halloran (loved hearing more about the ministry where God has placed him), and talking with Chris and Alyssa (and cuddle up with their baby girl, Geneva Mae).

And then there was Disney. Yes, Wednesday night I, along with my friend Matt and a couple of his colleagues, when to Downtown Disney (couldn’t do the theme park this time) to enjoy dinner and try to pick up something for our kids. But the magic we were to experience on the outskirts of the magic kingdom was black with what was perhaps the most comically bad service any of us had ever experienced in a restaurant. It did, however, lead to many hilarious (for us) comments, some of which I will now share with you, with very little context:

Matt: “First John was full of lies and second John was full of inconsistencies.”

Second John: “I’ve got the perfect surprise to end your night.”
Me: “You’re going to murder us?”

After we received our “surprise”:

Every staff person in the restaurant, ever: “Oh, wow! Doesn’t that look amazing? Isn’t it good? We had 13 people in our group during training and we couldn’t even make a dent out of it.”
Me: “Well, it’s… big.”

The only thing that could make us feel better was getting our picture taken Cinderella:

capps-aaron-cinderella

(Or, at least a statue of her.)

Celebrating their successes. My friend Matt’s 12 week study of Hebrews releases in June. Dan’s got a new book coming out with Baker. And then there’s Derek, a great guy I met two years ago at TGC and had not yet published his first article on the site. Now he’s taking the TGC-friendly blogosphere by storm. This has been wonderful to see, as Derek is a really sharp guy and a gifted communicator. (And if you don’t follow him, you really should.)

Cultivating new opportunities. This week, I also had the chance to talk with friends and acquaintances from the publishing world, which I always love. Out of that, I have a couple of proposals I’m putting together to shop around that, if one or both are accepted, would be a lot of fun to write. I’ll keep you posted on how those go (and your prayers are much appreciated).

There’s a lot that happened over the course of the last three days, and I’m sure I’ll remember something else that was absolutely amazing tomorrow, but these are probably the three biggest moments of the conference from a personal perspective for me.

Were you at TGC this year? What was a particular highlight for you?

Links I like

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Three Cheers for Celibacy

Chad Hall:

Why should the church reverse polarity on the marriage-celibacy issue? In addition to the unchanging witness of Scripture, I see three good reasons we in the church need to treat celibacy as more normal than marriage.

Why?

R.C. Sproul:

When we raise the question of purpose, we are concerned with ends, aims, and goals. All these terms suggest intent. They assume meaning rather than meaninglessness. Despite the best attempts of nihilist philosophers to deny that anything has ultimate meaning and significance, the perennial question “Why?” shows that they haven’t been successful. In fact, even the cynic’s glib retort of “Why not?” is a thinly veiled commitment to purpose. To explain why we’re not doing something is to give a reason or purpose for not doing it. Purpose remains in the background. Human beings are creatures committed to purpose. We do things for a reason—with some kind of goal in mind.

Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting

This was interesting.

Spurgeon Almost Quit

Christian George:

The evening of October 19, 1856 commenced a season of unusual suffering for Spurgeon. His popularity had forced the rental of the Surrey Garden Music Hall to hold the 12,000 people congregated inside. Ten thousand eager listeners stood outside the building, scrambling to hear his sermon. The event constituted one of the largest crowds gathered to hear a nonconformist preacher — a throwback to the days of George Whitefield.

A few minutes after 6 o’clock, someone in the audience shouted, “Fire! The galleries are giving way! The place is falling!” Pandemonium ensued as a balcony collapsed. Those trying to get into the building blocked the exit of those fighting to escape. Spurgeon attempted to quell the commotion, but to no avail. His text for the day was Proverbs 3:33, “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” — a verse he would never preach again.

Against Bloodless Ghosts in Theology

Jared Wilson:

We too often toss around words like “spirit,” “grace,” “peace,” and “hope,” smooshing them all into some Christian-ese gobbledegook. This is not the Christian faith. The Bible will not let us have these ideas merely as ideas, as things. They are personal.

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?

bible-homosexuality

Few issues cause more handwringing among Christians in our day than that of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. For some, it’s not a lack of clarity on what they believe, but about how to express it without being accused of being bigots, homophobes or hate mongers. So many in this group, because they are uncertain of how to speak winsomely, say nothing.

For others, the issue itself is extremely cloudy. They don’t really know or aren’t really sure what, if anything, the Bible says about the issue, and how to interpret what’s there. So when they read the arguments of affirming or revisionist authors, they have no idea how to respond or what to think. And because they aren’t grounded, they risk falling into serious error.

You can see why pastor and author Kevin DeYoung would be compelled to write a book on the subject then, can’t you? Which is why What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? exists. In this book, he wants to bolster the faith of those who know what they believe, but are unsure of how to communicate. He wants to bring clarity to those for whom the situation seems murky. And he wants to challenge those who, flying under the banner of Christ, would seek to revise what the Bible really says about homosexuality.

Where you start affects what you ask

Divided into two parts, DeYoung begins by first examining the texts which directly speak to humanity’s design and homosexual practice: Genesis 1-2, Genesis 19, Leviticus 18, 20, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1. The inclusion of Genesis 1-2 might surprise some, since it is the creation account, but including it makes complete sense. After all, we can’t truly understand what the Bible says about homosexuality without first understanding how God created human beings.

For the Christian, there is nothing more basic than this: humans were created unique in all of creation—the man and the woman were made in the image and likeness of God. They were made to be something like him, as unity in diversity. And this is repeated referenced all throughout the Bible. It is the foundation and framework of marriage in Ephesians 5, and in Jesus’ own teaching on divorce in Matthew 19:4-6. It is a picture of the gospel, and a type of the marriage that is to come in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 19). Thus, DeYoung writes,

Marriage, by its very nature, requires complementarity. The mystical union of Christ and the church—each “part” belonging to the other but neither interchangeable—cannot be pictured in marital union without the differentiation of male and female. If God wanted us to conclude that men and women were interchangeable in the marriage relationship, he not only gave us the wrong creation narrative; he gave us the wrong metanarrative. (32)

DeYoung’s point here is pretty simple: how you view the male-female relationship is inevitably going to influence whether the validity of same-sex marriage is even a question in your mind. If you function, as some Christians do, within the complementarian framework of gender—that is, each gender is uniquely designed to perform separate, but complementary functions—honestly, you’re probably not asking any questions about whether or not homosexual practice is compatible with Christian belief. In this framework, the two are not interchangeable, and therefore homosexual practice cannot be compatible with Christian belief. The conversation, therefore, shifts more toward answering the challenge winsomely.

For the egalitarian, however, the challenge is significantly different. If you believe that gender distinctions fundamentally have no bearing on your role and responsibility, you’re more than likely having to deal first with the compatibility issue. I don’t say this to disparage those who do hold this viewpoint, but merely to show that what we believe about male-female relationships may have drastic affects on our starting point on this issue (and potentially our end point).

What’s the fruit we’re talking about?

Part two of the book focuses on answering the common objections to the historic orthodox view of homosexuality:

  • the Bible’s limited discussion of homosexuality in general;
  • the cultural distance argument (that is, the kind of homosexuality the Bible talks about isn’t the kind revisionists advocate the inclusion of);
  • our lack of condemnation of sins such as gluttony and divorce outside of the biblically permissible reasons;
  • the church being a safe place for broken people and sinners;
  • being on the wrong side of history;
  • the fairness of encouraging same-sex attracted Christians to commit to life-long celibacy; and
  • love as the overriding attribute and characteristic of God.

Each topic, as should be expected, is handled very carefully, though DeYoung is not afraid to be a little jabby in places. On this point, it’s important to remember that DeYoung is not being hostile toward those who experience same-sex attraction, nor is he particularly hostile toward revisionist authors. What troubles him greatly—and shines through on every page of this book—is his overriding concern about the seemingly blind acceptance of false teaching in our midst, and the diminishment of the authority of Scripture as a result.

This is especially apparent when DeYoung writes on the fairness issue, countering the oft-cited “good fruit/bad fruit” claims of of Matthew Vines and other authors who ask, “If embracing their sexuality were really a step away from God… why are so many ‘gay Christians’ spiritually flourishing?” (116) In other words, how can it be wrong if it’s yielding “good fruit”?

The problem, DeYoung argues, is that the definition of “good fruit” proposed is wrong. In revisionist writing, experience has a tendency to trump the what Scripture says. Thus, the good fruit is fulfillment, satisfaction or personal happiness. It is a feeling. This is necessary for us to remember in a culture driven by experience—what we feel is not unimportant, but we cannot escape the fact that as fallen human beings with hearts and minds corrupted by sin, our feelings will lie to us. “The heart wants what the heart wants” is true enough; however, what the heart wants is not always what the heart needs. Tim Keller said it well in a recent conference message, when the heart wants something, the mind will find it reasonable and the emotions find desirable. Thus, we should probably be a little more clear about fruit is, biblically.

Instead of a feeling, Matthew 7:21 reminds us, good fruit is obedience. One only bears fruit when doing the will of the Father. Thus, if one is doing something contrary to the will of God, it is bad fruit, regardless of what we feel.  We must remember “there are no genuinely healthy trees apart from obedience to Christ and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24)” (118).

Falling on deaf ears

As true as this is, and as beneficial as it is to be reminded of it, the reality is, as much as we might want them to, the revisionists aren’t likely to heed the warning DeYoung issues in this book. As I read the book, I kept thinking of how they might attempt to refute his claims. To be sure, those who hold the affirming position of same-sex relationships will almost certainly stand against it’s message, but those who do will be doing so on a shaky foundation.

The place I could see those standing in opposition to this book’s message appealing to most readily is experience.Because DeYoung doesn’t deal with same-sex attraction personally, one could argue, he doesn’t have a basis for writing this book. It’s a desperate argument, and a poor one, but one could still attempt to make the case. However, we should always remember that experience does not trump the Bible. Experience, as I said earlier, doesn’t supersede truth. And one does not need firsthand experience of something to be able to speak intelligently about it. Do we really expect pastors to develop a porn addiction before they can speak out against it? Or get divorced? Or become a drunkard?

And even if the argument were valid, one could just as easily point to Sam Allberry’s excellent book, Is God anti-gay?, which largely makes the same case as What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?—but he does so as a man who experiences same-sex attraction. Nevertheless, no matter how winsomely communicated, and no matter how rigorously defended, revisionists will likely remain entrenched in their position, despite its intellectual and theological dishonesty.

Pastoral responses and an urgent plea

Whether they are uncertain of what to believe, or simply struggle to effective communicate the truth, this book will be a great help to its readers. What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? offers clarity on disputed texts, pastoral responses to the common arguments, and most importantly, an urgent plea to hold fast to the truth in the face of mounting pressure to compromise. Lord willing, we will all carefully consider what DeYoung has to say in this book.


Title: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

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