LInks I like

The Superior Blessed the Inferior

Erik Raymond:

…there are many (glorious) ways this points to Christ. However, I want to briefly focus on one for the sake of a gospel meditation. When you read of the superior blessing the inferior you don’t have to think long before you are face to face with Jesus and his dealings with you through the gospel. This is the ultimate example of the superior blessing the inferior. He is infinitely glorious eternally enveloped in the perfections of his person. He is superior in every way. His love, compassion, holiness, justice, mercy, humility, joy, courage, loyalty, and holiness all are without blemish or defect. He is utterly perfect. Yet this perfect one, this superior one, blesses us the inferior. In Christ, we have every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1.3). We are clothed with righteousness, adopted into a new family, given a new hope, new life, new holiness, indeed all things are new and precious in Christ! He who has taken our sin, guilt and shame upon himself while giving us his righteousness, liberty, and holiness. Indeed, we who have trusted in Christ have been richly blessed!

A ridiculous-sounding affirmation

Gloria Furman:

What a tender place the Lord has you in! To have that feeling of longing for his Word and to have that be your big question emerge in the midst of those circumstances is a precious gift. We’re not Word-hungry on our own; it’s evidence of the Spirit’s work when our heart is inclined to his testimonies (Ps. 119:12). And what a blessing it is to your young children that they see your appetite for God’s Word being played out in front of their watching eyes. Where does Mommy want to run to (or limp) when she’s starved for spiritual nourishment? God’s Word is so treasured that time spent meditating on it is hunted down instead of brushed off. It’s an assuring and tender grace of God to feel that even in your bone-weary physical fatigue you feel just as deeply that your soul longs and even faints for fellowship with God.

The Tone Deaf Singer

Tim Challies:

As Christians we are told to sing from the gospel, for one another, to the Lord—a ten-word summary of Colossians 3:16 which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” As Paul writes to this Colossian church, he wants them to realize that every Christian needs singing lessons. If we want to sing a song that glorifies the Lord, we first need to apply some lessons.

What Are We Teaching Our Daughters?

Rebecca Vandoodewaard:

The Lord doesn’t require His daughters to braid bread and arrange flowers. For women who want to, those things are gifts. And while we should have skillful hands and strong arms (Prov. 31), what God does require is that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). That is a teaching that can, by grace, bear eternal fruit in a daughter’s life. A woman who is skilled in every domestic art is of little Kingdom use unless she also thinks biblically, discerns wisely, understands the times, and can serve her family and church with these vital gifts as best she can.

Why Do Some Believe and Some Don’t?

Daniel Hyde:

Our forefathers spoke of faith as “receiving” the gospel or more personally as “embracing” Jesus (e.g., Canons of Dort 1.4). This is important because all too often we can think of faith as just some mental gymnastic you do or an ethereal connection to an ethereal thing called God or Jesus. But what do the ideas behind the words “receive” and “embrace” communicate? They should evoke personalness because faith ispersonal. When I put my faith in Jesus this means that I receive Him and all that He is for myself. This isn’t theological Christianesse, but what John says earlier in John 1:11–12: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name . . .” That’s faith. Does this describe your relationship to Jesus? Do you receive and embrace all He is for yourself?

Links I like

5 Strategies for Ministering in a Cretan Context

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Recently I read through Titus in my morning meetings with the Lord. As we met together, the Lord gave me fresh appreciation for the letter. Perhaps it’s owing to our upcoming move to DC to plant a church in what some think is a tough community. But as I read the letter, I saw more clearly the Cretan context into which the Lord sent Titus. It’s a context in which many Christians around the world labor, and a context many other Christians needlessly avoid.

The True North Luncheon @ T4G

This is something my fellow Canucks will want to attend in Louisville.

Found: God’s Will—Free for the Kindle

John MacArthur’s book is still one of the best on the subject. This deal ends today, so get it now.

And in case you missed them earlier in the week, be sure to check out these Kindle deals:

The Danger of ‘What This Really Means’

Derek Rishmawy:

When we are constantly straining to “see through” the arguments of our neighbors, we run the risk of never actually seeing them. If we’re constantly tuning our ears to the background hum of power-plays and manipulation, we’ll soon find we’re deaf to anything else. If we’re only ever listening to unmask, we’re never actually listening to understand.

How, then, can we have anything like meaningful dialogue?

Division Begins with Departure

Jared Wilson:

Christians who affirm the normative, traditional, historical, orthodox view of the Bible’s teaching on various sins are always accused of being divisive when in sticking to their affirmations they must disassociate with those who don’t.

It’s a disingenuous claim, however, since unity could have been preserved so long as the agreement did. But when one changes a mind on such matters the division has begun with them (1 Corinthians 1:10), not the one who says, “Ah, you’ve changed the rules; you’ve changed the agreement.” It would be like the adulterer calling after his wife as she’s walking out the door in anger and shame that she’s being divisive.

Get Abortion in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of Abortion by R.C. Sproul for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • A Survey of Church History (vol 2) teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (audio & video download)
  • Believing God by R.C. Sproul Jr. (ePub)

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

Three reasons to study church history

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I never loved history in school. In fact, I downright hated it. It wasn’t because I didn’t care about history itself—it’s that it was pretty clear my teachers didn’t give a rip about it. This might be because, as Canadians, our history textbooks are notoriously dull (although our history itself isn’t).

Over the last few years, though, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to studying history—specifically church history. The history of Christianity is so rich and so fascinating—whether we’re looking at the shining moments of spectacular faith, or the worst gaffes of the Reformers and their persecutors, there is much to be gained by studying it.

So, with that in mind, here are three reasons why we should all be studying church history:

1. The Bible commands us to.

Over and over again, the Bible commands God’s people to “remember,” to look back on what God has done, to remember His wondrous works (Ex. 13:3; Deut. 5:15; 7:18; 8:1; 8:18; 1 Chron. 16:12; Psalm 105:5). By looking back at what God has done, we can look forward in confidence that He is faithful to keep His promises and fulfill His purposes in this world.

2. The stories of the past help us persevere in the present.

You can’t help but be inspired at the kind of faith that God’s people have shown throughout the years. When you read of the trials of so many men and women in a book like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, you can’t help but be amazed at how God’s people faithfully endured immense suffering and trial over the centuries—and be inspired to persevere in your own difficulties.

3. The past helps us defend the faith in the present.

Studying church history helps us better understand key events and crucial doctrines—how the New Testament canon came to be, or how the doctrine of the Trinity developed, for example. It also helps us to see patterns of thought, particularly when it comes to heresy.

“Heretics, in fact, served the church in an unintended way,” writes Bruce Shelley in  Church History in Plain Language. “Their pioneering attempts to state the truth forced the church to shape ‘good theology’—a rounded, systematic statement of biblical revelation.”

When you have a sense of the issues the Church has faced over the centuries, it helps you better understand the debates of our own day. Right now, there are a number of ancient heresies being promoted by popular authors, including Pelagianism (a rejection of the sinfulness of man), Marcionism (the rejection of God as depicted in the Old Testament—and of Christianity’s necessary connection to Judaism)… even Montanism has made its way back into the spotlight, if Phyllis Tickle is in fact promoting what she appears to be in her recent interview with Jonathan Merritt and in her book, The Age of the Spirit.

But by studying church history, we can see what’s come before and recognize the modern variants today, which better enables us to defend the truth.

Where to start?

The best thing to do is start simple. Read Bruce Shelley’s Church History in Plain Language, which is both brilliant and comprehensible. Start listening to Stephen Nichol’s Five Minutes in Church History podcast. Read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Take Robert Godfrey’s courses available through Ligonier Connect.

And from there, keep going. Start digging into books like Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context by Everett Ferguson or 2000 Years of Christ’s Power by Nick Needham. There is no limit to how deep you can go, and there is no limit to the rewards you’ll find in your study.

(Photo credit: Vincent_AF via photopin cc)

When boundaries are swept aside, pragmatism follows

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Whenever truth, dogma, and boundary lines are swept to the side in churches, pragmatism almost always follows, just as it does in philosophical circles.… In and of itself, thinking pragmatically is not a bad thing. The problem comes when pragmatism fills the vacuum left by the rejection of biblical principles, such that pragmatism becomes the only principle. Pragmatism, by its very nature, requires us to base our decisions on visible, even quantifiable, results. But surely the utility of statistics in a Christian church is limited at best, deceiving at worst. Does a large church mean that the preaching has been sound or entertaining? It’s hard to say. How can we quantify the movement of the supernatural? How accurately can we evaluate those things that the Bible assures us can be seen only with eyes of faith? How well can we discern what’s in the mind of God?

In other words, the very things that give life and breath to the church cannot be seen or measured. A hundred Boy Scouts can meet in a room, as can a hundred Masons, as can a hundred Muslims, as can a hundred people calling themselves “Christian.” What’s the difference between these groups? Statistically, nothing. What’s the difference between them spiritually? Hopefully, everything. But spiritual differences can be seen only with spiritual eyes. They cannot be surveyed with the kinds of questions human beings are capable of answering by checking a box, at least until ministers and churches become able to discern which conversions are genuine and which ones aren’t, and whether numerical growth in the church is a sign of God’s decision in eternity past to bless a church with fruitfulness or merely the effectiveness of catchy programs.

Statistics may have their uses for churches, but the most important things about a church cannot be measured—the differences between fake and real, between flesh and spirit, between the minds of men and the mind of God. Only as we stand before God on the day of judgment will the real measurement of things be revealed. Sadly, too many pastors and churches attempt to measure their ministry by what is seen rather than what is unseen.

Adapted from Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, 60-61

Links I like (weekend edition)

In the ten minutes Gmail was down…

Aaron Earls recounts the harrowing ordeal—with GIFs!

Helping someone through a salvation experience

David Platt:

As we walk in the presence of Christ, we’ll have opportunities to make new disciples of Jesus. We’ll have the privilege of inviting people to turn from their sin and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This won’t happen because of our cleverness or evangelistic prowess; it will happen because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

But how should we handle these moments on a practical level? What should we say and what should we do when God grants us the privilege of harvesting a new follower of Christ?

Why I am Pro-Choice

Lore Ferguson:

No one is arguing for the abortion of three and four year olds, but three and four year olds have similar decision making abilities as infants. Of course there is a small gap of maturity, but a child who cannot zip her coat or tie her shoes, whose father has to lift her to put his money in a meter to park a car she can’t drive—how limited is her ability to choose?

We cannot know how any child’s life will turn out, but shouldn’t we give them the basic right to choose? Or, less even, the ability to learn to make choices?

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

Bob Kauflin:

…recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables like “oh, ooh, and whoa.” Generic syllables can be enjoyable to sing and can provide a musical segue that involves the congregation. They also can carry meaning as they give expression to a burst of emotion that either respond or lead into lyrics that actually say something. My good friend Matt Boswell reminded me that Paul begins his doxology in Romans 11:33-36 with “Oh,” the depth of the riches… There are times when an emotional “oh!” is the most appropriate lead in to a life-transforming truth.

But something more has been happening. Crowds are singing lengthy portions of songs using vowel sounds rather than actually singing words. Is this a good thing? Does it matter?

Looking forward to seeing how worship leaders respond to this piece.

Burning away misconceptions about “holy fire”

Lyndon Unger:

If you entered the faith via a Charismatic church (like me), one of the most quickly re-defined terms was “fire”.  “Fire” used to be what you called the results of tossing a match on something flammable, or maybe something you did with a gun.  Now it meant something way different. In Charismatic circles, there is often talk about “fire” of some sort: Holy Fire, Divine Fire, Heavenly Fire, the Fire of God, etc.  The idea of “fire” is basically paralleled with one or more of the following ideas: spiritual passion, having an emotionally intense worship/church service, really “getting serious” with God (or some form of personal revival), or some sort of outpouring of divine power on a person/church meeting/event resulting in a renewed passion of some sort (i.e. evangelism) or various “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit (i.e. euphoria, tongues, healings, prophecies, “miracles”, holy laughter, holy glue, holy vomiting, barking, crying, being slain/laid out in the spirit, visions, trances, screaming, physical pain, teleportation, etc.). I had generally gone along with the Charismatic usage of the term “fire” with regards to passion or zeal, and not really questioned it since the term is often used in non-Charismatic circles in nearly identical ways. But, as I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Lord and his word I’ve found myself continually questioning my own assumptions and understandings and going “back to the drawing board”.  When we speak of “fire” in the previously mentioned ways, are we using the term in a proper Biblical sense?

Links I like

Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck

Trevin Wax:

As a teenager, I discovered the work of Chuck Colson, Francis Schaeffer, and C. S. Lewis. These men had a different perspective on art and its merits. I began to see artistic analysis differently. I realized Disney movies weren’t safe just because they were “clean,” and PG-13 movies weren’t bad just because they had language or violence. It was possible to watch a movie with a critical eye for the underlying worldview.

I never subscribed to the fundamentalist vision that saw holiness in terms of cultural retreat or worldliness as anything that smacked of cultural engagement. I don’t subscribe to that position today.

But sometimes I wonder if evangelicals have swung the pendulum too far to the other side, to the point where all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.

Your Real Self-Image

Aimee Byrd:

Be true to yourself. Follow your dreams. Search deep inside for the real you. This is confusing stuff! Sure, these sentiments sound nice, but they are so subjective that you never know when you have arrived at your actual self. We all come to terms with this question of who we are many times throughout our lives. There are various methods people use to define their identities. Some use a job title or education status; others use their popularity or physical attractiveness. Sadly, some identify themselves by their mistakes in life and never seem to move past them. Then there are wealth, health race, family, neighborhoods, fame, and talents that define us… C.S. Lewis challenges us to stop looking.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few new Kindle deals for you:

“It’s not fair!”

David Murray:

If we allow our hearts and minds to dwell on these personal, social, ecclesiastical, and international injustices, we will spend our lives in a state of constant and damaging agitation: fretfulness, anxiety, bitterness, anger, and so on, will be our constant and damaging companions. Our minds will darken, our hearts will despair, and our bodies will deteriorate too.

“It’s not fair” BUT there is something we can do about it. In fact, there are a few things.

Despicable Me? The Doctrine of Total Depravity

Clint Archer:

Hamlet is William Shakespeare’s psychological tour de force, which deals with some of the deepest philosophical and anthropological questions in life. What is man? Are we innately good, or evil? What drives us? What curbs us? What is the reason for us to be or not to be? These are the questions the pensive Danish prince Hamlet muses about throughout the haunting story.

The play touches on one of the enduring debates in psychology—whether humans are born with a good nature or an evil one.

My favorite books of 2013

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading well over 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I’m not sure how they were even published… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year:

Jesus on Every Page by David P. Murray

Jesus on Every Page by David Murray

From my review:

One thing is clear as you read Jesus on Every Page: Murray’s excitement for the subject matter is palpable, particularly when he shares 10 ways we can find Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus can be found in creation, in the characters we meet, in the Law itself, in the history of God’s people, in the OT prophets, in the work of Israel’s poets… Christ is everywhere—even showing up in person on occasion.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Death by Living by N.D. Wilson

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From my review:

N.D. Wilson’s writing is an acquired taste. His writing isn’t entirely linear. He follows the rabbit trails of his mind wherever they lead. He leads you to conclusions in a way that’s sometimes so subtle it’s easy to miss. But, if you follow him where he leads as he celebrates lives lived well, you’ll see this important truth: our lives are meant to be spent. As much as we lament time passing us by, as much as we loathe the idea of death, we can see even death as a gift.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Boring by Michael Kelley

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From my review:

For years, a number of authors keep saying they want to write about why it’s okay to be “ordinary.” I’m glad one finally did. Boring is a much-needed book, one that is sure to be a relief for many weary Christians who are exhausted by the unrealistic expectations of the radical, even as it calls us to a greater demonstration of faith: being obedient right where we are.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

From my review:

Too many of us struggle to understand how to ask questions well or even understand the purpose of a question. But Anderson gives us a framework for asking the right questions in the right way that I’m sure will be valuable for years to come. This book is a wonderful gift to readers of all stripes; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

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This book, written for kids five and older, is a wonderful love letter to reading, and a fantastic reminder that regardless of how you read, it’s story that really matters.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson

sound-doctrine-jamieson

From my review:

Jamieson’s book is thoughtful, helpful, and packed full of wisdom. It succeeds in reminding us that sound doctrine truly is for all of life—and it’s a book you can’t easily walk away from without feeling at least a touch of conviction. Indeed, we all too easily take the implications of our doctrine for granted.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Five Points by John Piper

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From my review:

Piper desperately wants to see the love of God in the five points of Calvinism; to see the doctrines of grace manifest their fruit: faithful joy in the lives of God’s people.Five Points is the kind of book I want to give to the person who struggles with the idea of Calvinism. It’s readable, challenging, thoughtful, and, most importantly, faithful to God’s Word.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry

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From my review:

…the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover even the worst of sins. Homosexuals aren’t a special class of sinner outside the reach of the grace of God. In Is God Anti-Gay?, Allberry does a tremendous job of equipping Christians to think biblically about homosexuality and, Lord willing, to use what they know to reach the homosexual community with the love of God and see them, like all sinners, “repent and believe.”

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

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The second non-traditional entry on this list (scary, isn’t it?). If you were proto-emo in the 90s, you were a fan of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy comic, The Sandman. This book is not The Sandman. Instead, this is a fun, quirky story for kids 8–11 where the only angst comes from wondering when Dad’s going to get home with the milk. I really enjoyed it (even if my daughter didn’t).

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine

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From my review:

Sensing Jesus, by the author’s own admission, is meant to be a slow burn. If you blast through this book, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. “Apprenticeship needs meditation and time,” as he puts it (27). Readers would do well to take Eswine at his word. Read slowly and thoughtfully. Make lots of notes. Be willing to recognize where you see yourself in its pages, and consider how God might challenge you through it to recover the humanity of your ministry.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


And just for fun, here are a couple of honorable mentions:

  • Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris (my review)
  • The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson (my review)
  • Crucifying Morality by R W Glenn (my review)

See what made the cut in years past:

So that’s my list—what were a few of your top reads this year?

We Do Not Preach For the Praise Of Princes

No man can say that we are seeking the favor and praise of men with our doctrine. We teach that all men are naturally depraved. We condemn man’s free will, his strength, wisdom, and righteousness. We say that we obtain grace by the free mercy of God alone for Christ’s sake. This is no preaching to please men. This sort of preaching procures for us the hatred and disfavor of the world, persecutions, excommunications, murders, and curses.

Can’t you see that I seek no man’s favor by my doctrine? asks Paul. If I were anxious for the favor of men I would flatter them. But what do I do? I condemn their works. I teach things only that I have been commanded to teach from above. For that I bring down upon my head the wrath of Jews and Gentiles. My doctrine must be right. It must be divine. Any other doctrine cannot be better than mine. Any other doctrine must be false and wicked.

With Paul we boldly pronounce a curse upon every doctrine that does not agree with ours. We do not preach for the praise of men, or the favor of princes. We preach for the favor of God alone whose grace and mercy we proclaim. Whosoever teaches a gospel contrary to ours, or different from ours, let us be bold to say that he is sent of the devil.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 397)

Book Review: Don’t Call It A Comeback by Kevin DeYoung

Today it seems as though anyone can be called an evangelical, from the pastor who takes a hard stand on the Bible’s inspiration to the author who doubts whether or not we can take Jesus at his word about, well, anything.

Perhaps Carl Trueman is right in saying that the real “scandal of the evangelical mind” is not that there is no evangelical mind, but that there is no evangelical.

But perhaps not. While the movement seems to have been diluted nearly to the point of meaninglessness, some are seeking to breathe life back into it.

That’s the point of Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. With contributions from Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, Russell Moore, Thabiti Anyabwile and a host of others, this book offers readers a glimpse into what it means to be an evangelical, historically, doctrinally and practically.

Don’t Call It a Comeback was a treat for me to read. Every contribution was extremely articulate and thoughtful; most importantly, they were genuinely helpful. While space prevents me from discussing every topic covered in this book, I’ll be hitting a few of the highlights from my perspective.

The book starts off on exactly the right foot with Kevin DeYoung’s “The Secret to Reaching the Next Generation.” Church growth is a big issue, and everyone seems to be asking, “What’s the secret? How do you get young people to come to church?” A whole industry has cropped up around this, with books, conferences, and experts all devoted to figuring out the secret. So what is it, according to DeYoung?

“You just have to be like Jesus. That’s it. So the easy part is you don’t have to be with it. The hard part is you have to be with him. If you walk with God and walk with people, you’ll reach the next generation.” (p. 22)

In other words, if you’re going to reach people for Christ, you have to be faithful. It doesn’t matter if your shirt is tucked in or if you’ve got tattoos on your neck, if you’re not faithful, it doesn’t matter. You have to amaze people with God, and the best way to do that is not with cleverness, but with faithfulness in life and practice. “Reaching the next generation for God by showing them more of God. That’s just crazy enough to work.” (p. 31) [Read more...]

Around the Interweb

Would You Die For Doctrine?

Matthew Barrett offers some helpful insights from the testimonies of Tyndale, Rogers, Latimer, and Ridley:

If these men were willing to die for such truths how much more should I be willing to stand for them today? Many examples come to mind. If you are a pastor, ministering in a difficult church, do not waver in your commitment to the truth even when those in your congregation criticize the doctrines you are proclaiming. Or perhaps you are a teacher at a school where you are surrounded by more liberal colleagues. Be resolved and steadfast in affirming sound doctrine, even if it be at the expense of your own career. Maybe you are a student being criticized because you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Remain determined and immutable in your affirmation of God’s Word. You might be a Christian who is tempted to reject the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment or the exclusivity of the gospel. Be on guard, less you also fall prey to false doctrine and fail to heed Paul’s admonishment and warning to only agree with sound words (1 Tim 6:3-4; cf. 1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1).

Read the whole thing.

Also Worth Reading

TGC: Emily and I are at The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference this week. We’ll be part of the vast Canadian contingent. How will you recognize us? Just listen for the folks who say“Aboat.” Seriously, though, if you’re around and want to connect, shoot me a message via Twitter (@AaronStrongarm). Look for regular updates throughout each day.

Books: Check out the list for the 2011 BoB Book Giveaways. I’m going to this and am pretty excited! (I also have a few of these books, so expect a giveaway or two in the coming weeks!)

Women: Confessions of a Conflicted Complementarian

Funny: Are you a child of the 90s? If so, you’ll find this funny.

The Number One Reason To Buy The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence

 

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

My Memory Moleskine: Panting and Provision

He Delights in the Asking

Book reviews:

Cruciform by Jimmy Davis

Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James

The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin

Perspicuity and Presuppositions

The authority of Scripture is an issue of massive importance for Christians, whether we realize it or not. As culture has continued to flirt with the notion that objective truth is unknowable (unless it’s the truth that truth is unknowable), we find ourselves in a really weird place:

Can we really know with any certainty what the Bible says or are we just dealing with questions of personal interpretation?

There are a number of people who would argue that we cannot know with any degree of certainty what the Bible teaches. This group would include Barth Ehrman (author of numerous critical popular level works including Jesus, Interrupted and Forged), as well as authors such as Brian McLaren. McLaren, incidentally, recently wrote that “no articulation of the gospel today can presume to be exactly identical to the original meaning Christ and the apostles proclaimed.”

Those who would say that we cannot know with certainty what the Bible teaches suggest that we’re dealing with—at best—personal interpretation, and to say that one view is correct over another would be arrogant.

In contrast to this view, Protestants have historically held a very high view of the Bible which is best explained by the doctrine of sola scriptura—that is, Scripture alone is our sole authority for doctrine and life. Other authorities, such as tradition and church leadership are not invalid according to this doctrine, but must always be subordinate to and corrected by the Word of God.

Recently I’ve read in a number of places statements similar to the following:

Sola scriptura is a nice idea, but it doesn’t work in reality—we all come to the Bible with our own baggage and presuppositions.

I can definitely understand this critique. I agree, we all approach everything with our own baggage and presuppositions. We all have implicit assumptions that are shaped by our experiences and worldview.

But this doesn’t mean that we have to fall into the error of relativism. We don’t do it at the bank, and we shouldn’t when dealing with the Bible.

Sola scriptura presupposes that the Bible is basically clear in what it teaches, although some passages are certainly less clear than others. This is what is known as the perspicuity of Scripture. Again, Christians have historically held that the God we worship has a desire to make Himself known. And because He wants to make Himself known, He is not going to shroud Himself in mystery.

In other words, God is not a beat poet.

But this doctrine isn’t simply about communication; it’s also about submission. When a Christian says that he holds to the doctrine of sola scriptura, he’s saying that, regardless of his own baggage, he is submitting Himself to the authority of Scripture and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through the Bible to transform him into the image of Christ.

Seems like a presupposition every Christian would want to have, doesn’t it?

Do you believe that the truth of the Bible can be known with reasonable certainty? If so, how has the Holy Spirit been working to conform you to that truth? If not, what determines your knowledge of Christ, salvation, and your purpose for being?

What Good Will Come From the Bell Brouhaha?

Over the last few weeks, since Justin Taylor brought everyone’s attention to the trailer for Rob Bell’s new book, there’s been a good deal of debate, discussion… and a bit of name calling. Bell’s been making the rounds with the media, including a story in USA Today, a live webcast with Newsweek editor Lisa Miller, and even a stop with Martin Bashir at MSNBC.

Particularly in the last two events cited, it’s been fascinating to see how Bell reacts to pointblank questions. Lisa Miller asked him outright if he was a liberal mainline Protestant posing as an Evangelical, stating that everything he’s writing in this book has been said in the mainline denominations for the last 50 or 60 years. And he squirms for a moment before answering that he believes he’s totally an Evangelical and orthodox. And while some might think that Bashir was being uncharitable, he took the opportunity to ask the hard questions that many have been wanting to ask Bell for years, giving him ample opportunity to clarify. Again, he squirms and fails to ever give a simple or straight answer, which is incredibly frustrating.

Regardless of where you stand on the Rob Bell-arama of the last month, whether you’re for or against what he’s teaching, a question we all should be asking is, “What good is going to come of all of this?”

My wife and I have been talking about this since for weeks now and she made much the same point as Kevin DeYoung in his monster review/response:

Love Wins has ignited such a firestorm of controversy because it’s the current fissure point for a larger fault-line. As younger generations come up against an increasingly hostile cultural environment, they are breaking in one of two directions—back to robust orthodoxy (often Reformed) or back to liberalism. The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors.

This point is bang on. There is incredible division underlying the whole evangelical movement and this is only going to make it more evident. Because the place of the Bible within corporate worship and within the lives of so many of us has been downplayed in favor of entertainment or having a good experience, we’ve forgotten what it says, why it matters and who is in authority over us (that’s Jesus, if you’re wondering where I stand on that).

So as this divide becomes more and more evident, here are a few positive things that I can see coming:

1. People will eventually have to put their cards on the table. As Jared Wilson put it well, “Thanks to the inevitable picking of sides, we get to see who aligns with heterodox views and who doesn’t.” This will actually help us all to understand how to talk to one another if we actually want to have meaningful dialogue, as many profess is their desire.

2. People will learn the difference between asking questions and questioning. This, ultimately,has to do with motivation. If asking questions about essential doctrines is based on a desire to understand how they came to be and why they matter, it’s a good and God-honoring thing. If questions come unceasingly and answers are never accepted, perhaps there’s something more going on than wanting to know the answer.

3. Doctrinal clarity will emerge. Heresy and scandal have had a way of helping the Church come to a clear position on the key doctrines of the faith. It happened with Athanasius and Arius over the eternality of Christ. It happened with Augustine and Pelagius over the sinful nature of man and our ability to attain salvation on our own. It happened with Marcion and his dualistic view of God that ultimately led to the solidifying of the biblical canon. These weren’t mere dialogues over different perspectives. They were efforts to contend for “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This debate opens the door for the Church to regain a robust understanding of, and appreciation for, the essentials of the faith and an opportunity for us to repent of being like the church at Pergamum and turning a blind eye to the false teaching in our midst (cf. Rev. 2:14-15). The Christian faith, if we really believe it’s true, is worth contending for and conforming to.

That, in a nutshell, is the good that I hope will come from the Bell brouhaha. How about you?

20 Things God Does When He Saves You

A helpful breakdown of 20 things that God does when He saves you, courtesy of Norm Millar, Senior Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel London.

When God saves you, He…

  1. Regenerates you, moving you from spiritual death to life. (John 3:1-8)
  2. Redeems you, buying you out of slavery to sin. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
  3. Justifies you, declaring you innocent in His sight. (Romans 5:1-9)
  4. Sanctifies you, setting you apart as holy. (1 Cor 1:2,30)
  5. Forgives you of all your sins. (Ephesians 1:7)
  6. Cleanses you, removing from you the stain of sin. (Hebrews 9:14)
  7. Reconciles you to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
  8. Seals you with His Spirit as a guarantee of your future hope. (Ephesians 1:13)
  9. Indwells you, sending the Holy Spirit to live in you. (Romans 8:9)
  10. Adopts you, making you His child. (Romans 8:14-17)
  11. Baptizes you into Christ’s body, the Church. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
  12. Illuminates your mind so you can understand the Scriptures. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
  13. Makes you a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  14. Reveals you as one of His elect. (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29-30)
  15. Grants you eternal life. (John 11:25-27, 1 John 5:11-13)
  16. Names you an heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)
  17. Grants you an inheritance. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
  18. Declares you a saint. (Romans 1:7, Colossians 1:2)
  19. Grants you new citizenship, making your home heaven rather than this world. (Philippians 3:20)
  20. Makes you a slave of Christ, a slave with the greatest, most glorious Master that any could ask for. (1 Corinthians 7:22-23)

Praise God for the assurance that comes from these great truths.

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Book Review: Who is Jesus…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Who is Jesus . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

In the first book of the Coffee House Chronicles series, Is the Bible True… Really?, co-authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett introduced readers to Nick, a freshman student at a State school in Texas who’s faith is put to the test when confronted with the hard questions about the reliability of the Bible.

In book two of the series, Who is Jesus . . . Really?, we find Nick has gone on to lead a student Bible Study that meets in a local coffee house and things are great—until the school’s atheist club arrives with a series of hostile questions about the identity of Jesus Christ. Among the group’s members is Nick’s friend Andrea, who had followed him along the journey of discovering the truth about the Bible, but rejected God after the death of a close cousin.

Nick and friends Jamal, Jessica and Mina begin a series of conversations with Andrea and her friends Brett, Scott and Lauren to discover if the claims of Christianity about Jesus are reliable. Along the way, they learn that:

1. If one trusts the historical evidence for the existence of Socrates, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, one must also accept the evidence for the existence of Christ. In fact, it can be reasonably argued that there is more evidence for Christ’s existence than of any of these men. Likewise, His existence is verified through multiple sources, not only Christian, but Greek, Roman and Jewish. Each source confirms the crucifixion of Christ and the subsequent worshipping of Him as God by His followers. [Read more...]