Links I like

The Pilgrim’s Progress—a new edition from Desiring God

DG has just released a brand new edition of John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s progress. You can get it free here.

Thank God for God

David Murray:

We all have so much to thank God for, but we often fail to thank God for Himself; that there is a God, that there is such a God, and that such a God is our God.

The Psalmists lead the way here in helping us celebrate God’s God-ness. For example, in Psalm 103 the Psalmist celebrates God as the Savior-King, and as the Creator-King in Psalm 104. He praises God as the Father of His children in Psalm 103 and as the Creator of His creatures in Psalm 104. Let’s join Him in Psalm 104 as he thanks God for God.

8 Leadership Principles from my first 90 days at Saddleback

A few months ago, my friend Ben joined the staff of Saddleback Church. I really appreciated reading about his first 90 days here.

Are Christian hashtags rallying the faithful for luring trolls?

Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

But everyone on Twitter is learning that a hashtag cuts both ways — it can be hijacked or lampooned by detractors, and it’s a key way that online activists are pushing back against opposing messages or what some might even call hate speech.

Truth Exchange

Great interview with Peter Jones at Ligonier:

TabletalkAre there any pagan assumptions that Christians today might unconsciously share with the culture? What are they?

Peter Jones: The power of culture is now used to intimidate rather than encourage biblical faith. We live in a post-Constantinian world with little protection from the state. Christians are accused of hate speech against homosexuals, of making war on women for opposing abortion, and of self-righteous intolerance for claiming the unique truth of the gospel. Under this barrage of unfair criticism, Christians can give up and “conform to the world,” as Paul says in Romans 12:2. Christians feel great pressure to modify the message, go easy on sin, opt for programs the culture approves of (such as social justice), and to see mysticism as the high point of faith, since it unifies all religions. In all of these areas, the church often fails to preach the gospel, which is not about human actions or reactions but about what God has done for sinners at a particular point in time in the person of Jesus the eternal Son.

Recovering Scripture

Michael Horton:

Lose the Scriptures and you lose the gospel. But in our day, it’s Protestants—even evangelicals—who downplay the sufficiency of Scripture for doctrine and life. As in the medieval church, many today think that Scripture is unclear about various doctrines, practices, and forms of worship. It’s just not interesting enough. We have to add our speculations, experiences, and cultural perspectives.

The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture

9781629950877

Nature abhors a vacuum. A bit cliché, perhaps, but true nonetheless, especially as we consider the cultural landscape of the West. As Christianity’s influence in wanes, something else is rising to take its place. But what? According to Peter Jones, it’s paganism, or Oneism. In The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture, the latest in P&R and Westminster Theological Seminary’s Christian Answers to Hard Questions series, Jones introduces readers to this belief, grounding his study by showing the connections between three other isms—polytheism, Gnosticism, and postmodernism.

“These three ways of thinking have become strangely connected,” he writes. “Together they help explain the nature of today’s pagan worldview and its opposition to the truth of the gospel” (5).

Three isms and Oneism

Each of the isms described in this booklet represent pieces of a larger puzzle that, when seen together, describe a worldview ultimately about one thing: the end of distinctions. No longer will there be need for the distinction between male and female (sound familiar?), right or wrong, good or evil… “a rejection of the opposites is in fact…a fundamental aspect of religious paganism, so that postmodern philosophy fits surprisingly well with the religious yearnings for the morality and spirituality of inclusion—pantheistic ‘all is one’ wholeness” (9).

This is seen not only in postmodernism, but gnosticism and polytheism as well. Ultimately, these ideas all coalesce in the end of the distinction between Creator and creation. And this is the great lie we see in Romans 1:25—that people exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served creatures instead of the Creator. That, in essence, is what Jones calls Oneism, and it is a deadly snare.

Twoism: the Achilles’ heel of the “all-is-one” fantasy

Contrast this with Twoism, or, rather, biblical Christianity, a view that embraces distinction—male-female, right-wrong, Creator-creation. This, Jones says, is the only significant challenge to the rising tide of paganism, which is why there is such a strong effort to snuff it out in our day:

Twoism is the Achilles’ heel of their “all-is-one” fantasy. Twoism must therefore be spoken of and lived out with love, courage, and coherent clarity before a hostile world progressively enveloped by the delusion of the unifying Oneist lie. And as Paul implied so long ago, the future confrontation will be between not simply thinkers but spiritual worshipers, the worshipers of creation and the worshipers of the Creator. (35)

Jones’ challenge isn’t to engage in more culture wars in the sense some may fear. He’s not telling us to run around calling people pagans for doing yoga, for example. Instead, he’s challenging us to live out our faith as we’ve been called to—to be people who celebrate the differences between male and female, as well as between humans and the rest of creation, and who rejoice in the difference between God as our Creator and ourselves as created beings.

This is something we so easily forget, isn’t it? That while we should be informed in our thinking, the call is not to be the best apologists out there and present the clearest argument: Our call is to be people who obey our transcendent Lord, the One through whom and for whom all things were created.

A solid and accessible introduction

The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture does not represent the end of a journey, but the beginning of one. If you’re intrigued by the concepts of Oneism and Twoism, or if you’re confused by them, Jones unpacks these concepts in greater detail, particularly in One or Two and Gospel Truths, Pagan Lies, both of which I would highly encourage reading. However, if you’re looking for an accessible and solid starting point, this is the book to get.


Title: The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture
Author: Peter Jones
Publisher: P&R Publishing/Westminster Theological Seminary Press (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster | Amazon

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of new ones from B&H today. Here are a few of the highlights:

The 3 Things I Miss Most About Pastoral Ministry

Trevin Wax:

A pastor recently contacted me. He is considering a leadership position in a Christian organization, and he’d read something I wrote six months after starting at LifeWay, a post in which I offered some reflections on stepping out of pastoral ministry. In seeking to discern God’s will for his next phase of ministry, he wanted to know if my feelings had changed since then.

In short, I affirm everything in the original post, including my comments on vocational calling being expressed through various avenues and ministry tasks. But even though I am thrilled to be doing the work God has called me to during this season, I still miss local church ministry. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Jimmy Draper used to tell people who work at LifeWay, “The day you don’t miss local church ministry is the day you should probably resign.” What he meant was this: you’re better at serving churches when your heart beats for Christ’s Bride.

So, in response to the pastor who asked, here are three aspects of pastoral ministry I miss.

3 Types of Hypocrites

Mike Leake:

All of humanity, this side of full redemption, play the role of a hypocrite. We often hear the charge leveled against the church that we are filled with a bunch of hypocrites. This charge is true—at least in part. For the most part when someone says that to me I simply agree and tell such a person that we’ve always got room for one more.

While it is true that we are all hypocrites, there is another sense in which we are of a different stripe of hypocrisy. The Puritans saw three sorts of hypocrisy.

Google Hangout with Peter Jones

Today’s the day for Ligonier’s Google Hangout with Peter Jones. Be sure to join in at 4 pm to discuss his new curriculum, Only Two Religions.

Pastors Shouldn’t Have Trade Secrets

Erik Raymond:

I remain firmly convinced, based upon Scripture and my experience, that pastors should not be in competition with one another. They should support, root for, rejoice in, and serve to ensure the other’s growth. One major implication of being gospel-centered is that we actually want to see the gospel advance. In order to do this we have to be willing to put the good news about Jesus and his kingdom ahead of our own little, imaginary, personal kingdom.

The Dignity of Our Deterioration

John Piper:

…when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God established a connection between moral depravity and physical deterioration. He intended to make clear that, even if we ignore the dreadfulness of a sinful heart, we will not be able to ignore its witness in the debility of the body.

This is a hard pill for beautiful and robust boomers to swallow. We have been strong. We have been pretty. Even sexy. And now we realize: We will never have it back. It is over. For good. Until death stops the process we will only get weaker, more wrinkled, more mottled.

Links I like

The writing on the (bathroom) wall

Peter Jones offers some brief commentary on “gender-open” washrooms and worldview.

The Loss of Pastoral Credibility

Alastair Roberts:

On the Internet, one soon discovers that many respected church leaders are quite unable to deal directly with opposing viewpoints. In fact, many of them can’t even manage meaningful engagement with other voices. Their tweets may be entirely one-way conversations. They talk at their audiences. They can talk about other voices, but fail to talk to them, let alone with them. Their representations of opposing viewpoints reveal little direct exposure to the viewpoints in question. They may talk about ‘postmodernism’, but one has good reason to believe that they have never read any postmodern philosopher. They make bold generalizations about ‘feminism’, but you can be pretty certain that they don’t know their Butler from their Greer or their Irigaray. When they are actually exposed to an intelligent and informed critic, they reveal themselves to be reactive and ignorant. Their views are quite incapable of withstanding the stress-testing of disputation.

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

Today you can get R.C. Sproul’s God Alone teaching series (audio and video download) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Believing God by R.C. Sproul Jr. (ePub & Mobi)
  • Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (ePub)
  • Reformation Profiles teaching series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)

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

The Next Chapter for Christian Publishing

Karen E Yates:

Earlier this month, renowned Christian author Philip Yancey said Farewell to the Golden Age of Christian publishing, leaving authors and readers concerned over the future of the industry. One author shared, “This is why I’m re-evaluating whether I want to be a writer anymore.” Another said, “This is just depressing.”

Working with my family’s Christian literary agency and law firm, Yates & Yates, I’ve witnessed some of the obstacles and opportunities in today’s ever-changing book market. While the industry looks different in the 21st century, many authors who have adapted to the new era find Christian publishing remains alive and well.

The Mark of the Beast – What Does the Bible Say?

This is a good introduction to this subject.

Free Logos book of the month

This month’s free book from Logos Bible Software is Creation and Fall, volume three in their Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works collection. You can also get volume seven in the series, Fiction from Tegel Prison, for an additional 99¢.

Bring Back the Holy Kiss

Megan Hill:

We might be tempted to think of the holy kiss as a practice for a particular first-century culture, too fraught with issues for our day. But this imperative covers the wide diversity of the New Testament church. Paul commands it, and Peter commands it, too. It is required of the Jewish-background diaspora recipients of Peter’s epistle, and also of the Roman and Thessalonian churches—bodies largely composed of Gentile converts. Twice, the holy kiss is commanded for the Corinthian church, a church so beleaguered by sexual impropriety that you’d think the apostle Paul would ban touch altogether.

Cliff Notes from the Xchange

Recently I spent a few days in Escondido, California, basking in the mid-teen temperatures (sorry, folks, I still think Celsius when it comes to temperatures), enjoying the sunshine… and taking part in the TruthXchange 2011 Think Tank. The theme of the conference was One-ism: A Poison Pill for the Church?

Building on the messages from The Exchange Conference in 2010, the Think Tank addressed issues of the gospel, social justice, environmentalism, spirituality, missiology, gender, worship, education, eschatology, literature and epistemology (that is, thinking). While my full notes would be too intense (I’ve got something like 12,000 words worth), I wanted to share some highlights from the sessions I most appreciated.

The One-ist Gospel

Brian Mattson spoke on the One-ist gospel by examining Brian McLaren’s most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, asking two key questions:

Is McLaren’s Christianity new—and is it really Christian at all?

The answer to both of these questions, says Mattson is no. McLaren’s new kind of Christianity is nothing more than classical Enlightenment liberalism. Mattson’s analysis suggests that the gospel put forth in this book (and by many like-minded thinkers within the Emergent stream of evangelicalism), is actually Universalism, which is necessarily Gnostic, not Christian.

In the Gnostic gospels, you’d run across a motif that runs through all of them; it’s not enough for the Gnostics to claim that the “violent, tribal deity” is a lesser God—they call Yahweh, the God of the Bible an ignorant God; “the bastard child deity of a screw-up.”

The explanation is elegant and simple. The God revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures claims to be the only God. He actually says “I am the only God and there is no other.” His ignorance is manifest in his claim of exclusivity.

On the one hand there’s a God who claims to be the only God, to whom all allegiance is owed. On the other, there’s a group of people saying, “no, this cannot be true because divine love is universal.”

The question is, how do they know?

They know because they are “Gnostic.” He can claim that he is the only God to whom all allegiance is owed, but they know better.

All claims to Universalism are claims to have access to spiritual knowledge beyond bounds of God’s revelation. It goes all the way back to the first temptation in the garden; his “new kind of Christianity” is actually the oldest kind of heresy. [Read more…]

Around the Interweb (10/03)

Should Christians Trade Services for Serving?

Kevin DeYoung offers some extremely helpful insights into the question. Here’s an excerpt:

Consider what it may communicate when you replace services with serving. It sounds like a good idea: let’s do something for the community instead of going to church for ourselves. But ultimately we worship because God summons us to worship. It is for ourselves (see below), but it is also for God. He commands it. So why cancel it instead of something else? But why not do the soup kitchen on Saturday or pump people’s gas on Friday night? I suppose it’s possible you can have some meaningful conversations explaining why you are a Christian and not in church. But it also seems quite likely that churches replace Sunday services with Sunday serving because that’s the time they are already meeting. It’s the best time to get most of your people doing something and it doesn’t require any more time out of their week. Except for doctors, police officers and the like serving in their professions, are there really service projects the church has to do on Sunday morning?

Read the whole article on Kevin’s blog.

HT: Trevin Wax

In Other News:

Leadership: Four Ways to Kill Your Church

Marriage: Elyse Fitzpatrick explains why submission is harder than you think

Evangelism: Trevin Wax interviews J.D. Greear about his new book, Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of Peter Jones’ One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference

James MacDonald & C.J. Mahaney discuss genuine humility

Don’t be who you aren’t

Martin Luther’s sermon on the Wheat and the Tares

How can I know God’s will for my life?

Book Review: One or Two by Peter Jones

When it comes to worldviews, belief systems and religious practice, we live in an age of seemingly unparalleled and unlimited options. North Americans today enjoy meditation, practice yoga, and dabble in a variety of different religious practices as they seek to find something that brings meaning, purpose and fulfillment to their lives.

But according to Peter Jones, the choice is really much more simple: There’s the Truth and the Lie. And in One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference, Jones explains how our worldview affects our understanding of God, what we worship and our sexuality.

One or Two is an incredibly challenging read, especially in an age when it’s controversial to be anything but affirming of all beliefs and religions. Tolerance is seen as the highest of values in culture, and increasingly in the Church as well. So doctrinal distinction is downplayed; gender distinction is eliminated; social causes become the new mission of the Church… and eventually Christianity looks no different than anyone or anything else.

But according to Jones, this should not be. He writes, “Western culture . . . is being hijacked by a spiritual ideology that I call Neopaganism.” (p. 11) Neopaganism is at the heart of radical environmentalism, the more extreme elements of the social justice movement, and theological liberalism.

However, Jones writes, “If there is any hope for us in the twenty-first century, gorged as we are on materialism, One-ist pagan spiritualities, endless sensual fantasies and cock-eyed global utopian illusions, the old rabbi [the Apostle Paul] must speak to us again.” (pp. 13-14)

Jones builds his argument by carefully examining culture through the lens of Paul’s writing in Romans 1:24-25:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

What we learn is that these words have, perhaps, rarely been more relevant than today. [Read more…]

Truth and Lies: Dr. Peter Jones – Sexuality in a One-ist World

Dr. Peter Jones’ final session at The Exchange delved into the contentious subject of sexuality—and specifically the redefinition of what is considered normal sexual behavior. “This subject is, I believe, the tip of the spear of a societal transformation going on. And it’s unstoppable,” says Jones. “If there’s any way to stop it, it’ll be that the Christian church will have a discourse where we can describe what ‘normal’ is.”

A New Civilization

Jones believes we’ve come to a significant moment in American history. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” law is about to be repealed; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and new “anti-bullying” laws are ready to be enacted. We’re likely to see the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as a new push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States.

“The goal is for a new civilization. It’s not just a question of civil rights,” says Jones. Yesterday (June 23, 2010), CNN reported that Hilary Clinton—speaking of the need to end discrimination in the U.S. and around the world—said, “These dangers are not gay issues. This is a human rights issue…human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”

This, in Jones’ words is “breathtakingly ambitious.”

“This is not the normal progress of civic theory and civil rights,” says Jones.  The speed of change is unprecedented, particularly since the influx of religious and spiritual options that have become available to Americans since the 1960s. [Read more…]

Truth and Lies: Dr. Peter Jones – the Truth and the Lie in Worship

In his first session, Dr. Peter Jones focused on giving us a foundation for everything we would hear about the effects of one-ist and two-ist worldviews.

Romans 1:25 tells us that “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Jones (and all the speakers) reminds us that it is essential to keep this text top of mind as it explains what we’ve done in creating for ourselves our own worldview in our sin.

We live in a culture of spirituality. “Elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been adopted by 65% of American adults.”And, according to USA Today, 70% of Americans surveyed believe many religions can lead to God.

Some of the most popular religions in America (among celebrities) include Kabbalah (adherents include Demi Moore, Britney Spears, Madonna, & Courtney Love); Scientology (Brad Pitt, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, & Tom Cruise); and Buddhism (Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Tiger Woods and others).

“All these share a one-ist worldview—that we are one together and God is one with us,” says Jones. “One-ism is a faith presupposition since we cannot know by research if everything is one, [and] it leads to worship.”

One-ism Affects Everything

One-ism affects everything; it frames the issues that we face every day: [Read more…]

Around the Interweb (06/20)

Burning Down ‘The Shack”

Tim Challies posted a terrific review of a new book examining the issues around the controversial bestseller, The Shack:

James De Young writes from an interesting perspective—that of a former friend, or acquaintance at least, of Paul Young. He begins his book by providing some important but little-known background to The Shack. In April of 2004 De Young attended a Christian think tank and there Young presented a 103-page paper which presented a defense of universal reconciliation, a Christian form of universalism—the view that at some point every person will come to a right relationship with God. If they do not do this before they die, God will use the fires of hell to purge away (not punish, mind you) any unbelief. Eventually even Satan and his fallen angels will be purged of sin and all of creation will be fully and finally restored. This is to say that after death there is a second chance, and more than that, a complete inevitability, that all people will eventually repent and come to full relationship with God. De Young believes that Young’s belief in universal reconciliation is absolutely crucial to anyone who would truly wish to understand The Shack. It is the key that makes sense of the book and the theology it contains. Though far from the only theological problem with the book, it is the one that makes sense of the others.

Read the rest at Challies.com

In Other News

The Toronto Pastors’ 2010 Conference audio is now available. Download and enjoy.

Kevin DeYoung reviews Richard Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel

Mark Driscoll interviews Wayne & Margaret Grudem. Here’s the video:
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more about “Pastor Mark Interviews Wayne and Marg…“, posted with vodpod

In Case You Missed It

A review of Stephen Mansfield’s new book, ReChurch

Notes from the Exchange: Peter Jones – Speaking the Gospel in a One-ist World

Notes from the Exchange: Kevin DeYoung – The Truth and the Lie in the Contemporary Church

John Piper: Does God Get More Glory if Man Has Free Will?

Truth and Lies: Dr. Peter Jones – Speaking the Gospel in a One-ist World

Dr. Peter Jones is one of the world’s foremost experts on paganism and founder of Truth Xchange. Interestingly enough, Jones also grew up with John Lennon.

When Jones came to America in 1964, he was shocked—he’d never seen a culture so impregnated with the Christian faith.

Jones believes that the real American Revolution happened not in 1776, but in 1966—because there you see a massive change about how people think deeply about everything.

He says that while the rising generation of Christians is optimistic, and there is a genuine revival of solid Christian faith, we continue to be unaware of the spiritual revolution. Too much optimism can blind us to the opposition, and we can sometimes be seduced by the “progress” proposed by today’s version of “the Lie.”

That brings us to the real issue:

Are we regressive or progressive in our beliefs?

Christians today are called “regressive” because of so-called old fashioned values; the modern spin seeks to intimidate people to keep them from speaking the old story of Christian faith.

The problem according to Jones is not one of outmoded values, but that we are in the context of two worldviews in profound conflict with the other. And neither can be called progressive.

There is nothing new: These worldviews are as old as the hills.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. (Eccl. 1:9-10)

“Everyone goes backwards—even the people doing yoga are going backwards to the Buddhist practices from the 6th Century B.C.,” he said. [Read more…]