29 June 2007

Founders Conference, Addendum

by Frank Turk

One thing we didn't blog about was the session after the final session on Thursday night where Tom Ascol moderated a very cozy discussion of what TheoBlogging is like -- Joe Thorn was there, as was Timmy "babyface" Brister. It lasted about an hour, I guess, and the most profitable thing to come from it, I thought, was the discussion on the down-side of blogging. Since everyone agreed with me on this one, I'm going to sum up my comments here, and then let the slavering critics do their worst as I go on vacation for a week and stay away from blogging as much as humanly possible.

The NUMBER ONE down-side of blogging is that YOU WILL BECOME A PUBLIC PERSON. By "public person", that means that you will be saying things in public and not in your living room when you blog some piece of writing. People who don't know you personally will read it, and then they will either think [a] now they know you and are your personal friend, or [b] now they have the opportunity to take a shot.

In one respect, both [a] and [b] are correct. So if you want to post something in which you are fictionalizing who you are, don't be surprised if people treat you like the person you have portrayed yourself to be; if you don't want anyone to criticize you, don't post at all. You're going to take some flack even if you post pictures of bunnies and puppies all the time.

Which leads to the NUMBER TWO down-side of blogging: YOU NEED A THICK SKIN. If you're sensitive about being wrong, or can't admit it when you are, or take everything personally rather than as an opportunity to grow, you prolly don't belong in a public forum.

The NUMBER THREE down-side of blogging is that YOU NEED TO BE SOMEONE WHO JUST WRITES ANYWAY. If you want to become a writer by blogging, well, that's like saying you want to become a pro ball player by joining the Cubs: if you haven't ever played before, you're prolly not gonna make the Cubs because they don't need someone who would like to play: they need someone who has been playing all his life and is a player. If you journal or write or compose now, and you want to go digital, blogging is a good go for that. If you want to figure out if anyone will read your writing because you really always wanted to write, try writing first before you inflict, um, I mean publish your writing on the world.

That also answers the question of where you get the time to write a blog: you get the time by blogging what you have already budgeted as writing time. Personally, I'm a compulsive writer. I'm always writing something -- have been since College. Now I write and it gets blogged rather than stuck in a box in my garage.

And the NUMBER FOUR down-side of blogging is content burn-out. You know: there are three or four guys writing on TeamPyro, and we can't hardly make a post every day of the week. When I was solo blogging, I averaged one post a day -- but that included throw-away posts which were links to other stuff. Eventually, you run out of things to say. You can't help it. You only have so many words, and sometimes you're just happy with life and there's no reason to say anything at all.

There's nothing wrong with that -- until your blog stops getting hits ... then you start to wonder what you're going to do to top the great Santa Controversy of 2005 or whatever. And there's the problem of being glorifying to God, which means you can blog ads for casinos or whatever.

Joe and Phil expressed a lot of content burn-out last night. Then, after the session, I reminded Phil about GUTS church, and he realized that he was only out of old stuff. There are plenty of new reasons to blog every day.

Which is, of course, why you come here every day.

Hope that helps. be with God's people in God's house on God's day this weekend, and try not to get distracted by what's going to happen in the blogosphere while you're there. The blogosphere will pass away like a blade of grass, but you're going to have to spend eternity with those people there (if you're blessed and highly favored, that is). Try to think about them a little more.







28 June 2007

A powerful End to a Full Day

by Phil Johnson

onight is the final evening session of the Founder's Conference, and I'm looking forward to it eagerly. The speaker is Roy Hargrave, pastor of Riverbend Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. He opened the conference Tuesday afternoon with a powerful message that, for me, has been the standout moment of the conference.

If Hargrave wanted to blog, he could be a PyroManiac. He is passionate, plain-spoken, bold, and has an instinct for the same issues we care about.

Be advised: Get your detailed notes about tonight's message from Timmy Brister. I'm sure I'll be mostly engrossed in listening for myself.

Tonight's service started off with one of my favorite of the newer hymns, "Before the Throne of God Above." Then Rob Richey, known as "2R," an elder and evangelist from Bikers for Christ, gave a testimony. He is an articulate and thoughtful missionary to the biker community—a likeable guy. And I'll say this for Bikers for Christ: their patch is almost as cool as the TeamPyro logo.

It's been rainy here all week, which is somewhat unusual for Tulsa this time of year. There was flooding in Stillwater today, I understand. Strangely, at this moment, Cape Coral, FL., Tom Ascol's home, is suffering a terrible drought, and a wildfire is burning close to his home. So we made that a matter of prayer.

Roy Hargrave

After the offering, Roy Hargrave spoke. He began with well-deserved thanks and words of appreciation for the people of Bethel Baptist Church, Pastor Bill Ascol, Tom Ascol, and others who organized the conference.

The message is titled, "Christian Faith and Conduct in a Godless Culture." The text is Titus 3:1-15.

What is concerning in so many churches today is not so much a problem with what they are saying; the bigger problem is what they are not saying. Another still more troubling problem is that Christians don't back up what they teach by the way they live. To preach the Word of God and then refuse to obey it is to deny it. That kind of hypocrisy undermines the authority of Scripture in the eyes of the world. If Christians who profess to believe that the Bible is the Word of God refuse to let it order their lives, the message they are sending is that we ourselves don't believe the Bible is really authoritative.

Nonetheless, most of the church today tends to castigate those who are lost and tolerate the behavior of wayward saints. We scold the world and turn unbelievers into enemies, while catering to professing Christians whose lives aren't what they should be. That is diametrically opposed to the biblical pattern. The church is supposed to discipline sinning saints and reach out to unbelievers. "For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?" (1 Corinthians 5:12)

Church discipline is not merely for the sake of order in the church. There is no evangelism if there is no purity in the church of Christ. Discipline, therefore, has ramifications for our evangelism.

That's what Paul is reminding Titus.

And the practical ramifications of this are not what some people might think. When Paul says, "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work" (v. 1), he's not talking about a Republican president who professes to be born again; he was talking about a ruthless tyrant.

One of the corollaries of this is our duty to love our enemies, and to pray for them (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-4). Our failure to do this is the main reason we have not been effective in reaching our culture.

We also need to model good behavior in the midst of an evil society—"to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men" (Titus 3:2).

Of course, we're to deal more harshly with people in the church who pursue lives of sin: "For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain" (Titus 1:11).

But the church needs to remember that the main motive for Christ's incarnation and atonement in the first place was the love of God. It is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. It is vital that we bring people face to face with the reality and awfulness of sin, but we need to remember that the threats and condemnations of the law can never give life.

Reach out to lost people. Give them the truth. Be bold about it. Don't be sheepish or apologetic about it.

What we do is the measure of what we really believe. The rest is just religious talk. Faith without works is dead.

Hargrave's message was terrific, with a careful verse-by-verse treatment of Titus 3, a wonderful thumbnail sketch of the OT prophet Jonah, a thoughtful analysis of why churches lose their young people, a powerful rebuke to churches who think their primary duty is lobbying for voters in political elections, and a passionate appeal for passionate ministry to the lost. I've recorded only the basic gist of the sermon. I highly recommend the entire message on CD or mp3.

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David Wells: "Preaching the Truth of Heaven and Hell in a Modern Age"

deadblogged by Phil Johnson

'm skipping the description of preliminaries, announcements, songs, and whatnot, because I got waylayed in the hallway between sessions by people who wanted to talk, and I missed most of the prefatory activities for this session.

But we are blessed once more to hear Dr. David Wells in the conclusion to a brilliant series exploring what we really need to do as pastors, preachers, and evangelists to penetrate the fog of postmodern and agnostic attitudes and reach this present generation with the truth of God's Word.

Dr. Wells's style is measured and low-key—very easy to listen to—but he packs a powerful punch with his content alone. Try liveblogging one of his messages and you'll appreciate the richness of his content. Every word carries weight, and it's impossible to do justice to his message with a summary.

So let me take this opportunity to encourage you to order the messages from this conference on CD or mp3.

Dr. Wells noted that the difficulty of competing with Paris Hilton on Larry King last night pales by comparison with giving a message on heaven and hell.

Two reasons this is difficult:

1. It is almost impossible for us to imagine what heaven and hell will be like. We can't fathom goodness as good as heaven or badness as bad as the badness of hell. These things are impossible for us to conceive. This life is ambiguous. We never experience goodness without being in the context or the vicinity of badness, and vice versa. We don't actually see evil in its total nakedness unrestrained in this world. Evil is restrained by human conscience, divine providence, and government. We experience good and evil side by side, and sometimes in mixture. So we can't really conceive of unmitigated evil, such as will exist in hell, or pure goodness, like that of heaven. (Dr. Wells gave a fascinating illustration about Whitey Bulger and the pure badness of mob crime. Get the mp3.)

The biblical descriptions of heaven and hell are so full of imagery

2. We live in a realm where human autonomy reigns (and has "an unusually potent expression right now" in this postmodern moment). People say, "This talk about judgment is talk about another world crashing into mine, and I resent it." People in a postmodern culture deeply resent talk about heaven and hell, the narrow way, the exclusivity of Christ, and all the corollary realities.

In Christ, the judgment we deserve has been brought forward in time and fully exhausted in the person of our Substitute. Thus heaven and hell are not just peripheral truths for Christianity; this is what Christian truth ultimately points to.

The key to understanding both heaven and hell is the supremacy in Christ. He is supreme in our redemption, and He is supreme in the conquest of all those enemies that have blighted creation and human life.

Our thinking about heaven and hell therefore needs to be considered in our theology a long way before we get to eternity. It begins in the doctrine of Christ.

Hebrews 2:8-9: "In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But [what] we [do] see [is] Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."

The Old Testament reference cited in that verse is from Psalm 8, which speaks of the insignificance of humanity next to the majesty of God, yet notes that God elevated this creature made in His image and ordained that everything in creation would be subject to humanity.

Sin derailed the order of things and spoiled creation, so that we "groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for [our redemption]" (Romans 8:23). All of life has been "jarred loose; and it's disordered." Everything good goes bad; every gain is matched by a loss; medical advances are matched and mirrored by things like abortion; technology makes things easier but threatens us with destruction. "Through the modern miracle of jet travel, we are inching ever closer to being omnipresent. But has this brought us any peace in our lives? No it has not." We live in a world of brilliance without wisdom; knowledge without humility.

Redeemed we are, and yet sinners we remain, and we belong to a human race in which corruption has taken root, creating pain and disarray. At present, we do not see everything in subjection to Him. We groan for liberation.

We're so consumed with our lives and what is going on around us that we lose sight of Christ's centrality. We are strange creatures with a foot in two worlds: one that is passing and dying and one that is coming and vibrant. By recreation and longing we are part of the world to come. Don't we long for more of it!?

If we long for liberation, and our spirits are groaning for it (Romans 8), what we are longing for is heaven—a goodness that is so good that we can't even conceive of it.

In Hebrews 2:17, the writer goes on to describe Christ as our "merciful and faithful high priest." He elaborates on that theme in Hebrews 10:11-13: "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool."

Here is the contrast: These priests stand. They weren't allowed to sit because their work is never finished. Christ sits down, because His work was completed decisively, once for all, never to be repeated—neither in the Mass nor even in Heaven.

Psalm 110:1 is cited 21 times in the NT: "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" That teaches the sovereignty of Christ. It portrays Christ in the same light in which Isaiah 40 portrays Jehovah: utterly and totally sovereign. But with this very important difference: The sovereignty of Christ arises out of His enemies' defeat. Symbolically, this describes how the Conqueror puts His foot on the neck of the defeated foe.

(Dr. Wells quoted a series of texts declaring the supremacy of Christ: "[God has seated Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come" (Ephesians 1:21, etc.).

So why is this world still beset with so much evil? Why do the wicked prosper? Why is there no balancing of the scales of justice?

Is it that God is not sovereign? Of course not.

Is it that God is not good? Of course not.

One reason: The final chapter has not been written yet.

The doctrine of hell has caused such heartburn to liberals. How could a good God do something like this?

The Christian perspective is entirely different: What is He waiting for? "How long, O LORD, how long?" (Psalm 6:3, etc.).

When God acts in judgment, he is going to put truth forever on the throne, and he is going to put evil on the scaffold. His universe will run the way He planned.

We should not be taken by surprise at this NT doctrine of judgment, because if we look at the cross, we already see a token of it. What we see at the cross is how God is going to act against sin and evil. For those who are in Christ, that judgment has come forward in time. For unbelievers, they will bear that judgment themselves.

Like a decisive move in a chess game, "at the cross, the game was locked up." Penal substitution broke the back of sin.

Two points in closing:

1. Christian faith is only about this kind of Christ, who is supreme in our redemption as He is supreme over His enemies. About two decades ago, some decided that the preaching of this kind of Christ is a little bit off-putting to postmoderns, so they began to proclaim a toned-down view, without mentioning heaven, hell, judgment, or the supremacy and lordship of Christ. They created a diminished imitation of Christianity, and the results have been disastrous.

We have only one Christ to preach, and He is supreme over all and Lord of all.

2. We are living between the "already" and the "not yet." We need to keep that perspective. Even though the trials of this present life may seem as if they threaten to consume is, they are not the final word. "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Roman 8:18).

One of our duties as pastors is to remind our people that the evil in this world will be overthrown. This is not all there is. So we must proclaim the answer to the problem of evil. We must preach heaven, hell, and God's judgment exactly as Scripture presents it. How can we withhold these truths from people?

Wow.

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Deadblogging on Thursday Morning

No GUTS, no Glory
by Phil Johnson

Day three, session one

t's Thursday, and though we have greatly enjoyed every session of the conference, we are exhausted. Last night, after the evening session here at the Founder's Conference, we attended a service at Guts Church, a Tulsa-based phenomenon that is neither Emerging nor classically Seeker-Sensitive—but with all the worst characteristics of both styles. Our heads are still reeling from that, and perhaps one of us will blog about it later. But that, and other things, kept me up well past midnight for the third evening in a row.

So while the other guys and Timmy Brister have been liveblogging the conference, I'm deadblogging. I'm exhausted. Don't expect brilliance. But it's my turn to summarize the sessions today, and I am going to soldier on as bravely as possible.

We were two minutes late for the start of the morning session. We came in during the first stanza of "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah." Two things I like best about the music this week: 1) We have sung great old hymns that are not hackneyed Baptist standards. 2) We sing all the verses, even for a couple of hymns with 12+ verses. Whoever chose the hymns did a superb job. Mostly classic hymns full of meaning, but also some select new songs equally full of meaning.



Our speaker this morning is Bill Ascol. He is, of course, Tom's brother, and he is pastor of Bethel Baptist Church here in Owasso (the host church for the conference). He is giving a biographical lecture about Isaac McCoy, Pioneer Baptist Preacher to the Indian Territories (later Oklahoma).

Isaac McCoy

(For further info, see: Isaac McCoy and the American Indians.)

Bill opened by reading from 2 Corinthians 11:26-29 and noted that Paul's testimony in that text could have been echoed by Isaac McCoy.

McCoy's grandfather was a Scottish orphan who came to Kentucky as a stowaway, settled in Pennsylvania. Somewhere along the line he became a believer, and a Baptist, and was listed as a charter member in the founding of a Baptist church. One of his sons, William, became a Baptist preacher.

One of William's sons was Isaac, the subject of our lecture. Isaac was born in 1784, in Uniontown, PA. Shortly afterward, the family moved back to Kentucky. Isaac was saved as an adolescent in the Great Revival in Kentucky at the start of the 1800s.

Isaac married Christina (Kitty) Polk, a relative of James K. Polk. Her parents were killed by Indians, but the effect of this was only to stir in her a desire to see Native Americans reached with the gospel.

Isaac McCoy as a young married man began to dream of becoming a missionary to the Native Americans. He and his wife settled on (what was then) the western frontier in Indiana. McCoy went through a process similar to apprenticeship or internship before becoming a fully ordained minister. He was given a limited commission as a missionary in the west and established a mission station.

His desire, of course, was to reach the Indian tribes in the west. His supporters gave little encouragement for that, but McCoy and his wife persevered, and pressed on despite tragedies, including the tragic death of his eldest daughter (at age 16) from typhoid fever—and the subsequent deaths of eleven of their fourteen children on the mission field. The tragedy of his first daughter's death, he said, taught him not to have undue anxiety over any earthly matter. He and his wife clung to Psalm 37:25-26: "I Have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed."

With little support from anyone, and cut off from good communications with the mission board, McCoy took the initiative of establishing a mission to teach and reach the native Americans.

(Bill Ascol quoted a disturbing quotation from a prominent politician of the era who stated that he did not regard Native Americans as a race as either salvageable or even worth saving. Then Bill quipped, "Native Americans know what can happen when you don't control immigration."

Bill also noted the gross and wicked hypocrisy of Baptists in that era who approved slavery but resisted the sending of missionaries to the tribal cultures.)

Gradually, however, McCoy persuaded the Mission board to support his work among the Indians—at first tentatively, but with increasing conviction.

Nevertheless, McCoy endured various trials, including the treachery of a dishonest co-worker (who lied to the mission board in order to usurp a teaching position); the lies of enemies who deliberately tried to stop his work; and similar kinds of underhanded opposition, personal griefs, and constant and repeated acts of mismanagement and irresponsibility at the hands of the Baptist mission board. He suffered serious injuries in a wagon accident and was partially disabled (walking with "a pronounced stoop" and limping from pain) for the rest of his life because of that experience.

At one point, while McCoy was away on business in the east, his daughter, on an errand with two Indian girls, was attacked by a couple of Potowattamie Indians. They choked and slashed her and she was nearly killed. (She never fully recovered.) McCoy briefly considered giving up his work but was moved to persevere.

McCoy was a thoroughgoing but evangelistic Calvinist. His church saw so many conversions that they planted two daughter churches.

His work eventually took him from Indiana, through Kansas, to Oklahoma, where in 1832 he founded the Indian Territories' first church ever—a Baptist church where Muskogee is today.

McCoy died in 1846 near Louisville.

McCoy's Legacy

His Example. He loved Jesus Christ more than he loved life itself. He's a perfect model of how we need to reach a hostile culture.

His tireless, almost uncomplaining zeal. In all his trials, his journal barely contains a complaint.

His Calvinism informed and inflamed his evangelistic zeal. He had the same passions that drove Carey and Judson and other pioneer missionaries.

He's a wonderful example of the founders of the SBC, sharing their spirit and convictions.

Many Native American believers today are the direct fruits of his labors. McCoy's labors were a pivotal influence that kept White settlers from carrying out a program of systematic annihilation that might have wiped the Native American tribes from the face of the earth.

This was a fascinating lecture, introducing me to a figure from Baptist history I had previously known nothing about. It was another high point in a week that has been filled with great blessings, wonderful messages, terrific fellowship, and more information than I would normally be able to process in a month.

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27 June 2007

Day 2 Session 3 (evening)

by Frank Turk

Let me say that I'm proud of all of you for enduring my lousy liveblogging. Pheh upon me for being such a lousy formatter and note-taker. I hope these notes do someone some good.

As expected, David Wells is presenting this evening. We're leading off by singing And Can It Be. For the record, this has been a regular "favorite hymn" week for me personally. The singing has been at least as edifying as the preaching, so kudos to the Founders guys for their spiritual insight and willingness.

Amazing Love! How can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?
Amen?

It's also pretty incredible to hear a congregation of pastors and their wives singing the great hymns of the faith. We should be praying that all our congregations will "get it" the way this body of about 300 "got it" this week.

Don Whitney is the moderator tonight – Phil introduced us to him earlier today, and he's a great, humble fellow.

There's a plea here for founders-friendly churches and donors to support Founders Ministries directly through pledged support. It's a good idea – go to Founders.org to do something about that.

Next hymn: A Mighty Fortress is our God. The choir also provided worship in song this evening. They have a huge choir for a church this size, which is good on them.

Tonight's message: Preaching the truth of the Cross for the Modern Age

2 Cor 5:11-21 is the text for foundation this evening.

He starts by citing Jesus Christ Superstar – Judas' lyrics.

Every time I look at you
I don't understand
Why you let the things you did
Get so out of hand
You'd have managed better
If you'd had it planned
Now why'd you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?
Why did God let things end the way he did? This is the question for Pomos to understand. Somehow the world is uncontrolled, Jesus was snuffed out by accident rather than God's place was worked out in the evil act of the cross.

The natural man does not accept the truth of God seems apparent. But this spiritual blindness is being given cultural confirmation today – this makes the blindness more resistant to the Gospel.

Consider Eph 2: the spirit of disobedience is in the children of wrath, those who are in fallen culture. We need to be redeemed from sin and from walking in the course of the world. This double redemption is freedom from bondage of both nature and culture.

Paul engages the culture of his time (cf. books of Acts, Acts 13, Acts 14, Acts 17; contrast the preaching to the Jews, to natural revelation, to what occurs at Mars Hill). In the main points, Paul was engaging the world view, deconstructing it, and puttinga Christian worldview in its place. Moral, nature, meaning, ourselves, God: all are given in Christian terms before he points at what is wrong in mankind, and then to the coming judgment and the resurrection.

This is what Dr. Wells is going to try to do tonight. Why do Pomos find the death of Christ incomprehensible?

[1] The disintegration of the moral world

4 Major signposts out of the moral world of the west
1. virtue v. values
a. virtues are aspects of the "good" which is right for all people at all times and places
i. The Bible speaks of the moral excellency of God, which never changes
ii. Surely it is better for a society if people have virtue rather than vice; morality is better than immorality
iii. Applies to all men
b. The word "values" does not exist prior to 1928
i. Personal rather than public
ii. Competence matters far more than character today; it is more profitable
iii. Non-transferrable; non-judgmental
2. character v. personality
a. Character is the internalizing of virtues
b. Morality, manners, duty, honor, "full day's work for a full day's pay"
c. Personality is the way we come off to other people; how we present ourselves as a character – not who we are measured by some external standard
d. God may judge the heart, but we think the appearance is more important
e. The appearance of success is everything (Frank adds: note this in your view of your church)
i. People then engage in selling themselves.
1. Likable
2. Believable
3. "sincere"
ii. Lying becomes the tender of exchange; the truth has no value
f. This is a symptom, not the disease
g. The "old world" value is sacrifice and restraint; the "new" value is self-promotion and self-satisfaction
3. nature v. self
a. Human nature, some kind of meta-anthropology
i. This is what distinguishes us from animals
ii. A common possession in the whole human type
iii. More basic than the surface characteristics of gender, race, age, standing, economic status
b. This idea is under attack.
i. Nature is called an insult because it assaults the uniqueness of self
ii. The self is my interior world where my personal story and achievements come together to make my feelings and perceptions which are unique to me: my Self.
1. Thus: Self Esteem
2. Private values and meaning
3. Liberty to express self, or else "tragedy"
a. Racism
b. Violence
c. Poor grades
d. Etc.
iii. Establishes the therapeutic world view
4. guilt v. shame
a. Guilt is what lines up our actions vertically in relation to God
b. Shame is what lines up our action to someone who is not above us
i. About getting caught, not about doing wrong
ii. Shame must be removed
iii. Shamelessness = freedom
c. Eliminating shame is the exit door from the moral world

When people follow these signposts, they exit the moral world philosophically. Without the moral world, the cross becomes incomprehensible

Our conscience still bears witness against us because God is still God. We are caught in God's moral universe, and we cannot escape from it.

Harold Wilson story: a morally-earnest man who was somewhat unprincipled in fact. In one debate, one of his foes said that he was always wrestling with his conscience, and winning.

We remain moral beings even when we are sinning. But this is the context in which we find ourselves.

[2] The way the NT presents the Cross

When you look at what is said about the cross in the NT, you can put them into one of two categories:
A. The statement of the fact of Christ dying
-- died for us, laid down his life, etc.
-- e .g. - Mark 10:45, John 10:15, John 15:13-14, Rom 5, 1Thes 5, 1Pet 3:18
-- He did something is death which He did not do even in his life
-- restoring our relationship with God
B. The explanations of that death
-- Died for sin, to deliver or spare us, etc.
-- Mat 26, Rom 4:25, 1 Cor 15:3, Gal 1:4, Eph 1:7, 1 Pet 2:24, 1 John 2:2
There is no Gospel except that God forgives us because Christ died for us; God forgives our sins because He bore them in our place; His death was –necessary- to pay the price of sin; the Father and the Son united to save sinners.

Wells condemns the "Cosmic Child Abuse" slogan.

Christ paid our debt. Cf. Luther on Galatians 3; we were absolved by all sins … through him. When Christ carried away these monsters, he was doing the work that no mere mortal could do. This is the work … of almighty God.

We have lost our capacity for wonder today. Our world is saturated with artificiality. We know that we are superficial; we are seeking the hidden agendas; we are suspicious and cynical. We are also quite jaded – our expectations are completely out of line.

This is true especially in the church in our loss of wonder in creation, God's goodness, the great providences of God. Is it not a wonder that God remembers out sin no more in the death of Christ? Should we not stand in awe of the cross and how huge and incomprehensible that is – even before a cynical generation?

[3] How they work together

We must tell people who no longer understand sin, who have no categories for sin, who think they are not sinful and do not inhabit a moral universe about a Christ who died for things they cannot and do not understand.

The Bible does not begin with John 3:16 but Genesis 1:1. What occurs between is the patience of God as He lays the foundation and an edifice of understanding that corresponds to what is there – a worldview. And when the prep is complete – at the right time – God sent his son to die under the Law.

The Gospel is the message of His substitution of Him for us. It is not a formula or a product. This is a message which is anchored in truths which is a message for all of life and reality. God's enduring character of holiness who created a moral world is established before we get to John 3:16. He will sustain that difference, the distinctions of what is right and what is not. We have learned who and what Christ is, as both God and man. We know ourselves, both in God's image and fallen and corrupted with no sight and willfully disobedient.

When we come to John 3:16, this message connects to the other things – the whole story – without which the cross is incomprehensible.

Our message is: which of these points do you not understand? What can you not accept? Why? Our job is –remedial- work, not a quick sale.

God's preparation was a long time; Jesus came at the right time. Why can we not do what God did, and prepare people as he did, and establish his categories, and show men what they do not know. What we would get would be disciples and not merely converts.


Founders Conference, Day 2 session 2

by Frank Turk

Raymond Perron is speaking to us on "Preaching the Gospel in a Secular Culture".

Brother Perron has a wonderful French-Canadian accent. He has just called it "Jean Cauvin's Accent".

He begins at 2 Tim 4:1-5. Preach the Word in season and out of season.

He makes the point that there is a "conspiracy" regarding conferences on how to reach people in the 21st century. He invites us to revisit the basics.

This presentation will survey 2 Tim 4.

Two tendencies in our milieu:
[1] To look for a miracle recipe which will bring every person to the Lord. There is no magic strategy. All the Lord has given will come. Some ministries have admirable qualities, but there is no magic bullet. Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, etc. are not the "right way". We need some strategies, but do not rely on methodology. When we sow the seed of the word, the power is not in the sower or the soil but –in the seed itself-. We are not vending machines for the Gospel: we are relational, and must deliver the Gospel in some kind of relationship. Cf. Mt 28 "go and make disciples". The context is us going.

[2] Behaviorism. We assess people the average person by their religious experience to find traits. For example, we see the average American man is individualistic who has been hurt by the church but has been in the church, and tends to be socially pluralistic and relativistic, influenced by pomo who is in a quest for spirituality, and who is a bit cynical about Christianity. What tools does he have to deal with his experience? He is biblically ignorant and has a pomo epistemology. (He calls pomo "the old error of Pythagoras" and "garbage") This man is no difference than Adam and Eve. But do we have to take a behaviorist attitude in presenting the Gospel in that the man is made by his experiences – or do we take a Gospel anthropology and say he is a –fallen man- who needs the Gospel as God has declared it. People who panic over things which go wrong lose the message of the ages in the word of God. They get sidetracked.

What is the Biblical assessment of the average North American non-believer: wholly-effected by the noetic effects of the fall. He cannot receive the things of the spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14) He has not received the (love of the) truth (Rom 1, 2 Thes 2:9-10) but has suppressed it. He is still in God's image and has the sense of divinity; he cannot get rid of it in spite of self-deception. He is who has a knowledge of God to leave him without excuse.

Philosophy appeals to reason – so philosophy –cannot- penetrate the non-believer. Theology appeals to –revelation- and therefore is a proclamation of the truth and not a negotiation of the truth. It calls men away from rebellion to God, but this is a head-on collision. The world and the church are exactly opposed.

2 Tim 4:

[1] God's word does God's work. Theology ought to decide the agenda in evangelism. Truth, sound doctrine, the true word of the faith must be proclaimed not when people are open or "where the Holy Spirit is 'working'". Preach the word in season and out of season. A. W. Pink "Profiting from the Word": Where the Scriptures are ignored, God is the unknown God. The Scriptures reveal a supernatural God who can only be known supernaturally. It is supernatural fruit.

[2] "how to".
-- be urgent about eternal life and death
-- Address people under God's judgment
-- Relationship is the best "locus" for evangelism
++ Application is relational
-- Stott: Christian ministers must exert expository ministry in the city
-- We must be longsuffering
-- conviction, warning, encouraging: the Gospel is not just "good news" but good news as a solution to God's wrath.

Os Guiness: the 3 umpires
1: Strikes and balls the way they are
2: Strikes and Balls the way I see them
3: Strike and Balls are nothing until I call them
How do we evangelize these umpires?

1: yes, there is objective truth in the word of God.
2: it doesn’t matter what you think you see.
3: We prophecy to the dry dead bones.

[3] There are different callings: big churches, small churches, some fruitful, some not so much. The fickleness of the servant must be overcome. God's word will accomplish what God pleases. It seals the elect and reveals the damned. If people are left to themselves, they will harden.

David Vaughn's cart of callings.

The natural man
God's sovereign work on the heart
Man experiences the effects of God's action
Man actively responds based on his heart condition
Man is saved of condemned according to his response to truth
This is either a Grace/Salvation action or a Justice/Judgment action.

Closes with a Mark Dever quote on the mail carrier: the mail carrier delivers the message someone else has written and has sent. As Christians, we are supposed to –deliver- the message, not –invent- the message. It is entrusted to us.

1 Cor 4 is his closing passage.



Founders Conference, Day 2 session 1

by Frank Turk

We're about to hear Tom Nettles on Baptist history, and sadly for you I'm the one taking notes today. In spite of being young and charming, Timmy Brister is liveblogging the event "for real", so if I miss anything, you can check my work via his fine effort.

We started the day singing from the Baptist hymnal, which always makes me happy. #197 Rejoice the Lord is King. They also sang a new hymn, and I'll note its title when I can find it.

Announcements.

Tom Nettles is ill and will not be present today; they are requesting prayers for Dr. Nettles and his illness.

More worship in song – from the conference packet (How Sweet and Awful is the Place).

Dr. Tom Ascol is presenting for Dr. Nettles. Topic: Founders Ministries theology and the current Southern Baptist Convention. Ps 44 is the Scripture context.

This is the 25th Founders Conference, so this talk is on where we have been and where we are. This is in a context of where the SBC is today. From the beginning, Founders is non-denominational.

Founders Ministries theology and the current Southern Baptist Convention
Resources:

By His Grace and For His Glory (2006 updated), Tom Nettles

Ready for Reformation, Tom Nettles

Timmy Brister got a plug for his blog.

The context in which Founders arose:
[1] The historical basis for a historical Baptist declaration of the Gospel
[2] 1982: first conference, advocating that SBC roots are Calvinistic – evangelical Calvinism
[3] The lack of theological concensus in the SBC in 1982-83
The consensus broke down in the 1920's
* Theological liberalism: E. Y. Mullins' emphasis on experience over authority of the Bible. He was wary of sola Scriptura and confessional substance and advocated experiential theology. Magnified Sole Competancy. "Every tub must sit on its own bottom". This was the soil for neo-orthodoxy.
* Pragmatism: Unprincipled Pragmatism. 1920's --The 75 million campaign – a drive to raise $75 million with an evangelistic emphasis for missionaries. Designed to increase support for missions, education. "When the Millions Come Pouring In". "Week of Victory": $92 million pledged, many pledged exaggerated and never materialized. Confidence in cooperative agencies diminished; SBC was in severe crisis because it borrowed money on the pledges. Cash flow became the #1 priority; doctrinal emphasis declined. Disunity stifles cash flow, so reproach to error declined. Pragmitism was the watchword for the next 30 years.
o Thru the 70's, neo-orthodoxy was on the rise in the SBC; historicity of the Bible; inerrancy/infallibility; Christian Life commission endorsed Roe v. Wade.
o SBC needed reformation; Conservative resurgence lead by Paige Patterson worked to reform SBC life. A formal, public commitment to the authority of God's word.

Founder's Ministries began in this context because inerrancy is not enough. Our very lives must be ruled and governed by Scripture. If Scripture is not our law, Christ is not our king. We cannot afford to ignore them.

Healthy Christianity must be doctrinal. Biblical Christianity is a doctrinal Christianity.

The impact of Boice's systematic on the Founders movement.

Main concerns:
1. Loss of theological foundations in the SBC. Theological malaise in the 1970's. No required course in hermeneutics; lack of theological training; emphasis on practical techniques. There was no commitment institutionally to confessional Christianity.
a. Cf. Al Mohler's address on E. Y. Mullins v. Dr. Dilday's response.
i. The SBC 2000 is "trending" toward Calvinism (he said)
1. Inclusion of stricter definition of foreknowledge
2. Inclusion of "all-knowing" as an attribute of God the Father
ii. Bible teaches that God chooses to limit himself
2. The authority of Scripture
a. Sole competency
b. Priesthood of the believer (singular)
c. Historical Baptist theology and confessions
d. Reformed theological matrix
i. Critique of Land vis a vis the Reformed "package deal"

The conferences began for Founders based on these concerns.

[Please forgive the soft outline – Dr. Ascol is frankly machine-ginning us with facts and dates.]

Issues:
Regenerate Memberships
False evangelism
Bureaucratic inertia
Suppressing Criticism
Suspicion of Theology and Doctrines of Grace

Nettles' argument: the formal principle of reformation is recovered (authority of Scripture); the end of every controversy comes when we know what the Bible says. But there must be a material principle of seeking what Scripture says – reading an inerrant Bible and understanding it is the key to reformation.

Hopeful signs:
[1] Re-theologizing of SBC
Open discussion with passion
[2] Denominational leaders cannot get away with brash statements and factless declarations
[3] Rules of Engagement have changed
-- recent examples in TX and FL
[4] More people who are not Calvinists are speaking out against mischaracterizations
-- Akin's call to responsibility v. opposing Calvinism
-- contra Bill Harrell's denunciation of evangelical Calvinism
-- The Caner/White non-debate
-- Public statements which are foolish are being refuted (TeamPyro and Timmy and Joe were mentioned)
[5] Baptist Identity Conference and LifeWay-sponsored Calvinism in SBC
[6] Blog discussions
[7] Public identification of Calvinists as part of the resurgence bloc of reformers
[8] the boundaries of cooperation as a public discussion

If the center of our unity is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the boundaries of cooperation are easily defined. The recovery of the Gospel is the essential aspect of further reformation.

Christ Jesus vs. mere doctrine (Spurgeon): dwell much upon the person of Jesus Christ

The SBC is not the end of our effort, and it is not what we should "want": we should want the Gospel to be delivered to people. [EDIT: Dr. Ascol was clear that it is a good thing, and a useful thing, and does much good for the sake of Christ, but that it is not a necessary thing. Sorry to have been unclear on this.] Call the local church to repent: do not abandon it. Cf. the letters from Christ to the churches in Rev.






26 June 2007

NFC: 6/26/07 evening session

by Dan Phillips

ore liveblogging!

We opened with a favorite hymn, "How Firm a Foundation," accompanied by piano, guitar, organ and violin. Even a single violin adds a surprising depth to the instrumentals.

Pastor Tom Ascol provided some of the history of the Founders Ministries organization. It was born of five men praying and talking in 1982, sharing their concerns about the health and wellbeing of the church. They were convicted that holding to the theory of inerrancy was of no value if we did not go on to ask what the Word actually teaches, and what impact it must have on our lives. So they decided to hold a conference, which they ended up naming the Founders Conference, since early founders of the Southern Baptist Convention held to the truths affirmed in the Baptist Confession of 1689.

The purpose of the Founders ministry, Ascol stated, is the recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Biblical reformation of local churches. Their great concern is not so much to make everyone into Calvinists per se, but to glorify God, honor His Gospel, and strengthen churches by a recovery of the importance of Biblical doctrine to Christianity. The problem is not so much Arminianism as it is non-theology, pragmatism over concern for God's truth. Churches must become Word-centered. None can glorify Jesus Christ if God's revelation is removed from center stage.

After more singing, Tom Ascol read Psalm 110, prayed, and introduced Dr. Wells. Following a song by a quintet, Dr. Wells took the pulpit.

David Wells brought the message: "Preaching the Truth of Christology for the Modern Age."

First, Wells confessed to being a non-Southern-Baptist. (I think he's from well east of here.) He also mentioned that he had not been told what his time limit was, which, he said, was a "strategic blunder" (to much chuckling).

He said we do not always know the line between Christ and culture, as it has been crossed seriously and repeatedly. The person of Christ has been reconstructed often through the ages, to fit individuals' desires or needs. Thomas Jefferson, in the White House, razor literally in his hand to cut out the portions of the gospels that offended his deistic sensibilities, is an example. Liberals re-mold Jesus into a great social worker. Or Jesus has been made a business executive, who found twelve individuals and took control of the market. Arthur Blessit, saying not to drop acid, but to drop Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The fundamental question should be how we fit into Jesus' ministry and world, not how we can fit Him into ours. It is not how we choose to see Him, but how He is in Himself.

Wells says his basic argument is that today there are two families of spirituality in conflict with each other. The one family is historic, Christian spirituality, and it begins above and comes below. The contemporary spiritualities begin below, and try to access God, or the Sacred, for their own benefit. "This is the crux, the heart, the center of the conflict between Christ and our postmodern culture," Wells asserted.

While there are still pockets of Enlightenment thinking, something new has been forming right before us. It is the emergence of spiritualities originating in the self and trying to reach out to "something bigger."

The spirituality from below. This is many of the 8 out of 10 Americans who say they are "spiritual." These look to a power from within, a truth that comes from private experience, as contrasted with an external truth from Scripture. So, these many say they are spiritual, but not religious (i.e. accepting doctrines and rules devised by others, or belonging to an organization that puts expectations on them).

Wells believes that this spirituality is the major competitor of Christianity.

It has arisen because of who we are by creation, and because modern life is harsh and difficult, and because we are losing our categories for understanding life.

First, we were created to know and serve God; our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God, as Augustine confessed. This disconnection from God is what lies behind these spiritualities.

Second, the harshness of modern life. A book named The American Paradox said we have so much, yet so little. Never before have we been better off than right now, and at the same time so depleted, and so empty. We live longer, have more, are surrounded by more options and opportunities -- yet we're less happy, more depressed, less committed, less secure, and have more demoralized children.

Third, the costs to the human spirit for living in this kind of world are immense. Most of us are migrants, constantly moving from place to place, job to job, church to church. We have no secure connection to anything that lasts. All is transient. Loneliness is the modern plague of the unconnected and rootless.

This is why the self-movement has taken root in America. It speaks to the pains, wounds and confusion that people actually do feel. But we who set out in search for our self, have found that that self is fragile, broken, unhappy, and unfulfilled -- if we find it at all. The self-movement is not giving real answers to these real pains.

The Bible makes the point that our issue is actually God. It is His authority we defy, His laws we break, His target we miss. Only 17% define sin in relation to God, so inevitably they trivialize it. "Not to understand sin is to misunderstand God. to misread ourselves, and to misunderstand the world in which we live," he observed.

Most people do not believe that we are born sinners, including about half of those claiming to be born again. In other words, most people are Pelagians. And so, we approach God as we approach the marketplace, shopping for what we want, for therapeutic benefits, which we think we can have for the swipe of a credit card. And too many evangelicals respond obligingly by "marketing Christ" as if He were a means for therapy.

In the mall, I am sovereign; before God, He is sovereign. In the mall, I buy things for my own use; before God, I am bought for His service. In the mall, I don't commit myself to the product I buy; before God, I commit myself, yield my sovereignty, repent of having seized and misused it.
This is becoming the most serious competitor to historic, Biblical Christianity.

Second, the spirituality that comes from above. This is God in His grace and love reaching down to us, not because we are lovable or have reached up to Him, but even as sinners who are as unresponsive to Him as is a dead body to the mortician.

The NT frames this message eschatologically, Wells says. We encounter it in the language of the Kingdom of God in the Synoptics; in John it is above/below, glory/flesh; in Paul, this age/the age to come.

The Kingdom of God in the Synoptic Gospels. It is not merely a kingdom, but the kingdom of God. We can wait for it, look for it, seek it, pray for it, inherit it, enter it, work in it -- but it is God's to give, and His to take away. It is God reaching down, breaking into life, not perfecting our work but creating afresh and anew something that was not in the human spirit before.

John reinforces this by his above/below contrast. John 3 contrasts the one of the earth with the one from above. John 6:33, the bread comes down from heaven (cf. 6:38). He was sent into the world, came from above, was sent into the world (cf. 17:8).

Paul (Wells thinks) sees the future as penetrating the present, in contrast to the hopes of the Jews. The spirituality is found only in Christ, because of Him and because of grace. It is all about God doing for the sinner what he cannot do for himself. The human spirit is not sufficient, but insufficient. That is the condition of receiving God's grace in Christ. Men do not rise up on mortal human wings of longing. Rather, we receive life as a pauper would.

New spiritualities talk, because no one has spoken to them. In Biblical faith we listen, because God has addressed us in His Word. New spiritualities work and strive; Biblical spirituality is all about grace, and about Christ, to the exclusion of these modern spiritualities. God is to be had on His own terms, not on the sinner's terms.

The NT writers are staggered by God's grace, by the fact that there is grace at all, and by the astonishing cost of that grace. The hymn-writers who use the word "amazing" about God's grace catch this correctly.

To our postmodern generation, beset by isolation and brokenness and rootlessness, this word of grace is a sweet word. It is the word of God's sovereign, redemptive love incarnate.

"This is our message," Wells said in closing. "It is the message of Christ."

Dan Phillips's signature

National Founder's Conference (NFC) Session One: Dr. Roy Hargrave

by Dan Phillips

e arrived at Bethel Baptist Church and enjoyed warm greetings. Frank and I basked in Phil's popularity. (Hey, knowing famous people is cool, too!)

This is the conference primarily for Southern Baptists interested in the proclamation of the Biblical doctrines of grace within the Southern Baptist Convention, though not all present are SB's.

Coming in, I saw books, and wondered how I could squeeze any into my suitcase. My wife Valerie did such a brilliant job stuffing everything in... I don't know how I can jam everything back in as it is, let alone with more books.

I notice that the conference is evidently being filmed, or videoed, or digitized, or whatever the right word is. Representatives of missions and ministries are introduced, among some Christ-centered hymn-singing.

Roy Hargrave has pastored for 33 years, and currently is pastoring Riverbend Community Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. After a reading of Hebrews 1:1—2:4, we prayed, sang, and Dr. Hargrave took the pulpit.

After reading Psalm 2, Dr. Hargrave prayed and began to expound the psalm. The text is shocking, like looking down the barrel of a gun. On the one hand, we see the rebellion of the peoples against God; on the other, God's transcendent sovereignty over man's rebellion and hatred. This both encourages, and admonishes and rebukes us.

We see what David must have felt as he wrote this. Ultimately, this psalm is about Christ. If we do not see Him in it, we are not understanding it. All doctrine must flow from Christ, or it has no life.

This psalm was to be sung, and it breaks down into four stanzas of three verses each. This psalm, he stressed, answers the most critical question confronting our culture: who has the right or the authority to rule? This is the heart of it, all else is peripheral. This is the fundamental flaw in the church today. While we maintain an ethical bent in our preaching, we negate its legitimacy through Christless preaching. We may be informed, but we are seldom moved, nor pointed to Jesus Christ. This is the point that is being missed.

The movements in these four stanzas, which he says is clear-cut in the passages themselves. Think of them as four scenes. The Word of God is powerful—the Word of God understood is powerful. It is not a magic book. We must preach clearly, to the understanding, to expose the text itself (not other texts than what we are supposed to be preaching).

First scene: a resistance described (vv. 1-3). This resistance has four elements.

First, commotion (v. 1), where ragash indicates noisy and rebellious clamor against God. This is phrased as a question, indicating amazement at the audacity of the creature to raise his fist against his Creator and declare rebellion against him. It is sad that we fail to be amazed ourselves at the breathtaking gall of such breaking away from God.

Spiritual combustion is when depravity reacts with truth to produce conflict. This is a reaction that is universal, in varying degrees, when truth is set before the depraved mind. It is the same whether it is natural (Romans 1) or special (2 Timothy 4:3) revelation. Cultures do not fundamentally differ in nature, because human nature does not change from culture to culture; only the specific manifestation does. In our culture, it has heated up, so too many in the church have responded by removing offensive elements from the Gospel, so as not to create so much combustion. Less uncomfortable truth, less combustion, but "greater impact."

We have reduced the Gospel, because we do not like the conflict, controversy, commotion. We have failed to understand the depths of depravity in the human heart. We ignore the malady, so our "remedy" is rendered useless. People are not interested in Christ, because they have no idea why they need Him. Jonah's message was not "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." It was, "Forty days and you're toast."

Second, conspiracy (v. 2). Under the Devil as architect, many are unsuspecting participants in this conspiracy, because they are of their father the Devil.

Third, contempt (v. 2), as they take their stand together against the Lord and His anointed. The flesh lusts against the Spirit, because they are contrary to each other. We are not close to the world's philosophy (or, I'd add, we'd better not be). The world is hostile to God and His Word, and contemptuous of Him. We mustn't compromise with or cozy up to the world.

Fourth, confusion (v. 3, break their bonds asunder), as they try to cast off all restraint. We shouldn't be so blithe about the removal of the Ten Commandments, for it is the law of God that drives us to despair, which drives us to Christ. Our Christianoid self-help junk is worth than unhelpful.

SCENE TWO: a remonstrance demonstrated (vv. 4-6).

First, a controlled derision (v. 4). God laughs, and holds them in derision. God is not pacing back and forth helplessly, like the God of popular theology. He sits on His throne in absolutely control.

Second, a calculated declaration (v. 5). God speaks in His wrath and terrifies them in His fury—what a different picture of God than the God of contemporary preaching.

Third, a conclusive determination (v. 6). God has set His king, which (ultimately) is Jesus Christ. God's plan in Christ is an absolutely sure and certain thing, and each of us will bow the knee to Him. There is no evading.

SCENE THREE: a reassurance declared (vv. 7-9).

I didn't get the outline-point on v. 7, but Hargrave sees in it, not the Incarnation or the Resurrection, but the continuing procession of the Son from the Father. "Son" is not a made-up name or title, but an eternal reality. We need to preach the deep truths of God, and not waffle on truths such as that of the Trinity.

A conferred inheritance (v. 8). God gave Christ the elect as a love-gift.

A consummate vindication (v. 9). This element is also absent from preaching, the fact that we are to glory in all of the attributes of God. To be specific, one day, we will glory in the wrath of God. He was in the Roman Colosseum and recalled how many Christians had been dragged out and slaughtered there. Many of those who dragged all Christians out thus are probably in Hell; a cross now stands in the spot.

SCENE FOUR: a reassessment is demanded (vv. 10-12).

First element, a comprehensive warning (v. 10). We fail today, by shearing out the warnings of the Gospel. The preaching of the whole Word of God is a great blessing; it is a curse when the Word of God is not preached fully. This verse shows us that we should be warning every man, telling them the Bad News, or the Good News is meaningless.

Second, a compassionate invitation (v. 11). This is a call to that mixture of joy and trembling which comes from a true view of the holy God revealed in the Bible.

Third, a conditional deliverance (v. 12). The gesture of the kiss is to show allegiance and submission, to show humility. Coming to God is not a negotiation. Too often, our evangelism tells people only half the truth. People need to be told to come to Christ in unconditional surrender. Though election is indeed unconditional, conversion is not. All are commanded to believe, and unless they repent and believe in Christ, they will not be saved.

And so we must preach to all, sow the seed, not try to guess who is elect and who isn't.

Hargrave closed, urging all to search the Scripture for ourselves, so that we see these truths for ourselves, and not on his say-so.

He closed in prayer, and we sang "Amazing Grace."

Dan Phillips's signature


25 June 2007

Punch Line Optional

by Phil Johnson

ow's this for an idea? A translation of Scripture that takes postmodern inclusiveness to the furthest extreme, dumbs down the text to something less than MTV level, and changes all the politically-incorrect parts to make them teach the opposite of what they mean?

It's been done. Seriously. I'm not making this up.

Titled Good As New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures, this atrocity actually carries a foreword by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest-ranking minister in the Anglican Church.

The author, however, is a former British Baptist minister, not an Anglican. John Henson now identifies himself as a member of One, "a network of radical Christians."

Williams's foreword claims Henson's perversion of Scripture actually aims to show us "What . . . Christianity [would] look like, what . . . Christian language [would] sound like, if we really tried to screen out the stale, the technical, the unconsciously exclusive words and policies and to hear as if for the first time what the Christian scriptures were saying."

Yeah, right. Henson substitutes modern nicknames for most of the characters in Scripture. Peter is called "Rocky," Mary Magdalene is "Maggie," Aaron is "Ron," and Barabbas is shortened to "Barry."

Here's a typical sample, taken from Mark 1:10-11—Mark's account of Jesus' baptism: "As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy! You're doing fine!'"

Or consider Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:25 ("Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!") Henson reimagines it this way: "Take a running jump, Holy Joes, humbugs!"

But that's not the worst of it. Henson's version often turns the Bible's meaning on its head. Consider, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. In the King James Version, it says, "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."

Henson renders it this way: "Some of you think the best way to cope with sex is for men and women to keep right away from each other. That is more likely to lead to sexual offences. My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner."

When he gets to 1 Corinthians 7:9 ("If they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn"), Henson's revision reads: "If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated."

Of course, the revision also removes every condemnation of homosexuality and carefully feminizes the language. In fact, the publisher's catalog copy for the book describes it as "women, gay and sinner friendly."

Here's a Web page with some samples of this abomination, if you want to read more.

The irony is that "Good As New" is being marketed as a tool for helping 21st-century readers "hear for the first time what the Christian Scriptures were saying." What it's really designed to do is just the opposite.



Phil's signature

24 June 2007

The Prayer of Jabez

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Prayer of Jabez," a semon preached by Spurgeon sometime before 1871—and published during a long absence caused by Spurgeon's illness that year.

h that thou, the God of Israel, the covenant God, would bless me indeed! The very pith of the prayer seems to lie in that word, "indeed."

There are many varieties of blessing. Some are blessings only in name: they gratify our wishes for a moment, but permanently disappoint our expectations. They charm the eye, but pall on the taste.

Others are mere temporary blessings: they perish with the using. Though for awhile they regale the senses, they cannot satisfy the higher cravings of the soul. But, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!"

I know whom God blesseth shall be blessed. The thing good in itself is bestowed with the good-will of the giver, and shall be productive of so much good fortune to the recipient that it may well be esteemed as a blessing "indeed," for there is nothing comparable to it.

Let the grace of God prompt it, let the choice of God appoint it, let the bounty of God confer it, and then the endowment shall be something godlike indeed; something worthy of the lips that pronounce the benediction, and verily to be craved by every one who seeks honor that is substantial and enduring. "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!" Think it over, and you will see that there is a depth of meaning in the expression.
C. H. Spurgeon


So... who are we going to see in Tulsa?

by Dan Phillips

This post rated "E" for Eminently Bumpable
(or even replaceable)

My two betters and I plan to be at the Founder's Conference this week (see side-bar), enjoying the fellowship and the speakers — and being seen together in the same place for the first time, ever!

(I just hope I don't get voted off the island.)

Who else plans to come?

Dan Phillips's signature


22 June 2007

Helping people: beware category-confusion

by Dan Phillips

Four propositions:
  1. There is no therapy for sin
  2. Repentance is inappropriate for brokenness
  3. Category-confusion / misdiagnosis can be very harmful
  4. However, the sin and brokenness can work in tandem
Expansion. A wrongheaded, un-Biblical compassion has led to the abandonment, by many, of the categories of sin and repentance. We don't like making people feel guilty — more to the point, people don't like being made to feel guilty! So, rather than speaking of actions as sins, and people as sinners, and urging repentance, many prefer more psychological terms.

So, now, people don't sin; they make mistakes. They aren't sinners; they're broken. They don't need repentance; they need healing, and therapy.

You know what I'm going to say next, don't you? Maybe not.

Truth is, people do make mistakes. People are broken. And people do need healing. But people also sin, are sinners, and need repentance.

Here's where it gets dicey.

The first problem is in correctly diagnosing which is which, so as to point this soul in the right direction. Misdiagnosis can be absolutely disastrous.

Take for instance a woman I met some twenty years ago. She told me she had spent years in a deep, dark depression. She had packed on a lot of weight, and her life had pretty much gone down the toilet.

What do you say, doctor? What is your diagnosis? Sin can cause depression, can't it? Yes, indeed it can (cf. Genesis 4:5-7). So shall we urge this woman to root out the sin in her life, and repent — and, if that doesn't work, tell her she clearly either hasn't confessed all her sin, or hasn't sincerely repented?

In this case, that would have been some serious soul-malpractice. This woman's doctor diagnosed (if I recall correctly) an issue with her thyroid, and prescribed a supplement. The change was dramatic and almost instantaneous. She saw herself in the mirror as for the first time, and completely changed her life. Cause: strictly glandular.

However, suppose someone comes to us with all sorts of physical and emotional symptoms. This person is in physical pain, can't sleep, is plagued with fatigue, free-floating fears and anxieties, and with a sense of impending doom. Physical symptoms... must be physical cause, right? This is clearly a broken person who needs encouragement, medication, affirmation, and assurance. Right?

Except Scripture shows that unconfessed sin can cause symptoms both emotional and physical.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.
(Psalm 31:10)

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
(Psalm 32:3-4)
What to do?

Treebeard
's counsel is good: "Do not be hasty." If you know there is sin in someone's life, then the loving thing to do is point him to the only remedy for sin: the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9).

Counseling will not alleviate the guilt, power, nor dreadful side-effects of sin; therapy will not, medication will not, self-help will not, self-talk will not, positive thinking will not, possibility thinking will not, living our best life now will not, being purpose-driven will not, Jabez' prayer will not — nothing is a sovereign remedy sin except the blood of Jesus Christ, which is applied to us through repentant faith.

In fact, if any of those "remedies" does succeed in dulling the ache and misery of guilt and its accompaniments, then the person is twice as bad-off as he was before. That he can now stick his hand into the flame without feeling pain is not a good thing.

But at the same time, remember that there can be an interplay in the same person. Elijah was very depressed (1 Kings 19:4). Why? I reason from the cure to the cause. God did four things for Elijah, directly and mediated:
  1. Got him some food (vv. 5-8)
  2. Got him some rest (vv. 5-6)
  3. Gave him some corrective counsel (vv. 9-18)
  4. Got him some assistance (v. 16b)
From this, I reason that Elijah's depression had physical, spiritual, and cognitive elements to it. Dealing with any one aspect, in exclusion to the rest, would not have truly helped him.

What is the practical, perhaps pastoral upshot? Caution, care, and humility are called for. Wisdom is called for. Depression can have any one or five of a dozen causes, easily. Piling guilt on someone who is simply overworked, oppressed, abused, or melancholy, will exacerbate the problem. Equally, affirming and encouraging someone who has rebelled against the Word of God is worse than worthless.

In our culture, too many rely on formula's and quick-fixes. Beware the pastor with 5 "P's" to banish depression. Don't be that pastor. People aren't reducible to snappy formula's. We were created complex, and then sin made us complicated.

"Flee fornication" is not complicated. "Why do I always feel so sad?" can be very complicated. You like being treated as an individual, and not as if you're mass-produced widget? Then do unto others.

Dan Phillips's signature

21 June 2007

I want you to want me

by Frank Turk



I was originally going to call this post "Cheap Trick", but this title strikes me as a little more clever. And it's because that's what underlies the cheap trick we are going to discuss today, so stick with me.

This is a reproduction of a $20:



For the federal agents reading, it's at a low enough resolution that nobody's going to make any passable copies of it, so call off the hounds. But it looks like a $20 thanks to my handy HP scanjet 3500c and photoshop, much like the pyro'd up $20 looks, well, like all the graphics around here look.

And everybody likes a $20 bill, right? I mean, nobody in his right mind, if he was walking down the street, and there was a $20 laying there, wouldn't stop and pick it up. And if you're a food service worker -- that is, part of the wait staff -- and you got a $20 for a tip, you'd be pretty jazzed up.

$20 is a decent piece of cash.

Now look at this:



It sort looks like a $20, doesn't it? I mean, you're expecting a cheap trick at this point, so right away you recognize that it's not really $20 but about 3/4th the right size and it has some design challenges on the short side. But if this was wedged under a plate at a restaurant, or maybe sticking out of a book at Barnes & Nobles, you'd think for a second that it was your lucky day. $20 just sitting there -- until you pulled it out.

See -- it went from being $20 to being a CHEAP TRICK is about 2.4 seconds, and maybe it's good for a laugh.

But what happens when somebody picks up that phony $20 and turns it over and finds this:



Or maybe they find a better presentation of the Gospel -- it has a decent tract on the back side of the phony front. What do you think the person receiving that piece of paper thinks of the Gospel then?

It seems to me that if the phony $20 was a disappointing prank when it was just a phony $20, it becomes something slightly more offensive when it turns out to be a ploy to get you to listen to some message.

You know: like sticking a picture of a sexy girl on a billboard to get you to read the name and address of your local casino or whatever.

Now, why bring it up? Am I afraid that there's about to be a rash of phony $20 tracts coming around the pike and you wary readers should be well-informed on what exactly they are doing?

Well, no.

What I am saying is this: if it is somewhat sophomoric and whatever the antithesis of "clever" is to trick people with phony money to read or hear the Gospel delivered, how much more of the same is it to trick people with a phony Jesus? It's one thing to want people to want to hear the Gospel -- and it's another thing entirely to make the Gospel into something it is not in order to get them to just pay attention.

Think about that. There's a book review which follows this logic, but TeamPyro is having a retreat next week and it's unlikely that the book review will happen before then. However, if I don't see you for a while, be with the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day, and don't take any wooden nickels.