30 November 2011

Guest post: Jay Adams reviews God's Wisdom in Proverbs

posted by Dan Phillips

For my history vis-a-vis Jay E. Adams, see HERE. His associate Donn Arms is allowing me to preview for you Adams' blurb for publication in a forthcoming issue of The Journal of Modern Ministry. In addition to all I mention in the previous post, this is interesting to me since Adams is himself the author of a commentary on Proverbs.

The review is a timely way for me to remind you that today is the deadline for the 50% off sale of God's Wisdom in Proverbs. Go to Kress' page, and you'll see under the picture a code for receiving the discount when you purchase that book.

God's Wisdom in Proverbs
by Dan Phillips
(Kress: 2011)
reviewed by Jay E. Adams

This is a different sort of book. Obviously, the writer has done a lot of preparation before he wrote—It shows throughout the volume. Again, and again, he makes the point (rightly) that we don’t get direction from God in any other way than through the divinely-inspired book, the Bible. Good! Good! Good!

The book considers the purpose of Proverbs, what proverbs are. How they may (should ) be used, etc. You will learn much about Proverbs, in general. Very few verses are considered out of a book as large as Proverbs, but from those that are, you learn how to go about understanding and using the book.

There is a large section on the home and marriage/parental relationships as set forth in proverbs (a major reason for Book).

There is much help in this work—it is useful for preachers and laymen alike (the latter need not be afraid—get it and use it). Indeed, the Book would be a good group study guide. I cannot commend it for such purposes highly enough!

Thanks, Dr. Adams, and God continue to bless and use you in His service.

Remember: today is the last day to get the 50% off. Christmas is coming. Counselors, pastors, teachers, friends of all sorts would find use for the material in the book. Find out more for yourself in this post.

Perhaps some of you who've been reading it can add your thoughts to Dr. Adams'.

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29 November 2011

Two new World-Tilting Gospel projects, and a thank-you

by Dan Phillips

Howdy, gang. You'll recall we had fun picking the cover for the (then-future) book; now, I'm soliciting your input and help (respectively) for two more projects related to The World-Tilting Gospel. First...

Study Guide
(or: Help Me Help You)

A number of you have commented and emailed and Tweeted, asking for a Study Guide for The World-Tilting Gospel. You asked, so you shall receive, DV: I plan to get to work on one.

Since I want to meet your needs the best I can, I'm soliciting your input. So tell me, you who want a Study Guide for TWTG, any and all of the following:
  1. What features are you most looking for?
  2. What are examples of the best study guides you've used? What makes them great?
  3. What are examples of the worst study guides you've used? (No need to name them, I'm not wanting to rip on anyone.) What causeth them to stinketh?
  4. How do you plan to use it?
  5. Do you prefer a book with blank lines, blank spaces, or neither (i.e. just write in a separate book)?
  6. The World-Tilting Gospel is being read with profit by folks literally from eight to eighty-eight, from all levels of education. That being the case, it is conceivable (but not guaranteed) that I might prepare different study guides for different groups. Would you make any particular use of any particular focus?
Web page

Now here, I just need a straight-out volunteer. I'm looking to produce a page to continue to expand visibility. The more you bring to this, the more better. If you've done book pages, can host, are ready to go — hey, if I don't ask, you won't know that I'm looking for it.

I expect it will feature links to reviews, endorsements, excerpts, and contact information for conferences or guest preaching.

You probably don't want to broadcast your willingness, so please just email me: filops, then @, then yahoo.com. Tell me what you propose, and maybe link to some of your previous work.

And finally, at no extra cost:

Thank you!

Every bit of feedback I've received from folks who don't already have issues with the Gospel has been positive, humbling, encouraging. You see in this book an accessible celebration of the glorious Gospel of Christ in its components, its sweep, and its implications. You've said that it's understandable, without any dumbing-down. You want to see pastors and churches use it, you want to see your friends and family read it.

Your encouragement means more to me than I can express. Thank you.

Many of you wish you had larger platforms so that you could tell others about the book, and you wonder why those who do have such platforms — and who love the Gospel and want to see it better-grasped, better-understood, better-lived and better-preached — haven't done so yet. But you are doing what you can do, and that means everything to me. Keep it up.

You've used your blogs, your Twitter account; you've bought copies for friends, pastors, teachers, relatives. A pastor bought a box of a hundred copies to give to every family in his church, present and future. Others are using it for studies, or planning to do so. A father was reading through it with his teenage son; another reader's eighty-eight year old mother is reading it, and re-reading it.

All this, and the book's only been out for about four months!

You who've written and encouraged me live in America, Canada, England, Honduras, Scotland, Australia, South Africa... and I apologize if I've forgotten anyone! The book has endorsements from PhD's like Lig Duncan, Jim Hamilton, Rob Plummer... and it's been reviewed by an eight-year-old! Those reading and reviewing and recommending include sisters here, sisters there, sisters somewhere, brothers who are pastors, brothers who aren't, Jay Adams — all sorts.

It's amazing and humbling to me and again, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

God grant that others see what you see, or that they listen to you when you tell them; may God use this book to His glory, to lift up Christ's name, to edify His church, and to make His Gospel clear and compelling to those He whose world He has yet to tilt.
Thanks! Fun times!

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27 November 2011

Winning People and Conquering Them Are Opposite Goals

Spurgeon explains rule one of missional ministry
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 a sermon titled "Independence of Christianity," preached on Sunday morning, 31 august 1857, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens."

ur missionaries and our clergymen have assumed a kind of superiority and dignity over the people; they have called themselves clergy, and the people laity; and the result has been that they have weakened their influence.

I have thought it right to come amongst my fellow men, and be a man amongst men, just one of themselves, their equal and their friend; and they have rallied around me, and not refused to love me. And I should not expect to be successful in preaching the gospel, unless I might stand and feel that I am a brother, bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. If I cannot stand before them thus, I cannot get at their hearts.

Send me, then, to India as one of the dominant ruling race, and you give me a work I cannot accomplish when you tell me to evangelise its inhabitants. . .

I had rather go to preach to the greatest savages that live, than I would go to preach in the place that is under British rule. Not for the fault of Britain, but simply because I, as a Briton, would be looked upon as one of the superiors, one of the lords, and that would take away much of my power to do good. Now, will you just cast your eye upon the wide world? Did you ever hear of a nation under British rule being converted to God? Mr. Moffat and our great friend Dr. Livingstone have been laboring in Africa with great success, and many have been converted. Did you ever hear of Kaffir tribes protected by England, ever being converted?

It is only a people that have been left to themselves, and preached to by men as men, that have been brought to God. For my part, I conceive, that when an enterprise begins in martyrdom, it is none the less likely to succeed, but when conquerors begin to preach the gospel to those they have conquered, it will not succeed, God will teach us that it is not by might.

All swords that have ever flashed from scabbards have not aided Christ a single grain.

Mahommedans' religion might be sustained by scimitars, but Christians' religion must be sustained by love. The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to "peace on earth, goodwill to men." And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them.

"Not by might." Now don't be be fooled again, if you hear of the English conquering in China, don't go down on your knees and thank God for it, and say it's such a heavenly thing for the spread of the gospel—it just is not.

Experience teaches you that, and if you look upon the map you will find I have stated only the truth, that where our arms have been victorious, the gospel has been hindered rather than not; so that where South Sea Islanders have bowed their knees and cast their idols to the bats, British Hindoos have kept their idols, and where Bechuanas and Bushmen have turned unto the Lord, British Affairs have not been converted, not perhaps because they were British, but because the very fact of the missionary being a Briton, put him above them, and weakened their influence.

Hush thy trump, O war; put away thy gaudy trappings and thy bloodstained drapery, if thou thinkest that the cannon with the cross upon it is really sanctified, and if thou imaginest that thy banner hath become holy, thou dreamest of a lie.

God wanteth not thee to help his cause. "It is not by armies, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."

C. H. Spurgeon

25 November 2011

Truly Thankful That It's Friday

With Three Reading Recommendations
by Phil Johnson

t's the day after Thanksgiving, and it would be gauche to complain on such a day, so let me just say that one of the things I'm most thankful for is that this week is finally nearing an end.

Here's the short version, without whining: Tuesday, after being socked with a $2,000 car repair and an expensive root canal for Darlene, I came home to discover water under the kitchen sink. The garbage disposal was leaking. While fixing it, the plumber discovered arterial occlusions in the drain line, and tracing that problem to its source, he found a major obstruction under my front lawn, just this side of the street, where (of course) it's my job to fund the repair. That turned out to cost more than the car repair and root canal combined, and it meant plumbers were running in and out of the house until about 3:00pm on Thanksgiving Day. I'm sure it wasn't exactly a great holiday for those plumbers, either (except for the extra pay, of course)—so I'm truly not complaining.

But I do hope disaster is through with me for the week, because first thing this morning, I'm leaving with nine other members of my family for a week in England.

It sounded like a good idea when we planned it. I have to be in England next week for a board meeting. Last spring I commented on how lovely England is around Christmastime and how nice it would be to be there with the whole fam. Someone overheard me, and they all decided to come along. It should be fun—but then Thanksgiving Day should be fun, and look where that got us.

And as we all know, things don't typically go well when I travel.

Anyway, regardless of how it all turns out, I'm sure it'll be one of those memories we all treasure and talk about for years to come. I am thankful—truly and deeply thankful for countless blessings, including the abiliy to travel at all.

I'm taking a couple of books to read on the way. Both of these are written by people I count as friends. One is Knox's Irregulars, by J. Wesley Bush, erstwhile blogger and international man of mystery. When I started blogging in 1995, Bush was already famous as a blogger. He wrote his blog, Le Sabot Post-Moderne, from Ukraine, where he live-blogged the "Orange Revolution." We knew him then simply as "Discoshaman."

Now he's written this fantasy science fiction novel which, I'm told, is full of Calvinistic easter eggs. I'm not usually a fiction reader, but I've read enough of the Discoshaman to know I'd better prepare myself to be entertained, amused, and amazed.

Incidentally, Mrs. Discoshaman is a celebrity blogger in her own right: Tulip Girl. Thanks to her for sending me this copy of Knox Irregulars—from Nairobi, of all places. That's where the Bushes currently reside.

My other reading selection on this trip is God Without Parts, by my friend James Dolezal. He's a Research Fellow at the Craig Center for the Study of the Westminster Standards at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He and I share several common interests, one of which is a fascination with certain disputed points of theology proper—especially classic attributes such as aseity, impassibility, and the simplicity of God.

I've thumbed through the book. Every page I scanned intrigued me. Can't wait to read it.

In the meantime, HERE's something you can read right now by yet another friend of mine. It's a book review of Miraslov Volf's disturbing screed titled Allah: A Christian Response. The review is by Paul Dan, who has ministered in Eastern Europe and has firsthand knowledge of recent (and historic) developments in Islamic-Christian relations there.

Read Paul's blogpost and the attachments. What Paul Dan is describing is the tip of a very lage iceberg, I fear. I expect it won't be long before secular media, the political climate, evangelical ecumenists, religious intellectuals, and academic pundits like Miroslav Volf and Phillip Jenkins drum up some kind of public-relations campaign to pressure conservative evangelicals to accept "Chrislam"—or something in that vein—as a legitimate form of Christian discipleship. In reality, Christian-Islamic syncretism represents a fatal capitulation to Islamic aggression. But it's already a growing trend, and one that certainly bears watching.

I'll be in touch, Lord willing.

Phil's signature

24 November 2011

Every reason to be thankful, regardless

by Dan Phillips

The pastor who started my own pastoral training was a mixed bag, doctrinally. But one of the two best and most memorable principles he ingrained on us stands out to me still, nearly forty years later; and it may be personally very relevant to some of our readers today.

This was the early seventies, and Vietnam still raged. Here's a paraphrase of what my pastor said:
If the Gospel you preach could not equally be preached in the trenches of Vietnam and in the dining rooms of Beverly Hills, it isn't the Gospel.
This simple (and true) principle smashes prosperity "gospel" heresies and "contextualized" perversions, and gets us down to the raw, timeless, transcultural dyamism of what Paul says is God's power resulting in salvation for every believer in every culture at every time.

I'll leap to make application for our day, on this day of Thanksgiving.

It is impossible not to think of Americans (or non's) who view our day of Thanksgiving with bitterness. "Yeah, right; easy to say thanks if you're employed, healthy, young, popular, happily married, in a growing and united church, borne on the shoulders of grateful, godly, loving children. And then there's me."

To that person, I'd just say: if you have Jesus Christ, you have reason to overflow with thanks, regardless of your situation.

I don't say this as a theoretician, though I'll not take you with me into the sloughs I've rented over the years. It's an ongoing lesson. So let me just turn to a better, a familiar friend to us all, Charles Spurgeon. One of the greatest, pithiest, truest, most encouraging little points he ever made was a meditation on Jeremiah 31:33 — "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Spurgeon wrote this:
Christian! here is all thou canst require. To make thee happy thou wantest something that shall satisfy thee; and is not this enough? If thou canst pour this promise into thy cup, wilt thou not say, with David, “My cup runneth over; I have more than heart can wish”? When this is fulfilled, “I am thy God”, art thou not possessor of all things? Desire is insatiable as death, but he who filleth all in all can fill it. The capacity of our wishes who can measure? But the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it. I ask thee if thou art not complete when God is thine? Dost thou want anything but God? Is not his all-sufficiency enough to satisfy thee if all else should fail? But thou wantest more than quiet satisfaction; thou desirest rapturous delight. Come, soul, here is music fit for heaven in this thy portion, for God is the Maker of Heaven. Not all the music blown from sweet instruments, or drawn from living strings, can yield such melody as this sweet promise, “I will be their God.” Here is a deep sea of bliss, a shoreless ocean of delight; come, bathe thy spirit in it; swim an age, and thou shalt find no shore; dive throughout eternity, and thou shalt find no bottom. “I will be their God.” If this do not make thine eyes sparkle, and thy heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly thy soul is not in a healthy state. But thou wantest more than present delights—thou cravest something concerning which thou mayest exercise hope; and what more canst thou hope for than the fulfilment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love. Get out the marrow and fatness which this portion yields thee. Live up to thy privileges, and rejoice with unspeakable joy.
There it is: "I will be their God" is "the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above."

Think about it, Biblically. Make yourself, if your feelings aren't "there." Pray for God to help you think about it. What is the lot — the long-term lot — of the person who has everything but that promise to call his own? Family, friends, health, wealth... but God is not his God?

Then think: What is the lot — the long-term lot — of the person who has nothing but that promise to call his own? Little material good... God is his God?

We've worked at unfolding the treasures in that depository over the course of many posts; and we will do so, Lord willing, in many more. But that is it: if you have God as your God, through saving faith in Jesus Christ, then you have reason today for joy and gratitude. Though they matter, this central truth is true no matter how hard, happy, or non-existent your marriage; how thriving or struggling your church; how grateful or treacherous your children; how abundant or feeble your health; how many or few the candles on your birthday-cake.

Wherever you are, whatever your lot, look to Christ your Savior, Christ your Lord, and thank Him today.

You have reason, Christian friend.

I know this for a fact.

Dan Phillips's signature

Ouch; a negative review of God's Wisdom in Proverbs

by Dan Phillips

While y'all are waiting for a later post (percolating in my brainium even as we speak), here's something to chew over.

Life has kept our frequent commenter Rachael Starke from blogging for awhile, but she's back. Boy, is she.

Rachael just posted a completely negative review of God's Wisdom in Proverbs. You might check it out. Later, God willing, if I can recover enough strength to face the world again, I'll bump myself with another post.

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23 November 2011

Open Letter to First-Time Turkey Cookers

by Frank Turk

Dear Readers & First-Time turkey roasters:

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. I have made it my holiday tradition to share this recipe, and if you read this today you still have time to make it for tomorrow prior to any football and just in time to slow-roast while you watch the Macy's Day parade. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.

It should also be known that the Johnson Household cannot abide Turkey on TG, so we'll extend them grace to abstain, but the rest of you have no excuse now for abstaining from the traditional vittles.


12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews (Mrs. Cent prefers walnuts; use the nut you enjoy most)
Pepper and Garlic Salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.

  2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.

  3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the onions, carrots, celery and parlsey. (FWIW, the leafy parts of the celery are great for this recipe, so don;t get squeemish) 2 boullion cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.

  4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART.

    If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.

  5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

    Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

    Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.

  6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.

  7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you ever ate.

22 November 2011

Proverbs 21:3 — true and false dichotomies (excerpt from God's Wisdom in Proverbs)

by Dan Phillips

In God's Wisdom in Proverbs (still available for 50% off, but not for long), I develop the nature of proverbs at some length, providing what I see as important tools for reading and understanding them. One of the insights that has been immensely helpful to me, and which I unfold at length in pp. 23ff., is the compressed nature of proverbs. I define a proverb as "truth dressed to travel. It is wisdom compressed, compacted, stripped down to its essentials, and ready to go" (24).

Specifically, while some proverbs are ideas squeezed down to their memorable essentials, it is valid to see in others a full story summarized in a pithy proverb. We are immensely helped in detecting such proverbs if we accept the canonical ascriptions of authorship, a point I develop briefly in pp. 2-5, and then at great length in Appendix Two (pp. 317-336).

This excerpt focuses on Prov. 21:3, which I categorize as an evaluation proverb (explained on pp. 30-31), and comes from pp. 152-153. It begins with my ad hoc translation of the verse, marked as DJP in the book.

Proverbs 21:3—
To do righteousness and justice
is chosen by Yahweh above sacrifice. (DJP)
This proverb may be another example of a narrative being condensed into two lines. Specifically, it could also be a compression of 1 Samuel 15:22–23 into six little Hebrew words.

Clearly, Yahweh is not saying that He utterly negates sacrifice. He is the one who created the sacrificial system of Israel. This verse is not a denigration of sacrifices offered in believing obedience.

The principle behind this proverb should be easy for parents to understand. We always teach our children that they should apologize when they break or spill something, or if they wrong someone. If we are responsible, we also teach our children that it is better still to be more careful and wise, so as not to have to apologize in the first place. In fact, you might say, “To be wise and careful is chosen by parents above apologies.”

This verse, I think, says the same thing: God does not want people who heedlessly do wrong and blithely commit injustice, because they know they can just pop by the Temple later and slice a lamb. Rather, God wants people who so believe in and love Him that they obey Him, and “do righteousness and justice.”

Therefore, a godly walk is one part of acceptable worship to God.

[End excerpt]

To expand on that a little, I have heard this same idea expressed by Christians in many false dichotomies. For instance:
  • It is more important to be loving than to be orthodox
  • It is more important to be loving than to be truthful
  • It is more important to care about people than to care about ideas
  • It is better to walk with Christ than to attend church
  • It better to be kind than to be right
  • It is better to live the Gospel than to tell it
  • Etc. ad infinitum et ad taedium
On the surface, who could argue with any of these statements? The problem is that, unfortunately, they are usually used to evil ends, and they're diabolically clever. Disagree with any of them, and you seem to be arguing against love, practical Christian living, caring, kindness, Gospel living, Mom, puppies and everything wonderful. Who wants to do (or be accused of) any of that?
However, what all of these statements have in common is that, if pressed, they form false dichotomies.

Going back to Proverbs 21:3, liberals in years past have taken such statements in Proverbs and in the prophets as indicating an anti-Temple faction. One can only get there, however, if one rejects the canonical ascriptions of authorship, which requires (at least de facto) rejection of the inerrancy and authority of the text.

Accept the authority of the text, and we go in another direction: the intent is to help readers/hearers evaluate and identify what most matters to God. One knows at the outset that God cannot be saying "Don't do sacrifice," because it was He who enjoined sacrifice in the first place. Likewise, no Bible-believer can imagine that God wants us to reject the teaching of His word in doctrine and theology, or to disdain wrestling intensely for the faith or casting down ideas that oppose themselves to the knowledge of Christ, or refuse to attend church — because it is God Himself who commands that we do such things; and, if we believe Him, we do them, to the best of our ability.

Perhaps we can understand Solomon's wording and thought better if we can get a better idea of the soil from which this proverb was brought, by God's Spirit. What lay behind the composition of this particular proverb? Did Solomon have in mind the narrative of Saul, who disobeyed God, then tried to smear the whole over with a gaudy religious act of sacrifice (1 Samuel 15)? Very possibly.

If so, then Solomon is saying to us what God told Saul through Samuel (1 Sam. 15:22-23):
And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king."
...only he said it in a single, pointed, pithy proverb.

Wisdom, and its balances, is hard.

Guess that's why there's a whole book in the Canon devoted to it, and to grounding it in the fear of Yahweh.

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21 November 2011

Thanks with a Grateful Heart

by Phil Johnson

hanksgiving (the constant kind, not the once-a-year variety) is a good exercise for the out-of-control tongue. Ephesians 5:4: " Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving."

Thanksgiving for what? "In everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And especially be thankful that "God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). That's plenty to be thankful for.

As a matter of fact, thankfulness to God is more than just a tongue-taming exercise. It is a remedy for any kind of temptation to idolatry, uncleanness, or immorality (Ephesians 5:3)—because it focuses our hearts properly away from self and sin, and it fixes our minds on God. Just as covetousness, filthy talk, and bad morals act like a leaven to spread evil into every aspect of our lives, gratefulness and gracious speech arrest that leaven and season our hearts and minds with grace.

Phil's signature

19 November 2011

Does "Sophistication" Make Preaching More Effectual?

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 an article in the April 1868 issue of the The Sword and the Trowel, titled "Dr. John Caird on the Declining Influence of the Pulpit." Spurgeon is responding to Caird's claim that English pulpits had become ineffectual because preachers weren't erudite enough.

(Dedicated to Dr. Karl Giberson, Ph. D.)

ot that our present prophet bids us humble ourselves, or seek the Lord by prayer, or invoke the energy of the Holy Ghost, or wait upon the great Head of the Church for deliverance; far from it; he has no burden from the Lord as to such "archaic" and "conventional" instructions; his message to this enlightened and thoughtful age is far better adapted to the present times and the existing phases of society.

He sees no need to warn ministers to cultivate fellowship with God, but much more cause to bid them keep abreast of the culture of the age and know something of what its deepest speculators have said and its sweetest poets have sung.

He is not afraid lest the cross of Christ and the doctrines of the gospel should be obscured by human wisdom, but he is very severe upon those "who insist upon our identifying divine truth with the historic accidents and archaic forms in which it has been couched, with the literal interpretation of the language of allegory and symbol, with statements, which true and beautiful as poetry, lose their reality and beauty when construed as literal fact."

What that fine jargon means, those who are acquainted with Broad School inuendoes very well know. Sermons are not recommended to be baptised with power from on high, but it is said to be of the first importance that they should bear traces of careful thought, logical arrangement, consecution of argument; conclusiveness of result; they must contain novel and interesting interpretations of Scripture, and sparkle with imagery: lacking these the auditor goes away discontented, and reads with entire assent a sneering article in the next Times, or Saturday Review, on the decline of the pulpit in modern times.

Now we are prepared to endorse any man's opinion who shall say that it is most desirable that our ministers should be well educated, and should command respect by their substantial attainments, but we are indignant when we find these secondary matters thrust into the first place, and the weightiest of all considerations compared with which these are light as feathers, thrust into oblivion.

Moreover we are not prepared to allow that the school of preaching which the writer of the Good Words article would desiderate would be any gain to the church or to the world if it could be called forth from our universities and theological schools; on the contrary, we believe that no greater calamity could befall mankind than to be preached to by such men as "the highly cultured and fastidiously critical class" would patronise.

The high culture of a mortal man! Bah! How ludicrous it must seem to the Eternal mind! Vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild ass's colt. Refinement of intellect to be the guide of gospel ministrations! What then means the apostle when he says, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God, for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling, and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2.

When men who imagine themselves to have great genius, and to be qualified judges of pulpit excellence condescend to descant upon their brethren, they have generally a superabundance of sneers at hand. While they themselves may never have won for Jesus a dozen hearts in all their lives, those earnest evangelists who are instant in season and out of season, and whom their Master honours with his Spirit's approbation, are ridiculed as "showy, ready-tongued, loud-voiced, shallow declaimers," whose dogmatism is rigid in proportion to its feebleness.

Saul, because he is head and shoulders taller than others, despises the shepherd, forgetting whose hand it was that slew Goliath, or perhaps hating him the more because he had wrought a service of which the monarch was incapable. Indifferent themselves to the very fundamentals of truth, craving always a liberty to depart from the standards of the faith, and yet to eat the bread of the church, the gentlemen of the superfine, cream-laid order, hang up before men's eyes a caricature of the "faithful" minister who adheres steadfastly to the once-delivered faith, and point at him the finger of scorn.

To preach the gospel as it is revealed is to these men to be servile; to mutilate it is independence of mind; to be simple and fervent is to adopt conventional verbiage and conventional solemnity. Yes, conventional. That is the word, which is over and over again dealt out judicially, as though it meant something criminal.

Scattered all over England and Scotland are self-educated men who have been called of God to be soul-winners, who care not a jot for what Darwin or Colenso, or even the great Scotch Latitudinarians may have to say for themselves who are doing their work all the better because they have eschewed the refinements of modern scepticism, and have not come into the secret of the new liberalism. These may be pooh-poohed as much behind their times, but we are persuaded that they have contributed far more to maintain the power of the pulpit than anything which has been achieved by the "deep-thinking" and free-thinking doctors and professors with all their boasts.

If the pulpit be declining in power, it is due in a great measure to the men who mistake error for freshness, self-conceit for culture, and a determination to go astray for nobility of mind. So far from despising brethren of small literary accomplishments who excel in spiritual power and life, it is our duty to have them in abundant honour, to cheer them under their difficulties, and imitate them in their industrious use of their few talents. They can arouse a conscience though they cannot elucidate a problem; they can stir the affections, though they cannot revel in poetic imagery; they can reclaim sinners, though they cannot mystify with subtleties.

If the fields of literature and science do not entice them, have they not enough of understanding if they are mighty in the Scriptures?

If they are devoid of the fear of "creating an aversion in men of taste to evangelical religion," may it not suffice them to have a holy fear of being unfaithful to the consciences of men?

Suppose that they do not quote from learned authorities, does not the word of God possess a superlative authority in its authorship and truth?

What if they never attempt to prove a doctrine of revelation by an appeal to so-called "natural religion," have not the truths themselves a self-evidencing power?

They have not denounced their more learned brethren, or laid the supposed decline of the pulpit at their door. Where then is the politeness and refinement so much vaunted? Is it needful to say where is the Christian spirit which allows the "intellectual" and "cultured" to talk so lightly of men whom the Lord has chosen?

Are supercilious arrogance and censorious uncharitableness the choice fruits of "thorough culture"? Then, thank heaven, there are a few who have escaped the privilege, and can yet believe that whether learned or unlearned, gracious men may do good service for Christ.

The fact is that the cant which dins into our ears such ungenerous phrases as "superficial culture, and narrowness of thought," "shallow dogmatism and merest platitudes," and smirkingly boasts its own intellectual superiority, is known to be cant by all thoughtful men, and is treated as such.

When the celebrated Cobbler How, with much learning, proved the uselessness of all learning, men smiled, and went on their way, but when professors A, B, or C, with much scorn, traduce their less philosophical brethren, some men think it time to rebuke them sharply for their own sake and for others.

There is no truth whatever in the cry of the fastidious school; the world will no more be saved by carnal wisdom now than in times gone by. When our Lord selected his apostles they were evidently chosen not on account of their intellectual endowments or scientific acquisitions, but on account of their religious character. John was perhaps accustomed to better society than Peter. Luke may have enjoyed a good education; Paul was skilled in the learning of the schools; but the rest were men of little scholarship. It would seem that our Lord chose as the first preachers of the gospel men of every variety of attainment and grade of intellectual culture, neither repudiating nor glorifying intellect, but using it and everything else that is human for his own glory.

"But," says Dr. Wayland, "It will be said, of course, that our circumstances at the present day are very different from those at the time of the apostles. This is more easily said than proved. The whole world of heathenism was then arrayed against the church of Christ. Never was the cultivation of the intellect and the taste carried to higher perfection. The poets and orators, the historians, sculptors, and architects of this heathen world, are, to the present day, our acknowledged masters. The church of Christ was sent forth to subdue this cultivated and intellectual world, and the masses associated with it.

And what was the class of men of whom this church and its leaders were composed? They were stigmatised as unlearned and ignorant. The intellectual difference between them and the men whom they were called to meet, was as great in the times of the apostles as it has ever been since. Yet God chose the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. When men of more disciplined mind were wanting, they were called by the Head of the church; but even here, the greatest of them all declared that he made no use of excellency of speech, or of wisdom, in declaring the testimony of God; that he determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. There is nothing really in the relative condition of the parties which would render a rule inapplicable now which was applicable then."

We greatly doubt whether the Christian pulpit was ever more generally powerful than at the present moment; certainly congregations were never larger, nor religious effort as a rule more abundant. Far enough are we from being satisfied, but still there is much to rejoice over as well as much to deplore. We could rehearse the names of a score of active, useful, attractive, spiritually-minded evangelists, all exceedingly popular and powerful, and this we the more rejoice in because this class has only of late been called into existence.

In our own denomination alone we have pastors whose churches from year to year increase at a ratio altogether unprecedented in modern times. Bad as things are they are not worse, but much better than formerly, and this is owing mainly to the growing power of the pulpit. We do not believe that our educated people care an atom for the brilliant sermons which Mr. Caird would prescribe for them. The thoughtful and intellectual men with whom we are acquainted, tell us that they do not want that kind of refreshment on the Sabbath; being eminent in their professions they find enough of the intellectual in their daily work, and are just the men above all others who delight in the simple, earnest appeal to the heart and conscience.

Preach Christ to them with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and they will be content, but try to dazzle them with the fireworks of intellectual display, and they will tell you that the articles in a respectable review are far preferable.

If, indeed, the ministry be declining in power, let us betake ourselves to the grand resource of prayer; let us invoke the Holy Spirit's aid; let us pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into his harvest. Then as matters of detail let us purge our colleges of sceptical professors, let us make the training more homiletical and less metaphysical, let us seek after unction rather than intellect, and encourage our young men in pursuits of practical evangelism rather than speculative theorising. In opposition to learned men, who by elaborate essays cry up the Diana or Minerva of their idolatry, let us look to the heavenly Comforter, and have respect unto that Scripture, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."

C. H. Spurgeon

18 November 2011

The (A) impossible (B) imperative: (A) speaking the truth (B) in love

by Dan Phillips

[Since I'm pretty sure Phil (who I'd rather read, also) won't have the time to write today, let me share something rattling about in my brainium. If he does post, he should just bump me.]

It's one of those things that we must do, and yet will never do perfectly. It's one of those things that everyone always probably errs a little bit this way or a little bit that way. Except Jesus.

You know what it is: it's Paul's little phrase usually translated "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). The Greek is more literally "being truthful in love." It is essential for the growth of the whole body ("being truthful in love, let us grow unto Him..."). So: if we speak the truth, but without love, we won't grow. And if we love, but are not truthful, we won't grow. Both = FAIL. Erring either way seriously = FAIL. Refusing to do one out of supposed allegiance to the other = FAIL.

What brings this up? Well, everything; but two recent particulars.

This week, I've had two posts at Pyro (to wit: here and here) about the Jakes/MacDonald/Elephant Room deal, and one at my blog about the recent Wallis-Mohler debate.

In both, I tried to speak the truth in love. Love people, and love truth. Rough combo, sometimes, but imperative as a desideratum.

In both, people think I failed, which always concerns me. Some folks I respect didn't like the one at my blog; and I had to delete a couple of rants that didn't engage the substance of the Pyro posts, yet which complained over the whole concept and, of course, bascially called me and my like "haters."

Now, here's an interesting thing. The friends who faulted me respect and love me, I believe, but they disagreed with my posting my disagreement about one man I respect, and (indirectly) about one man I don't know but know to be respected by folks I respect.

Do you see the static there? They clearly think it was okay and loving to criticize me, publicly, for criticizing others publicly.

And I agree with them: it really is okay for them to disagree with something I did.

But what did I do? I disagreed with (or expressed concern about) something others did. How did I do it? Well, if you can read the Wallis-Mohler post and not see that I bent over backwards to say that, at the same time, I (A) think very highly indeed of Al Mohler, and (B) am disappointed at the way I perceive that he responded to Wallis, then I just must not know anything about this whole writing thingie.

Similarly with the Jakes/MacDonald fracas. I stuck strictly to what I know and see in the out-there world, and tried to bring Bibley thinking to bear, without peeking into their hearts. Because I can't! Mercy, much of the time it's a real project to understand my own heart — which I'm inside of — without trying to read others'.

Which is, I think, the whole point of Jesus' oft-quoted and seldom-understood "Judge not" prohibition (Matt. 7:1-5). Clearly He isn't saying not to judge actions and ideas to be bad, wrong, worthy of instant disapprobation and rejection... because He immediately enjoins just that (v. 6).

So in both posts, I tried at that balance. As to Wallis-Mohler, I saw some ideas (Wallis') which I perceive as poisonous and pernicious, and I saw them not properly decimated. That's what I talked about. Ditto Jakes/MacDonald: I focused on words and choices and implications. That's plenty, without trying to mind-read.

Now, think of where we have to go if that isn't all true. For instance, we who preach are perfectly okay that our wives or friends can come up and say, "You know, that wasn't your best sermon." Or "Did you not sleep well last night?" Or "Wow, what did that verse ever do to you?!" Okay, that last one is a bit mean. But friends can offer some criticism of something we did without our justly rounding on them and bellowing "What?! Why do you hate me?"

But some of the issues over those posts seem similar. If I can't say I wish Mohler had handled an encounter differently (as I do) and, at the same time, say I think he's a great guy and a heroic figure... then where are we heading? We're heading towards a world where nothing but unconditional approval of everything everybody does is the only "loving" choice.

But don't we know better than that, already, as Christians?

And if we scold others' actions in scolding others's actions, aren't we setting up a possible Bogotronic Anomaly that will surely lead to the implosion of the entire universe?

The alternative also involves tilting off into the trackless waste of subjectivism and ironic mindreading. I offer some truthful criticism of something Dr. X says or does, amid much also-truthful praise. You tell me it was unloving of me to do so. I tell you I love Dr. X. You tell me, Oh no you don't. I reply, Oh yes I do. And on it goes, with no end in sight.

And now we're talking about your judgment of my feelings, to which only God and I have access, instead of the objective facts of Dr. X's words and actions, in light of God's Word, to which all of us have access.

And where does all of that leave us? Nowhere good, according to my calculations.

So in sum: truthful, and loving. Rough balance. Probably impossible.

But the pursuit is imperative.

Dan Phillips's signature

17 November 2011

T. D. Jakes (and the like) Part Two: thinking clearly about repentance

by Dan Phillips

In part one (which I will assume you've read), I made bold to assert that there were two issues relating to the Elephant Room / T. D. Jakes kerfuffle which (A) I think are crucial, yet (B) haven't gotten the attention that we need to pay them. Interestingly, two Vertical Church posts to which I linked in the first post have since gone the way of an unwelcome Frank Turk comment. Wonder what might happen after today's focus on the second of my two issues?

Let's proceed as I did in the previous post. Let us hope and pray — and, to be clear, I truly do hope and pray — that Jakes comes to repentance on this foundational issue of the nature of God. What would that repentance mean, though? What would that look like, Biblically?

Remember, Luther well began his Top 95 Things Worth Arguing About list with:
When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance
"Repent" is a Bibley word, a Jesus-word. But what is repentance? It isn't a small topic; I work it out on page 150ff. of TWTG, and it takes some doing to understand.

Many feelings or activities or attitudes mimic repentance, but fall short of it. Feeling bad is not necessarily repentance. Feeling humiliated, or feeling bad about getting caught is not necessarily repentance.

What characterizes genuine repentance? The two most common Hebrew words means (A) to regret, or (B) to turn around, return, turn back. The most frequent Greek word means a mental paradigm-shift.

If we learn of repentance, then, from the Hebrew word shub, to repent involves turning around. You were heading in one direction, now you are heading in its opposite. You confess the rightness of God's judgment (Zech. 1:6). You turn from your wicked ways (Jer. 5:7) and, in the same act, turn to God (Isa. 10:21).

Or to take it from the Greek word metanoia, repentance involves looking at things quite differently. You are operating on a new paradigm. Formerly, your calculations rested on the axiom 2+2 = ; now, you're starting all over and re-calculating from 2+2=4. You were thinking and living as if God's coming kingdom was an irrelevant nothing; you begin thinking and living as if it were an impending certainty (Matt. 4:17).

But we mustn't confine ourselves to synonyms for "repentance" per se. Repentance involves dealing with sin and its fruits. What other language does the Bible use?

Of course, one big word is mortify. It means put to death or, in the vernacular, kill it dead. You don't want to leave it pining for the Fjords; you want it cold, stiff, out of the game. The opposite is presented in Romans 13:14. I discussed all this at length in another post, to which I now direct you, so that I may come directly to the point of this one.

Here are the facts of this situation to the very best of my knowledge:
  1. Jakes has an admitted past in, and a long history of identification with, modalism.
  2. MacDonald — and only MacDonald, to my knowledge — is now saying Jakes is a Trinitarian.
  3. The Bible reveals God as Triune; therefore
  4. Modalism is a heresy.
  5. Heresy is sin.
  6. If Jakes was a modalist, and is a Trinitarian, then he has changed from what is sinful to what is true and pleasing to God, if only in this one specific.
  7. The Biblical noun that describes such a change is repentance.
All that to say this: if T. D. Jakes is a Trinitarian today, then to get there he must have repented of the sin of modalism.

That is the foundation for what follows. And let me say once again with crystal clarity: we all hope T. D. Jakes has indeed repented of the heresy he's (at least) represented and allowed himself to be identified with, and has embraced the God and Gospel of Scripture. That would be wonderful. We would welcome that with joy.

But hoping for the best does not require turning off our brains or our memories.

So: if Jakes has repented of the sin of modalism, and given the Biblical definition and description above of repentance, we have the right (and, in my opinion, James MacDonald has the responsibility) to ask some questions. Among them:
  1. When was it that Jakes repented of the sin of modalism?
  2. What led Jakes to repent of the sin of modalism?
  3. Where are the public confessions of Jakes' repentance of this sin?
  4. If Jakes has come to see that modalism is a sin, and that his allowing himself to be identified with that heresy is a sin, how is it that nobody knew of this change of heart except James MacDonald?
  5. King Josiah had the Word of God around and did nothing about it. But when he really heard it (2 Kings 22), he took immediate and public action, tearing down altars and destroying idols and putting idolatrous priests out of business (2 Kings 23). What altars has Jakes torn down, what idols has Jakes destroyed, what false teachers has Jakes opposed, and why is the public completely ignorant of it? Or, to be specific:
  6. How can Jakes explain waiting months (years?) to make this revelation, and then only in a paid venue?
  7. What does Jakes think of the people who believed his teaching, accepted modalism because of it, and died holding to that false god, as he waited publicly to unveil his change of heart?
  8. What restitution has Jakes made, and what has Jakes done to correct all the people who either were indoctrinated in or made indifferent to the heresy of modalism through his teaching?
  9. What discipline did Jakes accept, and what did he do, when Jakes realized that he had been teaching (or tolerating) a heresy with his very public profile for so many years?
  10. Jakes previously specifically refused to disassociate himself from advocates and purveyors of the modalist heresy. Has Jakes now disassociated himself from them? Where did he say this or do this? Name some individuals and groups, so that people can be warned from them.
That last especially shouldn't be difficult. I'm not just blowing smoke on that, either. Look, you all know that I too was in a cult. I explained that at some length. I also explained how the Lord saved me out of that cult.

Now, wouldn't it have been weird if it had been known that I was associated with that cult, but for the last 38+ years I never once said that what they taught was flat-out error, and that anyone who believed it was lost and had no hope of eternal life? Wouldn't it be odd if I refused to disassociate myself from the advocates of Religious Science?

Nothing to do with hate, although it has everything to do with judging the false teaching. You could ask me if I have fond memories of the people, and I'd say I surely do. Do I care for them? Yes. Were they kind and patient with me? Very much so.

Have I parted ways with them? Absolutely, because what they believe and teach is a lie, is contrary to the Word of God, and will keep any adherent under the wrath of God without hope of pardon or life.

See? It isn't that hard. Even a fumbletongued pinhead like me can do it.

So... will MacDonald ask Jakes those questions, on that big bright international platform he's giving him?

Shouldn't he?

Shouldn't someone?

Hey, like our T4G 2008 T-shirts said: someone has to say these things.

Dan Phillips's signature

16 November 2011

Open Letter to @HereIBlog

by Frank Turk

Dear Mark --

Dude, I have known you for more than a decade.  I knew you when we were both barely calvinists (small "c" intended) and barely Christian-literate and barely helpful as evangelists and apologists.  I knew you before we were channel rats.  I knew you before we were bloggers, and my favorite memory of my bookstore was going to CBA the year it was in Atlanta and taking you and my wife to the Provident New Artists concert where we saw Casting Crowns.

Now, here we are, and we're both intermediately-known bloggers with 2000+ twitter followers.  But you have a very serious problem.

You are apparently nominated for a $ 10,000 scholarship which you could use to fund seminary, (vote at that link) and you're not winning.

Somebody needs to do something about that, and I am all out of ideas.  Maybe if somebody with a really-famous blog mentioned it, since you're the only Christian blogger on that list, you wouldn't get squeezed out by some kid who has his campus voting for him.

Maybe Challies or Justin Taylor can help.  I wonder if any of the readers of this blog know how to help out here?

Other than that, I'm completely out of ideas.  Sorry man.  That's a big problem.

15 November 2011

T. D. Jakes (and the like) Part One: isn't "unclear leader" an oxymoron?

by Dan Phillips

Hard as it may be to believe, there are two issues relating to the Elephant Room / T. D. Jakes kerfuffle which (A) I think are crucial, yet (B) haven't gotten the attention that we need to pay them. I'm going to use this platform to feature each, hoping to force them into the spotlight. Today focuses on just one of those issues.

Jakes' history in Modalism and other false teaching is well-known, well-documented, and longterm.  He didn't recently dabble in it, toy with it, get some learned and gracious rebuke, and request some time (removed from teaching) to consider. Jakes has been spoken of and spoken to. He's achieved a big visible platform, which he's used and used. Jakes has never denounced, disowned, nor distanced. In fact, he specifically refuses to do so.

So now comes enabler James MacDonald, who — on the most charitable-yet-truthful read I can imagine — has been trying on various techniques for damage-control, like a sister in a shoe store. MacDonald first says Jakes is going to be a guest on this show which features great Christian leaders. All Heaven breaks loose. MacDonald, who has styled Reformed critics as "Nazis," eventually changes the ER purpose statement, and says he's eating "humble pie."


Now MacDonald is back, thumping his chest and bellowing defiance at critics, calling Jakes a "brother" (later trimming the whiskers of the term "brother")... and being a bit coy.

How "coy"? First, MacDonald complains about the "inability of some to reserve judgement til the event." Reserve judgment? About what? one wonders. About the shifting mission of ER? About Jakes' position?

As to the former, it's hard to blame anyone for finding the situation unclear. About the latter, as we noted, Jakes' position has been well-known. Or is it? MacDonald seems to want to imply that it isn't. Is MacDonald unaware of all the work and effort that's been put into that particular project? It's hard to imagine how to excuse such ignorance, given the outpour since MacDonald's initial announcement.

Or is it that MacDonald thinks that everyone (except MacDonald) is wrong about Jakes' position? That would seem to be the case. First, against all known evidence (and citing nothing fresh), MacDonald says Jakes is not — which would have to mean no longer is — a Modalist. MacDonald further says: "I am looking forward to hearing him explain his position currently and how that may have changed from things he has said historically." So he hints that Jakes' position (A) "may have" changed, and (B) is in need of explanation.

What's more, though, MacDonald also now says "clearly I believe Bishop Jakes is trinitarian and will affirm such in ER2." Looks odd, laid against "may have," doesn't it?

Now, that is a statement meriting a lot of parsing on many levels, not least of them the fact that MacDonald apparently thinks that the hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands?) of Jakes' supporters who know no such thing can safely and responsibly be left in the dark, and conceivably die safely without that knowledge, worshiping what MacDonald himself has agreed is a false (Sabellian) god, until MacDonald's paid event brings enlightenment to those who can afford it.

But this whole post is about focusing on one issue, one question. Here it is. It's worth shouting.
If the world (except for James MacDonald) is unaware of T. D. Jakes' real position on a doctrine as central and foundational as the Trinity, then in what sense is Jakes any kind of a leader, let alone a Christian leader?
It feels surreal to have to explain this. But here we are, aren't we? So let's do this.

What is a pastor's chief "job," according to (hel-lo?) God? It is to labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17). It is to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). It is to preach the Word and truth so clearly as to expose and refute error (Titus 1:9). These are matters of communication, in which it is the very heart and definition of the role of the pastor to (A) communicate (B) truth (C) clearly and (D) convincingly. Obviously, the more important the topic, the more critical these essentials.

Well then: Is the nature of God important? (Again, even having to pose the question makes me feel we're in Bizzaroworld... but that's hardly Breaking News, is it?) Of course the nature of God is important. Living as we are thousands of years after the close of the Canon, and many hundreds of years after Nicea and Chalcedon, is the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity essential to understanding the nature of God? Indeed, one of  James MacDonald's mouths says that the doctrine of the "trinity is clearly a major – national boarder [sic] issue," and I agree with that mouth.

So, to say it again patiently, if it is true (stretching charity well beyond the snapping-point) that Jakes has repented of his Modalism and now embraces a robust, Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, and yet nobody of the thousands who have heard and read him with the sole exception of James MacDonald knows that fact, aren't the very nicest conclusions we can draw about Jakes these two: that he is —
  1. An extremely poor communicator; and
  2. An extremely poor judge of what is important?
And if either of those things is true, then please, someone tell me — how is Jakes any kind of any leader, let alone a Christian leader, let alone a Christian leader who should be lifted up for analysis and emulation on an international platform?

See, I think that is a simple, discrete, fundamental, basic, vital, crucial question that doesn't involve the reading of minds, hearts or tea leaves. It should be absolutely basic. Yet I don't see that simple question asked much.

Really, think about it. Can you imagine Friel saying "We're going to have Phil Johnson on, and get to the heart of what he really believes about the sovereignty of God in salvation!" Or Janet Mefferd running the plug, "Tomorrow on the show, Frank Turk clarifies whether or not he really sees local church involvement as important in the Christian life!" Or Pirate Radio: "Friday on the show, Dan Phillips reveals whether or not he thinks it matters to root the Gospel in the entire Bible!"

You'd all laugh, right? It'd be a joke! Whatever our other many failings, I think we've probably gone on-record about those vital truths, right? And you could multiply it out to Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, John Piper, or any other person who is justly viewed as a leader in any sense.

Yet somehow "Pay money to find out whether or not renowned Christian leader T. D. Jakes believes in the Trinity" makes sense — to say nothing else? On any level?

Yeah, I don't think so.

And I'm being pretty clear on that, right?

Dan Phillips's signature

14 November 2011

Friend of the World; Enemy of God

"Remember Lot's Wife"—Luke 17:32
by Phil Johnson

ot began his career as a tent-dweller like Abraham. But after he parted from his uncle, Genesis 13:12 says "he pitched his tent toward Sodom." Soon he moved into the city and became comfortable there.

In fact, Lot apparently became a man of some importance in the community, because Genesis 19:1 says "Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom"—which tells us that he ultimately became a kind of civic official there. To have a claim on that place, you had to be someone of importance, recognized by everyone in the city.

He may have initially sought prominence in Sodom out of a belief that such status would better enable him to "engage the culture." But in the end Lot had absolutely no influence for good there.

As much as Lot may have enjoyed the comforts of city life, he never felt at home in Sodom. Peter tells us Lot's righteous soul was vexed every day by the wickedness of that city's rampant perversions. No matter how settled Lot became in Sodom, his heart was never at home in that city. He never came to love the debauchery and evil indulgences that characterized that place.

Mrs. Lot was different. She was attached to Sodom. If that city was not her home when Lot married her, it became her home in every sense. She grew to love to the place. No matter how evil it was, she did not want to leave. She probably loved being the wife of a prominent person in such a sophisticated, morally liberated city. There is no suggestion that her soul was vexed by the wickedness there.

First John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." That was precisely the thing that caused Mrs. Lot's downfall. She loved Sodom.

Why did she love that evil place so much? Because the love of the Father was not in her. Her values were worldly values. The things she loved were worldly things. She was a friend of the world, and therefore she was an enemy of God. And when faced with the necessity of fleeing a world that was perishing, with the way of divine deliverance open before her, she could not tear herself away from what she really loved.

In front of her lay safety. In front of her were her own husband and her children. In front of her was a new life of freedom from the perversions of Sodom, a new life under the hand of God's protection. But with all of that in front of her, Mrs. Lot could not resist the urge to turn back.

Behind her was divine judgment. Behind her lay nothing but danger and certain doom. Behind her the entire wicked city of Sodom lay in total ruins, and those ruins were still being bombarded from heaven with fireballs of divine wrath. But, sadly, that mass of worthless corruption represented everything Lot's wife loved most.

Here is the danger of such a wayward love: First John 2 goes on to say, "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

"Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:26).

Lot's wife was destroyed along with the lusts of this world. Instead of setting her affections on things above, she had fixed her heart on the things of this earth—even devilish things that were doomed to a fiery destruction. And she perished right along with everything she truly loved.

You can think about it like this: you will spend eternity with whatever you truly love the most. If your heart is fixed on the things of the Lord; if you love righteousness; if you find your sweetest joy in fellowship with Him, that's where you will be throughout eternity. But if your affections are set on the things of this world, if what really delights you the most is the things that are passing away—if your life is characterized by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life—then like Lot's wife you will perish in the destruction of all that you truly love.

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