Archive - June, 2006

US House slaps NYTs coverage of Swift

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved (227-183) a resolution condemning news organizations for revealing a covert government program to track terrorist financing, saying the disclosure had “placed the lives of Americans in danger.”
According to CNN and The Washington Post, the House resolution went after the New York Times in particular. As Justin Taylor notes, the WSJ has written a piece differentiating their publication of the Swift operation from that of the NYT. Basically, the government did not object to the WSJ publishing a less sensationalized version of the operation after the NYT had already stated, against the government’s wishes, that they were going to press.
From the WSJ: “Some argue that the Journal should have still declined to run the antiterror story. However, at no point did Treasury officials tell us not to publish the information. And while Journal editors knew the Times was about to publish the story, Treasury officials did not tell our editors they had urged the Times not to publish. What Journal editors did know is that they had senior government officials providing news they didn’t mind seeing in print. If this was a “leak,” it was entirely authorized.”
Sadly, the defense offered by Democrats was that the resolution ought not have stated that the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was “rooted in sound legal authority.” This will backfire for them, politically, since the tracking program is legitimate, and the appropriate members of Congress have been appropriately briefed on the program. Furthermore, it is working, and it enjoys a broad support base: Seven of 10 Americans support the program, including majorities of Republicans (83 percent), independents (67 percent) and Democrats (58 percent).

Jesus: Republican or Democrat?

Joe Carter offers a scathing rebuke of Randall Balmer’s recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Here’s a partial outline of Carter’s analysis:
1. Balmer claims to be an evangelical is suspect because, to him, religion is essentially a private matter and imposes no particular constraint from tradition, the historic church, or the Bible.
2. Balmer suggests that evangelicals oppose abortion and homosexuality simply because of their allegiance to the GOP. This is silly, since their is ample biblical data on both matters.
3. Balmer claims the best way to limit abortion is through moral, not legal, means, failing to recognize that (a) making abortion illegal would limit the number of procedures (b) pursuing one avenue does not preclude the other. It is unlikely that Balmer would want slavery to remain legal, but highly discouraged.
4. Balmer attacks only the GOP and offers no critique of the Democratic party, even though the latter tends to support abortion-on-demand as an unquestionable constitutional right.
Key quote:
In fact, this is the greatest weakness of Balmer’s entire essay. He wants to argue that conservative Christians should stay out of politics because religious informed political positions have no place in a pluralistic society. His main premise is that since conservative evangelicals (at least their “leaders”) are all theocrats that they must stay out of politics altogether. But the implication is that it is acceptable for liberal evangelicals like him—who would never allow their religious beliefs to interfere with their party’s platform—to run for office since they vote for morally superior Democrats and not the “blasphemous” Republicans.
While both parties have their strengths and their weaknesses, their positions are not equally compatible with either God’s command or his creational norms. While we should never usurp the power of the state to impose our religious views, we must be good stewards of our responsibilities. As citizens of a democracy, that requires using our vote and influence to support policies and laws–whether aligned with Democrats or Republicans–that we believe are best for our nation.
It is a great article!

A Price for a People by Tom Wells

I put together a list of the ten most meaningful books I’ve read for Tim Challies. He has asked a number of individuals to do this in the hopes that the lists will serve other believers looking for good material to build up their faith. I decided that I should post on each of these books at some point.
I want to start with a book that is not very well known, though it should be. Tom Wells has been a pastor near Cincinnati, Ohio for over 25 years and has written a number of books, including A Vission for Missions and Come to Me! The former shows a zeal for missions often lacking in American churches, and the latter is the best call to repentance and faith in Christ I have ever read. I wish every non-Christian in my life could read it.
Wells clearly and winsomely explains difficult concepts. For example, in Come to Me! he discusses how the call to Christ is both a command of God and the best possible offer for man. But this post is about his book A Price for a People: The Meaning of Christ’s Death. Put simply, it is the best book I know at explaining the controversial doctrine called definite atonement (the “L” in TULIP). Wells gives a compelling, biblical presentation of the doctrine of definite atonement. It is clearly laid out and very readable. Wells defines and explains concepts such as redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation. He helpfully shows the Old Testament roots of these concepts. Details are explained in footnotes and appendices. Wells also examines some of the hard texts, and winsomely responds. Finally, the book has helpful chapters on how an understanding of these truths effects how one preaches and explains these matters to unbelievers. There is something remarkable about a pastor who has served in one church for a long time, can write winsomely to unbelievers about matters essential to salvation, plead with Christians to have a heart for missions, and write the best book on definite atonment in the 20th century.
By comparison, the gem by John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, is more exhaustive (exegetically) and a lot more work to read. So if you want to read on definite atonement, and don’t have the tenacity or time to tackle Owen, A Price for a People is the book for you.

Cheat sheet for Firefox

Firefox beats Outlook Explorer and Netscape hands down, as many of us know. Now Leslie Franke has put together a useful cheat sheet with quick commands.
HT: Joe Carter

Baptism and Church Membership

Justin Taylor agrees with Al Mohler on the necessity of believer’s baptism as a prerequisite for church membership. (I’m setting aside the issue of the Lord’s Supper for now.)
Both reference a withdrawn proposal by the Elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC). The issue is: Should churches whose elders already lean towards a baptistic position (i.e., baptist churches) require believers baptism for membership?
To get a handle on the topic, here are three statements I think both sides would agree upon:
1. Membership in a local church is very important for all Christians.
2. Churches need to elevate membership to the proper place it deserves. The withdrawn BBC proposal is an attempt to do this.
3. Including someone into membership at a church constitutes a public proclamation that the leadership has no credible grounds to doubt that the individual is regenerate.
Now the question we’re struggling over is: Which priorities should be upheld by our ecclesiology?
1. Professing Christians being members of local churches (possibly paedobaptist churches, should they so choose).
2. Professing Christians who attend a particular baptist church (or might someday attend a particular baptist church) being able to become members at that baptist church.
3. Professing Christians being baptized on the basis of a Scripturally-informed conscience (in other words, being baptized as believers).
I would rank them in this order of importance: 3,1,2. The BBC proposal seems to rank them: 2,3,1.
An autobiographical note: Though my name is on the withdrawn BBC proposal, I do not (now) support the proposal. In July of 2005, I had the honor of being asked to provide editorial assistance to John Piper, a pastor for whom my love and respect is beyond estimation. Due to my high esteem for Pastor John, I agreed, though I had not yet given thought to the weighty matters involved. In early October 2005, after the proposal had been approved by the BBC elders, I came to disagree with it, given the priorities I highlighted above. I regret that I came to such convictions so late and so slowly in the process, and am grateful to dear friends on both sides of this issue for the time they’ve invested discussing these matters with me. As an apprentice in The Bethlehem Institute, I have undying respect and admiration for Pastors John Piper and Tom Steller. I am grateful for their partnership in the gospel and their love for truth. Because of their graciousness, we are able to disagree without rancor or insecurity (as Dr. Mohler also notes). The BBC Elders withdrew the proposal in December 2005.
A few other resources:
Russell Moore has a good article on this topic. (page 9)
And there is an outstanding discussion between Mark Dever, Lig Duncan (a Presbyterian), C.J. Mahaney, and Al Mohler on cooperation between churches. It was available on CD at Together for the Gospel, but I cannot find it on the Nine Marks website at this time.

Alex Strauch – Leading with Love

Alexander Strauch’s new book, Leading with Love, was published this year. Having previously written on ecclesiological matters (such as the role of Elders and Deacons), and on nitty-gritty, practical matters like how to run meetings that work, Strauch now deals with the indispensable nature of love in the life of the Christian leader. With over 30 years of pastoral experience at the same church, Strauch writes out of a full heart not just for his flock, but for the future of Christian leaders, both among the laity (teachers, small group leaders, etc.) and those paid by the church.
Srauch lays out four principles in his preface, which encapsulate his burden for writing this book.
1. Few books on church leadership feature significant discussion about love. “…although Christianity is unmatched among the religions of the world in its teaching about God’s love…..Christian leaders don’t normally focus on love when they address leadership.”
2. The flock resembles its leadership with respect to love, or a lack thereof. “…leaders set the spiritual tone for the church. They have the power to create a more loving atmosphere with the local church.”
3. Church involvement means regularly working together, which can result in personalities grating on one another. “Without love, we cannot live and work in harmony.”
4. There are numerous false ideas about love that are pervasive in our day and in dire need of correction. Husbands leave their wives and children because of a new “love.” Some churches refuse to practice church discipline in the name of “love.” Strauch notes, “Instead of love being ‘the fulfillment of the law,’ it has been made the enemy of the law (Rom. 13:8-10).”
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Pastor Strauch a few times. I have always come away impressed with the extent of his warmth and care for others. Leading with Love strikes me as a great book on an important topic. I plan to review it in a future post.

NYT Editor (weakly) replies to critiques re: leaked secrets

Hugh Hewitt provides an outstanding commentary on the unreasonable reply from NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller regarding the NYT recent publishing of classified information provided by government officials speaking “on the condition of anonymity.” Keller lacks a coherent argument, and purports numerous distortions, as Hewitt uncovers.

What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us

Danielle Crittenden‘s book What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us vividly captures some of the disadvantages women experience in the current male/female milieu prevalent in our culture (in general) and on college campuses (in particular). The book is not explicitly Christian by any means, yet her conclusions are very similar to mine. In short, if women in the 1950s saw themselves primarily through the lens of their uniquely feminine callings (wives, mothers, etc.) and insufficiently as adults with non-gender-specific intelligence, skills, and aspirations, the modern woman tends to view her worth in ways that suppress her uniquely feminine longings.

The result is a more androgynous culture, and, yes, one in which women have unparalleled opportunity, but also one in which women are increasingly vulnerable to male oppression–precisely because men no longer feel obligated (by societal mores) to regard women with particular esteem. For example, men are less likely to marry and commit to being breadwinners, so women (most of who still innately long to bear children) feel pressured to simultaneously balance demanding careers. Newsweek magazine seems to do a cover story on this about twice a year.

Another example is brought to light by the recent incident of the Duke Lacrosse team and the rape charges. I’m not talking about whether the players actually raped the woman. Rather, I’m concerned about the widespread trend on college campuses nationwide. Many reports site that women are rarely asked on dates by men. Rather, they enjoy casual friendships which may lead to sex, probably with no commitment.

It is one thing for conservatives to make these arguments. After all, conservatives have consistently opposed co-ed dorms and other trends that have led to more widespread premarital sex. However, a recent article in Rolling Stones presented the same conclusion: the current sexual expectations at colleges lead to the objectifying of women, and of their perpetual use (and abuse). Not only does this emotionally scar women (often quite deeply), it renders passive men unable to work for and steward the love/trust of a woman.

(Sorry – no link to the Rolling Stones article.)

MSM and national security

As many others are noting, it seems concerning that the New York Times (in particular) takes such liberty to report on classified activities. They seem to justify it by the degree of public interest they thus garner. Nevertheless, national security and success in the prevention of future terrorists attacks are of greater, long-term, public interest. The degree to which national security is jeopardized by this reporting is perhaps difficult to estimate, but it is surely deemed to be real by those in the know (otherwise the material would not be classified).
Hugh Hewitt has a good post, including a letter to the NYT by Sergeant T.F. Boggs, on this topic. Given the recent sting operation in Miami, this issue has particular relevance. Those in office ought to take this matter seriously.

Preaching and the Old Testament

My summer reading will include theological works which are part of my curriculum at The Bethlehem Institute (the vocational ministry training program of Bethlehem Baptist Church). First on the docket is Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy. In the first chapter, Goldsworthy mentions the difficulty associated with finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Some quotes:
“The message of the Old Testament is too easily reduced to the imitation of godly examples and the avoidance of the ungodly example.”
“The nature of the relationship between the salvation revealed in the Old Testament and the gospel of Jesus Christ is something that we strive to understand on the basis of our biblical theology.”
So far, this book is great. Particularly if (like me) you are somewhat unfamiliar with the term “biblical theology” or how all of the Bible points to the one message of salvation most clearly expounded in the New Testament.

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