Archive - October, 2007

First Things and Eduardo Verástegui on Bella

Amanda Shaw, writing for First Things, explains that Bella (which I previously introduced) is not your run-of-the-mill chick flick, though the mainstream media remains reluctant to sing its praises. Spoiler warning: Shaw reveals a bit more than I hoped she would about the ending. (My wife and I plan to see it in a few weeks.)
Also: Christianity Today tells the conversion story of Eduardo Verástegui, lead male actor in Bella:

“God changed my heart and I had to repent of my past. And from that day on, I promised that I would never do anything that will offend God or my Latino heritage. I would never do anything to compromise my faith. That’s the moment I realized that the purpose of my life was to know and to love God.”

Verástegui’s closing comment:

“This is my career now. I’m passionate about Bella; this is our baby. It’s a small budget film with a lot of heart, and we hope that Metanoia can do more and more films that will honor God. Our goal is that if God were on the set, or watching this movie, we wouldn’t have to cover his eyes at any time. That’s what motivates us, and that’s why we hope people will come and see Bella.”

Abortion – Facing Reality, Lake of Fire, and Bella

Fox News recently reported that 45 percent of Americans need to know a Presidential candidate’s position on abortion before they vote. It is therefore not entirely surprising that a cable television program, an unrated documentary, and a major motion picture are actively vying for attention as the nation heads into the primary season of what has been billed one of the most open Presidential elections in recent history. (There is no incumbent President or Vice-President in the running, and the Republican Party, contrary to precedent, has not coalesced around a particular candidate.) A list of what’s out there:
1. Facing Reality: Exploring Abortion Through 3 Women’s Right to Choose – A one-hour documentary that aired on the Fox cable network on Saturday, Oct. 27. Fox News spent a year following three women who are each contemplating an abortion: Kayla, a 20-year old student; Jeanne, 30, a mother of five who is struggling with a drug problem; and Brooke, a 26-year-old who has tried desperately to conceive, only to discover that her unborn child has a rare chromosome abnormality. (Several video clips are available.)
2. Lake of Fire – an unrated documentary which opened on October 3. Director Tony Kaye (like his counterpart in Facing Reality) opted to show an abortion procedure. Kaye (American History X) aims to “give equal time to those on both sides of the debate,” as well as show “the grim realities of what it means to actually get the procedure done.” Film Journal International calls it “… a significant piece of journalism,” and Sam Thielman of World magazine gives it a hesitant recommendation, warning that the total absence of special effects or computer-generated animation adds to the horror of the subject.
3. Bella – a low budget ($3 million) film which opened October 26 with a growing buzz. A winner at the Toronto Film Festival and the Heartland Film Festival, Bella has garnered praise from folks like Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family. Priya Abraham sets the context: “The story follows José (Eduardo Verástegui), a rising soccer star whose career is abruptly ended. Years later, working as a gentle but haunted chef in his brother’s New York restaurant, he learns that friend Niña (Tammy Blanchard) is pregnant and alone. In helping her, he finds renewal.” Abraham also documents that the film is apparently preventing abortions.

ESV Literary Study Bible Roundup

The ESV blog provides a roundup on the recently released ESV Literary Study Bible.

Rebuttal to the Club for Growth – Huckabee Defended

Joe Carter articulately responds to the critique written by the Club for Growth regarding the track record of Governor Huckabee from 1996-2007. Governor Huckabee’s accomplishments:
1. Pushed through a Democrat legislature the first, major broad based tax cuts in the state’s history.
2. Pushed through a Democrat legislature an $80 million tax cut package.
3. Cut the state’s capital gains tax by 25%.
4. Established a Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights
5. Limited the increase in property taxes to 10% a year for individuals and 5% per taxing unit
6. Eliminated the income tax for families below the poverty line.
7. Increased the standard deductions.
8. Eliminated the marriage penalty.
9. Eliminated bracket creep by indexing the income taxes to inflation, thereby preventing taxpayers from moving
into a higher bracket when their paychecks increase due to inflations.
10. Doubled the child care tax credit.
11. Eliminated capital gains tax on the sale of a home.
Carter’s conclusion:

I’m embarrassed that I initially relied on Andrew Roth’s white paper when I formed my first impression of Gov. Huckabee. I’m even more embarrassed that others that have read this sloppy analysis believe it is a damning indictment. I’ve always considered The Club for Growth to be a respectable conservative organization. But their attempts to deceive their fellow conservatives by misrepresenting Huckabee’s record have proven they are unworthy of such trust. Pat Toomey and his organization owe Governor Huckabee–and the rest of us–an apology for their attempted deception.

The Truth of the Cross – R.C. Sproul

Truth of the Cross - 2.JPG Wonderfully accessible, The Truth of the Cross is R.C. Sproul at his very best. Each chapter displays a beautiful combination of theological precision and pastoral warmth, unpacking a different aspect of Christ’s atoning work. I found it to be a great companion to personal devotions. Sproul’s style is at once simple yet not simplistic. Readers are left with a full-orbed picture of the meaning and significance of Christ’s death and why it was absolutely necessarily that He live a perfect life and die a perfect death on behalf of His people.
Christ’s roles as a Substitute, Redeemer, Mediator, and Surety are all explained and defended. The question and answer chapter at the end is a great addition. For example, Sproul explains how God is not absent even in hell. Rather, those occupying hell prefer God to be absent, but His presence (in the mode of judgment) is unceasing. In response to another question, I was helped by the reminder that God Himself did not die on the cross, because He cannot die. Even saying the second Person of the Trinity died would be to make God mutable. Rather, the atonement was made by the human nature of Christ. The God-man dies, but death is experienced only by His human nature.
All in all, a great read.

“The gospel is a message of good news that something extraordinary has happened. At the heart of that message is that Jesus, God the Son incarnate, has atoned for the sins of all His people, turning away the righteous wrath of God. The gospel is a cross-shaped message. Sadly, in our day, this message is being re-shaped into other forms, and the results are not happy. We can give thanks for this volume by R.C. Sproul, however, because in it he steps into the breach once more to provide a clear, concise, and thoughtful case for the biblical and historic Christian gospel of the cross.”

— Dr. R. Scott Clark, Associate Professor, Westminster Seminary California
View the table of contents and read the first chapter.

John Piper on Masculine Christianity

At a recent pastors luncheon, John Piper delivered a message entitled “Sweet Blessings of Masculine Christianity.” What Piper means by this phrase (though he acknowledges that words are inadequate) is this:

“The theology and the church and the mission are marked by over-arching male leadership and an ethos of tender-hearted strength and contrite courage and risk-taking decisiveness and readiness to sacrifice to protect and provide for the community-the feel of a great, majestic God making the men lovingly strong and the women intelligently secure.”

Piper goes on to unpack eleven descriptors that flow from this ethos. I commend this message as a highly nuanced articulation of what Piper (and many others) have heralded for many years. Strong women and strong men are formed and flourish in the kind of Christian ethos that Piper describes. Churches that go the other direction tend to lose their men over time.

Best Football Game Ending I Have Ever Seen

You just need to endure one short commercial to get to the clip.
(HT: Denny Burk)

Pierced for Our Transgressions – Now Available in USA

If you live on the western side of the pond, you may have been waiting for Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. Through November 2, this 384-page work is available for only $15 from WTS books (the previous link). First published in England in response to Steve Chalke (who infamously described penal substitution as “cosmic child abuse”), this book has been widely touted as one of the most clear, compelling, and thorough defenses of penal substitution in our day. Read John Piper’s Foreword and the book’s first chapter. Here are some of the many blurbs:

“The Bible historically has been understood to teach explicitly and implicitly that Christ died as a penal substitute for sinners. That’s what this excellent volume teaches us, too. Carefully studying the primary biblical texts and then answering numerous objections, this book explains and defends the understanding that Christ died in our place, taking our penalty for us. From the biblical material to patristic quotations, from pastoral implications to present objections, this book is a responsible and comprehensive introduction. All the authors’ careful work promises to make this book the new standard text on Christ’s atoning work. Now, I can’t wait to read it again, devotionally.”

– Mark Dever, Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church

“This book is important not only because it deals so competently with what lies at the heart of Christ’s cross work, but because it responds effectively to a new generation of people who are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says.”

– D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“A person’s attitude to the cross tells you much about their theology as a whole, as it is on Calvary that we see the divine response to the human predicament. Thus, the perennial attempts throughout church history to relativize and even deny the propitiatory and substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrifice should not simply be understood as peripheral discussions; they indicate a constant tendency to revise the very essence of the Christian faith to conform to wider cultural mores and shibboleths. It is thus a great pleasure to commend a book such as this, which seeks to defend a biblical, orthodox understanding of the atonement and to reinforce the non-negotiable centrality of God’s wrath against sin and merciful grace towards humanity. Careful readers will find much here that will enable them to articulate with clarity and conviction this important gospel doctrine.”

– Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Dean of Faculty, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pierced for our Transgressions is a treasure-trove of information and analysis on the important, yet disputed doctrine of penal substitution. As a biblical scholar, I enthusiastically commend the authors for their careful exegesis of the biblical text. From this point on, critics of the biblical teaching must interact with the arguments of this book. Further, every Christian, whether aware of the debate or not, can greatly benefit from this comprehensive and penetrating treatment of this crucial doctrine.”

– Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College, and visiting professor of Old Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary

John Piper on NT Wright and Justification

The long-awaited interaction with N.T. Wright arrives November 1. I had the privilege of reading this book in draft form about nine months ago and found it to be a terrific blend of academic rigor and pastoral warmth. One of the many things I love about John Piper is his ability to clearly and compellingly answer the “so what?” question that lurks behind some of the more technical and theologically challenging issues of our day. And if ever there was a such an issue, this is it. So in the spirit of Dr. Piper, I’ll attempt a brief, Theology 101-level explanation on why this book is timely and important.
Update: John Piper–The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright is now available at 33% off the cover price.
Historically, Protestants have believed that the moment a person placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ (as the God-man who lived and died as a substitute for sinners), that individual received the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This righteousness is “imputed” or transferred to their account. From then on, God looks upon the person as possessing the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. N.T. Wright has joined others in making light of this notion with quips such as “… it makes no sense that the judge [God] imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or gas that can be passed across the courtroom.” This book is Pastor Piper’s response. What’s at stake? The basis of our acceptance before God. Do the good works performed by believers through the aid of the Holy Spirit in some way contribute to (or secure) our right standing with God, or are they the evidence that we already have a right standing with God? Among other things, this has implications for a believer’s assurance of salvation.
I highly, highly recommend this book. Here are some blurbs:

“John Piper’s challenging yet courteous book takes issue with Tom Wright regarding Paul’s teaching on justification. This serious critique deserves to be read by all who want to understand more fully God’s righteousness in Christ and his justifying the ungodly.”

Peter T. O’Brien, Senior Research Fellow, Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia

“The so-called ‘New Perspective on Paul’ has stirred up enormous controversy. The issues are not secondary, and, pastor that he is, John Piper will not allow believers to put their trust in anyone or anything other than the crucified and resurrected Savior.”

D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“In this captivating book John Piper defends the truth that justification is the heart of the gospel. Wright’s views are presented with scrupulous fairness. I found this book to be not only doctrinally faithful but also spiritually strengthening.”

Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“I am very grateful to John Piper, pastor-scholar par excellence, for helping me understand better the doctrines of justification and imputation. Tom Wright’s interpretation of key biblical passages on the topic has some major problems, and Piper exposes many of them with great wisdom and skill.”

Andreas Köstenberger, Professor of New Testament and Director of PhD/ThM Studies, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Founder, Biblical Foundations (

“Piper’s look at justification does this with a superb tone and a careful presentation of his case. Piper has put us in a position to hear both sides of the debate and understand what is at stake. Be prepared to be sharpened by a careful dialogue about what justification is.”

Darrell Bock, Research Professor of NT Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

“John Piper addresses a matter of crucial importance for the church, with a clear-headed command of the issues involved. By writing this book he has done us all, including N. T. Wright, a great favor.”

Richard B. Gaffin, Charles Krahe Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary
Related: An Interview with John Piper about The Future of Justification, thoughts from John Piper on When Does God Become 100% For Us?

Joe Carter recants – supports Huckabee

Joe Carter explains why he has now withdrawn his support from Fred Thompson and gotten behind Mike Huckabee.
Update: Carter co-authors an official endorsement along with Justin Taylor and Matthew Anderson. Their endorsement argues that Huckabee “appeals to the three legs of the conservative coalition”—social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and defense conservatives. Read it and be convinced!

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