Archive - October, 2007

Joel Osteen (and Michael Horton) on 60 Minutes

Joel Osteen.jpgIn case you missed it, Byron Pitts did a great job interviewing Joel Osteen last night on 60 minutes. The engaging interchange included these remarks regarding Osteen’s latest book Become a Better You (which hit stores nationwide today, and is reviewed by Tim Challies):
Byron Pitts: “To become ‘a better you’, you must be positive towards yourself, develop better relationships, embrace the place where you are. Not one mention of God in that. Not one mention of Jesus Christ in that.”
Joel Osteen: “That’s just my message. There is scripture in there that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I’m called to help people…how do we walk out the Christian life? How do we live it? And these are principles that can help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified to say, ‘Here’s a book that going to explain the scriptures to you.’ I don’t think that’s my gifting.”
Notice that Osteen, a pastor, straightforwardly admits that explaining the Scriptures is not his gifting. Amazing.
Helpfully, the segment also included some reflections on Osteen from Dr. Michael Horton (who wrote a series of essays on Joel Osteen and his prosperity gospel message).
The 60 minutes interview can be read or viewed in its entirety.

Why CAL is Not Ranked #1 in the Nation

Too painful for words! What matters now is how they respond—particularly the young Riley.

Essay Contest for High School Students

From Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), a non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization whose purpose is to convey to successive generations of college youth a better understanding of the values and institutions that sustain a free and virtuous society:
HIGH SCHOOL ESSAY CONTEST IN HONOR OF AMERICA’S FOUNDING
“George Washington and the Future of the American Presidency”
“As the first of every thing in our situation will serve to establish a precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.” —George Washington, 1789
ESSAY CONTEST: The importance of remembering the legacy and leadership of George Washington is evident daily in contemporary America. ISI is committed to keeping the vital lessons of the American Founding alive for the rising generation through this prestigious essay contest on “George Washington and the Future of the American Presidency.”
(HT: The Rebelution)

Albert Mohler and Tim Stafford on Church Planting

Tim Stafford writes in the September 2007 issue of CT on the growing trend of church planting in North America:

“North America is the only continent in the world where the church is not growing,” says Eric Ramsey of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB).
George Hunter of Asbury Theological Seminary says, “Churches after 15 years typically plateau. After 35 years, they typically can’t even replace those [members] they lose. New congregations reach a lot more pre-Christian people.” Those who study churches say established congregations tend to turn inward, no matter how hard they try to resist the trend. But new churches must look outward to survive. Richard Harris, vice president of NAMB’s church-planting group, says that established SBC churches report 3.4 baptisms per 100 resident members, whereas new churches average 11.7. It’s not hard to conclude that more new churches would lead more people to Christ.

Read the whole thing.
Established churches (say, 1000 or more members) can often send out a church planting team of a hundred, and find that those hundred vacated seats are filled in a matter of months. Meanwhile, the daughter church has doubled. And while established churches tend to grow by transfers, church plants tend to grow by conversions. While most church plants go belly-up within the first five years, it is also true that the majority of churches (70%, within the Southern Baptist Convention) are either barely maintaining their numbers or are in decline. Either way, evangelicals are becoming a smaller percentage of the population by virtue of not growing fast enough to keep up with overall population growth. The need for steady, conversion growth is a strong argument for making a concerted effort to plant churches. Stafford notes that “America’s largest Protestant body (the Southern Baptist Convention) wants to double its number of congregations in the next 20 years, to 100,000.”
Dr. Mohler reminds us that while church planting is important, some young pastors should pursue the re-vitalization of existing churches:

“At the same time, we also need this generation of young pastors to go into established churches and revitalize a Gospel ministry through expository preaching and energetic leadership. Giving up on the established church is not an option. Some young pastors see church planting as a way of avoiding the challenge of dealing with the people and pathologies of older congregations. This is an abdication of responsibility.
Furthermore, many established churches are showing signs of new life, often under new leadership. As one pastor explained, this sometimes means planting a new church within an older church. On the other hand, only a fraction of newly planted churches exist as operational congregations five years after their founding.
Similarly, the passion to reach unreached populations is entirely laudable and urgent. The sad reality is that many of our established evangelical churches seem determined to reach only people who look like themselves — if they are committed to reach anyone at all. The danger on the other side is that many of these newly-planted churches begin to look like their founders and first members. A church of tattooed twenty-somethings in New York can be just as lacking in diversity as the aging middle class congregation at First Church.”

Defending Life by Frank Beckwith

Ryan Anderson, Assistant Editor of First Things, pens a helpful review of Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice by Frank Beckwith in the October 8th edition of National Review. The publisher’s description:

Defending Life is the most comprehensive defense of the prolife position on abortion ever published. It is sophisticated, but still accessible to the ordinary citizen. Without high-pitched rhetoric or appeals to religion, the author offers a careful and respectful case for why the prolife view of human life is correct. He responds to the strongest prochoice arguments found in law, science, philosophy, politics, and the media. He explains and critiques Roe v. Wade, and he explains why virtually all the popular prochoice arguments fail. There is simply nothing like this book.

Rick Phillips on the Worldview of Pornography

Rick Phillips offers distilled wisdom on how pornography is not just an activity, but a worldview.

“Time after time, men caught up in pornography depict a general discontent with their lives and their own identity. As such, the problem of porn is not merely — or even primarily — one of lust. Instead, men tap into porn as part of a fantasy life in which they exist as comic-book ideals of real men. They think their job is ho-hum, their boss yells at them, their wife nags, the creditors pound on the door. So instead of bringing their lives before the Lord and finding their purpose in the light of Christ, they tap into the Internet and fuel their fantasies of being young, virile, and powerful. Porn is an idolatry of self and a dark worldview that can only exist in fantasy.”

Read the whole thing.
(HT: Lydia Brownback)

Jonathan Edwards Book Sale

Speaking of Jonathan Edwards, the Desiring God sale (going on right now) features the lowest prices I have ever seen on his books (and books about him). The sale is in honor of his 304th birthday, which was yesterday.

Christians and Higher Education

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education tells of Dr. Mike S. Adams, an associate professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, who recently applied for promotion to full professor.

He had been at the university for 13 years. In that time, he had published 10 peer-reviewed papers and won three teaching awards. Not that there weren’t bumps along the way, but his record, he believed, was better than most.
So when he was turned down, Mr. Adams started asking questions. The official word was that he hadn’t measured up in any of the three crucial categories — teaching, publishing, or service. He didn’t believe that for a minute. The real reason he wasn’t promoted, according to Mr. Adams, is that he’s a Christian.

The article goes on to explore whether it is religion or politics that is sometimes the source of discrimination. It quotes Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, an ordained Episcopal minister and a self-described liberal evangelical. Balmer acknowledges that there is a liberal bias in the academe, and is thankful for it. But no religious bias, says Balmer.
I tend to agree with Dr. Albert Mohler on this one. Mohler notes:

The more openly a professor’s worldview is tied to Christian commitments, the larger the problem becomes. When the professor’s worldview and political commitments are those shared by his or her secular colleagues the social and professional cost of Christian identification is likely to be low. When those commitments and worldviews diverge the cost is likely to be far higher.

James Dobson on Third Party Option

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times this week, Dr. James Dobson confirmed the widespread buzz that more than fifty pro-family leaders had recently gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah to discuss how they would respond to a Rudy Giuliani GOP nomination. Dobson wrote:

“If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. . .
I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.
The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.”

I could not agree more with Dr. Dobson on this one. If Giuliani wins the GOP nomination, I think Hillary Clinton would win the general election in a landslide. I would not vote for either of them!
(HT: Denny Burk)

How We Choose Jonathan Elijah’s Name

For any who may be curious, here’s a bit of background on the birth of Jonathan and how we chose his name:
Jonathan Elijah Chediak was born at 3:02am on Wednesday, September 26th. He was 7 lbs.14 oz. and 20 inches long. We praise God for a safe delivery and a healthy mom and baby.
The delivery was an exciting one. After weeks of false contractions and a day of very slow ones, Marni was sure they’d be gone again by morning. But after midnight on the 26th they started coming strong with less than a minute between each one. Marni finished packing, woke Alex, and they left at 1:30 for the hospital with Karis. Thankfully our friends were able to come get Karis at the hospital, otherwise Alex would have missed the birth entirely. There was no time for Marni to have the full course of antibiotics she needed, and no time for the epidural she desperately wanted. She was 5 cm dilated when they got to the hospital, and reached 10 within an hour. When it was time to push Marni protested “no! I want an epidural,” but thankfully the midwife (and Alex) reminded her to just push instead. The pushing lasted about 15 minutes. Jonathan was very healthy and has been nursing well since he was born. And our prayers were answered as he seems to be functioning just fine even though his left kidney is in the wrong place (pelvis). Marni is pleased (AFTER the fact) to have delivered naturally.
Karis is receiving lots of love and attention with both mothers spending time visiting. So far she has mostly ignored her new baby brother, but has astutely observed that he has ears, a nose, etc.
Jonathan’s name means “gift of God” in Hebrew (Karis’ name means the same in Greek). He is named primarily after Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), a pastor-theologian who exuded a God-centered orientation and an effectiveness in calling people to delight in God with both their head and their heart. Many of his sermons and larger works continue to bless readers today. Buttressed by a God-entranced vision of life, the Edwards family tree has produced scores of preachers, university presidents and men and women of the highest character in many fields. And we also love Jonathan from the Old Testament, who was such a faithful friend to David and a valiant warrior.
Our son is also named after Elijah, a man of faith who was used of God to defeat the prophets of Baal, exhorting the Israelites to decisively and unwaveringly pursue Yahweh: “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
We pray that our son will be a man of similar faith and conviction, a lion-like lamb and a lamb-like lion, whose life will promote the cause of Christ in a myriad of ways.
Thank you for your prayers,
Alex, Marni, Karis, and Jonathan

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