Archive - February, 2008

Black History Month and Abortion

Here’s the gist of John Ensor’s recent article in honor of Black History month: “There are people alive today, within the Black Christian community, that are pioneers and prophets. I expect history to show them forerunners in arousing the Black Church to provide the impetus for victory in the greatest moral challenge of this current age; making abortion as unthinkable as slavery.” A few quotes:

“Our own unconfessed blood-guilt over abortion produces silent pulpits and a church so weak that it can only dream and endlessly talk about the church achieving a muscular faith that produces personal holiness and social impact. But when the secret is outed, the gospel finally makes sense—joyful, conscience-cleansing, doctrine-loving good sense. There can be no forgiveness for the shedding of innocent blood…except by the shedding of innocent blood. But the blood of Christ satisfies the just demands of a God rightly offended by the sin of child-sacrifice.”

And:

“African-Americans, Dr. Johnny and Pat Hunter started L.E.A.R.N. in the 1990’s; and called abortion “black genocide.” They have documented the ethnic cleansing nature of the abortion industry by pointing out the racist/eugenics philosophy of Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger and her targeting of minorities for abortion, forced sterilization and contraception. While this explicit racism may be a thing of the past, they point out that 9 out of 10 abortion business are now located in urban neighborhoods. And while only accounting for 12% of the female population, African-American women suffer 36% of all abortions.”

Read the whole thing.

Byron York on Senator Obama’s Farrakhan Comments

Minister Louis Farrakhan backed Obama for President at the recent Nation of Islam convention in Chicago. Byron York of the National Review thinks Obama fell into a trap at this week’s debate when Tim Russert pressed the Senator on whether he accepts Farrakhan’s support. I think York is on to something:

What if, the blogger Andrew Sullivan asked, it had been a question to John McCain about David Duke? And what if McCain had answered, “You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Dr. Duke’s racist comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in a white man who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can’t censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we’re not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally, with Dr. Duke.”
And what if then, after the debate, McCain’s top campaign aide explained by saying, “The point is this: David Duke said kind things about [McCain]. From what I read, he didn’t say it was an endorsement, and I think Sen. McCain made clear what his position on Duke’s racist statements was.”

Here’s the seven-minute video of the comments in question:

William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008)

William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of the National Review Magazine in 1955, is widely credited for his pioneering role in reviving conservatism from the sidelines of public discourse. He died this morning at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. Buckley handed over the reigns at National Review in 1990 and retired from his TV talk show “Firing Line” in 1999. The latter elicited this observation from William Kristol, editor of Weekly Standard:

“For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television. He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement.”

The AP Report.

Live-Blogging the Ligonier National Conference

Ligonier Conference image.jpg
It is an honor to be joining the esteemed Tim Challies to live-blog the Ligonier National Conference (March 13-15 in Orlando, FL). It will be my third live-blogging experience, and I must admit, it will be good to work in tandem so to speak. Live-blogging is a fairly exhausting enterprise, particularly with having to balance reporting and editorializing, and all the while getting the posts up quickly so as to keep pace with the conference speakers. We’ll see how Challies and I divide the load. Perhaps we’ll divvy up the work like sports broadcasters, with one of us giving the play-by-play, and the other color commentary. Or maybe I’ll do all the writing and Tim will just bring me snacks and drinks.
Amazingly, on-line registration is still available. The speakers include Sinclair Ferguson, Steve Lawson, John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, R.C. Sproul Jr., Joni Eareckson Tada, and R.C. Sproul.

John Mark Reynolds on Barack Obama

John Mark Reynolds (a former Romney advocate who now appears to be solidly in McCain’s corner) offers some insightful thoughts on Senator Obama and a suggested strategy to beat him. I completely agree with Reynolds’ assessment that Hillary is finished:

“Against a weak field, cleared out for her, she failed. She is a phenomenally weak campaigner who is exhausted by crowds and people. She is smart, perhaps having the most book smarts in the race, but she has no “people intelligence.” She is MS-DOS in a suddenly Windows world.”

Read the whole thing. Elsewhere, Reynolds speculates that if the surge really works (not just drastically reducing violence, but engendering political healing between the various Sunni and Shiite factions), McCain has a strong advantage over inexperienced Obama (who is probably a weak debater when pushed for details).

First Things Interview with Tim Keller

Anthony Sacramone, managing editor of First Things, posts a lengthy, detailed interview with Tim Keller about his book The Reason For God (#18 on the NYT best-seller list) and his ministry in New York City. Here’s a question and response that I found particularly interesting:
Sancramone: “You say early on in The Reason for God that a little doubt is necessary to test the integrity of your faith. Does this mean that Christians need to become amateur apologists to some extent, to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within them?”
Keller: “Yeah . . . Would you like me to be more illuminating than that?”
Sancramone: “Sure.”
Keller: “I don’t mention it in [The Reason for God], but I think there are always doubts that, if you come to grips with them—I think there’s doubts that you have, that you always have, that you ought to be more forthright and address them, for two reasons. One is, then you’re a better apologist. Because now people are coming shootin’ stuff at you in a way they wouldn’t when I was growing up.
But the other is, it’s actually good for your faith to actually work it out. Here’s my illustration. I don’t know what your readers will think. When I was recovering from thyroid cancer, from the surgery, I actually had time on my hands, something I never have had in years and probably never will again unless I have something else like that. And so I read every word of N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God—all eight hundred pages, even the indices (laughs), because I didn’t have anything else to do. And it was kind of startling to me, because we do live in a less rational sort of anti-foundationalist approach, and he was just taking a nice old-fashioned approach: There’s no historically viable alternative explanation for the birth of the Christian Church than the fact that the early Christians thought they saw Jesus Christ and touched him and that he was raised from the dead. As I was reading it, I realized I was coming to greater certainty, and that when I closed the book, I said, at a time when it was very important to me to feel this way, I said, “He really really really did rise from the dead.” And I said, “Well, didn’t I believe that before?” Of course I believed it before—I defended it, and I think before I certainly would have died for that belief. But actually, there were still doubts in there, and the doubts were taken down 50 percent or something. I didn’t even know they were there. And it was a wonderful experience It was both an intellectual and emotional experience: You’re facing death, you’re not sure you’re going to get over the cancer. And the rigorous intellectual process of going through all the alternative explanations for how the Christian Church started, except the resurrection—none of them are even tenable. It was quite an experience.
So in a way I was working on a doubt and it was a wonderful experience and I took it down. Maybe there is a deeper level of doubt that I don’t even know is there yet. So it’s for you and your ability to be a good apologist.”
Read the whole thing.

Crossroads: Navigating Your Calling and Career

This new book looks very interesting. Here is the Table of Contents (each chapter is about 6-8 pages):
PART 1: CALLING
Chapter 1: Calling–A Definition
Chapter 2: Work Is a Gift
Chapter 3: Reasons to Work
Chapter 4: Discerning Your Call
Chapter 5: Where Does Your Trust Reside
Chapter 6: Hearing God’s Voice?
Chapter 7: Bloom Where You Are Planted
Chapter 8: They Pay Me for This?
Chapter 9: Aroma of Christ
Chapter 10: What’s In Your Hand?
Chapter 11: A Congruent Life
Chapter 12: Reweaving Shalom
Chapter 13: Leaving the Harbor
PART 2: CAREER
Chapter 14: The Importance of Endurance
Chapter 15: The Importance of Character
Chapter 16: The Importance of Integrity
Chapter 17: The Importance of Frugality
Chapter 18: The Importance of Mentoring
Chapter 19: The Importance of Discipline
Chapter 20: The Importance of Skill
Chapter 21: The Importance of Humility
Chapter 22: The Importance of Weighing Your Words
Chapter 23: The Importance of Family
Chapter 24: The Importance of Boundaries and Balance
The entire book can be browsed on-line. Colin Creel, dean of junior boys at Wesleyan School in Norcross, Georgia, where he also teaches Bible and coaches swimming, will be on featured on Moody Radio’s Prime Time America on Monday, February 25. Check local listings (or catch it on-line).
(HT: Lydia Brownback)

Preston Sprinkle on Law-Gospel and Lev. 18:5

Awhile back, I posted a six-part series on law-gospel issues in Rom. 9:30-10:13. One of the most fascinating citations (in both Rom. 10:5 and Gal. 3:12) is Leviticus 18:5: “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Does this passage teach works salvation? What does it mean to “live by them”?
My friend Brent pointed me to an interview that Dr. Jim Hamilton conducted with Dr. Preston Sprinkle on Dr. Sprinkle’s Ph.D. dissertation, conducted at Aberdeen under the guidance of Dr. Simon Gathercole. Dr. Sprinkle is now on the faculty of Cedarville University. Here’s an excerpt:
What question did your dissertation ask and answer?

My dissertation was more of a descriptive pursuit. That is, I sought to describe how early Judaism (200BC-AD100) understood Lev 18: 5 [ESV Leviticus 18:5 “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.”], how Paul understood it, then compare the two. I didn’t set out with a conclusion in mind, nor was I seeking to even prove/find a certain answer. I just wanted to understand Early Judaism and its attraction to this verse, and why Paul opposed it without elaboration.

Do you see a distinction between what Leviticus 18:5 means in Leviticus and how it is interpreted later in the Old Testament?

Yes, sort of. The verse is actually very difficult to understand in Leviticus (Anyone who thinks there is a clear-cut meaning has not really understood the issues, in my opinion!) I think that in Leviticus, to “live by them” (18:5) means to enjoy the covenantal blessing of life as a result of doing the “statutes and ordinances” of the LORD (18:3-4).
This would be the general understanding of Ezekiel (20:11, 13, 21), but for him “life” is connected to the dry bones passage in Ezek 37, where the Spirit (of life!) breathes life into the dead nation and brings them back into the land. What is significant in Ezekiel is that Lev 18:5, according to the prophet, focuses on human agency, “which if a person does, he will have life by them.” But this is not how eschatological life is attained. Life comes through divine agency, through the Spirit of life who revives a dead nation. (NOTE: I don’t think Ezekiel is speaking of an afterlife at this point).

Read the whole thing, which helpfully includes comparisons/contrasts between Dr. Sprinkle’s view and those of E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, and N. T. Wright; Francis Watson, Mark Seifrid, and Seyoon Kim; and Douglas Moo, Tom Schreiner, and Simon Gathercole.

Eternal Subordination of the Son

Jeff Robinson has been writing a good series on the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son of God — a topic that is more relevant than you might think. Referring to Bruce Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance, Robinson points out, “There is both unity and diversity, authority and equality in the Godhead; these transfer to our relationships within both the home and church and paint a beautiful picture of Christ’s redeeming love for His church (Eph 5).” Robinson defines his topic:

“The eternal subordination of the Son means that Jesus Christ is eternally the Son of God, equal in essence and in eternal divine nature with the Father, that the Father exercises eternal authority over the Son in function, and the Son eternally submits to the authority of the father.”

Drawing from Dr. Ware’s 2006 address at the Evangelical Theological Society national meeting, “Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles,” Robinson proceeds to argue:

1. The subordinate relationship of the Son to the Father is seen in the Bible’s use of the names “Father” and “Son.”
2. The Father exercises rightful authority over all things.
3. The Son submits to the Father in His incarnate mission.
4. The Pre-Incarnate Son submitted to the Father in eternity past.
5. The Son will submit to the Father in eternity future.

The most recent post shows that eternal subordination has been maintained and defended by a host of respected leaders in church history.

Guidance, The Will of God, and Whom to Marry

In my recent interview with Anthony Calzia, I made the following statement regarding Christian liberty in the determination of a marriage partner:

“While there is ‘one person’ out there for us to marry (if we’re called to marry), the only way to be completely certain we’ve found ‘the one’ is after we’ve made our vows and tied the knot. And this is liberating – we don’t have to wait for some magical moment when we know with mathematical certainty that Jen (or Jake) is ‘the one.’ There is some Christian liberty in terms of choosing whom to marry. The person should be a growing Christian, and someone whose presence in your life helps rather than hinders your walk with God. But it should also be someone whose presence you generally enjoy, and to whom (for a myriad of reasons, physical and non-physical) you find so attractive that life without them is unimaginable.”

I then received the following question:

How are you so sure this is the “only way” and if it is, that’s a rather large commitment to make not being “completely certain.” Can you please clarify?

My friend was referring to my stating that the “only way to be completely certain we’ve found ‘the one’ is after we’ve made our vows and tied the knot.” It is a very good question. Let me be clear: I do believe that Christians can have a subjective sense of God’s leading on major life decisions, but I don’t think it is infallible. When I was deciding whether to ask Marni to marry me, I prayed for God’s subjective leading. In other words, I asked God to give me a high degree of emotional certainty that Marni was whom I should marry. I was not aware of any Scriptural basis for not marrying her. Nevertheless, since the decision was so important, I hoped that God would give me an even stronger sense that I should marry her. I think God did–through many means, including conversations with trusted friends and mentors.
But the peace I had was not mathematical certainty nor was it infallible. At the very least, James 4:13-15 warns us that we cannot know what will happen tomorrow. Marni could have died in her sleep the night before we got married. Had that happened, I hope I would have eventually married someone else. And in that case, it could not be said that Marni was “the one” for me to marry, because evidently God had something else in mind. That was what I was getting at when I said, “after we’ve made our vows and tied the knot” we can, with certainty, say that “God willed for me to marry her.” Because it happened.
But there’s more. There’s a danger to believing that I have to “know with certainty” that God wants me to do X before I do X (marry Jennifer, take a job in Dallas, spend my savings to buy a new car). Consider these words from Pastor Mark Dever:

“I do believe that God’s Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. So, for instance, I am choosing to spend my life here on Capitol Hill because my wife & I sensed in 1993 that that is what God wanted us to do. However, I realized then (and now) that I could be wrong about that supposition. Scripture is NEVER wrong. I was free in 1993 to stay in England, or teach at a seminary, either of which would have been delightful opportunities. I understand that I was free to make those choices. But I chose, consulting Scripture, friends, wisdom, and my own subjective sense of the Lord’s will, to come to DC. And even if I were wrong about that, I had (and have) that freedom in Christ to act in a way that is not sin. And I understand my pastoring here not to be sin. So I am free. Regardless of the sense of leading I had.”

Like Mark does elsewhere in his post, I would also acknowledge that most decisions I make are made without a subjective sense of God’s leading. Rather, several good, non-sinful options are available, and I have to choose the one I deem best. I can pray that God will lead me. However, my subjective sense of God’s leading can be wrong (I’m not yet perfected–my perception of how God is leading can be mistaken). But to pursue a non-sinful option is, by definition, not sin. This is liberating. God will unfold His sovereign will for my life through the decisions I make (does not mean I should sin so that grace may abound).
(HT: JT)

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