Archive - April, 2009

King Alfred of Wessex, A Great Leader

Gene Veith writes a short, interesting piece for Tabletalk magazine on the Christian leadership exhibited by King Alfred of Wessex. Alfred assumed the throne in AD 871 at the age of twenty-two. Almost immediately, the Vikings invaded England, and Alfred responded by unifying the various tribes against the common threat. Breaking from the pattern of past leaders, Alfred later codified the rule of law to end the socially debilitating vengeance practices perpetrated by family against family. But Alfred also Christianized the law, writes Veith:

He began his written code with the Ten Commandments, followed by the Golden Rule of Jesus. He replaced the blood feuds with a system of fines that would be enforced not by individual avengers but by the king and his officers. He instituted a judicial system, including trial by jury.

Alfred was an example of a young Christian man who “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12).
It just so happens that Alfred is also the name sake of the institution (and the town!) where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree, Alfred University. Alfred (like many other universities) no longer bears any distinctive Christian moorings, but there is a statue of King Alfred on the campus that served as a helpful rendezvous spot for my friends and I when I was there. For any other Alfred University alumni out there, you’ll doubly enjoy Veith’s summary of King Alfred’s distinguished Christian leadership.

Fidelity-Chastity Ordination Standard remains in place in PC(USA)

Leslie Scanlon, a reporter for The Presbyterian Outlook, reports:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has once again voted to uphold a requirement that those being ordained practice fidelity in marriage or chastity if they’re single – the third time the denomination has voted to retain the “fidelity and chastity” standard since it came into effect in 1997.
On April 25, 2009, the Presbyteries of Northern Plains and Boise became the 86th and 87th presbyteries to vote not to change the standard – meaning that a majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries have voted “No” on the proposed amendment to the denomination’s constitution. Some presbyteries have yet to vote – under the rules they have until June 28 to do so.
But the result has already been determined: the “fidelity and chastity” standard will stay.

Nevertheless, the vote was closer than ever, which is leading some to speculate that it is only a matter of time before the PC(USA) formally accepts the ordination of practicing homosexuals. One reason for the vote being so close, Scalan notes, is that some conservative churches have left the PC(USA) for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. She writes:

“Some of those congregations which left were large or prominent churches which played leadership roles in rallying evangelicals during earlier votes involving gay ordination.”

Obama’s Grand Strategy

Charles Krauthammer’s offers his final installment on Obama’s grand strategy (the leveling of social inequalities). Unfortunately, Krauthammer’s argument makes sense!

Big Truths For Young Hearts – Bruce Ware

Big Truths For Young Hearts.JPGThis new book by Dr. Bruce Ware looks like great reading material for families with young kids. The publisher’s description for Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God:

Equips parents to guide their young children through all major doctrines in an understandable, chapter-a-day format.
Sure, it’s easy to teach your children the essentials of Christian theology when you’re a theology professor. But what about the rest of us? With Big Truths for Little Hearts, Bruce Ware, (you guessed it!) a theology professor, encourages and enables parents of children 6 – 14 years of age to teach through the whole of systematic theology at a level their children can understand. Parents can teach their children the great truths of the faith and shape their worldviews early, based on these truths.
The book covers ten topics of systematic theology, devoting several brief chapters to each subject, making it possible for parents to read one chapter per day with their children. With this non-intimidating format, parents will be emboldened to be their children’s primary faith trainers and perhaps learn a few things themselves along the way.

An endorsement by C.J. Mahaney:

“Imagine a respected theologian devoting himself to training a new generation of pastors and scholars in the seminary classroom. Now imagine him driving home at night to teach that profound theology in simple terms to his children at their bedsides. Now imagine this father compiling those bedside conversations into a book available to all pastors, parents, and children alike. Imagine no more. My friend Dr. Bruce Ware has done it.”
– C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries

Justin Taylor interviews Bruce Ware.

Review of Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian joins the provocative conversation on Christ and culture with this newly released (and widely endorsed) book, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different. For those unfamiliar, there are a plethora of books (particularly recently) on the complex topic of how the Christian (and the church collectively) is to relate to the world. We’ve all heard the phrase “in the world, but not of it.” But what does that look like? That’s what Unfashionable is all about.
Following a helpful Foreword by Tim Keller, the book is divided into four sections: The Call, The Commission, The Community, and The Charge. The Call first describes Tullian’s conversion story: briefly, though raised in a Christian family (the grandson of Billy Graham), he had abandoned the faith of his parents and left home at 16. At 21, God dramatically and quite suddenly converted him. Attending church for the first time in years, Tullian recalls being struck by how different those he met at church were from his regular “in” group. This leads to the book’s theme: Christians make a difference in the world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same. He spends the rest of the section talking about the world’s quest for authenticity and the church’s seduction with being fashionable. Tullian writes:

“It’s both sad and ironic that this shift is now putting the church in the wrong place at the right time. Just when our culture is yearning for something different, many churches are developing creative ways to be the same. Just as many in our culture are beginning to search back in time, many churches are pronouncing the irrelevance of the past. Just as people are starting to seek after truth, many churches are turning away from it. As a result these churches are losing their distinct identity as a people set apart to reach the world.”

The next section of the book, The Commission, starts with the implications of the Bible being God’s standard for our entire lives. The following few chapters give a concise and understandable treatment on the kingdom of God theme in the Bible: that God intends to renew the world, that the first Advent of Christ led to his inauguration as King while the consummation of His kingdom awaits His return. Until then, Christians are called to be salt and light, and we’re called to do so in community with one another. One of the most helpful phrases that Tullian returns to again and again is that we’re to be “against the world for the world.” In other words, we’re to live distinctively and attractively different kinds of lives—lives which reveal that our true citizenship is in heaven, and that our treasures are being stored there—and that although we oppose the world’s godless system of values, we are “for” the people of the world: we want to show them a taste of heaven in the way we interact with each other and with them. In doing so, the hope is that they, too, will be drawn into God’s alternative culture (a culture not withdrawn from the world but one that permeates it and, like light, has a transformative effect). God critiques this fallen world by creating a covenant people, called out of darkness and into His light, to be a “city set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14).
In the third section, The Community, Tullian delineates “six defining marks that ought to identify the community of God”: truth-telling, appropriate anger toward God-belittling sin, hard work (serving others rather than seeking to maximize personal ease), redemptive speech, kindness, and sexual purity. The book ends with a charge to follow the example of men like Augustine, Polycarp, and the countless men and women who give their lives for Christ in hard places, Christians who “joyfully accept undeserved physical and social misery” because they know that “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14).
I found Unfashionable to be engaging and easy to read in spite of the complexity of some of the topics addressed. Tullian writes from the heart and is particularly arresting in his discussion of some of the ways in which the church (individually and collectively) looks like the world (for instance, in its pursuit of power rather than service). While hard-hitting and realistic about the evils in the world (and the indwelling sin in the lives of Christians), the overall tone is appropriately one of hope and optimism. The strong man has been bound and his property is being plundered (Mark 3:27). God’s kingdom is advancing and will one day cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. I highly recommend this book.
Related: Charles Spurgeon quote and video of Tullian introducing Unfashionable.

The Gospel Coalition 2009 – This Week

James Grant passes on the good word from Andy Naselli: The Gospel Coalition will meet this week and the 36-page program is available online as a free PDF. Andy also explains that the plenary sessions will be available as live webcasts.

Should The GOP Ditch Religious Voters?

Steve Schmidt, campaign advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, recently addressed the Log Cabin Republicans. He opined that the problem with the GOP is perceived sectarianism and (consequently) intolerance on issues such as gay marriage:

“If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party. And in a free country a political party cannot be viable in the long-term if it is seen as a sectarian party.”

Maggie Gallagher responds:

Funny this is the Democrats’ view too.
Democrats are engaged in a highly sophisticated outreach strategy with the same basic message point: the GOP is not the natural home for religious people. Prolife Catholics can support Obama. The public things you see are only a small part of the money being flooded into penetrating religious peoples’ intellectual networks to reduce effective opposition to sexual liberalism by disaffiliating their leaders from either the GOP or from their traditional stands on morality (cf. Rick Warren).
This is the Democrats’ carrot to religious people. They also are developing an increasingly big stick: After gay marriage, the most religiously committed Americans will be effectively marginalized as a public force—because they cannot act or support the idea that gay unions are marriages. Such people will, if we lose the marriage debate, be treated the way we treat bigots who oppose interracial marriage. Imagine: All it will take to make, say, a judicial nominee unconfirmable will be to establish that they are indeed Catholic.
Here’s the Democrats strategy: Lure some small portion of the GOP’s religious base with sweet talk (see Pres. Obama’s upcoming Notred Dame speech). Next, remove the one quarter or so of Americans most committed to Christians moral teachings from public influence. Then play democracy (win elections) with the three quarters that remain.

Read the whole thing — Gallagher is spot on in her analysis.

The Christian and Science

Ligonier Ministries posts a helpful, three-part series on the Christian and the scientific enterprise. The series is taken from Dr. R.C. Sproul’s book Lifeviews.
The Christian and Science — Part I
The Christian and Science — Part II
The Christian and Science — Part III

Don’t Waste Your Life Tour – In Urban Centers

Desiring God announces that a partnership with Reach Records to spread Don’t Waste Your Life in urban centers around the country. They’ve produced a music video with lyrics written by Cam, Dwayne Tryumph, and LeCrae. Here’s a three-part interview with LeCrae:

What’s Wrong With Socialism

Matt Perman offers a great summary of a lengthier post by business expert Patrick Lencioni.

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