Archive - December, 2009

New R.C. Sproul Commentary on John

I had the pleasure of proof-reading this book. Of all the books on which I’ve ever provided editorial feedback, it was the most enjoyable and the most fruitful read for me. This is another expositional commentary from Dr. Sproul – it is not an exhaustive treatment of every verse in John, but it faithfully covers the “big picture” of each passage covered (they are essentially sermons converted into chapters).
The Gospel of John is (in my view) both the most theologically rich gospel and the most evangelistic (the account with the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, the adulteress woman in John 8, the theological nuance in John 6 – an excruciating articulation of total depravity and unconditional election). If you love the Gospel of John, I’d encourage you to pick up this volume as a devotional companion.

New John Piper Book

John Piper’s latest book, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God, looks interesting, as always. The product description:

Sex. Race. Scripture. Sovereignty. The book of Ruth entails them all. So readers shouldn’t be fooled by its age, says Pastor John Piper. Though its events happened over 3,000 years ago, the story holds astounding relevance for Christians in the twenty-first century.
The sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity, and the gospel of God’s mercy for the undeserving-these massive realities never change. And since God is still sovereign, and we are male or female, and Jesus is alive and powerful, A Sweet and Bitter Providence bears a message for readers from all walks of life. But be warned, Piper tells his audience: This ancient love affair between Boaz and Ruth could be dangerous, inspiring all of us to great risks in the cause of love.

The book is due out on January 31, 2010, but is available now for pre-order.
HT: Desiring God

Pantheism and Avatar

Ross Douthat writes an op-ed piece for the NY Times on pantheism in the new blockbuster film Avatar:

In Cameron’s sci-fi universe, this communion is embodied by the blue-skinned, enviably slender Na’Vi, an alien race whose idyllic existence on the planet Pandora is threatened by rapacious human invaders. The Na’Vi are saved by the movie’s hero, a turncoat Marine, but they’re also saved by their faith in Eywa, the “All Mother,” described variously as a network of energy and the sum total of every living thing.
If this narrative arc sounds familiar, that’s because pantheism has been Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now. It’s the truth that Kevin Costner discovered when he went dancing with wolves. It’s the metaphysic woven through Disney cartoons like “The Lion King” and “Pocahontas.” And it’s the dogma of George Lucas’s Jedi, whose mystical Force “surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”

I’ve not seen Avatar, but I think Douthat is right on the money (as he often is). Read the whole thing.
The Blind Side strikes me as a better flick to see during this holiday season. It is a true story, as World magazine recently explored in a cover story.

Matt Chandler’s Medical Plan

Pastor Matt Chandler gives some specifics on the radiation and chemotherapy he has coming up soon after Christmas.
HT: @John Piper

USA Today on Multi-site Churches

Interesting, informative USA Today story on the multi-site church phenomenon. Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and Ed Stetzer are all quoted. Couple factoids:

Megachurches with two or more locations under the same leadership made up 37% of U.S. Protestant churches in 2008, up from 22% in 2000, according to a study by the Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Conn.
Of the USA’s 100 largest churches, 67% now have two or more sites and 60% of the 100 fastest-growing churches also have multiple sites, according to the annual listings of the USA’s largest churches in Outreach magazine’s October issue.

A parishioner at Reedeemer makes this astute comment, after noting that she misses seeing her pastor every week: “We’re just not looking for that kind of relationship with a pastor anymore. Today, it’s all about a personal relationship with God, not the culture of a church. And a megachurch or a multisite church can still offer this. If you are there to hear a message and it’s a powerful one, it shouldn’t matter how it’s delivered.”
I wish the article had examined if there is a growth in a sort-of “free rider” phenomenon at multi-site churches (i.e., a larger percentage of parishioners who don’t make relational connections, but merely attend a particular service, possibly only when the main preacher is physically present). From our Bethlehem days, I know many at multi-site churches are highly involved, but I think there is also a sizable chunk of folks who merely have a “God-and-me” experience week-to-week (mediated by the high-profile pastor). Multi-site churches may also be tougher on introverts.
Anyway, the USA Today piece is not all negative.
Update: In the comments, Ed Stetzer links to an interesting dissertation by Warren Bird on mega-churches. Bird argues that (if anything) there is less of a free-rider effect in mega-churches. In other words, as Stetzer notes, “people’s involvement is the same or better in larger churches than in smaller churches.” Check out the link.
HT: Denny Burk

What’s wrong with the Senate health care bill?

Yuval Levin sums up why conservatives are still dead-set against it, but also why progressives like Howard Dean and Rolland Burris are now publicly opposed as well:

In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.

Read the whole thing. (You’ll also learn why you should have bought health insurance stocks a few months ago.)
HT: Power Line
In a poll conducted by NBC News/Wall Street Journal from December 11-14, just 32% say that President Obama’s health-reform plan is a good idea, and 47% oppose it. NBC’s Mark Murray writes: “In addition, for the first time in the survey, a plurality prefers the status quo to reform. By a 44-41 percent margin, respondents say it would be better to keep the current system than to pass Obama’s health plan.”

C.S. Lewis College

Interesting announcement from the C.S. Lewis Foundation:
“The C.S. Lewis Foundation has long envisioned establishing C.S. Lewis College in the U.S. as a fully accredited Christian institution of Great Books and Visual and Performing Arts. That vision is now about to become a reality as plans move forward to launch C.S. Lewis College on the beautiful campus in Northfield, Massachusetts, recently acquired for this purpose from Northfield Mount Hermon School. This property has been purchased for the use of C.S. Lewis College by Hobby Lobby, a privately held retail chain of arts and crafts stores based in Oklahoma City, OK.
Subject to securing all appropriate approvals, C.S. Lewis College currently plans to commence instruction in Fall 2012.”

Contra Santa Claus

Good post by Noel Piper on why it is better for young children not to grow up mixing Santa Claus with the manger scene:

First, fairy tales are fun and we enjoy them, but we don’t ask our children to believe them.
Second, we want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would delay or distort that understanding. It seems to us that celebrating with a mixture of Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part-truth and part-imagination to find the crumbs of reality.

Read the whole thing.

Want to Be An Author?

First let Joe Carter dispel some of the myths. Here are his points:
1. (Almost) nobody will read your book.
2. You won’t find your book at the front table of Borders.
3. Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers.
4. You won’t make much money.
Read his post for an explanation of each point.
Public acknowledgment: Joe Carter, an author himself (who has probably sold more books than me), was kind enough to read and review my dinky book.

Christmas Greetings From John Piper & Family

Beyond hilarious:


HT: Noel Piper

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