Archive - May, 2010

Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian

Josh Harris gives Tullian’s new book, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (which unpacks the gospel in a retelling of the Old Testament story of Jonah), a warm recommendation.

The Social Consequences of Pornography

Mary Eberstadt, a contributing writer to First Things, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, has an excellent essay on the far-reaching social consequences of pornography, and the sort of multi-pronged effort that is needed to redress the damage. An excerpt:

The data about the immersion of young Americans in pornography are startling and disturbing. One 2008 study focused on undergraduate and graduate students ages 18 to 26 across the country found that more than two-thirds of men—and one out of every ten women in the sample—viewed pornography more than once a month. Another study showed that first-year college students using sexually explicit material exhibited these troubling features: increased tolerance, resulting in a turn toward more bizarre and esoteric material; increased risk of body-image problems, especially among girls; and erroneous and exaggerated conceptions of how prevalent certain sexual behaviors, including risky and even dangerous behaviors, actually are.
In 2004, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported that 65 percent of boys ages 16 and 17 reported having friends who regularly download Internet pornography—and, given that pornography is something people lie “down” about in surveys as well as in life, it seems safe to say those numbers underestimate today’s actual consumption, perhaps even significantly.

Read the whole thing.
Here’s a good word from Randy Alcorn on the danger of unsupervised computer usage for young teenage boys:

Would you buy your son a stack of pornographic magazines? from Randy Alcorn on Vimeo.


Rand Paul Blows It On The Rachel Maddow Show

On the heals of U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul’s huge win in the Kentucky republic primary, Dr. Paul substantially weakened his candidacy on the Rachel Maddow show:

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Ms. Maddow gave Dr. Paul ample opportunity to clarify his position. Paul seems to agree with 9 of the 10 titles of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and on the basis of that 90% agreement would have voted for it. Paul reiterated this later:

“Let me be clear: I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination in the public sphere and halt the abhorrent practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws.”

Notice the use of the phrase public sphere. Paul would have wanted to alter the language in the 1964 Civil Rights Act which gave power to the federal government to force private business owners to desegregate. Some are suggesting that Paul’s main beef here is that the federal government overstepped its bounds in the Civil Rights Act. It would have been OK for states or local governments to force private businesses to desegregate. However, it is not clear to me, from hearing the entire Maddow-Paul interview, or reading Paul’s remarks after that interview, that Paul believes that any part of the government whatsoever (local, state, or federal) has the right to curtail the liberty of private business owners. (I could be wrong here.)

Paul’s logic is essentially, “I’m personally opposed to racial discrimination, but I do not support federal laws to eliminate racial discrimination in the private sector.” As Denny Burk has observed, how is that fundamentally different from saying: “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think the government should step in and make it illegal. It is up to each individual woman to decide”?

If that’s really Paul’s position, I think it is horribly misguided. Laws are always about the enforcing of morality, and just as we rightly want limited government (since power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely), and local government (for the sake of efficiency), man’s inherent depravity requires that we have some laws–instituted at some level–which require that God’s image bearers be treated with dignity. The liberty of private business owners can and must be curtailed should those owners decline to serve constituents on the basis of race or color. Likewise, the liberty of pregnant women can and must be curtailed should these women seek to take the life of their unborn children. In either case, the dignity of God’s image bearers is at stake.

In my view, whether such laws should be enacted at the federal, state, or local level is a separate debate. I think section 1 of the 14th amendment suggests that it is best for abortion to be limited (or banned) at the federal level. In the case of civil rights in 1964, my understanding is that the northern states already had laws against segregation (both in public and private spheres). That being the case, the southern states could have simply followed suit. But since they weren’t doing so, and given the inherent dignity of God’s image bearers of all races, and given section 1 of the 14th amendment, it was not an overreach of the Federal government to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Burk is correct: “Conservatives and liberals agree that the law is inherently moral. What they disagree on is what is and is not moral.” Paul seems to view the matter in terms of liberty (again, I’m not even sure he believes that any branch of government can curtail the liberty of private business owners), and doesn’t place enough emphasis on morality.

New Lifeway Research Study on “Millennials”

Lifeway Research just released (this month) a study of 1,200 Millennials in the United States — those born between 1980 and 1991. The research is to form the basis for an upcoming book The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Dr. Thom Rainer and his son Jesse. Thom Rainer is the author of many books including Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples.
The study revealed that American Millennials value family above all else (ahead of friends, education, careers and even religion). The study also revealed that two-thirds of Millennials call themselves Christian, but far fewer pray or read the Bible daily, attend weekly worship services, or hold to historical positions on the Bible and its teachings.

Do You Want To Get a Promotion?

John Angell James:

True piety is the parent of every virtue which is either useful to man or pleasing to God; and when confirmed and illustrated by a faithful life, is the best recommendation a youth can offer to one whose confidence he wishes to secure. Few men are so blind to their own interest as not to know the value and to appreciate the services of an able diligent and faithful servant, and rarely does it happen that such a servant, where there is room for it, is not promoted.

-from Addresses To Young Men: A Young Man’s Friend and Guide through Life to Immortality

Hallelujah! All I Have Is Christ!

If you remember John Piper’s message at Together For the Gospel 2010, you’ll call that he repeated the refrain of this song a few times:

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Here are the lyrics to the song (from the album Looked Upon):
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin
Free Download link (right click, save as). [HT: Bob Kauflin]

All I Have Is Christ from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.


Family Integrated Churches

The issue of family integrated churches (FICs) comes up for my wife and/or I every 2-3 months, it seems. Someone mentions a resource, or a common practice, or a conference, or a book, and asks our opinion. Having published a bit on singleness and marriage, and having taking the position that marriage is normative apart from a special gifting for celibacy, many have associated my thinking as being consistent with that of FICs.
At the outset, one must acknowledge that FICs are by no means monolithic. But there are a few over-arching similarities, sufficient to warrant respectful use of the label FIC where those over-arching themes are present. In this lengthy post, Dr. Sam Waldron (Professor of Systematic Theology at Midwest Center for Theological Studies) seeks to describe the “Family-based” Church Movement, list its praiseworthy features, and give a critical appraisal. Here are the five praiseworthy features he lists:
1. Their emphasis on the church supporting the nuclear family.
2. Their concern that some churches are so program-driven that little time remains for family life and personal piety.
3. An expressed desire to maintain unity within local churches and not leave a church for small reasons.
4. A rejection of the abandonment of the church by some home-schooling families.
5. The rejection of both the idea and practice of “children’s church.”

To which I would add one more: Some are wholeheartedly committed to the Solas of the Reformation, TULIP, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession, all of which I embrace and find precious.
OK, so where does Dr. Waldron differ with the FIC approach? It is hard to summarize his post, so I’ll refer you back to it, as well as this open letter from Dr. Waldron that Pastor Voddie Baucham graciously allowed to be published on his site. The letter contains links to a two-part series in which Baucham clarifies what is meant, and what is not meant, by the church being “a family of families”.
In these posts, Baucham explains that he does not mean for “a family of families” to refer to the nature of the church, or to the membership of the church, but rather to the preferred structure of the church (as opposed to age-segregated ministry programs), for the mediation of Christian discipleship and world evangelization. That’s helpful. Nevertheless, I would agree with Brian Borgman that the following practical concerns remain:

1. FIC seems to exalt the nuclear family to an unbiblical place.
2. FIC inadvertently excludes or marginalizes singles and others, which is contrary to the principles of Christ’s Kingdom (Matt. 19:11-12; 1 Cor. 7:7). [For my view, see A Balanced View of Singleness.]
3. FIC elevates certain principles of liberty or personal conviction to the standard of holiness and/or church polity (homeschooling, no women working outside the home, full quiver, no daughters in college, courtship only).

As Borgman explains, “in such a church culture it is very easy for the Gospel not to be the main thing and to communicate to the next generation that being a Christian means you do these things” (Mk. 7:13).

Go Wayne Grudem!

If you’ve not yet purchased this fantastic volume, you’ll definitely want to after watching the video below (which should also put to rest any lingering doubts you might have had about a resurgence of Calvinism among young Christians):

Stanford University Study on Multi-Tasking: We’re Bad At It

A Stanford University research study that came out in August 2009:

People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.

Related to this, see Nicholas Carr’s July/August 2008 Atlantic article Is Google Making Us Stupid? and my 2011 Modern Reformation article “Coming of Age in the Facebook Age” (subscription required). This matter is also discussed in Thriving at College.

Steve Lawson in Fremont, CA this September

Pastor Steve Lawson will be speaking at the topic of Expository Preaching this September 13-14 at a conference hosted by Mission Peak Baptist Church in Fremont, CA. Here’s the schedule:
Session 1 – The Power of Scripture in Expository Preaching
Session 2 – What is Expository Preaching?
Session 3 – Biblical Examples of Expository Preaching
Session 4 – Question and Answer Session
Session 5 – Ten Steps in Building an Expository Sermon
Session 6 – The Church Built on Expository Preaching

The registration fee is $60 from now until June 30. After that, it goes up to $75.

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