Archive - September, 2010

Excellent Sermon on Christianity and Politics

Mark Dever recently gave an outstanding message on Christianity and Politics, all from Mark 12:13-17.
Collin Hansen broke down the message very helpfully.

A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons: $1

Listen Up.JPGThis new little booklet called Listen Up!: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons is currently on sale $1 from WTS Books. The sale only lasts until Friday, Sept. 24th @ 11:59 PM. It looks fantastic. Here is the publisher’s description:

Why on earth does anyone need a guide on how to listen to sermons? Don’t we simply need to ‘be there’ and stay awake? Yet Jesus said: ‘Consider carefully how you listen.’ The fact is, much more is involved in truly listening to Bible teaching than just sitting and staring at the preacher.
Christopher Ash outlines seven ingredients for healthy listening. He then deals with how to respond to bad sermons – ones that are dull, or inadequate, or heretical. And finally, he challenges us with ideas for helping and encouraging our Bible teachers to give sermons that will really help us to grow as Christians.

And here are some of the endorsements:
“We give Listen Up to all our new members.”
– Mark Dever, Sr. Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church
“Provides crucial theology and practical advice about listening that can make the difference between life and death in the church.”
– R Kent Hughes
“Pure gold.” Read the full review . . .
– Michael McKinley, IX Marks
“A terrific little volume – and I hope it has a wide circulation.” Read the full review…
– Iain D. Campbell, Minister in the Free Church of Scotland

Does rising college tuition mean greater student learning?

Interesting op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus. An excerpt:

One thing colleges are spending more on is athletic teams, which have become a more pronounced — and costly — presence on campuses everywhere. Even volleyball teams travel extensively these days, with paid coaches and customized uniforms. Currently, 629 schools have football teams — 132 more than in 1980. And all but 14 of them lose money, including some with national names. It’s true that alumni donations sometimes increase during winning seasons, but most of those gifts go specifically to athletics or other designated uses, not toward general educational programs.

Read the whole thing.
Andrew Hacker is on the faculty of Queens College and Claudia Dreifus teaches at Columbia University. They are the authors of Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It, which came out last month and (given this op-ed piece) sounds absolutely fascinating.

Terry Jones, burning Qurans and true Christianity

Tom Ascol wrote an outstanding article in the Tampa Bay Examiner today on the fiasco surrounding the outrageously foolish plans on the part of Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida to burn Qurans on September 11 (Saturday), supposedly in honor of the innocent lives lost nine years ago on that date. An excerpt:

As a Christian pastor who has more than a casual interest in what happens to Muslim friends and fellow believers living in the Muslim world, I want to offer a few thoughts on this fiasco:
1. Jones has justified burning the Quran because it is an “evil book” that leads people away from the true God. Consistency, then, should lead him to add countless other titles to his bonfire, including many that are written by authors who purport to be promoting Christianity but who miss the gospel altogether.
2. This proposed burning, coming as it does at the end of Ramadan, is severely damaging opportunities that Americans and Christians living in Muslim countries normally have to deepen relationships and share in the goodwill that is typically shown by Muslims to their neighbors in the celebration of Eid, the breaking of the fast. Instead, a cloud of suspicion is gathering over the heads of American Christians living in Muslim countries because of the actions of a small group of people in Florida. If you doubt this, you are simply naive and it is certain that you had no Muslim friends living near you on September 12, 2001.
3. Burning copies of the Quran in Florida may appear to be courageous to some who think only superficially about such things. In reality, it is closer to cowardice. If Jones were genuinely courageous he would go to Kabul or Tehran and hold his bonfire. Better yet, if he were both courageous and wise he would go to those place, or others like them, and learn how to live among and love Muslims for the sake of teaching them the gospel of Jesus from the Bible.
4. Burning Qurans is more about publicity than it is about honoring Jesus Christ or advancing His kingdom. It is an unbiblical activity. By that I mean, there is nothing in the Bible that directs Christians to do such a thing, especially in conjunction with a day of national remembrance.

Read the whole thing. I received an e-mail this week from a dear friend who lives and works in Afghanistan. He was a personal friend of one of the victims from the recent Taliban attack that killed ten aid workers near Kabul. My friend has every reason to fear for his life if Jones follows through with his cowardly and self-serving plans.

Wayne Grudem’s New Book on Politics and the Bible

Wayne Grudem’s latest book looks fascinating: Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. The book is divided into two parts: (1) Basic Principles and (2) Specific Issues. The first chapter (along with the table of contents and the preface) is available on-line. Grudem is a thoughtful Christian who is always worth reading. His arguments are carefully laid-out and always seek to be scripturally grounded. I’m looking forward to this book.
Update: WTS Books is running a 40% off sale.
HT: JT

Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church

I’ve not seen this new book by Kenda Creasy Dean, but from what I’ve heard it looks very interesting. In the tradition of sociologist Christian Smith, Dean argues that the “Christianity” of American teenagers is more akin to “moralistic therapeutic deism” than the real McCoy. Interestingly, the endorsements for Dean’s book are coming from a more left-of-center Christian bunch (e.g., Tony Jones, Mark DeVries) whereas Smith seems to have a high acceptance among more conservative protestants like Albert Mohler and Michael Horton. Not sure if that’s a coincidence or if there’s some reason for that.
If I’m not mistaken, emergent folks like Jones are less keen on the teaching and preaching of propositional truth. Yet isn’t robust teaching of propositional truth (such as the exclusivity of Christ and the trustworthiness and perspicuity of Scripture), and the gospel-pleading (2 Cor. 5:11, 14-15) and gospel-adorning (Titus 2:1-15) which flow from such truth, a big part of what’s needed to fortify the faith of the rising generation? They need to see the connection between a true, biblically-robust, content-rich faith and good deeds in order to avoid the sentimental mushiness of “moralistic therapeutic deism.”
In their editorial review, Publisher’s Weekly writes:

Dean (The Godbearing Life), a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, opens this absorbing portrait of teenage religiosity by throwing down a gauntlet: the faith of America’s teens is “not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school. One more thing: we’re responsible.” Dean, who worked on the National Study of Youth and Religion with sociologist Christian Smith, says that American Christians’ emphasis on “a do-good, feel-good spirituality” at the expense of deep discipleship may cost them the rising generation, which is (with the exception of Mormon teens, the subject of an admiring chapter-long case study) largely apathetic about Christian faith. How, then, can religious leaders and teachers inculcate what Dean calls a “consequential faith”–i.e., one that bears fruit for the long haul? She identifies four factors teens need: a personal encounter with God, a strong church or youth group, a sense of being called to duty, and hope for the future. In a refreshingly personal final chapter, Dean outlines her frustration at the daunting task ahead but emphasizes the possibilities if the Christian church decides to take up its cross and follow Jesus.

HT: Troy Lamberth

Stephen Hawking on the Universe and God

This new book (to be released tomorrow) by world-renown physicist Stephen Hawking is sure to make waves. It seems to expound a complete “theory of everything”, answering queries such as: “Why is there a universe–why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?” Apparently, Hawking settles on a negative answer for the latter, taking the following (seemingly absurd) position:

Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.

Hmm. I always thought the law of gravity presupposed the existence of matter. Anyway, the book is probably worth checking out, given Hawking’s huge influence in the secular scientific community. It’s currently #2 on Amazon.