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Books, Bio, and Such: David F. Wells

Jun 27, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

During the summer I’ll be posting micro interviews on Fridays (mostly). I’ve asked some of my friends in ministry–friends you probably already know–to answer questions about “bio, books, and such.” My hope is that you’ll enjoy getting a few more facts about these folks and getting a few good book recommendations.

Today’s interview is with David F. Wells, Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

1. Where were you born? Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia

2. When did you become a Christian? Cape Town University, 1957

3. Who is one well known pastor/author/leader who has shaped you as a Christian and teacher? John Stott with whom I lived for 5 years

4. Who is one lesser known pastor/friend/mentor who has shaped you? Francis Schaeffer (with whom I worked briefly) and Martyn Lloyd-Jones whose church I attended twice a week for some years.

5. What’s one hymn you want sung at your funeral? Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

6. What kind of nonfiction do you enjoy reading when you aren’t reading about theology, the Bible, or church history? Biographies

7. Other than Calvin’s Institutes, what systematic theology have you found most helpful? I like Bavinck’s Our Reasonable Faith as a brief statement; I still like Charles Hodge’s for a deeper statement; and I always read the relevant sections in Barth’s Church Dogmatics when beginning a project to get the wheels turning.

8. What are one or two of your favorite fiction authors or fiction books? I read widely and promiscuously. It is hard to nail down one or two.

9. What is one of your favorite non-Christian biographies? Well, Malcolm Muggeridge wrote his Chronicles of Wasted Time after he had become a Christian but he was writing the story of an unredeemed person. These are favorite volumes. Muggerridge was unable to complete the final volume—too painful.

10. What is one of your favorite books on preaching? Probably Stott’s Between Two Worlds.

11. What is one of your favorite books on evangelism? Most recently, I appreciated Jerram Barrs’s book.

12. What is one of your favorite books on apologetics? Schaeffer’s work—multiple books—in his own time. But times are a’changin’, as Dylan sang! In terms of understanding and method, I very much appreciate Os Guinness’ various books. There is not one in particular but I like his constant analysis of, and engagement with, the whole fabric of modern like from a specifically apologetic stance.

13. What is one of your favorite books on prayer? Undoubtedly, Valley of Vision.

14. What is one of your favorite books on marriage? Too late for books. I have been married 49 years!

15. What music do you keep coming back to on your iPhone (or CD player, or tape deck, or gramophone)? Bach and Beethoven’s violin concertos and, in particular, Bruch’s.

16. Favorite food? Scallops.

17. After the Bible, a hymnal, and a shipbuilding guide, what book would you want with you on a desert island? Probably Spurgeon’s (multi-volume) The Treasury of David.

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PCA General Assembly 2014 Report

Jun 26, 2014 | Jason Helopoulos

Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

Location: This year’s General Assembly was held in Houston, Texas.

Moderator: Dr. Bryan Chapell was elected Moderator of the PCA’s 42nd General Assembly. Dr. Chapell is the senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois. He is the former President and Chancellor of  Covenant Theological Seminary. Dr. George Robertson, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia nominated Dr. Chappell.

2013 Numbers:

Churches & Missions:         1,808      (increase of 21 from 2012)
Professions of Faith:           9,327
Membership:                    367,033     (increase of 3,014 from 2012)
Total Family Units:            139,364 (increase of 2,033 from 2012)
Long Term Missionaries:   620      (decrease of 21 from 2012)
Two Year Missionaries:      118
Missionary Interns              276      (decrease of 78 from 2012)
Two Week Missionaries:    4,810      (increase of 62 from 2012)
RUF:                               145 campuses in 39 states and in 60 Presbyteries

Major Issues/Actions of this Assembly

  1. Insider Movement: Last year’s assembly ended with a great deal of confusion over the actions of the Assembly in relation to the Insider Movement Committee Report. A minority report emerged from the committee and the Assembly found itself in a difficult position when it tried to receive and approve both the committee and minority reports. In the end, last year’s Assembly chose to refer the matter back to the committee and ask it to report back at the 42nd General Assembly. At this year’s Assembly, the majority report was approved overwhelmingly and the minority report was not. The PCA General Assembly took a very clear stand on the Insider Movement. Dr. David Garner was an able and learned voice that presented the material clearly and pointedly on the floor of the Assembly.
  2. Child Protection: Most of this year’s overtures were related to child protection. Overture #6 was overwhelmingly approved by the Assembly as a strong resolution encouraging churches to screen child care workers, maintain child protection policies, faithfully report abuse, review its policies at a denominational level related to child protection, and teach against the sin of child sexual abuse.
  3. Support & Prayer: The overtures committee voted against an overture from Savannah River Presbytery calling for an expression of gratitude and prayer for those “facing fines, penalties, and ostracism for declining out of religious conviction to provide their services” for same-sex “marriage ceremonies” or taking a stand for the sanctity of human life. A minority report emerged from the Overture’s Committee that resolved to expresses its gratitude and pray “to the Lord for sustaining by His grace ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians serving in the public sphere who are experiencing ostracism, penalties, and persecution for taking a Biblically faithful stand for the sanctity of human life and declining to participate in the cultural redefinition of marriage.” The minority report was approved by the Assembly after becoming the main motion on a 445-395 vote tally. The vote seemed to take a turn when one commissioner rose to express his own past struggles with same sex attraction and expressed gratitude for those willing to confront him in love.
  4. Theistic Evolution/Historic Adam & Eve: Once again, the General Assembly chose not to make an in thesi statement regarding theistic evolution. However, it should be noted that in the Overtures Committee and on the floor of the Assembly there was no one who actually advocated for theistic evolution. It appeared that most of the opposition to issuing such a statement was that the Westminster Standards were sufficient in speaking to this matter already.
  5.  Agencies: Christian Education and Publication had its proposed name change approved by the Assembly. It will no longer be CE&P, but rather, the Committee on Discipleship Ministries. Reformed University Ministries saw a new coordinator elected to its helm with Rev. Tom Cannon’s official approval.

Personal Encouragements

  1. The irenic spirit of General Assembly debate is always a blessing to this Presbyterian’s soul. “How good it is when brothers dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).
  2. Theology and pastoral concern were but both present in the Assembly’s actions. Adopting the Insider Movement Committee’s report was the PCA at its theological best. It unashamedly pointed out error, warned the church of the dire consequences of such compromise, and spoke the truth with theological precision. The clear pronouncement and action related to child sex abuse was a pastorally sensitive and timely action taken by the Assembly. The willingness to show gratitude and thanksgiving to God for those taking a Biblically faithful stand on marriage and human life at the expense of suffering for that commitment was also a theologically and pastorally rich action by the Assembly.
  3. Dr. Derek Thomas’ sermon on Wednesday evening was Christ-exalting and faith-encouraging.
  4. The Gospel Reformation Network hosted a series of seminars and a luncheon at the Assembly. Each of these events was well attended. The doctrine of sanctification has received much attention within the Reformed community over the past few years and the heavily attended Gospel Reformation Network events was an encouraging sign.
  5. RUF’s continued growth and impact upon the campuses of the United States is one of the most encouraging signs regarding the present and future ministry of the PCA.
  6. The PCA is transitioning. New and younger voices seem to be emerging in the PCA General Assembly. Over the past few years there has been a growing absence of the Founding Fathers’ presence at the General Assembly. The older generation has been giving way to the younger generation. This year’s Assembly seemed almost absent of the voices of the Founding Fathers. This is not an encouragement as much as it is a reality of time and a natural transition. We are witnessing a real change in the “voice” of the PCA. In addition, many of the heads of our committees and agencies has changed over the past couple of years: Covenant College, Covenant Seminary, CE&P (and its new name), RUM, and Ridge Haven. MTW will be transitioning in the next year. It will be interesting to see whether this new generation of leaders is as faithful as the last.

Personal Concerns

  1. **(Clarification–I want to be very clear that there is no discussion in the PCA about whether homosexuality is acceptable or not a sin. No one in the PCA is advocating for the acceptance of homosexuality.**) A great deal of concern was expressed over issuing any statement related to homosexuality. The overture under discussion was actually expressing gratitude and prayer to God for those who were suffering for their stand on “homosexual marriage” and abortion. It was not a statement about homosexuality and it was far from harsh in its wording. Yet, there was a large minority voice that was vocal against passing such an overture. However, in many ways it was similar to the action taken by the Assembly on child sex abuse. They are both transcendent moral issues in our culture, have affected the church greatly, and have been issues brought to the church’s door. It seemed pastorally wise and timely to speak to both of these issues as a body. The vehement concern expressed on the floor of the Assembly about issuing such a statement seemed unwarranted. There are times that the church needs to speak to issues within its culture and fear of backlash should not be a deterrent.
  2. Within the Overture’s Committee and on the Assembly floor, it would be encouraging to hear more arguments from Scripture and less from personal experience. We should value personal experience. It is often very helpful to hear, but we should value Scripture more.
  3. As I stated in a previous year’s report, “The reluctance to issue a statement regarding theistic evolution was disappointing. The arguments were numerous: the PCA has spoken to this in previous assemblies, our Standards already speak to the issue, an in thesi statement does very little and is non-binding, etc. I have sympathies with each of these arguments. However, I think a true opportunity was lost. The PCA had an occasion to speak to a current theological issue that has arisen in our own circles. Have we spoken to this before? Yes. Do our Standards speak to the issue? Yes. But could we speak again? I believe the answer to that question, is, “yes,” as well.  Making a declarative statement in the midst of a popular and growing discussion would have hurt nothing and could have actually been a loud and resounding voice in the midst of this cacophony.”
  4. The number of commissioners and especially ruling elders has been decreasing each year. There were only 1,050 delegates to this year’s Assembly. Of that number, only 237 were ruling elders. Houston isn’t in the Southeast, but it also isn’t hard to reach for most presbyters. Years ago, part of the Strategic Planning Commission’s recommendations was to streamline the Assembly by moving floor debate to the Overture’s Committee. Part of the rationale was that most ruling elders find floor debate tedious. However, I have found that most ruling elders no longer want to attend the Assembly, because there is no substantive debate on the floor! In my humble opinion, this was a mistake. Either we need to return the debate to the floor or the denomination may need to consider an alternative to our annual Assembly (delegated, bi-annual, etc.).
  5. In my opinion, the overtures addressing the issues related to the Standing Judicial Commission were rightfully voted down. However, we still have some struggles in this area that need to be ironed out. The PCA needs to find a way to keep integrity and accountability in the forefront of its courts.
  6. The decrease in missionaries is of some concern. It is not a significant number, but as the PCA grows, so should our number of missionaries. It is also concerning that it appears that fewer and fewer PCA missionaries are engaged in planting Presbyterian and Reformed churches in their fields of labor. We should be thankful for many types of mission endeavors, but planting solid Presbyterian and Reformed churches should be our primary task in the mission field.

Overall

The 42nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America won’t create headlines around the world or be noted in histories of the Presbyterian Church. However, it was a good Assembly as the church conducted its very routine and ordinary business. We made theological pronouncements, exercised pastoral concern, worshipped, fellowshipped, and encouraged the mission of the Church. May God keep the PCA true to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

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William Cowper: Epitaph on a Hare

Jun 25, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

About the same time I read Justin Taylor’s blog post on poetry, in which he linked to this op-ed about teaching poetry in our schools, I came across a touching and surprising poem by William Cowper. Many Christians know of Cowper as the sometimes melancholy, only sometimes sane friend of John Newton’s and author of God Moves in a Mysterious Way, but did you know he wrote many other hymns and poems?

One of those poems is entitled Epitaph on a Hare (for a different kind of animal-themed poem, see also The Retired Cat). By the end of these simple stanzas you may better understand the power poetry has to do what other mediums cannot.

And you may miss your pet bunny terribly.

*******

Here lies, whom hound did ne’er pursue,
Nor swifter greyhound follow,
Whose foot ne’er tainted morning dew,
Nor ear heard huntsman’s hallo’,

Old Tiney, surliest of his kind,
Who, nursed with tender care,
And to domesticate bounds confined,
Was still a wild jack-hare.

Though duly from my hand he took
His pittance every night,
He did it with a jealous look,
And, when he could, would bite.

His diet was of wheaten bread,
And milk, and oats, and straw,
Thistles, or lettuces instead,
With sand to scour his maw.

On twigs of hawthorn he regaled,
On pippins’ russet peel;
And, when his juicy salads failed,
Sliced carrot pleased him well.

A Turkey carpet was his lawn,
Whereon he loved to bound,
To skip and gambol like a fawn,
And swing his rump around.

His frisking was at evening hours,
For then he lost his fear;
But most before approaching showers,
Or when a storm drew near.

Eight years and five round-rolling moons
He thus saw steal away,
Dozing out all his idle noons,
And every night at play.

I kept him for his humor’s sake,
For he would oft beguile
My heart of thoughts that made it ache,
And force me to a smile.

But now, beneath this walnut-shade
He finds his long, last home,
And waits in snug concealment laid,
Till gentler Puss shall come.

He, still more agèd, feels the shocks
From which no care can save,
And, partner once of Tiney’s box,
Must soon partake his grave.

—William Cowper (1731-1800)
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Justification, Holiness, and Historical Perspective

Jun 24, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

photoI hope you’ll put on your thinking caps and practice a little patience as I try to connect the world of my doctoral studies with the world of our contemporary blog disputes.

For the four of five of you who are left, I want to introduce you to John Witherspoon’s Essay on the Connection Between the Doctrine of Justification by the Imputed Righteousness of Christ, and Holiness of Life.

First published in 1756, the short book which began as two sermons would go through three editions in the next twelve months. In 1764, the essay was published again, this time with a new and longer piece from Witherspoon, A Treatise on Regeneration. These two treatises would be reprinted together numerous times over the next fifty years, including an 1830 edition with an introduction by William Wilberforce in which he commends the two Witherspoon essays, noting that their “excellence” was “far too well established to render necessary any eulogium of mine.”

Although largely forgotten now, Witherspoon’s Essay on Justification was much beloved in a previous century.

Putting Things in Context

Prefixed to the Essay on Justification is a letter to Rev. James Hervey, an Anglican Rector in Northamptonshire and a friend of Witherspoon’s. In the prior year (1755), Hervey published his magnum opus, Theron and Aspasio, a ponderously titled, massive three-volume work which, through a series of dialogues between two men (Theron and Aspasio) promoted and defended a strongly Reformed understanding of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Years earlier, before becoming a Calvinist, Hervey had been a part of the Holy Club at Oxford and was mentored by John Wesley. Until the publishing of Theron and Aspasio, Hervey and Wesley were close. After 1755, not so much. Before Theron and Aspasio went to press, Hervey had sent a draft of the work to Wesley asking for his comments. Wesley offered several criticisms. Hervey, it seems, did not change the manuscript (perhaps he was only looking for stylistic help, not doctrinal correction). After publication, Wesley continued to write Hervey, and Hervey continued to ignore his mentor’s advice. Finally in 1758, Wesley published his last and longest letter to Hervey, a tedious point-by-point rebuttal of specific lines quoted “chapter and verse” from Theron and Aspasio. Sadly, Hervey died on Christmas day 1758, still fretting over a response to Wesley.

Wesley’s main objection to Theron and Aspasio was that it taught justification by imputed righteousness, a doctrine Wesley considered an obvious recipe for antinomianism. It’s reasonable to think that even before the book was published in 1755, and certainly before Witherspoon’s essay came out in 1756, both Hervey and Witherspoon were aware of Wesley’s disdain for imputation and his fears of antinomianism. And Wesley wasn’t alone. Jonathan Edward’s pupil, Joseph Bellamy–on different grounds, but also related to the charge of antinomianism–would lambast Hervey in the years head. Theron and Aspasio caused quite a stir. It was loved by some and hated by others.

Which is why Witherspoon’s dedicatory letter to James Hervey is significant. It was, according to Witherspoon, “a public declaration of my espousing the same sentiments as to the terms of our acceptance with God.” The Scotsman was coming to the defense of his English friend. Witherspoon acknowledges in the letter to Hervey that the “most plausible” and “most frequently” made objection against imputation is that “it loosens the obligations to practice.” Whether Witherspoon thought the critics were entirely unfair or whether he thought Hervey had left himself vulnerable to the charge of antinomianism is unclear. What is clear is that Witherspoon wrote his Essay on Justification to stand in the gap and answer the objections that Wesley and others were raising against a Reformed doctrine of justification.

A Little Bit of History Goes a Long Way

One of the great things about studying history is that it can illuminate the present. The debates of the eighteenth century are not identical with our debates. We cannot substitute our good guys (whomever they may be) with their good guys (on whichever side) and read the events of their day like a fable for our day. On the other hand, the same theological issues come up over and over again.

What’s particularly instructive about Witherspoon’s essay is how:

  • He was coming to the defense of a robust understanding of justification and imputation.
  • Yet, he was concerned that the doctrine not be misunderstood.
  • He was passionate about justification and holiness of life.
  • He saw justification connected to sanctification not in just one way, but in many ways.
  • He wanted to avoid extremes. Even in the midst of controversy, he tries to be balanced, nuanced, and careful.

How Justification and Sanctification Are Connected

The central concern for Witherspoon is to answer the objection that says “the obligation to holiness of life” is weakened “by making our justification before God depend entirely upon the righteousness and merit of another” (Works, 1:46). He feels the need to defend the doctrine of justification because it is too often despised by enemies and promoted poorly by friends. Among this latter group, he sees two kinds of errors.

Some speak in such a manner as to confirm and harden enemies in their opposition to it: they use rash and uncautious expressions. . . .in the heat of their zeal against the self-righteous legalists seem to state themselves as enemies, in every respect, to the law of God, which is just and good. (1:48)

That’s one mistake: being so intent on routing the legalists that you run off the law altogether. The other danger is to so safeguard the doctrine of justification that no one ever feels scandalized by it.

Other, on the contrary, defend it in such a manner as to destroy the doctrine itself, and give interpretations to the word of God, as if they were and known to be so, the objection would never have been made because they would not have been so much as an occasion given to it. (1:48).

In other words, some friends of justification are so scared of legalism they end up with no place for the law, while others are so scared of antinomianism they do nothing to alarm the legalists.

After the introduction, the bulk of Witherspoon’s essay consists of six reasons the doctrine of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ strengthens rather than weakens our obligation to holiness.

1. “In the first place, he who expects justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ hath the clearest and strongest conviction of the obligation of the holy law of God upon every reasonable creature, and of its extent and purity” (1:52). For the imputation of Christ’s obedience to be necessary, there must be an obligation to obedience upon everyone made in the image of God. The law is shown to be good and holy by the act of imputation itself.

2. “In the second place, he who believes in Christ and expects justification through his imputed righteousness, must have the deepest and strongest sense of the evil of sin in itself” (1:55). If sin were not so heinous, so to be feared, so to be avoided, so be killed, there would have been no need to Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice to turn away the wrath of God.

3. “In the third place, he who expects justification only through the imputed righteousness of Christ, has the most awful views of the danger of sin” (1:60). Witherspoon is aware that “many readers” will consider this point about the danger of sin to be “improper” based on the believer’s new status in Christ. Fear, he anticipates some to object, can have no place as a motivation for Christian obedience. But elsewhere, Witherspoon distinguishes between filial fear and slavish fear (1:134). We do not fear God as judge, but we ought to fear displeasing him as our Father. Because we need to be justified through the atoning death of Christ, we can see sin in all its awfulness. Witherspoon, therefore, rejects as “un-guarded and anti-scriptural” notions that we are “justified from all eternity” or that “God doth not see sin in a believer” or that “afflictions are not punishments, and other things of like nature” (1:60-61).

4. “In the fourth place, those who expect justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ have the highest sense of the purity and holiness of the divine nature” (1:63). Our need for a redeemer and for the righteousness of another ought to impress upon us the holiness of the God we serve and are to emulate.

5. “In the fifth place, those who expect justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ must be induced to obedience in the strongest manner by the liberal and ingenuous motive of gratitude and thankfulness to God” (1:66). This is where our discussion often starts and stops. But for Witherspoon, gratitude is only one of many ways in which justification spurs us on to a life of holiness.

6. “This leads me to observe in the sixth and last place, that those who expect justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ must be possessed of a supreme or superlative love to God which is not only the source and principle, but the very sum and substance, nay, the perfection of holiness” (1:70). Or to put it more succinctly, “love is the most powerful means of begetting love.” The love of God is what compels us to be holy, entices us to be holy, and what is meant by being holy.

A Final Thought (In Two Parts)

After finishing the main body of his argument, Witherspoon offers one last “general observation.” He fears that diligence in personal holiness is to easily undermined by “despair of success,” and so he concludes with two gospel encouragements (1:77).

First, we ought to have hope of acceptance with Christ (1:78). We are sinners. We will sin. We still need a Savior. So let us not despair that Christ will forgive us when we sin.

Second, we can have “diligence in duty” because the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us in all duty (1:79). We are saved by grace and will be sanctified by grace. Therefore, we should not despair: Christ will be there when we fail and the Spirit will help us to succeed. Witherspoon loves the doctrine of “redemption by free grace” because in all aspects it “gives less to man and more to God than any other plan” (1:81). It is meant to cut our hearts and kill our pride.

And so Witherspoon concludes with a strong exhortation to keep preaching this good news. The best defense of justification by imputation is “zealous assiduous preaching the great and fundamental truths of the gospel, the lost condemned state of man by nature, and the necessity of pardon through the righteousness [of Christ], and the renovation by the Spirit of Christ” (1:91). What the world needs in its sin, and the church in all its weakness, is for this “everlasting gospel” to be preached in all its purity and simplicity (1:92).

Sounds good to me.

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Monday Morning Humor

Jun 23, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

One caveat and one question.

1. It looks like this video is sponsored by some online betting outfit in the UK. I’m not encouraging betting, and I’m not even sure online betting is legal in the U.S. The music is kind of annoying too, but some of these dives are really funny.

2. My genuine question for anyone out there who has played soccer at a serious level: what percentage of soccer “falls” or “injuries” are anything other than faking for a free kick or a card?

 

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Books, Bio, and Such: Harry Reeder

Jun 20, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

During the summer I’ll be posting micro interviews on Fridays (mostly). I’ve asked some of my friends in ministry–friends you probably already know–to answer questions about “bio, books, and such.” My hope is that you’ll enjoy getting a few more facts about these folks and getting a few good book recommendations.

Today’s interview is with Harry ReederSenior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church.

1. Where were you born? Charlotte N. C.

2. When did you become a Christian? Fall of 1969

3. Who is one well known pastor/author/leader who has shaped you as a Christian and teacher? I have to give you 3. Al Martin (early) R.C. Sproul (later) Dr. Henry Krabbendam (continuously)

4. Who is one lesser known pastor/friend/mentor who has shaped you? Sandy Willson, Jim Baird, Frank Barker

5. What’s one hymn you want sung at your funeral? For All the Saints; Ah, Holy Jesus; Jesus What a Friend for Sinners

6. What kind of nonfiction do you enjoy reading when you aren’t reading about theology, the Bible, or church history? Easy… Civil War History or Biographies

7. Other than Calvin’s Institutes, what systematic theology have you found most helpful? Hodge and Dabney

8. What are one or two of your favorite fiction authors or fiction books? I confess to not reading fiction other than Christian classics i.e. Fellowship of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Pilgrims Progress and The Screwtape Letters.

9. What is one of your favorite non-Christian biographies? R.E. Lee 4 vols. (Douglass Southhall Freeman), Stonewall (James Robertson) In the Hands of Providence the Life of Joshua Chamberlain (Alice Trulock), and Unshakeable Faith – The Lives of George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington (John Perry)

10. What is one of your favorite books on preaching? Preaching and Preachers (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

11. What is one of your favorite books on evangelism? Out of the Saltshaker (Rebecca Manly Pippert)

12. What is one of your favorite books on apologetics? The Defense of the Faith (Cornelius van Til)

13. What is one of your favorite books on prayer? Praying with Your Eyes Open (Richard Pratt)

14. What is one of your favorite books on marriage? How to Develop Deep Unity in your Marriage (Wayne Mack)… I believe it is now retitled

15. What is one of your favorite books on parenting? Reformation for the Family (Dennis Rainey) May have been retitled.

16. What music do you keep coming back to on your iPhone (or CD player, or tape deck, or gramophone)? Getty’s, Glad

17. Favorite food? Easy… Steak (medium) topped off with homemade Peach ice cream…

18. After the Bible, a hymnal, and a shipbuilding guide, what book would you want with you on a desert island? Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Bible or Calvin’s Institutes…

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Satan’s Simple Plan

Jun 19, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

haunted-house2What does the devil want to do with you?

Does he want to haunt your house? Not likely. You’d write a bestselling book or become a reality television star. Make your head spin around? You could make a lot of money showing off that trick. Get you to carve a pentagram into your leg? Nah, not the sort of behavior that draws a big following.

So what does the devil really want from you?

He really only wants one thing: he wants to keep you from Christ.

He wants to make you selfish. He wants you to live for your ambition. He wants you to live for your addiction. He wants you live for your ego. He wants you to live for anyone or anything that’s not Jesus. As long as he keeps you from Christ–from the true and living God–he doesn’t care how it happens. Make you sick like Job or rich like Uzzah, just so long as you forget your Creator in the days of your youth. He will be the accuser of the brethren in one breath and the lying spirit who says “peace, peace” in the next.

What does the devil want?

He wants you to believe the lie that you are okay without a savior. He wants you to think that the form of godliness counts for something even if it does not have the power. He wants you to suppress the truth in unrighteousness and exchange the truth about God for a lie. He wants you to love the world and ignore the Word. He wants you to be happy or sad or scared or complacent or hungry or full, anything that gets you focused on something other than union and communion with Christ.

When you become a Christian you turn from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). And when you live as a Christian, the devil will do all that he can to get you to turn back to the way things were.

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Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage

Jun 17, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

So you’ve become convinced that the Bible supports gay marriage. You’ve studied the issue, read some books, looked at the relevant Bible passages and concluded that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship. You still love Jesus. You still believe the Bible. In fact, you would argue that it’s because you love Jesus and because you believe the Bible that you now embrace gay marriage as a God-sanctioned good.

As far as you are concerned, you haven’t rejected your evangelical faith. You haven’t turned your back on God. You haven’t become a moral relativist. You’ve never suggested anything goes when it comes to sexual behavior. In most things, you tend to be quite conservative. You affirm the family, and you believe in the permanence of marriage. But now you’ve simply come to the conclusion that two men or two women should be able to enter into the institution of marriage–both as a legal right and as a biblically faithful expression of one’s sexuality.

Setting aside the issue of biblical interpretation for the moment, let me ask five questions.

1. On what basis do you still insist that marriage must be monogamous?

Presumably, you do not see any normative significance in God creating the first human pair male and female (Gen. 2:23-25; Matt. 19:4-6). Paul’s language about each man having his own wife and each woman her own husband cannot be taken too literally without falling back into the exclusivity of heterosexual marriage (1 Cor. 7:2). The two coming together as one so they might produce godly offspring doesn’t work with gay marriage either (Mal. 2:15). So why monogamy? Jesus never spoke explicitly against polygamy. The New Testament writers only knew of exploitative polygamy, the kind tied to conquest, greed, and subjugation. If they had known of voluntary, committed, loving polyamorous relationships, who’s to think they wouldn’t have approved?

These aren’t merely rhetorical questions. The issue is legitimate: if 3 or 13 or 30 people really love each other, why shouldn’t they have a right to be married? And for that matter, why not a brother and a sister, or two sisters, or a mother and son, or father and son, or any other combination of two or more persons who love each other. Once we’ve accepted the logic that for love to be validated it must be expressed sexually and that those engaged in consensual sexual activity cannot be denied the “right” of marriage, we have opened a Pandora’s box of marital permutations that cannot be shut.

2. Will you maintain the same biblical sexual ethic in the church now that you think the church should solemnize gay marriages?

After assailing the conservative church for ignoring the issue of divorce, will you exercise church discipline when gay marriages fall apart? Will you preach abstinence before marriage for all single persons, no matter their orientation? If nothing has really changed except that you now understand the Bible to be approving of same-sex intercourse in committed lifelong relationships,we should expect loud voices in the near future denouncing the infidelity rampant in homosexual relationships. Surely, those who support gay marriage out of “evangelical” principles, will be quick to find fault with the notion that the male-male marriages most likely to survive are those with a flexible understanding that other partners may come and go. According to one study researched and written by two homosexual authors, of 156 homosexual couples studied, only seven had maintained sexual fidelity, and of the hundred that had been together for more than five years, none had remained faithful (cited by Satinover, 55). In the rush to support committed, lifelong, monogamous same-sex relationships, it’s worth asking whether those supporters–especially the Christians among them–will, in fact, insist on a lifelong, monogamous commitment.

3. Are you prepared to say moms and dads are interchangeable?

It is a safe assumption that those in favor of gay marriage are likely to support gay and lesbian couples adopting children or giving birth to children through artificial insemination. What is sanctioned, therefore, is a family unit where children grow up de facto without one birth parent. This means not simply that some children, through the unfortunate circumstances of life, may grow up without a mom and dad, but that the church will positively bless and encourage the family type that will deprive children of either a mother or a father. So are mothers indispensable? Is another dad the same as a mom? No matter how many decent, capable homosexual couples we may know, are we confident that as a general rule there is nothing significant to be gained by growing up with a mother and a father?

4. What will you say about anal intercourse?

The answer is probably “nothing.” But if you feel strongly about the dangers of tobacco or fuss over the negative affects of carbs, cholesterol, gmo’s, sugar, gluten, trans fats, and hydrogenated soybean oil may have on your health, how can you not speak out about the serious risks associated with male-male intercourse. How is it loving to celebrate what we know to be a singularly unhealthy lifestyle? According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the risk of anal cancer increases 4000 percent among those who engage in anal intercourse. Anal sex increases the risk of a long list of health problems, including “rectal prolapse, perforation that can go septic, chlamydia, cyrptosporidosis, giardiasis, genital herpes, genital warts, isosporiasis, microsporidiosis, gonorrhea, viral hepatitis B and C, and syphilis” (quoted in Reilly, 55). And this is to say nothing of the higher rates of HIV and other health concerns with disproportionate affects on the homosexual community.

5. How have all Christians at all times and in all places interpreted the Bible so wrongly for so long?

Christians misread their Bibles all the time. The church must always be reformed according to the word of God. Sometimes biblical truth rests with a small minority. Sometimes the truth is buried in relative obscurity for generations. But when we must believe that the Bible has been misunderstood by virtually every Christian in every part of the world for the last two thousand years, it ought to give us pause. From the Jewish world in the Old and New Testaments to the early church to the Middle Ages to the Reformation and into the 20th century, the church has understood the Bible to teach that engaging in homosexuality activity was among the worst sins a person could commit. As the late Louis Crompton, a gay man and pioneer in queer studies, explained:

Some interpreters, seeking to mitigate Paul’s harshness, have read the passage [in Romans 1] as condemning not homosexuals generally but only heterosexual men and women who experimented with homosexuality. According to this interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstances. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any Jew or early Christian. (Homosexuality and Civilization, 114).

The church has been of one mind on this issue for nearly two millennia. Are you prepared to jeopardize the catholicity of the church and convince yourself that everyone misunderstood the Bible until the 1960s? On such a critical matter, it’s important we think through the implications of our position, especially if it means consigning to the bin of bigotry almost every Christian who has ever lived.

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Monday Morning Humor

Jun 16, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

Big points for effort. What a lot of work. I would have read a book.

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25 Cool Maps in 3 Minutes

Jun 13, 2014 | Kevin DeYoung

In case you didn’t see these when they made the rounds last year…

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