Monthly Archives: August 2007

 

Aug

31

2007

Trevin Wax|3:54 am CT

In the Blogosphere

Mega-church co-pastors announce their divorce

Devin Hudson, Las Vegas church planter asks “Is the Gospel enough?”

Why Was Mother Theresa Sad?

What Shopping Carts Have to do with the Gospel

Jared Wilson’s Gospel “Rant” – I like this guy.

Top Post this week at Kingdom People: 15 Must-Read Books on Worship

 
 

Aug

30

2007

Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

Love Your God With All Your Mind: Concerns

Though J.P. Moreland’s book Love Your God with All Your Mind is mostly helpful in its diagnosis and prescription for effecting change in the area of intellectual engagement, it contains several missteps that hurt its overall appeal.

First, Moreland occasionally places unrealistic expectations upon churches and ministers, expectations that do not have as much to do with Moreland’s goal as he thinks they do. One striking example is the first step in “Recapturing the Intellectual Life in the Church:” no senior pastors (190-191)! Moreland claims that the Bible teaches churches to have a plurality of elders, not one senior pastor. He then adds several reasons why this is not only biblical, but better for growing healthy churches.

Perhaps Moreland is right in his understanding of the biblical call for eldership. But this can hardly be the first step in “recapturing the intellectual life in the church.” It might take many existing churches several years or even a decade to make such a large shift in polity. Does Moreland think that this step is so crucial as to be first? Can there be no intellectual life in the church under a different polity?

Moreland is unrealistic to demand such a large change and also naïve to think that a change in polity will naturally lead to greater intellectual accountability. Many churches with a plurality of elders are plagued by the same kind of anti-intellectualism as those with a senior pastor. Frankly, Moreland fails to establish how this polity contributes to anti-intellectualism in the first place.

Secondly, Moreland critiques the church for its anti-intellectual agenda without emphasizing how most of the culture is facing the same problem. In his chapter on evangelism, Moreland bemoans the reasons why one woman leaves Catholicism for the Baptist church (130) because her reasons are not at all doctrinal, but surface. He then launches into a section that seems to equate evangelism with apologetics (131-136).

Moreland is to be applauded for his insistence upon apologetics as a crucial part of the evangelistic task. He rightly notes that evangelical failure to be well versed in apologetics hinders evangelism. But he seems to think that everyone outside the church thinks deeply about these things, whereas those in the church are oblivious. Most of the people I speak to outside of the church are as woefully anti-intellectual as those inside.

Apologetics as an evangelistic tool works with many people. But a greater number of unchurched people today simply do not ask these kinds of questions.

There is greater openness among the younger generation to miracles, the resurrection, and the Bible’s historicity than one might expect, though this openness includes a sometimes-illogical belief that all the other major religions are “true” as well. What is most needed in the way of apologetics today is a defense of Jesus as the only Truth, not a defense of supernaturalism.

One final area of disagreement again centers on Moreland’s apologetic task. The Church is absent in the apologetic discussion. Moreland’s advice works well for two educated men or women sitting down over coffee and hashing out the differences to their respective worldviews. Surely this model can be an effective way of engaging someone’s ideas.

But is there not a sense in which the Church’s existence in itself serves as an “apologetic” of Christian doctrine? Is not someone much more likely to believe the Christian claim that “Jesus is Lord” if they see a community of faith living according to this truth, rather than being led through rational arguments about its merit?

Moreland rightly argues for Christians to be “ready” to give a defense when someone asks us about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). He is also right in his statement that most Christians are not ready to give such a defense. What he fails to notice, though, is that in most cases, the world is not asking. Until the Church begins to live out the hope that is in us, as an embodied apologetic, our reasoned defenses of faith will fall on deaf ears. We will master the answers to questions that no one is asking.

Love Your God with All Your Mind contains three suggestions that I hope to apply in future ministry.

First, I have begun to see all my reading and study as an act of worship (166-169), not just my seminary or devotional reading. Because of this, I have begun the practice of praying after every chapter of every book I read, thanking God for whatever insights I have learned from the book. This includes non-Christian books as well.

Secondly, I hope to emphasize in my preaching and teaching that all vocations are a calling from God and are not “secular” or cut off from sacred mandate (177-181).

Finally, I believe that worship services should not center only on feelings and sentimental impulse, but on the proper preaching of God’s Word and the doctrines contained therein (158-159). Worship is not successful because it provokes feelings of ecstasy in the worshiper, but because it leaves us with a correct picture of our transcendent, personal God.

Love Your God also leaves me with several questions. How do we convince our churches of the need for intellectual engagement? More specifically, how do we stir up in our people a love for study and reflection? How does the Church’s existence help or hinder the apologetic nature of our evangelistic efforts? How can we compete with the onslaught of entertainment choices in our efforts to cultivate the Christian mind? Should we use entertainment as a springboard to further discussion?

J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind is a thought-provoking book that deserves to be read by all evangelical Christians. Moreland rightly perceives the damage done to the Church by today’s anti-intellectual climate and he offers sound, biblical suggestions for overcoming this barrier to greater Christian influence.

 
 

Aug

29

2007

Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

Why You Should Love God with Your Mind

J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind calls evangelical Christians to cultivate the intellect as an act of worship to God. Moreland decries the anti-intellectualism prevalent in the current evangelical climate and encourages Christians to begin actively developing a Christian worldview that can engage and challenge the current philosophies dominating the scientific and academic world. Today and tomorrow, I will lay out the dominant themes of Moreland’s book, list areas of agreement and concern, and offer several practical insights for future ministry.

Love Your God with All Your Mind focuses on three major areas of Christian practice.

Moreland begins by exposing the anti-intellectualism of the Church today and the areas in which Christians have deserted intellectual engagement. Though the book begins with a chapter on the “loss” of the Christian mind (19-40), Moreland continues to weave this theme throughout the rest of his work.

Whereas the beginning of the book focuses on the fact that Christianity has largely abandoned the cultivation of the intellect, later chapters flesh out the ways in which this mindset reveals itself in practice. Moreland points to the embrace of rhetoric over logic, the use of buzzwords instead of thoughtful definition, and the appeal to “felt needs” as signs of intellectual emptiness (129-130). He also asks tough questions about why the impact of Christianity on society is not proportionate to the great number of professing Christians (188).

Moreland does not leave us with the simple challenge to begin developing a Christian mind; he also shows us what that mature mind looks like. Love Your God describes how a surge of intellectualism will bolster evangelism (providing a basis for serious apologetics [131]), and give Christians the proper ammunition to answer skepticism, scientism and relativism (141-142, 146-148, 150-152). Cultivation of the Christian mind will also affect the ways Christians engage in worship, taking us from an emphasis on sentimentality to life and mind transformation (159-164).

A third theme running through Moreland’s book focuses on the cultivation of the mind as an act of spiritual devotion. Moreland reminds the reader of the Old Testament’s teaching about wisdom and knowledge – qualities that come from those devoted to using their minds as the primary vehicle for making contact with God (66-67). Moreland knows that his call for Christians to engage sources outside the Bible may be rejected by well-meaning Christians who believe that the Bible is the only legitimate field of study.

To combat this mentality and show how studying truth found outside the Bible also constitutes an act of worship, Moreland points to the Scriptural basis for finding God’s truth outside of his divinely revealed Word (53-57). Love Your God encourages Christians to see their vocations and quest for knowledge as worship, as service to God through bringing the kingdom of God to bear on their respective occupations (57, 174-176).

Love Your God with All Your Mind exposes the ways that evangelicalism today falls short of the biblical mandate to cultivate the mind as an act of worship. Moreland offers several solutions, one of which is centered in his emphasis on seeing all of life as integrated. The split between the “sacred” and the “secular” (27-29) is perhaps the most damaging implication of Christianity’s anti-intellectual inclination. Moreland correctly perceives that this separation between sacred and secular has served to silence Christian voices in areas of “secular” knowledge. Faith is relegated to the upper sphere of feelings and sentiment with no more authority than someone’s personal opinion, whereas facts are seen as “secular,” scientific, and not subject to religious critique.

The division between sacred and secular is exacerbated by evangelicalism’s emphasis on full-time ministry as the “sacred” calling from God and the subsequent failure to understand secular vocations as also fulfilling divine calling (174-176). In recent years, evangelicals have tried to address this issue. Several books geared to making Christians aware of their religious duties at work have appeared on bookshelves and have sold moderately well. Unfortunately, the biblical understanding of “vocation” has not made its way into the pulpit, so when pastors do address issues of work and occupation, they spend most of their time emphasizing how Christians can do “sacred” activities within their secular fields (evangelism, promoting honesty, starting Bible studies, etc.) rather than teaching them to accomplish their vocations for the glory of God.

Several times in Love Your God, Moreland challenges the prevalent evangelical mindset that sees intellectual discovery and cultivation as necessarily lifeless, spiritually draining, and prone to head-knowledge without heartfelt passion. Not only does Moreland expound on passages that demand the Christian use of the mind (49-53), he also expounds on passages that seem to contradict the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom (58-61). The correct exposition of these latter passages is crucial for answering the standard objections to serious study of Scripture, and Moreland answers the objections soundly and biblically.

Tomorrow, I’ll offer a short critique of the weak spots in Moreland’s book.

 
 

Aug

28

2007

Trevin Wax|3:13 am CT

15 Must-Read Books on Worship

Adoration and Action

1. Worship: Adoration and Action – D.A. Carson
  (Wipf and Stock Publishers) 1992
 This collection of essays reminds us of the biblical underpinnings for worship, as well as giving us some practical advice for worship services. A terrific companion to Carson’s Worship by the Book.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

2. Worship in Spirit and in Truth – John Frame
  (P&R Publishing) 1996
 Frame’s biblical insights into the nature of worship help us avoid the worship wars that plague North American churches. He grounds his book in the abstract principles of the Word, but also offers terrific practical advice to worship leaders and worshippers in general.

Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime

3. The Divine Hours – Phyllis Tickle
  (Doubleday) 2000
 Phyllis Tickle draws on the Book of Common Prayer and the early church fathers as she compiles this terrific source of psalms, prayers and readings for those interested in fixed hourly prayers. The written prayers here are a terrific supplement to one’s prayer life.

Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts

4. Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts – Harold Best
  (Downers Grove: Intervarsity) 1993
 Best reminds us that worship encompasses all our life and not just what we do on Sunday morning. Christians are always worshipping, even if our worship is not always directed towards God.

For All God's Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church

5. For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church – N.T. Wright
  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans) 1997
 A terrific book that is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the God worthy of praise and the second part shows how can we reflect God’s image in the world. Wright is unique among worship writers, because he not only calls for a renewal of worship but also a renewal of the Christian witness of today’s church.

A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture

6. Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for this Urgent Time – Marva Dawn
  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans) 1995
 Dawn makes the case for traditional worship by showing the underlying problems of the contemporary worship movement. Dawn’s advice is radical in that it calls us back to verticality in worship and demands we not dumb down our theology for an increasingly impatient generation.
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Aug

27

2007

Trevin Wax|3:06 am CT

Jesus – Lord of All

cross-hands.jpg“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”
- Jesus, to the disciples before the Great Commission (Matthew 28:17)

Standing on the mountaintop, just before He gave His followers what Christians call “The Great Commission,” Jesus declared that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. In other words, He is Lord over all.

Early in His ministry, Jesus rejected Satan’s tempting offer to walk the path of earthly glory that promised world power and authority without the shame of the cross. Jesus willingly chose to “set his face” toward Jerusalem, the city where He would die. He knew that the cross lay at the center of God’s plan to redeem His world. Through the Resurrection, Jesus conquered death itself, not by returning to His old existence, but by passing through death and out the other side. His Resurrection is the foretaste of what awaits all believers on the Last Day – the transformation of our earthly remains into glorified bodies.

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made this crucified Jesus both Lord and Messiah!” proclaimed Peter in the climax of his Pentecost sermon. Jesus is the true Lord of the world. “Our God reigns!” proclaimed the psalmist. Christians everywhere echo that phrase, with a crucial addition – “Our God reigns… through Jesus!” When we confess Jesus as Lord, we are agreeing with His own affirmation: all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him!

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Aug

26

2007

Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

Litany of Humility

humility.jpg

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should,
  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val. HT: Kevin Edgecomb

 
 

Aug

25

2007

Trevin Wax|11:40 am CT

Lean on Me

I know this song has been out almost a decade, but I still love it… especially the line “Tell me how can I love Jesus when I’ve never seen his face, yet I see you dying and I turn and walk away?”

Where else can you hear Kirk Franklin, Crystal Lewis, Mary J. Blige, Bono, and R. Kelly in one place?

 
 

Aug

25

2007

Trevin Wax|3:01 am CT

3 Sentences that Pack a Punch

globalization.jpg

“Globalization isn’t just an aggressive stage in the history of capitalism. It is a religious movement of previously unheard-of proportions. Progress is its underlying myth, unlimited economic growth its foundational faith, the shopping mall (physical or online) its place of worship, consumerism its overriding image, “I’ll have a Big Mac and fries” its ritual of initiation, and global domination its ultimate goal.”

- Brian J. Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat, from Colossians Remixed

 
 

Aug

24

2007

Trevin Wax|3:44 am CT

In the Blogosphere

Albert Mohler on “Asking Jesus into your heart”

Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, Sam Storms – all having healthy, heated discussion on baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Does sola Scriptura necessarily breed disunity? James White answers the myth that Protestantism has over 30,000 denominations.

A parable for the seeker-sensitive

Josh Harris on evangelism, commitment to the church, and discipleship

Part 2 of our interview with Derek Webb is now available online at SaidatSouthern

Top Post this week at Kingdom People: Let Grace Abound, Fellow Seminary Students

 
 

Aug

23

2007

Trevin Wax|3:37 am CT

Book Review: Believer's Baptism

Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nac Studies in Bible & Theology)What is the biblical case for believer’s baptism? What biblical support do paedobaptists point to for their belief in infant baptism? What is the relationship between the old and new covenants? What did Alexander Campbell, one of the first voices of the Restoration movement, actually think about baptism?

These questions and more are answered splendidly in Believer’s Baptism: Sign of hte New Covenant in Christ. A host of well-known Baptist scholars have collaborated to provide a resource for all who seek to better understand the biblical underpinnings for believer’s baptism.

The book begins with three important New Testament scholars mapping out the New Testament teaching on baptism. Andreas Kostenberger writes about baptism in the Gospels; Robert Stein describes baptism in Luke and Acts; Tom Schreiner treats baptism in the epistles. Throughout the summary chapters, the authors maintain a steadfast commitment to taking the text seriously and demonstrate a willingness to question popular assumptions about believer’s baptism.

Steve Wellum writes a chapter on baptism and the relationship between the covenants that is well worth the price of the book. The force of the paedobaptist argument comes from a misunderstanding of the nature of the two covenants. Wellum persuasively argues against infant baptism and shows how the practice stems from a misinterpretation of the different covenants.
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