Monthly Archives: November 2007

 

Nov

30

2007

Trevin Wax|4:19 am CT

In the Blogosphere

Russ Moore gives some thoughtful reflection to the question: Who would Jesus bomb?

Scot McKnight posted a letter regarding some hard-to-live-with Calvinists - a post that stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy and hundreds of comments. Despite the fact that the reaction of many of the Calvinists proved the letter’s point, Abraham Piper offers some good reflection on being “kind Calvinists.”

Joe writes about how God often brings us low in order to shower us with his presence. A quote: “It is better to tear out a toilet with Jesus than do anything without him.”

Out of Ur visits Rob Bell’s “The Gods aren’t Angry” tour. I will refrain from much comment on Bell’s newest message until I have had a chance to hear it myself.

David Field remarks on my recent interview with N.T. Wright.

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: Trevin Wax Interview with N.T. Wright – Full Transcript. (It looks like this might be #1 for several weeks. I might promote it to “Post Emeritus” so I can have a different “most-visited” post every week.)

 
 

Nov

30

2007

Trevin Wax|3:45 am CT

Future of Justification 2: Piper's Introduction

A Response to N. T. Wright

Let’s get started on The Future of Justification - John Piper’s response to N.T. Wright. Today we’ll look at the Introduction, a section that includes all of Piper’s major criticisms condensed into a series of brief paragraphs. The outline of the book becomes clear as you read the introduction. If you’d like to read this section online before looking at my comments, you can find it here.

First off, I appreciate the fact that Piper has not written this book as a way to “one-up” Bishop Wright. He is not interested in debating Wright as a way to increase his own stature (13).

Secondly, I’m glad to hear Piper announce quite strongly that he does not believe Wright to be under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9 (15). Though Piper believes Wright’s doctrines are seriously in error (after all, this book’s purpose is to refute them), he does not question Wright’s salvation. Nor does he call Wright’s exposition of “the gospel” another gospel. (So let’s dispense of the unhelpful rhetoric of “heresy” and “false gospel” that so many uninformed seminary students use against Wright.)

What, then, is Piper’s main problem with N.T. Wright’s theology? He says,

“(Wright’s) portrayal of the gospel – and of the doctrine of justification in particular – is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize it as biblically faithful” (15). 

Piper believes that Wright’s work will lead to a kind of preaching that fails to adequately preach the gospel.

Piper’s graciousness to Wright is nowhere more evident than in his strong affirmations for the positive aspects of Wright’s work. (15-16). Piper obviously respects the Bishop. He expresses appreciation for much of Wright’s theology. (Those who critique Wright without having read him would do well to take Piper’s affirmations seriously).

Piper demonstrates a remarkable effort to be fair to Wright in this book. I am glad that Piper has not joined the ranks of many other Reformed critics who have attacked Wright’s theology without understanding the entire picture that Wright is painting. Piper rightly recognizes that Wright is putting together a different paradigm for theology altogether – one that changes the categories. Because of this shift, Piper realizes that one cannot simply take Wright’s statements out of context, compare them to the old paradigm and then declare them inferior. One must “get inside the globe and see things from there.” (17).

Piper quickly summarizes the main points of contention he finds in Wright’s theology. He takes issue with Wright’s statements about “the gospel” not being about how to get saved and about justification not being how one becomes a Christian. He believes Wright is wrong to say the doctrine of justification is not what Paul means by “the gospel.” He believes Wright is misleading people when he says that one is not justified by faith in the doctrine of justification by faith. He sees Wright’s view of “righteousness” as woefully reductionistic and Wright’s statements about future justification being based on the “whole life lived” as confusing.

In the introduction, Piper has laid out a list of complaints regarding Wright’s theology that he finds dangerous. Perhaps the biggest charge that Piper levels against Wright is that Wright’s theology lacks clarity and forthrightness. He repeats this charge several times throughout the introduction and says it again at the end: “Wright leaves many ordinary folk not with the rewarding ‘ah-ha’ experience of illumination, but with a paralyzing sense of perplexity” (24).

Piper is concerned with N.T. Wright, not just because he believes Wright is in error on some important doctrines, but because he believes Wright’s theology to be misleading and unnecessarily complicated. Piper seeks clarity. He believes Wright’s work breeds confusion.

Whether or not these charges can be substantiated, we will see in later chapters…

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

29

2007

Trevin Wax|4:42 am CT

Future of Justification 1: Some Preliminary Thoughts

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Over the next few weeks, I plan on blogging chapter by chapter through John Piper’s new book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright.

I admire both John Piper and N.T. Wright. Both are men of God who have a deep love for the Scriptures. Both have devoted their lives to the service of the kingdom. Both men are scholars who are simultaneously devoted to the Church.

Piper’s book is an important contribution to the current debates surrounding the “new perspective” on Paul. I also believe Piper’s critique of N.T. Wright to be gracious and even-handed.

Why have I decided to weigh in on this controversy? I hope this series will not be misconstrued as the ramblings of a seminary student who overestimates his own importance. I am a minister, first and foremost – a servant of God’s church. I do not have the intellect of N.T. Wright. Nor do I have the pastoral experience of John Piper.

But I do believe that my experience in mission work overseas has helped to alert me to several deficiencies in the way we present the “gospel” in evangelical circles in the U.S.

I began reading John Piper and N.T. Wright at about the same time (2003). I have benefited greatly from both of these men’s works. It has been theologically sharpening for me to have read extensively from both sides of this debate.

I have grown weary of the constant battling between “new” and “old” perspectives. So far, the discussion has been polarizing. You are either in the Reformed traditional camp or you are a Federal Vision/New Perspective proponent. In other words, either Wright is completely wrong and Piper, Carson, Seifrid, etc. are completely right or Wright is completely right and Piper and the other critics are completely off-base.

But what if the proponents of both sides of this debate are right on some things and wrong on others? What if, when reading both Wright and Piper, we come away from their works saying, “Yes, but…”? I’m afraid that Piper’s book may serve as ammunition for those who take target at Wright without ever reading him. Likewise, I’m afraid Wright fans might dismiss Piper’s book as just another critic who “doesn’t really understand the bishop.”

Piper’s critique is terrific in its scope, attractive in its clarity, and devastating in much of his argumentation against Wright. And yet, there are points where I think Piper totally misses the mark and Wright has offered some insights that we must take into account.

The evangelical Church has much to learn from these two scholars.

So, perhaps I am qualified to weigh in on this debate about justification. Perhaps I am not. That will be left for the reader to decide. I do pray that this series will shine light on this subject and that those who come across these posts will be better pastors, laypeople and faithful Christians – faithful to the gospel and to our Savior – for having read it.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

29

2007

Trevin Wax|3:58 am CT

First Steps in Romanian: Lord's Prayer

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The first week of school was frustrating because I was so eager to start learning, but my Romanian language classes had not yet begun.

I decided to learn some Romanian on my own, and quickly set about the task of memorizing the Lord’s Prayer in Romanian so that on the following Sunday, I would be able to recite the prayer with the rest of the church. At this point, I still didn’t understand all the words, nor did I have a firm grasp of the grammar of the prayer. I’m sure my pronunciation was far from perfect. Still, the memorization boosted my knowledge of the Romanian language and I felt right at home in the worship services.

During my five years in Romania, I fell in love with The Lord’s Prayer. Growing up in an evangelical tradition that worships in a free-church style, I had not been accustomed to reciting the Lord’s Prayer week after week within the community of believers. Thus, what constituted ancient tradition for many Romanians was like a breath of fresh air for me.

In Romania, I taught on the Lord’s Prayer several times – in a village catechism class, through sermons, and even on the radio as a series of devotionals. Being able to say The Lord’s Prayer with the Romanians in church allowed me to take part with the congregation in worship. It felt great to be able to measure my small step of progress, both in my language skills and in my fitting in within the Romanian culture.

By reciting the Lord’s Prayer with my Romanian brothers and sisters, I felt “at one” with the Romanian Church. For those brief moments on Sunday mornings, before I had a conversational knowledge of the language, the cultural barrier came down and I could join my Romanian “family” – breath for breath, word for word, heart to heart – and ask for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as in heaven. Somehow, just by saying the Lord’s Prayer, I felt I had tasted a little of that future day.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

28

2007

Trevin Wax|5:42 pm CT

Away…

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Corina, Timothy, and I will be out of the country for several days this weekend. Needless to say, I will have virtually no internet access during this time. We will be back by Sunday afternoon.

Don’t let that stop you from visiting Kingdom People. Tomorrow (Thursday), I will begin blogging through John Piper’s Future of Justification. Thanks to WordPress Time-stamps, these posts should launch even if I’m away from a computer.

Don’t expect much commenting from me during this time though. I’ll respond to comments and emails when we return.

 
 

Nov

28

2007

Trevin Wax|4:41 am CT

Book Review: 3:16 – The Numbers of Hope

The Numbers of HopeIf you’ve been to a Christian bookstore in the past two months, you’ve probably seen Max Lucado’s newest book: 3:16 – The Numbers of Hope. Thomas Nelson has given this book substantial promotion, and it looks like the campaign is just beginning. Soon to follow is a teen edition, not to mention the trinkets that typically accompany our evangelical fads.

But leaving aside the faddishness of evangelicalism today for a moment, let’s get to the book itself. 3:16 will probably be Lucado’s best-remembered work. He borrows graciously from his previous works, especially in the devotional half of the book. 3:16 is a good introduction to Lucado’s winsome writing. Lucado’s ability to communicate is outstanding. I recommend that pastors read him, if only to learn from the delightful way in which he expresses theological concepts.

From a theological standpoint, 3:16 doesn’t break new ground, thankfully so. Lucado affirms the major Christian doctrines of the faith. He speaks rightly of Christ’s substitutionary death, the “Great Exchange” (our sin for Christ’s righteousness), the need for faith, the exclusivity of faith in Christ for salvation, and the existence of both heaven and hell. Lucado is a traditional, conservative evangelical. Yet, he manages to package these doctrines with grace-filled illustrations, explaining Scripture while challenging and comforting his readers all at the same time.

Those of us who lean Reformed may grow weary of Lucado’s constant appeal to humanity’s free will and choice. At one point, he states boldly that God never forces himself on anyone. So, although he claims that salvation is a work generated and based solely in God, he makes it clear that the choice of salvation is exclusively in human hands.

But let’s not get hung up on technicalities. The gospel shines forth in the book. I was thankful to see an emphasis on the resurrection and not just the cross (something that Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life completely neglected).

3:16 is an easy book to read and digest. I have no doubt it will make an impact on many a lost person and that God will use it to bring people to himself. God bless Max Lucado for using his gifts to preach the gospel!

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

28

2007

Trevin Wax|3:30 am CT

Book Review: Making of the Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Making of the Mary Tyler Moore ShowAs the semester winds down and my required reading list for seminary begins to shrink, I usually treat myself to some non-academic books on subjects that interest me. That’s why I picked up Love is All Around: The Making of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Corina and I are classic TV fans. We like old television shows, and one of our favorites is Mary Tyler Moore. The show originally ran from 1970-77 and featured some of the most memorable characters in television history. 

First there’s the all-American Mary Richards, trying to make it on her own as a single woman in her 30′s in Minneapolis.

Then, there’s her neighbor and friend, Rhoda Morgenstern, a fast-talking Jew from New York.

Phyllis Lindstrom, the landlord – a feminist trying to raise a child according to the newest books.

Lou Grant – Mary’s boss at the low-rated TV station, WJM.

Ted Baxter – the clueless anchorman whose big ego leaves no room for a brain.

Murray Slaughter – the everyman news-writer, trying to stay above water and support a family.

Georgette Baxter – the ditsy, lovable woman who falls in love with Ted

Sue Ann Nivens – the man-crazy “happy homemaker”the-mary-tyler-moore-show-83343.jpg

Even the supporting cast is fantastic: Gordy the weatherman, Ida Morgenstern (Rhoda’s guilt-inducing mother), and Mary’s on-and-off boyfriend played by Jerry Van Dyke.

Mary Tyler Moore is a television treasure. If you haven’t seen the “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode (in which Chuckles the Clown goes to the circus dressed as a peanut and gets “shelled” by a rogue elephant), you have missed a hilarious part of our television history.

Unfortunately, Love is All Around is a rather bland book that seeks to celebrate The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but fails to adequately chronicle its history. The authors interviewed the writers and cast of the show and simply “copy-pasted” their responses into the text of the biography. There’s hardly any authoring done in this book. At times, you forget who is speaking.

maryhat.jpgFurthermore, the authors are obsessed with the political dimensions of Mary Tyler Moore, seeking to write the history of this show as if it were a treatise on feminism. But even the quotes of the cast and crew diminish their thesis. “We weren’t trying to make overt political statements, only capture the feeling of the period,” they say. But the authors refuse to take “no” for an answer.

Any fan of Mary Tyler Moore will catch political overtones in some of the episodes, but often feminism is mocked (think – Phyllis) as much as it is celebrated. Mary Richards may have been independent, but she never sacrificed her “lady-like” behavior. This show’s writers were brilliant in the way they averted the politicization of this show, all the while poking fun at all sides of the culture wars. Mary Tyler Moore was never like All in the Family, even if the authors of this book would have appreciated such a comparison.

If you like Mary Tyler Moore, buy the 4 seasons that have already been released on DVD. You’ll enjoy them a lot more than this pallid effort to pay tribute to a television classic.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

27

2007

Trevin Wax|4:21 am CT

How Much Should a Christian Tip?

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Christians should astound the world with generosity. To whom much has given, much is required. What is more precious to us than the grace we have received through Jesus Christ? God’s grace should overflow even from our pocketbooks.

It is shameful that many restaurant servers cringe at the thought of working for the “Christians” on Sundays. What do they expect on Sundays? Demanding customers. Lousy tips. The infamous tract that looks like a $20 bill. Self-righteous snobbery. (Believe me; I used to work at a Cracker Barrel.)

So, let’s turn that around. Let’s astound people with generosity.

Why leave a 15% tip for good service? Let’s go above and beyond and give 20% to a good server. After all, why should Christians settle for “average” tipping?

So, here’s a key to Christian tipping:

  • Servers at a sit-down restaurant: 20%
  • Take-out meals at a sit-down restaurant: 15%
    Yes, I know that many don’t tip for take-out meals, but just remember this: the server who put all your food together in packets and set it all up for you is probably making $2.15 an hour.
  • Pizza Delivery Man: 20% (or a $2.00 minimum)
    They use their own cars. Plus, they make their money off tips. So don’t be cheap with them!
  • Take-out Pizza or Drive-Thru Fast Food: 0%.
    No tip is expected for picking up a pizza, going to McDonald’s, etc.
  • Hair Stylist: 20%
  • Drive-In’s (like Sonic): 20%
  • Restaurants with a Tip Jar on the Counter: 15%
  • Starbucks and Other Coffee Houses: 10-15%
  • Buffets: 15%

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

27

2007

Trevin Wax|3:24 am CT

Learning to Think in a Foreign Language

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Learning the Romanian language was difficult at times, but my ambition trumped the trials. I was desperate to learn the tongue, and so, during my first year, I devoted all my energies to making the language become my own. Even before I moved to Romania, I was seeking advice on how to learn the language quickly.

One translator told me to try to think in Romanian once I understood enough to get by. “Think in Romanian,” he said. “Don’t translate. Learn to understand the words for what they are and not for their English equivalents.”

The tip sounded impossible at first, but I eventually came to understand what it meant. Although at the beginning of the language-learning process, one must translate concepts, words, and phrases into his own language, once you get a good handle on the new language, it is best to begin learning words for what they are, based on their context, rather than their equivalent in your own language.

There are many Romanian words without exact English equivalents. Amazingly, one can understand these words, even if clueless about how they would translate. One understands them as they are, not based on their English translations.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Nov

26

2007

Trevin Wax|5:13 am CT

Yes, Good People Go To Heaven – But What Does "Good" Mean?

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We’ve been looking at evangelical “inclusivism.” This is the final post in this series.
1. “What is Inclusivism and Why Does It Matter?”
2. “Is God Really Fair?”
3. “What is Faith Anyway?”

Evangelical inclusivists capitulate to culture a third way – by assuming the culture’s high view of human goodness. Pinnock and other inclusivists claim “caution” in their assessment of other religions. They recognize that other religions have “depths of darkness, deception, and bondage in them.”

But though inclusivists seek to be cautious in regards to other religions, they appear much too enthusiastic. Pinnock openly praises Mohammed as a “prophet figure in the style of the Old Testament,” respects Buddha as “a righteous man,” celebrates Hindu literature that articulates a “personal God of love,” and gushes over the “grace” he sees in a Japanese cult! Christianity is unique in that it fulfills, not only the Old Testament religion, but “all religious aspiration and… the human quest itself.”

In Pinnock’s view, all humans are on a quest for the divine. Though he would probably deny the charge, his works indicate that humans are basically good people who simply have gone astray. The people who go to hell will choose to go there because they have consciously chosen to reject Christ. In an interesting twist, Pinnock turns upside-down the traditional teaching that people are bound for hell unless they choose Christ and his heaven and instead teaches a doctrine implying that people are bound for heaven unless they reject Christ and choose hell.

Inclusivists assume that the only sin that people go to hell for is a rejection of salvation in Jesus Christ. Ronald Nash offers a helpful reminder that “rejecting Jesus is not the only reason that men and women are lost. There are no innocent human beings.”

Inclusivism capitulates to the culture’s high view of human morality. Pinnock and others continually point to the goodness and saintliness of the adherents of other religions.

But this brings up a question: who determines what is good? By failing to answer this question, Pinnock and the other inclusivists simply adopt the world’s standard of “goodness” and apply it uncritically to the people around them. It is true that a good Buddhist, a good Muslim and a good Hindu will all go to heaven – if by “good” we mean what Scripture teaches (absolute moral perfection). The problem is not that good people do not go to heaven. Scripture teaches that the problem is there are no good people.

By claiming that saintliness is something other than a consequence of reconciliation with God on the terms he himself has stipulated, the inclusivists divorce “goodness” from the character of Jesus and thus advocate a doctrine of human innocence that is sub-biblical. Pinnock and other inclusivists affirm their position by appealing to God’s overflowing love. But others may ask: “Why should God’s love rather than his truth or holiness ‘overflow’ in the way suggested?” The subordination of God’s holiness to his love is one of the key points of inclusivism’s capitulation to the culture’s view of God.

Inclusivism seeks to answer many of the difficult questions raised by the traditional exclusivist position regarding the fate of the unevangelized. These posts have sought to show how inclusivism’s responses are unbiblical and represent a capitulation to certain cultural assumptions, including the culture’s view of “fairness,” the culture’s definition of “faith,” and the culture’s high view of human goodness.

Though it may be necessary to engage in debate with our inclusivist brothers and sisters, exclusivists should not allow such debates to replace the evangelistic calling of the Church. Though Scripture seems to offer no hope for the unevangelized, wise exclusivists will refrain from dogmatic declarations regarding the extent of God’s salvation.

Christians should participate in missions and evangelism with the belief that Scripture teaches universal human guilt and culpability. We evangelize, not only to improve the lives of those here on earth, but to announce the rescue for those headed for destruction in the life to come.

As for the question as to whether or not God can or will save any unevangelized persons apart from explicit faith in Christ, exclusivists would do well to follow the example of John Calvin and others, who have discouraged speculation into God’s hidden ways. Christians trust in the justice and mercy of a loving, holy God. Ultimately, both the evangelized and unevangelized are in his hands.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2007 Kingdom People blog