Monthly Archives: April 2008

Book Review: Relativism – Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air

Many think that philosophical arguments and affirmations should be left to philosophers and academics. Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl dispels that notion. Beckwith and Koukl show how philosophy (relativism in particular) influences how we think about politics, religion, law and morality.

Now in its tenth printing, Relativism is a terrific introduction to the notion of moral relativism and its impact on our lives. The authors lay out three kinds of relativism: Society Does Relativism (a description of different moralities in different societies), Society Says Relativism (a prescription of morality based on society’s moral code), and I Say Relativism (each individual creates his/her own morality). The authors seek to discredit these types of relativism by showing the inherent flaws in each system.

How do you respond to objections like: You shouldn’t force your morality on me! Who are you to judge? Beckwith and Koukl offer suggestions for refuting relavitism by showing how the system breaks down by relying on self-refuting statements.

Relativism will not satisfy philosophers who like to delve deeper into these discussions. But the book is brilliant as a winsome, easy-to-understand introduction to these matters for laypeople who have had philosophical discussions without knowing it.

written by Trevin Wax. copyright © 2008 Kingdom People Blog.

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Reformed Resurgence 2: John Piper

In Chapter 2 of Young, Restless, Reformed, journalist Collin Hansen travels to Minneapolis to attend Bethlehem Baptist Church and interview Pastor John Piper. He starts out by attending the Saturday night service, speaking with a young church member about Calvinism, and then spending some time with Piper in his home. On Sunday morning, he visits Bethlehem again, this time looking over the Reformed theology available in the bookstore, and then sitting in as TULIP is taught in a college group.

Next, Hansen relates a conversation with Roger Olson, an Arminian evangelical scholar who believes Calvinists and Arminians should not spend so much energy quarreling with each other and should instead fight the real danger in American theology: Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Hansen helpfully lays out the main differences of interpretation between Arminians and Calvinists.

Shifting back to his chronicle of Calvinism among the young, Hansen then recounts conversations with other young men and women who embraced Calvinism after seeing the difference it was making in the lives and ministries of others. He devotes a small amount of space to the complementarian view of gender roles that often accompanies the current Calvinist theology. He then ends with the warning issued by Piper’s son, Barnabas – that people not undo his father’s emphasis on God’s glory by worshipping a Minneapolis pastor instead.

Celebration

This chapter, in many ways, increases my admiration for John Piper. I celebrate the emphasis he puts on biblical theology. Piper is a pastor who understands the ramifications of getting theology right. He is one of the greatest preachers …

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Gospel Definitions: Jeremiah Burroughs

The gospel of Christ in general is this:

It is the good tidings that God has revealed concerning Christ.

More largely it is this:

As all mankind was lost in Adam and became the children of wrath, put under the sentence of death, God, though He left His fallen angels and has reserved them in the chains of eternal darkness, yet He has thought upon the children of men and has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again…Namely, the second person of the Trinity takes man’s nature upon Himself, and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with sin. He answers for it by suffering what the law and divine justice required, and by making satisfaction by keeping the law perfectly, which satisfaction and righteousness He tenders up to the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls that are given to Him…And now this mediation of Christ is, by the appointment of the Father, preached to the children of men, of whatever nation or rank, freely offering this atonement unto sinners for atonement, requiring them to believe in Him and, upon believing, promising not only a discharge of all their former sins, but that they shall not enter into condemnation, that none of their sins or unworthiness shall ever hinder the peace of God with them, but that they shall through Him be received into the number of those who shall have the image of God again to be renewed unto them, and they …

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Reformed Resurgence 1: Calvinist Conversion?

Today we begin looking at Collin Hansen’s new book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. Hansen (an editor-at-large for Christianity Today) has documented the recent resurgence of Calvinist theology among young people, a theological development that crosses denominational lines. In the next few days, I plan on commenting on several of the chapters by summarizing Hansen’s research, celebrating certain aspects of the Reformed Resurgence, and expressing my concerns regarding other aspects.

The reason I am devoting several posts to this slim volume is because I speak as one who in some ways is on the inside of this movement and in other ways is on the outside. I spent 18 months in Louisville at Southern Seminary (2005-2007) as a full-time student and am still a student at the Nashville extension center. I am familiar with the Reformed theology of many Southern students, having been immersed in the Seminary’s culture during my time on campus.

At the same time, based on the professed theological convictions of the vast majority of those highlighted in the book, I am also on the outside of this movement since I am not a five-point Calvinist. My theology leans Reformed, meaning that I am probably more Calvinistic than the majority of Southern Baptists. (I would be in the category often jokingly referred to as “Christmas Calvinists.” In other words, No L.) I do not see most aspects of Calvinism as being worthy of dividing over. Neither do I believe I have been commissioned to convince others of Calvinism.

In other words, I …

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Bring Some of Your Fish

“Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”
- Jesus to his disciples (John 21:10)

After a long night of fruitless work, the disciples were tired and depressed, until the risen Jesus met them on the shore and gave them instruction in their fishing procedure. Once the disciples obeyed, there were too many fish for the net to hold.

When they arrived on shore, Jesus then instructed them to “bring some of the fish that they just caught” and to join Him for breakfast. The Savior had no need of the disciples’ fish, since He already had a charcoal fire and fish cooking for Himself. He also knew (as well as the disciples) that the only reason they had been able to catch something was because He Himself had given them the power.

All night long, by themselves, they had labored without results. Yet, in His kindness and majestic love, Jesus invited the disciples to bring some of “their” fish to mix with His fish, and then to have breakfast together with Him. All were really His fish, including the fish that the disciples caught, but He mercifully gave those fish to them to catch.

Everything we have (our talents, our minds, our ability to move, even our spirituality) is given to us by God. Even if we were to give every single minute of our lives for His service alone, we really would not be giving Him anything that wasn’t already His very own.

Jesus didn’t need the disciples’ …

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Headed to T4G

Tomorrow night, I will be driving to Louisville, Kentucky for the Together for the Gospel conference and the Band of Bloggers luncheon. I missed both in 2006, even though I was living in Louisville at the time.

 I look forward to meeting some of my readers this week. If you are in the area and would like to get together, email me and we can try to set something up.

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Piper's Resurrection Prayer

Father of glory,
we praise you that you mightily raised your Son, Jesus, from the dead.
We praise you that the stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is your doing
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Death could not hold him!
Our last enemy has fallen before your power
in the triumph of Jesus over death,
and we have been freed from fear of this ancient enemy.

And now, O God,
grant us to live in the riches of all that Jesus’ resurrection means.
All authority belongs to him in heaven and on earth.
No power and no enemy can prevail against him.
Only good can come to us in the end as we trust in him.
The best is always yet to come.

So, Father,
banish fear and fretting and discouragement and moddiness from our lives.
Rivet our attention on the ultimate reality
of Christ’s final triumph over death.
Never let us forget or fail to feel universal glory
that you have given Jesus a name that is above every name.
Make this practical in our daily lives
as we see every person, great and small,
facing someday the risen and triumphant Judge of all the nations.
Give us a brokenhearted boldness
in the mercy and might of Jesus.

O Father,
we want our lives to count for the display of his greatness.
Work in us to this end with all your might, we pray.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

- John Piper, from Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, (pp.108-9)

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Breaking Through

As we began our ministry to the village teenagers in Romania, my school friend and I would meet several times a week to spend time in prayer fo the teens. We had been having a difficult time for several months. It was hard for us to get the teens to open up to us. They were often so quiet during our Bible studies that we weren’t sure how to handle them.

After one of our Saturday youth services, most of the teens went with us to one of the homes, where we ate some home-made pizza. While there, we played a variety of games together, and the teens really came out of their shells. As everyone was talking and smiling and having a good time, I sat back and just was amazed at the scene taking place in front of me.

I remember one of the teenagers looking at me and saying, “Trevin, these are those special times that you just can’t plan or create – when everyone is happy and when God is moving in a special way.” A few minutes later, we saw a shooting star outside.

During my stay in Romania, there were mountaintops and valleys. Recalling the blessings of the mountaintop helped sustain me in the valleys that were coming.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog 

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Why Has the Church Lost Influence?

“I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.” —C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

HT – John Pipes

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In the Blogosphere

My next interview with N.T. Wright is less than two weeks away. If you have a question related to Surprised by Hope or his views on heaven and resurrection, email me and I’ll consider including it in the interview.

It looks like Prince Caspian may deviate significantly from Lewis’ book. But Lewis’ stepson thinks that’s a good thing.

Check out my review in Christianity Today of Charles Colson’s new book, The Faith.

Bill Blair with some helpful advice for all of us. Be content and fruitful wherever God has placed you.

Marty Davis interacts with my posts on After the Baby Boomers.

The Seven Deadly Words in Book Reviews. Yikes! I’m guilty! This poignant post (with an intriguing title) is crafted by a compelling author who eschews the lyrical bad-writing of reviewers who muse about books.

The unchurched prefer classic church architecture rather than contemporary designs.

ESV Bible translation continues its rise. TNIV drops out of the Top Ten best-selling translations.

It’s healthy to take our evangelical lingo and phrases into consideration, asking ourselves what they might communicate. Jared Wilson has a helpful post on “giving your life to Christ” – specifically, how Christianity is more about Jesus giving his life to us.

Timmy Brister interviews Collin Hansen about his new book, Young, Restless, Reformed. Look for my 4-part review of Collin’s book next week at Kingdom People.

Tony Kummer disagrees with Collin Hansen. Southern Seminary is “Ground Zero” …

Posted in In the Blogosphere | 3 Comments