Monthly Archives: August 2008

 

Aug

31

2008

Trevin Wax|3:00 am CT

A Husband's Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,

Thank you for the joy of marriage and the truth its picture represents.
Thank you for loving the Church – your Bride.

Lord, you have given me the responsibility to be the head of my family.
Help me to realize that my leadership in the home
must take place within the framework of submission to you.
Help me to love my family sacrificially, as you have loved the church.

Thank you for the truths found in your Word.
Help me to find the Scriptures sufficient for guidance and wisdom.

You are the Wonderful Counselor, our Awesome God.
You take our frail and fallen human stories and experiences
and weave them together into a patchwork of praise to your glory.

Help me to submit always to your will and to lead my family in grace and truth.
Amen.

- Trevin Wax

 
 

Aug

30

2008

Trevin Wax|3:44 am CT

Love that Conquers the World

The love for equals is a human thing – of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing – the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing -to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is love for the enemy – love for the one who does not love you, but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

- Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat, pg. 105

 
 

Aug

29

2008

Trevin Wax|3:30 am CT

In the Blogosphere

Nick Moore writes of the nature of church discipline and the right and wrong ways we go about it. A terrific word of challenge, encouragement, and warning to those who wish to reinstate this practice.

Many evangelicals have recently been asking the question: Is our gospel too small? Now, some evangelicals are pushing back. D.A. Carson recently warned against making the gospel too big by downplaying those doctrines “of first importance.” David Fitch writes about how making the gospel too big may actually hinder effective evangelism. Much-needed conversation and dialogue!

Tullian Tchividjian’s upcoming book Unfashionable is terrific. Check out this excerpt on his blog: “When Shock Gives Way to Submission.”

An interesting article on the nature of male friendships in previous centuries. Some of these pictures may surprise you.

Christianity Today compares the Democratic and Republican party platforms plank-by-plank on issues important to evangelicals.

I like Rick Warren more and more these days. He’s leading the charge in providing a civil political conversation for evangelicals. Check out this interview, in which he insists that evangelicals are not moving left on abortion.

Do you want to live longer? Have more kids.

Tony Kummer launches Sunday School Wiki. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: Top 5 Christian Theologians – Who Did I Leave Out?

Coming up next week at Kingdom People… We’ll take a look at a new book about postmodern conversions. I am writing a post about how truth is beautiful and should therefore lead to beautiful presentations of truth. I am wrapping up my series on “Gospel Definitions” from scholars and pastors. If you have come across a definition of “the gospel” that I have never posted on the blog (see the list here), then by all means, send it my way.

 
 

Aug

28

2008

Trevin Wax|3:47 am CT

Interview with John D'Elia on the Legacy of G.E. Ladd

Yesterday, I reviewed a new book by John A. D’Elia on the legacy of George Eldon Ladd. Today, I am following up that review with a few questions for John about his book on Ladd. John is the senior minister of the American Church in London and is author of A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America.

Trevin Wax: In your book, you claim that George Eldon Ladd attempted to rehabilitate evangelical scholarship in the United States. How did he go about doing this?

John D’Elia: Ladd grew up in an evangelical environment where participation in the broader world of
scholarship had been largely abandoned. After the Scopes Trial in 1925 many evangelicals retreated into their own safe networks of Bible colleges and seminaries, churches and missions organizations, and as a result lost their voice among people who believed differently than they did. Ladd–and others in his era–believed that the call to Christian leadership was a call to engagement rather than separation, and so he set out to rehabilitate the image and content of evangelical scholarship in the broader academy. It should be made clear here that Ladd and his fellow travelers saw this as their contribution to the evangelistic efforts of evangelicalism. It wasn’t a sellout or accommodation, but rather a brave attempt to be a witness for Christ in the secular academy.

The ‘how’ part of this question is important: Ladd earned a Ph.D. under the rigorous guidance of
Harvard’s liberal faculty, and emerged with his conservative theology intact. He then published books
and articles within and beyond the traditional conservative boundaries, and earned a hearing from–if
not the respect of–many non-evangelical readers. He spoke at scholarly conferences and participated in a wide range of academic activities. That’s how he sought to rehabilitate both the image and content of evangelical scholarship in the broader culture.

Trevin Wax: How did Ladd’s thought develop over his lifetime?

John D’Elia: Ladd started out as a committed dispensationalist, but abandoned it gradually over time. That’s really the only dramatic shift in his thought until his death. What’s interesting to me is that he retained a very conservative theological outlook without what he perceived to be the militant excesses of dispensationalism. Ladd argued not against dispensationalism, but rather against the tendency among dispensationalists to reject any biblical interpretation that didn’t match their own.

Trevin Wax: You write about Ladd’s negative reaction to a review of Jesus and the Kingdom by Norman Perrin. Why do you think Ladd reacted so strongly?

John D’Elia: Well, Ladd was a pretty broken guy in many ways. He was mistreated by his dad, who then died in his first days in college. The family was poor and debt-ridden, and he was very tall and gawky. Ladd remembered being ridiculed because of his looks both at school and at home. That he grew into an adult with some emotional wounds is not surprising. What was tragic was the way this brutal review landed in the midst of those wounds and tore them open. Ladd wanted to do something great for the Kingdom, and when it didn’t happen he was wounded deeply.

Trevin Wax: What is the legacy of Ladd’s scholarly work? Does his legacy go beyond his historic premillennialism?

John D’Elia: Ladd’s legacy within evangelical scholarship is hard to overstate. I argue in the book that he carved out a place for evangelicals in what was then the threatening and bewildering world of critical biblical scholarship. By demystifying the methods of critical scholarship, Ladd made them available to evangelicals who wanted to use them in their study of the Scriptures. Historic premillennialism, then, is really an incidental part of Ladd’s story. The real achievement in Ladd’s career can be found in the wide range of biblical scholars who sat at his feet and then went on to make their own mark. Those scholars are as diverse as John Piper and Robert Mounce on the
one side, and Eldon Epp and Charles Carlston on the other.

Trevin Wax: What lessons can seminary students and professors learn from Ladd’s personal failures as well as his achievements?

John D’Elia: Obviously Ladd’s story functions as a cautionary tale for those who want to make an impact for the Kingdom in any endeavor. As a working pastor I know that God’s plan isn’t always the same as ours, and that trusting Him means acknowledging that we might not each become the next Billy Graham, or Bill Bright, or even George Ladd. Our identity–and I’m switching gears now to exhortation–is found in being forgiven sinners who are called to serve God and His world. When we forget that we run the risk of opening wounds just as deep as the ones that tormented Ladd.

But as I write that I want to make it clear that despite his brokenness, Ladd represents a truly heroic sort of Christian service that we don’t see much anymore in our world of specialization and polarization. Whatever else he failed at, and I admit that’s a pretty long list, Ladd engaged the culture of his day with faith and courage. He made a difference that continues today for believers who hear God’s call to be witnesses to the Gospel in every corner (and profession) of the earth. Whatever Ladd’s personal failures may have been, he served his Lord and Savior with distinction and passion, and never lost sight of the fact that all of our work plays a part in taking the saving message of Jesus Christ to all the nations of the world.

Ladd’s life is not only a warning. It takes a double-dose of gall for any of us to focus only on Ladd’s failures, without at least a nod to his enormous achievement at a crucial time in church history. So much time and effort was wasted in the postwar era on squabbles and division among Christians. It was men like George Ladd who tried to rise above the static and express the Gospel clearly and faithfully to a world that needed to hear it badly.

 
 

Aug

27

2008

Trevin Wax|3:44 am CT

Book Review: A Place at the Table

George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in AmericaFifty years ago, evangelicals were mired in endless debates over theories about the Last Days. Dispensational theology dominated the outlook of most evangelical scholarship and (for many) had become a key doctrine that determined whether one was orthodox or not.

Evangelical scholars found themselves largely ignored by the wider world of academia. Many happily ignored the academy in return. The scholarly dimension of evangelical identity was faltering as the movement was plagued by in-house squabbles and debates.

Into this defining era of evangelical controversy came George Eldon Ladd, professor of New Testament at Fuller Seminary from 1950-82 and one of the most important voices in 20th century evangelicalism. Though Ladd may remain unknown to most evangelicals in the pews, he left a legacy that continues to bear fruit within the evangelical academy. His theology also brought to many evangelical churches a new openness to different eschatological interpretations. 

Ladd broke through the sterile debates about whether the kingdom of God was a present, spiritual reality or a future, earthly reality. He popularized a view of the kingdom as having two dimensions: “already/not yet.” Ladd was also one of the first solid evangelical scholars to go outside the fundamentalist camp in order to interact with liberal scholars in the academy, men like Rudolph Bultmann.

John A. D’Elia has recently completed a fascinating biographical look at this evangelical theologian. A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America (Oxford University Press, 2008) details Ladd’s early life, his conversion and his academic preparation. D’Elia describes the difficulty Ladd had in obtaining his own education. He shows how Ladd’s childhood negatively affected his later life, specifically his marriage and family life.

A Place at the Table is much more than a biographical sketch of Ladd’s life. D’Elia cautiously enters into the theological discussion he describes in order to spotlight Ladd’s contributions to evangelical scholarship and his interactions with scholars from outside the evangelical world. Those who read D’Elia’s book will receive an education, not merely regarding the historical aspects of Ladd’s interesting life, but also regarding the theological debates of the time.

Readers like myself may be surpised by the fact that Dispensationalism was viewed as a test of orthodoxy for evangelicals in the 1950′s. Ladd showed great courage in going against the Dispensational tide. His appeal to evangelicals to not blacklist each other over secondary issues is one of his most admirable qualities.

A Place at the Table is an educational look at Ladd’s life and accomplishments - the good, bad, and the ugly. D’Elia does not shy away from describing Ladd’s personal failures. Ladd lived many years with a crumbling marriage, a neglected family, and a heavy drinking problem. Obsessed with his desire to make a splash in the broader acadmic world, Ladd is crushed by another theologian’s negative review of his work. In the last decade of his life, Ladd came to see his attempts at engaging scholarship outside of evangelicalism as a “fool’s dream,” and he entered a period of depression from which he never fully recovered.

And yet, D’Elia’s biography shows rays of hope in Ladd’s later life. As a scholar passionate about the Great Commission, Ladd would often get choked up when talking about the gospel. He deeply mourned the loss of his wife. Amazingly, some of his most difficult years personally were some of his most productive professionally.

A Place at the Table provides valuable lessons for seminary students or other evangelical scholars. Ladd’s example serves to remind us of the importance of cherishing our families. Ladd’s example also serves as a warning against overestimating the opinions of others. And D’Elia’s description of the theological debates of the 1950′s provides some needed perspective regarding the debates that are currently raging in evangelicalism today.

Readers of A Place at the Table may be disappointed to discover that Ladd is not a larger-than-life hero, but a flawed Christian whom God used mightily in spite of his sins and failures. One senses the “already/not yet” nature of the kingdom pulsating through the narrative of Ladd’s life. Had Ladd’s personal life demonstrated a little more of the “already,” perhaps the story would have had a different outcome. After finishing the book, I felt a strange mixture of sadness and hopefulness, and a deep yearning for the “not yet” which Ladd so strongly proclaimed. 

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog 

 
 

Aug

27

2008

Trevin Wax|2:21 am CT

Gospel Definitions: D.A. Carson

The gospel is integrally tied to the Bible’s story-line. Indeed, it is incomprehensible without understanding that story-line.

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers.

Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel.

- D.A. Carson

Summarizing 1 Corinthians 15

1. The gospel is Christological.
2. The gospel is theological.
3. The gospel is biblical.
4. The gospel is apostolic.
5. The gospel is historical.
6. The gospel is personal.
7. The gospel is universal.
8. The gospel is eschatological.

- D.A. Carson, from “What is the Gospel?” – Gospel Coalition Address

 
 

Aug

26

2008

Trevin Wax|3:12 am CT

Busyness versus Simplicity

In the United States, our lives are fast and busy. Big is better. Time is money.

In Romania, the mindset is very different, especially in the villages. The pace is slow and relaxed.

At first, this lack of intensity bothered me. I wanted to get things done fast, to get to my destination quickly, to finish all that I had on my agenda.

But soon, I was taken in by the relaxed, ambling lifestyle of the Romanian countryside. I found myself preferring to walk somewhere, even if it took more time than catching a cab. A walk was an opportunity to talk with friends and enjoy the company of others. The slowness of the world became something to enjoy, not something to speed up.

We are over-entertained in America. People plan their time together around vacations, sight-seeing, special events, concerts, movies, and TV shows. None of these activities are inherently bad, of course.

But isn’t it true that these activities can sometimes take away from the simplicity and joy of just spending time with people? Do you ever stop to think: Why do we have to always be on the run? Why not devote several hours to friends at home, even if you’re not playing a game, watching TV, or heading out to eat?

Often, when the village teenagers would come to visit me in the city, we would take long walks through the streets, talking and laughing and enjoying friendship. We could’ve taken a tram or a taxi so as to get where we wanted quickly. But what would’ve been the purpose? There was no TV to watch, no program to catch, nothing that had to be done in the next five minutes. So why not walk? Why not enjoy the fresh Spring air? Why not talk on the way there?

I fear that we have become dependent upon entertainment and constant activity. This dependence (now made even more possible by technology) enslaves us to doing whatever seems fun for the moment. Meanwhile, we miss out on relationships that will last for a lifetime.

Not long after I moved to Romania, I began noticing that many of my Romanian friendships seemed so much deeper than my American friendships. Why? The Romanian friendships were built on quality time, good conversation and honesty, whereas many of my American friendships were built on activities, hopping from one fun thing to the next, with very little time for quality conversation.

There is an upside to keeping people at an arm’s length. When relationships are simple, you don’t have to take risks. If a deep friendship turns sour, you might experience some hurt. For me, the risk is worth it. There is nothing better than experiencing the fruitful friendships that God has created his people for.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Aug

25

2008

Trevin Wax|3:59 am CT

Something to Say

“I have something to say to you.”
- Jesus speaking to Simon (Luke 7:40)

Get ready. When you open your home up to Jesus, like Simon the Pharisee did in Luke 7, you are inviting the challenge and conviction that comes from Jesus’ teachings.

Allow me to warn you. When Jesus is present in your home, there are moments in which you will understand clearly that he is speaking to you personally, saying, “Listen up, I’ve got something to say to you!”

All of us slip into temptation. We give way to that little white lie. We allow our minds to fill with lust. We curse someone else in our heart. We cast judgment on another person.

In those moments, Jesus, who knows our thoughts just like he knew those of Simon, says sternly, “I have something to say to you.”

How we react in that moment reveals the level at which we are devoted to Jesus.

Some of us avoid Jesus’ presence by refusing to make time to sit down, open up his Word and discover what he says. 

Some of us actually avoid Jesus by throwing ourselves into ministry - filling our time doing the tangible and visible aspects of churchwork. Better to be ”busy for the kingdom” than to sit down and through his Word discover what he has to say about our inner thoughts and “unnoticed” sins.

Some of us respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit by arguing our case. We are not open to Jesus’ words because we are too busy trying to justify ourselves, all the while aware that we are in the wrong and once again, he is in the right.

When Jesus whispers, “I have something to say to you,” our response should be like that of Simon’s: “Say it, Teacher.” It’s also the way Samuel responded: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

We won’t always like what Jesus has to say to us, as he constantly challenges us to adopt a new way of thinking and moves us toward greater maturity – growth that makes us uncomfortable.

But if we are truly disciples, we cannot dismiss his Word, and neither can we refuse to obey it.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Aug

24

2008

Trevin Wax|3:52 am CT

Help Me Live in Light of Your Victory

God, my Father,
Thank you for beginning in me
this process of being conformed into the image of your Son.
Thank you for delivering me from the power of sin,
crucifying my flesh and its desires.
Thank you for making possible my living unto you -
a life of faith in your Son, who gave himself for me.

Lord, it is disheartening at times to know that,
though I have been crucified with you,
I still battle temptations to sin.
I often live as if your victory on the cross were imaginary, 
and instead of bask in your victory, I wallow in my defeat.

Help me to take courage when facing spiritual battles,
knowing that you have the power to put to death my fleshly desires.
Continue to stomp out my pride,
my self-centered nature, my wandering will,
and my stubbornness.
I want to become less and less,
in order that you may increase.

May you fill me with your Holy Spirit,
so that I will die daily to myself,
in order that you may live ever more fully within me and through me,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

- Trevin Wax

 
 

Aug

23

2008

Trevin Wax|3:26 am CT

Top 5 Christian Theologians: Who Did I Leave Out?

This week, I devoted one post each day to the Top 5 Most Important Theologians in Christian history. Here are the five I considered to have been most influential:

Athanasius of Alexandria

Augustine of Hippo

Thomas Aquinas

John Calvin

Karl Barth

What follows is a list of honorable mentions: theologians who impacted Christian theology in important ways, but who (usually for a few good reasons) do not make the Top 5 List.

Irenaeus – for his apologetic defense of historic Christianity in the face of Gnosticism. He also popularized the recapitulation theory of the atonement

Anselm of Canterbury – founder of scholasticism. Formulated the ontological argument for God’s existence.

Martin Luther - for his instrumental role in the Reformation. He was definitely a theologian in his own right, although I see him more as a revolutionary than a theologian. Calvin is the one who took the Reformation insights and systematized them and therefore becomes more influential as a theologian.

Friedrich Schleiermacher & Adolf von Harnack - Schleiermacher made the subjective experience of the believer (specifically the feeling of total dependency) the center of theology and thus became the “Father of Liberalism.” Together with the later work of Adolph von Harnack, these two packed quite a punch. The reverberations continue to echo throughout Christian theology.

John Wesley - an important leader of a renewal movement within Anglicanism which eventually became Methodism and the Holiness churches. While probably deserving a place in the Top Ten or Fifteen, I don’t believe Wesley’s theological contributions earn him a Top 5 ranking.

Jonathan Edwards – If I were making a list of the Top 5 Most Important American Theologians, then Edwards would probably be #1. A fine preacher and interpreter of Puritan theology, Edwards’ legacy cast a long shadow over American evangelicalism.

C.S. Lewis – I don’t consider him to be primarily a theologian. He was a terrific apologist, and he ably articulated the essentials of the Christian faith. But one can hardly speak of a “Lewisian” school of theology that has grown up because of his contributions.

Who else do you think of? Did I get these right or wrong?