Monthly Archives: February 2009

 

Feb

28

2009

Trevin Wax|3:02 am CT

Which Crown Do You Want?

We follow Christ when we stop showing off earthly crowns of “success” and embrace the crown of thorns that truly models the life of the Savior.

- a quote from my upcoming book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals

 
 

Feb

27

2009

Trevin Wax|3:08 am CT

In the Blogosphere

The internet back in 1996 is virtually unrecognizable from what it is today. A fascinating article.

Russell Moore is contemplating culture in a southern citadel. Conservatism is “not Fox News with prayer requests.”

Tim Challies’ random thoughts on reading.

Cool 1-minute footage of a flight from Amsterdam to San Francisco – showing the lights of cities below.

Owen Strachan on grade inflation.

Michael Spencer on practicing Lent in a new covenant way

The gospel is the antidote to everything

The most religious states in the U.S.

Was Jesus a racist?

Ray Ortlund on Reformed culture.

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: Thoughts on the NeoReformed

 
 

Feb

25

2009

Trevin Wax|3:19 am CT

25 Meditations for Lent/Easter

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time that Christians historically have used to prepare for the upcoming Easter celebrations.

I know that Lent is not kept by most evangelicals, and that’s okay. There’s no Scripture passage forbidding it or advocating it, so whether one decides to prepare for Easter in this manner is left to one’s conscience.

This season serves as a time of reflection upon the sufferings of Christ. It is a season of repentance, a time of dying to self that anticipates new life on the other side, just like the last days of winter anticipate the arrival of Spring.

During Lent, I try to temper my voracious appetite for reading by adding several devotional works to my reading schedule.

I am glad to see that Crossway has published several solid collections of devotional material in recent years. One of the recent publications, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easteris edited by Nancy Guthrie and contains 25 sermon or book excerpts about the suffering and exaltation of Jesus Christ.

Guthrie’s collection features recent writings from pastors and authors like Adrian Rogers, Joni Eareckson Tada, John Piper, and Tim Keller. But it also features several “classic” sermon excerpts from the past: Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and Jonathan Edwards.

I am looking forward to finishing this fine collection of meditations during Lent this year. So let me encourage you - whether or not you “give up something” –  at least use these few weeks to prepare for Easter, giving thought to the price paid for your ransom and the extraordinary love of God manifested on Calvary. May Jesus keep you near his cross!

written by Trevin Wax  © 2009 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Feb

24

2009

Trevin Wax|3:25 am CT

Thoughts on the NeoReformed

tulipSome people do not like to be labeled. And no one likes to be misrepresented.

Some who seem to fit the “Emerging/Emergent” label don’t want to be pigeonholed into one category. Others resist terms like “liberal” and “conservative,” “fundamentalist” and “progressive,” “Calvinist” and ”Non-Calvinist” (or “Anti-Calvinist”!). But even those who don’t mind being called “Emerging” or “Progressive” or  ”Young, Restless, Reformed” (to borrow Collin Hansen’s clever phrase) want their views to be accurately represented.

Last week, Dr. Scot McKnight added a new name to our list – the “NeoReformed.”

Who are the NeoReformed? According to Scot, the NeoReformed represent a particularly aggressive group of people who embrace Reformed theology and demonstrate an attitude of exclusion reminiscent of pre-evangelical Fundamentalism. The NeoReformed see anyone outside of their circle as unfaithful to the gospel and only pseudo-evangelical. Therefore, they exalt peripheral doctrines to “central status” and then ”demonize” others that disagree. 
 
In Scot’s two posts about the rise of the NeoReformed, you will find some “fighting words.” He describes this group as “religious zealots” that are “wounding… evangelicalism.” Scot is not merely describing a particular group of people; he is hoping his readers will actively resist their influence.
 
What are we to make of Scot’s assessment? Here are some thoughts.
 
1. Does Scot exaggerate his case?
 
Yes, I think so. He writes: “When gospel is equated with double predestination, often said in harsh terms, we are seeing a good example of the spirit of a NeoReformed approach.” I have yet to come across anyone who thinks the gospel can be equated with ”double predestination.” 

Neither do I know of any Reformed individuals (whether leaders or followers) who want to put a fence around the evangelical “village green” and kick everyone else to the curb.  

Nor do I think that there is a large number of complementarians out there who view their position as the very center of orthodoxy. (Very important, maybe – but not the center of Christian truth.) 
 
2. Does this movement even exist?
 
Yes. Despite some of the overstated rhetoric employed by Scot McKnight in his blog post, I agree with his main premise.

There are those who equate “Calvinism” and “the Gospel”. I have encountered a good number of people who think this way: if you are less than a five-point Calvinist, you are less faithful to the gospel than the “truly Reformed”. The irony here is that some people who preach justification by faith alone in Jesus wind up making their understanding of the doctrine of justification the basis of justification!

3. Does this movement want to take over evangelicalism and kick everyone else off the “village green?”

Here is where I think Scot is off base. The NeoReformed movement may indeed be a new expression of old-school Fundamentalism. (I am not using the term “fundamentalist” in the best sense of the word, in that it points to fundamental Christian truths. I am speaking of Fundamentalism with a “capital F” – more an attitude, than a belief system.)

But, as I have written elsewhere, the typical “fundamentalist survival mechanism” causes these types of groups to splinter off into smaller and smaller groups, each one enclosed by more narrow parameters than the one that came before it. Once the group finds its identity in what it protests, it eventually goes on to discover less and less important things about which to protest.

The people Scot labels as NeoReformed are not trying to reclaim the title of “evangelical” for themselves. Those who truly fit his description are more interested in protesting evangelicalism in its current form than in saving it.

So… Scot should not worry about being kicked off the village green anytime soon. The NeoFundamentalists are not building fences; they are off to the side of the green holding up protest signs.

4. Is Scot referring to leaders or followers?

Scot has not clearly answered this question. Is he referring to leaders like John Piper and Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan and John MacArthur? Or is he referring to some of their less-than-gracious followers? I am quite sure Scot is referring to certain followers, but I wonder how much blame – if any – he puts on the leaders.

Take John Piper’s response to N.T. Wright for example. Piper’s book is a gracious critique of Wright’s view on justification. Piper clearly states that he does not believe Wright is under the curse of Galatians 1 for preaching another gospel. And yet one can find this very charge leveled at Wright by all sorts of people who might be fans of Piper and other Reformed expositors.

So, yes… some of the NeoReformed practically anathematize Tom Wright and refuse to read his work. But I have yet to find significant leaders of the Reformed movement who treat Wright this carelessly.  

5. Does Scot apply a double standard?

I agree with Scot’s premise regarding the existence of a NeoReformed, NeoFundamentalist strand in some Reformed circles. What puzzles me is why Scot comes down so hard on this particular group for being arrogant when there are other groups on the village green expressing the same attitude.

Just a couple of years ago, many in the Emerging movement were writing as if everything old is passing away and all is becoming new (meaning, “Emergent”). Many of these books could cause one to think that the evangelical green was turning brown. Things were greener on the Emerging side.

Though Scot has rightfully distanced himself from some of the liberal trends of Emergent and rightfully maintained distinctive evangelical beliefs over against the universalistic tendencies of writers like Spencer Burke, he seems to be more worried (at least publicly) about the sinful excesses of the Reformed Resurgence than the flirtations with apostasy among some in the Emerging Church.

It is hard to see how Doug Pagitt, a pastor who denies original sin, holds to an orthodox view of salvation in any way. In many of his public statements and interviews, he comes across as quite arrogant and brash. Yet Scot has not yet (publicly, that is) called him out on these faults.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading Scot McKnight’s blog and books is because of the careful way he seeks to understand different theological groups on their own terms. He has encouraged me to think carefully about Emerging, weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the movement, while avoiding quick judgments. I hope he will extend the same courtesy to some of the people he labels “NeoReformed” (assuming the group in question is open to dialogue!).

Conclusion

I am grieved by arrogance in all its forms (including the arrogance that I see too often at work in my own heart). In my own experience, it has been disheartening to hear a young Calvinist show disdain for a hero like John Wesley. And on the other side, to hear a young Emergent label a popular work of systematic theology as ”a bunch of crap” (he used a harsher word).

There is plenty of arrogance to go around. That is why it is imperative that all Christians everywhere must seek to stay faithful to Scripture, while loving our brothers and sisters in Christ (even when we disagree). Let us stand firm in our convictions, but always with graciousness. Would that we all be known for grace – no matter what our label!

written by Trevin Wax  © 2009 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Feb

23

2009

Trevin Wax|3:41 am CT

Being "Found" Leads us to Church

sheepflock

“And when the shepherd has found the sheep,
he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”

- Jesus to the Pharisees “The Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:5)

Although the shepherd rejoices when he finds the lost sheep, his joy is not without discomfort. The wandering sheep must now be taken back to the fold, meaning that the shepherd has an exhausting and grueling task ahead.

When a sheep realizes that it is lost, it will lie down stubbornly and refuse to move. The only way the shepherd can take the animal home is by carrying it on his shoulders over the long distance. The joy of restoration does not come without its sweat-producing toil.

Too often, we as evangelicals concentrate our attention only on seeing people “converted.” We want to see lost sheep “found” and lost sinners “saved” – and rightly so. But the parable of the Lost Sheep does not end with the sheep out in the wilderness enjoying its renewed relationship with the shepherd. No, the shepherd takes the sheep back to the flock. Salvation leads to the church.

A new convert must be integrated into a body of believers. This incorporation is not always an easy task. Just as the shepherd rejoices even as he understands his coming labor, so must we rejoice in the burden of restoring wanderers to the fellowship of the church. Throughout the long, wearisome process, we must always rejoice, not allowing the fatigue, exhaustion, and discomfort to get us off track. The joy comes as we consider the eternal value of our actions and the grace that God is able to show through our lives.

Christ bore the same burden that we must bear with others – to carry on his shoulders the weight of the lost sheep. Only through this act of kindness and surprising joy, can one be restored to the fold.

Jesus never promised us that the Christian life would easy or free from suffering and responsibility. Sin’s awful toll on others will create burdens that will weigh upon our own shoulders. It is not easy to integrate new believers into local fellowships. Perhaps that is why we are often more comfortable doing shot-gun evangelism that leaves church-membership issues aside.

Yes, we will be weighed down by the restoration process of other lost “sheep”, yet helping carry the load remains part of our responsibility. Just like the shepherd, we must not only seek out the lost, but also be willing to help the new convert become a mature disciple.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2009 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Feb

22

2009

Trevin Wax|3:25 am CT

A Prayer for Transfiguration Sunday

mt_tabor_church_of_transfiguration_mural_tb_n040200

O God,
We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
the months of ministry transfigured to a beam of light,
the light of the world,
your light.
May your light shine upon us.

We open our eyes and we see Moses and Elijah,
your word restoring us, showing us the way,
telling a story,
your story, his story, our story.
May your word speak to us.

We open our eyes and we see mist,
the cloud of your presence
which assures us of all we do not know
and that we do not need to fear that.
Teach us to trust.

We open our eyes and we see Peter’s constructions,
his best plans, our best plans,
our missing the point,
our missing the way.
Forgive our foolishness and sin

We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
not casting us off,
but leading us down, leading us out -
to ministry, to people.
Your love endures forever.

We open our ears and we hear your voice,
‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him!’
And we give you thanks.

- Amen

(composed by Bill Loader)

 
 

Feb

21

2009

Trevin Wax|3:59 am CT

Faithfulness IS Success

During my time in Romania, I sat at the feet of a well-respected evangelical professor who had suffered persecution under the Communists. His father had been murdered by the Securitate in a car wreck that was made to look like an accident. This professor also served as a pastor of a local church. One day in class, he put aside his notes and began to speak heart-to-heart about pastoring.

“Brothers,” he said, his voice quivering as he fought back tears, “Don’t think that true success will come from adopting a strategy that will lead you to fulfilling one purpose. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd – the One who lays down his life for his sheep. Success in God’s eyes does not come without sacrifice. Don’t try to be successful. Expend your energy in seeking to be faithful. Faithfulness is success.”

- a quote from my upcoming book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals

 
 

Feb

20

2009

Trevin Wax|3:26 am CT

In the Blogosphere

Lots of conversation about two posts from Scot McKnight on the rise of the “NeoReformed” movement (see post 1 and 2). Justin Taylor called McKnight’s labeling a “caricature.” Michael Spencer believes there is some truth to McKnight’s post. And Kevin DeYoung clarifies what he means by saying he is “Reformed.” I too have some thoughts about this new label. Look for a post next week.

12 tools every man should have in his toolbox. Honey, I need to go to Home Depot!

J.I. Packer on restricting the Lord’s Supper.

Want the ESV on your Ipod for free? Here’s how.

Josh Harris shares what he has learned since he kissed dating goodbye.

James MacDonald’s wise counsel on church hiring and firing.

Joe Thorn writes movingly about his father’s newfound faith in Christ.

Top Post this week at Kingdom People: Dear Pastor, Please Exegete Your Church

 
 

Feb

19

2009

Trevin Wax|3:42 am CT

A Plea to the Current Leadership of the SBC

Please share your wisdom!

As the weeks go by, I continue to see articles and hear comments about the loss of young pastors from the ranks of the SBC. Some of the current leaders in SBC life worry that their concerns are not being heard by the younger crowd. Others lament the fact that when their concerns are heard, they are often misunderstood or misinterpreted on blogs.

To those who have courageously led our convention in these past years and those concerned about the future of the SBC: may I make a humble suggestion?

Release your resources.

Give away all sermons and conference talks for free on the internet.

Let us hear your heart!

One reason why pastors like John MacArthur and John Piper have such a large following among young Southern Baptists is because all their sermons (audio and manuscript) for the past 30-40 years are available online for free. I suggest that Southern Baptist pastors look to these men as an example of how to invest in younger pastors. Make your resources available online, for free.

Consider the recent pastor’s conference at First Baptist in Jacksonville. Talk about a line-up! I would love to listen to the conference talks by Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, Matt Chandler, Johnny Hunt, Jerry Vines, Ravi Zacharias, and a whole host of others. But to my dismay, in order to listen to the conference, I will have to purchase more than $50 worth of CDs (I don’t even listen to CDs!), wait for them to be delivered to my home, download them to my computer, and then download them to my Mp3 player.

Consider the lack of efficiency in this outdated method. Someone is paid to bundle up CDs and ship them across the country. So I’m paying for the cost of a CD, postal service, and a handler that can send me the CDs that I will immediately convert into Mp3s anyway. Why not cut out all the middle, inefficient waste and just put the Mp3s online for free?

But some might say: No one will come to next year’s conference if the resources are widely available.

Actually, it works the other way around. Want to see more young people showing up at your conference? Stop charging for outdated media materials and start posting them online. This year’s conference resources are next year’s advertising. Just ask the coordinators of Together for the Gospel or Desiring God (conferences which post materials online immediately following each session).

The same is true of preaching. Want young people to listen to your sermons? Then open up the archive. And please… do not charge for sermons… The days when a popular pastor could have a lucrative cassette tape or CD ministry are coming to an end. 

One way that those of you who currently lead of the SBC can invest in us younger pastors and seminarians is by providing your wisdom to us free of charge. So…start a podcast. Flood the world wide web with your resources. Give everything away, and then watch how God blesses.

We look forward to hearing your heart!

written by Trevin Wax  © 2009 Kingdom People blog

 
 

Feb

18

2009

Trevin Wax|3:38 am CT

Captivating Look at World War I

The Guns of AugustToday’s book review is written by my brother, Justin Wax, a CDT who will be commissioned as 2LT on May 8.

In 1914, an uneasiness enveloped Europe.

Just four years prior, the publishing of Englishman Norman Angell’s The Great Illusion achieved resounding success. Angell’s offering, translated into 11 languages, provided impressive reasons why war had become unnecessary and equally harmful to both victor and vanquished.

The hindsight of history, however, reveals an equally influential book published one year later in 1911 by German General von Bernhardi entitled Germany in the Next War. Bernhardi’s work demonstrated an insatiable appetite within Germany for recognition. This unfortunate characteristic, coupled with Germany’s paranoid, autocratic government hurtled Europe and soon Asia and America into a devastating world war that stole millions of lives.

It is these events, along with many others, that historian Barbara Tuchman so brilliantly relates to her audience in The Guns of August, a book which would have a profound impact on a President of the United States, John F. Kennedy and quite possibly have influenced his foreign policy, from his disastrous management of the Bay of Pigs to his exceptional handling of the Cuban Missile Crises.

In The Guns of August, Tuchman tells the fascinating background of the events leading up to the Great War and the pivotal first thirty days that ultimately shaped the outcome.

For instance, Tuchman explains the exciting tale of the Goeben, a German cruiser that outraced the British navy in the Mediterranean and brought the Ottoman Empire into the war on the side of the Central Powers. Shortly after Germany violated Belgian neutrality, Britain declared war on Germany and immediately set out to position its fleet to hunt and destroy German warships.

British naval leaders, tracking the Goeben, made a critical error by assuming the Goeben would sail west toward France or her colonies along the African coast. The thought that the Goeben would be on a political mission never occurred to the British. Consequently, the Germans strong-armed the Ottoman Empire into an alliance through the most daring and cunning military and political maneuvers and force the Allies to pay a heavy price.

While Germany’s initial operational plan was bold and sound, the German government’s blunder to invade France via neutral Belgium gained the Kaiser two additional enemies (eventually three in the United States) and tied up resources and manpower. Had the Germans attacked through France instead of bypassing her fortresses, the outcome of the war may have been very different. Germany unleashed new weaponry against Belgium’s fortifications that effectively rendered the fortress defense system obsolete.

Tuchman recounts multiple international law violations committed by the Germans. Prior to the war, the German government, trying to convince the Belgian government to acquiesce to the German army upon its movement through Belgium to attack France, claimed the latter had repeatedly bombed Nuremburg. The government ran this ridiculous lie in headlines and extras within Germany, apparently with enough believability that Nuremburg residents kept glancing nervously toward the sky waiting for the French to suddenly appear.

On another occasion, German soldiers changed into British uniforms and attempted to assassinate a Belgian general.

A German warship, violating the Hague convention forbidding the use of disguise in enemy colors, ran up the Russian flag before proceeding to shell the Algerian coast. German atrocities against the Belgium populace are arguably the most tragic of its war violations.

In the first few weeks of the war, the Germans secured resounding victories. The French were consistently on the retreat. The British forces arrived to find themselves a part of a failing war strategy. Britain’s focus shifted from a quick victory over the Germans to a survival strategy. The French, falling back, close to Paris pleaded with the British for cooperation.

At the battle of the Marne, thirty days into the war, the reeling Allies finally made a united, powerful stand and repelled the German onslaught. Although the Russians launched an attack on eastern Prussia with negative results, its invasion tied up German troops and resources that greatly contributed to the Allied victory at the Marne in the West.

The lessons of The Guns of August are vast. Before the war, Belgium’s army was scorned by its socialist population, could not attract the best and brightest and lacked the weaponry and leadership it needed to modernize. The French and British militaries were negatively impacted by naïve and socialist, anti-war dominated governments.

As a result, they were ill-prepared for the Germans in 1914. Russia’s officer corp was riddled with incompetent and lazy favorites. Russia’s infrastructure and resources could not keep pace with its armies, all of which led to its premature defeat and early withdrawal from the war.

The initial French war plan was fundamentally flawed. While the Germans invested in advanced weaponry, the French spent precious resources investing in obsolete fortifications. The French failed to adapt and modernize until later in the war. Its soldiers, ridiculously outfitted in traditional red pants, made themselves easy targets for its grey-clad opponent.

Every American should read this book. The lessons, particularly to military personnel, are powerful, fresh and relevant. So much of the tragedy of the First World War could have been at least mitigated with stronger foreign policy, stronger militaries and stronger cooperation on the part of the Allies. Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Guns of August captivates her audience and offers a complete and exhaustive account from both the Allied and German commands.

written by Justin Wax  © 2009 Kingdom People blog