Monthly Archives: June 2009

 

Jun

30

2009

Trevin Wax|3:58 am CT

A Blog Sabbatical

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a personal sabbatical from blogging. No new material will appear at Kingdom People during the month of July. On August 1, I will resume blogging here at Kingdom People.

I know that the short-term nature of the blogosphere makes an extended absence unwise from a blogger’s standpoint, but I took a month-long hiatus last year and found it to be good for my soul. Here are some reasons I am taking a break this month.

1. Need for Spiritual Refreshment
I look forward to directing some of the time I would have spent blogging to more prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading.

2. Other Important Responsibilities Vying for My Time

  • Things quiet down at church during the summer. It is a good time to think about the upcoming fall and what God envisions for our church in the upcoming year.
  • Our son, Timothy, enters kindergarten in August. We are about to enter the “school-year” schedule for the next dozen years or so. I want to enjoy this summer with Timothy before he begins a new chapter of his life.
  • I am taking two more summer classes this month. These classes will demand much of my reading time.

3. Blogging can be addictive.

I do not want to be constantly concerned about blog statistics, comments, and links. The best way to avoid the danger of caring too much about a blog is by taking a break from it for awhile.

4. Blogs are also inherently self-promoting.

My blog may have good and helpful content in the short-term, but if I ever view the blog as a way to promote myself before others, I will become a self-centered, self-absorbed person whose contributions to the Kingdom will be diminished in the long-term. Having blogged consistently for almost three years now, I think it would be wise to take a step back and evaluate the spiritual effects (both good and bad) that blogging has on me. Last July was spiritually beneficial for me.

I appreciate the readers who subscribe to Kingdom People and those who visit this site regularly. If you happen upon this site during the month of July, you might enjoy looking through the archives. I believe you will find some articles, interviews, or devotional thoughts that may be helpful.

So, until August 1… I pray you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.

 
 

Jun

29

2009

Trevin Wax|3:46 am CT

My Book Now Available for Pre-Order

Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of RivalsI am happy to announce that my new book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals (Crossway, 2010) is available for pre-order at Amazon.

Special thanks to the good folks at Crossway for their investment in this project. Thanks also to more than a dozen Christian leaders and authors who have endorsed the book. I hope to begin posting some of those endorsements in August.

Click here to pre-order Holy Subversion or here to read some excerpts (scroll down).

 
 

Jun

26

2009

Trevin Wax|12:20 pm CT

Piper vs. Wright on Justification: A Layman's Guide

hp_justificationSome friends have encouraged me to explain “in a nutshell” and in easy-to-understand laymen’s terms what the big debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright is all about. Many who enjoy reading the works of these men have discovered they lack the time (or patience) to sift through all of the relevant material surrounding the New Perspective on Paul, and just how Wright’s version of this perspective is different from the traditional perspective maintained by men like John Piper.

“The Justification Debate: A Primer” (Christianity Today, June 2009) is my humble attempt at summarizing the two views as succintly and simply as possible. Please note that both John Piper and N.T. Wright looked over my work and made some slight revisions regarding their respective summaries. (To see the summary statements in the form of a helpful chart, download the pdf here.)

Together with the Piper/Wright summaries is an article written by myself and Ted Olsen entitled “Not An Academic Question.” This second article lets pastors sound off on how this theological debate is influencing their ministry.

 
 

Jun

26

2009

Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

In the Blogosphere

Want to win Desiring God’s Sunday School curriculum for kids?

Dan Kimball on Emerging Church memories

Some notable bloggers/authors commenting on N.T. Wright’s Justification. Here are Mike Wittmer‘s and Kevin DeYoung‘s initial thoughts.

An interview with the authors of How to Argue Like Jesus.

A special moment at Southern Seminary’s Sesquicentennial celebration. Dr. Mohler invited 95-year-old former president Duke McCall (president from 1950-81) to the platform.

Richard Nixon had mixed feelings on abortion.

Justin Taylor interviews David Dockery on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

7 basic knots every man should know.

M. Night Shyamalan launches an online interactive experience.

Top Post this Week: Gospel Confrontation and Gospel Comfort

 
 

Jun

25

2009

Trevin Wax|3:54 am CT

Book Review: John Grisham's The Associate

The AssociateI have been a John Grisham fan for about ten years now. The first Grisham book I read was A Time to Kill, which is still my favorite. Other Grisham books I have enjoyed are The Rainmaker, The Testament and A Painted House.

In recent years, I have been disappointed by Grisham’s output. Nevertheless, during a brief beach vacation earlier this summer, I picked up Grisham’s newest: The Associate (DoubleDay, 2009). The Associate proves that Grisham is still able to craft an interesting story.

(Warning: Spoilers Follow)

The Associate is about Kyle McAvoy, a promising law student who has a wild past. During his college years, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and almost was charged (falsely) with rape. Years later, a sinister group of lawyers show Kyle a video that places him at the scene of the crime, and then they blackmail him into becoming a spy in the firm in which he works.

If I could sum up this book with one Bible verse, it would be this: “Be sure your sins will find you out.” The sins of Kyle and his friends in their twenties cause a ripple effect. The girl who claims she was raped now hates men and has turned to lesbianism. The other guys involved are trying to get on with their lives, but several are haunted by guilt.

The Associate casts a negative light on frat house parties. Grisham exposes the lifestyle that many in America have come to see as innocent fun or the proverbial “sowing your wild oats.” Grisham’s book demonstrates that some actions have consequences years after we commit them.

Still, the book is ultimately unsatisfying. The end of the book shows how Kyle is able to gain his freedom, but the perpetrators of the blackmail are never brought to justice. The ending may make the book a little more realistic, but most readers will hunger to see the criminals brought to justice.

The Associate is not Grisham’s best, but it is probably one of his better books of late. You might enjoy the fast-paced narrative if you are planning a vacation this summer.

 
 

Jun

24

2009

Trevin Wax|3:04 am CT

Frank Beckwith's Journey Back to Roman Catholicism

Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical CatholicIn 2007, Francis Beckwith, the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, announced that he was stepping down from his post after having converted back to the Catholic Church of his childhood. Beckwith’s announcement sent shock waves through the evangelical world. Even some of Beckwith’s closest friends did not see his conversion coming.

Why did Frank Beckwith, a well-respected evangelical scholar and author, return to the church of his childhood? Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic (2008, Brazos Press) is a personal memoir that tells the story of Beckwith’s decision to rejoin the Roman Catholic Church.

Return to Rome is primarily a narrative, although it is laced with Catholic apologetics, evangelical appreciation and criticism, as well as theological reflection. Speaking of his book, Beckwith states:

“It is not meant to be an apologetic for Catholicism or an autobiography in the strict sense.” (16)

Despite Beckwith’s stated intentions in writing this memoir, it is hard to see this book as something less than a Catholic apologetic, since he devotes a considerable amount of space to delineating the theological reasons for his movement back toward the Roman Catholic Church.

Beckwith begins his story with his departure from Roman Catholicism. Raised in the atmosphere of post-Vatican II Catholicism, Beckwith received little conservative and traditional teaching.

“My religion teachers often spoke of Catholicism as ‘our tradition’ rather than as a cluster of beliefs that were true. This relativizing of the faith did not engender confidence in the young students under their tutelage. Moreover, basic Catholic doctrine was often presented inadequately.” (36)

He writes honestly about the weaknesses of the Catholic environment of his childhood:

“I believe that the Catholic Church’s weakness was presenting the renewal movements like the charismatic movement as something new and not part of the Church’s theological traditions. For someone like me, interested in both the spiritual and intellectual grounding of the Christian faith, I didn’t need the ‘folk Mass’ with cute nuns and hip priests playing ‘Kumbaya’ with guitars, tambourines, and harmonicas.” (38)

Reading over the reasons for Beckwith’s departure from the Roman Catholic Church, I could not help but wonder if perhaps evangelicals are making the same mistakes he observed in the post-Vatican II era. What if evangelicals are watering down biblical truth in an effort to be “cool” and appeal to certain segments of our society? What if evangelicals are repeating the mistakes the Roman Catholics were making 30 years ago? Might such a development lead more people to Rome?

Beckwith recognizes that the Catholic Church’s intellectual tradition was also very attractive. He writes:

“My experience has been that most very intelligent Christians who had come to a deeper walk with Christ in independent Evangelical and/or non-liturgical churches often gravitate toward a theological and/or ecclesiastical tradition that has strong historical roots, such as Calvinism, Lutheranism, Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.” (44)

Beckwith does not sugarcoat his experience as a young child in Catholicism. He asks tough questions of Catholicism:

“…The American Catholic Church has to ask itself a serious and painful question: is there anything that we did that helped facilitate the departure of these talented and devoted people from our communion?” (45)

Beckwith recounts the passion of his early years as an evangelical. He speaks fondly of Francis Schaeffer. He relates his enthusaism upon becoming convinced that certain creeds are authoritative renderings of Christian doctrine. He outlines the major steps in his education and his rise to prominence in evangelical scholarship.

Readers might be surprised to discover some charismatic tendencies in Beckwith’s memoir. He describes a vision of Jesus that his wife had. He interprets events in his life as signs of God’s approval of his departure from the evangelical faith back to Roman Catholicism.

Beckwith devotes considerable space to the doctrine of justification by faith, which is, of course, the defining difference between Protestants and Catholics. I found his exposition of the Protestant view to be somewhat reductionistic. For example, he writes:

“The grace one receives is legal or forensic. This means that grace is not real stuff that changes nature, but merely the name given to God’s graciousness by legally accounting to us Christ’s righteousness.” (85)

I do not know of any Protestant who argues that God’s grace is not transformative. Protestants take care to note that the basis of our justification is faith alone in Jesus Christ. But that does not exclude the transforming power of God’s grace. We simply do not call the moral transformation “justification.” Protestants are careful to avoid making our own righteousness the basis for our salvation.

The end of the book forcefully argues for inclusion of Catholics in the Evangelical Theological Society.

“I still believe that the ETS doctrinal statement is broad enough to allow Catholic members.” (119)

I actually agree with Beckwith on this issue. I do not classify Catholics as evangelicals in the classic sense, but if Beckwith is making a case for Catholic membership in ETS based solely upon the society’s doctrinal statement, then he is correct. There is nothing in this document that would explicitly exclude Catholic members.

Beckwith bolsters his case by bringing good evidence:

“Pastors and theologians like Boyd, Pinnock, and Sanders are constrained only by ‘inerrancy’ and ‘the Trinity,’ which means (at least theoretically) that they could embrace any one of a variety of heresies condemned by the ancient Church and yet still remain an ETS member in good standing: Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, or the denial of Christ’s eternal sonship. Yet oddly, Catholics who embrace the Church that claimed to have the ecclesiastical authority to condemn these heresies, and which provided to its separated progeny, including Evangelicals, the resources and creeds that provide the grounds for excluding these heresies, apparently have no place in ETS.” (126)

I find Beckwith’s case to be very persuasive. He goes on to write:

“Put in terms of specific traditions, if the term ‘Evangelical’ is broad enough to include high-church Anglicans, low-church anti-creedal Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, the Evangelical Free Church, Arminians, Calvinists, Disciples of Christ, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventist, open theists, atemporal theists, social Trinitarians, substantial Trinitarians, nominalists, realists, eternal security supporters and opponents, temporal theists, dispensationalists, theonnmists, church-state separationists, church-state accomodationists, cessationists, non-cessationists, kenotic theorists, covenant theologians, paedo-Baptists, Anabaptists, and Dooyeweerdians, then there should be room for an Evangelical Catholic.” (128)

I agree with Beckwith that ETS should allow Catholics in its membership as long as it stands by its current doctrinal formulation. If ETS decides that Catholics should be excluded, then the official doctrinal statement needs to be adjusted in order to reflect what the society agrees is “true evangelical identity.” It might be time for a more robust confession of faith, and not the minimalist document that guides ETS today.

At the end of the book, Beckwith admits:

“…My return to the Catholic Church has as much to do with a yearning for a deeper spiritual life as it did with theological reasoning.” (128)

In the end, Beckwith confesses that a deep spiritual yearning ultimately led him back to Rome, not theological reasoning.  Return to Rome would have been better had Beckwith given us more insight into Rome’s satisfaction of his spiritual yearnings instead of the doctrinal issues that he admits were not the primary factor in his decision to return to Rome.

 
 

Jun

23

2009

Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

Gospel Confrontation and Gospel Comfort

bible_hands_squareIn counseling, I often come across two kinds of people:

Some people think they are true Christians, but are probably not. They need a dose of gospel confrontation.

Other people doubt they are true Christians, but probably are. They need a dose of gospel comfort.

Sam’s Story

Sam is a twenty-something who is upset with God because of a recent downturn in his business profits. He waltzes into my office, mad at God and (by extension) the church.

I ask a few diagnostic questions, and I quickly discover that Sam is living with his girlfriend. He rarely attends church. His biggest goal in life is to make a lot of money.

In short, Sam is not living the life of a Christian. I fail to see any genuine fruit of repentance. The more I talk to him, the more I realize that he is not concerned about his lack of commitment to the Christian community; neither is he upset about his misplaced priorities or sexual immorality.

I ask him some questions about his spiritual condition. He tells me about a decision he made at a youth event ten years ago. He raised his hand, filled out a card, and got his “ticket to heaven.”  He insists that he is truly saved because of this experience.

What does Sam need? The gospel.

Sam needs to be confronted with the lack of fruit in his life. He needs to see his life compared to the holiness of God. He needs to hear that true salvation always leads to good works. The absence of fruit in his life indicates that Sam is not a true believer.

I urge him to examine his own life to see if he is in the faith. I urge him to see himself in light of God’s holiness. I urge him to repent of his sins and trust in Jesus. By pointing to the fruitlessness of his life, I confront him with the gospel truth that Jesus Christ transforms us into new people. Sam is comfortable in his sin and needs to be confronted with the gospel.

Jenny’s Story

Jenny is a twenty-something who meets me and my wife in my office. She has a sweet spirit and a naturally introspective personality. She tells us that she feels guilty about the sins she commits daily. She weeps about the ways she fails the Lord. Her constant struggles against sin are causing her to doubt if she is saved.

I ask a few diagnostic questions and discover that Jenny is very active in church. She sincerely wants to please the Lord. She is very aware of her sinfulness, and that is why she fears she doesn’t have enough fruit to show for her salvation. Looking at her life, I see fruits of repentance and faith everywhere.

What does Jenny need? The gospel.

But I take a different road with Jenny than I did with Sam. I challenged Sam to examine his life and see that the fruit of his life indicates a diseased tree. He needed to repent and trust in Jesus. I confronted Sam with the gospel that leads to a transformation of life.

But with Jenny, the last thing I want to do is say, “Look at your life! It’s obvious you love the Lord. You do good works. You repent of your sins.” Once I tell Jenny to examine her life, I’ve condemned her. “I haven’t done enough to prove my salvation,” she will say.

Instead, I take her back to the truth of Christ’s righteousness covering our sinfulness. Look to Christ, I tell her. Remember that your salvation is not dependent on you, not even on the works you do after you are a Christian. Christ is your redeemer. Christ is your righteousness. Jenny is conflicted about her salvation and needs to be comforted. So I point her to Christ.

Confrontation and Comfort

We all need the gospel.

Some people think they are Christians because of a one-time decision that never bore genuine fruit in life. They need gospel confrontation: the gospel changes us.

Others doubt they are Christians because they recognize their sinfulness. They need gospel comfort: the gospel saves us.

The gospel should comfort the conflicted and confront the comfortable.

 
 

Jun

22

2009

Trevin Wax|3:40 am CT

Southern Baptists in the 21st Century

SBC-building-conf-159This week, I am in Louisville for the Southern Baptist Convention and the historic commemoration of Southern Seminary’s 150-year anniversary. In honor of the Convention meeting this week, I have decided to point my readers to some past material I have written about my denomination.

Also, you may like to take a (pictorial) tour through the famous Cave Hill Cemetery, where many prominent Southern Baptist leaders’ bodies are resting and awaiting resurrection. Enjoy!

Cloud of Witnesses: Cave Hill Cemetery

A tour of the grave sites of some famous Baptist forefathers…

Introduction: Southern Seminary

James P. Boyce (1827-88)

John A. Broadus (1827-95)

Basil Manly, Jr. (1825-92)

A.T. Robertson (1863-1934)

E.Y. Mullins (1860-1928)

John Sampey (1863-1946), Ellis Fuller (1891-1950), Roy Honeycutt (1926-2004)

Reflections

Personal Reflections on the Southern Baptist Convention

Screwtape on the Southern Baptist Convention (March 2009)

A Plea to the Current Leadership of the SBC (February 2009)

Unchurched or Unsaved? – Baptist Press (November 2008)

7 Types of Southern Baptists (June 2008)

Finger-pointing and the SBC Decline – Baptist Press (April 2008)

Celebration and Concern about the Reformed Resurgence (April 2008)

Southern Seminary and Calvinism (March 2008)

How Older Southern Baptists Can Mentor the Younger Generation (February 2008)

 
 

Jun

21

2009

Trevin Wax|3:20 am CT

Spurgeon's Prayer: The Wonders of Calvary

SpurgeonGreat God,
there was a time when we dreaded the thought of coming near to You,
for we were guilty and You were angry with us,
but now we will praise You
because Your anger is turned away and You comfort us.

Yes, and the very throne which once was a place of dread
has now become the place of shelter. I flee to You to hide me.

O bring us, we pray You, now near to Yourself.
Let us bathe ourselves in communion with our God.
Blessed be the love which chose us before the world began.
We can never sufficiently adore You for Your sovereignty,
the sovereignty of love which saw us in the ruins of the Fall,
yet loved us anyway.

We also bless You, O God, as the God of our redemption,
for You have so loved us as to give even Your dear Son for us.
He gave Himself, His very life for us
that He might redeem us from all iniquity and separate us unto Himself
to be His peculiar people, zealous for good works.

Never can we sufficiently adore free grace and undying love.
The wonders of Calvary never cease to be wonders,
they are growing more marvelous in our esteem
as we think of Him who washed us from our sins in His own blood.
Nor can we cease to praise the God of our regeneration
who found us dead and made us live,
found us at enmity and reconciled us,
found us loving the things of this world
and lifted us out of the muck and mire of selfishness and worldliness
in the love of divine everlasting things.

All our help must come from You.
Give back to the church its love, its confidence,
its holy daring, its consecration,
its generousness, its holiness.
Give back all it ever had and give it much more.
Take every member and wash his feet, sweet Lord, most tenderly,
and set us with clean feet in a clean road,
with a clean heart to guide them, and bless us as You will in a divine fashion.

Bless us, our Father,
and let all the churches of Jesus Christ partake of care and tenderness.
Walking among the golden candlesticks trim every lamp and make every light,
even though it burns feebly now, to shine out gloriously through Your care.

Now bless the sinners. Lord, convert them.
O God, save men, save this great city, this wicked city, this slumbering dead city.
Lord, arouse it, arouse it by any means, that it may turn to its God.
Lord save sinners all the world over, and let Your precious Word be fulfilled.
And now to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be glory forever and ever. Amen.

- Charles Spurgeon, adapted

 
 

Jun

20

2009

Trevin Wax|3:07 am CT

Arguing Ants

antsfighting“If we begin to get a glimpse of the vast glory of God, we will realize that many of our conflicts are like two ants arguing about which is taller while standing in front of Mount Everest.

“We quibble over some infinitesimal difference of opinion while the vastness of Almighty God soars into the heavens.

“We need to stop looking at one another relative to ourselves, or, better yet, stop looking in the mirror. And we need to turn our eyes to the loveliness of Christ in his Word.”

- Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds