Monthly Archives: November 2009

 

Nov

30

2009

Trevin Wax|3:26 am CT

Worth a Look 11.30.09

Tim Keller on two kinds of popularity:

There are two very different motivations for adapting and accommodating our message to the sensibilities of a group of people. The first motive is ‘ambition’ — we do it for our sake, for our own glory and approval. The other reason we may accommodate people is for their sake, so that we can gradually win their trust until they become open to the truth they need so much. The first motive will so control us that we will never offend people. The second motive will help us choose our battles and not offend people unnecessarily.

Tullian Tchividjian is thankful for pain:

To be thankful for our comforts only is to make an idol of this life. “God-sent afflictions”, says Maurice Roberts, “have a health-giving effect upon the soul” because they are the medicine used to purge the soul of self-centeredness and this world’s vanities. Pain, in other words, sharpens us, matures us, and gives us clear “eye-sight.” Pain transforms us like nothing else can. It turns us into “solid” people. Roberts continues, “Those who have been in the crucible have lost more of their scum.” All of this should cause us to be deeply thankful.

It’s been said that pain is the second best thing because it leads us to the Best Thing (God). For, it is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we come to the beginning of God. And it is only when we come to the beginning of God that we come to the beginning of life.

An additional reason to believe that infants who die go to be with Jesus:

Remember that there were entire civilizations that had come and gone prior to the time of Christ, and many others that were extinct prior to the time they first had access to the gospel. Most evangelicals agree that conscious faith in Christ is normally necessary for salvation, with the possible exceptions of infants, very young children, and the developmentally challenged. So if inclusivism is not an option (and I think it isn’t) how is it that there are people fromevery people group around God’s throne if some people groups never had access to the gospel? I think the answer is that there are infants from every people group who have, by God’s grace, been redeemed, and therefore are now believers in the presence of their King.

An interesting news story that explores the increasing contributions of Southern Seminary to the scholarship represented at the Evangelical Theological Society:

At the year’s largest gathering of evangelical scholars, theologians and ministers, Southern Seminary faculty members and students presented 27 papers in the daily sessions, including the presidential address by Bruce A. Ware, ETS president for 2009. Ware, who serves as professor of theology at Southern, is the seminary’s first-ever faculty member to serve in ETS’s highest office.

 
 

Nov

30

2009

 
 

Nov

29

2009

Trevin Wax|3:24 am CT

Lancelot Andrews' Thanksgiving Prayer

I bless you, O Lord, for creating me and bringing me into life.

I thank you for setting me free from many sins,
for enduing me with the gifts of grace,
with the gifts of nature and fortune.

I praise you for your abundant mercy,
for bringing us into a lively hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled,
that will never fade away.

I thank you for Jesus,
in whom you have blessed me with all spiritual blessings.

I thank you for comforting me in the time of trial,
and for the knowledge that -
as the sufferings of Christ abound in me,
so my consolation also abounds in Christ.

To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks!

I am the work of your hands,
the price of your blood,
the image of your countenance,
the servant of your purchase,
the seal of your name,
the child of your adoption,
a temple of your spirit,
a member of your church.

- Lancelot Andrews, 1555-1626 (adapted)

 
 

Nov

28

2009

Trevin Wax|3:33 am CT

Radu Gheorghita Endorsement for Holy Subversion

rgheorghitaDuring my years of study in Romania, I was challenged by the example of one professor in particular – Dr. Radu Gheorghita. Dr. Gheorghita is a Romanian scholar who now teaches at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was fortunate enough to take Hermeneutics, Greek, and New Testament with him while studying at Emanuel University.

I have never met someone so passionate about knowing the Scriptures in the original languages. Dr. Gheorghita disciplines himself in the memorization of the Greek New Testament – having committed several books to memory already. I am thankful for his love for the Bible and also for his endorsement of Holy Subversion.

The bridge between the biblical world and ours is a two-way path. Most travelers start from the Here-and-Now world and equipped with the tools of exegesis step back in space-time into the There-and-Then world.

Trevin Wax makes a bold proposal for a journey in the opposite direction. What would it be like if the biblical authors were to step into our own world? How would Moses, David, Paul, or even Jesus proclaim God’s message if they were living today?

The author’s creative and persuasive proposal invites the readers to ponder what they might plausibly hear if the biblical imperative against idolatry were given to us today.

- Dr. Radu Gheorghita
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

 
 

Nov

26

2009

Trevin Wax|3:37 am CT

The Little Graces

rainforestThe whole of the Christian life should be an act of gratitude.

We are thankful for the magnificent grace of God shown to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We are the recipients of so great a salvation. Such grace should overwhelm our hearts and lead to grateful obedience.

Magnificent grace leads me to obedience. But sometimes, it’s the little graces that get to me.

The little drops of grace God showers on my life remind me that he truly loves and cares for me… personally. It’s not just my salvation that makes me thankful; God’s little graces also move me to gratitude.

I can think of two personal examples. The first goes back to my trip to Romania in April. (Actually, the very fact that we were able to go on that trip is an evidence of God’s grace… but I digress.)

One of the elders in the village church I used to serve in has been a godly example to me. He and his wife, though up in years, lived next to the church for decades. When the church relocated, he built a new house next to the new building  just so he could be near the house of the Lord. He and his wife called me “their American grandson,” and they became for me “my Romanian grandparents.”

Last January, my parents briefly visited Romania. They found out that Bunica (the grandmother) had stomach cancer and her health was quickly degenerating. Bunica told them that she hoped to see me and Corina once more before she died.

We visited in Romania in April. I preached in the village church one Sunday, helped administer the Lord’s Supper, and hugged Bunica, knowing it would probably be the last time. The next week, she took a turn for the worse, and died shortly after we returned home.

The Lord granted her wish – allowing us to see each other once more before he took her home. He also gave me the great honor of being the last person to give her the Lord’s Supper before she died. When we found out about her death, we were saddened. But we were also touched by the quiet grace of God – to both her and us.

400000Another example:

Corina and I never had a car in Romania. We bought a car when we moved to the States and got along fine with just one. Late last year, we knew that we would soon need another car. But with school bills and other expenses, we didn’t know if we could afford one.

Earlier this year, a couple in our church who was planning to donate their 1996 Toyota Camry to charity decided to give it to us instead.

The Camry is in great shape. We recently took it past the 400,000 mile mark! It is so reliable that we had no qualms about taking it on vacation this summer. That little Camry, which might not be worth much money to most people, is nevertheless a valuable reminder of God’s provision and grace to us.

God has done great things, yes. I praise him for his goodness shown to us in our great salvation.

But God does little things too. And those little things remind me just how much he really does love us.

What is man that you are mindful of him?
The son of man that you care for him?

 
 

Nov

25

2009

Trevin Wax|3:15 am CT

Thoughts on Sarah Palin and Her Autobiography

Going Rogue: An American LifeA little over a year ago, she was a largely unknown governor of a state closer to Siberia than New York City. Today, Sarah Palin is one of the most polarizing political figures in recent memory. People either love her or hate her (as the customer reviews of her book on Amazon demonstrate).

With my GRE out of the way and my requirements for Graduation at SBTS completed, I decided late last week to go to Barnes and Noble to pick up a couple of books to read for pure enjoyment. Not for the blog. Not for school. Not for ministry. Just something to enjoy reading.

Sarah Palin’s autobiography looked intriguing to me. I enjoy politics. I like seeing the inner workings of a political campaign. At the same time, I understand that most autobiographies paint starry-eyed portraits of the protagonist. In the end, I decided to pick up Going Rogue.

Three things about this book stood out to me.

First, Alaska is a fascinating state. I expected to be bored silly by the first third of Going Rogue. I had no interest in reading Palin’s recollections of her ordinary life in Alaska.

But the stories from Palin’s childhood and teenage years showed me that there is no such thing as ordinary in Alaska. The state’s rugged terrain, fascinating history, and massive size (to cross the state you would have to drive a distance as long as Houston to Minneapolis) won me over. Palin’s “can-do” personality successfully represents the spirit of those braving the Alaskan wild.

Secondly, I was happy to see Palin’s unflinching articulation of a pro-life point of view. Palin’s pro-life stance is bolstered by her example. The mother of five children – including a baby with down syndrome – Palin does not just talk about life being a gift from God; her actions demonstrate that she holds fast to this truth.

One example is particularly memorable. In order to announce to her family and friends that God was blessing them with a fifth child (Trig, the baby with special needs), Palin pens a moving letter “from God” that describes this baby as a unique blessing. Whatever your political affiliation, Christians should appreciate the pro-life example that Palin puts forth.

One more aspect stands out to me after having read Going Rogue. In politics, there is always more than meets the eye. Palin’s account of the campaign trail provides a glimpse into the inner workings and outer facade of a national campaign.

But one would be foolish to expect there to be “more than meets the eye” in the campaign and then miss the fact that autobiographies of this sort also have an agenda and a purpose. Going Rogue is clearly intended to make a case for Palin’s political philosophy and clear up some of the rumors that have tarnished her reputation. But I have little doubt it also represents a savvy political move.

Politics is a dirty business. Seeing the media’s treatment of Palin’s children is sad. Sadder still is reading about Palin’s family being split into two locations, or her going weeks on end without seeing her husband. Try as she may to make it seem like she can be SuperMom and SuperGovernor (and then Super VP candidate), Palin has chosen a life of public service that comes with certain costs. At times, she nobly sacrifices her political ambition for her family. Other times, her family pays the price for her political endeavors.

To those who want to make Sarah Palin out to be the poster child of evangelical political engagement, I would offer a strong dose of caution. Yes, her autobiography is interesting. Yes, her stories are funny (Can you picture Joe Biden doing stretches and warm-ups before the debate?). Yes, her candidacy was a boost to John McCain’s lackluster campaign. I realize that she is pro-life and embodies many of the conservative values to which many evangelicals subscribe.

But we evangelicals are too quick to idolize political candidates that articulate our values. We should not join the adoring fans who uncritically embrace all that Palin does or says; neither should we join her opponents who demonize her and mock her family.

Going Rogue is an interesting story of a family caught in the crossfire of an intense national political campaign. Is it a one-sided portrayal of Palin and her family? Yes, obviously. But it is enjoyable nonetheless.

 
 

Nov

25

2009

Trevin Wax|2:04 am CT

Worth a Look 11.25.09

How a mega-church is rediscovering the gospel

The belief system of a pastor is bound to come out in his preaching at least in subtle ways. My emphasis was always on grace, but it was also laced with the discipline of effort and inner strength to be what God called us to be. The result was either pride or defeat. My preaching has changed as a result of the Gospel going deeper inside of me.

The truth is I have existed as a pastor with gods in my closet. There were times when these gods sustained me. Giving them up has caused more death this year than I would like to admit. The closet is still not empty, but the death of these gods has made me ravenous. Without the Gospel as my source of security and significance, I would die. So as one who has vacillated between self-sufficiency and depression, Gospel-driven transformation is both liberating and terrifying.

There are some in our church who have not yet rediscovered the Gospel this way. There are others who hear the terrifying part but not the liberating part, and they sit on pins and needles. Many of them will leave soon, I think. But there are many others who have felt the shackles start to fall off, and, like me, they are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

Kevin DeYoung on “The Gospel Old and New”

Please, please, please, if you are enamored with the New Gospel or anything like it, consider if you are really being fair with your fellow Christians in always throwing them under the bus.  Consider if you are preaching like Jesus did, who called people, not first of all to a way of life, but to repent and believe.

A new orphan ministry and a way to win a set of commentaries:

Our Mission: Baby Zoowon is committed to orphan care. For each blanket purchased Baby Zoowon will donate a blanket to a child in need. Baby Zoowon also donates a portion of every sale to help families with the overwhelming cost of adoption.

If you promote their new ministry, you can have a chance to win Calvin’s commentaries on the whole Bible.

How to split firewood. (I remember doing this a few times when I was living in Romania.)

 
 

Nov

24

2009

Trevin Wax|3:41 am CT

Evangelicals & Catholics on Holy Ground: 4 Questions for Chris Castaldo

Castaldo face low megsChris Castaldo (Pastor of Outreach and Church Planting at the College Church in Wheaton, IL) has recently written a book entitled Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic (Zondervan, 2009).

In the book, Chris takes readers on a dynamic exploration of the challenges and opportunities encountered by Roman Catholics who become Evangelical. Holy Ground also casts a vision for how evangelicals can emulate Jesus in relationship to Catholic loved-ones and friends. Here are some questions I had for Chris after reading his book.

Trevin Wax: In the beginning of the book, you define “evangelical” in terms of the Lausanne Covenant. Later on, in your division of Roman Catholics into categories (traditional, evangelical, cultural), you use the term “evangelical” as an adjective for a type of Catholic. Are these different ways of using “evangelical” compatible?

Chris Castaldo: Essentially, although I would like to offer one caveat.

The Lausanne Covenant elucidates the gospel in point four under the heading The Nature of Evangelism saying:

“To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating fruits of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.”

As far as this statement goes, Catholics say “amen.” This is so because Catholics and Protestants virtually agree on the “objective” dimensions of the gospel (that Jesus died, rose, and now reigns).

Where we differ is on how these redemptive realities are applied to humanity. Does it come through the sacraments of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, as Rome asserts? Or is it supremely revealed in Scripture and accessed by faith alone, as Protestants believe?

Since the Lausanne statement doesn’t specify how the gospel is applied (whether it comes through the sacraments or through faith alone), it is essentially consistent with the Evangelical Catholic view.

However, I happen to agree with the Reformed tradition which asserts that our definition of the gospel should reach beyond the objective content of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and reign to also define the gracious nature of its application (that it is accessed by faith alone). As I state on page 144 of Holy Ground,

“This widely used category of ‘Evangelical Catholic’ remains problematic in that it often doesn’t include a commitment to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which is central to Evangelical belief and identity. Nevertheless, the category of ‘Evangelical Catholic’ continues to be used in a sociological sense by Catholics and Protestants alike.”

This is the point at which our compatibility breaks down.

Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former CatholicTrevin Wax: It seems that most evangelicals believe the defining difference between Catholics and Protestants is on the doctrine of justification. You believe that the difference is in authority. Why is sola Scriptura the primary doctrine that divides us?

Chris Castaldo: At the risk of sounding scholastic, I find it helpful to think in terms of the Protestant Reformers’ distinction between the formal and material causes of the Reformation (sola Scriptura, the formal, giving rise to sola fide, the material).

It’s not that one is more important than the other; rather, it’s a matter of which is fundamental. In an epistemological pecking order, sola Scriptura is the starting point, setting the trajectory for our position on justification by faith alone.

The practical benefit of understanding this distinction is realized in theological conversation with Catholics. We can argue (in the best sense of that word) about justification by faith alone until the cows come home, but if we never consider the sources of authority with which we’re operating, the fact that we’re singing from different sheets of music — the Catholic sheet including Tradition and magisterium as infallible forms of revelation — means we’re unlikely to ever enjoy fruitful discussion.

Stepping backward a few paces to behold the big picture, broad enough to include the doctrines of revelation, Christology, and ecclesiology, inevitably sheds light on our understanding of salvation.

Trevin Wax: You mention some of the reasons that Catholics convert to evangelical faith, including a desire to be motivated by grace rather than guilt, or have a relationship with Christ rather than a rules-based understanding of religion. Aren’t there cases in evangelical circles where we make the same mistakes (emphasize guilt, rules, etc.)? If so, does this necessarily mean that Catholicism is invalidated by some of the mistaken practices of its adherents?

Chris Castaldo: We Protestants are certainly just as guilty of legalism. We all know fundamentalist Protestants for whom law keeping is their way of salvation. In Holy Ground I make the assertion that for every finger we point at Catholics we have one or more pointing back at us.

The correlation between Protestant and Catholic types also applies to the taxonomy. Each of the three categories of Catholics which I posit in the book (traditional, evangelical, and cultural) apply to Protestant churches as easily as they do Catholic ones.

To the last part of your question, however, I think there is a difference between Catholic and Protestant teaching at this point.

While Protestant pastors and laypeople make the mistake of using guilt as a motivation, when they do so it is a departure from biblical teaching, an inconsistent move that takes its cues from religion instead of the Bible. For Catholicism, motivation by guilt is a natural outworking of what the Catholic Church officially teaches in her catechism and elsewhere. Sacraments like reconciliation involving penance, precepts like holy days of obligation (think of the wording “obligation”), and doctrines like purgatory, all feed the same guilt impulse. It’s what my colleague Josh Moody calls “salvation on probation.”

Thus, for Catholics, guilt is not simply an incident, it’s a form of psychosis, one that eventually shapes how you view God, self, and salvation.

Trevin Wax: What can evangelicals learn from their conversations with Catholic friends and families?

Chris Castaldo: The way you phrase this question is exactly right. What can we learn? In your question is an assumption that we can and should learn. I think your assumption is right for two basic reasons.

First, it’s sophomoric at best to think that we have nothing to learn from other Christian traditions. When I was a student at Gordon-Conwell, for instance, I took classes at other divinity schools in the Boston area. I studied Eastern Orthodoxy at Holy Cross and Roman Catholicism at Harvard Divinity School. Catholic classmates taught me profound lessons about reverence for God, prayer, bio ethics, cultural engagement, and social justice. These are the same lessons we can learn from our Catholic friends and family.

Did I agree with everything I heard from my Catholic classmates? Certainly not! Yet, those experiences broadened my perspective in ways that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

You say, “Well, my cousin Vito, the primary interlocutor in my Catholic family, isn’t exactly the Harvard Div. type. But that brings me to the second reason why we must take the posture of a humble listener. It’s essentially the law of reciprocity.

If you and I ever hope to communicate what we believe about the gospel of grace, we must first establish trust and credibility, currency that comes by listening before we talk. This approach, characterized by genuine interest and concern, will enrich relationships, and therefore promote fruitful conversation about the greatness of Jesus, the One who died, rose, and now lives, and alone deserves the glory.

 
 

Nov

24

2009

Trevin Wax|2:24 am CT

Worth a Look 11.24.09

Timothy George explains why he helped draft (and then sign) the Manhattan Declaration.

These are not the only matters that require a conscientious response from followers of Jesus Christ, but they are threshold issues that touch on everything else we do including the proclamation of the Gospel, concern for the poor, nurturing of children, ministry to prisoners, care of creation, and peacemaking in a broken world.

Here’s why Al Mohler signed it:

I believe we are facing an inevitable and culture-determining decision on the three issues centrally identified in this statement. I also believe that we will experience a significant loss of Christian churches, denominations, and institutions in this process. There is every good reason to believe that the freedom to conduct Christian ministry according to Christian conviction is being subverted and denied before our eyes. I believe that the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and religious liberty are very much in danger at this very moment.

Frank Turk tells why he respectfully declined to sign the Declaration. John Stackhouse didn’t sign it either, but for completely different reasons. In case you’re wondering, I signed it, and I encourage you to do the same.

Tim Challies shows his humorous side with this satirical proposal for the “ultimate Christian novel” – one that “seamlessly blends today’s most popular genres into one beautiful, compelling, cohesive whole.” Click here for the whole description.

Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation

That’s right. It’s an Amish novel; it’s a vampire novel; it’s an end-times novel. It’s the best of all worlds.

 
 

Nov

23

2009

Trevin Wax|3:43 am CT

Ripped Off: Consumers and the Music Business in the 21st Century

Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized MusicIn my desk drawer at home, I have a large collection of CDs. Years have gone by since I last touched many of them. Yet I still listen to the music, now conveniently stored on my computer hard drive. My big CD collection is now a large iTunes playlist. I know I’m not the only music-lover who has gone digital.

Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music tells the story of the transformation of music that has taken place in the past decade. Digital music has changed everything. The music industry has faced an unprecedented number of challenges, leading one analyst to call the changes “a technological freak out.”

The internet has led to the democratization of music. New artists without an official record label can market their music online. Old artists who saw success in the past are scrambling to keep their music from being illegally downloaded.

Ripped author, Greg Kot, is on the side of music lovers. He makes the case that Napster fans should not be considered criminals. He celebrates the success of iTunes. He points to the large attendance at concerts thanks to an artist’s internet presence.

Reading this book, I was reminded how expensive CDs used to be. Remember the frustration of wanting to purchase one song only to discover you would have to buy an entire album?

But the transformation of music has both positive and negative aspects. Some of the recent developments in music cause me to say, “This is wonderful!” Other times: “I really miss this or that.” As thankful as I am for 99 cent tracks on iTunes, I think music fans lose something when we no longer support the idea of an artist putting together an entire album that tells a story or makes a compelling statement.

Greg Kot’s book is interesting, even if his analysis of music is sometimes simplistic. (Example? He demeans the “simplistic response” of conservative country anthem “Have You Forgotten?”, and cheers the complexity of “John Walker’s Blues” and “George Bush Does Not Care About Black People.” It seems to me there is plenty of simplicity and silliness on both sides of the political aisle.)

What can church leaders learn from a book like this? Two things.

First off, consider this quote from Howie Klein (a longtime executive of Reprise Records):

“We were there for the short-term needs of Wall Street, which is antithetical to the needs of a company that is supposedly founded on music. The industry was built on signing artists with a strong vision, and trusting that vision to do good work over a long period of time. Your job as a record-company man was to help them realize that. ‘If it’s a real artist, you can never go wrong.’” (8-9)

Klein recognizes that good bands often need time to carve out a niche, find a wide audience, and hone their artistic skills. Unfortunately, the focus on success now can lead to a diminishing quality of music in the long term.

Plenty of churches make the same mistake. Pastor search committees look for a visionary pastor who can lead them to immediate numerical growth. Pastors are expected to bring about instant success. This kind of pressure leads to a diminished view of the pastorate in the long term. Future effectiveness is sacrificed for immediate impact.

Secondly, the democratization of music means the digital revolution should impact how pastors and churches release information and resources. I am amazed that so many preachers and conferences still charge money for sermons online. The world of lucrative cassette-tape ministries no longer exists. Listen to the words of an e-zine editor:

“People weren’t going to buy music unless they could hear it. That is what college radio and MP3 blogs were for. It is to the band’s benefit for people to hear their music because we’re in a day when nobody buys music unless they’ve heard it. We don’t trust anyone really.”

The way that the young generation views music is the same way that we view preachers. Few young people will show up at your conference unless they have been exposed to the teaching online. Some of the evangelical leaders who lament the recent resurgence of Calvinism in Desiring God, Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition fail to notice the correlation between free online resources and conference attendance (not to mention book sales).

Ripped tells the story of how the wired generation is changing music. The question for church leaders is this: will we be able to anticipate how the wired generation is leading to widespread changes in our churches?