Thursday, March 30, 2006
"Blogging and the Wisdom of Solomon"

Tim Challies has an excellent post today on blogging: "Blogging and the Wisdom of Solomon." Through the lens of Scripture as found in the book of Proverbs, here are his fourteen points:

 
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A Gem from Ryle
This morning I came across a great quote from J.C. Ryle. When preaching about sickness and suffering, he gave these words:

Let us cleave to Christ more closely, love Him more heartily, live to Him more thoroughly, copy Him more exactly, confess Him more boldly, follow Him more fully. Religion like this will always bring its own reward. Worldly people may laugh at it. Weak brethren may think it extreme. But it will wear well. At even time it will bring us light. In sickness it will bring us peace. In the world to come it will give us a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
 
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Amos Yong and His Dangerous Developments

Today, Christianity Today online posted "A Wind that Swirls Everywhere: Pentecostal scholar Amos Yong thinks he sees the Holy Spirit working in other religions, too." I have one word to describe this development: frightening!

This article is written about Amos Yong, an up-and-coming Pentecostal scholar. Here is a brief glimpse into some of his views:

This has remained Yong's pressing question: Is it possible that the Holy Spirit is active not only among Christians of all denominations but also among believers of non-Christian world religions?

The question arises in each of Yong's most important publications: Spirit-Word Community (Ashgate, 2002), Beyond the Impasse (Baker Academic, 2003), and The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh (Baker Academic, 2005). His central thesis is that, because the Spirit of God is universally active in creation and new creation, "the religions of the world, like everything else that exists, are providentially sustained by the Spirit of God for divine purposes." Where most Pentecostals see the devil's work, Yong sees the Spirit's. Concretely, that means Christians should be open to learning from and being enriched by the Spirit's work in world religions. Dialogue must take place alongside evangelism, he argues, so that all the religions—including Christianity—can learn from each other what the Spirit is doing.

. . . .

Yong has yet to answer where his investigations are leading him. Does the Holy Spirit reveal something of God truthfully in non-Christian religions? Does the Spirit work salvation through them? Does this salvation look anything like what Jesus describes to Nicodemus in John 3 or what Paul depicts in Romans 8? On the one hand, he underscores the dynamic and unpredictable work of the Spirit in world religions; on the other hand, he always links Word (Christ) and Spirit together. Is he leaning toward religious pluralism or promoting inclusivism? One thing is certain: He regards these traditional categories as too static and is looking for an alternative.

This raises a second question: What criteria should we use for discerning the Spirit's work in non-Christian movements? Yong hesitates to elevate Jesus Christ to exclusive status for such discernment. For him, "signs of the kingdom," such as personal and social transformation in love, might serve as such tools. The Spirit might be active, then, wherever the kingdom of God is being advanced, whether or not Jesus Christ is central to the religious messages and practices. But can Christians ever separate the person of Jesus Christ from the kingdom of God? That seems problematic and will raise doubts in many Christians' minds about Yong's project.
 
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A "Hip" Audio Bible?
Yesterday's USA Today included an interesting story: "'Experience' the Bible." According to this report, there are "more than 80 black celebrities reading, singing and composing music for The Bible Experience, a new 70-hour Genesis-through-Revelation dramatic audio performance of the Scriptures."

What is the reason behind this "hip" audio bible?

"Our co-producer Lou 'Buster' Brown says we're taking God's word and we're gel capping it: surrounding it with elements that make it more palatable for mass consumption in today's marketplace," says Kyle Bowser, one of the quartet of Emmy- and Grammy-winning co-producers from Inspired By Media Group. The group instigated the multimillion-dollar project with financing and text provided by Zondervan, the nation's largest Bible publisher.

The Bible needs to be made "more palatable for mass consumption in today's marketplace?" Sheesh!

Regardless, with a cast that includes Blair Underwood as Jesus, Cuba Gooding Jr. as Judas, Kirk Franklin as Paul the apostle, and Denzel Washington and his wife handling the Song of Songs, along with Zondervan's advertising zeal, I am sure we will be hearing a lot more about The Bible Experience.
 
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Real Polygamists and "Big Love"
Here is another interesting angle on HBO's controversial series "Big Love." Yesterday's New York Times included the article "'Big Love': Real Polygamists Look at HBO Polygamists and Find Sex." The news story begins:

Yuck, she said. A sex scene. And right at the beginning of the show, her friend chimed in.

"Big Love," HBO's new take on a fictional polygamous family in the suburbs of this city, was on the television. The Viagra-popping Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) was thrashing in bed with Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), the youngest of his three wives. The five women watching the show — covering their eyes during the sex scenes, chiding the competitive wives, urging Bill to take control — were critics with special credentials: a current or past polygamous marriage.

And despite the show's flaws, these women called "Big Love" a cultural benchmark, one with the potential to cast a warmer light on their lives.

"It's a more realistic view of a polygamous family that lives out in society than people have known," said Anne Wilde, a widow who was part of a multiple family for 33 years. "It can be seen as a viable alternative lifestyle between consenting adults."

 
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Tuesday, March 28, 2006
More on Beckwith's Tenure Denial
I posted yesterday on Baylor University denying tenure to Francis Beckwith. Since then, I have found some more helpful commentaries.

Yesterday, Joseph Bottum wrote an excellent post over at First Things online. While it is not short, this entry is worth reading in its entirety.

Additionally, today Denyse O’Leary weighs in on The Pearcey Report: "Baylor’s Problem With Beckwith." Arguing against Beckwith's denial of tenure being a result of his conservatism, she maintains that it was because he is brilliant. I'm not sure that I buy her argument, but I fully agree with her on Beckwith's brilliance. If you have any doubts, check out some of his online essays.
 
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The Trinity as "Mother, Child, and Womb"?
According to last week's Christian Post: "Presbyterians Consider Triune 'Mother, Child, and Womb'." This report begins:

Presbyterians this June will be asked to ratify a new report on Trinitarian theology that describes the cornerstone doctrine in various metaphorical terms, including a controversial description of the triune God as “Mother, Child and Womb.”

“[The report] aims to assist the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in reclaiming the doctrine of Trinity in theology, worship and life,” the introduction to the 40-page report, “God’s Love Overflowing,” states.

The report, which has been underway since 2000, includes theological and liturgical sessions that are meant for use in study sessions on the doctrine.


I first found this article through Kim Riddlebarger's blog, but also appreciate Philip Ryken's response on the Reformation21 blog:

What interests me is the move from saying that no wording or metaphor will ever exhaust everything that can be said about God's Triune Being to saying that therefore we need supplement the divine vocabulary with our notions about the Godhead. This is a common and deeply concerning strategy in postmodern theology generally: using the finite limits of the human mind as an excuse for ignoring or supplementing what God has said in His Word. Shouldn't the fact of our finitude move us in exactly the opposite direction, so that our admitted inabilities make us more careful about only believing what the Bible says about God?
 
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"Finding Our Voice in Worship"
While Tom Ascol is away in Romania, fellow elder Ken Puls has taken over the Founders blog and posted a great series on worship: "Finding Our Voice in Worship." Here are the four posts in the series:

 
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Monday, March 27, 2006
Baptists and Calvinism Debate
It's official! James White and Tom Ascol will be debating the Caner brothers (Ergun and Emir) on the topic "Baptists and Calvinism."

For those following this ongoing controversy, it gained a lot of steam at the Founders blog over an entry on the future president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, both sides will be able to engage the other over what the Bible teaches. I am really looking forward to this debate. Too bad I won't be able to attend in person.
 
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Beckwith Denied Tenure as Revenge

Last Friday, Baylor University denied Francis Beckwith tenure. The reason? Nothing official, but the school is not fooling anyone. He is an outspoken evangelical who has written on church-state relations, abortion, and intelligent design. Let's just say Beckwith is often not popular amongst many of today's academic elites.

A graduate student at Baylor has written an informative article in response to this decision: "Tenure Denial as Revenge." It is well worth reading. This article opens our eyes to the reality of our higher educational institutions today.

(HT: The Pearcey Report)
 
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The Emerging Church--A Reformed Heritage?
Last Saturday, Andrew Jones posted "The Missional Church: Reformed Heritage?." His conclusion?

Am I saying the the missional emphasis of the emerging-missional church has its roots in Reformed thinking?
Yes I am. The emerging-missional church has placed a stronger emphasis on the sovereignty of the Triune God in the area of mission, an emphasis with a clear heritage back to the 1950's. The idea of "missional church' has always seemed Reformed to me. Especially the idea that God is sovereign over his missional aims and the role of the church is more participation than innovation. Sometimes I wonder if we are reverting to the days of William Carey who argued for the use of "means" for the work of missions in response to those insisting that God would sort it out Himself. Except the emerging-missional church might be on the other side of the table from William Carey.

Now thats an interesting thought.


It may be, but I am not convinced.

Tim Keller and Scot McKnight have pointed out some problems in the comments section of Jones' post. Here is Keller's thought:

Andrew--I've always thought that Lesslie Newbigin's work was seminal to the whole missional/emerging church movement, and he was deeply Reformed. But, frankly, the emerging church has been just as shaped by the Hauerwas/Anabaptist model of church-as-culture. Newbigin and Hauerwas do not, on the surface, appear all that compatible, but if you swirl them together you can account for an awful lot of the missional/emerging church emphases.

And here is McKnight's comment:

Andrew,

I agree with Keller: the missional emergent foci are only tangentially Reformed. There is a radical low-churchness about emerging that cannot be accounted for with Reformed; and the trinitarian emphasis, depending upon whom one draws from, could be classically creedal, Eastern Orthodox (if the emphasis is thrown onto perichoresis as it is with Stan Grenz), or Reformed.

And the holistic emphasis, though one can find such in the Kuyperian line of thinking, seems to derive from a variety ofsources, not the least of which is liberation theology and the social justice emphases of Wallace, Sider, and the like.

Maybe I just haven't seen it, but I don't see that much emphasis on the sovereignty of God but more on the necessity of striving.
 
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"Inerrancy Is Not Enough"
Last week, Denny Burk presented a paper at the Southwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society: "Inerrancy Is Not Enough." Now he has posted it on his blog. I have come to appreciate Burk, a young and insightful burgeoning evangelical scholar. I believe he has a long life ahead of him in Christian academia.
 
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USA Today on the Flying Spaghetti Monster

I previously blogged about the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) here. Now, USA Today has released a story about the FSM: "Insta-faith: Just add hot water." I agree with Dr. Coppenger who is quoted in the article:

“I'm happy to say I think FSM hurts the evolutionists' program since, by mocking the Christian tradition … it reinforces the correct impression that there is genuine contempt for biblical faith in that camp,” says Mark Coppenger, a pastor who teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. “Besides, the parody is lame, and there are few things more encouraging than cheap shots from one's opponents.”
 
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Saturday, March 25, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 2)

I have found the blogosphere to be somewhat slow around the weekend, so I have decided to post some kind of edifying work from the past on Saturdays.

This post continues a series from J.C. Ryle (1816-1900, Bishop of the Anglican Church): "Forgiveness." It is a wonderful, gospel-centered work. Here is the first part.

II. Let me point out, in the second place, the way of forgiveness.

I ask particular attention to this point, for none can be more important. Granting for a moment that you want pardon and forgiveness, what ought you to do? Whither will you go? Which way will you turn? Every thing hinges on the answer you give to this question.

Will you turn to ministers and put your trust in them? They cannot give you pardon: they can only tell you where it is to be found. They can set before you the bread of life; but you yourself must eat it. They can show you the path of peace; but you yourself must walk in it. The Jewish priest had no power to cleanse the leper, but only to declare him cleansed. The Christian minister has no power to forgive sins; — he can only declare and pronounce who they are that are forgiven.

Will you turn to sacraments and ordinances, and trust in them? They cannot supply you with forgiveness, however diligently you may use them. By sacraments “faith is confirmed and grace increased,” in all who rightly use them (See Article 27). But they cannot justify the sinner. They cannot put away transgression. You may go to the Lord's Table every Sunday in your life: but unless you look far beyond the sign to the thing signified, you will after all die in your sins. You may attend a daily service regularly, but if you think to establish a righteousness of your own by it, in the slightest degree, you are only getting further away from God every day.

Will you trust in your own works and endeavours, your virtues and your good deeds, your prayers and your alms? They will never buy for you an entrance into heaven. They will never pay your debt to God. They are all imperfect in themselves, and only increase your guilt. There is no merit or worthiness in them at the very best. The Lord Jesus Christ says expressly, “When you have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants” (Luk 17:10).

Will you trust in your own repentance and amendment? You are very sorry for the past. You hope to do better for time to come. You hope God will be merciful. Alas, if you lean on this, you have nothing beneath you but a broken reed! The judge does not pardon the thief because he is sorry for what he did. Today's sorrow will not wipe off the score of yesterday's sins. It is not an ocean of tears that would ever cleanse an uneasy conscience and give it peace.

Where then must a man go for pardon? Where is forgiveness to be found? There is a way both sure and plain, and into that way I desire to guide every inquirer's feet.

That way is simply to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. It is to cast your soul, with all its sins, unreservedly on Christ, — to cease completely from any dependence on your own works or doings, either in whole or in part, — and to rest on no other work but Christ's work, no other righteousness but Christ's righteousness, no other merit but Christ's merit, as your ground of hope. Take this course and you are a pardoned soul. “To Christ,” says Peter, “give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). “Through this Man,” says Paul at Antioch, “is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:38). “In Him,” writes Paul to the Colossians, “we have redemption thro u g h His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:14).

The Lord Jesus Christ, in great love and compassion, has made a full and complete satisfaction for sin, by suffering death in our place upon the cross. There He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, and allowed the wrath of God, which we deserved, to fall on His own head. For our sins, as our Substitute, He gave Himself, suffered, and died, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, — that He might deliver us from the curse of a broken law, and provide a complete pardon for all who are willing to receive it. And by so doing, as Isaiah says, — He has borne our sins; as John the Baptist says, — He has taken away sin; as Paul says, — He has purged our sins, and put away sin; and as Daniel says, — He has made an end of sin, and finished transgression (Isa 53:11; Joh 1:29; Heb 1:3; Heb 9:26; Dan 9: 24)

 
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"Countercult Apologetics Hour" Radio Show
Jeff Downs began the "Countercult Apologetics Hour" radio show this week. It sounds promising! Here is the first program (in MP3 format).
 
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Friday, March 24, 2006
The Scientific Study of Prayer
The Washington Post released a news story on the scientific study of prayer today: "Researchers Look at Prayer and Healing." It is a good update in this controversial field of study. Here is an excerpt:

The contentious enterprise is at something of a crossroads. Two new studies are about to report no benefit of having people pray for the sick, the only study underway is nearing completion, and the largest, best-designed project is being published in two weeks. Its eagerly awaited findings could sound the death knell for the field, breathe new life into such efforts, or create new debate.
 
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Thursday, March 23, 2006
Witnessing to Mormons
For those of you keeping up with my blog, you know that I have been enjoying the Way of the Master Radio. It is not because I always agree with them--I definitely don't. But they have a heart for proclaiming the gospel, and I appreciate their sincere zeal to convert people to Christ.

While I do not plan on regularly blogging on this radio show, a recent episode was particularly relevant to my interests and ministry. On the first hour of the March 22, 2006 show, Todd Friel and Ray Comfort witness to a couple of inactive Mormons.

I have a couple of quick thoughts about their encounters. First, I welcome their striving to challenge these Mormons with the gospel. If only more evangelicals were so eager! However, I still finished listening and wondering: how effective were they? Don't get me wrong, they made some good points. I also know that the Holy Spirit can work through any presentation of the good news of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they didn't seem to properly contextualize their message to Mormons, nor did they provide the necessary differentiation between their message and LDS beliefs.

I could easily see these Mormons "responding" to what they had heard and yet returning to the LDS church. In a matter of fact, I think Friel and Comfort may have realized this as well when Comfort said, "Hey Todd. I was just going to say to Chris and Eric that our aim isn't to drive them back to the Mormon church. God forbid." I'm glad for this thought, but also believe that a properly contextualized gospel would automatically show them that they cannot stay in Mormonism as true disciples of Christ.

I just don't believe that a canned, one-size-fits-all approach to witnessing is the right way to witness, even if it is rooted in the biblical law/gospel contrast. We need to understand what the one we are witnessing to believes and then relay the gospel message to them in an understandable and relevant way.
 
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U.S. Warming to Gay Marriage?
The San Francisco Chronicle reported today: "Poll finds U.S. warming to gay marriage: Opposition off 12% since '04 -- support for adoption, military role is up nationally." This news story begins:

Opposition to same-sex marriage dropped sharply across the country during the past two years, though just over half of Americans still oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center released Wednesday.

The poll also showed increased support for allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, and substantial backing for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
 
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Remembering the Ninth Commandment

Joe Thorn has recently posted "The Ninth." Here is an excerpt:

Why am I whipping out the ninth commandment? Because some in the church have grown careless here. I have been careless here. There are a lot of accusations flying around these days in our Baptist periodicals, in our seminary student assemblies, and they rage in our internet publications. While I believe in theological debate, and am convinced it is necessary to call people out when they are teaching false doctrine, I am greatly troubled by the baseless accusations being made to make brothers and sisters look bad. “Those guys are hyper-Calvinists. They don’t evangelize, and they kill churches.” No evidence, just sensational language that riles people up and perpetuates prejudices. But it’s not just the Calvinists who have to walk through unjust accusations.

Recently some men have been accused of being “liberal” theologians. Vague generalizations are being made, people are not quoted, sound argument is not made, but naked assertions and accusations are released in an effort to warn others to stay away. “That guy is a liberal in evangelical clothing!” My trouble is that in some cases these accusations amount to unrighteous distortions of the truth. And I have to say, I am grieved.

Thorn's (and Watson's) words are convicting here, and I wish I could say I have not fallen prey to violating God's ninth commandment in some of my speech and casual writing. I must seek forgiveness through repentance (1 John 1:9). May we all honor God in our dealing with those whom we disagree. As Thorn says:

Look, if you think someone’s theology is dangerous, then deal with it. Use the man’s words, and show where his words speak heresy or false doctrine. I believe this is one of the tasks of our pastor-theologians and professors. But it must be done with care and precision, not passion and presumption. This forces everyone to be honest and fair.
 
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006
J. Ligon Duncan, the Rapper?!?

I would never have believed it if I hadn't heard it with my own ears, but J. Ligon Duncan raps. You read the last sentence correctly. Duncan is an amateur rapper! Don't believe me? Listen to it yourself on the March 21, 2006 podcast of the Way of the Master Radio.

Also hear Duncan defend Christ-centered preaching from the Old Testament. I continue to enjoy this show.
 
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Thoughts on Evangelism

In class last week, Dr. Coppenger was talking about a growing trend in evangelism. He graphically displayed it on the white board as the first picture I have reproduced above. The blue circle is salvation and the red cross has Christ as the center. The arrows represent the spiritual paths of individuals. All people are in different places in this view, with some closer to Christ than others. Some will never enter the circle of salvation, but what is important is movement toward the center, Christ. As Christians, our responsibility is to help others move closer to the center.

While Coppenger believes there is some insight here, he finds it problematic. Primarily, he thinks there is a misunderstanding of humans in our natural state. None of us is moving toward the center--we are all moving away from it. Therefore, he drew the second picture above as a more biblical understanding. Rather than simply guiding others closer to Christ (as in the first view), the responsibility of Christians is to confront individuals with their wrong direction, pointing them toward Christ and warning them of the direction they are headed.

I find his clarification insightful, taking seriously Romans 1:18ff. The gospel is confrontational. May we never forget this truth as we evangelize.
 
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Who is the Flying Spaghetti Monster?


A growing phenomenon in contemporary culture is the
Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). A satirical reaction to the intelligent design movement, the FSM has taken on a "life" of its own. Created by Bobby Henderson, a physicist and graduate of Oregon State University, the FSM is a supernatural creator that resembles spaghetti and meatballs. Henderson argues that the FSM should be taught in science classrooms as an additional alternative to evolution. Obviously, the point is to mock intelligent design proponents by showing the supposed absurdity of their argument.

Wikipedia's
introduction to the FSM shows how the movement has grown: "The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) has become the center of a phenomenon with followers who call themselves Pastafarians, a play on 'Rastafarians.' Although 'Flying Spaghetti Monsterism' was created as a parody religion, Pastafarians say it is a legitimate one; some argue that the FSM is no more or less fictional than any other deity."

Now "Flying Spaghetti Monsterism" is taking another step forward with its own scripture, The Gospel of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. As interest in the FSM continues to grow, we will continue to see more and more about Henderson's new "religion." The Record has recently reported on this growth (as posted by KansasCity.com) in "Church that reveres Flying Spaghetti Monster’ finds growing following."


What should we think about this development? I wonder if it is a display of desperation. If we cannot refute, then we will ridicule. "Flying Spaghetti Monsterism" could easily backfire on its adherents; showing the bankruptcy of those who uncritically accept evolution. I think this is one big flash-in-the-pan that will fizzle out as quickly as it has grown.
 
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Saturday, March 18, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 1)

I have found the blogosphere to be somewhat slow around the weekend, so I have decided to post some kind of edifying work from the past on Saturdays.

My first post will be a series from J.C. Ryle (1816-1900, Bishop of the Anglican Church): "Forgiveness." It is a wonderful, gospel-centered work.

THERE is a clause near the end of the Belief, or Apostle's Creed, which, I fear, is often repeated without thought or consideration. I refer to the clause which contains these words,” I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” Thousands, I am afraid, never reflect what those words mean. I propose to examine the subject of them in the following paper, and I invite the attention of all who care for their souls and want to be saved. Do we believe in the “Resurrection of our bodies”? Then let us see to it that we know something by experience of the “Forgiveness of our sins.”

I. Let me show, first of all, our need of forgiveness.

All men need forgiveness, because all men are sinners. He that does not know this, knows nothing in religion. It is the very A B C of Christianity that a man should know his right place in the sight of God and understand his deserts.

We are all great sinners. “There is none righteous, no, not one” — “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:10, 23). Sinners we were born, and sinners we have been all our lives. We take to sin naturally from the very first. No child ever needs schooling and education to teach it to do wrong. No devil or bad companion ever leads us into such wickedness as our own hearts. And “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6: 23). We must either be forgiven, or lost eternally.

We are all guilty sinners in the sight of God. We have broken His holy law. We have transgressed His precepts. We have not done His will. There is not a commandment in all the ten which does not condemn us. If we have not broken it in deed we have in word; if we have not broken it in word, we have in thought and imagination, — and that continually. Tried by the standard of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, there is not one of us that would be acquitted. All the world is “guilty before God.” And “As it is appointed unto men once to die, so after this comes the judgment.” We must either be forgiven, or perish everlastingly (Rom 3:19; Heb 9: 27).

And then what is the Lord God, whose eyes are on all our ways, and before whom we have one day to give account? “Holy, holy, holy,” is the remarkable expression applied to Him by those who are nearest to Him (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). It sounds as if no one word could express the intensity of His holiness. One of His prophets says, “He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity” (Hab 1:13). We think the angels exalted beings, and far above ourselves; but we are told in Scripture, “He charged His angels with folly” (Job 4:18). We admire the moon and stars as glorious and splendid bodies; but we read, “Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not, yea the stars are not pure in His sight” (Job 25:5). We talk of the heavens as the noblest and purest part of creation; but even of them it is written, “The heavens are not clean in His sight” (Job 15:15). What then is any one of us but a miserable sinner in the sight of such a God as this?

Surely we ought all to cease from proud thoughts about ourselves. We ought to lay our hands upon our mouths, and say with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes;” and with Job, “I am vile;” and with Isaiah, “We are all as an unclean thing;” and with John, “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (Gen 18:27; Job 40:4; Isa 64:6; 1Jo 1:8). Where is the man or woman in the whole catalogue of the Book of Life, that will ever be able to say more than this, “I obtained mercy”? What is the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, — what are they all but pardoned sinners? Surely there is but one conclusion to be arrived at: — we are all great sinners, and we all need a great forgiveness.

See now what just cause I have to say that to know our need of forgiveness is the first thing in true religion. Sin is a burden, and must be taken off. Sin is a defilement, and must be cleansed away. Sin is a mighty debt, and must be paid. Sin is a mountain standing between us and heaven, and must be removed. Happy is that mother's child amongst us that feels all this! The first step towards heaven is to see clearly that we deserve hell. There are but two alternatives before us, — we must either be forgiven, or be miserable for ever.

 
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Friday, March 17, 2006
Singing a Church Covenant?
My good friend Kevin Larson is the church planter and pastor of Grace Church of Columbia in Columbia, Missouri. Yesterday he wrote an excellent blog post: "On Covenants and Those Who Sing Them." Here were his thoughts:

Perhaps about a year ago, I approached a good friend, Eric Schumacher, about composing a church covenant in verse form that could be sung by our congregation. How great it would be, I thought, to have a covenant, composed in verse form and wedded with great music, indelibly written upon our hearts!

Make sure to check out the resulting song.
 
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"Gay Man Faces LDS Excommunication"
Yesterday's Deseret News (a Mormon owned newspaper) had an interesting story: "Gay man faces LDS excommunication over marriage." This report shows how Mormonism is more than just a set of doctrinal beliefs. After all, who would want to remain in a church when he is blatantly rejecting its teaching? At minimum, according to LDS teaching, this man's homosexual practice would disqualify him from gaining eternal life. This news story includes the following:

A gay man who is a lifetime member of the LDS Church could be facing disciplinary action and excommunication after legally marrying his partner in Canada.

Buckley Jeppson, 57, said he's been informed verbally that his life is incompatible with the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that a disciplinary council will address the matter.

Jeppson, of Washington, D.C., married Mike Kessler in Toronto on Aug. 27, 2004.

It is believed that if Jeppson is excommunicated, it would be the first time a Latter-day Saint in a legal same-sex marriage would be punished by the church, said Olin Thomas, executive director of Affirmation, an advocacy and education group for gay Latter-day Saints.
 
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Thursday, March 16, 2006
"Believing Without Belonging: Just How Secular Is Europe?"

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently held a discussion on the topic: "Believing Without Belonging: Just How Secular Is Europe?" The full transcript is now online. Here is their description of the event:

Some of the nation's leading journalists gathered in Key West, Florida, in December 2005 for the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life. Conference speaker Grace Davie, who has a chair in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter and is the director of the University's Centre for European Studies, challenged current perspectives on modern secularism in Europe and examined how Europeans view American religion.
 
posted at 1:56 PM  
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John Franke and the Emerging Movement
In February, John Franke was part of an Emerging Church Conversation at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (a PCUSA school). The Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Student Association has posted Franke's audio online:
I'm no fan of Franke, but he has had a huge impact on much of the emerging movement. For those interested in keeping up with this movement, these messages are worth listening to--critically.

(HT: Jeff Downs)
 
posted at 9:15 AM  
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006
J. Ligon Duncan on "The Way of the Master"
The Way of the Master Radio

Yesterday, Tim Challies included a link to the Way of the Master Radio Show in his daily "A La Carte." He pointed to the March 10th radio show, which included an interview with Mark Dever.

Well, Today's show includes J. Ligon Duncan explaining the need for apologetics and answering the question: "does God know the future?"

I admit, now I'm hooked! And it is great to be challenged to evangelize. It almost makes me want to go out and buy the Left Behind movies... OK, not really. But I will continue to listen.

 
posted at 3:30 PM  
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Evangelical Brokeback Mountain Review and Secular Response
A little while back, Ryan McReynolds released a review for the movie Brokeback Mountain. It was probably one of the best movie reviews I read surrounding the movie. Nevertheless, I did not mention it on my blog because I thought the "gay cowboy movie" craze had fizzled after the Academy Awards.

However, Steve Hays from Triablogue still thought it was worth mentioning, so Ryan posted a link to his review on their group blog. Now, his review is getting some attention.

Today, Hays comments on the growing secular response: "Anatomy of a rumble." Here are some of Hays introductory comments:

Ryan is a Christian who's actually seen the movie. And the point of his review is that, whatever its agenda, the movie unwittingly deconstructs its own message.

Now, I figured that if anyone would be offended by the review, it might be Christians who missed the point of what Ryan was saying.

The film doesn't intentionally present a Christian worldview. Rather, it ends up presenting a Christian worldview in spite of itself.

And, as a matter of fact, his review did trigger a very negative reaction. Mind you, Triablogue is no stranger to controversy, so that's fine with me.

As it turns out, though, all the hue and cry came, not from the Evangelical community, but from a weblog linked to The Secular Outpost, which is an arm of The Secular Web.

And it's very instructive to see how unbelievers behave when their back is to the wall.

It is indeed.
 
posted at 2:30 PM  
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Are Church Burnings Hate Crimes?
In the From the Front Lines blog (from the Apologetics Resource Center), Jason Dollar has posted "The Alabama Church Burnings and Hate Crimes." It is a good and brief entry looking at the proper Christian response to those accused of burning churches in Alabama. While I am not a supporter of hate crimes legislation, I think Dollar directs us to where our focus should be--the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
posted at 12:30 PM  
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006
"Blue Like Sad: Father Longing in Don Miller’s To Own a Dragon"
A fellow student I have come to know here at seminary is Robbie Sagers. His biblical thinking and insight is refreshing.

Sagers has read Donald Miller's latest, To Own a Dragon, and written an informative review which will come out in a future issue of the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (JBMW). Nevertheless, it is now available online: "Blue Like Sad: Father Longing in Don Miller's To Own a Dragon." Here is his conclusion:

To Own a Dragon is not the book to teach a man how to be a father, or a son to love his dad. It is what it is, one man's reflections on growing up fatherless. His answers sometimes aren't what we need, but we need to hear the questions, because they are being asked all around us by men without the platform or eloquence of Don Miller. Some of them cannot look us in the eye, hiding behind a ball-cap or an unruly swath of hair.

This is a sad book, but it is a sadness we need to hear. The title comes from Miller's belief that he knows as much about what it is to have a father as he knows about what it is to own one of the dragons he read about his childhood fairy tales. We need to hear this man's story, but we need more than this to confront the dangers of father hunger. We need a more robust announcement of the gospel, even when that means saying some hard things to fatherless non-Christians. A generation of lost young men may not know what it is to own a dragon, but the Bible tells us that a Dragon owns them (Rev 12). That's what's really at stake when fathers abandon their children--the gospel itself. And that's even sadder than Miller's tale, even bluer than Jazz.

(HT: Russell Moore)
 
posted at 9:00 AM  
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Welcome Back Jeff
I have known Jeff Downs for a while now through the internet and respect him greatly. He is the brains behind the Resource Index & Resource Blog as well as the Countercult Apologetics Journal.

Jeff used to blog (before I got started) and then stopped because he didn't have enough time. Well, he's back! His new blog is "Countercult Apologetics." Don't be surprised if many of my hat-tips point to him.
 
posted at 8:30 AM  
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Monday, March 13, 2006
"The Art of Spiritual War"

Saint Anne’s Public House has just released their latest quarterly audio CD, "Shrewd as Serpents: The Art of Spiritual War." It is also available to download for free in MP3 format. This issue sounds fascinating, especially since Dr. Dembski is having me read The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene for class.
 
posted at 4:00 PM  
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Megachurch, House Church, or Just Church?

The latest issue of TIME magazine includes the article, "There's No Pulpit Like Home." This article notes the increasing trend of house churches in America. It includes a summary of the contemporary shift from megachurch to house church:

Since the 1990s, the ascendant mode of conservative American faith has been the megachurch. It gathers thousands, or even tens of thousands, for entertaining if sometimes undemanding services amid family-friendly amenities. It is made possible by hundreds of smaller "cell groups" that meet off-nights and provide a humanly scaled framework for scriptural exploration, spiritual mentoring and emotional support. Now, however, some experts look at groups like Jeanine Pynes'--spreading in parts of Colorado, Southern California, Texas and probably elsewhere--and muse, What if the cell groups decided to lose the mother church?

The entire article is interesting. In general, I think the house church movement correctly identifies the problems and dangers of megachurches. I also have no problem with churches meeting in homes. At the same time, elements of this shift are concerning. When describing one house church meeting, the article reports:

The meeting could be a sidebar gathering of almost any church in the country but for a ceramic vessel of red wine on the dinner table--offered in communion. Because the dinner, it turns out, is no mere Bible study, 12-step meeting or other pendant to Sunday service at a Denver megachurch. It is the service. There is no pastor, choir or sermon--just six believers and Jesus among them, closer than their breath.

No pastor or proclamation of the Word of God through a sermon? While this may sound experientially enriching to some, it is simply not a church. A church is more than a group of Christians that gather together to worship God. There must be a biblical ecclesiology, with leadership, shepherding, etc.

I am also concerned about small house churches. Not because I believe churches must be large, but because a house church can become little more than a family get-together. Too much fragmentation is a dangerous thing.

I appreciate the caveat provided by Dr. Thom Rainer:

Critics fret that small, pastorless groups can become doctrinally or even socially unmoored. Thom Rainer, a Southern Baptist who has written extensively on church growth, says, "I have no problem with where a church meets, [but] I do think that there are some house churches that, in their desire to move in different directions, have perhaps moved from biblical accountability." In extreme circumstances home churches dominated by magnetic but unorthodox leaders can shade over the line into cults.

Exactly. Must all churches be megachurches? No. Must all churches have buildings? No. The issue is not where a church meets. The question is whether or not a church actually exists.
 
posted at 3:30 PM  
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Polygamy Today
Newsweek has posted a new article on polygamists, "Polygamists, Unite!" with the subtitle "They used to live quietly, but now they're making noise." It reports on a renewed effort of polygamy activists that have emerged in the wake of the gay-marriage movement.

The article includes some of the polygamists' reasoning:

...Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization TruthBearer.org, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy. Henkel and Hammon have been joined by other activist groups like Principle Voices, a Utah-based group run by wives from polygamous marriages. Activists point to Canada, where, in January, a report commissioned by the Justice Department recommended decriminalizing polygamy.

It seems as if the slippery slope argument from gay marriage to polygamy may be valid after all.
 
posted at 8:45 AM  
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Saturday, March 11, 2006
Latest Free Grace Broadcaster Online
Mount Zion Bible Church has a wonderful faith-based ministry called Chapel Library. This publishing house produces a lot of great free material, including the quarterly Free Grace Broadcaster.

I love reading the Puritans, so this magazine is always a treasure. The latest issue (Spring 2006) has been released and is now available online in
HTML, PDF, and RTF formats. It is devoted to the topic of conversion and includes these articles:

Check it out! And if you are interested in getting a print subscription, simply e-mail Chapel Library.
 
posted at 10:00 PM  
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Nash has Gone Home

Dr. Ronald Nash, the renowned Christian philosopher, went home to be with the Lord yesterday. One of my largest regrets as a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is that I was never able to take one of his classes. He will be deeply missed, but we know that he is now in a better place.

Here are a couple of online tributes:

 
posted at 5:45 PM  
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Friday, March 10, 2006
Free DVD Curriculum on The Da Vinci Code

Grizzly Adams Productions has produced a new DVD curriculum to teach on the accuracy of The Da Vinci Code: "The Da Vinci Code Deception." With the movie coming out this summer, products like this are increasingly coming out.

However, this curriculum is now being offered for free. Learn more about it in this press release: "Grizzly Adams® Productions Unites with Cook Communications and Bethany House to Offer Free Curricula Confronting The Da Vinci Code Movie."
 
posted at 4:15 PM  
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More hype about "Big Love"

I don't have HBO or cable, so I will not be watching "Big Love" (not that I would watch it even if I did have HBO). Nevertheless, with the show's debut this Sunday, the hype surrounding the series continues to grow. One story comes from CBS News: "Polygamy Series Riles Utah."

Additionally,
Townhall columnist Kathleen Parker merges the beginning of the HBO show with Romney's unofficial run for president: "I'm home, Dear ... and Dear ... and Dear."

UPDATE: USA Today reviewer Robert Bianco doesn't care for "Big Love." Here's his review: "'Big Love' fails to engage on any level."
 
posted at 4:00 PM  
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Thursday, March 09, 2006
Kostenberger Online

Andreas Kostenberger (New Testament scholar and professor) has a new website, Biblical Foundations, including a weekly weblog and many other helpful resources.

(HT: Russell Moore)
 
posted at 4:15 PM  
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"The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"

My good friend Travis Kerns has begun a blog series on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), led by Warren Jeffs, current prophet and president of the church. Here is his introductory post: "The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." I look forward to the rest!
 
posted at 4:00 PM  
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Mark Driscoll and Chuck Colson
A little while ago, Mark Driscoll blogged about meeting Chuck Colson at a luncheon. In it, he questioned Colson's understanding of the relationship between the church and culture. Since then, Colson has read Driscoll's blog and replied. This interaction has resulted in Driscoll posting "Chuck Colson 2.0," where a short interview between these two men can be read. I appreciate Colson's clarity here. For those interested in Christianity and culture, I suggest checking it out.
 
posted at 8:15 AM  
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Wednesday, March 08, 2006
CNN on "Big Love"

I recently blogged on the upcoming controversial series "Big Love." Now CNN.com has released an article about the upcoming HBO series: "I pronounce you man and wife, wife, wife." This story concludes by saying:

"Big Love" should be an oddly comfortable fit with "The Sopranos," which makes its long-awaited return an hour earlier. But despite the similarities (family tussles, power plays and such), there are obvious differences. For instance, on "Big Love," the language gets no rougher than "Oh, my heck," "You dumb-head" and "There's no way in H I'll do that."

With religious fervor, "Big Love" chronicles the struggle to escape an old order, then to pass as conventionally wholesome somewhere new. It's about making big choices and honoring them.

Including wives. "They're the path you've chosen," says Don to Bill. "You gotta pray for guidance, walk it with decency."

On a show full of fascinating murkiness, decency seems the operative reference point. At least, that's one way of seeing "Big Love."

In any case, there's no way in H you should miss seeing it.
 
posted at 11:00 PM  
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"Worshipping God with Our Minds"

A good friend of mine, Peter Beck, has written a great opinion piece for Baptist Press, "Worshipping God with our minds." He begins by saying,

Webster’s dictionary defines “theology” as “the study of the religious faith, practice and experience.” Generally speaking, theology is God (theo) talk (logy). We are doing theology when we talk about God.

But it’s so much more than that. Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said that God’s people are to love “the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Jesus picked up on that theme again in the Gospels, going so far as to say that is the greatest commandment of them all. That love to which we are exhorted includes our minds as well as our affections. When we do theology, when we think about the difficult teachings of the Bible, we are loving God. In fact, theology is an act of worship.

Yet, many in our pews enjoy an impoverished form of worship because they’ve divorced orthopraxy (right practice) from orthodoxy (right teaching). Doing so is wrong-headed and dangerous.
 
posted at 10:00 AM  
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Stetzer on Being Missional

Ed Stetzer, director of research and missiologist for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, has written an informative article in the latest On Mission. "Is your church missional?" (scroll down page for the article) is a short but helpful introduction to the concept of being missional. Stetzer begins:

Still trying to decide whether your church is "traditional" or "contemporary"--and which is better? That's the wrong question. The real issue is whether your church is a biblically faithful church able to relate to the culture around you. In short, what matters is if your church is missional.

The M word has been around for a while, but has only recently become more accepted. That's good. It means that churches are asking hard questions about biblical ministry in community. What kind of church will be the most biblical and faithful in their community? If we're going to reach a changing North America, we have to contend for the unchanging faith (Jude 3) using forms that are relevant to all kinds of people (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). That's a missional church--a church acting like a missionary to the community around it while partnering with others to be missional across North America and around the world.

Why all the fuss over a word? Can't a church do what it's been called to do for more than two millennia and not mess with semantics? It certainly can. But, the reason is not the word, it's the emphasis. Churches are discovering the need to be missional in their communities. So, the important question is, "What is a missional church?"


(HT: Joe Thorn)
 
posted at 9:15 AM  
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Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Phil Johnson on the Emerging Church Movement

Thanks to Phil Johnson and the Pyromaniacs blog, I was directed to Johnson's complete transcript of his session on the emerging church movement at last week's Shepherd's Conference: "Absolutely Not! A critical look at the emerging church movement." With the high attendance of this session at the conference along with its posting on the internet, I am sure it will make a splash in the emerging conversation.
 
posted at 4:45 PM  
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TBN: Twisting the Bible Nightly

I am no fan of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Even though many know of its problems, for those who would like to know more, the Tennessean has posted three articles on the ministry:
 
posted at 2:30 PM  
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"Is it Wrong to Market the Church?"

John Frame is stirring the pot again, this time with his article, "Is it Wrong to Market the Church?" Arguing against David Wells and others, Frame sees no inherent problems in marketing the church. He examines appealing to "felt needs," advertising, communicating our message, etc.

While I have the highest regard for John Frame, I really think he has "missed the boat" on this one. After all, what is the church? The church is to be comprised of regenerate, baptized believers of Jesus Christ (I am aware that Frame's Presbyterianism may lead him to disagree). In light of this understanding of the church, what is the purpose of our corporate gathering? It is not evangelism; it is worship. We sing, listen to the proclaimed word, pray, practice the ordinances, have fellowship with and edify one another, etc., all to glorify our Lord and Savior. In essence, church is for the "called out ones," those called by God and who have faith in Him, the elect.

Whenever we target the lost and unregenerate, we misunderstand the purpose of our corporate worship. It leads us to market ourselves to the fallen world. We sell out.

Should we reach the lost? Absolutely. Should we market the church to reach them? Absolutely not.
 
posted at 9:45 AM  
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Monday, March 06, 2006
Inaugural Emergent Podcast

The inaugural Emergent Podcast has been posted online. It is the first part of a series of excerpts in which Tony Jones interviewed Miroslav Volf (Director, Yale Center for Faith and Culture).
 
posted at 4:00 PM  
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The Reality of Blogs
Last week, National Journal included the article "Those Busted Blogs." The author reports on the reality of blogs (as opposed to the hype). It is a good summary of where blogs are heading. Here is an informative quote:

Just as it makes perfect sense that people are fleeing newspapers -- there so many other options -- it also makes sense that they aren't exactly flocking to blogs. There are millions of blogs now. Who has time for that? The blog explosion of the last few years has made it much harder for any new blog to draw an audience and succeed. It's just math.

In my browser's Favorites list, I have a folder called "Good Blogs." It has fewer than two dozen links, to blogs I truly enjoy and visit often. I keep the list short on purpose. I meet new blogs all the time, through word of mouth and serendipity, and we have some nice moments together. But I don't usually crave a second date. Life is too short.

Evidently, others feel the same way. So blogs are not about to conquer the world. But does that mean they have failed, as the new headlines suggest? Hardly. In fact, I think the end of hype-fueled blog mania might be the best thing that could happen to blogs, because it had created such absurd expectations.
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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About Me

Name:
John

I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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