Saturday, April 29, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 7)

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, the second part, the third part, the fourth part, the fifth part, and the sixth part.

1. And now, before I conclude, let me put a home [close] question to every one who reads this paper. It shall be short and plain, but it is all important: “Are you forgiven?”

I have told you all I can about forgiveness. Your need of forgiveness, — the way of forgiveness, — the encouragements to seek forgiveness, — the marks of having found it, — all have been placed before you. Bring the whole subject to bear upon your own heart, and ask yourself, “Am I forgiven? Either I am, or I am not. Which of the two is it?”

You believe perhaps, there is forgiveness of sins. You believe that Christ died for sinners, and that He offers a pardon to the most ungodly. But are you forgiven yourself? Have you yourself laid hold on Christ by faith, and found peace through His blood? What profit is there to you in forgiveness, except you get the benefit of it? Except you lay hold for your own soul, you will be as surely lost as if there was no forgiveness at all.

If ever your sins are to be forgiven, it must be now, — now in this life, if ever in the life to come, — now in this world, if they are to be found blotted out when Jesus comes again the second time. There must be actual business between you and Christ. Your sins must be laid on Him by faith: His righteousness must be laid on you. His blood must be applied to your conscience, or else your sins will meet you in the Day of Judgment, and sink you into hell.

Oh, how can you trifle when such things are at stake? How can you be content to leave it uncertain whether you are forgiven? Surely that a man can make his will, insure his life, give directions about his funeral, and yet leave his soul's affairs in uncertainty, is a wonderful thing indeed.

2. Let me next give a solemn warning to every one who reads this paper, and knows in his conscience he is not forgiven.

Your soul is in awful danger. You may die this year. And if you die as you are, you are lost for ever. If you die without pardon, without pardon you will rise again at the last day. There is a sword over your head which hangs by a single hair. There is but a step between you and death. Oh, I wonder that you can sleep quietly in your bed!

You are not yet forgiven. Then what have you got by your religion? You go to church. You have a Bible, you have a Prayer-book, and perhaps a Hymnbook. You hear sermons. You join in services. It may be you go to the Lord 's Table. But what have you really got after all? Any hope? Any peace? Any joy? Any comfort? Nothing: literally nothing! You have got nothing but mere temporal things, if you are not a pardoned soul.

You are not yet forgiven. But you trust God will be merciful. Yet why should He be merciful if you will not seek Him in His own appointed way? Merciful He doubtless is, wonderfully merciful to all who come to Him in the name of Jesus. But if you choose to despise His directions, and make a road to heaven of your own, you will find to your cost there is no mercy for you.

You are not yet forgiven. But you hope you will be some day. I cannot away with [endure] that expression. It is like thrusting off the hand of conscience, and seizing it by the throat to stop its voice. Why are you more likely to seek forgiveness at a future time? Why should you not seek it now? Now is the time for gathering the bread of life. The day of the Lord is fast drawing near, and then no man can work (Exo 26:26). The Seventh trumpet will soon sound. The kingdoms of this world will soon become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev 11:15). Woe to the house which is found without the scarlet line, and without the mark of blood upon the door! (Jos 2:18; Exo 12:13). Well, you may not feel your need of forgiveness now. But a time may come when you will want it. The Lord in mercy grant that it may not then be too late.

 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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Friday, April 28, 2006
Top Ten Reasons Why Justin Taylor's Blog is Better than Mine
Last week I dedicated a Top Ten List to "Weird Al" Yankovic. This week, I decided to produce a top ten list on the preeminent evangelical blogger--Justin Taylor. So, here we go again:

Top Ten Reasons Why Justin Taylor's Blog is Better than Mine:

  • 10) Between Two Worlds has been around longer than my blog
  • 9) His blog gets more visitors in a day than mine does in a month
  • 8) Taylor is a published author while I am busy writing papers for class
  • 7) I do not HT Taylor because everybody who reads my blog has already seen Taylor's blog. He never HT's me because he has already found all of the resources I link to.
  • 6) He co-runs a site dedicated to John Owen. I need to read more John Owen.
  • 5) He works for Crossway. Need I say more?
  • 4) Between Two Worlds is in Tim Challies "Best of the Best (Top 10)" section of his blogroll. I am not included in Challies' blogroll.
  • 3) He is Reclaiming the Center
  • 2) One name: John Piper
  • 1) Because Justin is an all-around great guy
 
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Thursday, April 27, 2006
R.C. Sproul on Holiness and Justice
Yesterday, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was privileged to hear R.C. Sproul as he preached the message "Holiness and Justice" on our campus. Now the sermon is available to download (in MP3 format). Enjoy!
 
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Listening to Spurgeon
One of my favorite Christians throughout history is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His writings and sermons continue to have an immense impact upon my spiritual life.

Since I have acquired an MP3 player, I have found a new way to enjoy Spurgeon--by listening to "Prince of Preachers." It is a radio show by Charles Koelsch where he essentially re-preaches Spurgeon sermons. I think he does a fantastic job, steering between a monotone reading and an overly dramatic preaching of these sermons.

For some reason, I find hearing Spurgeon's sermons preached edifying in a way that reading them is not. I only wish the quality of the MP3s was higher! Regardless, I suggest checking out Koelsch's ministry.
 
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Gene Veith on Christianity and culture
Earlier this month, Gene Edward Veith (culture editor of WORLD magazine and the Executive Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary) gave the Carver-Barnes lecture series at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Yesterday, Baptist Press released an overview of his lectures: "Christians & culture: 4 models assessed by World’s Gene Veith."

For those interested, these lectures are also available online:

 
posted at 3:30 PM  
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Dreher and Crunchy Cons
Yesterday, I posted "Are Christian Conservativism and Environmentalism Compatible?" A regular visitor, Rick Mansfield, commented that after never hearing of Dreher and Crunchy Cons, he ran across it twice in one day. I admit that I have not read this work (I hope to read it this summer), but I am intrigued. As one who tends to be more of a laissez faire conservative, I am interested in this new (or old?) perspective. Anyway, here are a couple more articles on Dreher and his political outlook:

 
posted at 8:00 AM  
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Perspectives on the Trinity
The latest issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology has been released and it looks like another excellent edition. It is dedicated to a topic which I am passionate about: "Perspectives on the Trinity." Here's the table of contents:

  • Stephen J. Wellum, "God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity"
  • Stephen J. Wellum, "An Evaluation of the Son-Spirit Relation in Clark Pinnock’s Inclusivism: An Exercise in Trinitarian Reflection"
  • Keith E. Johnson, "Does the Doctrine of the Trinity Hold the Key to a Christian Theology of Religions? An Evaluation of Three Recent Proposals"
  • Bruce A. Ware, "Cur Deus Trinus? The Relation of the Trinity to Christ’s Identity as Savior and to the Efficacy of his Atoning Death"
  • Fred Zaspel, "B. B. Warfield on the Trinity"
  • Michael A. G. Haykin, "'Glory to the Three Eternal': Benjamin Beddome and the Teaching of Trinitarian Theology in the Eighteenth Century"
  • The SBJT Forum: The Relevance of the Trinity
 
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Are Christian Conservativism and Environmentalism Compatible?
Yesterday's USA Today included an op-ed piece by Rod Dreher (the author of Crunchy Cons) titled "A green Christian conservative." I think he has hit the nail on the head. Here is how he begins:

Earth Day is not my day, not really.

As both a conservative and an avid indoorsman, I've always seen it as a high holy day for hippies, Whole Foods devotees, spotted-owl fetishists and sundry crunchy-granola types who believe that "Think Globally, Act Locally" is the Eleventh Commandment.

But you know, I've got to wonder how much longer we on the right can justify an environmental philosophy that amounts to little more than sneering at liberal tree-huggers.

Does this make me a Crunchy Con?
 
posted at 1:00 PM  
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Pentecostal Centennial Celebration
A couple of months ago, I posted "Pentecostal Milestone." In it, I pointed to an article which recognized the significance of this year for Pentecostals around the world--Pentecostalism began one hundred years ago on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. I also suggested some reading materials critiquing the Pentecostal movement.

Now, newspapers have reported on Pentecostal celebrations for their centennial. Here are two:

 
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Monday, April 24, 2006
Reflections on a Mormon / Evangelical Dialogue
John Umland recently attended a dialogue between Robert Millet (Mormon professor at BYU) and Greg Johnson (founder of Standing Together ministries). Now he has posted his reflections: "a convicted civil discourse between an LDS and an evangelical." Here are his concluding thoughts:

Afterwards i stuck around to thank the speakers. i listened to a woman who left a small offshoot of the mormons called the church of Jesus Christ who broke from Smith after his polygamy teaching became public. They recognize the book of Mormon and the Bible only. she still thinks the American Indians are Jews.

Johnson agrees with my both/and view to Temple outreaches, onsite and offsite. and we both agree that the onsite stuff needs to be considerate and not obnoxious. In fact his website describes
one on-site approach.

overall, this was excellent. i think Johnson pointed out significant issues and Millet acknowledged some of them and blew smoke at the same time. it was worth the time and i'm glad i went.
 
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"What Kind of Limited Atonement?"
For those of us who are Reformed in our doctrinal beliefs, a perennial question has to do with the "L" in our TULIP acronym--Limited Atonement. Tom Hicks gives three historic perspectives on his blog: "What Kind of Limited Atonement?" They are:

 
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Saturday, April 22, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 6)

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, the second part, the third part, the fourth part, and the fifth part.

IV. Let me, in the last place, supply the readers of this paper with some marks of having found forgiveness.

I dare not leave out this point. Too many persons presume they are forgiven, who have no evidence to show. Not a few cannot think it possible they a re forgiven, who are plainly in the way to heaven, though they may not see it themselves. I would fain raise hope in some, and self-inquiry in others; and to do this, let me set down in order the leading marks of a forgiven soul.

(a) Forgiven souls hate sin. They can enter most fully into the words of our Communion Service: “The remembrance of sin is grievous unto them, and the burden of it is intolerable.” It is the serpent which bit them: how should they not shrink from it with horror? It is the poison which brought them to the brink of eternal death how should they not loathe it with a godly disgust? It is the Egyptian enemy which kept them in hard bondage how should not the very memory of it be bitter to their hearts? It is the disease of which they carry the marks and scars about them, and from which they have scarcely recovered: well may they dread it, flee from it, and long to be delivered altogether from its power! Remember how the woman in Simon's house wept over the feet of Jesus (Luk 7:38). Remember how the Ephesians publicly burned their wicked books (Acts 19:19). Remember how Paul mourned over his youthful transgressions: “I am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God” (1Co 15:9). If you and sin are friends, you and God are not yet reconciled. You are not meet for heaven; for one main part of heaven's excellence is the absence of all sin.

(b) Forgiven souls love Christ. This is that one thing they can say, if they dare say nothing else, — they do love Christ. His person, His offices, His work, His name, His cross, His blood, His words, His example, His day, His ordinances, — all, all are precious to forgiven souls. The ministry which exalts Him most, is that which they enjoy most. The books which are most full of Him, are most pleasant to their minds. The people on earth they feel most drawn to, are those in whom they see something of Christ. His name is as ointment poured forth, and comes with a peculiar sweetness to their ears (Sol 1:3). They would tell you they cannot help feeling as they do. He is their Redeemer, their Shepherd, their Physician, their King, their strong Deliverer, their gracious Guide, their hope, their joy, their All. We re it not for Him they would be of all men most miserable. They would as soon consent that you should take the sun out of the sky, as Christ out of their religion. Those people who talk of “the Lord,” and “the Almighty,” and “the Deity,” and so forth, but have not a word to say about Christ, are in anything but a right state of mind. What saith the Scripture? “He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him” (Joh 5:23). “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (1Co 16:22).

(c) Forgiven souls are humble. They cannot forget that they owe all they have and hope for to free grace, and this keeps them lowly. They are brands plucked from the fire, — debtors who could not pay for themselves, — captives who must have remained in prison for ever, but for undeserved mercy, wandering sheep who were ready to perish when the Shepherd found them; and what right then have they to be proud? I do not deny that there are proud saints. But this I do say, — they are of all God's creatures the most inconsistent, and of all God's children the most likely to stumble and pierce themselves with many sorrows. Forgiveness more often produces the spirit of Jacob: “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and all the truth which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant” (Gen 32:10); and of Hezekiah: — “I shall go softly all my years” (Isa 38:15); and of the Apostle Paul: “I am less than the least of all saints, — chief of sinners” (Eph 3:8; 1Ti 1:15). When you and I have nothing we can call our own but sin and weakness, there is surely no garment that becomes us so well as humility.

(d) Forgiven souls are holy. Their chief desire is to please Him who has saved them, to do His will, to glorify Him in body and in Spirit, which are His. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?” (Psa 116:12), is a leading principle in a pardoned heart. It was the remembrance of Jesus showing mercy that made Paul in labours so abundant, and in doing good so unwearied. It was a sense of pardon that made Zaccheus say, “The half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold” (Luk 19:8). If any one points out to me believers who are in a carnal, slothful state of soul, I reply in the words of Peter, “They have forgotten they were purged from their old sins” (2Pe 1:9). But if you show me a man deliberately living an unholy and licentious life, and yet boasting that his sins are forgiven, I answer, “He is under a ruinous delusion, and is not forgiven at all.” I would not believe he is forgiven if an angel from heaven affirmed it, and I charge you not to believe it too. Pardon of sin and love of sin are like oil and water, — they will never go together. All that are washed in the blood of Christ are also sanctified by the Spirit of Christ.

(e) Forgiven souls are forgiving. They do as they have been done by. They look over the offences of their brethren. They endeavour to “walk in love, as Christ loved them, and gave Himself for them” (Eph 5:2). They remember how God for Christ's sake forgave them, and endeavour to do the same towards their fellow-creatures. Has He forgiven them pounds, and shall they not forgive a few pence? Doubtless in this, as in every thing else, they come short; — but this is their desire and their aim. A spiteful, quarrelsome Christian is a scandal to his profession. It is very hard to believe that such an one has ever sat at the foot of the cross and has ever considered how he is praying against himself every time he uses the Lord's Prayer. Is he not saying as it were, “Father, do not forgive me my trespasses at all”? But it is still harder to understand what such a one would do in heaven, if he got there. All ideas of heaven in which forgiveness has not a place, are castles in the air and vain fancies. Forgiveness is the way by which every saved soul enters heaven. Forgiveness is the only title by which he remains in heaven. Forgiveness is the eternal subject of song with all the redeemed who inhabit heaven. Surely an unforgiving soul in heaven would find his heart completely out of tune. Surely we know nothing of Christ's love to us but the name of it, if we do not love our brethren.

I cannot conceal from you, these marks should raise in many minds great searchings of heart. I must be plain. I fear there are thousands of persons called Christians, who know nothing of these marks. They are baptized. They attend the services of their Church. They would not on any account be reckoned infidels. But as to true repentance and saving faith, union with Christ and sanctification of the Spirit, they are “names and words” of which they know nothing at all.

Now if this paper is read by such persons, it will probably either alarm them, or make them very angry. If it makes them angry I shall be sorry. If it alarms them I shall be glad. I want to alarm them. I want to awaken them from their present state. I want them to take in the great fact, that they are not yet forgiven, that they have not peace with God, and are on the high road to destruction.

I must say this, for I see no alternative. It seems neither Christian faithfulness, nor Christian charity, to keep it back. I see certain marks of pardoned souls laid down in Scripture. I see an utter want of these marks in many men and women around me. How then can I avoid the conclusion that they are not yet “forgiven”? And how shall I do the work of a faithful watchman if I do not write it down plainly in so many words? Where is the use of crying Peace! Peace! when there is no peace? Where is the honesty of acting the part of a lying physician, and telling people there is no danger, when in reality they are fast drawing near to eternal death? Surely the blood of souls would be required at my hands if I wrote to you anything less than the truth. “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1Co 14:8).

Examine yourself, then, before this subject is forgotten. Consider of what sort your religion is. Try it by the five marks I have just set before you. I have endeavoured to make them as broad and general as I can, for fear of causing any heart to be sad that God has not made sad. If you know anything of them, though it be but a little, I am thankful, and entreat you to go forward. But if you know nothing of them in your own experience, let me say, in all affection, I stand in doubt of you. I tremble for your soul.

 
posted at 7:30 AM  



Friday, April 21, 2006
Top Ten Ways to Know that You are a True "Weird Al" Fan
Since I am a confessed "Weird Al" Yankovic fan, I thought it would be fun to give a top ten list: the Top Ten Ways to Know that You are a True "Weird Al" Fan. So, here you go:

You know that you are a true "Weird Al" fan if...

  • 10) Your favorite "Weird Al" songs are his originals, not his parodies
  • 9) You have been to a "Weird Al" concert and bought the "Weird Al" Yankovic Live DVD of the same concert
  • 8) You saw UHF in the theater
  • 7) You subscribed to the Midnight Star newsletter back when it was published
  • 6) You enjoy "Weird Al"'s skill on the accordion
  • 5) You are willing to pay over $100 on eBay for an original CD of the rare and out-of-print Peter and the Wolf with Wendy Carlos
  • 4) You have pondered the significance of the number 27
  • 3) You have memorized "The Yoda Chant"
  • 2) You have actually tried a Twinkie wiener sandwich
  • 1) You understand over half of this list!
 
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Thursday, April 20, 2006
Standing Together, Craig Blomberg, and Interfaith Dialogue
In the April 2006 edition of Standing Together's eNewsletter, we are directed to a new article by Craig Blomberg: "A Biblical Basis for Interfaith Dialogue." Blomberg's main point?

There are many forms of announcing the good news of salvation in Christ that remain culturally acceptable in every culture of the world. One of the most deeply rooted and endearing of these forms is dialogue—respectful listening to another’s point of view, questioning them to make sure one has clearly understood them, and then equally clearly explaining one’s own point of view and fielding clarifying questions--what Richard Mouw and John Stackhouse have dubbed “convicted civility.” Remarkably, such conversations usually succeed in having all parties converse forthrightly and with understanding about their most meaningful religious convictions in ways that more confrontational (or even just proclamational) forms do not.

While Blomberg's article may be somewhat instructive, I must ask a question: what is the purpose or goal of this kind of dialogue? Is it just understanding? Or should it be conversion? For some reason, I don't think that Paul was "conversing" in Acts 17 to simply walk away with understanding about other's most meaningful religious convictions. Maybe Blomberg didn't mean this, but I walk away from reading this wondering if he has really captured all of Acts 17 in his article.
 
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Frame against Horton on Political Activism
In January, Christianity Today began a series titled "The Christian Vision Project." The goal of this project is to reflect upon the role of evangelicalism in the next 50 years, and their inaugural post was by Michael Horton, "How the Kingdom Comes."

John Frame has responded, and his reply has been posted online: "In Defense of Christian Activism." Here is an excerpt:

Michael Horton's article in Christianity Today, "How the Kingdom Comes" is a typical popular presentation of this position. He emphasizes that the Kingdom of God comes by God's power, not ours. He points out that Jesus in the New Testament does not commission his people to destroy unbelievers with the sword. So "there are no calls in the New Testament either to withdraw into a private ghetto or to 'take back' the realms of cultural and political activity." The church exists within the world as a community of word and sacrament, but does not seek influence in the larger society. He says, "there is no 'Christian politics' or 'Christian art' or 'Christian literature,' any more than there is 'Christian plumbing.'" Then he urges the church not to try to be like the world, or to make the world into something like the church.

There is much truth in this position. Certainly God does not call us today to destroy unbelief with the sword, as God called Joshua to destroy the pagan inhabitants of Canaan. But one can certainly renounce the use of the sword against unbelief without renouncing Christian activism in general. Christian activism, remember, is simply the attempt of Christians to improve the general society. Especially today in the democratic west, that can be done by many lawful means, without violence.

So Horton confuses the question of whether we should use violence with the larger question of whether we should seek to influence developments in society. I believe he confuses other questions as well.
 
posted at 2:30 PM  
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Update on Branch Davidians
It has been thirteen years since the infamous Branch Davidian standoff. What many people don't realize is that a small remnant of believers remains. Additionally, some that used to be involved with the group are still working on rebuilding their lives. Here are a few informative stories updating us on the Branch Davidians:

 
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
The Future of the Church
Derick Dickens has posted two entries on his blog titled "My Growing Optimism for the Church." Here is Part 1 and Part 2. He begins by saying:

It is impossible to read my blog and get the sense that I think the majority of Christianity is going the right direction. Few would accuse me of buying into modern phenomena of Christianity and few would believe that I had optimism for the state of the local churches in America.

The fact remains that there is a revival in reformed theology and in theology in general. While the emotionalism and pop Christian culture still exists, to me there seems to be a steady expansion of reformed theology across the United States. Some of the larger churches are becoming increasingly reformed, new schools are opening up with distinctives built upon theology.

My question is, is Derick becoming a postmillennialist?
 
posted at 3:30 PM  
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I'm So Excited!
This year is turning out to be quite the year for DVD releases. First, I find out that a Mel Brooks box set is finally coming out. Then, the release of Weird Al's short-lived TV series was announced. Now, I have news of another major release. . . .

Steven Spielberg's classic TV series Amazing Stories is going to be released on DVD! The news was posted yesterday at
www.TVShowsOnDVD.com: "Amazing Stories - AT LONG LAST! The Complete 1st Season Back On The Schedule!" Here is a portion of the announcement:


Now we can all exhale in joy this morning! We have JUST gotten the official word, direct from the studio, that Amazing Stories - The Complete 1st Season is scheduled for July 18th, 2006. Steven Spielberg's Emmy-winning series will arrive in a 4-DVD (all single-sided discs) set, packaged as a fold-out "digipak" in an outer sleeve. Running time is 11 hours 23 minutes for what ought to be 24 episodes (and some standout guests in many of these)

Make sure to follow the link and see the episodes included. Great stuff!

(HT: Pop Candy)
 
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Rock Cries Out: A New Reformation in Worship Music?
I must admit, after I posted my entry on "Draw Me Close to You" and some other contemporary Christian worship music ("Justin Taylor and Sam Storms vs. Chuck Colson, Tim Challies (and Me) "), I was surprised by some of the comments. One person on my blog suggested that we could sing Bryan Adam's "Everything I Do" in worship. In light of this kind of reasoning, I find something a good friend of mine wrote to be fairly insightful. Here it is:

Rock Cries Out: A New Reformation in Worship Music?
Jeff Robinson

I have a deeply theological rule of thumb when it comes to measuring whether or not the lyrics in a corporate worship song violates the regulative principle: If I can insert my wife's name, "Lisa," in the place of "Jesus" without losing much in terms of clarity and meaning, then it probably violates the regulative principle. This illustrates the beauty and simplicity of having Scripture as the irreducible authority in determining the elements used in corporate worship. In Reformed worship traditions, Scripture sets the boundaries for the elements of worship as well as the tunes and texts that are sung to the one true and living God.

However, there are some evangelical voices who would argue precisely the opposite: if you can sing it to the culture and insert "Jesus" in the place of "my girlfriend," then, hey, why should the devil have all the good music?

So, assuming for a moment the validity of this "pop music normative principle," let us examine a few pop/rock songs that just might make the cut for worship driven by such a view. I realize many of these are 80s songs, but what would one expect from the Reagan years? (The astute reader will soon realize that the author of this "article" grew up during the era of parachute pants and torn sweatshirts.)

So you think pop/rock music can't be sung to the glory of God? Think again.

Here they are, "repackaged worship songs," (RWS) coming soon to a mega-church near you:

--"Jesus is Just All Right With Me" (Doobie Brothers). That’ll preach.
--"Jesus Just Left Chicago" (ZZ Top). An ode to mainline Protestantism.
--"Jesus, He Knows Me" (Genesis). Dedicated to the sons of Sceva.
--"Stairway to Heaven" (Led Zeppelin). C’mon, that one’s obvious.
--"God is Watching Us" (Bette Midler). On ode to Deism, but it would take an ounce of theological discernment to make such a determination, thus it would likely work for much RWS worship.

--"Celebrate" (Kool and the Gang): For our charismatic brethren and sistren.
--"I’m So Excited" (Pointer Sisters): Another one for the charismatically-minded.
--"I’m High On You" (Survivor): Ditto.
--"I Want a New Drug" (Huey Lewis): Ditto. Rumored to be a fave of the "Holy Ghost Bartender" Rodney Howard Brown.
--"In the Air Tonight" (Phil Collins): Particularly useful in the Christian context because Phil Collins says "Oh Lord" a couple of times during this song.
--"Ya Gotta Have Faith" (George Michael): Might cause an End of the Spear-type of conundrum for the more discerning RWS lover since Michael is gay, but, oh, what the heck, we’re the King’s kids and we can claim it all, right?
--"Free Ride" (Edgar Winter Group). A no-brainer.
--"Wheel in the Sky" (Journey). See "God is Watching Us."
--"Family Man" (Hall and Oates). A parable on the Seventh Commandment.
--"Don’t Stop Believing" (Journey). An Arminian’s intercession.
--"Everything I Do, I Do it For You" (Bryan Adams). An ode to 1 Cor. 10:31.
--"The Power of Love" (Huey Lewis). An ode to 1 Cor. 13.
_"I Wanna Know What Love Is" (Foreigner). This one even includes a gospel choir singing in the background.
--"Jesus Is Love" (Commodores). Lionel Richie sings the Gospel.
--"Rapture" (Blondie). Inexplicably missing from the Left Behind soundtrack.
--"End of the World As We Know It" (REM). Inexplicably missing from the Left Behind soundtrack.
--"Papa Don’t Preach" (Madonna). That venerable egalitarian anthem.
--"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (Charlie Daniels). For those who still hold to a ransom-to-Satan theory of the atonement.
--"Keep Your Hands to Yourself" (Georgia Satellites) A perfect anthem for a "True Love Waits" rally. Okay, maybe not.
--"Lost in Your Eyes" (Debbie Gibson). Might make the men in your congregation squirm as so many explicitly Christian worship songs do already. If the men in your congregation do not squirm, be worried...very worried.
--"Rockin’ the Paradise" (Styx). From the creation/redemption-themed album "Paradise Theatre."
--"Here I Am, the One that You Love" (Air Supply). Repugnantly schmaltzy yes, but that’s beside the point. Surely an astute music minister would be quick to point out that John was the disciple called "the one whom Jesus loved."
--"I’m So Lost Without You" (Air Supply). See "Here I Am…"
--"Happy, Shiny People" (REM). Almost as theologically sound as "Shine Jesus Shine."
--"C’mon Get Happy" (Partridge Family). Replace the partridge with a dove and you’re all set.
--"I Can’t Fight This Feeling" (REO Speedwagon). Don’t fight it…just let go…surrender.
--"Open Arms" (Journey). Could easily replace "Just As I Am" as an altar call anthem.

--"Be Good To Yourself" (Journey). Reportedly Joel Osteen’s favorite Journey song.
 
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Emergent Conversations Hijacking Language?
Yesterday, over at the Reformation21 blog, Rodney Trotter posted an interesting entry: "Hijacking Language." (I only wish the folks at Ref21 would let us know who all of their blog contributors are. Maybe I am not as up to speed as I should be, but I don't recognize the names of some of their bloggers. Who is Rodney Trotter?) Here's Trotter's post:

One of the most interesting aspects of modernity has to be the way it hijacked language.

'New' and all of its cognates became synonymous with 'good' and 'true' while 'old' etc. became similarly associated with bad, mediocre etc.

It is, of course, the obvious way for any movement to gain strength: grab a monopoly on certain terms and idioms, and refuse to allow the enemy, whoever that might be, to use them.

Interesting, then, that language such as 'conversation' has been grabbed by certain groups as the key leitmotif of their theology while 'divisive' is frequently hurled by the same at any perceived critic. What is truly tragic is that this hijacking of language ultimately reflects two things: first, an aesthetic view of truth, where truth becomes identified rather with a style than with claims about reality; and, second, a deceptive approach to the real agenda being pushed, which is frequently far from 'conversational' in the way it dismisses viewpoints with which it disagrees without the courtesy of demonstrating why they are wrong in terms of content, not simply tone. The agenda is more often than not extremely divisive: by making truth a negotiable function of, say, communitarian language games, then all those (i.e., almost everyone in any branch of the church down to nearly the present day) who thinks in referential truth categories is excluded from the conversation. How divisive is that?

But who are the truly divisive? Surely, divisiveness is less a function of doctrine and aesthetics and more a function of basic morality. The divisive are most frequently those who spread malicious, false rumours about others and have the audacity to do it in the name of theological tolerance. Let the reader understand.
 
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Monday, April 17, 2006
Francis Schaeffer the Environmentalist?

The From the Front Lines blog (from the Apologetics Resource Center) has posted a review of an old and largely forgotten work by Francis Schaeffer: Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology. This review, "Francis Schaeffer Speaks to the Problem of Ecology," is from the next issue of Areopagus Journal. Here is a portion:

When the man Francis Schaeffer is thought about, his great books that detail how true biblical Christianity answers the problem of man usually also come to mind. The God Who is There, Escape From Reason, He is There and He is Not Silent, and later on, How Should We Then Live are some of his dominant and most influential writings. But tucked away in an obscure corner of any complete Schaeffer library is his thinking on ecology, a topic most Christians rather enjoying ignoring, perhaps because we have a taste for beef and chicken, and we find little time for recycling or protecting endangered species. In fact, environmentalism is often associated with left wing liberal types and organizations such as PETA, thus to protect the environment, oddly enough, has a non-Christian flavor to it in our modern day.

Schaeffer, in his wisdom, begs to differ. In this short treatise, he offers the only lasting solution to the current ecological crisis, namely, a solid stance on the Christian worldview.
 
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"Campaigning from the pulpit: Why not?"
USA Today recently released an editorial/opinion piece titled "Campaigning from the pulpit: Why not?" While this article is sure to be controversial, I found it surprisingly level-headed. Here is an interesting excerpt:

Even if the Constitution does not presume to tell ministers to stick to parables, is it bad citizenship, or just plain bad manners, for ministers to confuse our "public" role as citizens and voters with our supposedly "private" religious lives and beliefs? No. Religious faith makes claims, for better or worse, that push the believer inexorably toward charitable and conscientious engagement in "public life." To the extent that religion purports to provide insight into human nature and relations, it necessarily speaks to politics. We best respect each other through honest dialogue by making arguments that reflect our beliefs, not by censoring ourselves or insisting that religious believers translate their commitments into focus-group jargon or cost-benefit analysis.
 
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New Articles from 9 Marks
9 Marks has just updated their web site with several insightful articles:

 
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Who Are Evangelicals?

Yesterday's New York Times included the article: "
Evangelicals Debate the Meaning of 'Evangelical'" (free subscription required). It begins:

TODAY, on Easter, evangelical Christians can celebrate knowing that they are part of a movement that has never been so powerful or so large. But like any dominating force, evangelicalism is not monolithic, and it seems that now, at a time of heightened power, old fissures are widening, and new theological and political splits are developing.

Perhaps it's not surprising that these conflicts are occurring as many of evangelicalism's elder statesmen — most notably, the Rev. Billy Graham — are retiring, and a new generation of leaders is vying to define its center.

"When he leaves the scene, there will be some deep fractures that come out into the open and become wider," said Roger E. Olson, a theology professor at Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary. "It will be harder for anyone to talk about evangelicalism as a movement with any unity."

Evangelical leaders have clashed recently over a range of issues, including whether the movement should get involved in the debates over global warming and immigration. A tug of war is also unfolding behind the scenes over theology — should evangelicalism be a big tent, open to more divergent views, or a smaller, purer theology?
 
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Saturday, April 15, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 5)

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, the second part, the third part, and the fourth part.

I have set before you the nature of the forgiveness offered to you. I have told you but a little of it, for my words are weaker than my will. The half of it remains untold. The greatness of it is far more than any report of mine. But I think I have said enough to show you it is worth the seeking, and I can wish you nothing better than that you may strive to make it your own. Do you call it nothing to look forward to death without fear, and to judgment without doubtings, and to eternity without a sinking heart? Do you call it nothing to feel the world slipping from your grasp, and to see the grave getting ready for you, and the valley of the shadow of death opening before your eyes, and yet to be not afraid? Do you call it nothing to be able to think of the great day of account, the throne, the books, the Judge, the assembled worlds, the revealing of secrets, the final sentence, and yet to feel, “I am safe”? This is the portion, and this the privilege of a forgiven soul.

Such an one is on a rock. When the rain of God's wrath descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, his feet shall not slide, his habitation shall be sure.

Such an one is in an ark. When the last fiery deluge is sweeping over all things on the surface of the earth, it shall not come nigh him. He shall be caught up, and borne securely above it all.

Such an one is in an hiding place. When God arises to judge terribly the earth, and men are calling to rocks and mountains to fall upon them and cover them, the Everlasting Arms shall be thrown around him, and the storm shall pass over his head. He shall “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psa 91:1).

Such an one is in a city of refuge. The accuser of the brethren can lay no charge against him. The law cannot condemn him. There is a wall between him and the avenger of blood. The enemies of his soul cannot hurt him. He is in a secure sanctuary.

Such an one is rich. He has treasure in heaven which cannot be affected by worldly changes, compared to which Peru and California are nothing at all. He need not envy the richest merchants and bankers. He has a portion that will endure when bank-notes and sovereigns are worthless things. He can say, like the Spanish ambassador, when shown the treasury at Venice, “My Master's treasury has no bottom.” He has Christ.

Such an one is insured. He is ready for anything that may happen. Nothing can harm him. Banks may break, and, Governments may be overturned. Famine and pestilence may rage around him. Sickness and sorrow may visit his own fireside. But still he is ready for all, — ready for health, ready for disease, — ready for tears, — ready for joy, — ready for poverty, ready for plenty, — ready for life, ready for death. He has Christ. He is a pardoned soul. “Blessed” indeed “is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered” (Psa 32:1).

How will any one escape if he neglects so great salvation? Why should you not lay hold on it at once, and say, Pardon me, even me also, O my Saviour! What would you have, if the way I have set before you does not satisfy you? Come while the door is open. Ask, and you shall receive.

 
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Friday, April 14, 2006
The Centrality of the Atonement

Yesterday, Christianity Today released a wonderful and edifying article on the atonement from Mark Dever: "Nothing But the Blood." Simply put, every follower of Christ should read this article.

But Scot McKnight has decided to respond to it on his blog in "Atonement Wars on Good Friday?" Claiming to take the high ground, he essentially says that Dever should have given a positive description of the death and resurrection of Christ rather than defending the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. (Huh? The penal substitutionary view is a positive description of the death and resurrection of Christ!)

In light of McKnight's petty squabble, Phil Johnson appropriately rebukes Scot in his reply: "What's more worth fighting for on Good Friday?" Here is how he begins:

Here's a bit of hypocrisy that is stunning indeed: Scot McKnight publicly scolds Mark Dever for getting polemical about the atonement "during this Holy Week."

Let me get this straight: The occasion is too "holy" for any arguments about the actual meaning of the atonement?

But it's not too holy for Scot McKnight to pick an argument with Dever regarding the timing and the propriety of Dever's article in Christianity Today?

Yet McKnight's own post and the long comment-thread that ensues turn out, after all, to be little more than McKnight's latest salvo in what he calls the "atonement wars."

Johnson's entire post is worth reading. Then, re-read Dever's article and meditate on Isaiah 53:4-10. May we all worship God this Resurrection Sunday in light of Jesus' glorious work of substitution for us on the cross!
 
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Thursday, April 13, 2006
Big Love as Mormon Porn?
Today, Maclean’s magazine released the online story "The big problem with 'Big Love'." While the author is certainly not coming from a biblical worldview, she does have some interesting analysis on this controversial show. Here is an excerpt:

What's deeply distressing about Big Love is that, while a viewer can easily pick the evildoer polygamists out of the crowd, the fundamentally Talibanesque nature of the Henricksons' seemingly modern brand of plural marriage -- a marriage the show depicts as an aspirational ideal -- is much trickier to nail.

Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, who are partners in life as well as co-creators of the show, have said they wanted to take a humane, non-judgmental view of polygamy, which they saw as the perfect template through which to survey modern marriage and the family. Aside from the sheer lunacy of suggesting that you can treat polygamy neutrally (like, hey man, it's cool with us if you want to take three wives), you'd have to have a chip missing to think that the ideal hook to discuss the modern family is an illegal, regressive practice associated with rampant spousal and sexual abuse, where the greybeards get first dibs on the hotties by running the young men out of town.

The misbegotten premise that polygamy is a quirky lens on the modern family, along with a blind spot about women you could drive an SUV through, are what's so insidious about this show. While Big Love pretends to be a free-to-be-you-and-me take on family issues -- families come in many shapes and sizes now, we're all here by choice, the sexes are equal -- what's really being served up is Mormon porn.
 
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Bible Translations

Dan Phillips on the Pyromaniacs blog has written an interesting post on bible translations: "Bible translations, 'dynamic' and otherwise: the heart of the matter." Phillips' main argument is developed at some length:

Here is the real problem with all paraphrases, and all "dynamic equivalent" (DE) "translations": they all remove the work of interpretation out of the hands of the readers, often without notice.
 
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Mormon Scholar Millet and Salvation

Last year, Robert Millet (a well-known professor at Mormon-owned Brigham Young University) released the controversial book A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints. In it, he writes about a discussion he had with two evangelical scholars. In their dialog, one of the evangelicals asked:

"Okay Bob, here's the question of questions, the one thing I would like to ask in order to determine what you really believe." I indicated that I thought I was ready for his query, though I readily admit that his preface to the question was a bit unnerving. He continues, "You are standing before the judgement bar of the Almighty, and God turns to you and asks, 'Robert Millet, what right do you have to enter heaven? Why should I let you in?'"

. . . .

I looked my friend in the eye and replied, "I would say to God: 'I claim the right to enter heaven because of my complete trust in reliance upon the merits and mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.'" My questioner stared at me for about ten seconds, smiled gently, and said: "Bob, that's the correct answer to the question" (175-177).


However, a fuller account of this event sheds more light on what happened. Gary Johnson's review of this book in the latest issue of Modern Reformation includes the following:

The impression Millet wishes to leave is that this totally satisfied the two evangelicals about the genuineness of his profession. But it didn't. David F. Wells was one of the two men. The other was fellow faculy member at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Haddon Robinson (who asked Millet that question). They did not drop the matter, nor were they completely satisfied with Millet's answer. They both continued to press him about his distinctive Mormon beliefs, particularly those centered around his Mormon Christology and soteriology. Unlike Mouw, Wells and Robinson were not convinced that Millet's beliefs were distinctively "Christian," despite his sincere testimony.
 
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Denny Burk on Derek Webb
Denny Burk has written a three part series talking about Derek Webb and his music. He is a Webb fan, yet brings a balanced picture and some gentle criticism to the table. Here are the three parts:

 
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The Need for Worldwide Vigilance

The current issue of the Weekly Standard includes a piece which every Christian should read. "Apostates from Islam" is a wakeup call for continued vigilance in pursuing religious freedom worldwide. Here is how the article concludes:

Abdul Rahman's plight is merely the tip of the iceberg. Like the violence over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, or the Ayatollah Khomeini's demand that Salman Rushdie be killed for blasphemy, it reveals a systematic, worldwide attempt by Islamists to imprison, kill, or otherwise silence anyone who challenges their ideology.

We need to go beyond the individual case of Abdul Rahman and push for genuine religious freedom throughout the Muslim world. Especially we need to push for the elimination of laws against apostasy, blasphemy, heresy, and "insulting Islam." They seek to place dominant, reactionary interpretations of Islam beyond all criticism. Thus--since politics and religion are intertwined--they seek to make political freedom impossible.
 
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Intelligent Design and "Flock of Dodos"
Yesterday's New York Times included an article on one biologist's attempt to move the debate over intelligent design forward: "Eager to Tell the Stories of Science, a Biologist Evolves." This news story begins:

If a Harvard-trained evolutionary biologist makes a film about creationism's cousin, intelligent design, and calls it "Flock of Dodos," you know who he's talking about, right?

Maybe not.

The biologist, Randy Olson, accepts that there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on earth. He agrees that intelligent design's embrace of a supernatural "agent" puts it outside the realm of science. But when he watches the advocates of intelligent design at work, he sees pleasant people who speak plainly, convincingly and with humor. When scientists he knows talk about evolution, they can be dour, pompous and disagreeable, even with one another. His film challenges them to get off their collective high horse and make their case to ordinary people with — if they can muster it — a smile.

Otherwise, he suggests, they will end up in the collective cultural backwash just like the dodo.
 
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Another Treat Coming Soon

I'm excited about another new release this summer. It is the complete series of The Weird Al Show on DVD. That's right: I am a huge "Weird Al" fan. In a matter of fact, he is my favorite musician. Maybe that tells you a little more about me--"Weird Al" is my favorite musician and Mel Brooks is my favorite director.

OK, OK, so I am not normal. At least my wife puts up with me (and with watching UHF over and over again)! Here's the announcement from the official "Weird Al" web site:

THE WEIRD AL SHOW ... ON DVD!

Holy cow... really? You mean the entire 13-episode run of Al's 1997-98 CBS Saturday Morning kids' show, in a spiffy
DVD package with commentaries and junk?? Yes, that's exactly what we mean. The good folks at Shout! Factory are slated to release it on August 15!
 
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The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation Online

Some of you may know how much I love Francis Schaeffer and how indebted I am to his work (in a matter of fact, I am currently teaching through his How Should We Then Live video series in Sunday School). Now I am pleased to see that The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation has a web site. Here is a description of the foundation:

Few Christians have had as great an impact on their generation as Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer. He communicated the truth of historic Biblical Christianity in a way that combined intellectual integrity, artistic sensitivity and a practical loving care. With a sharpened analytical mind he understood and uncovered the roots of modern thinking and its logical conclusion across a wide range of disciplines. In contrast to other worldviews and religions Christianity can stand truthfully, addressing our need to understand reality with our minds, to cope with it in our lives and to work into it with reasonable hope.

The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation was incorporated in 1988 by Edith Schaeffer, Dr. Lane Dennis and Udo Middelmann as a foundation of ideas to advance the availability of Francis Schaeffer's ideas in the form of written, taped and filmed resources to interested people around the world. Much more than in organizational structures he believed in the power of ideas and showed that cultures as well as individuals live with the consequences of their worldview. Schaeffer saw the Christian worldview as the only way to understand our existence in the world around us with nobility for all human beings, with real answers to the tough questions of life and death and with a coherent singular purpose to fulfill the mandate of God who has made us in his image.

The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation seeks to fulfill its purpose in various ways detailed on other pages. Study programs, lecture series, seminars, FOOTNOTES publication and background materials, correspondence and notes from Dr. Schaeffer's life and work are several valuable ways to make a contribution to a wider discussion of the truth of Biblical thought and life. The Foundation wishes to render a service by contributing more Biblical insights into current philosophical, ethical and cultural reflections.

(HT: The Pearcey Report)
 
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"The Gospel of Unbelief"

Today, Cal Thomas wrote an interesting column: "The Gospel of Unbelief." In it, he looks at the numerous recent challenges to the Christian faith and makes some helpful observations. Here is a sample:

What is responsible for this flood of skepticism, heresy and outright denial of the biblical record? Why is there not a similar cultural onslaught against other faiths? Only the suicidal would treat Islam in this way. The skeptics sound like those disclaimers for certain drugs sold on TV: Side effects may include vomiting, hair loss, bleeding, dizziness and disorientation. The side effects of believing in Jesus may include loss of friends, disrespect by the academic and journalistic communities and damage to one's career, not to mention a complete change in the life to which one has become comfortably accustomed.

The question inherent in all of these challenges to the original story and original cast is this: How could anything like the resurrection be true? The question is not asked with the intention of getting an answer. It is rhetorical, hostile and unbelieving.

So, how does one know it is true?

Read on.
 
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Monday, April 10, 2006
Interview with John Piper

The latest Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Decision magazine includes an interview with John Piper: "A Taste for Christ." If you want a summary of his ministry, or if you just want to be refreshed, then check it out!

Piper answers the following questions:


(HT: Justin Taylor)
 
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Napoleon Dynamite and Mormonism

Over the weekend, USA Today released a story on Jon Heder, the star of Napoleon Dynamite: "Jon Heder gets off the bench." What I found most interesting about this article was learning more about Heder's Mormonism and how other Latter-day Saints have responded to Napoleon Dynamite. Here's some information about Heder:

Movie stardom is an unlikely arc for a Mormon kid from Oregon, who started studying film to become an animator, not a leading man. Napoleon Dynamite is no pin-up material, with his throaty Beavis and Butt-Head voice and donkey-sized choppers, but Heder is far more handsome, though more Tom Hanks than Tom Cruise.

He and his wife, Kirsten, have been married for three years, and he spent two years in Japan on the traditional proselytizing mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's a twin from a family of six children, though he doesn't have any kids yet.

. . . .

Heder says that because of his religious beliefs he won't take roles that have cursing, excessive sexuality or violence. In Benchwarmers, he says he tried to make his role more kid-friendly, though there are still plenty of gross-out gags.

. . . .

He makes it clear that he's a comedian, not a preacher. "It's tough now, because am I like an ambassador (for Mormonism) now? I was representing the church on my mission, and now I'm representing the church again in some ways," Heder says. "Sometimes I downplay it. 'I'm a Mormon. This is what Mormons do.' — That's not my thing. I want to get up there and tell entertaining stories but that are also to a certain extent clean."

And here is what some Mormons think about Napoleon Dynamite:

But there's more to his success than slapstick. Heder and Hess (who directs Jack Black in the upcoming wrestling comedy Nacho Libre) presented a slice of life in Napoleon that is unique to rural Mormon culture in states like Utah and Idaho.

"I think that (Mormons) definitely see some correlation between the Napoleon character coming up with creative alternatives to swear words" like "Gosh!" "Dang!" and "Frickin' idiot!" Hess says. "In Mormon households, that's what kids have to do."

Robert Kirby, a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, has seen Napoleon many times and has some lines of dialogue as his cellphone ringtones. He says Heder provides Mormons with a cultural caricature they can embrace.

"If you weren't (Napoleon), you at least knew him, these hicks who thought they were really with-it but were about two years behind the times," says Kirby, a Mormon humorist who has written the books Sunday of the Living Dead and Wake Me for the Resurrection. "(Heder) promises real hope for the way Mormons are regarded in film. What we're looking for is our own stereotype. And without doing it in an overt or in-your-face way, he brings the Mormon character to the screen."
 
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Saturday, April 08, 2006
Weekender -- J.C. Ryle, "Forgiveness" (Part 4)

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, the second part, and the third part.

III. Let me, in the third place, encourage all who wish to be forgiven.

I dare be sure this paper will be read by some one who feels he is not yet a forgiven soul. My heart's desire and prayer is that such an one may seek his pardon at once. And I would fain [gladly] help him forward, by showing him the kind of forgiveness offered to him, and the glorious privileges within his reach.

Consider, then, for one thing, that the forgiveness set before you is a great and broad forgiveness. Hear what the Prince of Peace Himself declares: “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies, where with soever they shall blaspheme” (Mar 3:28). “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa 1:18). Yes: though your trespasses be more in number than the hairs of your head, the stars in heaven, the leaves of the forest, the blades of grass, the grains of sand on the sea shore, still they can all be pardoned. As the waters of Noah's flood covered over and hid the tops of the highest hills, so can the blood of Jesus cover over and hide your mightiest sins. His blood “cleanseth us from all sin” (1Jo 1:7). Though to you they seem written with the point of a diamond, they can all be effaced from the book of God's remembrance by that precious blood, Paul names a long list of abominations which the Corinthians had committed, and then says, “Such were some of you: but ye are washed” (1Co 6:11).

Furthermore, it is a full and complete forgiveness. It is not like David's pardon to Absalom, — a permission to return home, but not a full restoration to favour (2Sa 14:24). It is not, as some fancy, a mere letting off, and letting alone. It is a pardon so complete that he who has it is reckoned as righteous as if he had never sinned at all! His iniquities are blotted out. They are removed from him as far as the east from the west (Psa 103:12). There remains no condemnation for him. The Father sees him joined to Christ and is well pleased. The Son beholds him clothed with His own righteousness and says, “Thou art all fair, there is no spot in thee” (Sol 4:7). Blessed be God that it is so! I verily believe if the best of us all had only one blot left for himself to wipe out, he would miss eternal life. If the holiest child of Adam were in heaven all but his little fin g e r, and to get in depended on himself, I am sure he would never enter the kingdom. If Noah, Daniel, and Job, had had but one day's sins to wash away, they would never have been saved. Praised be God, that in the matter of our pardon there is nothing left for man to do! Jesus does all, and man has only to hold out an empty hand and to receive.

Furthermore, it is a free and unconditional forgiveness. It is not burdened with an “if,” like Solomon's pardon to Adonijah: “If he will show himself a worthy man” (1Ki 1:52). Nor yet are you obliged to carry a price in your hand, or to bring a character with you to prove yourself deserving of mercy. Jesus requires but one character, and that is that you should feel yourself a sinful, bad man. He invites you to “buy wine and milk without money and without price,” and declares, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Isa 55:1; Rev 22:17). Like David in the cave of Adullam, He receives every one that feels in distress and a debtor, and rejects none (1Sa 22:2). Are you a sinner? Do you want a Saviour? Then come to Jesus just as you are, and your soul shall live.

Again, it is an offered forgiveness. I have read of earthly Kings who knew not how to show mercy; of Henry the Eighth of England who spared neither man nor woman, — of James the Fifth of Scotland, who would never show favour to a Douglas. The King of kings is not like them. He calls on men to come to Him, and be pardoned. “Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men” (Pro 8:4). “Ho! Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isa 55:1). “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink” (Joh 8:37). “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28). It ought to be a great comfort to you and me to hear of any pardon at all; but to hear Jesus Himself inviting us, to see Jesus Himself holding out His hand to us, — the Saviour seeking the sinner before the sinner seeks the Saviour, — this is encouragement, this is strong consolation indeed!

Again, it is a willing forgiveness. I have heard of pardons granted in reply to long entreaty, and wrung out by much importunity. King Edward the Third of England would not spare the citizens of Calais till they came to him with halters round their necks, and his own Queen interceded for them on her knees. But Jesus is “good and ready to forgive” (Psa 86:5). He “delighteth in mercy” (Mic 7:18). You and I may well come boldly to the throne of grace. He who sits there is far more willing and ready to give mercy than we are to receive it (Heb 4:16).

Besides this, it is a tried forgiveness. Thousands and tens of thousands have sought for pardon at the mercy seat of Christ, and not one has ever returned to say that he sought in vain. Sinners of every name and nation, — sinners of every sort and description, — have knocked at the door of the fold, and none have ever been refused admission. Zacchaeus the extortioner, Magdalen the harlot, Saul the persecutor, Peter the denier of his Lord, the Jews who crucified the Prince of Life, the idolatrous Athenians, the adulterous Corinthians, the ignorant Africans, the bloodthirsty New Zealanders, — all have ventured their souls on Christ's promises of pardon, and none have ever found them fail. If the way which the Gospel sets before us were a new and untraveled way, we might well feel faint-hearted. But it is not so. It is an old path. It is a path worn by the feet of many pilgrims, and a path in which the footsteps are all one way. The treasury of Christ's mercies has never been found empty. The well of living waters has never proved dry.

Besides this, it is a present forgiveness. All that believe in Jesus are at once justified from all things (Acts 13:39). The very day the younger son returned to his father's house he was clothed with the best robe, had the ring put on his hand, and the shoes on his feet (Luk 15:22). The very day Zacchaeus received Jesus he heard those comfortable words, “This day is salvation come to this house” (Luk 19:9). The very day that David said, “I have sinned against the Lord,” he was told by Nathan, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin” (2Sa 12:13). The very day you first flee to Christ, your sins are all removed. Your pardon is not a thing far away, to be obtained only after many years. It is nigh at hand. It is close to you, within your reach, all ready to be bestowed. Believe, and that very moment it is your own. “He that believeth is not condemned” (Joh 3:18). It is not said, “He shall not be,” or “will not be,” but “is not.” From the time of his believing, condemnation is gone. “He that believeth hath everlasting life” (Joh 3:36). It is not said, “He shall have,” or “will have,” it is “hath.” It is his own as surely as if he was in heaven, though not so evidently so to his own eyes. You must not think forgiveness will be nearer to a believer in the Day of Judgment than it was in the hour he first believed. His complete salvation from the power of sin is every year nearer and nearer to him; but as to his forgiveness and justification, and deliverance from the guilt of sin, it is a finished work from the very minute he first commits himself to Christ.

Last, and best of all, it is an everlasting forgiveness. It is not like Shimei's pardon, — a pardon that may some time be revoked and taken away (1Ki 2:9). Once justified, you are justified for ever. Once written down in the book of life, your name shall never be blotted out. The sins of God's children are said to be cast into the depths of the sea, — to be sought for and not found, — to be remembered no more, — to be cast behind God's back (Mic 7:19; Jer 50:20; 31:34; Isa 38:17). Some people fancy they may be justified one year and condemned another, — children of adoption at one time, and strangers by and by, — heirs of the kingdom in the beginning of their days, and yet servants of the devil in their end. I cannot find this in the Bible. It seems to me to overturn the good news of the Gospel altogether, and to tear up its comforts by the roots. I believe the salvation Jesus offers is an everlasting salvation, and a pardon once sealed with His blood shall never be reversed.

 
posted at 10:00 AM  



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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