Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The Future of Atheism
February 23-24 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the next Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum will be held on the topic: "The Future of Atheism."


With Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett dialoging, this event promises to be worthwhile! If only I could attend. . .

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Martin Luther and Justification
In celebration of Reformation Day, I thought I would post half of a project I recently completed for my Systematic Theology III class. My professor asked me to answer two questions in five to seven double-spaced pages. The first question was on Martin Luther and the doctrine of justification. Below is the question, followed by my answer:

What is the difference between Roman Catholicism and Martin Luther on the doctrine of justification? In order to find out, you should read the material in Erickson['s Christian Theology], and then consult one of the following sources: The New Dictionary of Theology, The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, The Encyclopedia of the Reformation, or The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Which (Luther or the RCC) do you think is correct? How does this issue affect our understanding of the evangelistic task?

The doctrine of justification is widely understood to be the material cause of the Reformation. The disagreement between Roman Catholicism and Martin Luther on this issue led to a split in Western Christendom which continues to this day. As Millard Erickson summarizes, "Justification is God's action pronouncing sinners righteous in his sight. We have been forgiven and declared to have fulfilled all that God's law requires of us. Historically, it was this issue that preoccupied Martin Luther and led to his break from the Roman Catholic Church."[1] With this historical significance in mind, what is the difference between Roman Catholicism and Martin Luther on the doctrine of justification? And which one is correct? Both questions must be answered and their practical significance applied.

The difference between Roman Catholicism and Martin Luther on the doctrine of justification can be seen in which word they use when explaining the way a believer is pronounced righteous—infusion or imputation. Roman Catholics following the Council of Trent understand justification primarily as an infusion of grace which changes an individual's spiritual and moral nature. Therefore, justification is a process where believers actually become righteous. Ultimately, a Christian earns eternal life as he or she becomes righteous. Martin Luther strenuously opposed this view, holding that justification is a declarative act whereby God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believer. Christ's righteousness justifies a Christian, not his or her own righteousness or good works. Essentially, justification is transformative in Roman Catholicism, whereas justification is declarative for Martin Luther.

When considering both positions, Martin Luther clearly advocates the correct view. First, the biblical word "justification" itself (as well as its cognates) is a forensic, or legal, term. It refers to a judicial act of declaring a verdict of acquittal. An individual is legally declared "not guilty." As J. I. Packer states, "There is no lexical ground for the view of Chrysostom, Augustine, and the medieval and Roman theologians that 'justify' means, or connotes as part of its meaning, 'make righteous' (by subjective spiritual renewal)."[2]

Second, the Roman Catholic position is not consistent with biblical texts on justification. For example, Romans 4:2-5 says, "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." In this passage, the Apostle Paul contrasts justification by works and justification by faith. He explicitly denies that a person gains their righteousness through works. Believers are counted as righteous through their faith in Jesus Christ, which is demonstrated through the example of Abraham.

The righteousness that saves is the righteousness of another—Jesus Christ. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares, "For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Consequently, a Christian's justified standing before God is an alien righteousness. In Philippians 3:9, Paul explains his own personal relationship with Christ as ". . . not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." Faith alone is the instrument through which Christ's righteousness leads to justification and salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 summarizes this truth: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Works have no role in being declared justified before God.

A main biblical Roman Catholics use to support their position is James 2:14ff. After James also uses Abraham as an example, he concludes by saying, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (v. 24). Nevertheless, when understood in context, James is not disagreeing with Paul. Erickson is correct notes, "James in no way denies that we are justified by faith alone. Rather, his point in this passage is that faith without works is not genuine faith; it is barren (v. 20). Genuine faith will necessarily issue in works. Faith and works are inseparable."[3] Works are the inevitable result of justification, but they in no way lead to justification. One must not forget that Ephesians 2:10 follows vv. 8-9 (mentioned above): " For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Martin Luther was right in his understanding of the doctrine of justification.

When a person holds to the biblical teaching of justification, how does it affect our understanding of the evangelistic task? There are two ways in which evangelism will be impacted. First, a Christian's witnessing encounters must center on a call to embrace Jesus Christ and his redemptive work through faith alone. This saving faith includes turning away from sin in repentance, and turning toward Christ as Savior and Lord. An individual must believe and trust in Jesus' atonement alone, whereby one's punishment was paid for by Christ, and Christ's perfect righteousness was credited to the individual. Complete reliance on Christ in faith is what brings justification. No good works and no sacrament results in righteousness. Our only hope is Jesus Christ.

Second, evangelical believers must recognize the need to evangelize Roman Catholics. If they hold to the gospel taught by the Roman Catholic Church, then they are trusting in a false gospel. They will not be justified. The Apostle Paul warns about those who believe in the preaching of a different gospel: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." A Roman Catholic will only be saved through the biblical gospel of justification through faith alone.

In our doctrine and in our evangelism, we should declare together with Martin Luther that justification is "the doctrine by which the church stands or falls."

[1]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 968.
[2]J. I. Packer, "Justification," in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 1984), 594.
[3]Erickson, 1024.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006
Christians Do Not Live Like They Say They Believe
On the Reformation 21 blog, Ligon Duncan posted an article from the online Kairos Journal (subscription required) in: "The Worldliness of the Evangelical Churches: A Kairos News Report." The following is an introduction from this must read article:

Sometimes Christians can “tune out” the criticisms of unbelievers simply because they are non Christians. It is a dangerous habit to develop. Very often those outside the Christian community can offer a fresh criticism that the Church needs to hear. Take sociologist Alan Wolfe for example. He serves as the Director of the Boisi Center at Boston University and is a self-described agnostic. Wolfe has spent several years now studying the beliefs of evangelical churches to see if they truly live their lives in ways consistent with what they believe. His method of finding this out was deceptively simple. He went out across America and visited specifically evangelical churches. His observations are put forth with disturbing clarity in The Transformation of American Religion.

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U2 Eucharist
If Anglicans can have a clown eucharist, why not throw in some hip U2 music to boot? Today's USA Today reports on a new trend: "Rocking the church: Episcopal 'U2-charist' uses songs in service." The story begins by saying:

When Anglican Archbishop Thomas Cranmer compiled the Book of Common Prayer during the 16th century, he wanted to make the prayers accessible, so he wrote in English, not Latin, and made sure it was distributed to every church.

About 450 years later, there is another attempt to make prayers more accessible — by an Irish bard who wears wrap-around shades instead of a clerical collar.

It may not qualify as a mini-Reformation, but a Communion service driven by the music of singer Bono and his U2 bandmates is catching on at Episcopal churches across the country.

The U2 Eucharist is not some kind of youth service held in the church basement but is a traditional Episcopal liturgy that uses U2's best-selling songs as hymns.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Population Pessimists
Today's Boston Globe includes an interesting op-ed by Jeff Jacoby: "The Population Pessimists." Given the general population pessimism in our culture, I found this article refreshing. Here is Jacoby's conclusion:

To be sure, the United States has its problems, some of them quite serious. But a burgeoning population isn't one of them. As Europe and Japan age and shrink, America continues to grow and stay comparatively youthful. That means not just more mouths to feed and more bodies to house. It also means more brainpower and more human energy -- more problem-solvers, more entrepreneurs, more thinkers, more fighters, more leaders. The late Julian Simon famously called human beings "the ultimate resource," and the United States is blessed with more of it than any other First World nation.

"In other words, you ain't seen nothing yet," The Economist predicts. "Anyone who assumed the United States is now at the zenith of its economic or political power is making a big mistake." As good as things are, they are about to get even better. It's great to have you with us, number 300 million. Welcome aboard!

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Help Trinidadian Pastors and Lay Christians
I received the following e-mail from my friend Matthew Perry. Please think about helping him in this admirable cause.



Dear friends:

My name is Matt Perry. By day (and night) I serve as Pastor of Boone's Creek Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, but also own a blog at Matt Perry Dot Com (Matt-perry.Com). I have a passion for missions work in the twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, specifically to help the pastors there with little theological and ministerial education to obtain just that. They are hungry and thirsty for books and curriculum to help in that training.

I will be going to Trinidad in January of next year. I would like to take them some books. I have set up an Amazon.Com wishlist (you can read more about it by clicking
here) and am sending out a request to all of you to see if you would either like to contribute or if you could possibly put a blurb on your blog/website/newsletter to see if others would. I receive no proceeds from this at all. The books will be shipped to our church, which will then be transported to Trinidad in January with us.

I understand you receive requests like this frequently --- and the worst you could say is, "No." But hey, it's worth a shot for a worthy endeavor to advance His Kingdom, I believe. If you have further questions, please feel free to e-mail me.

Blessings,

Matt Perry
http://www.matt-perry.com

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006
“Rethinking the International Expansion of Mormonism"
Today, the Mormon blog By Common Consent posted "Review: Phillips, 'Rethinking Expansion'," a brief summary and review of Rick Phillips article in the August 2006 issue of Nova Religio, "Rethinking the International Expansion of Mormonism." It is must reading, and makes me want to read the whole article (not available online). Here is the first paragraph:

Just how secure are Mormon membership figures? Mormons take it for granted that many of their church’s members are not “active” participants in church life, but how many “inactive” Mormons even consider themselves to be members? Phillips uses recent census data from Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and New Zealand to attempt an answer to this question. According to the data, the number of self-professed Mormons is between 23-58 percent of the number claimed by the church. (Australia 47.5%, Austria 57.1%, Canada 58.4% (lower outside Alberta), Chile 27.3%, Mexico 23.2%.)

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"Lost Members" of the Church
My friend Peter Beck had a great piece posted on Baptist Press yesterday: "The lost members of the church." He begins by saying:

Baptists are a peculiar people. We insist that one make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We insist that they be baptized before they can join our church. And, yet, some of us insist upon nothing else once they’re members.

Equally peculiar is the fact that we Baptists claim to be a “people of the book,” putting the Bible before all else when it comes to defining and defending our faith. Yet, we ignore its teaching on church membership.

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Monday, October 23, 2006
D.A. Carson in Emerging Conversation
Earlier this month, D.A. Carson entered into conversation with two leaders of the emerging church in Australia. Now, the audio has been posted online through the FORGE network. Here are the MP3s:

(HT: Andrew Jones)

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Coming Soon
There's now less than two months left until the release of a movie I have been anxiously awaiting: Rocky Balboa.

Maybe I am the only one out there looking forward to "Rocky 6." I am not sure why. I am part Italian and a southpaw. I grew up with the original movies. I have even enjoyed Sylvester Stallone as an actor (people love to make fun of the fact that I proudly have Over the Top in my DVD library!).

Regardless, I plan on being there opening weekend. Be sure to check out the trailer and see if you may be interested too!

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Saturday, October 21, 2006
Out of the Mouth of Babes...
OK, I just had to share something that happened today. I was listening to "Weird Al" Yankovic's new CD Straight Outta Lynwood when "Do I Creep You Out" started to play. For those of you who don't know, this song is a parody of "Do I Make You Proud" by Taylor Hicks. I absolutely love Weird Al poking fun at this over-the-top, sappy love song.

Anyway, my oldest daughter (who is 5) asked me, "Daddy, is this a Jesus praise song?" I couldn't help but laugh. This ridiculous music reminded her of the typical foolishness that passes for worship music today. And the best part is that Weird Al is skewering it.

Out of the Mouth of Babes...

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Friday, October 20, 2006
How To Read A Book
Over at the Triablogue blog, Paul Manata has posted an outline of part of the must-read How To Read A Book. Here is his entry: "How To Read A Book." The following is his introduction:

This is an outline of part of Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren’s excellent book, "How To Read A Book." The outline takes one up to the third level of reading - analytical reading. There is a fourth level, syntopical reading, but most of the T-blog readers, and your every day reader, does not read syntopically. Furthermore, mastering levels 1-3 will improve what you get out of your reading 10 fold. It is sufficient to make you a very proficient reader. Also, syntopical reading is for many books, analytical reading is for one book. So, technically, the title of this post implies an an analytic outline. A syntopical outline would be titled, “How To Read Books.” For these reasons I have only focused on levels 1-3. I hope the below outline will provide you with some practical knowledge of how to read well, not necessarily be well read. Also, as a companion to the below, readers are encouragned to read this short article. I also would obviously recommend purchasing Adler and Van Doren's book, "How To Read A Book," for your own library.

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Weird Al on the Media
"Weird Al" Yankovic has a great short clip on the media in light of the North Korea situation. Check it out (sorry, but I can't find a way to embed the video clip on my blog)!

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Thursday, October 19, 2006
YouTube Compared to Internet Porn
Yesterday, Troy Patterson wrote on the current phenomenon YouTube for Slate: "Click, Respond, Repeat." Here is his conclusion:

In this and so many other respects, watching YouTube is far closer to consuming Internet pornography than staring at the television. Like Internet porn, Web video promises something to gratify any appetite in an instant and for a moment. The two also share an illicit quality: You generally watch them alone and when you really should be doing something else. Each mixes the raw with the slick. Neither makes a fetish of too much internal narrative.

But then, all of media culture has an increasingly pornographic feel, doesn't it? Web video dovetails with both the show-me morals of MySpace and the spy-eyed ethos of reality TV and tabloid glossies. YouTube is the product of an America where every normal person knows he deserves to blow up and get paid, to be naked and famous; where you're not really consuming unless you're producing in kind and where your "production" can be your own banal self. Web video is the ideal medium for a world populated by instinctual exhibitionists who double as full-time voyeurs. To quote a performance artist who might have thrived on the Web, nothing succeeds like excess.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Emerging Churches Redefining Community and Faith
Earlier this week, The Oregonian included an article on emerging churches: "Unchurched? Dechurched? Rechurched? Your prayers may be answered." The article begins:

Oregon is famous for beer, wine and berries, but also for the large percentage of Oregonians who are unchurched. Almost 25 percent of us claim we have no religious identity, compared to about 14 percent of Americans nationwide. A lot of us, as one study put it, are "nones." When someone asks us our religion, we reply, "None."

That doesn't mean we aren't spiritual people or we don't believe in God or an ultimate reality, or we don't worship. But it does mean a lot of us don't go to church, synagogue, mosque or temple on a regular basis.

All the reasons we are the way we are inspire countless religion stories. But this particular one is about a Christian movement that appeals to the unchurched, the dechurched and the rechurched among us. The emerging church, as it's often called, is redefining what the body of believers looks, feels and sounds like in post-modern Portland, in the suburbs and across the country.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Is There Marriage in Heaven?
Yesterday, a person posted a question on a discussion list that piqued my interest. Essentially, he was asking whether people will remain married in heaven. I find this question to be a very common one today and have done a lot of Bible study and thinking about it over time.

The main relevant biblical passage is Matthew 22:23-33, where Jesus is asked by the Sadducees about a woman who had married several men. They challenge Jesus to answer whose wife she will be after her death. He responded by saying, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." There will be no marriage in heaven.

Nevertheless, this answer is not easy for many modern Christians to hear. People think: "But I could never imagine being without my spouse. How could I have joy in heaven apart from my love?" To be blunt, a person thinking this way is committing idolatry. Essentially, he or she is saying that Christ is not enough. I still need my spouse. Randy Alcorn's answer to this question is very helpful, which centers his response on Christ (taken from Eternal Perspective Ministries):

In heaven there will be one marriage, not many. That marriage will be what earthly marriage symbolized and pointed to, the marriage of Christ to his bride. So we will all be married—but to Christ. To have a lot of marriages in heaven would be like still offering sacrifices after the Lamb of God came and offered the ultimate sacrifice. Our marriage to Him is the true Marriage, of which the best of earthly marriages was a symbol and shadow. Those who did not experience marriage or had only a poor marriage on earth will be delighted with their eternal bridegroom, who has already gone to prepare a place for them. One day all heaven will attend the ultimate wedding, and we will be his bride (Read Rev. 19:7-9).

However, I do envision that people who have had important roles in each others' lives will continue to be friends—and that would include a lot of people who've been married. If a woman was married to a man, he died and she married another man I think she could have a meaningful deep friendship in heaven with both.

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Monday, October 16, 2006
Mormonism in Missouri
Yesterday's Missourian newspaper included the following piece: "Missouri's Mormon Past: The Mormon War of the 1830s changed the destiny of Mormons in the U.S." Here is how the story begins:

If it wasn’t for the Mormon War of the late-1830s, Missouri, and not Utah, would probably be the Mormon capital of the world.

In 1838 and 1839, following an “extermination” order issued by Gov. Lilburn Boggs, 8,000 to 10,000 Mormons were driven out of Missouri. Boggs had declared Mormons in “open and avowed defiance” of the state’s laws and of having made war upon the people of Missouri.

“The Mormons must be treated as enemies,” Boggs declared on Oct. 27, 1838, “and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace; their outrages are beyond all description.”

Three days later, a unit of the state militia killed 17 men and boys, all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the Haun’s Mill Massacre.

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"Weird Al" on Doogtoons
Doogtoons has just rolled out their first episode of "In The Studio," and guess who is interviewed? That's right! "Weird Al" Yankovic. Enjoy the video.

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Friday, October 13, 2006
Analyzing Friday the 13th
John Miller takes a look at the background of a contamporary superstition for the Opinion Journal (from WSJ): "Your Unlucky Day." Here is his introduction:

Feeling unlucky today? If so, you're in the minority but certainly not alone: About 9% of Americans believe that Friday the 13th is jinxed, according to a 1990 Gallup poll. It's one of our more prevalent star-crossed superstitions, running a little behind a black cat crossing your path (which worries 14%) and walking beneath a ladder (12%) and a little ahead of breaking a mirror (4%).

Religious authorities have often warned against putting faith in superstition. The First Commandment contains a clear injunction against worshipping strange gods. In "Summa Theologiae," the 13th-century manual of Roman-Catholic doctrine, Thomas Aquinas wrote: "Superstition is a vice contrary to religion by excess, not that it offers more to the divine worship than true religion, but because it offers divine worship either to whom it ought not, or in a manner it ought not."

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Thursday, October 12, 2006
R.K. McGregor Wright on the Centrality of Trinitarianism
Jeff Downs has recently returned to posting on his blog. I look forward to reading it again!

Anyway, he's really outdone himself on his latest entry. It is a paper by R.K. McGregor Wright: "The Centrality of Trinitarianism." Here is the introductory paragraph:

The purpose of this presentation is to point up the importance, indeed the “centrality” of the doctrine of the Trinity for Christian Truth. This account will necessarily be brief compared to the extended discussion which came before Augustine, and summaries are always misleading in some way, but the topic deserves frequent review and restatement, central as it has proved to be. We should also recall, that in the order of Redemption, life must precede Truth, for only those awakened by the Holy Spirit are capable of exercising saving faith, but in Apologetics, Truth must precede life, for only the Truth has regenerating power on the mind or heart. Only within the Christian worldview are these two, Life and Truth, able to be fully coherent.

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Critiquing of the Emerging Church
Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk) recently contributed an article to the Next-Wave Ezine: "Suggestions for Critics of the Emerging Church." Here is how he begins:

Criticism of the emerging/missional church is growing among traditionalists, fundamentalists and many of the reformed. I don’t like to argue, so I thought I might offer a contribution to the discussion. Critics of the emerging, missional church: a few questions/suggestions for you to contemplate…uh, think about. In your free time.

There’s a lot I would like to say, but let’s keep it to five. Ex: The definition of postmodernism that drives these criticisms is uniformly rejected by emerging church-sympathetic theologians and philosophers. (See James Smith’s book.) Why do we continue, then, to read page after page explaining that all postmodernism is evil enlightenment philosophy? And then there’s the entire matter of whether the emerging church is routinely confused with the Rick Warren/Boomer style church marketing approach. And on and on and on…Anyways.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006
New Evangelicals and Catholics Together Statement
Today, Christianity Today released the latest Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement: "That They May Have Life." Christianity Today's editor, David Neff, also summarizes the document. Here is how he begins:

Face it. Culture warriors get battle fatigue. That's why organizations that energize the culture wars on both ends of the spectrum use inflammatory rhetoric and constantly search for fresh sources of outrage.

A new statement from the group informally known as ECT (for "Evangelicals and Catholics Together") offers a decided contrast to this culture-wars-on-amphetamines approach. In "That They May Have Life," ECT calls us to renew our commitment to the "culture of life," without "resign[ing] ourselves to unremitting warfare." While "many despair of finding any commonalities by which warfare can be replaced, or at least tempered, by civil discourse," the statement's authors write, "we refuse to join in that despair."

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006
"In praise of 'Weird Al' Yankovic"
Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times included an interesting cultural analysis of the impact of Weird Al in contemporary culture: "In praise of 'Weird Al' Yankovic." Here is an excerpt:

Yes, it's time to give Weird Al Yankovic his due as one of the key forebears of the pop-culture obsessed pop culture we know and love today.

Weird Al is famous for his parodies (and unfairly maligned for his originals, many of which are catchy, clever pop). But he isn't great because he wrote stinging, hilarious satire - he doesn't. Eat It, Amish Paradise and most of the rest aren't actually satire, if they're related at all to the song being parodied.

He's great because by writing them at all, he showed that pop culture was something to be talked about, mocked, ironically loved, obsessed over. To be treated like any other topic of conversation, in other words.

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Monday, October 09, 2006
Berean Tape Ministry
I was introduced to Berean Tape Ministry during my first year at seminary. Since then, I have often benefited from listening to the sermons of Pastor Ferrell Griswold. An expositor of God's Word who held to the sovereignty of God's grace, his messages prove timeless even after Griswold left this world to be with his Savior.

Now, Berean Tape Ministry is in the process of putting all of Griswold's messages online for free in MP3 format. I plan on taking advantage of the tremendous amount of material they are making available. You may want to as well!

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The Loss of Teenagers
Friday's New York Times had a front-page article on evangelical youth: "Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers." It focuses on the efforts of Ron Luce and Acquire the Fire. Here is the story's conclusion:

Outside the arena in Amherst, the teenagers at Mr. Luce’s Acquire the Fire extravaganza mobbed the tables hawking T-shirts and CD’s stamped: “Branded by God.” Mr. Luce’s strategy is to replace MTV’s wares with those of an alternative Christian culture, so teenagers will link their identity to Christ and not to the latest flesh-baring pop star.

Apparently, the strategy can show results. In Chicago, Eric Soto said he returned from a stadium event in Detroit in the spring to find that other teenagers in the hallways were also wearing “Acquire the Fire” T-shirts.

“You were there? You’re a Christian?” he said the young people would say to one another. “The fire doesn’t die once you leave the stadium. But it’s a challenge to keep it burning.”

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Thursday, October 05, 2006
Worldwide Pentecostalism
Today, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released its latest report: "Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals." The executive summary begins:

By all accounts, pentecostalism and related charismatic movements represent one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity. At least a quarter of the world's 2 billion Christians are thought to be members of these lively, highly personal faiths, which emphasize such spiritually renewing "gifts of the Holy Spirit" as speaking in tongues, divine healing and prophesying. Even more than other Christians, pentecostals and other renewalists believe that God, acting through the Holy Spirit, continues to play a direct, active role in everyday life.

Despite the rapid growth of the renewalist movement in the last few decades, relatively little is known about the religious, political and civic views of individuals involved in these groups. To address this shortcoming, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life recently conducted surveys in 10 countries with sizeable renewalist populations: the United States; Brazil, Chile and Guatemala in Latin America; Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa; and India, the Philippines and South Korea in Asia. In each country, surveys were conducted among a random sample of the public at large, as well as among oversamples of pentecostals and charismatics.

This survey provides a wealth of information on charismatic and pentecostal Christianity worldwide. It also unfolds the direction of global Christianity as a whole as we continue into the 21st century.

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Old Anti-Mormon Film
Last night, Salt Lake City's KUTV news included an interesting report: "Old Anti-Mormon Film To Benefit The Church Now." Here is how the story begins:

An anti-Mormon film is about to invade Salt Lake City. But the LDS church need not worry, and will actually benefit from it.

Back in 1922 a black-and-white film called Trapped by the Mormons swept across England.

It was not a good thing for the LDS church...but now it’s something to laugh at and learn from.

So Thursday night at the Organ Loft in South Salt Lake, music will light up the theater while the movie plays out on the screen above.

Let this be a caution to all of us: we must strive to be accurate and sensitive in our analysis and criticism of Mormonism.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Complete Journal on Mormonism now Online
The Summer 2005 issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was dedicated to the topic of Mormonism. Now, it is completely available online. I was even lucky enough to have a piece included in the journal's forum! Here's the table of contents:

Mormonism
Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer 2005
2 Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum, Evangelicalism, Mormonism, and the Gospel
4 Chad Owen Brand, The Mormon Appeal, Yesterday and Today
14 Francis J. Beckwith, Sects In The City: Mormonism and the Philosophical Perils of Being a Missionary Faith
32 Paul Copan, Creation ex Nihilo or ex Materia? A Critique of the Mormon Doctrine of Creation
56Carl Mosser, Evil, Mormonism, and the Impossibility of Perfection Ab Initio: An Irenaean Defense
70The SBJT Forum, Speaking the Truth in Love
82 Book Reviews

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Voddie Baucham MP3s
The Desiring God National Conference is now over and the MP3s are available online (I thought I would post a link to them but you can find them all over the blogosphere!). However, I wanted to give you MP3 hungry audiophiles some more files to download.

I first heard Voddie Baucham when he spoke at our seminary's chapel one year ago. Let's just say that he left a mark. Since then, I have scoured the internet to find more of his messages. Here is what I have found for free (of course, you can buy some MP3s from his ministry's web site. I plan on doing so, but my seminary strapped budget only allows for so many expenses!):

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Butler on Bahnsen and Presuppositionalism
Yesterday, the First Word blog posted the article "The Transcendental Argument for God's Existence" from Michael R. Butler in The Standard Bearer. Here is his conclusion:

In setting forth TAG [the transcendental argument for God's existence], Van Til gave the Christian apologist a powerful argument for Christian Theism. Indeed, Van Til claimed that this argument is "absolutely sound." As we have seen, however, there have been a number of objections raised against this argument. Van Til left it to his followers to answers these objections. But while in Bahnsen we find an able defense of TAG, much of what he says is merely programmatic in nature and calls for elaboration.

In the footsteps of Van Til and Bahnsen, I have endeavored to further elaborate and defend TAG against common objections. In order to do this more effectively I have surveyed the relevant philosophical literature in order to set these criticism in sharper focus and formulate the objections in the strongest possible way. In doing this, I hope to have offered a more thorough and robust defense of TAG. And though this defense of TAG is not meant to be the last word – certainly vigorous debate will continue and further refinements will need to be made – the conclusion we may draw is that none of the common criticisms of TAG are cogent. And as a corollary to this, we can justifiably maintain that TAG accomplishes just what Van Til set it out to do: establish the truth of the Christian worldview as the necessary precondition for human experience.

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Monday, October 02, 2006
Jerald Tanner
The following was posted today on the Utah Lighthouse Ministry web site:

After an 8 year struggle with Alzheimer's, Jerald Tanner passed away on Sunday, October 1, 2006, surrounded by his family and friends. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 7th. Details will be posted here later.

Condolences may be sent to condolences@utlm.org

Or to:

Utah Lighthouse Ministry
1358 S. West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84115

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posted at 3:18 PM  
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Yesterday's Sermon -- 2 Kings 2:23-25, "Baldhead"
Over the weekend, my pastor was away at the Desiring God National Conference. As a result, I had the privilege of preaching yesterday morning before my church. Lately, when I have had the opportunity to preach, I have tried to tackle "difficult" texts of Scripture. This time was no exception. I decided to preach from 2 Kings 2:23-25:

Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, "Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!" When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

If you'd like to hear my sermon, you can now listen to or download it (in MP3 format) at Parkwood Southern Baptist Church's web site (go to "Meet Our Pastor" in the sidebar and click on "Sermons" in the pop-up window). Let me know what you think!

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"The Untold Story of the Death of Joseph Smith"
JesusNotJoseph.com released a video over the weekend which is an interview with Bill McKeever. McKeever is the founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry and a good friend. Below, he talks about the death of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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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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