Friday, December 29, 2006
Cruising...
James White and Alpha and Omega Ministries have held an annual cruise for several years now. Next year's cruise will be devoted to the topic: "The Cross: Historicity and Theology." Through the end of this year, the rates are incredibly low.

Tim Challies is registering. So is Gene Cook (listen to the MP3). Now you can add my name to the list. OK, OK, so the Reformed Baptist Thinker is not exactly a draw, but I am still looking forward to celebrating my graduation and tenth anniversary with my wife on our first cruise!

For those of you who may be interested in going, check out the cruise site. It even has a cool video clip. You can also check out Travelocity's deck plans for the Mercury cruise ship.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006
Big News for '80s Nostalgic Buffs (Like Me!)
Today, Virgin made a huge announcement for '80s nostalgic buffs like me: "Kilmer plans Genius return." Finally, a Real Genius 2?!? Here's the announcement:

Val Kilmer is reportedly set to sign up to star in a sequel to his 1985 comedy 'Real Genius'.

The 'Tombstone' star recently announced his intentions to take on more comedic roles in the future in a bid to alter his Hollywood image and take his career to a new level.

In the original 80s project Kilmer played Chris Knight, one of two brilliant teenagers who head a team of young geniuses developing a laser for what they believe is a class project and later discover that their professor intends to turn their work over to the government for use as a weapon.

No shooting schedule has been announced.

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Now I'm It...
Matt Perry has just tagged me. So, here's five things about me:

1) Jesus Christ saved me during my college spring break in 1996.
2) I'm married to a wonderful woman, and we'll be celebrating our tenth anniversary next year.
3) We have three children with one more on the way!
4) I'm currently reading African Friends and Money Matters by David Maranz in preparation for my trip to Uganda next month.
5) Lord willing, I should graduate from seminary this spring.

Now it's time to tag five friends:

1) Les Bollinger
2) Chris Bruno
3) Kevin Larson
4) Jonathan Moorhead
5) James Thompson

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Christian Bashing
Yesterday, Baptist Press posted a fascinating piece by Mark Coppenger: "Is ‘Bashing’ Sub-Christian? Not Necessarily." To be blunt, he hits the nail on its head, so read the entire article. Here is his conclusion:

So what we have here is a moral or ideological judgment masquerading as the counsel of manners. It’s a way of stifling discussion or criticism without having to do the heavy lifting involved in supplying a thoughtful response. It’s perfectly designed for a culture obsessed with feelings and impatient with truth. If you can’t stand the heat of your critic’s argument, play the niceness card, and disqualify his argument from polite discourse. It’s ingenious, much like the “hate speech” ploy, used worldwide to blunt or silence biblical exhortation.

I should add that I think the expression, “bashing,” has its place. It’s a shorthand way of saying that certain criticisms are unfair. But you had better be ready to back up your claim that the critic has gotten it wrong. The problem is that some want to use it to say that sharp criticism is unfair (or unholy or tacky) because it is sharp criticism. They use the “bashing” charge as an all-purpose tool for stifling or deflecting rigorous examination of the case at hand.

Christians are particularly vulnerable to this misdirection play in an era when “seeker” sensitivity is regnant. Many scurry for cover or chase their spokesmen from the field when secularists cry, “You’re bashing!” God’s people might well retort, “It’s not bashing when it’s fair. Why don’t you save the touchy/tidy dismissal and show me precisely where I’ve gone astray? I’m happy to listen if you have thoughtful particulars.”

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The Narrow Mind on Mormonism
Pastor Gene Cook's internet podcast "The Narrow Mind" devoted last Friday's show to the topic "Mormonism and the Gospel" with Latter-Day Saint guest Alma Allred. Honestly, I was mixed about the interview as a whole. On the one hand, Cook and his friend David Fairchild held an open and genuine dialogue with Mormon Allred. On the other hand, I'm not sure how useful this interview would be in introducing Mormonism to an evangelical audience. Certain key terms were not defined. Necessary contrasts were not made. The best part of the interview was when the show opened up to take calls.

Nevertheless, I still commend the audio file to those seeking to hear how a knowledgeable Mormon interacts with historic Christian beliefs. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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"Is It Wrong for Wives to Work?"
Today, Pulpit Magazine has posted what will surely be a controversial article by John MacArthur: "Is It Wrong for Wives to Work?" Frankly, his answer is biblical and right on target. He begins:

The issue of wives working is one that she and her husband must come to understand from a biblical perspective, then allow the Holy Spirit to lead in their specific situation.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Merry Christmas!
As Christmas approaches, I leave you with the words of John Newton. I plan on returning after my family celebrates our Savior's birth.



Praise for the Incarnation
By John Newton

Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Immanuel's name;
All her hopes my spirit owes
To his birth, and cross, and shame.

When he came, the angels sung,
"Glory be to God on high;"
Lord, unloose my stamm'ring tongue,
Who should louder sing than I?

Did the Lord a man become,
That he might the law fulfil,
Bleed and suffer in my room,
And canst thou, my tongue, be still?

No, I must my praises bring,
Though they worthless are and weak;
For should I refuse to sing,
Sure the very stones would speak.

O my Saviour, Shield, and Sun,
Shepherd, Brother, Husband, Friend,
Ev'ry precious name in one,
I will love thee without end.

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The True Meaning of Santa Claus
Over on the Cranach blog, Gene Edward Veith posted a column he wrote for World magazine last year in "The True Meaning of Santa Claus: Slapping Heretics." I enjoyed it so much that I am posting it here in full.



Slappy holiday

Why not take the Santa Claus tradition a little further? Gene Edward Veith

Santa Claus had his origins in St. Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey. Known for his generosity and his love of children, Nicholas is said to have saved a poor family's daughters from slavery by tossing into their window enough gold for a rich dowry, a present that landed in some shoes or, in some accounts, stockings that were hung up to dry. Thus arose the custom of hanging up stockings for St. Nicholas to fill. And somehow he transmogrified into Santa Claus, who has become for many people the secular Christmas alternative to Jesus Christ.

But there is more to the story of Nicholas of Myra. He was also a delegate to the Council of Nicea in a.d. 325, which battled the heretics who denied the deity of Christ. He was thus one of the authors of the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. And unlike his later manifestation, Nicholas was particularly zealous in standing up for Christ.

During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.

The point is, the original Santa Claus was someone who flew off the handle when he heard someone minimizing Christ. Perhaps we can battle our culture's increasingly Christ-less Christmas by enlisting Santa in his original cause. The poor girls' stockings have become part of our Christmas imagery. So should the St. Nicholas slap.

Not a violent hit of the kind that got the good bishop in trouble, just a gentle, admonitory tap on the cheek. This should be reserved not for out-and-out nonbelievers, but for heretics (that is, people in the church who deny its teachings), Christians who forget about Jesus, and people who try to take Christ out of Christmas.

This will take a little tweaking of the mythology. Santa and his elves live at the North Pole where they compile a list of who is naughty, who is nice, and who is Nicean. On Christmas Eve, flying reindeer pull his sleigh full of gifts. And after he comes down the chimney, he will steal into the rooms of people dreaming of sugarplums who think they can do without Christ and slap them awake.

And we'll need new songs and TV specials ("Santa Claus Is Coming to Slap," "Deck the Apollinarian with Bats of Holly," "Frosty the Gnostic," "How the Arian Stole Christmas," "Rudolph the Red Knows Jesus").

Department store Santas should ask the children on their laps if they have been good, what they want for Christmas, and whether they understand the Two Natures of Christ. The Santas should also roam the shopping aisles, and if they hear any clerks wish their customers a mere "Happy Holiday," give them a slap.

This addition to his job description will keep Santa busy. Teachers who forbid the singing of religious Christmas carols—SLAP! Office managers who erect Holiday Trees—SLAP! Judges who outlaw manger displays—SLAP! People who give The Da Vinci Code as a Christmas present—SLAP! Ministers who cancel Sunday church services that fall on Christmas day—SLAP! SLAP!

Perhaps Santa Claus in his original role as a theological enforcer may not go over very well in our contemporary culture. People may then try to take both Christ and Santa Claus out of Christmas. And with that economic heresy, the retailers would start to do the slapping.

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Muslims and Christmas
James White provides a helpful analysis of Muslims and Christmas in light of the Qur'an: "Christmas in the Qur'an." Here is his introduction:

As a rule, while Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not celebrate Christmas, mostly because they recognize it is a distinctly Christian festival espousing a particularly Christian belief (the Incarnation) that is blasphemy to Muslims. While some Muslims might put up lights and Christmas trees in response to the cultural celebration, even this is regarded as dangerous since it can lead to making a special occasion out of a non-Muslim holy day which might cause confusion, especially in the eyes of Muslim children.

Muslim apologists prefer to regard Christmas as an opportunity to show Christians how much there is in common between the two faiths, and how Muslims can respect the season without participating in it. "After all," the Muslim might say to his Christian co-worker, "we worship the same God, and we both give honor to Jesus. Hey, we even believe in the Virgin Birth, just like you!" Of course, attitudes like this are capitalized on by secular society to the extent of using similar argumentation to promote some kind of "why can't we all just get along" attitude.

In light of this, I thought it might be interesting to look at exactly how the Qur'an deals with Christ's birth, and how this reflects Islamic belief with regard to Jesus' mission. I would also like to examine how this contrasts with what the Bible teaches, and the significance of this difference. For the purpose of the blog, I will keep the study brief; however, there are plenty of online resourcess (including The Qur'an) for you to pursue more in-depth study.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Rocky Balboa Reviews
Rocky Balboa finally comes out today (I plan on seeing it on Friday), and along with its release comes all of the reviews. Generally, they seem to be positive, which is great! Here are a few:

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Roman Catholic vs. Protestant on Scripture
Interested in understanding how Roman Catholics and Protestants understand Scripture? David King has posted a helpful reply to a Roman Catholic in the New Testament Research Ministries discussion forum: "Re: I would like help in answering this."

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Richard Gere, Buddhism, and Hollywood Spirituality
Spiegel Magazine recently posted an article on Richard Gere's devotion to Buddhism in "Buddha Meets Hollywood." Here is an excerpt:

When Richard Gere meditates in India, even the Dalai Lama makes time for his famous acolyte. Religion has become the opiate of choice for the U.S. acting profession. Some stars need it to massage their egos. But for a heart-throb like Gere, meditation may be the path to overcoming his narcissism.

. . . .

When Hollywood greats discover their spirituality and begin extolling the virtues of introspection in a world that rewards superficiality with dizzying fees, skepticism toward professed piety comes easy. Many stars indulge in faith-hopping, desperately chasing the latest trend (and the promise of everlasting youth, perpetual success and eternal life). The winds of psychospirituality blow constantly through Hollywood. First it was Buddhism, then came Scientology, followed by the New Age guru Deepak Chopra. And for the past few years stars have embraced the questionable merits of the Kabbalah movement, the current doctrine du jour of the cinema city.

Most popular of all are the guilt-free spiritual fads that survive without taboos or a stern, vengeful God, and refrain from preaching the renunciation of all worldly pleasures. Piety has no place here, nor does submitting to the commandments of a higher being, as in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Instead, it fulfills a largely therapeutic function, as Gere's case illustrates. It focuses on the individual, emphasizing high self-esteem and well-being. Religion can then become an active lifestyle component, alongside the psychotherapist, the Yoga instructor, the nutrition adviser and the personal trainer. In Hollywood, fulfillment is viewed solely through the prism of commercial success. And success means staying mentally and physically fit.

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Monday, December 18, 2006
Baptists and Landmarkism
What do you know about Landmarkism? I had personally never heard of it before until I came to seminary here in Kentucky. In any case, I have found it to be a historically important movement of Baptists in the South. And Baptists are still dealing with the issue of Landmarkism to this day.

Last week, the Narrow Mind podcast dedicated a show to the topic--"'Landmarkism', What is it?"--with special guest Dr. Jim Renihan. It is a very informative and helpful show. I strongly suggest listening to the show and learning more about something Baptists in America continue to struggle with.

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Friday, December 15, 2006
Friday Frivolity
From "A Little Diversion for Friday..." on Stand to Reason's blog:

I agree with Evangelical Outpost that OK Go's treadmill video is one of the most amazing video clips of the year. It's a standout in the music video category at least. If you could care less about music videos, do yourself a favor and watch this one. While I can't vouch for the content of the song, the fact that they created this visual accompaniment live is simply amazing (most videos include multiple video takes pasted together in the editing room). Having a low budget isn't a hindrance if you've got talent.

I'm assuming the OK Go guys are not Christians (you can set me straight in the comments section if you'd like), so this reminds us that humans can create some wonderful art even if they are not reconciled to God. Isn't it another example of God's grace for Him to allow every human to explore and express aspects of greatness even if they have rejected Christ?

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The Book of Mormon Solves a Christmas Mystery
George Potter answers the question: "Does The Book of Mormon Solve A Christmas Mystery?" His conclusion? Since we don't know how the wise men knew to follow the star to find Jesus, they may have been told by the Prophet Lehi, when Lehi and his family were on their way to the Americas. Let's just say that I'm not convinced....

Regardless, you can read Potter's speculation for yourself. Here is how he begins his quest:


When I was a little child, I always wondered about the story of the wise men in the Gospel of Matthew. Traditional thought still identify them as the “three Magi,” but the actual number of men is not actually stated. All we know is that some time after the birth of Jesus Christ “there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1) who after seeing “his star” (The King of the Jews’ star) eventually found the child, presented him gifts, and worshiped Him.

Perhaps you too find that this story raises many questions. Matthew wrote that the wise men saw “his star” and came to “worship him” (Matthew 2:1). Note carefully! The story does not say an angel visited them and pronounced to the wise men that the star was a sign that a Messiah had been born. Nor does the account say that the wise men had a revelation or a dream, as when they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod (Matthew 2:13). I would think that if there had been such a divine intervention about the birth of the Messiah that Matthew would have noted this miracle in his Gospel.

Instead, we are told simply that they saw the star and came to worship the King of the Jews. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that they did not receive this knowledge in the form of divine inspiration, but had learned this information from the oral and written traditions of their forefathers.

The LDS dictionary states of the wise men: “Their knowledge was precise and accurate.” (see Magi) If so, is it possible to identify at least one likely source of their precise and accurate information?

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Thursday, December 14, 2006
"The Intolerance of Tolerance"
Today's Townhall includes a piece by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason: "The Intolerance of Tolerance." Here is his introduction:

Probably no concept has more currency in our politically-correct culture than the notion of tolerance. Unfortunately, one of America's noblest virtues has been so distorted it's become a vice.

There's one word that can stop you in your tracks. That word is "intolerant."

This idea is very popular with post-modernists, that breed of radical skeptics whose ideas command unwarranted respect in the university today. Their rallying cry, "There is no truth," is often followed by an appeal for tolerance.

The tolerant person allegedly occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each person is permitted to decide for himself. No judgments allowed. No "forcing" personal views. That all views are equally valid is one of the most entrenched assumptions of a society committed to relativism. And it's a myth.

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Rocky Balboa, the Christian?
Yes, I am anxiously awaiting the release of Rocky Balboa later this month. But before you laugh, check out the trailer and see what you think.

And if you remain interested, jump over to Infuze Magazine where they posted "Rocky Balboa's Sylvester Stallone talks about his faith." The following is what you'll find:

A few weeks ago, Sylvester Stallone participated in a conference call with several spiritual leaders, to discuss the religious aspects of his new film, Rocky Balboa. Infuze Magazine is pleased to present this exclusive transcript and MP3 audio file recorded at that event.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006
BlackBerry Addiction
USA Today has an interesting news story today on BlackBerry cell phone users: "Are BlackBerry users the new smokers?" While I'm not sure about the comparison of BlackBerry use with smoking addiction, I wholeheartedly agree with the following conclusion:

There is — or ought to be — a limit to what we can tolerate as a civil society in which the most rudimentary grace involves humans acknowledging the presence of other humans in their midst. I mean, good Lord, like enablers, we have really, collectively, allowed this disruptive rudeness to get out of hand.

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Monday, December 11, 2006
Mitt Romney and Mormonism
With Governor Mitt Romney as a likely United States Presidential candidate in 2008, I think this video is helpful in introducing others to some of the claims of Mormonism.

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Friday, December 08, 2006
Left Behind and the Bible
Today, I am posting my final response to a question given in my Systematic Theology III class. It is on end times and the popular Left Behind series.

A friend from a very liberal Christian background asks you if you know anything about the Left Behind books. When you say, “yes,” she then asks you if you think these books represent the biblical view on the end times. Using material from the Bible, Erickson, and one other systematic theology book, answer her question as best as you can. Give your own opinion on the nature of the rapture and the tribulation.

Many Christians have read and loved the Left Behind series of books, creating a virtual cottage industry of spin-offs and products. A dozen books imaginatively portraying the book of Revelation as a fictional story, this series has certainly left an impact on contemporary evangelicalism. Nevertheless, is its interpretation of Revelation and the end times in general biblically accurate? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Their views are errant in three central end times beliefs.

The theology underlying Left Behind can be termed "dispensational pretribulational premillennialism." But what do these three terms mean? Paul Enns summarizes this eschatological system well: "Dispensational premillennialists believe that the church will be raptured (1 Thess. 4:13-18) prior to the Tribulation period; God will judge the unbelieving Gentiles and disobedient Israel during the Tribulation (Rev. 6-19). At the end of the Tribulation Christ will return with the church and establish the millennial kingdom on earth."[1] He also provides the fundamental elements of this view: "Dispensational premillennialism can be identified through two basic features: (1) a distinction is made between God's program for Israel and His program for the church; (2) a consistently literal interpretation of the Scriptures is maintained."[2] Actually, their literal interpretive method is what leads to the distinction between Israel and the church. These elements are what distinguish dispensational premillennialism from historic premillennialism.

However, both their interpretive method and their separation of Israel and the church are faulty. To give just one example, we can compare Hosea 1:9-10 and 2:23 with Romans 9:23-26. The Hosea texts refer to the restoration of literal, national Israel. But the Apostle Paul deliberately takes these two prophecies about the future salvation of Israel and applies them to the church. Because the church is the body of Christ, she has now become the people of God. Essentially, the Old Testament must be interpreted in light of the coming of Christ. Galatians 3:7ff shows us how to understand this relationship. By being united to Christ through faith, those in the church are the descendents and heirs of Abraham. The church is "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). Dispensationalism is simply biblically untenable.

Nevertheless, can their view of the rapture and tribulation be found in Scripture? Again, the answer is no. Millard Erickson says, "The pretribulational position involves several distinctions that seem rather artificial and lacking in biblical support. The division of the second coming into two stages, the postulation of three resurrections, and the sharp separation of national Israel and the church are difficult to sustain on biblical grounds."[3] The main text used to support the pretribulational rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. However, dividing this coming from the next chapter as well as 2 Thessalonians 2 depends upon already adhering to the unbiblical distinction between Israel and the church. There is no reason to even use the word "rapture" at all. This text is referring to the second coming of Christ. The pretribulational rapture cannot be supported by the Word of God.

Additionally, we should not relegate the great tribulation to the end of this age. Jesus referred to the great tribulation in his Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 (also in parallels Luke 21 and Mark 13). Verse 21 states, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will." This great tribulation is tied to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (vv. 1-2), which was fulfilled in 70 AD. At the same time, this fulfillment was typological, pointing forward to the increased tribulation in this age which climaxes in a great tribulation before Jesus' return. Herman Hoeksema says,

In the narrowest sense of the word this phrase [the great tribulation] calls to our mind the period immediately before the coming of Christ. . . . Nevertheless, we must never conceive of this great tribulation as standing all by itself. For that is not the case. It is merely the climax, the ultimate manifestation of the power which always was filled with bitter hatred against the church of Christ in the world.[4]

He concludes, "We must, therefore, not forget that this great tribulation is in process of formation all the time, throughout this entire dispensation. In a wider sense, it includes also those minor persecutions, terrible enough in themselves, but minor in comparison to the final tribulation, to which the people of God have already been subjected."[5] In a sense, we are in the tribulation now, but it will culminate before the second coming of Christ.

Finally, the premillennial perspective in Left Behind is incorrect. The primary biblical text utilized is Revelation 20:1-10. Following the return of Christ in chapter 19, Satan is bound for a thousand years so that he would not deceive the nations any longer. The resurrection of believers occurs before the millennium, whereas the resurrection of unbelievers happens after the millennium. However, it structurally makes more sense to see a shift from Revelation 19 to Revelation 20 as a change in perspective, a recapitulation. Jesus inaugurated his kingdom through his first advent, binding Satan (Matthew 12:25-29, see also Luke 10:17-20). Christians experience a spiritual resurrection at conversion and look forward to a physical resurrection when Jesus returns (John 5:25-29). The millennium is a symbolic description of the church age between Christ's comings.

Therefore, amillennialism provides the most biblical end times view, not dispensational pretribulational premillennialism. The church is the Israel of God, there is no rapture before a future great tribulation, and we are living in the millennium now. While these truths may not produce riveting fictional stories, they are what God has revealed in His Word.

[1]Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), 389.
[2]Ibid.
[3]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1230.
[4]Herman Hoeksema, Behold, He Cometh! An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, 2nd ed. (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2000), 267.
[5]Ibid.

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The 12 Days of Calvinism
Yes, I am a Calvinist. But I am a Calvinist with a sense of humor, and this post was hilarious! Check out "The 12 Days of Calvinism," a theological take on the classic 12 days of Christmas. (Unfortunately, I must admit that I have no idea what day 8 means. Maybe a poke at the Federal Vision folk?)

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Thursday, December 07, 2006
Dan Kimball vs. John MacArthur on Emerging Churches
Earlier this week, Dan Kimball posted a response to a letter that John MacArthur sent out. His entry is: "Please Don't Stereotype The Emerging Church." While not mentioning MacArthur by name, anyone familiar with MacArthur knows who Kimball is talking about. The following is his opening paragraph:

I rarely, rarely ever try to specifically talk about someone in a negative light, and I hope this isn't negative against a person, but about their opinions. I received from a friend a mass letter going out to supporters of national radio preaching ministry. He sent it to me to read since the whole letter was about "the emerging church".

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006
John Piper Update on Baptism
Monday, John Piper provided an update on the controversy surrounding baptism and Bethlehem Baptist Church on the DesiringGod web site: "Can you update us on the baptism and church membership issue from 2005?"

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006
What Kind of Reader are You?
When I saw the quiz "What Kind of Reader are You?", I knew that I had to take it. Here are my results:

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Non-Reader
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

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The Gospel and Islam
Last week, 9 Marks ministries released their latest audio interview with Thabiti Anyabwile: "The Gospel and Islam." Here is the description:

Pastor and author Thabiti Anyabwile describes the beliefs and history of Islam, his own experience as a Muslim, the contradictions in the Koran, as well as the way for churches to approach evangelism with Muslims, which he calls an amazing, God-given opportunity the church has today.

(HT: Jeff Downs)

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Monday, December 04, 2006
Islam in the Mission Field
I was recently made aware of the online missions magazine Momentum. It looks like an important and helpful magazine which assists Christians in obeying Christ as we proclaim His gospel to the world. I plan on trying to regularly read it.

In any case, I did run across an article from the latest issue which I want to briefly interact with: John McNeil's "Time to Stop Fearing an Islamic Invasion" (in PDF format).

McNeil reports on Graeme Fawcett, a New Zealand missionary who thinks it's time to stop fearing an Islamic invasion in his home country. Instead, he views Christians in New Zealand as having a tremendous opportunity to reach out to the Muslims in their midst. I greatly appreciate his call for believers in Christ to see Muslims as individuals who need to hear the gospel rather than enemies who need to be feared. In this sense, I pray that Christians in New Zealand (and elsewhere!) will listen to his call.

Nevertheless, I also read some incredibly problematic conclusions as well:

However, he [Fawcett] pointed out that while they were attracted to Jesus, they were not attracted to the Western Church. That required a different approach. "Our approach is to say fairly quickly, 'This is not about becoming a Christian, but about becoming a follower of Jesus. You can become a follower of Jesus without leaving your community, without identifying with a church'. "I tell Christians reaching out not to try to take them to church.

"If they become a Christian, they can become an outcast or killed so evangelism ends with that one person. It’s better if they can stay within the community—although in some cases that may be impossible."

I have huge concerns with this kind of thinking. First, it mistakenly equates local manifestations of the body of Christ with the Western world. While I do not believe that Muslims must be "attracted to the Western Church," they are to join in fellowship with one another as followers of Christ. Essentially, they are to become church members. To deny this truth is to forsake the centrality of the church within Christ's kingdom.

Second, this view distorts and possibly denies the biblical teaching of conversion. Did not Jesus himself say, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23)? Should we not all claim with the Apostle Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20)? If this means that a follower of Christ becomes an outcast or is killed, then this is a glorious part of his salvation. I know how easy it is for me as an American to sit at a keyboard and type out this statement without having to live through it, but any shortcomings on my part are due to my feeble faith. They do not lessen the commitment that our Lord requires.

Third, Fawcett's perspective implicitly denies the sovereignty of God in salvation in favor of pragmatic concerns. If Christians are killed off, then how will their community be impacted? I can tell you how--God will not allow his work to fail! God is redeeming people "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). Who are we to assert that this can only be done by compromising our faith in order to reach out to our communities?

Ultimately, we must never fail to contrast the false religion of Islam with the true faith in Jesus Christ. Fawcett's thinking bleeds the two together. McNeil reports:

Mr Fawcett quoted Building Bridges, by Fouad Elias Accad, which says there are Muslims trusting Christ in Muslim lands who do not consider they have become Christians, a word which has negative political connotations. Instead they see themselves as having become truly Muslim (the word Muslim means "surrendered to God").

What? They may have truly surrendered to God, but to do so, they must admit that Mohammed was a false prophet and that Jesus is God incarnate (which the Quran denies). To embrace Christ means rejecting Islam, period.

I wonder how common Fawcett's view is in missions generally. I know of others holding this perspective and have read about it before, but worry if this kind of thinking becomes widespread among missionaries. In any case, as this methodology grows, it will need to be confronted with biblical wisdom.

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posted at 1:30 PM  
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Behind the Scenes of "White and Nerdy"


Over the weekend, a behind the scenes video of "White and Nerdy" by "Weird Al" Yankovic was posted on line. Enjoy!

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posted at 10:30 AM  
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Friday, December 01, 2006
What Happens Between Death and Christ's Return?
This weekend, I am posting my next-to-last response to a question in my Systematic Theology III class. As usual, I have given the question followed by the answer I turned in.

List the four major positions on the nature of the Intermediate State. Which do you think is the most in accord with the Bible? Suppose for the sake of argument that you decide that the “unconscious intermediate state” position is correct. A church member comes to you and says, “My mother died recently. She was truly a believer, I have no doubt about that. Can you tell me if she is with the Lord right now as we speak?” What would you say?

What happens to Christians after their deaths but before Jesus Christ returns? This classic and difficult question falls into the theological category of the "intermediate state." Christians today do not agree on what the Bible teaches regarding this subject, leading to different views held by various believers. Once we understand the four major positions of the nature of the intermediate state, we will be able to assess the perspective which is most in accord with the Bible. Then we will be able to apply our conclusions to a practical situation.

The most common belief is that a Christian's soul goes to be with the Lord in a disembodied state upon death. Several biblical passages are used to support this view. In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 12:7 states the following about death: "and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." While the physical body is buried in the ground, God takes back the spirit. In the New Testament, Acts 7:59 recounts the death of the first Christian martyr: "And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'" Here, Stephen asks Jesus to receive his spirit or soul, not his body. Additionally, the Apostle Paul says, "I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul contrasts being in his body on earth and being with the Lord upon death. Taken together, these passages seem to teach a Christian having a conscious but disembodied state when he or she dies. They await Jesus' Second Coming to be united to their resurrection bodies.

However, this view is not the only one. Another position held is that a Christian's soul goes to sleep, not having consciousness until the Second Coming of Christ. The main Scriptural support for "soul sleep" is the often-used imagery of sleep to refer to death (1 Corinthians 11:30, 15:1ff; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 5:10; 2 Peter 3:4). Taking the usage of sleep literally, proponents of this view believe the souls of Christians will wake up upon Christ's return to receive their glorified bodies.

A third position is that Christians have some kind of bodily existence at death, but these bodies will be completed at the Second Coming of Christ. The main text used for this view is 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. While verse 8 was mentioned earlier, the imagery Paul uses in this passage seems to indicate gaining a body at death: "For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (v. 1). Therefore, Christians should look forward to gaining a body at death which will be completed when Jesus comes back.

Forth, some maintain that Christians receive their final resurrection bodies at death. Employing the same passage from the previous view, adherents note that the body mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 is not an incomplete body but an eternal, heavenly body. As a result, believers do not need to wait until the Second Coming to receive their glorified bodies. One is clothed with this perfect and immortal body at death.

Which position is correct? I believe the biblical view is that the soul goes to be with the Lord in a disembodied state. "Soul sleep" takes the New Testament imagery of sleep too far. Sleep is used metaphorically to refer to death. Receiving the glorified body at death cannot be correct either, since the New Testament connects the resurrection of the dead with the Second Coming of Christ. As for the remaining perspective, I admit that interpreting 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 is complex. However, it ultimately does not lend itself to a position of some kind of bodily existence at death. Synthesizing all of the biblical data regarding the intermediate state, I recognize that the conscious, disembodied soul at death is what Scripture teaches.

With this conclusion in mind, what would I do if a church member came to me and asked: "My mother died recently. She was truly a believer, I have no doubt about that. Can you tell me if she is with the Lord right now as we speak?" My reply would begin as a simple one. Yes, if your mother was a believer in Christ, she is with the Lord. The Apostle Paul desired "to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." Followers of Christ will be with their Lord at death.

At the same time, this situation is not the end. The Apostle Paul comforts Christians grieving over the loss of fellow believers: "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Those who have died in Christ will be raised whole—with perfect, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35ff). And most importantly, we will always be with the Lord. As Paul goes on to say, "Therefore encourage one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18). We are comforted with the assurance that Christ has conquered death. When he returns, Christ will usher in a new heaven and a new earth, where his disciples will live. And "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

Until then, the intermediate state will be one where genuine believers will be consciously present with the Lord, but disembodied as they wait for their resurrection bodies. This truth should result in great encouragement and comfort for Christians.

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posted at 9:00 AM  
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About Me

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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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