At least I have my other two daughters to help (while my son continues to find new ways to terrorize whatever place he finds himself!):
P.S. If you leave any comments, please do not include my children's names. I'd prefer for their lives to remain somewhat private!
Labels: Personal Life
When placed under the light of the overall Biblical teaching and worldview, the theological and ethical “problem” of holy war evaporates. In the end, those who have serious problems with the OT Holy Wars probably have serious problems with God Himself. But there are also several practical applications we can draw from the reality of the OT Holy Wars. To begin with, God’s commands to Holy War remind us to be preeminently concerned with God’s honor and rights above mere human honor and rights. Secondly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of the serious with which God views human sin. Thirdly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of that the consequences of sin often extend beyond the individual to the family, the church, and the society. Fourthly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of the dangerous influences of an anti-Christian society around us. Fifthly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us how zealous God is to protect the purity of His worship and His worshipers. Sixthly, God’s commands to Holy War remind us of the serous commitment to His word that God expects from His people. And finally, God’s commands to Holy War provide us with a picture of our spiritual battle against remaining sin, the world, and the devil, as well as a foretaste of that ultimate battle between good and evil yet to come.
But don't worry! I plan to return after Memorial Day. Until then, enjoy the weekend!
Labels: Personal Life
Labels: Personal Life
Among the most popular religions to have flowered since the 1960s, Wicca — a form of paganism — still faces a struggle for acceptance, experts on the religion and Wiccans themselves said. In April, Wiccans won an important victory when the Department of Veterans Affairs settled a lawsuit and agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.
But Wicca in the civilian world is largely a religion in hiding. Wiccans fear losing their friends and jobs if people find out about their faith.
The fruit of the Spirit, the tokens of love, obedience unto holiness, and fervent witness for Christ: These are the fruit the Lord Himself is expecting as He cultivates the field of the Church and rains down the waters of His truth upon it, week after week.
So where’s the fruit?
We all know lots of Christians. But I’m willing to bet we know very few Christians who match up to the four-fold profile outlined above as the reasonable fruit of the Word which God is looking for in our lives. Where are they? You don’t see ‘em. I don’t seem ‘em. Christian scholars, pollsters, and sociologists don’t see ‘em. The world complains over and over about our shallowness and hypocrisy. And every year the evangelical church moves more squarely into the margin of moral, social, and cultural issues and debates. What’s wrong? Why is the most Christian-educated generation in all of Church history so devoid of the fruit we should reasonably expect to find in them?
Perhaps we’ll tackle that question in another installment. For now, can we agree on just this much: Contemporary Christian education—from the sermons we hear to the classes we take and the degrees we earn—is very near to being a complete failure, when considered in the light of the fruit we should reasonably expect to find. I know that conclusion won’t set well with many, but I’ve been involved in Christian education for over thirty years, so I have to wear this indictment myself.
Labels: Christianity and Culture
One name of God is ’El Shaddai. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary (TBD) explains: “God as ’El Shaddai is presented as the all-powerful One, totally self-sufficient, absolute ruler, and the One who can and does make final disposition.” Essentially, ’El Shaddai expresses God’s sovereignty. Genesis 17 gives us the first recording of this name in Scripture: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty [’El Shaddai]; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly’” (Genesis 17:1-2). God uses this name when entering into a covenant with Abraham, commanding him to follow God as the Sovereign One. Christians have the same responsibility, becoming children of Abraham through faith in Christ (Romans 4:11-12). As our Sovereign Creator, we owe God our love, our trust, and our submission. He has the absolute right to do all things in accordance with his own good pleasure.
Consequently, ’El Shaddai greatly instructs believers in the development of our spiritual life. Since Jesus is God incarnate, the Christian life is a life of submission to his lordship. There is no Christian faith without submission to the Savior. Pastors need to proclaim the whole gospel, including the need for converts to crucify themselves daily. Grace is not cheap—it cost Jesus Christ his very life! Believers’ spiritual lives are lived in repentance for our failures and trust in Christ’s atoning work for righteousness. Pastoral ministry must also be rooted in God’s Word, for it is in the Bible that Christians continually remember and apply the gospel as well as understand God’s purpose and will for our lives. Whether from the pulpit or in counseling sessions, the Bible is the foundation upon which God’s sovereignty is learned and observed.
Next, God is called ’El ‘Olam. This name is also clearly defined by the TBD: “’El ‘Olam is used to refer to God as the everlasting or eternal one, a clear instance where the name of God and an attribute of God are combined.” It was also used during the life of Abraham: “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God [’El ‘Olam]” (Genesis 21:33). God’s eternal relationship to us is clearly portrayed in Psalm 90: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man! For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night’” (Psalm 90:2-4). While God is eternal, our lives are short and then we die. God’s eternality demonstrates the fundamental difference between the natures of God and man. God necessarily and always exists whereas humanity’s existence is dependent on God and ends due to God’s wrath against sin (90:7-11).
Pastors also find a rich wealth of truth in ’El ‘Olam. Psalm 90 points us toward the practical significance of God’s eternity in its first verse: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” By having God as our dwelling place—our place of rest and security—our lives find meaning and purpose. In the New Testament, we see that this rest comes in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4). Therefore, church members can depend on the eternal God who has always existed, will always exist, and will never change. And Christ has taken the wrath we deserve upon himself, reconciling us to God. This truth enables believers to endure and even find joy in various trials and troubles, knowing that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Pastors should point to God’s eternal name and nature for security and comfort.
Third, Scripture refers to God as Yahweh-Rohi. This name appears at the beginning of Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd [Yahweh-Rohi]; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). Here, God’s name reveals himself as a shepherd. In Ezekiel 34, God further explains this truth, especially in verse 15: “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.” Of course, God as a shepherd is most clearly seen in Jesus Christ: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). God cares for his people and his creation, and as a shepherd he is intimately involved in his world. His supreme act of shepherding was in the sacrificial death of his Son.
God as Shepherd clearly displays his love and care for those made in his image. In a unique way, Jesus Christ shepherds his people as our chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). What comfort he provides! Thus, the well-known Psalm 23 points Christians to their Savior. David concluded by writing, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6). Pastors rightly quote this biblical passage to show God as a shepherd. In him, whether in life or in death, we have true joy.
When one studies the names of God, he or she should praise God for the complementary ways in which his names function to reveal more of himself to us. God is sovereign (’El Shaddai), he is eternal (’El ‘Olam), and he is our shepherd (Yahweh-Rohi). May we rejoice in our God, proclaiming him to a world that needs to hear of him and of the redemption which he alone gives.
Walter A. Elwell and Philip W. Comfort, ed., Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 540.
1) Statement of the ETS Executive Committee regarding Dr. Frank Beckwith’s Resignation as ETS President (already added as an update to a previous post)
2) Christianity Today online, "ETS Resignation Triggers Tradition Discussion"
3) Christianity Today online, "Q&A: Francis Beckwith"
Additionally, in his latest blog post, Beckwith said the following:
Over the next year or so I hope to work on a book, or perhaps a major article, that offers a detailed account of why I returned to the Catholic Church. Consequently, please do not treat this interview [the Christianity Today Q&A] as if it were my theological treatise on the subject.
I look forward to the growing interaction on these essential issues!
Labels: Other Resources
If you are asking questions like these, then you must read K. Scott Oliphint's The Battle Belongs to the Lord. It is a simple introductory work which turns to Scripture to understand God's call for his people to defend the faith.
After applying insights from the biblical battle between David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, Oliphint structures his book around explaining what several key biblical passages reveal to us about our apologetic work. The chapters include examinations of 1 Peter 3:15-17; Jude 1:3; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Romans 1:16-18, 19-32; and Acts 17:15-34.
Oliphint summarizes his central concern by saying:
Since Christ is Lord, and the battle is his, we must always be ready to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We must use the weapons, not of this world, but of the Lord. We must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ as we demolish the arguments, with gentleness and reverence, of those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshipping created things, rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
What an excellent statement! And every phrase of it comes from God's Word. Why should we begin with anything other than God's own revelation in learning more about defending the faith?
I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is filled with biblical insight. Additionally, Oliphint includes study and application questions at the end of each chapter, making it a great teaching tool or small group study. I am simply amazed that he has managed to compress so much in less than 200 pages.
At the same time, this work should be seen as the beginning of fruitful apologetic study. It is an introduction to the Christian life of gospel proclamation and defense. More detail and depth will come through reading other material. Nevertheless, Oliphint has provided us with an invaluable starting point. Every follower of Christ will find this book spiritually challenging and edifying.
As a result, I decided to post some links for those interested:
1) Francis J. Beckwith, "My Return to the [Roman] Catholic Church." You'll obviously want to start with Beckwith's own explanation.
2) Carl Trueman, "Thoughts on the Return to Rome of Professor Beckwith." Some good thoughts, including a brief examination of Beckwith's appeal to the early church fathers and their writings.
3) R. Scott Clark, "ETS President Converts to Rome." A helpful look at Beckwith in light of the growing bankruptcy of evangelicalism. While I'm not as opposed to modern evangelicalism as Clark (and Hart) seem to be, I completely agree with us coming to see the bad fruit of not having a confessional foundation.
4) Jason Engwer, "Francis Beckwith's Reversion To Roman Catholicism." Engwer makes several important points.
5) James White, Any Recent Post on His Blog. While White is getting a lot of heat for publicly "outing" Beckwith's decision, his concerns and responses are necessary and needed.
I want to close by reposting a letter to Beckwith by Douglas Groothuis:
This is a sad day for all true sons and daughters of the Protestant Reformation, for all who lived and died for its truths.
Having abandoned the distinctives of the Reformation (which are deeply rooted in Holy Scripture), you are embracing serious theological error. I wish I could say otherwise, but conscience-bound, I cannot.
By joining Rome, you are putting an institution above God; you are putting men (and I mean males) ahead of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ (See Galatians 1:6-11).
However, you are doing the right thing to resign from your position at ETS.
I have appreciated much of your writing over the years, but I lament what you have now done.
UPDATE: The Evangelical Theological Society's Executive Committee has responded.
Labels: Other Resources
His response: "Evangelicals, Mormons on Same Side of Cultural Divide." Here is an excerpt:
Mormonism holds that God is an exalted man, with a physical body. Christianity teaches that God is Spirit. Mormonism denies the historic Christian understandings of the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, and the doctrine of salvation. Christianity promises salvation through Christ's atonement and the sinner's justification by faith. Mormonism promises deification. Christianity calls for personal faith in Jesus Christ. Mormonism calls for obedience to its own teachings as the path to exaltation. Mormonism replaces belief in the sole authority of the Bible with other writings, including the Book of Mormon. This list is only a brief summary of the vast chasm that separates Christianity from Mormonism. Put simply, Mormonism is not just another form of Christianity. It is a rejection of historic Christianity.
That is a theological summary, but there is a sociological dimension as well. From that perspective, Mormonism can certainly claim to have achieved a comfort level in contemporary American culture -- especially in what might be called "Middle America." Most Americans would feel quite comfortable with Mormon neighbors. The Mormon effort to identify with American culture has been stunningly successful, and the movement's idealization and inculcation of family values has won it the admiration of millions of Americans -- including many evangelical Christians. The convergence of Mormon and evangelical Christian concerns on a host of cultural, moral, and political issues is no accident. The preservation and conservation of the family is a prime concern of both groups.
(HT: Jeff Downs)
UPDATE: Don't forget to check out the official LDS response to the documentary. Additionally, be sure to visit the On Faith internet panel, which is currently discussing the question: "After 175 years of existence, is Mormonism entering the mainstream of American religious life or are people still suspicious of it?"
"Collegians flex passion for Mormon witness"