Resource Saturday- Recalling T4G 2008

August 1, 2009

Okay, so I didn’t get to go to the last one, but the other day I was thinking about how next spring the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference will be making its way into my new residence of Louisville, KY and it got me to listening to the messages from the 2008 gathering.  And you know what?  They’re not that bad.

Seriously though, it’s hard to see how anyone could not benefit from what was taught in Louisville in 2008.  One particularly good message is John MacArthur’s defense of the doctrine of absolute inability.  Often times I can find plenty to pick on with MacArthur, and even this message has a diatribe at the end where I feel Johnny Mac gets carried away preacing against contextualization, but for the first 40-or so minutes of the sermon he gives a good explaination and exposition of what he calls “the most attacked” and “most despised” doctrine in evangelical churches.

So, if you, like myself, cannot wait until next April and the messages coming about The (Unadjusted) Gospel, try to satiate yourself for a few hours with the wonderful offerings already put forth by these great theologians.  See you in Louisville.

Resource Saturday- SBC Annual Meeting Wrap-Up

June 27, 2009

Here is a wrap of several messages and communications from this weeks SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville.

Twitter stuff

Personal Audio Recordings

Reflections on #SBC2009- Personal and Others

June 24, 2009

This year, for the first time in my 8 years as a Southern Baptist, I attended the SBC Annual Meeting.  It was convenient enough seeing as how the meeting was held in Louisville, KY and I just happened to be in the area making plans for our move  there in a month, but regardless I think I would have wanted to be there.  And boy was I not disappointed.  I really had a great time. From rubbing shoulders with Baptist icons to witnessing lowly pew-sitters become the object of collective scorn and/or praise upon making a motion to reconnecting with old friends from college ministry, it was certainly an unforgettable experience.

However, if you missed it, you’re in luck, because more than ever you can relive the events of the event through the eyes of those of us arrogant enough to blog about it.  I captured my own thoughts on the first business day of the convention in an article entitled “Celebration from Chaos.”  Other viewpoints can be found collected together at SBC Voices, for your viewing pleasure.

After you read these and get all depressed about what you missed, just think about this: in roughly 350 days you can be a part of it yourself in sunny Orlando, FL.  Heck, maybe Mark Driscoll will even be there!

Faith in the Time of Pluralism- Obama Communicates the Mantra of the Masses

June 1, 2009

Last week Al Mohler posted a column entitled “Talking About Talking About Abortion” in which he confronted the rhetoric being used by President Barack Obama to address the issue of abortion during his controversial commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame.  While Mohler’s point was to look at the substance of Obama’s public position on the abortion issue, there was something seemingly insignificant in the quote he pulled that got me thinking.  I have reproduced the quote in an extended form below so that you may see what I’m talking about:

“[W]e must find a way to live together as one human family. . . . For the major threats we face in the 21st century — whether it’s global recession or violent extremism; the spread of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease — these things do not discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific ethnic groups.

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and greater understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.” (Barack Obama, 17 May 2009, University of Notre Dame)

Did you see it?  Look again:

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone (!)

No one person can meet the challenges of recession, extremism, nuclear proliferation, disease?! Does not our president claim to be a Christian?  And doesn’t the Christian Scripture speak clearly on just this issue?  Is not Christ the reconciliation of all things (2 Corinthians 5.19)?  Is not all of creation groaning in anticipation for its renewal that Christ’s redemption will bring (Romans 8.18-25)?  Does God not guarantee that one day He will wipe away every tear and pain shall be no more (Revelation 21.4)?  

But how does this occur?:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6)

“And there is salvation in no one else [but through Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3.36)

So, according to the Bible, the book which contains all the knowledge of Obama’s faith, there is but one person who can meet all these challenges, that being the God-Man Jesus Christ.  Yet instead of acknowledging this it is far safer to hide under the political hem-and-haw of pluralism.  

But Obama is a politician, not a theologian, so possible it is just the case that understanding the sufficiency of Christ is something which is above his pay grade.  However, looking to the theological world it doesn’t get much better, as our good friends Rob Bell and Brian McLaren demonstrate:

“Jesus at one point claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus was not making claims about one religion being better than all other religions. That completely misses the point, the depth, and the truth. Rather, he was telling those who were following him that his way is the way to the depth of reality. This kind of life Jesus was living, perfectly and completely in connection and cooperation with God, is the best possible way for a person to live. It is how things are…. Perhaps a better question than who’s right, is who’s living rightly?” (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis)

“I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain with their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.” (Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy)

Very nice!  As you can see, this type of pluralistic, double-speak heresy is not just political posturing, it is also the blasphemy du jour in the emergent church.  

We must be on our guard.  What Obama said was so slight and yet is so pervasive in our culture.  The fact that a statement denying the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel can simply fly under our radars speaks volumes to how poor an understanding of Scripture most people who claim to be “Christians” really have.  This should be offensive to us, this should cause an outrage.  Instead we just cheer and cover our ears until the day comes when we are confronted with the truth, no matter how un-p.c. it turns out to be!

Another Post-Christianity Post- Continuing Commentary from Al Mohler on Christianity in American Culture

April 30, 2009

A few weeks back I made this post sharing a recent Newsweek article about trends of Christian identification in the contemporary American society and SBTS President Al Mohler’s commentary on it.  Last Monday Al Mohler was back at it again, this time engaging an article that appeared in USA Today authored by Boston University professor Dr. Stephen Prothero criticizing the claims of the earlier Newsweek piece.  As Mohler shares, Prothero’s viewpoint was that “almost all the warnings about an increasingly secular America are overblown and mistaken,” to which Mohler wishes to add some clarification.

You can check out Mohler’s response here (or listen to the radio program at this link), but what the basic debate boils down to is how we define ‘Christianity’ and what it means to be a ‘Christian’.  On side we have Prothero who’s argument is simply, “If it says it’s a duck it’s a duck,” whereas Mohler stands on the other side saying, “If it says it’s a duck but looks like a cow and barks like a dog, it’s probably not a duck.”  Okay, well, maybe Mohler said it more elegantly when he stated that,

[M]y concern is that of a Christian theologian committed to the Gospel of Christ as the only message that saves sinners. Professor Prothero writes from a different perspective, at least professionally, and his concern is the fact that America sure looks Christian to non-Christians.

Here’s the deal.  Sure, 75-ish% of Americans call themselves Christian, but anecdotally and statistically informed observers know that there is a large disconnect between the nominal Christianity of our culture and the true Christianity of the Bible.  Just the fact that we are having divisions within the church over whether homosexuality is classified as sinful or if the words of the Bible are the inerrant, unchanging revelation of God points to the confusion inside Christianity, so how much more is this amplified outside of the church?

Honestly, it takes great self-denial to believe that America is not being increasingly secularized.  Prothero remarks that we are Christian as a nation because Christmas is a national holiday and Passover isn’t, but surely this is the opposite of proof for his argument.  The mythologizing of Christmas more than anything puts on display the fact that something which was once meaningful to a group of people for religious purposes has now become meaningful to a group of people (maybe the same group, maybe not) as a tradition of the secular culture.  The presence of Jesus does not make it Christian.  If that’s our criterion than we would have to say that South Park is a Christian cartoon and that Kanye West is a Gospel singer.  If Jesus is presented outside of the realm of Scriptural truth then he is nothing more than Santa or the Easter Bunny– a cultural construct which belongs to the pantheon of myths that we tell as a shared history of our country.  This is not Christianity, at least not in any way which makes sense for an intelligent man like Prothero to call it such. 

One wonders what the attractiveness is for people like Prothero to argue that true Christian belief is not on the decline?  Is it because Christianity as they know/practice looks no different than the majority of Americans know/practice it, and so admitting that this worldview is more secular than biblical means admitting that at best their interpretation on God’s word is wrong, and at worst that they are not really “Christians” at all?  I think this has a large part to do with it.  Please hear me, I do not know Dr. Prothero one bit and do not mean to stand in judgment of his heart on the issue.  I am simply arguing that it might be the case that some people have trouble seeing the post-Christian turn because the category by which they have chosen to label their self “Christian” is not a biblical category to begin with.

Regardless of the commentators, as people whose lives are focused upon the absolute truth of God as revealed in Scripture, there is no way for us to deny that post-Christianity and the rapid secularization of American culture are realities we must face.  To make a difference for Christ and bring the gospel forth in this climate it is important to develop our evangelism and missiology in a way which understands the specific challenges of a post-Christian context.  That is my desire, and something I have sought to do here on this blog, but this is not just the work of those “called into ministry.”  Every Christian has an obligation to upholding right doctrine and living in such a way that the glory of God is manifest in all that we do.  It is not easy, yet in light of what led us into it in the first place, we must elevate the importance of not watering down our theology or caving in to the sinful desires set to hinder our witness.

The mission fields are not just in the mountains of Peru or the plains of Africa anymore.  Our own country, the United States, as well as Canada and most of Western Europe are just as lost and in need of people to answer the call, saying “Send me into the post-Christian chaos.”

The Raleigh Rallying Cry- Danny Akin and the 12 Axioms of a Great Commission Resurgence

April 18, 2009

I know that many other SBC bloggers have already posted on this event while I was busy off fighting the Driscoll-MacArthur war once again, but I finally did get a chance to listen to Dr. Danny Akin’s chapel message entitled “Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence” and yes, it is worth the hype.  

So often today we hear this phrase “Great Commission Resurgence” (or GCR) bantered about, but it seems like it’s just another one of those ideas that everyone wants to claim they are working on, but no one every wants to bother to define.  Well, in an attempt to avoid such infamous ambiguity for the GCR, Dr. Akin sat down, penned out a sermon, sent it to his good friends and colleagues Johnny Hunt, Al Mohler, and Thom Rainer, and then delivered the final product to his students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the rest of the world through podcast.  This was a really good message, maybe even a pivotal moment in our generation, but of course it is too early to tell.  What it certainly is is a more descript call to arms for Southern Baptists than we have seen in a long while, and, thanks to the glorious interweb, blog fodder for all of us starving keyboard theologians.

In an effort not to add too much commentary to an already waterlogged happening, I am simply going to point out the axiom of the 12 that I found most novel, that being number 8, recognizing the need to rethink our convention structure.  In the end I had heard all 12 of these ideas expressed individually at one time or another, but this was the first time I had ever heard someone of Danny Akin’s stature bring up this axiom in such a prominent setting.  Discussing it he listed six questions in particular that we should focus on in  restructuing the SBC:

  1. Is there not a way to have annual meetings on the national and state level that are attractive, inspiring and worthy attending?
  2. Is the name “Southern Baptist” best for identifying who we are and what we want to be heading into the future?
  3. Do we need all the boards and agencies we have, or could there be healthy and wise mergers?
  4. Do we have a healthy stricture and mechanism for planting churches that will thrive and survive past a few years?
  5. Do we have a giving program that fairly and accurately reflects the gifts many SBC churches are giving to the work of our denomination?
  6. Are we distracted by doing many good things but not giving our full attention to the best things?

Beyond these six questions Dr. Akin also questioned the necessity of having so many levels of bureaucracy inside Southern Baptist life.  By this he meant, Do we need to have state and local associations?  This is such a pertinent question.  I see it in my own area, where the local association entertains ideas of ordained women, fully open communion, and militant anti-Calvinism more and more with each passing meeting.  This is both unhelpful and unnecessary.  It would be much better to dissolve this local association and to let the churches work more closely with the state and national conventions which, though not perfect, tend to avoid such wildly useless fruitless (and heretical?) ventures.  Still, to stand up and say this does take some courage, and I am glad that Dr. Akin decided to do it.

So, anyways, if you have not already heard it, here is a link to this message.  It is well worth the time it takes to listen to, and as I said, it may be that several years done the line we look back on this as the message that led a revitalized SBC (or whatever I name may be then) into action.  Enjoy!

And in this Corner . . . – MacArthur Throws Heavy Punches at Mark Driscoll

April 17, 2009

The other night my good buddy Keith posted a comment enlightening me to a series of posts which Dr. John MacArthur was starting to deal with his views on Mark Driscoll’s ministry, particularly focusing on  a mysterious sermon Driscoll delivered in Scotland in 2007 over the Song of Solomon.  Well, this series has just concluded and I thought I would post links to all four parts for you guys to read through (1, 2, 3 and 4).

Now, in order to not have PETA coming after me for beating the same old horse, I will refrain from commenting much on this series (though if you are really interested in what I think you can read the comments after MacArthur’s above posts).  I was glad to finally hear from MacArthur himself on what he feels since his silence following a set of 2006 remarks has been particularly bothersome to me.  I will also say, I think a much better job of dealing with this topic was done by Southern seminary president Al Mohler on his radio show back in September.  If you want to listen to that it can be linked through a previous post of mine here.

This debate is far from over.  Driscoll has not yet responded, and I do not know if he will, but with the weight of John macArthur being put behind these words we are sure to see  them quoted over and over again in the fundamentalist literature just like his 2006 remarks.

Now, Where Did I Put my Darn Christianity?- Al Mohler on the Loss of Christian Memory

March 26, 2009

If I needed to find something out about Christianity and culture in today’s world, probably the first place I would turn would be to Dr. Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  His depth of knowledge of all that is going on affecting Christians in the world today is completely astounding.  They say that he has TV’s everywhere in his room broadcasting news from across the world and that he sleeps maybe 3-4 hours a night, which is why he is able to be so on top of things.  This may or may not be true, but regardless it seems like the only adequate solution for how someone could know as much as Mohler always does about current events.

One event in particular that Mohler has his finger on the pulse of is the loss of a collective Christian memory in 21st century New England.  By the “loss of Christian memory” we mean that the people have become so far away from the church and their Christian heritage that no residual effects of biblical Christian thinking seem to remain as an influence on their worldview.   (I actually have spoken about this idea at length in a previous series entitled The Laodicean Project.)  As Dr. Mohler notes, currently the people of New England are so far along the path towards secularization that the number of inhabitants checking “None” for religious affiliation is starting to rival  the number checking “Roman Catholicism” and “Protestant.”  Of course, as anyone can tell you, the number of “None’s” is generally an underestimate, representing  people who have managed to overcome the guilt that might make them want to check a Christian affiliation even though it does not describe them, and so this data is all the more troubling.

The consequences of this that Mohler sees, at least on the immediate horizon, is that it is leading to an increasing support for same-sex marriage in these states.  Though same-sex marriage has been prohibited in all states where it has come up for a popular vote, there are a number of states in New England which are approaching legislative action that would make this practice legal in them.

This is unnerving, but far worse than this is that, by losing their Christian memory, the people are getting to a point where they can no longer reasonably be expected to stumble upon Christianity at some point in their lives.  With a loss of Christian memory we lose a familiarity with the gospel message, and so as things start to go downhill they just pick up momentum and become all the more fabulously depraved since there are no roadblocks in the conscience calling people back to the biblical design.  What is even sadder is that this is happening in what once was the hot-bed of Christian thought in this country, where Jonathon Edwards preached and saw revival occur and several devout academic institutions opened to provide seminary education for the men of that region.

Dr. Mohler captures all of this in a new article on his blog and I strongly suggest you read it.  I am not as concerned with the possibility of legalized same-sex marriage as I am with his cultural commentary.  Even if it didn’t influence same-sex marriage decisions, the loss of Christian memory can hardly be viewed as a good thing, and so seeing it addressed in any fashion is important for us to check out.

This is where my heart is.  I want to be inside the post-Christian culture this loss has created, working to plant churches that will see lives transformed through a reintroduction of the gospel fire there.  If you feel the same, please act on it.  Right now the church is guilty of simply assuming these people are reached and so do not need the missionary attention that places like Africa and South America do, but in a sense they are just as frontier as any of those places.  Thus, we must go there, present the gospel, minister to the people, and pray that God will reawaken that Christian memory that has slowly slipped away.  

Read Dr. Mohler’s post on this here.

Rocking the Cutting Edge of the 16th Century- Time Magazine on the Influence of the New Calvinism

March 18, 2009

(Note: If you like what you have read on this blog, please go here and vote for it in the 2009 Blog Madness competition. I am listed as the 15th ranked blog in the West Division. Thank you for your support.)

In case you may have missed it (and honestly, I don’t know how much press this got because I was out of town last week) but recently Time Magazine released its 2009 edition of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” and among these, listed at number 3 overall, was the New Calvinism.  Pointing to the influential ministries of guys such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Al Mohler, Time said that (in true pop culture fashion) “Calvinism is back”! 

Truthfully, this really is surprising to me.  If they had been doing a list on the top 10 ideas changing the church right now, sure, I would have definitely listed the New Calvinism.  But the world?  Wow!  That really is something.  

The question then becomes two things.  First, can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism (which really is the old Calvinism just with new guys, right?) that there is a global revival in the church?  Second,  can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism if the global church is moving towards orthodox, conservative Christianity?

In the first question, I think that I would have to say ‘No.’  I do not think from the fact that Calvinism is enjoying a resurgence that we can infer that Christianity as a whole is experiencing revival in the world.  It is true that many places such as Africa and the Global South are simply booming with new believers these days, but I don’t know that across the board we are seeing any more people coming to Christ (percentage-wise) than we have over the years past, it is just that the distribution of where believers are has shifted drastically.

On the second question, I do believe that we are seeing a move towards historic, orthodox, conservative Christianity, at least in the realm of theology.  Though there are still plenty of loud voices out there pushing the emergent agenda, it seems that the “Great Emergence” that they have been predicting has been nothing more than sociological wishful thinking thus far.  Particularly when you look to the abundant harvests being gathered in the Global South and Africa, these people are among the most conservative believers in the church today, leading the charge in various arenas such as the recent battle against the liberalization of the Church of England.  They may not all be Calvinists per se, but as Dr. Mohler was so wonderfully quoted in the article, “The moment someone begins to define God’s [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist.”

This is certainly something to be excited about.  It is a great day when a movement towards biblical authority and orthodox beliefs gets so large that a secular magazine recognizes how important it is.  Thanks be to God that we are living in a time where great men are being raised up with great ideas and are leading a great impact on the church and the culture.  Unlike the Jews after the exile, God is not silent in our day, if only we are prayerful enough to listen.

See the full article here.

Whatever Happened to Acts 4?- Ministers Feed into the Fear of Speaking Jesus’ Name

March 2, 2009

When I need to know what is going on in the world that should concern me as a Christian, one person I always trust to inform me on this is Al Mohler.  President of Southern seminary and respected cultural commentator, Dr. Mohler runs a regular blog and daily radio show, which promises to offer “intelligent Christian conversation about the issues that matter.”  Often times his posts are stunning as to the amount of depravity that they reveal in all of humanity, but his most recent article was so disturbing to me that I felt I had to comment on it.

Friday Dr. Mohler posted a piece entitled, “This Prayer Approved by the White House?,” in which he approaches the topic of the newly elected adminstrations odd policy of approving the wording of the invocations given at public events prior to their being cleared to be delivered.  As we all know, the cries to remove prayer from all facets of the public square have been sounding out for many years, but this has never done much to stop the practice of the invocation.  With President Obama taking office, though, new teeth have been given to an old dog.  However, it would be one thing to end invocations, a sad decision undoubtedly, but livable; it is a complete other thing to vet the prayers being offered and marking them as “fit for use.”  This type of 1984-esque intereference (yes, I went there) with what many would expect to be an improvised, personal offering is just plain weird, and is probably not what anyone expected, either conservative prayer warriors or liberal secular activists.

What is most disturbing, however, is the seeming compliance of Christian ministers in this action.  Two such are mentioned in the post, one from Indiana who gives the gist of the process, and one from Florida who offers a small, but sad soundbite.  The minister from Indiana, one Ryan Culp, lets us in on how his invocation went from written, to presented over the phone to a White House Public Liason, to approved, and then delivered at an Obama town hall meeting.  It makes mention of the handshake he received from Obama afterwards, which makes me wonder if that was his sole motivation in following this all along.

The minister from Florida, a pastor of a black Baptist congregation in Ft. Myers named James Bing, was also one of those mentioned who had been vetted prior to his prayer for an Obama event.  What he revealed was even more freightening than the phone approval process Mr. Culp described.  The pastor, in explaining why his prayer “carefully avoided mentioning Jesus” said, “For some strange reason, the word Jesus is like pouring gasoline on fire for some people in this country . . . .  You learn how to work around that.”


I’m sorry.  I think I just threw up in my mouth!

How could any person claim at one and the same time to believe this and to be a Christian minister?!?  I have enough trouble seeing how one could allow their prayer to be censored by the White House.  I can’t even imagine volitionally not speaking the name of Christ in fear it would offend people.  

It’s supposed to offend people!

Do these guys preach in churches that don’t have Acts 4?

But when they had commanded [Peter and John] to leave the council, [the Sanhedrin] conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4.15-20)

How have we come so far?  Why was it so important for the apostles to stand up to the Sanhedrin and preach Jesus’ name yet now it is more important to “work around” even saying it and to get a handshake from the President?  What happened to there being “no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12)?  There is to be submission to the authorities placed over us, but as Dr. Mohler says, “If the Christian cannot pray in the name of Jesus, let someone else deliver the prayer.”  How could this have ever happened?

We must see an end to this garbage.  The gospel message cannot be proclaimed with all of these dead, non-fruit bearing branches cluttering the vineyard.  I pray that soon God will see fit to gather them for the fire so the fruit of his redeeming love can grow freely once again!

The entirety of Dr. Mohler’s post may be viewed here.