January 2008

26 Jan 2008

I rarely post articles like this, but this one on Canada (pdf also available) is witty and revealing.

And while we’re on the political topic, the WSJ tells us about the “Green Patriarch,” who evidently believes that pagan politicians are the seed of the church (ht: Touchstone).

25 Jan 2008

One dumb thing we occasionally hear is that we can be “so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.” It figures that this quip, which belongs in the same closet with falsehoods like “God helps those who help themselves,” was attributed to the atheist Oliver Wendell Holmes.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. -C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity, Hope

The Apostle Paul says:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. -Colossians 3:1-4

And because of your heavenly-mindedness, Paul goes on to say, put to death your sins. Heavenly-mindedness should lead to earthly good.

20 Jan 2008

It’s been on my blogroll for a long time, but Phil’s Bookmarks is a helpful internet resource. I don’t share his credobaptism, but these are (mostly) excellent comments on a huge number of theological web sites. The image on the Really Bad Theology page is perfect!

14 Jan 2008

Much of the evangelical preaching with which I am familiar neither inspires a terror of God’s righteousness nor praise for the depths of God’s grace in his gift of righteousness. Rather, it is often a confusion of these two, so that the bad news isn’t quite that bad and the good news isn’t all that good. We actually can do something to get closer to God; we aren’t so far from God that we cannot make use of the examples of the biblical characters and attain righteousness by following the “Seven Steps to the Spirit-Filled Life.” But in the biblical view, the biblical characters are not examples of their victory, but of God’s! The life of David is not a testimony to David’s faithfulness, surely, but to God’s and for us to read any part of that story as though we could attain the Gospel (righteousness) by the law (obedience) is the age-old error of Cain, the Pharisees, the Galatian Judaizers, the Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, Arminians, and Higher Life proponents. -Michael Horton

“Practical” is the magic word of so many when it comes to sermons. You’ll hear people say, “I don’t want to hear doctrine, I don’t want to hear about my unrighteousness and hellfire, and I don’t want to hear the gospel. I want to hear things that help me live my life. I want practical.” And by that, they mean that they want to hear the same kind of moralism that they see on afternoon TV talk shows and in the books of popular evangelical authors.

The truly moronic thing about moralism is that it not only misses the entire point of Scripture (which is Christ), it isn’t even that practical.

Say what? Well, think about it. Any believer who observes life realizes some basic things eventually. First, that we are not in control of things. Accidents happen. Things go sour at work. Family members get very sick. Often these things happen with a suddenness that feels like a punch in the gut.

Second, that we are Romans 7 Christians. We are weighed down with sin and suffering (and we’re too dulled by sin to realize the half of it). We have a weak desire for the things of God. We are old and lonely. We are struggling with lusts. We often seem to be running in place. We were unwatchful and thus surprised by a witnessing opportunity that we were not expecting. We are growing more wistful as we approach middle age, seeing how shallow our faith really is. And so on.

Moralism may help with short-term problems, but it simply does not speak to any of these things practically. That elderly woman who battles depression with searing memories of her departed husband, will a sermon that tells her how to improve her marriage and have a better sex life help her? How about that young man who is gripped by porn or the middle-age man with the comfortable suburban life who is spiritually slothful? Will that sermon convict them to repent and continue to looking to the righteousness of Christ? Will it show God’s faithfulness to his covenant people? Will it show that God ordains and works all things together for good for the called according to His purpose? Will it say: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.” (Ex. 14:13)

Law and gospel does. It’s meat for life’s hardest circumstances.

08 Jan 2008

Back in the early 90s heyday of Windows 3.x, someone created a funny little program called Tiny Elvis. From time to time, a little Elvis Presley figure would arouse from slumber at the bottom of your desktop and say things like “hey man, check out that cursor… that thing is huuuge!”

That came to mind when reading Ephesians 3:14-21 recently:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

What strikes me about this prayer is how massively big it is. It sounds too grand to pray that those we know would be filled with “all the fullness of God.” That’s full. And yet Paul goes on to say that our Lord is able to “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” So my advice would be: go for it. Pray big prayers.

05 Jan 2008

Political analyst Dick Morris tells us this about Mike Huckabee:

A New Testament Christian politician, he takes the Biblical message to the center-left, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry.

That’s a lot of falsehood for one sentence. In it we see intimations of the ancient and persistent Marcionite heresy about the Old Testament “bad” God versus the New Testament “good” God. And we see the modern notion, so beloved of politicians, that equates compassion with spending money taken involuntarily from other people’s wallets.


01 Jan 2008

As Chrsitians, we believe that God has revealed Himself in His word. The Bible is a revelation of what we need to know. It doesn’t tell us everything about everything, but it tells us, in the words of the Westminster Confession, “the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.” God created and God expects us to do what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us in the Bible (for example: repent and believe in the Gospel).

Therefore, picking and choosing what you want to believe from Scripture is obviously absurd. Why not just choose nothing and be done with it? It makes a mockery of revelation. It makes a mockery of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the Scripture. Similarly, we should reject Hippie Jesus, Feminist Jesus, Global Warming Jesus, and the like. These are the fraudulent concoctions of false teachers. That the Scripture is silent about such nonsense is shown in that no one in the history of the church believed this stuff until the last century. If we believe that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18), then we believe that it has not prevailed against it either. If politics and social matters were really the content of what mattered to God, you’d think that the Holy Spirit would have revealed this to our forefathers.

So, no to tired political journeys, no to Christianity and water, including the kind offered by the church growth movement, and no to mysticism (aka. direct, and usually contra-Biblical, revelation). Take the Bible for what it is. Take our Lord for who He is as revealed in His word. It’s the only serious thing to do.