March 2008

27 Mar 2008

So the Jews said to him, What sign do you show us for doing these things? -John 2:18

Preaching from John 2 on Easter, our pastor noted the irony of the Jews asking for a sign that Christ had the right to boot the moneychangers out of the temple. The greatest event in human history, the incarnation, was there for them to behold. The sign of God-in-the-flesh was right before their eyes. They missed it.

“Total depravity” is a term that describes the breadth of our sinfulness. Every part of us — our emotions, our reason, our desires — all corrupted by the fall. This incident seems to me a clear example of the dullness and blindness of indwelling sin. A baby animal instinctively recognizes its mother, and yet these Jews could not recognize their Creator standing right in front of them.

25 Mar 2008

R. Scott Clark asks good questions:

Is it the job of historically Reformed schools to provide a little gravitas to the broad evangelical enterprise? Asked another way: What do the honored pictures of Machen, Murray, Van Til, Kuiper, Stonehouse, Young, and Wooley mean? Are they quaint reminders of an honored but discarded past, something to show to prospective students and donors or do they actually something about the current self-understanding of the institution? Isn’t it the role of confessional Reformed institutions to speak to the evangelicals from a confessional standpoint? If a lighthouse gets swept away in the tide, what good is it?

23 Mar 2008

The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. -C.S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory

For this is the will of God, your sanctification… -1 Thess 4:3

Lewis’s quote is so true, but without downplaying these lifelong, colossal struggles, aren’t “addictions” often just sinful habits? We do things not only because we’re inclined to do them, but because we are used to doing them. If it’s too easy to wander on the internet, make it harder to seek after “strange women” (Prov 22:14) by using Covenant Eyes. It lets you go where you please on the internet, but all activity is logged and can be viewed later by an accountability partner (wife, parent, friend) in a tidy report. Covenant Eyes also offers filtering software that blocks porn sites. We just use the accountability software, and it has never caused any compatibility problems on our machine. A little “CE” icon minds its own business on our taskbar.

Since I last wrote about Covenant Eyes, they’ve revised the look of their accountability report and upgraded the scoring system. There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that the overall score provided by the new scoring system is useless. The good news is that the accountability report is much easier to read. The report lists the sites that have the highest scores, then further down it will show you the specific pages in those sites that score highly. The system isn’t perfect. Sometimes the report catches stuff on sites like that are inoffensive and yet get moderately high scores. However, when you see you know that there’s nothing of concern there other than their usual political bias. Really, Covenant Eyes does a great job at a daunting task. You should be able to sweep through the report in a few minutes a week once you know what to look for.

Comments are open. I’d be curious to hear reviews from users of Covenant Eyes filtering.

17 Mar 2008

Because of Barack Obama’s pastor, we’ve been hearing a lot about liberation theology. What is it? Sam Storms explains.

I haven’t heard the term much since the mid-1980s, when it was associated with Catholic nuns who aided Marxist insurgencies in Central America. It’s yet another variant of the phony social and political gospel. You might expect that given that the United Church of Christ boasts that they were the “first [denomination] to ordain openly gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons (1972).” No wonder the denomination also tell us: “When we baptize you into our community, we promise that we will never take it back – no matter what you discover about yourself or what others discover about you along life’s journey.” (We can assume that this unconditional promise excludes discovering orthodox Christianity and the ensuing need for church discipline.)

14 Mar 2008

In the recent newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, a reader chastises the Rev. William Gartig for approving of sodomy and denying the “clear teaching of the church for thousands of years.” Gartig responds:

If you start from texts (whether biblical texts or later Christian writings), you can never get to an accepting attitude to homosexuality. … In my opinion, the homosexuality issue is one therefore that comes down to a sharp choice between starting from texts or starting from somewhere else. It involves some people consciously disagreeing with the biblical text and others being unwilling to disagree with the text. As I wrote in an earlier column (September 2005), the difference between theological conservatives and liberals can be boiled down to what is your ultimate authority.

Bingo. An honest appraisal. And that authority ultimately is either (A) God speaking through Scripture or (B) me. Gartig chooses B. Reverend Gartig then revealingly connects the issue to its Siamese twin:

I wish we Christians could disagree in good faith about this issue as we do about other issues and treat the issue of homosexuality like we treat women’s ordination.

In denominations not focused mostly on experience, sodomy is simply the next exit down the highway from egalitarianism. Both deny Scriptural authority, one is just more “progressive” (a term now generally synonymous with “abominable”). It just takes another generation of seminary rot and seared consciences.

11 Mar 2008

Come on, Pastor, they’re just meeting market needs. You’re not going to grow churches or radio stations if you don’t give the people what they want to hear!

“Sterilized” is actually a good term for it.

10 Mar 2008

If you hear a man talking overmuch of brotherly love and that sort of thing– I do not mean the hypocrite, but the sincere humanitarian…you are pretty sure that here is a man who will be slippery or dishonourable in his personal transactions. I do not say that there are no exceptions; but the “reformer” is a type well known. -Paul Elmer More

Hard times have fallen upon one of the most sanctimonious and obnoxious activist politicians in living memory, Eliot Spitzer. And because of it all, he missed this. Too bad.

We can pray that Mr. Spitzer will seek the living God who forgives the wretch.

08 Mar 2008

Vocation is the Latin term for “calling.” Our job is but one of our vocations. We are also children, parents, church members, spouses, members of a community, etc. Each of these callings has its own obligations. We are not where we are by mistake. Nor are the people around us. Nor our surroundings. And God works through them all.

I highly recommend Gene Veith’s God at Work, which highlights this forgotten Reformation doctrine of vocation. Some random quotes to whet your appetite:

The purpose of vocation is to love and serve one’s neighbor. … Secularists see this as simply the economy, which it is, but theologically it is the interaction of vocations. Of course the farmer… does not love me as such. He doesn’t even know me. But still, he is serving his neighbors in his vocation, and his work in feeding thousands of people he does not know is an act of love– if not his own, God’s love working through him.

One aspect of the doctrine of vocation flies in the face of every self-help book and occupational seminar, every conversation about “your plans,” and every agonizing bout of decision-making. Despite what our culture leads us to believe, vocation is not self-chosen. That is to say, we do not choose our vocations. We are called to them. … Since God works through means, He often extends His call through other people… Our calling comes from outside ourselves… Our vocations are, literally, in the hands of others– college admissions boards, medical school selection committees, employment agencies, bureaucratic hierarchies, or the person we love who may or may not choose to marry us.

The doctrine of vocation helps Christians see the ordinary labors of life to be charged with meaning. It also helps put their work into perspective, seeing that their work is not saving them, but that they are resting in the grace of God, who in turn works through their labors to love and serve their neighbors.

…However God chooses to answer our prayers, whether by changing the situation or by changing us, we have given the outcomes over to Him. Our part is to carry out our vocations. The outcome belongs completely to the Lord. The burden is shifted over to Him. … [T]o quote Luther… “Work and let him give the fruits thereof! Rule, and let him prosper it! Battle, and let him give victory! Preach, and let him make hearts devout! Marry, and let him give you children! Eat and drink, and let him give you health and strength. Then it will follow that, whatever we do, he will effect everything through us; and to him alone shall be the glory.”

Two carpenters, side by side, are doing the same job, one a Christian and the other an unbeliever. Their work, on the outside, is exactly the same…. They may even think of their vocations in the same way, whether as just a way to make a living or feeling the satisfaction of creative work well done. There is not a “Christian” way to be a carpenter, as opposed to being a non-Christian carpenter. Nevertheless, one fulfills his vocation in faith, while the other rejects God and prefers to be completely on his own.

One day the scaffolding falls. Both are injured. … They are feeling exactly the same misery. The Christian, when he can, prays in agony. He is not healed, but he exercises his faith. The unbeliever feels not only the suffering but the meaninglessness of his suffering. He resents the God he does not believe in.

They both get better. They go back ot work. One has grown closer to his God. The other, embittered, has grown farther away– unless at the point of his helplessness he has started listening to his coworker, who has been trying to tell him about Christ for years.

William Powers, a nuclear physicist… was asked how being a Christian affected his work. He explained how abstruse is his research into theoretical physics, how it consists mainly of working at a computer screen, analyzing thousands of calculations… He said that while he finds this work fascinating and though it is indeed useful in the field of nuclear energy research in, he used to worry about the value of what he was doing. He wondered, what goods is this really? He felt the should be spending his time doing something that was of more service to the Lord, such as evangelizing, instead. But ever since he learned about the doctrine of vocation, he feels a new satisfaction in his work. In his number-crunching and theory-testing, in exercising his abilities as a scientist, he knows he is leading “the life that the Lord has assigned, to him, and to which God has called him.”

01 Mar 2008

An old witticism notes that there are three sexes: male, female, and clergy.

For those of you not laughing, the comment alludes to a certain “softness” among some clergymen. I trust most of you who’ve been amid Catholic or mainline Protestant churches know what it means. Anyway, now that it’s becoming increasingly evident that today’s effeminate evangelical culture is headed down the same path as mainline protestantism last century, we may be seeing more fellows like this in the pulpit (except now they’ll be “on stage”).

And it won’t be just men, either. While “female pastor” is as phony a concept as “female husband” or “male bride,” you can bet that many of these lady impostors won’t be very… feminine. We’re back to that third sex again.