Monday, April 30, 2007

Without Evangelicals, Republicans lose

The Wall Street Journal interviews Richard Land of the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission about the potential Republican nominee for President in 2008.
Rudy Giuliani didn't score many points with social conservatives last week when he issued this impassioned endorsement of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a federal ban on "partial-birth" abortion: "I agree with it." He certainly didn't win over Richard Land, who has said he would never vote for Mr. Giuliani. .... "If he'll lie to two wives, what makes you think he wouldn't lie to you?" [more]
Land also comments on McCain, Romney, Fred Thompson and others, declared and undeclared.

Source: Wall Street Journal: Who Would Jesus Pick?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"For Hoosiers, God is standard"

GetReligion reports that in Indiana one of the standard issue licence plates looks like the one on the left. The Los Angeles Times:
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit .... The complaint challenges a law that lets motorists get the “In God We Trust” design without paying the $15 administrative fee.

The state says the new “In God We Trust” plate is not a specialty plate — like dozens of others it offers— but rather a second “standard” plate, like the one that features a pastoral scene, and is thus not subject to special fees. State officials say the plate, introduced in January, has been a hit, chosen by more than 540,000 motorists. That means that had the state charged the $15 fee, it would have an additional $8 million in its coffers.

“The issue isn’t the message. It’s not about religion,” said Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana. ....

“It’s about making sure that nearly every other plate that carries a message has a cost attached to it, and this does not,” Falk said. “In a state that’s as religious as Indiana, the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ is not just about supporting the national motto. It’s about saying you believe in God.”
That would seem to make sense. The words on that license plate may have something to do with believing in God and, you know, you gotta watch out for all those Americans who say that they believe in God.

But seriously, there seem to be sticky church-state separation issues whichever way the state goes.

Nevertheless, this story left me curious about one rather basic and, come to think of it, non-faith-based question. Does anyone know if any other states in the union have more than one “standard” license plate? ....
Source: GetReligion: For Hoosiers, God is standard

Robert Webber

Upon reading the sad news below, I was reminded that the first of Robert Webber's books I encountered was Common Roots: A Call to Evangelical Maturity [1978], which included, as an appendix, "The Chicago Call: An Appeal to Evangelicals." The book set the agenda for much of what he advocated thereafter, although he has especially emphasized the aspect of purposeful, intentional, worship incorporating both ancient and modern elements that serve that purpose.

Some months ago I posted an interview he gave to Covenant Companion, "Worship: Awesome or Just Plain Awful?" Robert Webber wrote in a in a similar vein in a 2003 newsletter:
One of the greatest problems we face in the renewal of our worship is the misunderstanding we hold about the role of the self in worship. Too much of our worship is narcissistic; it's all about "me" and what "I do in worship." ....

It runs like this: "God, I am going to worship you. I consider you worthy of my worship. God, this is your lucky day. I, this self-sufficient, independent human being, around whom all of life centers, I am going to give you some of my time. I am going to declare you worthy of my worship."

So how do we go about correcting this misunderstanding? Only by understanding that worship focuses on God and God's mission to rescue the world through Jesus Christ. In words, signs, and gestures we sing, proclaim, and enact God's mission.

The heart of this story is that God assumed human nature so that we, whose humanity he shares, may be presented to the Father. By faith we are united to Jesus and baptized in his name. He is not only our Savior but also our worship.

Our worship is not an autonomous, independent act arising from self but is accomplished for us by Jesus himself. The work of Jesus is the only worship pleasing to the Father. Therefore, our worship—feeble, broken, and incomplete—is offered to God through Jesus who is the one true worship of God.

I find this biblical and ancient vision of worship to be enormously freeing.

It frees us from self-focused worship and all the legalisms associated with it. It is no longer "I am going to offer you my worship."

Instead, our worship is: "Thank you, Jesus, for doing for me what I can't do for myself … I can't save myself … I can't generate spirituality … I can't pray as I wish … I can't even worship you well."

Thanks be to God, this kind of worship puts us and our worship in its right place—under the complete Lordship of Christ. It's where self finds its true meaning and our worship is perfected in Jesus, whose service to God is what God finds pleasing and acceptable. Once this grace-filled worship grasps us, we are freed to allow our worship to be prayer.

Source: | Robert Webber

Robert Webber, RIP

The Institute for Worship Studies informs us that Robert E. Webber died last Friday. He had long been an advocate of "Ancient-Future Worship" and the recovery by Evangelicals of their connection with the whole worship heritage of the Church. He will be missed.

Link to Untitled Document

John Stott

[Via Between Two Worlds] All Souls Church in London announces the retirement of John Stott:
"John Stott would like his many friends around the world to know that, having reached the age of 86 in April, he has taken the decision finally to retire from public ministry after fulfilling one final speaking engagement at the upcoming Keswick Convention in July.

He will be moving from his flat in central London where he has lived for more than 30 years, to a retirement community for Anglican clergy in the south of England, which will be able to provide more fully for his present and future needs. Dr Stott has made this decision with the strong belief that it is God's provision for him at this stage."
Stott has written many books influential among orthodox Christian believers. Basic Christianity was an early and formative influence on me and remains in my library. I also recall with pleasure listening to, and profiting from, tapes of his sermons - especially a series on the Apostles Creed. He has waited a long time to retire. May God continue to bless him, as God has blessed us through him.

Source: All Souls Church, Langham Place - News Future Plans for John Stott

A "diehard patrician Anglican"

Carl Trueman at Reformation21 describes C.S. Lewis as "a diehard patrician Anglican." He was indeed an Anglican. "Diehard" would not be the first adjective to spring to my mind. But "patrician"! Does an Oxford accent automatically make one a "patrician"? Was the offspring of a Belfast lawyer a "patrician"? Did Lewis ever convey to anyone that he considered himself a member of the "upper classes"?

Trueman goes on to argue that Evangelical affection for Lewis is possible because we have been able to turn him into one of us — aided by the fact that he is dead and can't object. Of course, it was while Lewis was still very much alive that the fundamentalist Bob Jones remarked that even though "that man" smoked and drank, he believed he was a Christian. While Lewis was still living, his books became enormously popular with Christians of every stripe who appreciated a defender of the orthodox faith.

Trueman then argues that the popularity of Lewis (and John Bunyan) among Evangelicals derives from the "readiness of human beings to read themselves into texts and thus to avoid the challenges that such texts offer to us...."

At least one alternative to that interpretation might be that human beings are capable of taking from a text that which they find important and true. Perhaps that can be done without "making over" Lewis into a contemporary Evangelical. Perhaps even Evangelicals can recognize that some doctrinal issues are central and fundamental, and others, though important, much less so, and profit from what Lewis offers while acknowledging that he was not an Evangelical but an apologist for what he called "mere Christianity."

Trueman's worry that consumerism affects Evangelicals altogether too much is certainly warranted, but Lewis's continued popularity is a good thing, and insofar as Evangelicals are moved to read him, part of the cure, not part of the problem.

Source: Reformation21 »

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Stupid Evangelical tricks"

Internet Monk lists five "stupid Evangelical tricks." In his complete comments he qualifies and expands on the excerpts below:
... [L]et’s check in with what the iMonk feels are some of the most egregious and foolish of current evangelical blunders. ....

1. Eliminating All Hymns: .... I’m not trying to say a church needs to pursue a music program that ignores missional realities in pursuit of a mission to promote classical music. What I am saying is that the heritage ... has sustained, discipled and given words to evangelicals in ways you can’t discount. Throwing this away is ridiculous.

There’s another good point about preserving the heritage of hymnody: it’s already been sorted out by history. Go pick up a hymnal from 150 years ago, and you will find as many bad songs as you’re hearing on K-Love today, but a modern hymnal (Trinity, Celebration, Baptist) has sorted through those hymns to the best of the best. In other words, we know how God has used “Man of Sorrows” and “Immortal, Invisible.”

Evangelicals should find a way to keep the heritage of great hymns alive. Dumping them entirely for secular and CCM music is a dumb move and evidence that too many churches are leaving important decisions to the wrong people.

2. Goofy Youth Minister Style Preaching: .... Preaching has some basics. When Mark Driscoll suggests that Chris Rock is the preaching teacher you need, I am wincing. The preaching teacher you need is someone like Lloyd-Jones, D.A. Carson, John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson or Al Martin. Chris Rock - or Mark Driscoll - is the influence you need to add to basic preaching essentials in order to speak in some settings.

Basics? Yeah…Expository. In the text. Organized. Balanced. Applicatory. Good questions. Illustrations that serve, not drive. Christ-centered. Original. Gospel-fueled. Open Bible. Earnest. Evangelistic. ....

3. No Church Membership: Oh brother. The church is not an audience. It’s not a crowd that watches a show. It’s not a fan club. It’s a community. It has boundaries. Leadership doesn’t function in the church like a guy opening a store and filling it with customers. You are in it or you are out of it. Baptism is a door into a local church as well as the universal church. The Biblical passages on church shepherding/discipline are about real churches with real leaders and real boundaries. Creed, Confession, Covenant, Constitution (and bylaws.) Your church needs all four. ....

4. The MegaChurch Agenda vs The Healthy Church Agenda: .... The finest teacher of pastoral theology and preaching I’ve ever heard is Al Martin. You’ll never hear him unless you go looking. You can learn every thought Rick Warren’s ever had by just going to the book section at Wal-Mart.

I’m not saying megachurches aren’t healthy. I’m not trying to get rid of them. We need big churches in every city and in every region for lots of good reasons. But the megachurch agenda is different. We don’t need every church to make every decision on how to get more and more people in the building. We don’t need to have leaders who won’t go to a hospital or do a funeral because it doesn’t contribute to growth. We don’t need worship being judged by the applause meter. ....

Get in your Bible and find what the church is all about. Quit trying to be the latest thing. ....[T]he people in front of you - who may never be the congregation you have in your head - matter to God and need to matter to you.

5. Too Much Music: .... What’s going on right now seems to be this: The average church needs a band, a lead singer, a praise team, and 40 minutes of worship for “worship,” i.e. music. We’re going to stand the entire time. We’re going to sing what the musicians and worship leaders feel is “worshipful.” We’re going to do a lot of new songs, and we’re going to sing a lot of lyrics over again. Lights, sound and video projection are now essentials.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this picture, but there are a lot of actual and potential problems here. ....

(Someone will want to know about bad theology. That’s another five, or ten, or fifteen……I’ll get to that later.)
Source: Stupid Evangelical Tricks

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Read the ESV on Your iPod

For those who use an iPod and can envision reading the New Testament on it, the ESV is made available, free, in podBible.

Source: ESV Bible Blog: Read the ESV on Your iPod

The Great Divorce

Cranach reports that Walden is planning another film of interest to Christians, and especially to readers of C.S. Lewis:
Major movie scoop: I just talked with Ken Wales, the Christian movie producer with Walden Media who gave us Amazing Grace as well as the less pious but hilarious Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978, with Peter Sellers). He is going to be the graduation speaker here at Patrick Henry College. He said that a project he will start working on in the near future is a movie version of C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce! ....

Source: Great Divorce: The Movie

"If I can dream..."

I don't watch American Idol but Between Two Worlds linked to this - and Justin Taylor is right, it is "pretty cool."

Source: Between Two Worlds: Celine Dione and Elvis Duet

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What day is it?

YouTube has several video parodies of the PC/Mac commercials. Here is one of them:

The post originally linked to GodTube. YouTube has a better version so I have shifted the link there.

Source: Mac vs. PC parody part 2

Touchstone Magazine

Touchstone Magazine won eight awards from the Associated Church Press. It is indeed a fine magazine. Congratulations!

Link to Touchstone Magazine - Mere Comments: Touchstone, Award of Excellence, 2006

"Give to the one who begs from you..."

Panhandling is common in every American city and anyone who walks down a central city street is often confronted with the decision whether to give or not. Between Two Worlds links to Internet Monk who addresses the question: "Should I give money to people on the street who ask for it?" His counsel seems wise.

Source: InternetMonk: Should I gove money to people on the street who ask for it?

"A creative backstory..."

In the course of a report on the reporting of the Veterans Administration decision to allow Wiccan symbols in national cemeteries - a decision hailed by Americans United as a triumph of religious liberty - GetReligion notes that press reports accept at face value the invented history of Wicca:
Mark Oppenheimer, the holder of a Ph.D. in American religious history from Yale University, writes over at The Huffington Post that Banerjee makes a mistake in his report when he says that Wicca is a pre-Christian belief “that reveres nature and its cycles.” Oppenheimer says that “Wicca is a 19th- and 20th-century invention with a creative backstory invented to lend it historical legitimacy.”
First, this myth is tied closely to what the scholar Cynthia Eller calls “the myth of matriarchal prehistory,” the notion that thousands of years ago the world was ruled by peaceful, matriarchal goddess cults (from whom many Wiccans claim spiritual descent). Would that it were true, but it’s not, and too many well-meaning history teachers have bought into this bad, biased history in the interests of multiculturalism and progressivism.

Second, the prevalence of the ancient-Wicca myth is testament in part to the decline of religion journalism. ....
Oppenheimer links to a story at The Atlantic by Charlotte Allen titled "The Scholars and the Goddess" about the origins of Wicca. After summarizing Wiccan beliefs, Allen observes:
In all probability, not a single element of the Wiccan story is true. The evidence is overwhelming that Wicca is a distinctly new religion, a 1950s concoction influenced by such things as Masonic ritual and a late-nineteenth-century fascination with the esoteric and the occult, and that various assumptions informing the Wiccan view of history are deeply flawed. Furthermore, scholars generally agree that there is no indication, either archaeological or in the written record, that any ancient people ever worshipped a single, archetypal goddess - a conclusion that strikes at the heart of Wiccan belief.
After describing the scholarship on the subject, Allen comments on why "Wicca is thriving despite all the things about it that look like hokum": gives its practitioners a sense of connection to the natural world and of access to the sacred and beautiful within their own bodies. I am hardly the first to notice that Wicca bears a striking resemblance to another religion -- one that also tells of a dying and rising god, that venerates a figure who is both virgin and mother, that keeps, in its own way, the seasonal "feasts of the Wheel," that uses chalices and candles and sacred poetry in its rituals. Practicing Wicca is a way to have Christianity without, well, the burdens of Christianity. "It has the advantages of both Catholicism and Unitarianism," observes Allen Stairs, a philosophy professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in religion and magic. "Wicca allows one to wear one's beliefs lightly but also to have a rich and imaginative religious life."
Sources: GetReligion: Pagan symbol battle gets political » GetReligion, The Atlantic: The Scholars and the Goddess

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Intelligent creation and "Creationism"

The Tablet, a British Roman Catholic publication, includes a review of Pope Benedict's new book, Creation and Evolution. Obviously, whether one accepts "Intelligent Design" or not, every Christian, every theist, believes in intelligent design, i.e. the universe was created by a Creator. There are, however, differing views about how He may have done it, and how to reconcile the apparent discoveries of science with the accounts in Scripture. Excerpts from the review:
.... Evolution is a process that, on the one hand, throws up a wide variety of organic changes, few of them beneficial. But, on the other hand, it produces intelligent life with quite a high degree of probability. Those are the facts. Whether the process is "blind" or intelligently created is not a scientific question that could be experimentally answered. The "blind physical forces" view is as non-scientific as the "intelligent creation" view. Perhaps both should be banned from biology classes, and discussed in philosophy classes.

Pope Benedict quite rightly says that if the cosmos is created, it is "an intelligent project, with direction and order". Belief in Creation is belief that all that exists depends upon the intentional act of a being of supreme value and intelligence (this is only a minimal definition). So the cosmos must be intelligently created to realise values.

This belief is totally distinct from "creationism", which is belief that the Genesis stories of Creation (both of them) are literally true. In the "Young Earth" version, the Earth is therefore less than 10,000 years old, and in "Old Earth" versions, the Earth might have existed longer, and the days of Creation might be longer, but Adam and Eve were still created as it says in the Bible. I do not know any Catholic theologians, among whom Benedict is an outstanding example, who are creationists, in either sense.

Unfortunately, however, most journalists confuse "intelligent design" with "creationism", and then they confuse "intelligent design" with "intelligent creation". One reason for this is that the judge in the Dover School Board case, in the United States, opined that "intelligent design" was being used as a cover for teaching creationism in schools. Even if that is true, intelligent design is absolutely not a creationist view. It accepts evolution as a fact, but holds that some identifiable processes cannot be explained on neo-Darwinian principles, and require reference to some intelligent designer. This does seem to be a scientific claim, at least in providing counter-examples to neo-Darwinian explanation. It has not been well-received by biologists in general, and so one would not be well advised to accept it too readily. But it is not absurd.

Most biologists who accept intelligent creation do not accept this precise intelligent design argument. They hold that the whole process is intelligently created, but deny that you can identify specific cases where God's specific design can be shown to be scientifically necessary. This seems to be where Pope Benedict stands. It cannot be scientifically shown that evolution is due only to chance and necessity, and is unplanned. Nor can it be scientifically shown that biology has to appeal to God to explain particular facts of evolution.

The scientific facts are neutral. It is when you look at those facts philosophically, and ask whether they suggest purpose or rationality, that the question of Creation arises. "The process as a whole has rationality," Benedict says. In support of this, physicists point out that what seems random at a biological level is in fact constrained by physical factors that are not random at all, but show a deeply rational and mathematically beautiful structure. This is not "bringing in a God of the gaps", but it is pointing out that what seems random is not so at a deeper level, and that it is not absurd to see rationality and beauty in the basic structures of nature.

The working out of these rational principles leads to a process of genetic copying that produces a wide, but limited, variety of organic variations. From these the physical environment, which of course God has also created, selects successful adaptations that cumulatively and inevitably lead to the formation of nervous systems, intelligence and moral freedom.

Christians cannot accept that this is an accidental process, unforeseen by God. .... [more]
Thanks to Mere Comments for the reference.

Source: The Tablet: Order Out of Chaos


Bob Kauflin at considers the use of hymns in worship. Some churches have essentially abandoned them, and in others they have become less and less important. There are many reasons this has happened - not least among them the growing musical illiteracy in the culture, and the failure of both school and church to teach singing. Kauflin values the good ones and lists some questions that should affect how they are used in worship. Similar thought should be applied to every other aspect of worship, too.
I've often heard people suggest that we "do a hymn." I usually interpret that as a good suggestion. There are many reasons we should value and take advantage of the rich hymns that history has handed down to us. Many of them contain biblically rich lyrics that develop substitutionary atonement (And Can It Be), God's sovereignty in suffering (God Moves in a Mysterious Way), God's attributes (Immortal, Invisible), the Trinity (Come Thou Almighty King) and countless other themes. The melodies to most hymns are singable and memorable. Plus, hymns remind us of our connection to the communion of saints who have gone before us. There is a great joy in singing hymns.

But there is not a great joy in singing any hymn on any occasion. ....

Hymns aren't a category of worship song that is above critical evaluation. They aren't divinely inspired songs that we can just insert into a slot. So I've come up with a few questions we can ask when thinking about "doing a hymn."

1. What do the lyrics actually mean? Is the emphasis more on biblical truth or aesthetic beauty? ....

2. What do the lyrics actually say to people? Is it overly familiar? Do people understand all the words? Do people like the hymn for the sound or the truth? ....

3. What context will surround the hymn? Hymns are generally weighty compositions lyrically speaking. Is there time before or after a hymn or group of hymns to reflect on the truths that you've sung?

4. What is the emotional effect of the hymn? Some hymns are triumphant, others reflective. Some are somber, others jubilant. Hymns can express everything from repentance to joy to God's holiness to God's mercy. .... [more]

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Karaoke for the Lord"

Der Spiegel educates Germans about the mega-church phenomenon here. One of the active members of Rick Warren's Saddleback Church explains its attraction:
.... "I love Saddleback because it's not so religious," says Lisa Volder, a member for three years. At first, she said it reminded her too much of Hollywood. Now she is so taken with Saddleback that she works at an information stand outside for people who want to learn more. She wears a name tag that says, "A fresh start with God." A well-dressed woman in her mid-40s, Lisa joined the church after she moved to the area, and claims that the move was a sign from Heaven: "God knew that I needed to be here."

When Lisa waxes lyrical about Saddleback's understated approach to religion, she most likely means its lack of time-honored rituals: Saddleback has no liturgy, no prayer books, no sonorous minister fiddling around at the altar. Saddleback doesn't have an altar, or a pulpit; just Rick Warren's sermon, interspersed with high-decibel (set at 98-108dbs) blasts of schmaltzy Christian rock. The songs' lyrics are shown on a ticker along the base of the video screens; sentiments like "I can't get enough of your love pouring down my soul." Karaoke for the Lord.

Megachurches sell the Christian faith as the (only) path to a better, happier life. And American suburbia is lapping up this new brand of spiritual comfort food. .... [more]
Source: Karaoke for the Lord: The Recipe for Success at American Megachurches - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Light of the World

At Books & Culture there is an essay about the Pre-Raphaelites, and especially William Holman Hunt, by Timothy Larson. It reviews a couple of new books about this set of 19th Century artists who took Christian belief seriously. Excerpts:
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, and the other Pre-Raphaelites were rebelling against the high art conventions of their day. They stood for paintings that were infused with meaning, often through symbolism, and executed with realism and meticulous attention to nature. Their self-chosen name was a deliberate provocation: what if medieval art was in some ways better than that of the Renaissance? ....

The Pre-Raphaelites admired leading medieval religious painters such as Fra Angelico and Giotto for their earnestness and sincerity: they patently believed the Christian truths that their art depicted. Ruskin observed that art used to be a way of communicating faith, but the great themes of faith were now cynically employed simply for the sake of displaying artistic prowess. He grumbled about the typical modern artist who thought of a picture of the Madonna merely as "a pleasant piece of furniture for the corner of a boudoir." The Pre-Raphaelites wagered their artistic reputations and lives on the premise that it need not be so. In our irony-soaked, "post"-everything age, we need them. Most of all, we need Holman Hunt. ....

Core themes of evangelical Protestantism—personal conversion and atonement through Christ's work on the cross—were the inspiration for almost all of Hunt's great religious works of art. The Light of the World is as evangelistic a painting as one can imagine: a straight appeal for the viewer to open the door of his or her heart and let Jesus come in. Likewise, The Awakening Conscience was a direct call to be converted from a life of sin. The Shadow of Death drove home the point that Christ's whole life should be viewed through the lens of his crucifixion. The Scapegoat is a piercing affirmation of penal substitution, a doctrine that liberal Protestants—then and now—endeavor to evade. .... [much more]
Source: Books & Culture: Look Again


Orson Scott Card writes about an endangered concept and what it should mean for individuals - and for nations:
Duty. Honor. Country.

Once these words could inspire the hearts of patriots. Now, in our benighted era, the elite in our nation sneer at the words and at those who still believe in them.

But there is such a thing as honor, and whether we name it by its right name or not, we depend on it.

Honor is akin to the word "honest." We say a person is honest if he tells the truth about what he has done and seen in the past.

But when he gives his word about what he will do in the future, and then keeps it, we say that he has honor. ....

It is honor that causes a football player at the bottom of a heap of players to refrain from pushing the ball just those couple of inches that would make it seem that it had broken the plane of the goal line.

It is honor, in a game of pickup basketball, that makes a player say, "I traveled," when no one noticed it but himself.

It is honor that keeps a married man from flirting with a woman who is not his wife. It is honor that holds parents to their responsibility to their children, sacrificing much so their children can thrive. It is honor that makes adult children care for their aging parents to the grave.

It is honor that makes a child assume the debts of his parents, or a brother to pay the debts of his sibling.

It is honor that makes it possible for us to trust the word of other people, for we know that they would rather keep their word than bear the shame of breaking it. [more]
Source: Civilization Watch - April 1, 2007 - Honor - The Ornery American

I learned of this essay at the World Magazine Blog

Sunday, April 22, 2007


The question of divorce has received new attention because of the background of several of the Republican candidates for President. Because we all know Christians who have been divorced, that subject, like many issues of moral behavior, is less and less often addressed from the pulpit or among Evangelicals, and what once would have rendered a candidate unacceptable is simply glossed over. How should people who take the authority of Scripture seriously think about divorce, whether it affects someone who is famous or anyone else? Recently, in the Wall Street Journal, David Instone-Brewer wrote about "What the Bible says about divorce," and suggests that a new consensus may be developing. Excerpts:
When Jesus was asked in the Gospels if he allowed "divorce for any cause," he replied that anyone "who divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another woman commits adultery" (Matthew 19:3). This admonition has long been interpreted to mean that divorce, for Bible-based Christians, is allowed only in cases of adultery. Even then, the spouse who has been faithful is treated the same as the adulterer: Neither can remarry as long as the other is alive. ....

As it happens, new scholarship supports a slightly less strict biblical understanding of divorce than the traditional one. Scrolls found near the Dead Sea, which confirm indications found in ancient Jewish authors like Philo and Josephus, show that the key phrase "any cause" was actually the formal name of a type of divorce. That is, Jesus did not reject divorce for any cause but rather, he rejected the "Any Cause" divorce.

Rabbis at the time disagreed on the validity of "Any Cause" divorce, but thanks to marriage contracts found near the Dead Sea, we know that most allowed divorce based on Exodus 21:10-11. That is, they allowed men and women to divorce partners for physical or emotional neglect, including abuse and abandonment. Jesus said nothing against this, and in First Corinthians 7:15, Paul tells those who are abandoned by their partners that they are "no longer bound."

There is now a growing scholarly consensus among evangelicals on this issue. Even evangelical professors like Craig Keener of Duke University and William Heth at Taylor University, who have each previously published books with more traditional interpretations, now teach differently. Drawing on my own work, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible (Eerdmans, 2002), they conclude that Jesus and Paul would have rejected no-fault divorce and that they would have permitted a wronged partner to initiate a divorce based on the Old Testament grounds of adultery or neglect.

This new scholarship may allow evangelical leaders to say what they have wanted to say for some time - that divorce is permitted so long as there are strong grounds for it. A few, like Southern Baptist scholar Jim Denison, are already teaching that abuse and abandonment are valid grounds for divorce. Some leaders advocate a "covenant marriage" in which spouses agree not to divorce unless there is abuse, a felony conviction or adultery. ....

Source: OpinionJournal - Taste

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Beyond the tragedy"

GetReligion quotes from the sermon Billy Graham delivered at the memorial service after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. That was another senseless, evil act, not unlike the murders at Virginia Tech. His words then are relevant now:
As a Christian, I have hope not just for this life but for the life to come. Someday, there will be a glorious reunion with those who have died and gone to heaven before us. And that includes all those innocent children that are lost. They’re not lost from God because any child that young is automatically in heaven and in God’s arms.

But this — this event also reminds us of the brevity and uncertainty of life. It reminds us that we never know when we’re going to be taken. I doubt if even one of those who went to that building to work, or to go to the children’s place, ever dreamed that that was their last day on earth. That is why we each need to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God.

It’s ironic that this terrible event took place just three days after the churches of this city were filled with people celebrating Easter. Just one week ago today. And throughout the world, the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter on this day. And Easter always brings hope to all of us. For the Christian, the Cross tells us that God understands our suffering, for He took upon Himself at the Cross all of our sins and all of our failures and all of our sufferings. And our Lord on that Cross asked the question: “Why? My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” And He received his answer. He knew: To redeem the world. To save you and me from our sins. To give us assurance that if we died we’re going to heaven. He was saying from the Cross, “I love you!” And I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel.

Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the Cross to the hope of the empty tomb. It tells us that there’s hope for eternal life, that Christ has conquered death. And it also tells us that God has triumphed over evil and death and hell. This is our hope, and it can be your hope as well.
He closed the sermon with:
President and [...] Mrs. Clinton will remember at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington earlier this year Ambassador Andrew Young, who'd gone through the terrible agony of losing his beloved wife whom he loved so much to cancer - he closed his talk at your prayer breakfast with a quote from an old hymn: "How firm a foundation." The 4th verse of that hymn says:
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never, forsake!
My prayer for you today is that you will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around you and will know in your heart that he will never forsake you, as you trust Him.
Source: American Rhetoric: Reverend Billy Graham: Oklahoma Bombing Memorial Prayer service

Political hypocrisy and abortion

How should one think about a politician who votes for a law banning partial-birth abortion and then deplores a Supreme Court decision upholding that law?
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was among those who denounced yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Federal Partial Birth Abortion Act. Commenting on the decision, Reid said, 'A lot of us wish that Alito weren’t there and O’Connor were there,' indicating his desire that there has been a fifth vote to invalidate the statute, as Justice O’Connor had provided the fifth vote to invalidate Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion ban in Stenberg v. Carhart." There are several examples of politicians who voted for the partial-birth ban and then deplored the Supreme Court’s upholding of the constitutionality of that ban—and it’s a deeply disheartening phenomenon. It means that these politicians didn’t take their oaths seriously. It means they were only positioning themselves politically, hoping the Court would eventually bail them out. And it means that the pro-life credentials of these politicians are illusory. [emphasis added]
Source: First Things: Fallout

The Evangelical surprise

In The New York Review of Books, Frances FitzGerald writes about political divisions among Evangelicals.

Source: The New York Review of Books: The Evangelical Surprise

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Being present

Mark D. Roberts offers good counsel to those attempting to help someone who is grieving:
.... The most important thing we can do is be present with those who hurt. Sometimes our presence will be literal. Sometimes it will be expressed through a card or a letter or a meal. Presence says "I am with you. And I will be with you through this process." Presence doesn't try to make things better. It doesn't offer explanations or solutions. Presence doesn't try to fix things. Rather, it offers love in tangible, faithful, and non-invasive ways.

Our American tendency is to want to help people feel better, to take away their pain. Thus we're often tempted to "cheer people up." We want to say things like, "I'm sure God will work good things out of this tragedy." Now this might be true. Indeed, I believe it is. But when people are in the midst of deep grief, such words, even when true, can seem terribly superficial. Worse yet, they can feel like a knife cutting an even deeper wound. Let your words be few. [more]
And one of the commentors, a counselor, offers:
Be quiet. It seems to me that the only time Job’s counselors did him any good was the week they sat with him and were quiet. There are times when I am tempted to call upon my vast resources of psychological and theological truths, and to trot out my self-acclaimed wisdom, but I am compelled by the Spirit to say nothing.

May 2007 Sabbath Recorder Online

The May, 2007, Sabbath Recorder is available online here. Sabbath: The Day that Makes Us Different is the theme of the issue with articles by John Bevis, John Camacho, Don Sanford, and Conference president Ruth Burdick. The May issue also contains the registration materials for the General Conference sessions this August in Oregon.

Elections matter

Four Justices of the United States Supreme Court voted this morning that Congress does not have the power to outlaw a procedure as horrific as partial-birth abortion. Fortunately, five upheld the law:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today on Gonzales v. Carhart, 05-380 and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, 05-1382, upholding a nationwide ban on partial-birth abortion. The Justices voted 5-4 to retain the ban. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter dissented.
How a Presidential candidate will choose judicial nominees is the make-or-break factor for me as I try to decide who to support in 2008.

Source: Between Two Worlds: Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Upheld

On a very related matter, Albert Mohler writes today about the difficulty they are having in Britain finding abortionists:
.... One paragraph in the paper's report is too important to miss. Look closely at these words:
Distaste at performing terminations combined with ethical and religious convictions has led to a big increase in "conscientious objectors" who request exemption from the task, the RCOG says. A key factor is what specialists call "the dinner party test". Gynaecologists who specialise in fertility treatment creating babies for childless couples are almost universally revered - but no one boasts of being an abortionist.
This is a truly remarkable paragraph. The moral conscience rears its head in unexpected ways. "The dinner party test" is an amazing example of a common grace display of suppressed moral knowledge.

.... The fundamental ugliness and tragic sinfulness of abortion makes for an awkward introduction at a dinner party. "I abort babies" is almost surely to lead to awkwardness and strained expressions from fellow guests - even if these people claim to be "pro-choice."

That response of moral repugnance reveals something of vital importance. "The Dinner Party Test" is a reminder that moral knowledge may be denied and repressed for some time, but it reappears in unexpected ways. The real "crisis" is a crisis of conscience reasserting itself. ....

Source: The Dinner Party Test

"Better a moral atheist..."

John Mark Reynolds begins the process of getting his thoughts in order as another Presidential election approaches:
.... If Jesus is lord, then He must be lord of my vote. I am an American, but the King’s man first. My King Jesus wishes to see justice on His earth and I must vote (imperfectly and without hope of utopia until His return) in a measured way for this justice.

A nation that is just, that reduces in some small measure the fog of evil over the eyes of men, is better than one that fills men’s hearts with the obscuring mists of bitter pain from injustice.

The fear, of course, for some non-Christian reading these words, is that this is the imposition of a theocracy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God already reigns, of course, but in this age His followers are no more to be trusted than His foes. We are all fallen and to give too much power to any men (even those proclaiming themselves Christians) is foolish.

The direct reign of King Jesus is not of this age, but of the age to come. No Christian can or should try to hustle our King into coming sooner (how foolish!) or replace Him with a tyrant ruling in His name.

We vote with the knowledge of justice gained from Faith, but attempt to explain this knowledge in a manner accessible to all. Because the faith is true, then the truths of the faith can usually be defended in many ways . . . including ways understandable by all reasonable men. We vote as Christians, but know that many non-Christians are better men (in this age) than are we. Salvation is not through our own goodness, but by divine grace . . . and so in this age of the world many that will be lost do better works than those who will be saved.

Better a moral atheist as ruler than many an immature Christian . . . since in this time some atheists are more like Christ than some Christians. ....
Source: The Scriptorium: This Next Presidential Election: Voting as We Pray

Thinking About Suffering and Evil

In the context of the murders at Virginia Tech, Mark D. Roberts lists some resources that may be helpful...
for people who are looking for answers to the tough questions having to do with suffering, evil, God, and faith. Though there are limits to our understanding ... I believe there are some truths we can know that will help us find guidance and even solace.
Source: Resources for Thinking About Suffering and Evil

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

William Jennings Bryan

Also from Touchstone, a review by Eric Miller of a recent biography of William Jennings Bryan, Michael Kazin's A Godly Hero. Today, Bryan is remembered primarily for his role in the Scopes Trial and his opposition to the theory of evolution, but that was an outgrowth of his egalitarianism and his belief that evolution led inevitably to Social Darwinism, and to exploitation and oppression. He may well have been wrong about evolution without being wrong about all of its social and political implications.

From the review:
.... For Kazin, this story, at its most profound, is that of a people who once possessed a deeply embedded “yearning for a society run by and for ordinary people who lead virtuous lives,” the preservation of which, they believed, required an active vigilance against the concentration of economic power and an ardent fusing of Christianity and public life, all for the sake of true solidarity.

This was American populism at its best. When Kazin notes a writer on the campaign trail who witnessed, in the writer’s own words, “the weak, the humble, the aged, the infirm rush forward by the hundreds” to greet Bryan, thrusting toward him “hard and wrinkled hands with crooked fingers and cracked knuckles . . . as if he were in very truth their promised redeemer from bondage,” he glimpses promise: the promise of justice, of union, of—here’s the indispensable word again—commonwealth.

Kazin calls Bryan and his people “Christian liberals” for their conviction that Christianity itself (there’s no way, longtime Touchstone reader, that Bryan’s Democratic party could have credibly been called “the godless party”) demanded that they stand against the excesses and encroachments of corporate capital, even if it required the countervailing presence of the federal government.

Recall that Bryan’s single goal, as he told a reporter in 1912, was the “protection of the people from exploitation at the hands of predatory corporations.” For Bryan and his followers, republican government, democratic culture, and Christian civilization could not long survive the overweening presence of corporations who saw human beings as means to their reliably shortsighted ends.

Bryan, as Kazin shows with powerful clarity, kept alive for millions the endangered republican-Christian dream of citizenship: of a virtuous people unified as equals, working for the good of the whole, and for the good of the other. It was this persistent pursuit that made Bryan, in Lindsay’s moving tribute, “the fundamental man/ Who brings a unifying plan/ Not easily misunderstood/ Chanting men toward brotherhood.”

For Bryan and his kin, this was not a metaphorical brotherhood but an ontic reality. And it was sustained, they believed, by a foundation of Christian tradition. ....
Source: Touchstone: The Life of Bryan

Simply Lewis

Touchstone publishes N.T. Wright's reaction upon re-reading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Wright first came to Lewis as I and many others did:
I owe Lewis a great debt. In my late teens and early twenties I read everything of his I could get my hands on, and read some of his paperbacks and essays several times over. There are sentences, and some whole passages, I know pretty much by heart.

Millions around the world have been introduced to, and nurtured within, the Christian faith through his work where their own preachers and teachers were not giving them what they needed. That was certainly true of me. .... (more)
Wright, himself, has recently published an apologetic work titled Simply Christian.

Touchstone has become one of my favorite Christian magazines. I invariably find several interesting and profitable articles or reviews in each new issue. The magazine also serves as a meeting place for orthodox Christians from various traditions.

Source: Touchstone: Simply Lewis

The Children of Hurin

From ABC News, this morning:
.... Six thousand years before the Fellowship of the Ring, long before anyone had even seen a Hobbit, the elves and men of Middle-earth quaked at the power of the dark lord Morgoth.

Hunted by easterlings and orcs, they fled to the fastness of Nargothrond and to the deep forests of Brethil and Doriath. Among them, a hero emerged. Strong and courageous he was, but foolhardy and impetuous. His name was Turin, son of Hurin.

His story, released today by Houghton Mifflin, is a publishing event: It is the first new book by the creator of "The Lord of the Rings" in 30 years. The publisher calls it the culmination of an effort to bring to the public the vast body of work J.R.R. Tolkien had left unpublished, and largely unfinished, when he died in 1973.

Tolkien began writing "The Children of Hurin" 99 years ago, abandoning it and taking it up again repeatedly throughout his life. .... [more]

Imus and incivility

Again at First Things, Kenneth Woodward writes about the real significance of the reaction to Imus's misbehavior:
Clearly, Imus crossed a line. But it’s a fault line that cuts right through black—and white—culture, dividing the civil from the degrading. Black music used to mean the blues and jazz; now it is more often identified with the staccato verbal violence of trash-talking rapper plutocrats like Snoop Dogg.

The head of one white shock jock will be nothing but a trophy for Sharpton, Jackson, and their Amen Corner unless the entire entertainment industry faces up to the disorder in their own house. There’s more to this than three little words. .... [more]
Source: First Things: Imus and Me

Monday, April 16, 2007

"From the unthinkable, to the debatable, to the justifiable, on its way to the unexceptional"


Albert Mohler today writes about "Ten Great Christian Biographies." The ten includes books about Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Whitefield. Mohler says:
We read biographies because worthy portraits of our fellow human beings help us to make sense of the world. We are especially fascinated by the lives of those who have made a difference in the world - whose mark remains visible even now. The lives of the famous and the infamous make for compelling reading.

As Benjamin Disraeli, a famous author as well as Queen Victoria's favorite Prime Minister, once remarked, biography is "life without theory." In other words, at their best biographies take us into the real lives of real persons as they were really lived. ....
Source: Great Christian Biographies

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The limits of politics [and education]

In the American Spectator blog, there is the following observation about the limited effect of "abstinence only" [and, for that matter, any form of] sex education:
A new study suggests that abstinence-only sex-ed - subsidized by the federal government to the tune of $176 million per annum - has no effect on how likely teens are to have sex. Interestingly, it also has no effect on how likely teens are to use contraception when they do have sex; liberal critics have long posited that abstinence-only sex-ed would lead to more unprotected sex. ....
Source: American Spectator: Washington Fails at Micromanaging Teens' Lives

And then the following from Family Facts [via The Evangelical Outpost]:
Teen girls from intact families with frequent religious attendance averaged the fewest sexual partners (0.47) when compare to (a) their peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance (0.93), (b) peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance (1.14), and (c) peers from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance (1.55).

Source: Fagan, Patrick, A Portrait of Family and Religion in America: Key Outcomes for the Common Good, (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation 2006), pp. .
Families and the peer culture have far more impact in these matters than any teacher [and I speak as a former teacher], partly because they can speak to the behaviors in terms of morality and the nature of genuine love, not merely technique and consequences.

Friday, April 13, 2007

ESV Literary Study Bible

The English Standard Version will soon have another edition, The Literary Study Bible. Its editors are Leland Ryken and Philip Ryken. They describe its purpose thus:
“Any piece of writing needs to be assimilated and interpreted in terms of the kind of writing that it is,” write the coeditors. “The Bible is a literary book in which theology and history are usually embodied in literary forms. Those forms include genres, the expression of human experience in concrete form, stylistic and rhetorical techniques, and artistry. . . . [The use of these forms] has been inspired by God and [they] need to be granted an importance in keeping with that inspiration.”
Sounds like a good idea.

Source: ESV Bible Blog: Coming Soon: The ESV Literary Study Bible

"Death, where is thy sting?"

"Death comes to us all. Even to kings it comes," says the Thomas More character in A Man for All Seasons, upon hearing his death sentence. Learned Medieval scholars kept skulls on their desks to guard against vanity. In modern times it is far easier to insulate ourselves against that reality than it was when most dying took place in the home. But death will come.

Denis Ngien uses Luther to show how Christians should approach death:
I remember an African brother who stood in an evangelistic meeting and told how he was brought to Christ by his dying seven-year-old daughter. One day he heard her praying for his salvation, though she lay in bed debilitated by tuberculosis and malaria.
"Dad, do you believe in God?" she asked as he sat beside her.
"Oh, yes, darling; only a fool would deny God's existence."
"If you believe in God, you should also believe in eternal life."
"Oh, yes; if there is a God, there must be eternal life."
"But, dad, you don't have eternal life, for Jesus is not in your heart."

He reported, "Then my little daughter begged me to kneel beside her deathbed. I recited her words as she prayed for my conversion. 'O God, let Christ come into my heart. Please save my soul; give me eternal life.'" ....
Not all Christians face death so courageously. In the past 20 years, I have conducted and preached at more than 150 memorial and funeral services. I have sat beside numerous deathbeds, with people terrified by the sight of the final conflict. For me, it is no wonder that Scripture calls death "the last enemy."

This brother, now advanced in years, is battling cancer and is face to face with his own death. Knowing how fierce this last battle can be, I sent him one of the most helpful meditation guides I've known: Martin Luther's "A Sermon on Preparing to Die." In this sermon, Luther provides pastoral counsel to his closest friend, Mark Schart, who was troubled by thoughts of death. His counsel contains a great deal of wisdom for today.

Luther believed that death becomes ominous because the devil uses it to undermine our faith. ....

Death, for Luther, is "the beginning of the narrow gate and of the straight path to life" (Matt. 7:14). Although the gate is narrow, the journey is not long. Luther elaborates:
Just as an infant is born with peril and pain from the small abode of its mother's womb into this immense heaven and earth, … so man departs this life through the narrow gate of death. … Therefore, the death of the dear saints is called a new birth, and their feast day is known in Latin as natale, that is, the day of their birth.
This road through the dark valley may be traveled safely when we are assured of its end. We do not have to deny the pain of grief and death. On the contrary, it is the harsh reality of death that makes the heavenly mansion so glorious: "So it is that in dying we must bear this anguish and know that a large mansion and joy will follow."

While we should be aware daily of the inevitable reality of death, we can live as those who have been freed from the curse and sting of death. Luther wisely reminds us to ponder "the heavenly picture of Christ," for in Christ, we have passed from death to life. Death is no death to the believers whose lives are hidden with Christ in God. [the article]

"Truth about the human condition"

Books & Culture publishes an essay by Thomas Hibbs about Film Noir which concludes:
...[N]oir has also a deeply conservative bent, which accentuates the inherent and ineradicable limits of the human condition. In classic noir, the violation of limits is rarely, if ever, successful, and whatever glimpse of redemption characters may have is always partial rather than revolutionary, personal rather than political. Moreover, noir exhibits an ethical thrust that transcends limited political labels: an ethics of discourse, a quest to discover a lost code, what scholar J. P. Telotte identified as the desire to "speak the truth about the human condition" or at least to narrate the "difficulty" of speaking that truth. Repudiating old-fashioned American optimism but never quite succumbing to despairing nihilism, noir's most captivating characters are those who, in the words of Pascal, "seek with groans." [the article]
Source: Books & Culture: Seeking With Groans

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Limitless possibilities

At The American Spectator, "The Secret of The Secret's success," on the remarkable sales of first the DVD and now, the book. From the article:
In truth, The Secret is less important for the outrageousness of what it says to us than for the outrageousness of what it says about us. It is quite simply a colossal cultural wind sock, encapsulating the zeitgeist in a way that few other recent events or enterprises have.

Just to recap: In concept, one might call The Secret self-fulfilling-prophecy-meets-PMA-on-steroids. It's anchored in the so-called Law of Attraction, which, in simplified form - and it never gets much more complex - posits that what we truly believe in our hearts and minds will come to us. Good or bad. ....

Long after sales figures are forgotten and the self-help community has moved on to the next fad, and the next after that, The Secret will be remembered for mainstreaming the kinds of solipsistic, "life is whatever you think it is" mindsets that once were identified with actual mental pathologies: say, schizophrenia or narcissistic personality disorder. This spirit of uber-self-determination is irresistible to two polar but pivotal American generations: young adults weaned on self-esteem-based education ("You are special! Never give up your dreams!") and the roughly 77 million American Baby Boomers now approaching retirement pretty much en masse and desperate to unshackle themselves from everything they've been, heretofore. ....

If The Secret is about anything at all, it's about the abandonment of reason and the inconvenient truths, as it were, of the known physical world. To be sure, in the broad culture, science and logic have fallen out of fashion; common sense is declasse nowadays. Statistics on health-care utilization, for example, leave scant doubt that we're a people who increasingly flee orthodox medicine for mind-body regimens whose own advocates not only refuse to cite clinical proof, but dismiss the very idea of proof. Today, there are more total patient-visits to alternative practitioners, as a class, than to standard family doctors. We consult oracles before oncologists, shamans instead of shrinks.

In an era of lassitude and indolence, marked by the coming-of-age of a generation who long ago internalized the notion that they're entitled to have their needs met, the lure of what amounts to wishful thinking is not hard to fathom. ....

The phenomenal success of The Secret validates my longstanding suspicion that what self-help-minded Americans crave is not so much actionable advice as a mechanism for putting off action: a mechanism that gives them permission not to face the tough realities of how success really happens (i.e., hard work, careful planning, scary choices, sheer fortuity, et cetera). Even more than success, they seek a way of postponing the admission of failure, with its consequent need for a Plan B. If that day of reckoning can be endlessly deferred by telling ourselves a pretty story about limitless possibility and the victories still to come, then we can see the glass as forever half full. ....
Source: The American Spectator: The Secret of The Secret's Success

"Never mind..."

On the original Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner portrayed a guest news commentator who always got it wrong and, when informed of the fact, would say

"Never mind."
From the Jerusalem Post:
Several prominent scholars who were interviewed in a bitterly contested documentary that suggests that Jesus and his family members were buried in a nondescript ancient Jerusalem burial cave have now revised their conclusions, including the statistician who claimed that the odds were 600:1 in favor of the tomb being the family burial cave of Jesus of Nazareth, a new study on the fallout from the popular documentary shows.

The dramatic clarifications, compiled by epigrapher Stephen Pfann of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem in a paper titled "Cracks in the Foundation: How the Lost Tomb of Jesus story is losing its scholarly support," come two months after the screening of The Lost Tomb of Christ that attracted widespread public interest, despite the concomitant scholarly ridicule.
Source: Jerusalem Post: Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack

"A fool for a deity"

Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis's stepson, and a producer for the Narnia films, recently gave a radio interview for a New Zealand program, and provided quite a lot of information about the filming of Prince Caspian. (The full interview can be read or heard here.) During the course of the interview he engaged in this exchange:
Rob: Speaking of Jack’s books, we mentioned Mere Christianity before, one of the things that colleague was saying in reading it is that she’s got to re-read paragraphs and re-read chapters because we’re not used to receiving that sort of information today in that sort of a way. We’re much more used to being entertained.

Doug: I think you have a point there, but I think that’s a sad reflection on modern education.

Rob: Agreed. But even for mature Christians, we’re not ready to receive it; we like to be entertained in our messages.

Doug: Yes. But I think that’s completely the wrong way to look at it. I don’t think Christianity is supposed to be a medium of entertainment. I think Christianity is supposed to be something you do, not something you’re entertained by. In fact I take issue with an awful lot of churches who make Christianity as they see it, a performance. They make their worship a performance. The worship of Jesus Christ should be enacted in every minute of every day of our lives; we should be doing Christianity, not just shouting and yelling and talking about it.

Rob: When did you discover that for yourself?

Doug: I discovered that relatively late in life; I was in my forties. My problem has always been, although I believed in God and believed in Jesus, (so does the devil of course, and it doesn’t make him a Christian) I didn’t want to submit my life to the authority of anyone but myself. Therefore in a sense I was worshiping myself, and therefore I had a fool for a deity. But I eventually did come to the realisation that I am not qualified to run a human life, and least of all one as complex as my own. So I handed it over to someone who is, who of course is the person who made it.

Rob: That’s the best thing for all of us to do.

Doug: Of course, of course!
Source: NarniaWeb: Douglas Gresham discusses Prince Caspian

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Not the master of the Word, but its servant"

Unashamed Workman interviews Philip Ryken, senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, about expository preaching. Ryken answers "Ten Questions for Expositors." Part of his answer to the first question:
1. Can you provide us with a definition of biblical preaching?

Expository preaching means making God’s Word plain. In an expository sermon the preacher simply tries to explain what the Bible teaches. The main points of his sermon are the points made by a particular text in the Bible. The minister not only begins with Scripture, but also allows the Scripture to establish the context and content for his entire sermon. The way he decides what to say is by studying what the Bible has to say, so that the Scripture itself sets the agenda for his interpretation and application.

This kind of preaching is most helpfully done when a minister follows the logic of the Scriptures, systematically preaching chapter by chapter and verse by verse through entire books of the Bible. This helps ensure that a congregation hears what God wants them to hear, and not simply what their minister thinks they ought to hear.

But expository preaching is not so much a method as it is a mindset. A minister who sees himself as an expositor knows that he is not the master of the Word, but its servant. He has no other ambition than to preach what the Scriptures actually teach. His aim is to be faithful to God’s Word so that his people can hear God’s voice. He himself is only God’s mouthpiece, speaking God’s message into the ears of God’s people, and thus into their minds and hearts. ....
[the rest of the interview]
Thanks to Between Two Worlds for the reference.

Source: Unashamed Workman: Ten Questions for Expositors - Ryken