Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Take Heed How Ye Hear!

I read again a wonderful lecture delivered by B.B. Warfield to Princeton Seminary students in 1911. It is a gentle yet pointed call for all of us to see the vital importance of attending to all our duties- however lofty or mundane we might perceive them to be- as 'unto the Lord'. How much more so the duties of the minister or those preparing for the ministry. It is also a warning, so pertinent in our day, that believers not draw a false dichotomy between the faithful study of the Word and Doctrine and the faithful cultivation of a heart for God. Let us beware those who scorn learning and study for the 'inner life' or those who scorn the cultivation of the heart for the disciplines of a sharp and ready mind.

In his lecture he calls these young men to make the devotion of community life a part of their spiritual lives and preparation for ministry. His words are a great encouragement to us who forsake our duties of fellowship because we find them tedious, or because we are not entertained. How often we place the blame for our lack of spiritual fervor upon the praise band, or the monotone voice of the preacher, or the service times being inconvenient. How infrequent do we look to the nature of our own hearts in our failure to grow and develop in fellowship with others. I hope you'll be stirred by Warfield's (and Luther's) exhortation:

I trust you will not tell me that the stated religious exercises of the Seminary are too numerous, or are wearying. That would only be to betray the low ebb of your own religious vitality. The feet of him whose heart is warm with religious feeling turn of themselves to the sanctuary, and carry him with joyful steps to the house of prayer. I am told that there are some students who do not find themselves in a prayerful mood in the early hours of a winter morning; and are much too tired at the close of a hard day's work to pray, and therefore do not find it profitable to attend prayers in the late afternoon: who think the preaching at the regular service on Sabbath morning dull and uninteresting, and who do not find Christ at the Sabbath afternoon conference. Such things I seem to have heard before; and yours will be an exceptional pastorate, if you do not hear something very like them, before you have been in a pastorate six months. Such things meet you every day on the street; they are the ordinary expression of the heart which is dulled or is dulling to the religious appeal. They are not hopeful symptoms among those whose life should be lived on the religious heights. No doubt, those who minister to you in spiritual things should take them to heart. And you who are ministered to must take them to heart, too.

And let me tell you straightout that thepreaching you find dull will no more seem dull to you if you faithfullyobey the Master's precept: "Take heed how ye hear"; that if you do not find Christ in the conference room it is because you do not take him there with you; that, if after an ordinary day's work you are too weary to unite with your fellows in closing the day with common prayer, it is because the impulse to prayer is weak in your heart. If there is no fire in the pulpit it falls to you to kindle it in the pews. No man can fail to meet with God in the sanctuary if he takes God there with him.

How easy it is to roll the blame of our cold hearts over upon the shoulders of our religious leaders! It is refreshing to observe how Luther, with his breezy good sense, dealt with complaints of lack of attractiveness in his evangelical preachers. He had not sent them out to please people, he said, and their function was not to interest or to entertain; their function was to teach the saving truth of God, and, if they did that, it was frivolous for people in danger of perishing for want of the truth to object to the vessel in which it was offered to them. When the people of Torgau, for instance, wished to dismiss their pastors, because, they said, their voices were too weak to fill the churches, Luther simply responded, "That's an old song: better have some difficulty in hearing the gospel than no difficulty at all in hearing what is very far from the gospel." "People cannot have their ministers exactly as they wish," he declares again, "they should thank God for the pure word," and not demand St. Augustines and St. Ambroses to preach it to them.

-from 'The Religious Life of Theological Students', B. B. Warfield

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Model for Missional Faithfulness

Missional is the new church buzzword these days. You've heard it batted around at Four Oaks as we go through our study of Acts in our fellowship groups. What does it mean? The primary definition of a missional church would be to see the whole identity of the church as a 'mission' to a postmodern, post-Christian world. The 'missional church' would seek to saturate the entire life of the church with the mission- no longer isolating our gospel outreach to a 'missions' segment of our budgets and programs. It is a struggle to preserve the church and its fundamental purpose and identity not as an institutional relic of modernity but as a gospel mission to a lost world- and this lost world is all around us, not merely confined to the third world.

This 'missional' identity can take different forms in different contexts: in more liberal and emerging quarters it is a decidedly 'social' oriented gospel message. Being missional in such a context means a greater emphasis in our churches toward meeting felt needs in the community, ministering and serving, laboring to reach the poor and needy. As I've observed in my limited experience there is often an under emphasis on truth and doctrinal integrity in these sort of 'missional' communities. It can often sound like the old 'social gospel' of the first decades of the last century. Sometimes it is just plain ole liberalism. Although of course there are many who might lean away from what is perceived as a more rigid doctrinal framework (which is, they would say, a byproduct of a failed and passe modernity) yet still seek to maintain a high degree of biblical faithfulness. It is naive to understand these movements in broad, monolithic categories.

On the other hand, through the labors of Tim Keller and other church planting movements, this 'missional' identity has been co-opted by a more conservative evangelical contingent. In this context, there is a strong emphasis on recognizing the need for a faithful proclamation of the gospel in the cultural context that God has placed us. There is a call in these communities to maintain biblical and doctrinal integrity while adapting our programs, structures, and subcultural ethos to the realities of a postmodern world that needs not merely a social gospel, but a redemptive, cross centered gospel. There is an emphasis on cultural relevance as well as doctrinal, biblical faithfulness. Some missional leaders would eschew their efforts to preserve doctrinal essentials such as the inerrancy of Scripture, or the substitutionary atonement as an outdated and irrelevant modernity. On the other hand, more conservative missional leaders would eschew their more liberal and emerging counterparts' efforts as a wrongful, and ultimately destructive embrace of unbiblical postmodern worldview (if one can be said to have a 'postmodern worldview').

I recently preached a sermon taken from the famous sermon of the Apostle Paul in Athens before the council of the Areopagus (Acts 17). Here we find a model of a distinctively 'missional' message within the first century Athenian framework, while maintaining a sort of 'prophetic untimeliness' (to use Os Guiness' term) in engaging and challenging the philosophies of the day with the eternal truths of Scripture and the always relevant good news of Jesus Christ. I pulled out 10 principles from Acts 17 for maintaining a 'missional' focus while remaining biblically faithful.

1. Paul was ‘local church’ focused: sent, accountable, committed, submitted, and functioning in the context of a biblical church community- Acts 13:1-3; 14:23; 15:1ff. (this contra the emerging 'revolution' of leaders and folks who have turned their backs upon the local church as an essential part of every believers existence- like George Barna, Spencer Burke and others).

2. Paul was ‘discerning’: 17:16- ‘his eyes were open’. Paul was not a pew sitting dinosaur, he was aware of the idols of his countrymen, he was engaging the culture around him with a discerning heart. Paul sought to be relevant and faithful. How often do we parade our idols about insisting that it is relevance, when it is really worldliness, plain and simple.

3. Paul was ‘provoked’- distressed, stirred in his spirit: 17:16b. Paul was passionately fueled in his mission to confront the destructive idolatry and ideology that war against people’s souls. He was no fundamentalist slapping the hands of naughty Athenians, he was a fiercely committed gospel preacher who wanted to break the idol strongholds of the sinful heart.

4. Paul ‘reasoned’…17:17 His message was logical, reasonable, personal, thoughtful, winsome. There is a rise in 'postfoundationalism' and 'post critical' thinking that assigns all logic and reason as western cultural constructs of the enlightenment. These philosophical movements are ultimately self defeating, and undercut the plain and straightforward biblical assertions of inspiration, inerrancy, and authority.

5. Paul ‘preached'. There was an authoritative ‘proclamation’ in the character of his reasoning. This authoritative ‘gospel preaching’ was rooted in the truth of Jesus’ person and work (v.18). We find in many of the missional movements a capitulation the 'tolerance' ethos of our postmodern context- a disdain for any sort of bold, and authoritative 'proclamation'. Paul was not just one who 'reasoned' and he wasn't merely 'having a conversation'. He was boldly announcing, declaring, proclaiming the gospel.

6. Paul was strategic and used natural venues, relationships, and invitations to set forth the Gospel- 17:17-19:
-the synagogue
-the marketplace
-the Areopagus (the Academy)
The gospel was not a package that is presented within the walls of a church, it is not primarily for open air or door to door ministry. Paul sought the venues that God had availed to him as a Pharisee and Jewish leader, a tentmaker, and a scholar to present the gospel. He creatively strategized to use all of his life as entry points for relating to the lost with the truth of the gospel.

7. Paul was culturally literate and culturally engaged and utilized this for the faithful proclamation of the gospel to the glory of God. Paul was not immersed in a 'Christian subculture' that removed him from the reality of life in a first century pagan world.

8. Paul was culturally flexible- in his language, style, temperament, presentation of ideas. Paul’s ‘sermon’ here is decidedly different than other sermons in different cultural contexts. He is conversant in the philosophies of the Athenians, he is able to engage them where they live and with their own presuppositions. His language is not laden with Hebraisms, his message is not riddled with passages of Scripture that would be foreign to his hearers.

9. Paul was culturally confrontive. A biblically faithful gospel must confront idolatry; vain religion; ignorance; empty philosophical speculation. This gospel holds forth the truth of God, the need for repentance, and hope only in the work of Christ. Being faithful to the truth of the gospel here is to trust God at His Word- that the gospel is the power of God- not our marketing, manipulating, or maneuvering to present it in some culturally sanitized form.

10. Paul entrusted his message and mission to the sovereign work of God: the outcome, the response of the world either in acceptance or rejection, his own safety and life, the response of the ‘church’, etc. was entirely God’s prerogative and design. His call was to be faithful to the mission- love people, love God, live and preach the good news.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Days of Ignorance Are Definitely Over

Last Sunday churches all over America honored the sanctity of human life and remembered with tears the cause of the most helpless among us- our unborn children.
As I look over my sermon for tomorrow dealing with abortion and forgiveness I wanted to remind you of a verse and then point you to some links.

If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited. Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, "See, we did not know this," Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work? --Proverbs 24:10-12

Please take some time and visit these sites to be informed, inspired, and convicted afresh on the most heinous of our national sins.

I spent a couple of tear soaked hours reading the true stories of these women and their abortion experiences -
A very cool and cutting edge site, that is full of sound reasoning and helpful ways to get involved is here -
You can read the research and statistics compiled through the Guttmacher Inst. (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) which is where we find most of the recent studies on Abortion trends and stats in America

Sidebar: Consider a tragic example of pro-death logic that is put forth in the Guttmacher findings on the safety of abortion procedures: "Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Fewer than 0.5% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication, and the risk of death associated with abortion is about one-tenth that associated with childbirth."- Take a moment and go through an exercise in discernment: how might a thinking and loving Christian respond and defeat such twisted thinking?

An easy to navigate, straight forward, and wonderfully informational site (full of great links) is over here -

Ignorance on this issue is sin and culpability for all Americans.
Rescue those heading toward slaughter.


First- Pray:

  • Pray for women in crisis pregnancies. Make it a part of your regular prayer list.
  • Pray for the unborn.
  • Pray for the men- boyfriends, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, church leaders: in so many stories we see that many women would have chosen life if there was a supportive male to help and stand with her.
  • Pray for our leaders- for understanding, conviction, and courage.
  • Pray for a revival of justice in America on this critical issue of civil rights.
  • Pray for an awakening in people's hearts, in churches, in schools.
  • Pray for creative ways to champion women in such straits, and the unborn that are being led to slaughter.

Second- Think and Act:

  • Get all the information you can. As I said there is so much at our fingertips.
  • Get information and help in presenting a sound case for life to your friends, neighbors, co-workers. Get up to date on statistics, bioethics, philosophical arguments- use all of this knowledge and reason to create a 'life ethos' in your sphere of influence (for help go to these sites:
  1. (Stand to Reason- excellent site, easy to use, straightforward info and arguments to equip the average Joe and Jane to stand faithfully on the pressing issues facing us.)
  2. (Scott Klusendorf's site dedicated to equipping folks to set forth cogent and articulate pro-life views in a variety of ways.)
  • And, the above link to is great for this as well.
  • Go to call them up; they need volunteers, and especially counselors. If you are a Christian woman, you must pray earnestly about whether or not God would use you to counsel women in crisis pregnancies.
  • Encourage your church to get involved- speaking out at various church functions, raising awareness, supporting your local pregnancy center.
  • Mentor and disciple young men and women.
  • Give generously- find a way to give and support with material goods and $ your local center.

Let's make this a year that we stand stronger, speak louder and clearer, love and care deeper on this absolutely devastating reality in our country- 45 million babies aborted since 1973- at least a million more will die in 2007. May we not be ignorant, slothful, or weak on this day of distress.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Anne Graham Lotz' Shallow Egalitarianism

Recently, Anne Graham Lotz (daughter of renowned evangelist Billy Graham) was given the opportunity to offer up a guest editorial for the Washington Post. What a wonderful opportunity this was for one who loves Christ to speak out on issues facing us from a biblical perspective! The editorial did indeed deal with an issue that is critical to Christians and non-Christians alike, though it sadly presented a position that was far from the true biblical perspective. Ms. Lotz addressed the issue of gender distinctions in the bible, presenting to the readers of the Post the standard egalitarian line. You can read the editorial over at the Washington Post’s website:

I’m sure that this editorial did not intend to present an exhaustive or even halfway thorough examination of this issue, it does present some standard arguments for an increasingly ‘egalitarian’ evangelicalism. Parsing out Ms. Lotz’ opinion is a helpful exercise in refuting what might be called rather shallow arguments against a complementarian view of male and female roles in the home and the church.

Lotz makes some bold statements about men and women. These statements flow from her fundamental commitment which might be distilled to these three points: 1) there was no pre-fall created order or distinction in role and authority between the sexes; 2) sin created such destructive hierarchical distinctions between the sexes; 3) Jesus abolished such sinful distinctions in role and function and restored the pre-fall order which exists (or at least, should, in the minds of egalitarians) in the church today.
Let's look at this argument in greater detail:

Premise # 1. There was no pre-fall created order or distinction in role and authority between the sexes.

'God created men and women equal. Period' the article says. And here is the fundamental problem. There is a basic non sequitur in the argument. To make distinctions in role and function does not follow biblically from a refusal to admit equality. Students of Scripture have for centuries affirmed an 'ontological' equality between men and women as made in God's image while upholding an 'economic' distinction- or a distinction of order and function between men and women as a pre fall (and, therefore, good) establishment. There can be no doubt of equality from Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." But, we must ask, why the distinctions in name? Why must there be men? Why must there be women? Lotz rather brashly ignores the very important passage over in Genesis 2 in understanding the pre-fall establishment of role and function in the garden, "But for Adam there was not a helper fit for him" (2:20). Why is she the 'ezer', or helper, and not the man? Is such a distinction in role automatically a refusal to accept equality. Obviously not, if we are to be faithful to Scripture.

In the long lists of proof texts for a rather shallow egalitarian argument we find no mention of Paul's provocative (and post-Jesus) statement touching on this very question, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (1 Timothy 2:13-14). Ah, this must be the patriarchal and chauvinistic Paul (who rears his ugly head just a few verses later in the distinctions between men and women in church office- 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:6; and in his weird statements about wearing doilies on your head in 1 Cor. 11; and over in his discussion of men and women in marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33 and Colossians 3:18-19; and it must be this bad Paul who influenced the chauvinistic Peter over in 1 Peter 3:1-7). Don't we prefer the more egalitarian Paul of Galatians 3:28-29? Yes, but only if you seek to pit Scripture against Scripture and arbitrarily affirm your view of Scripture based on a cultural prejudice (whether it be an egalitarian or a complementarian prejudice).

There is a better way. It is to affirm equality (Gen. 1:27, Gal.3:28) while affirming God created order and distinctions (Gen. 2:20; 1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim 2:11-14). It is called 'complementarianism'. Men and women are created equally in being (ontology) as image bearers and are created functionally different in order to bring glory to God in their complementary roles and functions as distinctly male and female.Such an affirmation is difficult in our upside down world. Such an affirmation is difficult if you refuse to accept the whole counsel of God, not just a choice few Scriptures that jive with the increasing cultural and ecclesiastical pressures bearing in on us.

Premise #2. Sin created such destructive hierarchical distinctions between the sexes.

As I pointed out above, there clearly is some sort of distinction between the sexes that is pre-fall and part of the glorious and good created order. The bible affirms a headship in the clear functional or economic distinction set forth when God creates woman from man, to be a 'helpmeet suitable for him'. It is not the other way around, however we would like to say so- it was not man made from woman to be a helpmeet suitable for him. And to say that economic or functional subordination between equals is necessarily sinful is to deny the glorious subordination of the Son to the Father in the Godhead. It is also to denigrate the glorious work of Christ who came to serve not to be served. It is to accept a cultural framework of rights and power that is unbiblical and fundamentally unhealthy, and that is itself destructive.Women are able to display glorious theological truths in their submission to husbands in the home and male leaders in the church. Women are able to display the very image of Christ in their functional complement to men in the created order. If one believes that service, submission, and deference to another's divinely appointed authority is weakness, sin, and destruction per se- then, sadly, I believe they do not know their bibles nor do they have the mind of Christ on this crucial issue.

Premise #3. Jesus abolished such sinful distinctions for the church.

Let's just consider some Scriptures that are strangely absent as this point is made in Ms. Lotz' argument:
1 Timothy 2:11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing-- if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for ...33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Peter 3:1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives...6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Now, of course there are exegetical issues to be faced in these passages as in all of Scripture. But, we must honestly say that for one to claim that Jesus abolished such ‘role’ distinctions is to ignore these straightforward Apostolic exhortations in Scripture, or pit the testimony of the broad scope of the New Testament against Jesus. And both of these things are done in the more liberal quarters of egalitarianism. But this cannot and should not be done by faithful evangelicals who affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. So, in order to preserve some modicum of trust in the Scriptures, the current evangelical arguments which deny its rather plain reading in the above passages require a lot of hermeneutical hoop jumping and double talk.

The call of God’s Word is to affirm the biblical portrait of equality while embracing biblically distinct masculinity and feminity. This is for our good and to God’s glory. What God has set forth as good and glorious should not be the cause of so much double talk and equivocation in the public square. The call for Christians is to model a manhood and womanhood that is established by the Scriptures and which is not merely the product of our fleeting, and crippling, cultural consensus.

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Driscoll on the ESV

Hey everyone...sorry I haven't posted in awhile- away on vacation. I should maybe throw a post up warning you I'd be out of the blogger world for one reason or the other next time.

Well, Mark Driscoll over at Mars Hill Church ( has a great explanation of why their church has recently transitioned to the ESV (English Standard Version). Go check it out: If I were a real pastor, I would have drafted such a defense of our own transition this past fall from the NIV to the ESV. I just announced it from the pulpit, autocratic tyrant that I am. But, why spend such time on these things when I know guys like Driscoll will do it better?

Driscoll spends the bulk of his time discussing the main reason for their shift from the NIV to the ESV in defending the use of a translation that uses a 'word for word' (formal equivalence) philosophy of bible translation over a 'thought for thought' (dynamic equivalence) philosophy. [Confused? Well, read Driscoll's article and here is a great little blurb: - there is a great link to a list of the formal or dynamic translations out there on the shelf.] And only mentions the issue of 'gender-neutrality' within this context in the sixth point of his theological reasons for the change. It is a great point, and it needs to be made. For a more exhaustive source dealing with gender neutrality and the TNIV go here:

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