Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Abortion is the Moral Equivalent of Murder

My Dad made an important correction to some sloppy thinking on my part in my last post. Regarding Jim Wallis' statement that 'abortion is not the moral equivalent issue to slavery' I said that abortion was indeed the contemporary moral equivalent issue to slavery, and should be opposed morally, ethically, and with all the political means at our disposal. I was only half right.

My Dad comments:

"Abortion is not the moral equivalent of slavery. Abortion is the moral equivalent of murder. Both prenatal and postnatal homicide are 100% fatal. Slavery on the other hand, while frought with death and suffering, and though a clear moral evil, does not quite measure up to the evil of abortion. The comparison is also something of an anachronism. I understand slavery in a society 200 years ago. I have no understanding whatsoever of abortion in a society as "advanced" as we are supposed to be."

Well put. I stand corrected.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Wallis on Abortion and Poverty

Christianity Today recently interviewed Jim Wallis, the champion of the religious 'evangelical' left. It is a very revealing article. I will most likely interact with it a bit in the near future. But for now, I'd like to point out just one flaw in his thinking.

Wallis was asked if his views regarding the criminalization of abortion were out of step with the position of Wilberforce that 'protecting slaves without criminalizing slavery was unjust'. He refused to answer a plain 'justice' question with the same obfuscation we always see from the left on this issue. "Stop the politicking and actually reduce the number of abortions", is the cry. But why is there such a concern for political action on behalf of the poor, or in matters of global warming and environmentalism- but, in this area- an area of crystal clear moral ramifications (which is far more than can be said of the cause of environmentalism), the political process is hopeless. The answer we must rather hear is this: "yes, abortion- the murder of the unborn- is criminal, evil, and must be outlawed like any other clearly criminal and evil activity in a just society."

Wallis says this of the work of Wilberforce and the parallel issues of our day:

"I don't think that abortion is the moral equivalent issue to slavery that Wilberforce dealt with. I think that poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and global inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our time. That's my judgment."

On what basis is such a judgment made? Can we truly say that poverty (however Wallis defines this) which has its root in such a wide array of problems, causes, and issues is anywhere as clear a moral problem as global infanticide? I do not know any who maintain that 'poverty' should be enforced legally, or should be perpetuated (though of course it is perpetuated in a variety of ways). Such a judgment certainly cannot be a pragmatic one. Pragmatically (utilitarian concerns seem to prevail when our morality collapses), even on the basis of Wallis' own statistics in the article (30,000 children are dying every day because of poverty and disease)- poverty doesn't hold a candle to the evil of abortion on a global scale. Globally, 126,000 children die everyday of abortion. 87 per minute. 1.4 every second.

Abortion is the moral equivalent to slavery. And there is need of more men and women who would stand as Wilberforce did.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Emergence and Dogma

Two of the books we received free at our conference last week were, Why We're Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck; and The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells. I also picked up A Theology for the Church which I am poking through in preparation for our summer sermon series in which I'll be unpacking 12 different categories of systematic theology each week (one week on the person of Christ, one week on the doctrine of the church, etc.).

The first book I mention is a very helpful examination (pomos read: conversation, dialogue) of the increasingly popular pop-postmodern emerging church ethos that has captivated the church. Wells' book is an examination of the current landscape, looking at the megachurch movement, and the more conservative camps in a consumerist culture along with the rising emergent church.

Chapter five of Why We're not Emergent is devoted to the emerging consensus(?) regarding doctrine:

"It is not hard to find emergent leaders questioning the importance of doctrine. Doctrine is derided as logical, sterile, and exclusive. Instead of saying, "Here is truth; take it or leave it," the emergent crowd calls Christians to declare, "Come and experience the story of God in the life of this community."

It must be admitted that by and large, this movement away from doctrine is an experiential sentiment (rooted in some ugly battle in a church where mean, doctrinaire Christians hurt you) or a philosophical tenet (rooted in postmodern epistemology) that is foreign to the pages of Scripture. A call for uncertainty and ambiguity simply does not appear in the New Testament. Yes, there are commands against being contentious and quarrelsome, but they are always offered in the same breath with exhortations to teach and patiently refute those in error. The call to be uncontentious speaks to the need for godly and gracious champions for truth, not weak kneed ambiguity and uncertainty in the great truths of the Christian faith (here is a great little article by Piper on Humility for the cause of Christ and His truth).

J. Ligon Duncan reminded us that "the Apostles were ready to expel people from the church over language". Language is important. Words are important (ask any propagandist). God revealed himself through his Word, and through the living Word, Jesus Christ.

DeYoung and Kluck point out in their chapter on dogma what is evident throughout the N.T. but is mostly ignored in the emerging church culture (p.112):

People go to hell for believing the wrong things. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8)

People within the church should be corrected when they believe the wrong things. "[An elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9)

People are sometimes to be kept out of your house for believing the wrong things. "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ deos not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him." (2 John 9-10)

Exhortations to contend for the faith, pursue sound doctrine, refute those in error, grow in God's Word, etc. are constant throughout the Scriptures. We do well to heed God's Word and embrace doctrinal truth with conviction and refuse the therapeutic, experiential, and ultimately empty and groundless substitute of an emerging culture.

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Amazing Grace

"Words: John Newton. Melody: Unknown. I tell the Lord, when I get to heaven I want to meet Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but boy, I want to meet that slave called 'unknown'."

T4G- Bearing the Image

Session Two at Together for the Gospel was delivered by Thabiti Anyabwile. Here are the highlights.

Fundamental Premise: What we generally accept as ‘race’ – positing an essential biological distinction between persons- is completely unbiblical. Anyabwile will argue biblically against race as an essential ‘biological’ distinction from our 1) unity in Adam; 2) unity in Christ; 3) unity in the church; 4) unity in glory.

Great (provocative) quote #1: ‘What we call race, like unicorns, does not in reality exist.”

Great quote #2: “Race posits an essential biological difference between people; ethnicity is a fluid construct (not determined by skin color or biology).”

Great quote #3: “The Bible doesn’t speak of race theory and race difference at the fundamental level that we do culturally.”

Six Problems stem from seeing race as fundamental, biological differentiation:

1. The abuse of people and Scripture in the name of race.

2. It is a very short walk from admitting the category of race to racism. When we accept the notion of race and combine it with our sinful hearts we have potential for heinous racism.

3. Biological category of race hinders our engagement with others. Race is inherently ad hominem.

4. Race as a biological category undermines the sufficiency of Scripture.

5. In admitting the category of race we resist the Holy Spirit.

6. Race as biological differentiation pulls apart the very fabric of the gospel itself.

Great quote #4: “We are not to build ethnic shrines, but to be living monuments to the glory of God through faith in Christ.”

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

T4G- Sound Doctrine: Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry

Here are the basics of our first talk at Together for the Gospel last week. The message was delivered by J. Ligon Duncan. It was an excellent overview of the need for renewed doctrinal zeal and a fundamental grasp of systematic theology in our churches.

(Here is a great article by D.A. Carson on biblical, historical, and systematic theology. Carson provides a helpful definition of systematic theology:

"As its name suggests, systematic theology attempts to organize, to systematize, theological reflection. When the primary authoritative source for that theological synthesis and reflection is the Bible, systematic theology attempts to organize what the Bible says according to some system. The traditional tenfold division of topics is certainly not the only possiblity. But even to choose topics, to hierarchialize them, is to impose a structure not transparently given in Scripture itself. In any case, such theological reflection inevitably emerges out of one epistemology or another, out of a particular cultural consciousness, and such matters will become correspondingly more influential in the system to the degree that the theologian is unaware of them or holds, naively, that they have little or no influence." )

Fundamental Premise: We live in a decidedly anti-doctrinal, anti-theological age; and this spirit of the age has saturated the ethos of the local church. We must revive a love of sound doctrine and a knowledge of biblical and systematic theology in our pulpits and pews.

Great quote #1: According to John 17: 13,17 “truth is for joy; doctrine is for delight. . .
you’re a killjoy if you’re against doctrine”

Great point #1: Defending and promoting doctrine is biblical: Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Tim. 1:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; 1 Tim. 6:2-4; Titus 1:1

Great quote #2: “Theology is the science of living blessedly ever after” William Perkins

Great quote #3: “We need to meet postmodern uncertainty by celebrating truth and theology.”

Great point #2: Examples of ‘systematic’ theology in Scripture: Luke 24:25-27; Acts 18; Acts 17:2-3; Romans organized systematically;

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Friday, April 18, 2008

A Full Heart - T4G '08

We returned yesterday evening from the Together for the Gospel pastor's conference. I asked the Lord upon our departure that these 2 1/2 days together (all six pastors and our lay pastor/elder John Stewart) would fill up our cups. It is hard for me to describe how directly and abundantly this prayer was answered.

It was a 'simple' event. 5,500 pastors, church leaders, and others gathering together in a convention hall for eight sessions from Tuesday afternoon till Thursday at noon. We would come together- sing two hymns of the faith, hear an hour long exposition and exhortation from God's Word, stand to sing again, and then the speaker would talk about his topic in a panel discussion. In between we would peruse the books and resources at a mammoth book store, eat some good food, talk incessantly about the speakers and the sermons that we heard, talk about their application to the context of our churches, meet up with old friends and colleagues (and talk incessantly about the messages of the conference and their application to the context of our churches).

There were three 'highlights' for me (I'll share them in order of experiential and personal impact to me):
1) Sproul delivered the sermon of a hundred preachers on 'The Curse Motif in the Atonement'. It was full of truth, power, application, and grace.
2) Piper dug deep into Hebrews and preached his constant refrain of the Supremacy of Christ and how it creates sacrifice and joy in suffering. I believe, truly, that God used Piper (in the sermon and in the panel discussion) prophetically to describe issues in our church and challenged me to face them and encouraged me to hope in Christ in all of it.
3) Thabiti Anyabwile preached the most challenging, and 'provocative' sermon of them all (in my estimation) regarding 'race' theory as a biological category and our identity as people and Christians. My worldview and the categories for my view of people and race was rocked.

In most sessions, after the proclamation of God's Word, we would stand to sing one of the great, theology soaked, Word filled, and glory centered hymns of our faith. Throughout, my heart was so full of grace, so full of God's love, so full of awe- that I could not sing without a shaking, wavering, and weeping voice. As well, my heart longed for this sort of conscience provoking, glory unveiling, love compelling, and life changing reality from Lord's Day to Lord's Day at Four Oaks.

And...as I was away, gathered with this great host of believers, I longed for my fellowship with the family God has given me. I longed to be back in the sanctuary with you, preaching God's Word to you, and growing in His grace with you. My heart was full of affection and delight over you- the family He has so graciously given me to serve and lead.

I will blog some choice quotes in the coming days to provoke you to download these sermons and listen to them.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

T4G Update

Hey gang,

Pastor Josh here guest-blogging on behalf of Pastor Erik. Just wanted to give a brief update on our progress here at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville. The Four Oaks team is having a great time of fellowship and time in the word. We have been led in worship in song by Bob Kauflin of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md and Sovereign Grace Ministries, who's teaching on worship has edified me tremendously over the years. We've also been immeasurably blessed by preaching that has been absolutely phenomenal.

Also, via the wonders of the internet and the generosity of the folks at Sovereign Grace, you can download the mp3s of the messages for free. We would commend them to you without reservation. You can get them here.

Thanks for your prayers for us and for our families while we are away...


Monday, April 14, 2008

Together for the Gospel

All six of the Four Oaks pastoral team will be heading to Louisville, Kentucky for the Together for the Gospel pastors conference this week. Paul Gilbert, Scott Stake, and I were all able to go to this conference back in '06, and it was excellent.

Pray for us: that we are able to rest and enjoy the three days of fellowship with each other; that we are fed from God's Word; that we are encouraged and strengthened through the speakers; and that God blesses our church through the ministries and efforts of these men who have put this conference together.

I'll be blogging about the various speakers/topics as the week rolls along.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston - a memorial from his own lips

An incredible speech delivered to Harvard Law School in 1999. It is my hope that he trusted in the saving grace of Christ alone for he is coram Deo now. Heston died Saturday, April 5, 2008 at the age of 84. A nice tribute here.


Yoda Was a Presbyterian

Don't believe me? Check it out.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Tim Bayly on 'Feminism's Liberation of Women'

"Is that the liberation of women that’s given us the post no-fault divorce world where women and their children make up the largest growth in those living below the poverty line for the past couple of decades? Is that the liberation of women that’s given us a sexual promiscuity that leaves women bearing the greatest part of the burden of STDs; the liberation that’s given us a huge growth in incest and the sexual abuse of young women and girls; the liberation that's led to the huge increase in anorexia and bulimia; the liberation that's left wives and mothers working full time, just like their husbands, and then coming home and carrying the lion’s share of the household work, too; the liberation that has given women the freedom to work the first decade after college or graduate school to pay off their student loans, and only after completing that duty, allowed them to turn to motherhood--usually when they're in their late twenties or early thirties, and need fertility assitance; the liberation that leaves our mothers and daughters blown to bits on the battle fields of Afghanistan and Iraq; the liberation that requires women to pay men to slaughter the unborn babies tucked in their wombs at a rate so astoundingly high that our churches are filled with mothers’ tears and groans whenever abortion is mentioned in our prayers and sermons; is this the liberation that requires women to carry ever greater church responsibilities and leadership? Is this why we must now turn to women to teach our adult Sunday school classes, to give our announcements, to lead our congregational prayers, to serve on our deacons board without benefit of ordination, to clean our church bathrooms, to take the dirty diapers in the nursery out to the trash, to explain away the biblical doctrine of sexuality and its gnarly manifestations in our particular denomination to new women considering membership in our church, to lead our home fellowship groups, to counsel our incest and rape survivors, to serve the Lord’s Supper to us?"

Read the whole post here.


Grudem on Subjective Promptings and Revelations

On this issue of hearing the voice of God or discerning his promptings and leading in a more 'subjective' sense I found the following excerpt from Wayne Grudem very helpful.

These two paragraphs are found in Grudem's treatment of the continuing gift of prophecy in the New Testament (Systematic Theology, pp. 1058-1059). In essence, Grudem believes that the prophetic gift continues in the local church as 'the reporting in one's own words what God has spontaneously brought to mind'. This report, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 14:29-38 is to be submitted to the leadership and congregation for weighing, judgment, and application (the assumption in such passages that such reports are fallible, subjective, and have a measure of both good and bad in them). The objection that many charismatics have to the latter part of Grudem's analysis of the prophetic gift is that this makes such prophecies "too subjective" and puts too human or judgmental spin on God's leading. The more conservative, mostly non-charismatic assesment of Grudem's 'middle ground' view of a fallible prophetic gift is that it lessens the objective power of prophecy as normally understood in the Scriptures. Grudem's fundamental take, it should be noted- and I agree with him- is that the gift of prophecy submitted to the congregation is fundamentally different than and inferior to the prophetic office in the Old Testament. To these objections based on the problem of 'subjectivity' Grudem then says this:

But, in response, it may be said that, for the health of the church, it is often the people who make this objection who need this subjective process most in their own Christian lives! This gift requires waiting on the Lord, listening for him, hearing his prompting in our hearts. For Christians who are completely evangelical, doctrinally sound, intellectual, and "objective", probably what is needed most is the strong balancing influence of a more vital "subjective" relationship with the Lord in everyday life. And these people are also those who have the least likelihood of being led into error, for they already place great emphasis on solid grounding in the Word of God.

Yet there is an opposite danger of excessive reliance on subjective impressions for guidance, and that must be clearly guarded against. People who continually seek subjective "messages" from God to guide their lives must be cautioned that subjective personal guidance is not a primary function of New Testament prophecy. They need to place much more emphasis on Scripture and seeking God's sure wisdom written there.


A Brief Prophecy and Tongues Bibliography

We've been working through 1 Corinthians 14 and examining those two 'controversial' gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues and prophecy. Some of you have asked about which authors, scholars, works have influenced and helped me the most in understanding this passage and these gifts.

The best and most thorough treatment of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is D.A. Carson's Showing the Spirit. I strongly encourage all believers to work through this book as they seek to understand and apply Paul's exhortations in these three chapters of the New Testament.

A great introduction to the 'continuationist' position, and a very helpful overview of all the issues at stake can be found in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (chs. 52-53). If you don't already have a systematic theology on your bookshelf- you need to go ahead and get this one regardless. Sam Storms (who has a very nice website here) also has a good Spiritual gifts primer called The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts.

Grudem's very detailed examination of the continuing gift of prophecy in the context of the contemporary local church is found in his The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today.

For an overview of the various positions on these issues check out Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views.

And, for a decidedly 'cessationist' position you can go to Richard Gaffin's Perspectives on Pentecost. For a bit more of a heavy handed approach you can check out John MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos . While I agree with much of MacArthur's assesment of the modern 'charismatic movement' and its excesses and abuses, I find his biblical and theological arguments against a continuing use of these 'miraculous' gifts less than persuasive.

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