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July 2005

July 29, 2005

It’s four in the afternoon and I am only just getting to the Friday Frivolity. My most profuse apologies go to everyone, but Amy in particular.

This is completely non-frivolous but some have asked me about the heart issues I was having a couple of weeks ago. I finally got the call-back from the doctor who told me I have two conditions. The first was Bipolar Cheddarprolapse Valvelobotomy and the second Microvalve Discumbobulatory Oranganeck. Or something like that. I knew I should have paid more attention in biology classes.

The first of the conditions is benign but symptomatic which means it may cause fatigue and dizziness but won’t kill me. The second is less-benign but not too dangerous unless it progresses, at which point it sometimes requires a pacemaker. I’m going to assume that it won’t go that far since I’m not really into pacemakers. The doctor decided I should see a cardiologist who will probably want me to wear one of those awful monitors for a full week. That would be torturous.

So, I suppose it’s good news.

And now here is your weekly dose of frivolity, courtesy of my mom. Ten ways you might know that a redneck has been using your computer…

  1. 10. The monitor is up on blocks.
  2. 9. Outgoing faxes have tobacco stains on them.
  3. 8. The six front keys have rotted out.
  4. 7. The extra RAM ports have truck parts stored in them.
  5. 6. The numeric keypad only goes up to six.
  6. 5. The password is “Bubba”.
  7. 4. There’s a gun rack mounted on the CPU.
  8. 3. There’s a Coors can in the cup holder(CD-ROM drive).
  9. 2. The keyboard is camouflaged.
  10. AND the number 1 way to tell if a redneck has been working on a computer is…
  11. 1. The mouse is referred to as a “critter”.

And one more. Ever wondered about the origins of CTRL-ALT-DELETE? Watch this video. I’m not sure if that is a deliberate shot at Bill Gates or not. But it’s hilarious.

July 29, 2005

This is the first interview in the Challies Dot Com Summer Interview Series. The series will feature interviews with authors, musicians and other Christian personalities.

The first interview in this series is with Richard Abanes. Richard is known around these parts as author of the newly-released book Rick Warren and the Purpose That Drives Him and as a regular defender of Warren and his teachings within the comments section within this site. This is the first part of the interview in which we get to know Richard. Part two deals more specifically with Rick Warren and will be posted tomorrow.

Who is Richard Abanes? Tell us a little bit about yourself - who you are, what you do, and how we might know about you?

Well, first and foremost, I am a Christian. Everything follows that fact with regard to my identity. In other words, I do not see myself as a writer per se, or as an apologist, or as a musician. I certainly DO those things, but it is not who/what I am. I follow Christ and find my identity in him—no matter what I am doing. I say this because I have seen too many Christians equating “who” they are with “what” they do, and this can limit their willingness go/do/be what God wants. So in my case, whatever I happen to be doing at the moment is merely an extension of serving the one who saved me. With regard to who I am, then, I would say that I AM a follower of Christ. Now, as for what I DO, that is a different question. For now, what I DO is write books dealing with: apologetics (defending the faith); pop culture as it relates to religion (particularly Christianity), and issues associated with faith/spirituality (e.g., near death experiences, the end-times).

I also do a lot of music—both worship and inspirational. I actually have a very intense show business background of music, theater, dance, and acting. I’ve performed on Broadway and off-Broadway, in TV specials/programs, and in several national commercials. In fact, I thought that a career in show business was going to be my life. But God had other plans. He showed me that what I was doing was not really affecting people for eternity. I was entertaining them, but not doing anything for their eternal souls. So, I left show business, not really knowing at all what God had planned for me. It was a real step of faith.

Several years later, God showed me that I had the ability to write. I had no idea that I had this ability. I was working at the Christian Research Institute (c. 1989), which eventually turned into my school of apologetics. I also was mentored by Bob and Gretchen Passantino. I also tried to learn apologetics from the best apologists I could find. Then, God started opening up doors for me to write (starting about 1994). So, here I am, all of these years and books later. My writing ministry is all because of Him. It’s a miracle. I have no higher education. So, really, I have to credit Christ with my success. I really am quite undeserving and still don’t know why God has been so good to me. Like Paul said, I’m the chief of sinners (just ask my wife). But I guess that is what grace is all about. God uses the foolish things of the world.

Right now I’m trying to put up as much information as possible at my website www.abanes.com for people interested in the issues that I am interested in. It’s kind of funny that you would start out this interview the way you did. I have attempted to answer at my website this very first question you have asked by putting up biographical material about me and pictures. But in response, some people have criticized me for being carnal, worldly, conceited, full of myself, etc. etc. etc. That’s kind of strange to me since I am personally always interested in people and their past, their accomplishments, and what they have done in life. It gives you insight into who they are and what has molded them. I think others are interested in that kind of stuff, too. And, of course, I like pictures—basically, I enjoy seeing pictures of people, places, and things, and happen to think that it is rather cool to be able to post photos in cyberspace (I love technology). Moreover, we live in a very visually-oriented society. I suppose, however, that some people don’t see it that way, Ah well.

What are three books every Christian should read (apart from the Bible)?

“Apart from the Bible?” NOTHING! That’s blasphemy! No, just kidding. Of course, there are many books that Christians could benefit from. And I suppose it would depend a LOT on the maturity of a Christian, their needs, and where God is leading them. But I would say at least one book by one of the great preachers/teachers is important to have in one’s library (or a compilation of quotes)—i.e., anything by C.H. Spurgeon, Oswald Chambers, or A.W. Tozer. I read all of these guys as part of my daily/weekly study and devotional. Then, I would suggest at least one solid volume of systematic theology: e.g., Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof or Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. Finally, hmmmm, this is tough, perhaps the now-released one volume edition of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I really believe that there is a wealth of insight that can be gained about Christian living and truth from something like Lewis’ fantasy series. I know I must be missing some great books out there, but limiting me to three does not leave me a lot of room.

Who do you consider the formative influences in your beliefs and theology?

Well, as for “formative,” this is difficult to say, since I was raised Roman Catholic, and then for many years after my conversion in 1979, I attended a wide variety of churches/groups in an effort to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. I think I would first of all have to name (in chronological order) Walter Martin since his books were the first ones I read on doctrine, cults, the occult, and world religions. Then, probably Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel system of churches. After that, I would say I began to be heavily influenced by Reformed teachers, especially R.C. Sproul, who I think is absolutely brilliant. I am a Calvinist, by the way, but I am what I like to call a “soft” Calvinist with Southern Baptist leanings—go figure. I’ve also been influenced a great deal by Lutheran teachings, thanks to my mentors Bob and Gretchen Passantino (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).

I try very hard to stick to the essentials of the faith and not get too caught up in arguing over things that do little more than divide Christians and foster animosity or ungodly in-fighting. NONE OF US have every single little thing perfect. I would think that this is obvious to everyone since we are all sinners saved by grace and subject to mistakes—not to mention the fact that the heart is deceitfully wicked. But we all try as best we can to serve our Lord and Savior.

Of course, when it comes to the central teachings of Christianity, these are non-negotiable. In other words, you can’t diverge from these things or else you are in serious danger of not being a Christian at all—or at the very least being terrifically skewed in your doctrinal understandings, confused, and in danger of having serious problems in your Christian walk. This is why it is so important for new Christians to immediately begin taking steps toward doctrinal maturity—i.e., go from being a born-again baby, to a toddler, to a tween, to a teen, to a mature adult.

What are the essentials? I would say that these are any doctrines that relate directly to our identification of, and our relationship to, God—i.e., there is one God, the trinity, the full humanity/deity of Christ, the virgin birth, salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and the physical/bodily resurrection. Basically, those doctrines represented formally in the earliest creeds of the Christian church: Apostles’, Nicene, and Chalcedonian.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard the term “soft Calvinist.” Purely to satisfy my curiosity, could you clarify that a little bit?

Well, I am a Calvinist. Five points. However, I am less dogmatic on some points than others—e.g., Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace. But it seems to all make sense, especially the idea of actually needing to be regenerated BEFORE accepting Christ since we are slaves to sin BEFORE regeneration and dead in our sins. However, choice is in there somewhere (see for example, Joshua 24:15; Is. 7:15; Romans 10:9).

I say “soft” because I don’t fight about these things. If you’re a Calvinist, great. If you’re not a Calvinist, great. I always care a lot more about whether or not someone simply knows, loves, follows, and serves Jesus. God knows how it all works out, and one day we will know, too. Until then, we do our best and have our own notions about how it all works. But such things as the EXACT moment of regeneration, supralapsarianism, infralapsarianism, free will, choice, etc. etc. etc. is beyond everyone—in my opinion.

We happen to be doing this interview only days after the release of the latest book in the Harry Potter series. I know you’ve written a book about this subject. Here is a quick chance to pitch your book! What are your thoughts on Harry Potter and whether Christian children and adults should read it?

Regarding the Harry Potter books, I have tried very hard to avoid telling people to either read them or not read them. My newest book Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings is primarily about fantasy literature in general, which I happen to support. In fact, I am a major fan of fantasy, so what I have tried to do is simply show that fantasy, like so many things, can be “good” as well as “not so good.” To illustrate the differences between such types of fantasy I take an in-depth look at the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings. I also examine/discuss Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (which is excessively anti-Christian) and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series (as well as Goosebumps). Additionally, I cover marketing to children through TV and movies, consumerism, child development, and culture’s influence on kids.

My concern about the Harry Potter books is two-fold: 1) by J.K. Rowling’s own admission, the books contain references to real-world occult symbolism, lore, subjects, practices, and beliefs that she has gleaned from her hobby-like study of things like occultism, witchcraft, and magick (this is verified and documented); 2) the ethics and morality in the series exalt relativism—i.e., there seems to be no objective standard of right and wrong. If the good characters in the book feel like something is just fine (or fun), then they simply do it, even though it may be bad/wrong (e.g., the good characters habitually lie, steal, cheat, use foul language, break laws, deceive each other, behave hypocritically, and have no problem pursuing revenge). The books do not strive to show kids a better way, they instead, appeal to their most basic/naturalistic instincts: e.g., crass/gross humor, the desire for revenge, the want for power over adults.

Some people say, “So what?” But my worry is that children—who we all know tend to copy what they think is cool, or fun, or exciting—will begin emulating some of the poor ethical/moral behaviors exalted in Harry Potter as well as some of the occult aspects of the books. This is not a far-fetched concern. Kids are already copying various aspects of the series: e.g., registrations for boarding schools in England have sky-rocketed; a surge in buying owls for pets has taken place; and one group of kids had to be rushed to the hospital after mixing a poisonous “potion” and drinking—all in direct response to Harry Potter. We also have a 2002 Barna survey that found 12% of kids who saw the Harry Potter movies were more interested in witchcraft. And, most alarming, is how REAL wiccans/occultists/neopagans are writing their own pro-occult and pro-witchcraft books (both fiction and non-fiction) and using the popularity of Harry Potter books to lure young readers to their materials. Clearly, concerns about Harry Potter are not misplaced.

My book also debunks the absurd view of Harry Potter offered by the likes of John Granger, Connie Neal, and Francis Bridger, and John Killinger—i.e., the claim that Harry Potter is actually a Christian series in the tradition of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. In a nutshell, their assertions are plagued by a myriad of flaws that can be distilled down to two main issues: 1. The plainest reading of Harry Potter reveals that it is not a depiction of anything Christian, but instead, is a depiction of the magick worldview. (This has been confirmed by Witches, occultists, and neopagans.) 2. Rowling herself has explained both her work and her faith in ways that clearly contradict the assertions being made by the “Harry-Potter-is-really-Christian” group of supporters.

Should Christian children and/or adults read them? Well, what adults do is between them and God. I could no more tell an adult Christian to not read the books than tell them to not go see an R-rated movie, or not have a glass of wine with spaghetti. Reading Harry Potter as an adult, I think, would fall into the category of a freedom not explicitly discussed in scripture. Children, on the other hand, need guidance. But guiding someone else’s child is not my job. My job is to get good, solid, documented information about Harry Potter to parents, then, it is their decision. Personally, however, I do think it is a very poor idea to have some kids, particularly younger ones (e.g., ages 6-10), reading the books—especially the latter volumes (4, 5, 6, 7), which become progressively darker and more violent.

Please stay tuned for the second part of this interview. It will be posted tomorrow.

July 28, 2005

I feel completely disorganized. My usual workweek involves sitting at my desk for the full 40 hours. From Monday to Friday I sit at my desk from 9 AM to 5 PM with very few exceptions. I have developed a nice little routine. The past two days I have spent very little time at my desk. Yesterday I drove into Niagara-on-the-Lake for meetings with two sets of friends and clients and then had more meetings that took up most of this morning. While all the meetings were great, and it was especially nice to meet Kevin (an occasional reader and all-around nice guy), I am now officially out of sorts. I have prepared nothing to post today, so am going to do little more than provide some links you a little bit of this and that. Mostly ramblings.

Over the past four days I’ve been reading Jack by George Sayer. I decided I’d read 100 pages a day and was quite easily able to meet that goal. It is a biography of C.S. Lewis written by one of Lewis’s close friends. Sayer is clearly a master of the English language. While I had no great interest in the subject matter, I was drawn into the book primarily by the strength of the author’s writing. Having read the book I have to rate it as one of my favorite biographies, not so much because of the subject, but because of the author. I’ll post a review of it soon enough.

While we’re on the subject of Lewis, I’ve decided that I should read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe before the movie releases later this year. It has been a long time since I have read the series, so I will need to refresh my memory before I see the movie.

I will probably be making a few changes to this site in the coming weeks. I am hoping to add a couple of new features. Unfortunately they require some tricky CSS work, so it may take me a little while to develop and test them. Stay tuned.

Justin Taylor, (who?) whom I have often denied knowing in any way, is apparently an esteemed Reformed scholar. The proof is to be found at George Grant’s blog. I am quite sure that no one has ever called me “esteemed.” And I know that no one has ever refered to me as a scholar. I kind of doubt anyone ever will. Maybe if I go to seminary…

I assume that everyone is already reading PyroManiac’s series on the Fad-Driven Church. If not, you probably should. P.J. is still the flavor of the week in the Christian blogosphere. His PyroMarketing campaign has paid dividends!

That’s all you’ll be getting out of me today. I have got to do some work before all my clients desert me.

July 27, 2005

As you may well know if you spend much time around these parts, I read a lot. A whole lot. In my reading I have noticed a disturbing trend in the way authors use the Bible to prooftext their books. This concern has led me to write this article in which I will suggest some guidelines for the proper use of Scripture in Christian books.

Before we go any further, let’s establish the purpose of using the Bible in a book. The goal in prooftexting or quoting from the Bible is to accurately represent and interpret God’s Word. We do not use the Bible to prove what we want it to say. Rather, we turn to the Bible to learn from God Himself, and then share what we have learned with others. We must have our priorities straight.

Let’s review the different types of Bibles available to us. They fit into three broad categories.

Paraphrase (also known as Free Translation) – Paraphrases attempt to translate ideas and concepts from the original text but without being constrained by the original language and words. They also seek to contextualize the Bible to the contemporary culture, eliminating the historical distance between the time the Bible was written and the time in which it is read. This allows them to be easy to read as they do not need to conform to the sentence structures of the original languages. However, they are also less-literal in their translation. The most widely-read paraphrase is The Living Bible, though in recent days The Message has become exceedingly popular.

Dynamic Equivalence (also known as Thought for Thought) – Dynamic equivalency attempts to create a consistent historical distance between the text and the reader so that the text has the same impact on the contemporary reader as it did on the original reader or listener. Because the translation does not need to be constrained to the original language and sentence structures, the text can flow smoothly, allowing it to be easily readable. However, dynamic equivalence requires some degree of interpretation as the translator attempts to discern not only the words of the author but also the author’s intent and meaning. The most popular dynamic equivalent translation is the New International Version.

Formal Equivalence (also known as Word for Word, Literal Translation or Essentially Literal) – Formal equivalence attempts to represent each word of the original language with a corresponding word in the English language. This allows the reader to know, as closely as possible, what God actually spoke through the authors of the Bible. The merit of this method is that it allows intimate access to the originally inspired words for those who do not speak the languages the Bible was written in. The downside is that it is possible for these translations to be awkwardly worded and follow difficult sentence structures. Examples are the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version.

The lines between these categories are sometimes blurred. For example, some would consider the New International Version to be a literal translation and others consider it closer to a paraphrase. There are other translations were parts are paraphrased and others are more literal.

Here are four guidelines for translating the Scripture. They are adapted from the writings of Leland Ryken which have had a profound influence on the way I understand the job of a translator.

  1. We must never lose sight of the fact that it is God’s Word that is being translated. These are not the words of fallible men but of a Holy God who is giving these words to direct our lives.
  2. The text must be translated as accurately and faithfully as possible from the original language to the receptor language.
  3. The translation must be readable so that it adheres to rules of English vocabulary, syntax and grammar.
  4. The translation must not seek to bring clarity to what is difficult in the original text. The interpretation must stay separate from the translation.

Based on this information I would like to propose the following as guidelines governing the use of Scripture in Christian books.

Use a default translation that is essentially literal.

Almost every Christian book has a notation a page or two from the front cover indicating what translation the author prefers to use. This will be the default translation throughout the book. The notation generally reads similar to this: “Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations in this publication are from the [insert translation here]). Authors should ensure that their default translation is essentially literal - a translation that attempts to accurately represent the original languages. Some examples of this type of translation are ESV, NASB, NKJV, KJV, RSV. The NIV is a good choice as well.

Use translations that are familiar to readers

Quote the familiar before the remix. Sometimes it is more valuable to quote a passage that is well-known but is poorly translated and then explain why it is a poor translation rather than simply quoting an unfamiliar translation. This allows people to read the author’s explanation within a context they understand. Think of Jesus who often said, “You have heard it said that…” He gave people the context of what was familiar before telling them what was more accurate.

Use paraphrases sparingly

Only use a paraphrase or translation that is not essentially literal when the new translation is more faithful to the original language than the primary translation. Be attentive that we do not allow the Bible to say what we want it to say, but what it really says! When you do use a paraphrase, indicate within the text that this is a paraphrase and not a literal translation. Indicate that this is an interpretation, not a translation.

Check your work

Just because a particular author or commentator says one translation of a passage is accurate, does not necessarily make it so. Before providing a new spin on an old passage, ensure that your new interpretation is correct. As R.C. Sproul indicates, if you are the first person ever to interpret a passage in a particular sense, chances are that you are wrong. When in doubt, check with other commentaries or authorities on translation. There are many online commentaries that may have all the information you need.

Conclusion

We live at a time when we are privileged to have available to us more translations and study tools than at any other time in history. But as much as these can be a great blessing, they can also do great damage if used incorrectly. Use translations carefully, always remembering that we are dealing with the Holy Word of God. Seek the Spirit’s help in presenting the Word accurately, seeking to to mold our lives by the Word, and not making the Word conform to our flawed beliefs.

July 27, 2005

leviswill.gifIn 1943, Levi Mullet escapes his farm, his father, and his Amish heritage. He leaves behind family, scandal and beliefs in order to set out on his own. Defying his pacifist upbringing he enlists and fights in the Second World War. After the war he marries and settles down with his family. But even when living in the Deep South, far from Ohio, he cannot shake the memories of his family. He cannot fully and finally uproot himself. His prodigal heart beats for home.

In Levi’s Will Dale Cramer, whose previous books, also published by Bethany House are Sutter’s Cross and Bad Ground, brings us a story of betrayal, judgmentalism and forgiveness. He brings us a story of “the sins of the fathers.” Ultimately he brings us a story about grace. With settings as diverse the Amish countryside of Northern Ohio, the battlefields of Europe and the burning heat of Georgia, Cramer’s attention to detail and realism paints a story that is both moving and profound.

July 26, 2005

Last week I bookmarked an article I found on FoxNews. The article, entitled “”Til Death Do Us Part’ Is Dying Out” says that “ ‘Til death do us part” is going the way of “to honor and obey.” That is to say, of course, that it is going the way of the dinosaur. It’s dying out. It’s disappearing. Buh-bye.

“Vows like ‘For as long as we continue to love each other,’ ‘For as long as our love shall last’ and ‘Until our time together is over’ are increasingly replacing the traditional to-the-grave vow — a switch that some call realistic and others call a recipe for failure.” In other words, husbands are now pledging themselves to their wives she gets fat or until she puts her foot down about that new car. Women are promising to love their husbands until he loses his job or until, well, until something better comes along.

Years ago I bought an album by that phenomenally talented singer and songwriter, Weird Al Yankovic. My favorite, which my parents also loved, was called “Good Enough For Now.” It seems that satire has become reality.

Oh, I couldn’t live a single day without you
Actually, on second thought, well, I suppose I could
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, honey, you’re the greatest
Well, at any rate, I guess you’re…pretty good

Now, it seems to me I’m relatively lucky
I know I probably couldn’t ask for too much more
I honestly can say you’re an above-average lady
You’re almost just what I’ve been looking for

You’re sort of everything I’ve ever wanted
You’re not perfect, but I love you anyhow
You’re the woman that I’ve always dreamed of
Well, not really…but you’re good enough for now

You’re pretty close to what I’ve always hoped for
That’s why my love for you is fairly strong
And I swear I’m never gonna leave you, darlin’
At least ‘til something better comes along

‘Cause you’re sort of everything I’ve ever wanted
You’re not perfect, but I love you anyhow
You’re the woman that I’ve always dreamed of
Well, not really…but you’re good enough for now
No, not really…but you’re good enough for now.

I know some people who see their marriage in those terms. They are married because, well, because it’s the thing to do. People fall in love and get married. It’s the Canadian way. But just as it is an accepted fact that people fall in love and get married, so too people fall out of love and get divorced. Again, it’s the Canadian way. You just stay married until something better comes along, whether that better thing is being single or finding love in the arms of another.

“”We’re hearing that a lot — ‘as long as our love shall last.’ I personally think it’s quite a statement on today’s times — people know the odds of divorce,” said New Jersey wedding expert Sharon Naylor, author of “Your Special Wedding Vows,” who adds that the rephrasing is also part of a more general trend toward personalizing vows.

“Naylor said killing the “death vow” doesn’t mean that people don’t take their marriage promises seriously. Quite the contrary.

“People understand that anything can happen in life, and you don’t make a promise you can’t keep. When people get divorced, they mourn the fact that they said ”til death do us part’ — you didn’t keep your word in church (if they had a church wedding). Some people are in therapy because they promised ‘til death do us part’ — it is the sticking point in the healing of a broken marriage. The wording can give you a stigma of personal failure.”“

This raises an interesting point. Is it better that these people do not make a vow they really do not feel they need to keep? Is it better that they do not bother standing before family and friends and pledging to love each other until death parts them, when in reality they know that it would take far less?

But this is missing the point. It’s nothing but a red herring.

It seems to me that marriage is not up for negotiation. Marriage is not a human institution, but a Divine one. It is not an institution that was created by humans, for humans. Marriage was created by God and only He has the right to define and, if He desires, to redefine it. When God says we can do less than pledge ourselves to each other for a lifetime, we can go ahead and do it. But something tells me that isn’t going to happen. God created marriage as a means of bringing together one woman and one man forever. ‘Til death do them part. Only the gravest of sins can seperate this bond, and weight gain is not one of them. Neither is the appearance of something better.

Aileen and I pledged before our family, before our friends, before our church and before God that we would remain together until we are separated by death. Even in our toughest times we have given no thought to forsaking that vow, for it is a vow we both intend to keep. And with God’s help, we will. And how has this benefited us? Quite simply, it has forced us to work through our difficulties, for we know that we are going to wake up next to each other every morning for the rest of our lives. We have no choice but to make this marriage work. Had we only pledged that we would love each other only until something better comes along, who knows if we would even be together anymore.

The damage done to individuals, families and society by those who feel marriage is a negotiable, malleable institution, is unestimable. Surely there is no greater evidence of the absence of Christian values in our society than the marriage meltdown. Viewing marriage as a temporary refuge, one that exists only until something better comes along, will cause greater and deeper damage. Healthy families are the building-block of a healthy society. How can we hold out any hope for our society when our families are in disarray?

July 26, 2005

I wanted to make you aware of a new blog that you may just want to make part of your regular reading. Reformation21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, has recently added a blog to their site. It will feature writing by such notables as Ligon Duncan (Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church), Derek Thomas (John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary), Philip Ryken (Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadephia), Rick Phillips (Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church in Coral Springs/Margate, Florida)and Carl Trueman (Associate Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary). And Justin Taylor. Don’t feel bad, I haven’t heard of him either, though I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He must also be a brave guy to take on the role of being the sole Baptist among a group of Presbyterians!

You can find the blog here. And yes, they have an RSS feed. Here is something of their mission:

Joe Carter at the blog Evangelical Outpost recent wrote:

I think that theologians need to take advantage of the Internet and especially the blogosphere to fulfill their role of “informing the laity.” Journals are an excellent way for them to stay up on current thought but it needs to trickle down into the pews.

We agree—which is one of the reasons the Alliance is launching the Reformation 21 Blog. Alliance Council members Ligon Duncan (Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church), Derek Thomas (John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary), Philip Ryken (Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadephia), Rick Phillips (Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church in Coral Springs/Margate, Florida)and Carl Trueman (Associate Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary) will be among the contributors. Bookmark and return often. We hope you enjoy the blog.

July 26, 2005

crosscentered.gifFor many believers, and especially those who are conservative in their theology, contemporary worship music has become nearly synonymous with theologically-shallow, emotion-filled content. These Christians may look to the great hymns of the past and see in them a depth of content that escapes most modern music. Much of the music that does exist is simply inconsistent with Reformed theology or talks far more about personal experience than the transcendent truths of God’s Word.

Songs for the Cross Centered Life is a companion to C.J. Mahaney’s wonderful little book The Cross Centered Life. The album contains fourteen songs representing a mixture of new songs and hymns that have had the music reinterpreted in a modern context. The common thread binding the songs together is their focus on the cross. Each one points the listener to the main thing: the gospel of Jesus Christ. The booklet inside the album contains not only lyrics, but also the first chapter of the book.

The contemporary selections are filled with meaty, biblical content. The upbeat tune “The Glories of Calvary” expresses the joy of salvation:

My heart is filled with a thousand songs / Proclaiming the glories of Calvary. / With every breath, / Lord how I long to sing of / Jesus who died for me. / Lord, take me deeper into the glories of Calvary. / Sinners find eternal joy / In the triumph of your wounds. / By our Savior’s crimson flow, / Holy wrath has been removed. / And your saints below / Join with your saints above, / Rejoicing in the risen Lamb.

“The Glory of the Cross” proclaims the wonder of the mystery of God’s plan of salvation:

What wisdom once devised the plan / Where all our sin and pride / Was placed upon the perfect Lamb, / Who suffered bled and died? /
The wisdom of a Sovereign God / Who greatness will be shown, / When those who crucified your Son / Rejoice around Your throne.

A personal favorite is “Jesus, My Only Hope,” written by Mark Altrogge which is performed by Abby Cannon and drawn from some of the most inspiring passages of the New Testament.

I will not fear Your judgment. / For me, no wrath I dread. / For it was spent on Jesus, / Poured out upon His head / … Jesus my only hope / my only plea. / My righteousness, My great High Priest, / Who intercedes for me before the throne. / Jesus, I trust in You alone.

Some great hymns are also represented on the album. “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” by Isaac Watts, “The Look” (known in hymn books as “In Evil Long I Took Delight”) by John Newton and “Before the Throne” by Charitie Less Bancroft all receive updated treatments. “Before the Throne” is a standout song, filled with joyful beauty.

The web site for Sovereign Grace Music contains the music, lead sheets and transparencies to allow these songs to be used in public worship. Most of the songs are well-suited to that purpose. You can also visit the site if you would like to hear audio samples of any of the songs.

This album proves that worship can be deep, biblical and contemporary. Some of the selections are clearly appropriate for corporate worship and all of them are ideal for times of private worship. All of them are Scriptural. As with the book by the same name, this album will help the listener remain focused on the main thing, which is and must always be, the cross of Jesus Christ.