Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

September 2005

September 30, 2005

Adrian Warnock, whom most people know only as a pixelated face superimposed over a picture of Big Ben (click here), seems to want to fight. And as history has proven time and time again, these British folk, like the little kid on the playground who runs to the safety of his big brother, will only fight when the Americans have their back. Thus Adrian has also seeks to poison the mind of Phil Johnson so that he will turn on me.

But I am impervious to such mockery. And so today, as a show of my humility, I present to you a list of the top 10 reasons you should read Adrian’s blog and Phil Johnson’s blog instead of mine.

  1. You’ll have to visit Phil to find a link to Centuri0n. Phil is, I believe, the only blogger in the entire blogosphere that links to Centuri0n (or at least the only one who considers him stellar).
  2. To make yourself feel better about your housekeeping. Adrian’s blog is so disorganized it will make even the most cluttered room seem positively feng shui.
  3. Because Phil is one of the world’s foremost experts in the area of Intelligent Design and has written several excellent books on the subject.
  4. Adrian has a sexy British accent that shines through as clearly in print as it does in speech.
  5. Phil can teach you the shamless art of self-promotion by showing you how to search for yourself in every major search engine and aggregator.
  6. You can browse Adrian’s list of “Warnie” winners to see the list of bloggers he claims to have “made” because of the award. Because, you know, none of these people had any readers or anything to offer before the award.
  7. At Phil’s blog you’re only two clicks away from the list of every disgusting thing he’s ever eaten, and that’s important information.
  8. Because Adrian and Jollyblogger are the same person and Jollyblogger is just a nice guy.
  9. Phil Johnson has John MacArthur as a guest-blogger. Of course when the rest of us post copyrighted material on our sites we consider it plagarism, but Phil prefers the term “guest blogging.”
  10. And finally, because for some reason, unlike most of the rest of us, people actually seem to care what they say.

In other frivolous news, I have been working on an updated blogroll. It is taking some time because I am attempting to make it meaningful, which means that I cannot list every evangelical blog in the world. I am also annotating it, providing a brief glimpse of what I like about a particular site. I am hoping to launch this new feature next week.

Finally, it seems I can stop having nightmares about drowning in quicksand. Archimedes comes to the rescue yet again.

And finally, I present to you, a really endangered species.

September 29, 2005

Last night was a rough night. My daughter woke up at 11:30, terrified about something. My wife eventually surrendered and brought her into bed with us. When my daughter climbs into our bed I always end up with her pointy end (her toes) jabbing into me, so I soon gave up and went to sleep in her bed. No sooner had I gotten back to sleep than my son woke me up complaining that he was having bad dreams about aliens. And so on. It was one of those nights parents just have to deal with. My efforts at creativity this morning fell flat, so I peered into the archives of this site to find an article that discusses a topic I have been thinking about a little bit recently. I have made several changes to the article, which I first published a couple of years ago, and am publishing it again.

I recently read an article (which alas I can no longer find) that described a search the BBC made for the Loch Ness Monster. The corporation hired a team of experts to sweep Loch Ness from end to end, back and forth for several days using some of the world’s most sophisticated sonar equipment. After a complete, thorough search they concluded that there is no evidence to indicate that a monster lives in the Loch. To prove a theory as to how the myth of the Loch Ness Monster continues to grow despite the mounting evidence that Nessie does not exist the team performed a devious little experiment. They rigged up a system which allowed them to raise an object from under the water far out into the Loch. They would then interview the inevitable crowd of tourists standing by the shore to ask them what they had seen. They elected to use a section of fencing as the decoy, deliberately choosing an object that looks absolutely nothing like an ancient aquatic creature. They waited until a busload of tourists had arrived on the shores of the Loch and once the bus was unloaded they raised the fence a few feet out of the water. There was great excitement on the shore and sure enough, when they interviewed people after the fact, the majority of them described seeing something that looked just like the traditional depiction of the Loch Ness Monster.

The people who led this study concluded that this was a type of “pareidolia.” Pareidolia is “a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct.” (Skeptics Dictionary) Other examples of this are seeing the face of Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun or seeing the face of a man on the moon. In the case of the people gathered at Loch Ness, they saw something vague and yet were able to describe it in detail. The detail was fabricated by their minds based on what they already imagined the Loch Ness Monster to look like.

Certainly the people who saw a section of fence being raised from the water did not expect to see a fence – they expected to see a monster. Many of them had traveled from other countries for the expressed purpose of visiting Loch Ness to see if this monster is real or mere myth. So when the object came up from the water their minds allowed them to see what they wanted to see. Had they been expecting to see a Volkswagen Bug emerging from the water I have little doubt that their minds would have allowed them to believe that is what rose from the depths.

What we see in this rather extreme example is the value of objectivity. Had the people visiting Loch Ness been objective they would have seen nothing but a section of wet fencing material. They would have seen the reality in all its simplicity.

This article made me ask myself how often I approach the Bible with the wrong attitude. How often do I approach it with my own agenda in mind? Homosexuals approach the Bible determined to find proof that their lifestyle is not only acceptable but condoned by Scripture. So when they read that John was the apostle that Jesus loved, they see support for their lifestyle. When they read about the love between Jonathan and David they see them as homosexual and allow it give license to their own immorality. Often people on both sides of various debates misuse Scripture in this way. Take, for example, the issue of women in positions of leadership in the church. Proponents of both sides will eschew objectivity, approaching the Scriptures determined to prove their point. When we approach the Bible determined to prove what we already believe we will more often than not find enough proof to satisfy ourselves, even if we are taking passages far beyond their real meaning.

Several days ago reviewed Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton and she provided a clear example of this type of misreading. She was clearly determined to find some Scriptural license for the silent prayer she advocates and so read into the story of Elijah a complex system of theology that goes far beyond what Scripture teaches. So was so determined to see silent prayer that she saw it in a story where it clearly does not exist.

The lesson to me is that I need to approach the Bible objectively, asking God to reveal His truth to me through His Word. I need to lay aside my presuppositions and biases so, if necessary, I can allow God to change and mold me. I need to allow the Bible to show me what a given passage really means, not merely cast onto it what I want it to say.

John Calvin once warned against treating the Bible like a ball that we bounce around at will. The Bible is the very Word of God and its teachings can be rightly learned only by the most impartial and objective study of the text. And that means being impartial and objective even about the parts we may not like, for often God’s ways are at odds with our far-too-human agendas.

September 29, 2005
Friday September 30, 2005
  • A Blogwar? Adrian Warnock thinks he’s a big-shot even with such a laughable click-thru rate. And now he’s picking on me. Do me a favor and click the link.
  • Free: Eric Ragle is offering a WordPress invite for whoever can come up with a good reason to get it. This is your chance to get blogging for free!
  • Du Jour Brian Habig, writes about awful mirth in an excellent post on worship.
  • Du Jour Bonus Tuck Bartholomew discusses the globalization of churches.
  • Humor?Even with a C, Chinese people don’t care.” Isn’t that racist? It would be in Canada…
  • September 29, 2005
    Thursday September 29, 2005
  • Theology: Gary Gilley writes a must-read article, The Lord Told Me – I Think! in the latest edition of his Think on These Things newsletter.
  • Entertainment: More Purpose Driven product placement, this time in the movie about Scott Peterson.
  • Canadiana: Canada has no plan in case of disaster or terrorism. People around the world are heard to remark, “Canada has a military?”
  • Tools: Mint, a web statistics program for those who like their stats with style. I use it and love it.
  • History: Michael Servetus would be 494 years old today if he had not been executed in 1553.
  • September 28, 2005

    I grew up in a Christian culture in which very little evangelism took place. How little? Well, the first adult I ever witnessed getting baptized was my wife (she was my girlfriend at the time) and that was when we were nineteen or so. I believe it was also the first time our church had ever baptized an adult. And what’s more, it was the first time most of the people who attended that church had ever seen an adult get baptized. While it is not necessarily so, it seems that there is bound to be something amiss with the evangelistic focus of churches that never, ever see any outside converts through their ministry.

    A few years after my wife’s baptism we moved away from the town we had grown up in so we could be closer to my place of business. After several months of visiting different churches around the area, we found ourselves a home at the church we attend now. It is a church that, while it is not seeker-friendly, is very outward focused. We have seen many, many people come to faith, including several who are now our closest friends. We have seen lives be altered dramatically and have seen more baptisms than we can count - baptisms in rivers, pools, hot tubs and a really big, ugly aluminum tank. Of course I will have to grant that this is a Baptist church and they insist on baptizing people who were baptized as children or, as in my wife’s case, were not immersed but sprinkled when baptized as adults. So some of the baptisms we have witnessed would be considered “re-baptisms” in a standard Reformed or Presbyterian setting. But the fact is that we have seen a vast number of people get saved in one of the most unchurched parts of North American through this church’s ministry.

    Over the years I began to reflect (and I’ve been using that word quite a bit lately, I believe) on what made the churches I attended as a child and teenager so ineffective at evangelism. I have to be careful here because I know several people from the churches of my youth who read this site and I want to be careful that I accurately characterize these churches. While there are several reasons I could provide, and they are of varying importance, there is one that I believe stands at the foundation of the rest: These churches regarded the unbeliever as the enemy. Of course the church would never have articulated that belief, but it seemed to be deeply rooted.

    This attitude manifested itself in many ways. One of the clearest ways was among the children of church members. They would rarely, if ever, be allowed or encouraged to play with the unsaved children in the neighbourhood. I knew a man who was an “urban missionary” whose children were confined to their backyard and were never, ever allowed to play with the other children in the area. My father used to joke that a man could become rich by selling fencing supplies to people in these churches. The churched children were not allowed to play with other children lest they become corrupted by their worldliness.

    My observation was that this approach failed badly. First, the church was not faithful to its calling to take the gospel throughout the world (and the world begins just outside the front door). Second, the children developed a fascination with worldliness simply because any access to the world had been denied to them and they had never seen the pain and heartbreak that are the inevitable result of forsaking God. The world looks awfully attractive until a person sees the results of giving himself over to it. Third, the parents ignored worldliness in their own children. I know that I saw more drugs, more drinking, more disrespect and more awful behavior in the Christian schools I attended than I did in the public schools. This isolation simply did not work.

    The attitude that was modeled to me was far different. My family took the opposite approach and we were always encouraged to make friends with the children in the neighbourhoods we lived in. My parents saw this as a stepping-stone to meeting the parents and having opportunity to share the gospel with them. And we saw many children and parents come to faith in this way. Many others may not have become believers, but they received a clear presentation of the gospel so that they are now without excuse. Mom and dad did not do this because they regarded the folks in the neighbourhood as a project, but out of a genuine love, concern and appreciation for these people. The person next door was not an enemy, but a person who was as unsaved as they were not too many years before, and was thus someone in desperate need of a Savior. And they intended to give everyone the opportunity to meet the Savior through them.

    Sometimes worlds clashed. There were a couple of times when my sisters brought friends to church, friends who were unsaved but were showing interest in the gospel, only to have them mocked or scorned. One little girl was scolded and had her ear “flicked” by the woman in the pew behind her because she was not able to sit still throughout the service. A friend my sister brought to church was openly mocked by the children in the church (children who later had a surprise “encounter” with myself behind the church, but I digress) because he had dyed-blond hair and an earing. He never returned, and as far as I know, never expressed any openness to the gospel after that time.

    I truly believe, after many years of reflection, that the real problem in these churches was in their attitude towards the unbeliever. The person next door was the enemy, a person to be feared for what he might do to the family, and the children in particular, and thus someone to be regarded with distrust and suspicion rather than with love.

    Sometimes I think it is little wonder that the Emerging Church crowd rebels against evangelism metaphors that make the unbeliever sound like an enemy. Perhaps these metaphors do cause us to regard unbelievers as a rebel army that we need to fear. It occurs to me that when we sing “Onward Christian Soliders” we are not singing a battlecry that will lead us out to battle against the unbeliever next door. No, we are not waging war “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

    The real enemy is not next door. He is not human flesh and blood. The real enemy has been given temporary rule over this world and seeks to destroy us by leading us to rebel against the Creator. And he extends his rule when he convinces us that rather than battling against him, we battle against the enemy next door.

    September 28, 2005
    Wednesday September 28, 2005
  • Politics: Michaelle Jean became Canada’s Governor-General yesterday. Many decry this as a purely politically-correct move by the Prime Minister, as Jean is a black, female Hatian immigrant - a bit of a strange choice to be representative of Canadians.
  • Wishlist: Here is a gift for the hiker or camper in your life. The Outdoor Bible (NASB) is a tear-resistant, waterproof Bible. It is quite a neat little innovation!
  • Du Jour: Dan Edelen wraps up his controversial series on The Myths of Homeschooling. I’ve long-since learned that taking on home schooling parents can be a daunting task!
  • Media: The Times would have us believe that belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. Peter Glover comments.
  • September 27, 2005

    You all remember, I’m sure, the story of Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols. Nichols, of course, is the man who overpowered a deputy escorting him to a rape trial, assaulted her and then killed a judge, court reporter, and a deputy in and outside the Fulton County courthouse. Later that night he fatally shot a federal agent at his home in Buckhead. Nichols took Smith hostage in her home before surrendering to authorities. Smith later told reporters how she had read Nicholas chapters from The Purpose Driven Life and she became an instant Christian celebrity. She quickly cashed in with a book and movie deal. She is also on the speaking circuit.

    Smith’s book will be released next week and will disclose that during the ordeal she gave him more than purpose. She also gave him methamphetamines. He initially asked her for marijuana, but since she was out of that drug, she supplied him with another. You can read more here. “Smith, who has been in a mental hospital and has flunked out of drug rehabilitation programs, says the seven-hour hostage ordeal led her to stop using drugs. She says she has not touched drugs since the night before she was taken hostage.”

    It seems to me that there was likely some spin on this story right from the beginning, ignoring the bad (that she provided him drugs and may even have known him previously) and focusing instead on her supposed heroism in reading him The Purpose Driven Life. What a mess!

    In related news, Nichols, has converted to Islam while in prison.

    September 27, 2005

    Invitation to Solitude and SilenceThe subtitle to Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton is “Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence.” Had I been the editor, I might have suggested something a little more appropriate. Perhaps “A Textbook in Eisogesis” or “Constructing Complex Theology From Non-Supporting Scriptures.” And really this book is an adventure in poor use of Scripture and unsupported statements.

    Let me say from the beginning that I believe silence is important. I believe solitude is important. Both are important parts of a healthy spiritual walk. I also believe in the importance of meditation, albiet meditation in a Puritan sense rather than an Eastern sense of the word. While these are good and necessary parts of a healthy spirituality, they are also dangerous if misused, and particularly dangerous if used in ways not only unsupported, but forbidden by Scripture.