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March 2006

March 31, 2006

A few months ago I signed up for Bob Ross’ email updates. I don’t know much about the guy, but I believe it was Phil Johnson who recommended his writings. Phil wrote, “He’s a prolific writer of passionate commentary on just about everything, ranging from serious theological aberrations to little things that just get under his skin. He’s a kind of fundamentalist Andy Rooney.” But rather than complaining about the ingredients in Girl Guide cookies, Bob Ross complains about James White. A lot. He also complains about just about anything else under the banner of Calvinism. It gets old pretty quickly. Still, he seems like a nice enough guy and I think that he and I would see eye-to-eye on most matters.

Today he sent out a little missive mocking, once again, James White.

I got a chuckle from James White’s blog today where he says the following;

Da Vinci Debunked in Tabletalk

This month’s Tabletalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries focuses on preparing believers to handle the release of The Da Vinci Code film this month. In order as they appear, the first feature article is by R.C. Sproul, “The Da Vinci Conspiracy.” Then my article appears, titled, “The Fool’s Folly Uncovered.” Then R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s article “Historical Propaganda,” followed by Peter R. Jones’ work, “The Pagan Agenda of the Code.” If you don’t subscribe to Tabletalk, you may still want to pick up this issue, or better yet, subscribe!

What sort of “believer” needs to be “prepared” for a movie tale relating to a Roman Catholic painting by a 15th - 16th century Roman Catholic painter which supposedly has a significant “code” in it?

Give me a good ole “Charlie Chan” black-and-white movie mystery any day over this! Or even an old Don Adams’ “Get Smart” TV program — or better still, a Three Stooges “Horse Collars” or “Restless Knights” movie short. If we need to be “prepared” for comedy, then at least let’s have something worthwhile in the field of comedy!

“Tabletalk” is Presbyterian pedobaptist R. C. Sproul’s magazine, and I can think of several things more significant for “preparing” believers than this movie — such as, for instance, Dr. Sproul’s Hybrid Calvinism theory which fantasizes that one is “born again before faith.” Also, the pedobaptist idea that the infants born to pedobaptists are “regenerated” either before, at, or shortly after baptism.

I think those erroneous teachings are much more important to believers than their being “prepared” for the Da Vinci code movie. If believers need that kind of preparation about a fictional tale, it may be a result of their having been told that they were “regenerated” as babies or “before” they believed on Christ for salvation. — Bob L. Ross

I have to assume that his final sentence is really meant to be a lighthearted slap at paedobaptists. Bob somehow wanders from White to Sproul and then to strange beliefs about paedobaptism. I suppose he is Rooney-like in that way. Anyways, Ross’ article got me a little hot under the collar because I happen to believe that Christians ought to be prepared for the Da Vinci Code movie. Here is why:

First, many who attend evangelical churches are woefully poorly taught when it comes to matters dealing with the believer’s confidence in the Scriptures. The Da Vinci Code is a direct, frontal attack on this confidence. While the book will be found in the fiction section of a bookstore, many people are only too willing to believe that it is built around a solid core of truth that calls into question the very fundamentals of the faith. I have met people who believe it all, and unlike Bob, they do not feel that it is a comedy. The author, Dan Brown, has been anything but forthcoming with what he feels is truth and what is merely the product of his imagination. He clearly believes that much of what lies behind the fictional story is true. And so this movie, like the book, will undoubtedly cause a lot of Christians, and a lot of people who consider themselves Christian, to doubt the authenticity of the Scriptural account of Jesus and the intentions of those who worked to define and protect the canon of Scripture.

Second, this film will have a very wide reach. While the book has sold millions of copies, far more people will watch the film than have read the book. Dan Brown’s outright lies will be presented to tens of millions of people in a whole new format. Teenagers who may not have cared to read the book will swarm to the theatres to see what promises to be an exciting, fast-paced movie.

In short, the lies of this film, which are presented as truth to a gullible culture, will spread far and wide.

What does this mean? It means that Christians must be prepared. They must have confidence in their understanding of Scripture so that they are not left grasping and stuttering when challenged by their friends, family members or co-workers who have embraced the lies. They must have confidence in the Bible and confidence in the biblical account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. They must know that there is far more proof for the biblical account of Jesus’ life than for anything Dan Brown has imagined.

Also, Christians should be prepared to challenge their friends with facts and questions. “What do you think is fact and what is fiction?” “Is there any evidence that Jesus was never crucified?” “How do we know that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had an affair?” “Is it true that Jesus’ followers did not understand Him to be God?” Just as when The Passion of the Christ was released, Jesus’ name will be everywhere in conversation and his face will be on the news and in magazines. Christians will have the opportunity to talk about Him and to challenge others with what is true and what is false.

It seems to me, then, that a little bit of preparation would be very helpful as Christians prepare to deal with a film that seeks to undermine our faith.

March 31, 2006

Before we get frivolous, Jeff Fuller has asked that I pass along an April Fool’s tract he is promoting called “Don’t Be An April Fool.” You can download it here.

I am now firmly established in my new office, which I grow to enjoy more every day. At one point I had all the books on the shelves, but have since begun to try to put them in some semblance of order. Of course prior to order there must be chaos, so there are currently books piled all over the floor (to my wife’s great chagrin). I really have no idea how to organize a growing theological library, so am interested in hearing from those who have had to find ways of sorting and organizing largish personal libraries. I could use some tips!

To this point I have put all of my commentaries and reference books (New Testament introductions, etc) together on a few shelves and have put most of my antique books up high. I also have a shelf or two of church history and another that is a set of Spurgeon’s sermons. Beyond that I have been planning just to mix everything else together, sorting by the name of the author. But it seems to me that there must be a better way than organizing a library by Commentaries & Reference, Church History, Antique and then other. Does anyone have some advice to pass along? My library is not exceedingly large now, but it is rapidly heading that way and I’d like to get a handle on it now while I still can.

The finishing touch for my office is the wall decoration. My order of prints (courtesy of Reformation Art - the place to shop for that theological or church history geek in your life) showed up in the mail a few days ago and I am thrilled with them. I immediately ran off to Ikea and managed to find a set of frames that will do the trick (easier said than done since Ikea stocks European-sized frames and the prints came on American-sized paper. And of course, since this was Ikea, they only had six frames while I have seven prints). As soon as my wife and I can agree on whether or not it will look ridiculous to have the prints in a row along the wall (I say it will look fine, she says it will look silly) I will hang them up. Here are the prints I ordered. In keeping with the theme of Friday Frivolity, I have subtely added one that does not belong. Feel free to guess which one.


Martin Luther


John Knox


Hugh Latimer


Thomas Cranmer


William Tyndale


John Calvin


C.J. Mahaney


John Wycliffe

It looks like I have a fairly busy weekend coming up, though thankfully not nearly as busy as last weekend! Our house is nearly in order and another Saturday’s worth of work should go a long ways to setting things straight. Have a blessed weekend!

March 31, 2006

Friday March 31, 2006

Technology: Dennis Forbes has some interesting analysis of domain names. The long and short of this is that all the good names are long gone!

Technology Bonus: Fosfor Gadgets lists the top 10 weirdest keyboards of all-time. I want one of the laser keyboards!

Quote: Here is some April Fool’s wisdom from Solomon: “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’”

Du Jour: David Wayne has compiled some good links and commentary from around the blogosphere dealing with this ridiculous illegal immigration mess.

March 30, 2006

Every March I read Proverbs. I’m not sure how this tradition came about, but I always look forward to it. Over the past few days I have been finishing up the book, reading those meaty chapters near the end. I was struck by the constant, ongoing, application to my own life. I began to think of all the applications I could make towards blogging, both as a person who publishes a blog and as one who reads and participates in other blogs as a commenter. As I sat and pondered these things, I began to feel a since of deja vu, and it didn’t take me too long to realize that I had had these same thoughts last year. And, as I tend to do, I had written down many of them. It turns out that many of the verses I pulled out from this year’s reading were among the verses that had struck me last year. I love it when that happens!

So I am returning to this list of wisdom from Solomon, and adding to it what I have learned this past year. Here is the wisdom of Solomon as it might apply to something as simple as blogging.

Think before posting.

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him (29:20).” How many arguments would be avoided and how many relationships saved if people were only a little less hasty with their words? Before posting an article or before replying to one, it is always (always!) a good idea to re-read what you have written and consider if your words accurately express your feelings and if expressing such feelings is necessary and edifying. Remember also that online communication, because it is not face-to-face, and the recipient cannot see facial expression and bodily expression, can often cause confusion. Sarcasm is often lost and adding a little emoticon smiley face does not necessarily mean that a person will understand your intent. And while I’m on the topic, a spell-check doesn’t hurt either.

Avoid the foolish.

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself (26:4).” There are times when it is best to leave a foolish person to his own devices rather than to try to change him. Sometimes it is best just to leave him alone rather than providing him more ammunition to work with. There are some bloggers and some commenters that are simply not worth responding to. When you tangle with them, you are more likely to fall into foolishness than they are to grow in wisdom.

Help the foolish.

“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes (26:5).” Here it is - undeniable proof that the Bible contradicts itself! Are we to answer a fool according to his folly or not? Evidently this “contradiction” is deliberate and is in the Bible to show that there is no absolute law in this situation. There are times when folly must be exposed, either if the fool is one you believe is honestly seeking after wisdom, or if his folly will damage others. If a fool is impacting others, drawing them into his foolishness, he must be exposed for the sake of the church’s health. It takes wisdom and discernment (and sometimes outside counsel) to know when a person is one with whom you should communicate or one you should leave to his own devices.

Know when to walk away.

“If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet (29:9).” There are times when you need to walk away instead of carrying on an argument. Foolish people have no real desire to learn or to be wise. Instead, they only seek opportunities to loudly proclaim the folly. Walk away so you can have peace. It is not worth having to deal with a prescription for high blood pressure based on ongoing arguments with a complete fool.

Watch what you read.

“Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool (26:8).” Be careful whose words you read and whose wisdom you trust. Foolish men may seem wise, but they will still lead others astray. If you give honor to a foolish man by reading and heeding his words, you are as foolish as a person who binds his stone in a sling, rendering the sling useless and leaving himself defenseless. If you are uncertain about whether a particular site is worth reading on an ongoing basis, it may be worth seeking the counsel of another Christian or two.

Be humble.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips (27:2).” “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor (29:23).” Let others praise you. If you never receive praise from anyone, especially from those who are wise, it may be a good time to examine your heart and examine if you are walking in the ways of wisdom. Those who are humble and lowly in spirit will receive honor while the arrogant will be brought low. If you are a blogger, this may mean re-examining the list of endorsements and words of praise you’ve posted on the main page of your site.

Avoid the arrogant.

“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him (26:12).” Just as we must be humble, we should be careful not to be too close to those who are foolishly arrogant. There is more hope for a fool than a man who is both foolish and arrogant. Seek to learn from people who display a wise and humble heart.

Mind your own business.

“Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears (26:17).” If you have ever grabbed a dog by the ears you know it will inevitably bring trouble. Grabbing a strange dog by the ears will bring even more trouble. Stay out of other people’s fights rather than wading into them as if they are your own. Avoid quarrels that are not your business and will only expose you to trouble and to foolishness. After all, it is the prudent who “sees danger and hides himself, but the simple [who] go on and suffer for it” (27:12).

Don’t be a troublemaker.

“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling (26:27).” Those who exist only to bring trouble to others will pay a price. And unfortunately, on the Internet there are many of these people. Don’t be one! Seek to edify others and to bring glory to God, whether you publish a blog of your own or whether you prefer to comment on other peoples’ sites.

Examine why you write.

“A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike (27:14).” The proverb speaks of a quarrelsome wife, but it could as easily apply to anyone. If you are writing merely to be quarrelsome or because you enjoy an argument, perhaps it is best to find something else to do. There is already enough negativity in the world and on the Internet. If you find yourself continually depressed by what you write, it may be best to find a more uplifting hobby. “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” Just as bad news can push a person down, so joyful words can uplift.

Be careful what you teach.

“Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit, and the blameless will have a godly inheritance (28:10).” Those who choose to teach others accept a grave responsibility, for if they mislead others, they must expect that there will be consequences. So be careful that what you write and what you teach is in accordance with Scripture. Continaully pray for God’s wisdom.

Be a friend.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (27:6). When a person you know and trust expresses something that goes against Scripture, humbly but firmly correct that person. Do so in a spirit of love, peace and patience.

Meditate upon what you write.

“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man” (27:19). It is a good practice to review what you write on a weekly or monthly basis. What you write is likely an accurate reflection of your heart. If your words are filled with anger and bitterness, the same may be true of your heart. If your words are seasoned, measured and joyful, so is your heart.

Walk with the Lord.

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (28:26).” And here is the key to everything else. Trust in the Lord rather than in yourself. Walk with the Lord and in the ways of wisdom taught in the pages of the Bible. Be a wise man or woman of the Word, rather than a fool who trusts in his own wisdom (or lack thereof).

March 30, 2006

Thursday March 30, 2006

Humor: The Museum of Hoaxes counts down the top 100 April Fool’s Day hoaxes of all time. A personal favorite is Burger King’s left-handed whopper.

Warren: Saddleback Church recently celebrated it’s 20,000 baptism. This is quite an accomplishment, but as many have pointed out, the requirements for baptism are so minimal at Saddleback that baptism has lost a lot of its meaning and importance.

Marriage: The Girl Talk girls discuss disappointed hope: “the grief that comes from the ending of a relationship, particularly when a woman believed it would end in marriage.”

Games: Kim Riddelbarger has dug up another good one: Your Best Life Now, the board game. You betcha. You will soon be able to buy a game based on the bestseller. “The game will make a difference in the lives of people that play it,” says the press release. I bet.

March 29, 2006

The Bully of BentonvilleWal-Mart is the largest company in the world. It brings in revenues in excess of $280 billion, employs almost one and half million American workers, and controls a large share of the business done by almost every U.S. consumer-product company. More than 138 million shoppers stroll through its 5,300 stores each week. With a company so powerful and so immense, it is easy to find much to complain about. And really, grumbling about Wal-Mart has become popular—chic even.

The Bully of Bentonville is one in an increasingly long line of books, documentaries and articles detailing “how the high cost of Wal-Mart’s everyday low prices is hurting America.” It is written by Anthony Bianco, a senior writer at BusinessWeek who in 2003 coauthored an acclaimed cover story dealing with Wal-Mart.

To be honest, there is much about Wal-Mart that can and should concern us. Among the statistics Bianco wants American to know are:

March 29, 2006

Wednesday March 29, 2006

Video: Some enterprising soul put a video camera near a bald eagle’s nest on Hornby Island, near Vancouver, British Columbia. You can watch it here. The video is very good quality, though there isn’t a whole lot going on!

Book: It seems that Girl Talk, written by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre, is available in full online. It is a book that is well worth reading for mothers and daughters.

Culture: Al Mohler refers to an article in New York Magazine that asks “Why do so many adults want to look like kids?” Mohler says, “The issue of dress isn’t what’s most important — it’s the fact that adulthood is disappearing as a recognizable mark of maturity and responsibility.” Forty is the new twenty, as they say.

Emergent: For those who followed the whole ugly saga, Mark Driscoll has issued a public apology to Doug Pagitt and Brian McLaren.

March 28, 2006

At the Together for the Gospel blog, C.J. Mahaney has challenged the other contributors (Mark Dever, Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan) with two questions. “What is the gospel? What is the most serious threat to the gospel in the evangelical church today?” I thought it would be a good challenge for me to think about this and attempt answers as well. But before I do so, I’d suggest we back up just a little bit and define evangelical before we define gospel and discuss the most serious threat it faces today.

Evangelical

We will begin with a brief examination of the word evangelical.

The word evangelical used to describe a well-defined theological position. What made evangelicals distinct was their commitment to the authority of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ. Now “evangelicalism” is a political movement, and its representatives hold a wide variety of theological beliefs�from Neuhaus’s Roman Catholicism to Jakes’s heretical Sabellianism, to Joyce Meyer’s radical charismaticism, to Brian McLaren’s anti-scriptural postmodernism.

So says Phil Johnson. And he is right. Evangelical has a historic meaning, but one that has largely been lost. The word has become so inclusive that it has really lost all meaning. “These days it means everything” says Phil, “and it therefore means nothing.”

So what is the historical significance of the word? An evangelical used to be a person who stood firm on two key convictions: the authority of Scripture and the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. These correspond to the doctrines of sola scriptura, which was considered the formal principle of the Reformation, and sola fide, the material principle of the Reformation. Yet today most professed Christians would barely be even to articulate such simple, fundamental doctrines.

So what happened? The following is adapted from notes I took on a seminar led by Phil Johnson at the 2006 Shepherd’s Conference:

An evangelical is no longer a person defined by theology but by experience or church membership. Evangelical has been stripped of doctrinal content. Mainstream evangelicals have been assaulted by movements that seem to be motivated by removing the doctrinal distinctives: The lack of theology in the Church Growth Movement, the anti-intellectualism of the Charismatic movement; the neo-ecumenism in Promise Keepers and other movements, the new understanding of justification in the New Perspective on Paul, the denial of propositional truth in the Emerging Church, and so on. These have all worked to the detriment of evangelicalism. So now, evangelicalism which was once a movement defined by doctrine, understands doctrine to be divisive and of secondary importance. The obvious casualty in all of this is the gospel. Catholics and Protestants have long agreed that the heart of the debate is the gospel, but now people would have us believe otherwise.

When we discuss the serious threat facing churches today, I intend to focus only on evangelical churches that would qualify under the historical meaning of the word.

Gospel

When we talk about the gospel, we tend to think of a particular message - a presentation aimed at convincing people to “accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.” But in the ministry of the Apostle Paul, we can see that he used the word with a wider meaning. John MacArthur explains (in Ashamed of the Gospel):

The gospel—in the sense Paul and the apostles employed the word—includes all the revealed truth about Christ (cf Rom. 1:1-6; 1 Cor. 15:3-11). It does not stop at the point of conversion and justification by faith, but embraces every other aspect of salvation, from sanctification to glorification. The gospel’s significance therefore does not end the moment the new birth occurs; it applies to the entire Christian experience. And when Paul and the other New Testament writers spoke of “preaching the gospel,” they were not talking about preaching only to unbelievers (cf v.15).

The gospel, then, is a message that draws us to God, but which we continue to need and to love throughout the Christian life. So let us define the gospel calling.

I am particularly drawn to William Tyndale’s definition of gospel: “Evangelion (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy… [This gospel is] all of Christ the right David, how that he hath fought with sin, with death, and the devil, and overcome them: whereby all men that were in bondage to sin, wounded with death, overcome of the devil are without their own merits or deservings loosed, justified, restored to life and saved, brought to liberty and reconciled unto the favor of God and set at one with him again: which tidings as many as believe laud, praise and thank God, are glad, sing and dance for joy.”

This good news made Tyndale so exceedingly glad that he could and would not reject it, even at the cost of his life. He was strangled and burned at the stake for his desire to bring this news to all men through the translation of the Scriptures.

Tyndale, like many others before and after, understands the gospel call or message as being comprised of three essential components:

  • The bad news - The good news is only good when we understand the bad news. The bad news is that all men have sinned against God. All men were in bondage to sin and overcome by the devil. They are without merit and deserve nothing good.

  • The penalty - The wages of sin are death. Those who transgress against God are condemned. Because we have all sinned against God, we are all living in a state of condemnation and are wounded with death.

  • The Savior - Jesus Christ died to pay the just penalty for our sin. Having fought with sin, death and Satan, and having overcome them, He offers restoration of life, reconciliation with God and full justification.

This is the message. Of course, for it to be effective in a person’s life, he or she must respond to it in repentance and faith, for this message requires a personal response. With the response comes the rewards - the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

A very good and reasonably short document about the gospel is The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration.

The Threat

As I pondered the most serious threat the church faces, I was immediately struck by the word apathy which I quickly jotted down on a little sticky note. Not too long after that, I added discernment. I think these two words do a apt job of summarizing what I feel threatens the church. And I think they go arm-in-arm.

In our day churches are filled with people who simply do not care about the purity of the church. There are countless numbers of professed Christians who care nothing for any type of theological precision or defining characteristics of the faith. There is a shocking apathy among those who profess Christ. Coupled with this apathy is a terrible lack of discernment and a lack of appreciation for those who value and display discernment. Too often evangelicals seem not to know how to discern truth from error, and just as often do not seem to care. Apathy and a lack of discernment together make a potent force that forms a serious threat to the church—perhaps the most serious threat we face today.

So many other threats—the pernicious new doctrines that arise, the loss of confidence in the Bible, the rise of teachers and leaders who deny fundamental doctrines—these would be swept away if evangelicals simply stopped being so apathetic and displayed some godly, biblical discernment.