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Tim Challies

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November 2007

November 27, 2007

Last Monday I announced that anyone who pre-ordered my book over the next week would be eligible to win a $100 gift certificate to Westminster Books or, as a consolation prize, a copy of the Literary Study Bible. Thanks to all of you who took the opportunity to buy the book. I ran the numbers and randomly selected the winners. And here they are. The first place prize goes to Ryan Higginbottom and the Bible goes to Debora Todd. Congratulations to the two of you. As for everyone else, well, at least you got a book out of the deal!

For anyone who has not yet ordered the book, you can do so right here.

November 27, 2007
Tuesday November 27, 2007 SBC Building Bridges Conference
The SBC is currently having the Building Bridges conference. Plenty of bloggers are providing updates. If you’re interested, you may want to check in with Timmy Brister’s site as he is a good source for SBC news.
Anti-Religious Bigotry on Display
Justin Taylor writes about anti-religious bigotry that is on display in the mainstream media.
Gay and Homosexual
Stand to Reason makes the distinction between homosexual and gay. It is a good distinction to keep in mind. “While all gay people are also homosexual, not all homosexuals are gay.”
Interview with Theologian R. Scott Clark
Dan Cruver features an interview with Scott Clark on the subject of adoption.
November 26, 2007

The Banner of Truth web site features a host of useful articles (1302 at last count). One that I’ve found worth reading and bookmarking is entitled simply “Apostasy.” In the article the author, David Samuel, makes a distinction between two terms that many people mistakenly use synonymously – apostasy and heresy. Apostasy he defines as a rejection of truth that a person once believed. Hence I would be apostate if I were to suddenly reject the doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine I now hold dearly. Heresy, one the other hand, is the addition of foreign doctrines. Thus I would be heretical if I added the worship of some foreign deity to my beliefs.

The first apostasy was when man rejected God. Having once held that God was perfectly trustworthy, man rejected Him and attempted to thrust himself into God’s role. In so doing he dragged himself and the rest of Creation into this state of horrible sin. This first apostasy is the source of all further apostasy. We do not need to look much further into history to find the first heresies and, in fact, much of the Old Testament is a history of early heresies.

The author then turns to the Church of Rome to show an example of a church that is both apostate and heretical, for she has both rejected doctrines she once believed and has added unbiblical beliefs to them. He calls Catholicism “wickedness under a form of godliness cunningly managed” and with Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones and many other eminent Protestant theologians, considers Catholicism Satan’s masterpiece. Catholicism seeks to undermine Christianity not with an obvious frontal assault, but with careful, deliberate and veiled attacks. Francis Turrentin wrote:

“Christ wills that sola Scriptura, inspired by God be received by us as the perfect rule of faith and morals. The Pope denies Scripture alone is an adequate rule of faith, unwritten traditions must be attached. These traditions, together with Scripture, are to be equally adopted and venerated. They are to be held alike as the means of influencing godliness.

“Christ wishes His Word to be believed on its own, because it does not take its authority from man. In our estimation, the Pope wishes the authority of the Word to be derived from his Church. Christ wishes no supreme judge to be acknowledged in ruling on controversies other than God speaking through Scripture. The Pope sacrilegiously claims this prerogative for himself.

“Furthermore, Christ teaches that He alone is the Mediator, appointed by the Father, who alone is the way, the truth and the life, without whom no man can Conic to the Father. Yet the Pope forces innumerable mediators upon us. Mediators who, he says, are to reveal the way to heaven for us. Also, Christ testifies that there is no other sacrifice apart from His own; no other satisfaction by which we may obtain remission of sins and the reward of salvation. But the Pope insists on human punishments and satisfactions, while demanding a new propitiatory sacrifice called the Mass.

“Though Christ established that men are to be saved by grace through faith alone. the Pope includes works as well. Whereas Christ institutes only two sacraments, the Pope decrees seven. Christ ordains that no one but God be the object of cult and adoration, yet the Pope worships creatures as well. Christ declared Himself the sole Head and Groom of the Church, but the Pope grants this to himself as well. Christ subjects Himself to the magistrates, ordering His servants to be likewise subject. Nevertheless, the Pope subjects the magistrates, rulers and emperors to himself.

“Can it truly be said that those who teach such doctrines and defend such dogmas keep the faith of Christ? Or are they not adjudged guilty by the deserts of defection and the fact of apostasy?

Doctrine after crucial doctrine is discarded in the Roman system, only to be replaced with something that is more appealling to man’s sinful nature. Words are changed, meanings slightly altered, so that what is false seems so very close to the truth.

All this leads to the author’s assessment of the evangelical churches. “The Protestant Churches, having largely abandoned the biblical doctrines of the Reformation, which were their raison d’être, are capitulating to the leadership of the papacy and to Roman Catholic doctrine. There are, indeed, other ways that men and Churches may apostatize from the faith - into liberalism, for example, or other faiths - but Rome remains the great threat to the Protestant churches, Satan’s great masterpiece, his counterfeit Christianity by which he deceives the nations.”

With many other Christians, I have often mourned the fact that the contemporary church has so little identity with its Reformation roots. Each year Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and Independence Day, days that hearken back to their roots as a nation. They celebrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day which also look to the great victories of the past. All nations celebrate similar days – here in Canada we celebrate the anniversary of our confederation on Canada Day, remembering each year the events of the past. Yet Christians have little identity with the Reformation, the event which gave birth to the church as we know it. Along with the loss of the historical view has come the loss of the historical doctrines. The beliefs that gave birth to Protestantism are rarely articulated or taught to evangelicals. Is it any wonder, then, that many churches have capitulated “to the leadership of the papacy and to Roman Catholic doctrine?” And many who have not capitulated have developed apathy towards, a respect of, or even an envy of Catholic doctrine.

A few paragraphs later, in a discussion of the causes of idolatry (which he identifies as: enmity against God in spiritual matters, spiritual darkness and ignorance), the author writes about the critical difference between dialogue and controversy.

I think this explains the ease with which many in recent years have been able to enter into dialogue with Roman Catholics and even Muslims and Hindus. It demands a certain detachment from the truth to be able to do that. You are obliged to put a question mark over it, otherwise you are not genuinely engaging in dialogue, which means, at least in principle, you are prepared to change and qualify your beliefs. I think we must be very careful to distinguish between dialogue and controversy. Dialogue carries with it implicitly this assumption, that you will be prepared to modify and change your position, in the light of the debate, if it so requires you. But controversy, in which all the Reformers engaged, is quite a different thing. You start from what you know and believe to be the truth, and your object is to expose the error and confusion of the opponent’s position and, if possible, persuade him of the truth. It was dialogue in which Satan engaged Eve in the garden. She would have been safe if she had insisted on controversy. When men have not a fervent love of the truth and no sense of abhorrence of error they are in the anteroom of apostasy. It is said that the apostle John fled from the public baths, where Cerinthus the heretic appeared, lest they should fall on him. Today some evangelicals would be glad to stay and engage in friendly dialogue.

He is correct that dialogue carries with it the assumption that there is a question mark hovering over my beliefs. It is very postmodern, in that I acknowledge that though I believe what I believe quite strongly, it might just be all wrong. Those who dialogue enter into their dialogue with that attitude and it is no wonder that they are often persuaded that they are indeed wrong. As Christians we have no need, no right, to dialogue about our faith. We are not on equal footing with others when it comes to the fundamental doctrines.

Perhaps the most important part of the article is the author’s wisdom, culled from John Owens, about how we can avoid apostasy. He lays out several important steps:

  1. A preeminent concern with God’s glory. Meditating upon God’s glory and the current state of the church may well lead us to mourn for all we have lost.
  2. Continual prayer. We are to continually pray for the restoration of the primacy of proper doctrine in the church.
  3. Constant testimony. An open and avowed profession of, and contending for the faith and the truth of the Gospel.
  4. Keep careful watch over your heart. We must remember that our hearts are deceitful and wicked and will seek to lead us from the inerrant and holy word of God.
  5. Beware of the world. We must be careful not to allow the customs and habits of the time to indiscriminately infiltrate the church.

The article, then, provides a brief overview of apostasy and provides the most prevalent example of apostasy in the Roman Catholic Church. But best of all, it instructs us how we can guard ourselves against falling into such error. You may like to read the article yourself. If so, you can find it here: Apostasy.

More on this subject tomorrow.

November 26, 2007
Monday November 26, 2007 Last Chance to Buy and Win
Today marks the last day you can buy my book and qualify to win a $100 gift certificate. Click for more information.
The Decline of African American Theology
Thabiti Anyabwile’s new book is now available from the publisher. It shouldn’t be long before it hits Amazon and other resellers. I hope to have a review soon…
Prophet Sharing?
Russell Moore points to an interesting article by Peggy Noonan in which she “pleads with the American populace to get over the religion question” when it comes to Presidential candidates.
Man Who Grew Roots
Surely this can’t be true! And yet it’s all over the news…
November 25, 2007

King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers…or sometimes just because I really like them. It is a way of introducing my readers to blogs that they may also find interesting and edifying. Every two weeks (or so. That is theoretical. Practically, I don’t get around to updating as often as I should and we’ve been know to have kings for a month or two!) I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my right sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making the readers of this blog aware of other good sites.

This week’s King for a Week is Stand to Reason, a blog associated with (obviously) Stand to Reason. This organization was founded by Greg Koukl and Melinda Penner in 1993 to “equip Christian ambassadors with knowledge, wisdom, and character.” It “trains Christians to think more clearly about their faith and to make an even-handed, incisive, yet gracious defense for classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square.” The blog, which was started earlier this year, furthers this goal with regular updates dealing with a variety of subjects, most of which have to do with apologetics and worldview. Though the site tends to be pretty American-centric (perhaps a bit too much for this Canadian’s liking!) it is still a good source of information and of thought-provoking content. It’s a good one to add to your RSS reader or to your list of daily stops.

In the coming days (and/or weeks) you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over to look around.

November 24, 2007

Escape by Carolyn JessopEscape is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre memoirs you are ever likely to read. It is small wonder that it quickly made its mark on the New York Times list of bestsellers. Written by Carolyn Jessop, a woman who was born into the Fundamentalist Lattery Day Saints (FLDS), the book describes what it is like to live as part of this cult which is distinctive primarily for its beliefs about polygamy. The FLDS, which emerged in the 1930s as a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon church, holds that God has ordained polygamy and not only that, but that it is a requirement for anyone who wishes to attain the highest level of heaven. Most men eventually have at least three wives, with more prominent members of the cult holding far more than that. Some of the leaders are believed to have fifty, sixty, or even one hundred wives. Women are generally placed with husbands at the whim of the cult’s leader (who claims to receive divine guidance about which women belong with certain men).

November 23, 2007

Every now and again I get concerned that people are going to think this blog is getting too commercialized—that I keep trying to sell you things. I’m not into blogging for that. But sometimes it’s fun to talk about things like this, so bear with me. Today I’m going to talk about Christmas music and offer up some suggestions.

A few of my favorite blogs have been offering Christmas music suggestions. I don’t think lists of favorites get much more eclectic than those for Christmas music. After all, there are so many available that people can search far and wide and far across genres to make their picks. David’s picks range from The Master’s College Choral to Nat King Cole. Zach’s picks are surprisingly mainstream for Zach (and include, to my great surprise, selections by both Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant). He also goes with Harry Connick Jr., Charlie Brown, and Kevin Max.

I am not a big fan of Sufjan Stevens and his rather weird music, but I do think his Christmas set Songs for Christmas (42 songs across 5 EPs) is an amazing set and one you probably haven’t heard before. He sings plenty of the traditional songs interspersed with some of his own. Songs like “I Saw Three Ships” (disc 2), “Once in David’s Royal City” (disc 2) and “The Friendly Beasts” (disc 3) are done very, very well. With five albums recorded over five years, there is something for everyone on these CDs. I love ‘em! The set comes with “a 42-page booklet with an original Christmas essay by acclaimed American novelist Ricky Moody, two essays, a short story by Stevens, a holiday sticker, chord charts, lyrics, comic strip, family portrait poster, photos, and an animated video.”

Christmas Songs is the latest album by Jars of Clay and one that showed up just in time for Christmas. The guys, who are among the most talented musicians in all of Christian music, provide fourteen songs, some of which are classics and some of which are originals.

Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man was released last year by Sovereign Grace Ministries. You’ve probably seen ads for it running on this site. It offers twelve original songs by Bob Kauflin, Mark Altrogge, and the other Sovereign Grace musicians.

City on a Hill: It’s Christmas is an entry in the City on a Hill series and one that brings some Christmas favorites and a few originals by bands like Caedmon’s Call, Jars Of Clay, Third Day and Sixpence None The Richer.

If you’re in the mood for some lighter fare, Relient K’s Let it Snow Baby, Let it Reindeer is kind of fun. It has seventeen songs, some of which are the typical holiday favorites and some of which are Matt Theissen’s typical Relient K tunes. At the very least, it’s a fun album to listen to! If you bought 2003’s Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand you’ve already got half the songs. If you like that, you may also enjoy the Gloria EP by Hawk Nelson.

Of course it’s not Christmas if you don’t listen to at least one Trans-Siberian Orchestra album at least once. I’m kind of partial towards The Lost Christmas Eve. And you’ll need to listen to Handel’s Messiah at least one time as well. Better yet, read it and keep a Bible handy as you do so.

Those are my picks. What are your favorite Christmas albums?

November 23, 2007

I am not usually a big bargain hunter, but since we’re going to be down in Georgia for Christmas this year, I’ve been keeping an eye out for good deals at American-based e-commerce stores. After all, if we’ll be in the U.S. for Christmas, it means I can buy things online, have them shipped to my parents, and enjoy the deals that can be found online (deals that quickly become anything but when having to pay international shipping rates and duties).

Here are a few “Black Friday” deals I’ve found that may interest you.

Amazon is having a Black Friday sale and is offering a few good deals. To be honest, it is a little bit disappointing, but if you root around you can find a few really good deals. Some of them are available in limited quantities so you have to be fast. There are whole sections of books and software titles that are on sale.

Monergism Books is having a Thanksgiving Day sale and is offering quite a few good deals. The complete Calvin Commentary set for $169 seems particularly good to me but there are lots of other specials worth looking at as well.

Lifeway has a few deals including The Nativity Story DVD for $10, The End of the Spear for $5 and Tony Dungy’s biography for $13.49. There are also some good CD deals to be had for about $5. Some of these deals run only for a couple of hours so check soon if you’re interested.

Family Christian is having an “After Thanksgiving” sale. Though it’s dominated by ChurchMerch and garbage, there are a few notable items, including the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, a couple of audio Bibles, and some decent albums.

Christa Taylor is offering 20% off on everything in her catalog from today until the 26th.

If you come across any other deals on items that may be of interest to Christians, feel free to post a link in the comments section. As always, shop and read with discernment! There is far more bad than good at many of these places…