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November 2007

November 30, 2007

There are a couple of things I wanted to post before we head into the weekend…

Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!

FoxNews is reporting that “Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear ‘Muhammad.’” In response to the riots and the obvious danger, authorities was moved from a prison for women to a secret location where they expect she will be safer. “The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gibbons, who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.” Whether or not she can avoid the still-more-serious punishment of being slaughtered by angry and senseless radicals remains to be seen.

As I read the story, I couldn’t help but think of Acts 19 where Paul preached the gospel in Ephesus. Fearing that the success of the gospel would destroy the business of the men who crafted images of Artemis, a man named Demetrius rallied the crowds and began a riot. For two hours they yelled “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Stop and imagine that for a minute. For two hours they filled the city with the senseless, stupid cries of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

For two hours. Luke did not miss the humor in it. “Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

Sound familiar?

Al Mohler and Tom Brokaw

Dr. Mohler just posted this at his blog:

I am scheduled to appear on tonight’s edition of NBC’s Nightly News to discuss younger evangelicals and the Emerging Church movement. I discussed these issues with NBC’s Tom Brokaw earlier this week, and I was very encouraged by the quality of the discussion and by Mr. Brokaw’s interest in the story and knowledge of the background. It will be interesting to see how the segment comes together. The segment is scheduled for tonight’s edition of Nightly News. Check television schedules for your area.

I always enjoy watching Dr. Mohler’s media appearances and will definitely be trying to tune into this one (sometimes easier said than done since Canadian channels don’t often carry American news).

November 30, 2007

Over at “Cowboyology,” Clint Humphreys has posted an interesting take on the Baptist wing of the Reformed Renewal we’re experiencing today. A former Professor of New Testament at Toronto Baptist Seminary, Clint now pastors Calvary Grace Church in Calgary, Alberta. Looking at the landscape of Reformed Baptists, he identifies five streams and suggests that most contemporary Reformed Baptists will fit into one of them. They are:

  1. The Neo-Evangelical Stream.
    Leading Example: John Piper
    Characteristics: Calvinistic convictions arrived at from within the broad mainstream Neo-evangelical ethos.

  2. The Dispensational Stream.
    Leading Example: John Macarthur
    Characteristics: Calvinistic conclusions arrived at out of the generally ‘3-4 point Calvinist’ circles of ‘Dallas’ dispensationalism.

  3. The Fundamentalist Stream.
    Leading Example: Spiritual heirs of TT Shields
    Characteristics: Distinguished from other Fundamentalists by Calvinism and at times non-Premillenial eschatology. Yet still Fundamental in ethos and association (cf. Paisley in N. Ireland, Bob Jones University, etc.)

  4. The Reformed Baptist Stream.
    Leading Example: Al Martin, Tom Ascol
    Characteristics: Often connected with Presbyterians, possessing the same view of the Law’s implication for Christian living, particularly in the form of Sabbatarianism, and 10 commandments as normative for Christians.

  5. The New Covenant Reformed Baptist Stream.
    Leading Example: John Reisinger
    Characteristics: Derived from the Reformed Baptist stream, but broke away from those circles over disagreement about Sabbatarianism and the relation of the Law to the Christian. Tended to emphasize a more Christocentric view of the Law (i.e. Law is fulfilled in Christ entirely, therefore the idea of Sunday as equivalent to a Jewish Sabbath is incorrect). Can draw from Progressive Dispensational circles as well as other eschatological perspectives.

To this list I would add one more:

The Actually Presbyterian Stream. These are people who are Presbyterian by conviction but who have not been able to find a God-honoring Presbyterian church in which to plant themselves. Instead, they joyfully attend Reformed Baptist churches, even while harboring hopes of someday being able to get their children baptized “properly.” John Piper’s church saw some much-publicized controversy about this group of people and many Reformed Baptist churches have plenty of closet Presbyterians attending (even if not as members). I’ll grant that this stream does not represent Reformed Baptist convictions, but it does represent a significant number of Christians within these churches.

Clint admits “There is often overlap between these different streams, and many Calvinistic Baptists would not be associated with any of them in a formal way. However the influence of the various teachers in these streams has had a significant impact within the broader Reformed Renewal of the 20th and early 21st century.”

I’d be interested in your feedback on these. Do you feel these are legitimate categories? Are there any missing? Which do you feel apply to you (if you are Reformed and Baptist)?

The comments section at Clint’s site is well worth perusing as there is some interesting discussion to be found there.

November 30, 2007
Friday November 30, 2007 Taylor’s Death a Grim Reminder
Sports writer Jason Whitlock has an interesting (and perhaps courageous) article reflecting on the death of NFL player Sean Taylor.
Does a Computer Belong in a Crib?
Dr. Mohler says “There is something downright creepy about the thought of a toddler or preschooler who feels more at home in front of the computer screen than on the playground.”
15 Brilliantly-Timed Sports Photos
The title says it all.
November 29, 2007

Today we continue reading the classics together by turning to the second chapter of John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation. If you’d like to know more about this project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. The opening portion of the book, which we will complete next week, is based upon an exposition of Romans 8:13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Owen came to three conclusions: The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin; The mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that is may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh, is the constant duty of believers; The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh. Last week was encouragement on the necessity of putting sin to death. This week we move to this portion of the exposition: “The Holy Spirit is the great sovereign cause of the mortification of indwelling sin.”

Summary

The Holy Spirit is the great sovereign cause of the mortification of indwelling sin

  1. Other remedies are sought in vain
  2. Why mortification is the work of the Spirit
    1. The Spirit is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work
    2. All mortification is from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ
  3. How the Spirit mortifies sin
    1. By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh
    2. By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin
    3. By bringing the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith
  4. If the Spirit alone mortifies sin, why are we are exhorted to it?
    1. All graces and good works which are in us are his
    2. It is still an act of our obedience

Discussion

First, and by way of observation, I’d say that this chapter, though significantly shorter, was considerably more difficult than the previous one. It seemed that there were more difficult words and tough phrases than last week. Just when I was starting to get cocky and thinking that Owen wasn’t so difficult after all!

I carried one main thought out of this chapter. Much of this portion concerned “papists”—hardly a term in common use these days. This may serve to antiquate the chapter a little bit, but I think there is still much to learn from it. After all, I think Roman Catholicism is a perversion of true Christian theology and a system that so carefully incorporates man into God’s work. Owen would agree. While I may not be Roman Catholic, I still feel the temptation to allow my man-centered desires to interfere with God’s gracious work. Maybe this is what Owen means when he writes of “the natural popery in man.” I may not wear rough garments or take vows and orders as an attempt to mortify sin, but I may still look to myself and my remedies rather than to God and His remedies. Just as Catholicism has invented ways of mortifying sin, I may also invent ways and means and find them just as powerless to bring about true and lasting change.

I may use and insist upon means that were never appointed by God for this purpose; I may ignore the means that God has, in His grace and wisdom, appointed for this purpose; and, like Luther, I may always mortify, but never come to any sound mortification. “They have sundry means to mortify the natural man, as to the natural life here we lead; none to mortify lust or corruption.” This is the mistake of men ignorant of the gospel, and too often it is the mistake I make. As Owen says, “Duties are excellent food for an unhealthy soul; they are no [remedy] for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation.” There is a lot to think about in those words. Do I turn meat into medicine; food into a cure? Do I misuse the wonderful means of grace God has given, thinking that they can mortify my sin when really they are meant to feed me, but not to cure me? Am I trying to “sweat out a distemper with working?”

I am looking forward to continuing with the book next week, but even more so, am looking forward to moving on to the second part where, I suspect, the rubber really begins to meet the road.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the fourth chapter of the book (which will mark the end of the book’s first part). We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been great and have aided my enjoyment of the chapter. I trust this week will prove the same.

November 29, 2007
Thursday November 29, 2007 Undercover Restorers
The Guardian has a great story about undercover restorers who secretly restore national artifacts.
Recent grads 3 times more likely to be Calvinists
That is a headline at Baptist Press.
Bob’s Book is Done
Congratulations to Bob Kauflin who, at long last, has finished writing and editing his book. It’s available now for pre-order at Amazon.
To Spank or Not To Spank
Ray Fowler has some good words about the difference between spanking and hitting or abuse.
November 28, 2007

My mother maintains a blog—a private blog that she uses to keep the family up-to-date with the latest family news. Because her five children (and four children-in-law and seven grandchildren) are scattered from Ontario to New York, from Georgia to Tennessee, she makes her blog a central repository for news and information we need to know. Yesterday, based on conversations she had around Thanksgiving, she posted some thoughts on divorce and its awful ramifications on families. This was not meant to be a treatise on divorce, but merely an opportunity for her kids and kids-in-law to reflect on what she had seen in the lives of her friends. I thought it was something that was worth sharing and she graciously allowed me to do so.

So today my mother, Barbara Challies, is guest-blogging. We changed just a few words and phrases to make this short article make sense to an outside audience. We deliberately left the final paragraph in its original form—a plea from a mother to her children to never, ever allow the thought of divorce to enter into our minds.


I am continually amazed, then re-amazed, at the carnage of divorce. I see this in Heather, a beautiful and godly friend of my youngest daughter.

Every holiday is a time of balancing all the family pushes and pulls for a child of divorce. No matter what uneasy solution a child arrives at, it does not satisfy everyone, and the child herself is ultimately blamed for causing unhappiness. In this case, ongoing pressure is placed on Heather to warmly embrace the woman who willingly displaced Mom when Dad decided to trade her in for a newer model several years ago. Mom was left bitter and potentially destitute—without even medical insurance; certainly no current skills with which to provide for herself.

Dad goes on to a life of increased wealth as he marries a young, childless woman immersed in the corporate world. Do you challenge Mom about her bitterness? When? How? Do you refuse to acknowledge Dad’s new acquisition as a relevant part of your life? When? How? And all this comes to a head at holiday time. You have to make specific choices that externalize your thinking on the matter.

Who will I eat Thanksgiving dinner with?

Christmas dinner?

I have prayed and agonized with Heather over these things. I generally encourage her to give her mother the best of every holiday—it may not be a bad thing for Dad to live with the consequences of his actions. Still, there is no truly satisfactory outcome in this situation. It is too broken.

I came up against this again last weekend as I spoke on the phone with an old friend from Washington. She and her husband have both been divorced in the past. They experience holidays, of course, from the perspective of the parents. That is, with many tears. She said they both had been crying for days—crying for too many absent spots at the table, too many war wounds in their young. They are at the receiving end of the choices their kids make for holiday time.

I pray for you, my children, that you will all see with the eyes of eternity—that through the trials and tribulations of life—specifically marriage—you will never have the shade of a doubt that, from all eternity, God planned for you to be with the one you have pledged to be faithful to. Guard your hearts and never allow the slightest strain of, “Well, maybe”, or “What if”, to enter your minds. Your unconditional commitment to your marriage, based on a total conviction of God’s sovereignty in bringing you together, is its greatest strength!

November 28, 2007
Wednesday November 28, 2007 Books vs. Documents
An interesting article at Ars Technica explains why documents on e-readers cannot give the same experience as old-fashioned dead tree books.
Speed Bump
We need one of these in our neighbhorhood. You probably do too.
Harris on Dating and Courtship
Josh Harris offers some clarification on his views about dating and courtship.
Update on Saudi Justice
“A Saudi court will review the case of a teenage gang rape victim sentenced to jail and flogging after she was convicted of violating the country’s strict sex segregation laws.”
November 27, 2007

Election and Free WillElection and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility is what I believe to be the first volume in a series called “Explorations in Biblical Theology” (at least I could find no mention of previously published volumes). This book is written by Robert A. Peterson who is also serving as the Series Editor. The series is to include two types of books: some will treat biblical themes while others will deal with the theology of specific books of the Bible. Written for college seniors, seminarians, pastors and thoughtful lay readers, the volumes are intended to be accessible and unobscured by excessive reference to the original languages or to theological jargon. “Explorations in Biblical Theology is committed to being warm and winsome, with a focus on applying God’s truth to life.”