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January 2011

January 27, 2011

Today I’m just getting straight to the good stuff…

The Osteen Moment - Dr. Mohler: “Osteen’s statements, verbally cushioned in every way he could imagine, fell far short of the full wealth of biblical conviction. Nevertheless, he experienced what might be called the ‘Osteen Moment,’ when his entire ministry, in the public eye, came down to his answer to Piers Morgan’s forced question.”

Does Your Pastor Groan? - This article looks at these words from Hebrews and adds an important point of application: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Not Radical Individualism - Darrin Patrick replies to John MacArthur’s critique of his book. His reply is much more mature and humble than many others who were offended by what MacArthur had said.

The Piece of Paper that Fooled Hitler - An interesting little piece of history here.

Why 3-D Doesn’t Work - This article explains why the human brain just can’t process 3-D movies. And here I thought I was the only one who saw the edges all fuzzy. (HT:JT)

Most Christians expect little from God, ask little and therefore receive little and are content with little.A.W. Pink

January 26, 2011

The Christian FaithI recently received a copy of Michael Horton’s massive new systematic theology. It’s a big, heavy hardcover that weighs in at around 1050 pages. Several people have asked me if I would offer a review. I wish I could, but honestly, to review this book would be far beyond my capabilities. Not only would it take me weeks to read (though they would be profitable weeks, I’m sure) but I just do not have the theological background to offer anything more than the most cursory review. I’m aware of my limitations.

Having said that, I’ve looked through it enough to conclude that it seems likely to be the Presbyterian equivalent of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology—the contemporary go-to for those seeking to learn about a particular point of doctrine coming from a defined point-of-view. It is laid out in a very attractive and useful way and in that way it removes some of the intimidation factor that comes through its topic and its bulk.

Horton’s book got me thinking. If I were to sit down to write this kind of a work, one that for many authors represents a magnum opus, how would I want to begin it? What words do you use to introduce a work of this magnitude and one that represents a lifetime’s study and thousands and thousands of hours of writing? I just had to know. So I went to my bookcase and pulled every systematic theology I could find. To satisfy my curiosity I turned to the first pages of each and wrote out the opening sentence. And here they are:

  • Prolegomena (lit: pro, “before,” and lego, “speak”) is the introduction to theology. (Systematic Theology by Norman Geisler)
  • In 1949, the English playwright and novelist Dorothy Sayers observed the common antipathy in her day toward doctrine: “ ‘Dull dogma,’ they call it.” (Michael Horton)
  • In this book I will introduce you to the discipline of systematic theology. (Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John Frame)
  • In every science there are two factors: facts and ideas; or, facts and the mind. (Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge)
  • Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. (The Institutes by John Calvin)
  • What is systematic theology? (Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem)
  • One may rightly say Christian theology is study or organized treatment of the topic, God, from the standpoint of Christianity. (Systematic Theology by Robert Duncan Culver)
  • Works on dogmatic or systematic theology generally begin with the doctrine of God. (Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof)
  • Humans are wondrous and complex beings. (Christian Theology by Millard Erickson)
  • Hundreds of the world’s space scientists are spending vast sums from their nations’ treasuries trying to make meaningful contact with imagined rational beings living in deep space. (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith by Robert Reymond)

Looking at that list, I don’t think there are too many conclusion we can draw, are there? Except, perhaps, that Calvin gets the prize.

January 26, 2011

It’s always around this time, when there are just a few days left in the month, that I scratch my head and wonder where the time has gone. How did it get to be the 26th so quickly? It’s amazing to me.

A 90-Minute Plan - “For nearly a decade now, I’ve begun my workdays by focusing for 90 minutes, uninterrupted, on the task I decide the night before is the most important one I’ll face the following day. After 90 minutes, I take a break.”

Blank Bible Project - Here’s a walk-through for making your own blank Bible.

Don’t Call it a Comeback - Kevin DeYoung has a post today about the book he and I contributed to called Don’t Call it a Comeback. I write (briefly) about why I wrote what I wrote.

Social Television - This article dicusses how television may return to its roots and become a social medium.

Christians Get Depressed Too - Wes Bredenhof has a review of David Murray’s book Christians Get Depressed Too.

Is God Disappointed? - David Powlison answers the question of whether God is disappointed in us when we sin. (HT:JT)

I have no more right as a Christian to allow a bad temper to dwell in me that I have to allow the devil himself to dwell there.C.H. Spurgeon

January 25, 2011

Continued from yesterday…

Stonewall JacksonYesterday I began a two-parter on the life of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. I got as far as the part about slavery and ended there. I can only cover this briefly today as this is an article primarily about his life and his faith, not about his view of slavery. So forgive my brevity.

Virginia was a slave state and through his life Jackson either owned or leased at least 8 slaves. He disliked slavery and thought that it would eventually die a natural death. But he felt that for a certain time God had decreed that a race would be slaves and that this was God’s will. End of story. If God decreed it, he wasn’t going to fight it. This somewhat hard-headed view was consistent with her personality. When Civil War came he didn’t fight for the South in order to protect slavery. The slaves he had he treated very well and loved dearly. All of his slaves had to be part of family devotions (which was illegal) and most of them seem to have become believers. His biographers think that his Sunday school for blacks actually grew out of family devotions which the slaves would attend and ask their friends to attend as well. So though he was not entirely opposed to slavery, he wanted all people, slave or free, to hear and respond to the gospel. And he was determined to make sure they all heard it.

And here’s the second lesson I’ve learned from his life: love. Jackson obeyed Romans 12:16. “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” He was not too proud to work with the lowest of the low. He loved them as brothers and sisters and treated them with dignity. He was a man of his time, a person who could tolerate slavery even if he didn’t really like it. It is easy to portray him as some kind of a monster for having slaves. And yet we can’t deny his love for them, his desire to treat them well and to see them become brothers and sisters in Christ. This is probably the most difficult tension we find in his life: he owned people and yet he loved those people. It is easy to caricature slaveholders as moral monsters; the reality is not nearly so neat.

In 1852, Jackson fell in love. He suddenly began to notice a young lady in the community and was completely unaware of why this was. He went to a friend and said, “I don’t know what has changed me. I used to think her plain, but her face now seems to me all sweetness.” The friend laughed and told the shocked Jackson that he was in love. As he always did, he thought about this for a while, considered it and concluded that it must be true. And so he began to act in his own awkward way. In August of 1853 he married Eleanor Junkin or “Ellie” as he called her. He loved her dearly. Their marriage was a happy one but sadly it was also short. Eleanor became pregnant and carried the baby to full term. But the baby boy was stillborn and just an hour later Eleanor began to hemorrhage and she died as well. After just a year of marriage Jackson had his son and his wife taken from him. He had lost a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a wife, a son. The story is told that after Ellie’s funeral his friends couldn’t find him. One went to the cemetery and found Jackson lying on his wife’s grave, weeping and crying out for her.

January 25, 2011

My son is in 5th grade and says that he’s about the only boy in the class not allowed to play Call of Duty: Black Ops. According to Plugged In’s review, “Slo-mo bullet-time shots focus closely behind a flying slug as it skims across a field of battle and plunges into an opponent’s forehead, blowing his brains out the back of his head. In a thumbscrew interrogation scene a guy has glass stuffed in his mouth and we watch the bloody results as he’s repeatedly punched in the face.” The game is rated M for Mature. Ten years old sure isn’t mature enough for that kind of stuff!

Billy Graham’s Regret - “Billy Graham, the beloved evangelist known as ‘America’s pastor,’ says that looking back on his long life and public ministry, one thing he would do differently is to avoid the political entanglements that have been one of the rare blots on his otherwise hallowed legacy.”

Master Builder - This would be a great job. “Believe it or not, a few lucky Lego lovers are able to make a living snapping together bricks in various shapes and sizes at one of the four Legoland amusement parks around the world.”

Catholic vs Reformed - Wes Bredenhof is a far better correspondent than I am. In this letter to a friend he outlines the differences between Roman Catholic and Reformed theology.

They Ceased. Period - You know that interview with John MacArthur that everyone was upset about last week (the one where he spoke about Darren Patrick)? David says “I really thought MacArthur’s comments on the Pentecostal and charismatic movements would cause a ruckus somewhere, but, as far as I know, charismatic tongues have remained miraculously silent.” He transcribes what MacArthur says about the gifts.

Marriott Says No - New Marriott hotels will no longer offer adult movies in their rooms. Which is good. Unfortunately the reason they are doing this is not ethical; everyone brings their own computer to their room now and watches porn for free.

The Ikea Maze - One of those things you kind of know, but it’s still helpful to read about: “If you’ve ever found yourself hopelessly lost in an Ikea store, you were probably not alone. The home furnishing chain’s mazy layouts are a psychological weapon to part shoppers from their cash, an expert in store design claims.”

Things We Say Wrong - Fun with the language (HT:KD)

My complaint is not that I am in the world, but that the world is in me. I cannot get it out of my heart except as I let You in. —John Baird

January 24, 2011

ComebackSome time ago I was asked by Kevin DeYoung if I would be interested in contributing a chapter to a book that came to be called Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. Here’s what the book is all about: “Recent cultural interest in evangelicalism has led to considerable confusion about what the term actually means. Many young Christians are tempted to discard the label altogether. But evangelicalism is not merely a political movement in decline or a sociological phenomenon on the rise, as it has sometimes been portrayed. It is, in fact, a helpful theological profile that manifests itself in beliefs, ethics, and church life. DeYoung and other key twenty- and thirty-something evangelical Christian leaders present Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Same Evangelical Faith for a New Day to assert the stability, relevance, and necessity of Christian orthodoxy today. This book introduces young, new, and under-discipled Christians to the most essential and basic issues of faith in general and of evangelicalism in particular.”

I contributed a chapter on how Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father.

The book has just released and is now available at Amazon and Westminster Books (and everywhere else, I suppose).

If you’re interested, here is some more information about the book, including the Table of Contents (along with the authors) and a few endorsements:

January 24, 2011

Stonewall JacksonNot too long ago I had the opportunity to prepare a few short biographical addresses on various Christians. For one of these addresses I spoke on John & Betty Stam. For another one I spoke of the life of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. I’m sure many of you are familiar with his life, but let me tell the story again…

We’ll start the story near the end, on July 21, 1861. It was on this day that nearly 61,000 men fought in what was the first major battle of the American Civil War. Over the previous years the United States had fractured and split with many southern states seceding from the union to form the Confederate States of America. America had become two nations, the Federals or the Union in the north and the Confederates or the Rebels in the south. And these nations were at war, state fighting state, sometimes even brother fighting brother. It split a country, it split churches, it split families. On July 21 these two nations met on the plains outside a small Virginia town called Manassas.

On that afternoon a battle raged. Already thousands of men had fallen. The Federal forces pushed hard against the Confederate army until it looked as if the line might break and the battle would be lost. One of the Southern Generals, General Bee, had already seen his forces fight a long and devastating battle. He had seen many of his men die or leave the battle terribly wounded. Though he tried to rally the men who remained, they were tired and terrified and he just couldn’t convince them to follow him. He spurred his horse and rode over to Thomas Jackson who commanded the brigade next to his. Pulling to a stop near the general he called out “General, they are beating us back!” Jackson’s reply was short and calm, “Then we will give them the bayonet.” Jackson’s confidence inspired Bee. Galloping back to his troops he called to them “Look! There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians!” Inspired by Jackson’s stand, Bee led his troops in a charge and was killed in the effort.

But the Confederates won the battle that day, though between the two armies nearly 5,000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. On that day a legend was born, the legend of General “Stonewall” Jackson. The man who had stood fearlessly like a stone wall in the middle of the battle would quickly become one of the most famous generals in American history and establish himself as one of the greatest military minds of all-time. But there was far more to Jackson than his military ability. He was also a man who loved God and sought to honor him in every part of his life.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this story.

January 24, 2011

In just a few minutes I’m going to head to Toronto Pastors Fellowship, where several local pastors will be discussing the pastor and prayer. Sounds both interesting and informative.

In His Own Words - Dr. Mohler lets President Obama describe his own position on abortion. “When Barack Obama was running for President, he was described by some observers as one of the most radical candidates in the nation’s history, in terms of support for abortion. Once in office, President Obama has done little to dispel that judgment.”

Wait for God - Mark Altrogge on why it’s good to wait on God.

Give Us Men - I enjoyed this article written by my friend Ian. He writes about defending his complementarian beliefs and finding surprise in those who share such beliefs.

Most-Searched Bible Verses - Collin Hansen looks at the most-searched Bible verses and asks what’s missing.

Cyber Skepticism - I know I’ve posted quite a few articles like this one recently; I continue to do so because I find them quite fascinating.

Memoirs & Remains - DG and Logos has partnered to offer you a free copy of Memoirs and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne.

Did You Read? - This video, though only a commericial, does a good job at making fun of our mile-wide and inch-deep knowledge today.

The call to Christian commitment is not basically a call to enjoy happiness but to endure hardness. —John Blanchard