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Tim Challies

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March 2012

March 28, 2012

I happen to know two people who have read the complete written works of D.A. Carson—at least everything that is publicly available. This takes some dedication, considering that Carson’s bibliography includes 62 books, 257 articles and 115 reviews.

I recently interviewed the two of them, trusting that they would be able to give us an introduction to Carson’s works and help bridge the rest of us into the ones that are most important and most accessible. Andy Naselli is a former student of Dr. Carson’s who lives in South Carolina and now serves as Dr. Carson’s Research Manager. John Bell lives in Toronto, Ontario and is pastor of New City Baptist Church.

How has reading the works of D.A. Carson benefited you on a personal level?

Andy: He has helped me love God and my neighbor better by understanding his Word better. His example motivates me to consecrate my life to God by using the theological disciplines as a good steward of God’s manifold grace (1 Pet 4:10).

John:

  1. Through my reading of Carson the Lord has blessed me with a more biblical understanding of who God is and what he accomplished in the death and resurrection of his Son. This glorious knowledge has spread to every area of my life and ministry.
  2. Having read the works of Carson, I more clearly see the sinfulness of sin, the holiness of God, and the salvation-historical necessity of the propitiatory cross work of Jesus. Sin angers God. The bible tells us God responds to sin with personal wrath because sin is rebellion against him; it’s cosmic anarchy; it’s an outrageous display of creaturely autonomy; our sin is an attempt to de-god God, to kick over his royal throne; sin is idolatry. Through Carson, the Lord has taught me that sin is first and foremost vertical—it is against the Holy One himself. God is the most offended party by my sin, not other humans (whom I sin against on a horizontal level). And because he is holy, God must punish sin. This controls how I understand and preach the cross.
  3. Through Carson, I have a much clearer understanding the christological, salvation-historical unity of the bible’s storyline, which means as a preacher I more accurately handle the word of truth. 
  4. One of the functional non-negotiables of my Christian life and ministry is the inerrancy of scripture. The Lord used Carson’s writings to answer the many, many skeptical questions I had on this front. As a result, the members of New City Baptist have the very highest view of scripture: that’s what they are hearing from their pastor.
  5. Finally, I have a biblical understanding of suffering and evil, though I am young enough not to have experienced much of it for myself. Evil, suffering and death is consistent with a biblical worldview, and as a Christian that worldview is to be my own. The Lord has used Carson to prepare me for evil, suffering, and death by opening up the scriptures and explaining to me what they say. In turn, I am able to preach these truths to my people.

What do you see as D.A. Carson’s most important contributions to contemporary evangelicalism?

March 28, 2012

John Piper’s Successor - “The Bethlehem elders are announcing to the congregation their candidate for Associate Pastor for Preaching and Vision and, God willing, John Piper’s eventual successor as the church’s senior pastor. Jason Meyer, 36-year-old Assistant Professor of New Testament for Bethlehem College and Seminary, is the elders’ recommendation for congregational consideration and vote at a special May 20 all-church meeting.”

Gratefulness for Your Spouse - Brian Croft: “ I have discovered a wonderful antidote when especially young married couples lose sight of the gratefulness all Christians should have in the joy of Christian marriage and instead try to nitpick their spouse with an ungrateful heart.”

If You Were a Missionary - “I had a great visit with a church member recently. In our discussion he hit on a point that I believe many Christians have a burden for. Essentially he was concerned with intentionally integrating Christ in all that he does, in particular his work environment.”

For the CityFor the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter is on sale in Kindle format for $2.99.

When Is it Right to Argue? - When is it right to argue with referees or officials? 

He who obeys sincerely endeavors to obey thoroughly. —Thomas Brooks

March 27, 2012

This week’s Connected Kingdom podcast has David talking about workaholism, one of those sanctified sins that has infiltrated the church. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.


Connected KingdomHello, my name’s David, and I’m a recovering workaholic. And I say that with no sense of pride, even though workaholism is one of our society’s most “respected”, even admirable sins. In fact, perhaps one of the places it is most admired is in the church, and especially in the Christian ministry.

Few Christians put this sin in the same category as homosexuality or murder. Yet, workaholism has probably destroyed more souls, especially in Christian homes, and maybe especially in pastors’ and missionaries’ homes, than either of these sins. Many pastors spend their days denouncing this -ism, that –ism, and every other -ism, while seeking and accepting plaudits for their workaholism.

Diagnosis

So how do you know if you are a workaholic? Workaholics Anonymous – yes, there is such an organization – provides 20 questions. They include:

  • Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
  • Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
  • Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
  • Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
  • Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?

Does that sound like someone you know? Your pastor? You?

March 27, 2012

EvangellyfishIs it satire or is it parody? Whatever it is, Douglas Wilson’s Evangellyfish must be unique in the Christian market. This is a book, a novel, first serialized online but now re-edited and formally published, that provides a scathing indictment of evangelicalism. It does it well.

Of course if you know evangelicalism you know that it isn’t all that difficult to satirize. What you dream up as a hilarious punchline is the kind of thing you’ll see next month on the shelves of the local Christian bookstore or in the advertisements for the nearby megachurch. It makes me wonder, why haven’t more people written books like this?

Evangellyfish revolves around Chad Lester, a massively successful megachurch pastor who makes Bill Clinton look positively chaste. He is loved and adored by his legions of devoted fans and by the millions who read his hopelessly shallow books. He drives a flashy sports car and has a massive home and a girlfriends all across the city. He suddenly finds himself embroiled in a sex scandal which is shocking only because this time his accuser is a man.

Laboring near Lester is John Mitchell, also a pastor, but of a small, conservative church. He has no real following and drives an old, beat-up car that is shedding parts. Though he may be a little bit of a legalist at times, he is a genuine and caring pastor who toils in obscurity. He is representative of any number of really normal pastors. The lives of these two men, and so many others, are thrown together as the details of the scandal unfold and explode. As is the case with such scandals, the facts mean nothing when compared to the lurid details.

Allow me to make a few observations about the book.

First, I found that the book was more about “them” than “us.” What I mean is that Wilson appears to be satirizing the run-of-the-mill, cliched, program-driven megachurch. At least that is how I read it. I enjoyed the story, but didn’t feel like it really sucker-punched me the way I had expected it to. I wanted Wilson to aim at me as well because I’m pretty sure there is a lot of foolishness that I am blind to as well. There were a few of those digs, but not as many was I would have liked.

March 27, 2012

Britain’s Got Talent - I’m never sure if people are clapping for the performers or just because they know they’ve found the next big story, but this is still fun.

Mohler and Carter - Al Mohler: “Today’s Thinking in Public program features my interview with former President Jimmy Carter. The conversation was remarkable, and I was honored to have this interview with the 39th President of the United States. The focus of the interview was on the Bible, a book that has framed President Carter’s life from his earliest memories. Even now, he remains the world’s most famous Sunday School teacher.”

Geraldo and the Hoodies - Thomas Sowell comments on the Trayvon Martin case, saying “Practical advice, not race baiting, shows real concern for minority youth.” He urges caution and warns against jumping to conclusions because “playing with racial polarization is playing with fire.”

The End of the World - This infographic provides a pragmatic argument for not predicting the end of the world.

Psalm 119 - I really enjoyed this way of displaying Psalm 119; it’s very helpful to see it laid out that way.

Next 2012 - This year’s Next conference, the last Next, features a great list of speakers. If you’re in the right demographic, you may want to consider going.

The Christian ministry exists for the promotion of holiness. —Donald MacLeod

March 26, 2012

I am kicking off a new series of posts today that will go through a list of theological terms to provide a concise and hopefully simple definition for each of them. By “basic” I don’t always mean that the words are commonly used among Christians (or even found in the Bible, for that matter), but that the things they represent comprise some of the central components of Christian faith and practice.

The content for these posts will most often come from one or more authors whose definitions I have found particularly helpful (though I may also provide some summary or synthesis from time to time).

To start, it seems most fitting to begin with a definition of that term that has brought all of the others together—theology.

Millard Erickson, in his massive work Christian Theology, gives a simple but rather comprehensive definition:

[Theology is] that discipline which strives to give a coherent statement of the doctrines of the Christian faith, based primarily on the Scriptures, placed in the context of culture in general, worded in a contemporary idiom, and related to issues of life. (23)

What Erickson simply calls “theology” here is more precisely distinguished by others as systematic theology. Wayne Grudem, a theologian who has also written a massive book on the subject (and pretty much a must-have for your library), makes this distinction, and he defines systematic theology as “any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic” (21).

Though much shorter, Grudem’s definition is, in essence, the same as Erickson’s; they are both good and useful.

Another even more basic way of saying it, with fewer qualifications, would be to say that theology refers to what we think God thinks about something.

Any other definitions for theology that you would suggest? For further reading, you may want to read about theology-ology.

March 26, 2012

Here in Ontario there is a criminal trial taking place of the kind that is so disturbing that I cannot bear to read any details. It involves the taking, raping and killing of a young girl. The very few details I’ve seen in headlines and bylines have been more than enough to convince me that I cannot read any more. It’s just too much, too weighty, too awful.

A trial like this one is always accompanied by cries for justice. There are cries in the media and cries in casual conversation. There are cries in my own heart. When I think of a couple who brutally murder a young girl, my heart cries out for justice. This is a natural cry, I think, and a good one.

Yet so often it seems that the people who do such horrifying things get away with it, or at the very least, do not receive anything even approaching justice. Hitler, the man who sparked the Second World War, a war that took tens of millions of lives, died in 1945, but did so at his own hand. A self-inflicted bullet to the head hardly seems to satisfy the demands of justice based on the lives of millions of Jews and countless millions of other lives destroyed in the war he began. It almost seems that he got away with it. The couple that took the life of that little girl may spend the rest of their lives behind bars but this, too, hardly seems like true justice. I want justice!

When we read in the Bible that the law of God is written on our hearts, this must be some of what we mean—that we have a sense of justice and that we want this sense of justice to be served, to be satisfied. We also know from Scripture that justice will be served. Indeed, it must be served. And we want it to be served. Justice is “the quality of being just or fair;” it is “judgment involved in the determination of rights and the assignment of rewards and punishments.” But it is more. A Christian definition of justice goes further. Justice is the due reward or punishment for an act. God must punish evil. We know this. We tremble at this thought. Or we ought to.

March 26, 2012

Boycott Starbucks - Some Christians are calling for a boycott against Starbucks. Russell Moore looks at the issue. “It’s not that I’m saying a boycott in and of itself is always evil or wrong. It’s just that, in this case (and in many like it) a boycott exposes us to all of our worst tendencies. Christians are tempted, again and again, to fight like the devil to please the Lord.”

The Other 167 Hours - What do pastors do with the other 167 hours of the week? “From counseling to corresponding, premarital sessions to divorce prevention, from house visits to hospital visits, from baptism to burials, the pastor is present in every facet of life from the cradle to the grave. What an honor. What a joy. And what a load to bear.”

Space Infographic - The BBC has an infographic that attempts to show just how giant our solar system is.

TBN in Trouble - A new insider lawsuit against TBN charges that the world’s largest Christian TV channel funds owners’ exorbitant lifestyle. As if that is any surprise.

Hippies Head for the Ark - Here’s a strange article about a strange group of people—New Agers who are convinced that the world is going to end at the end of 2012.

Tebow in Babylon - Quite an interesting article from the NY Times: “The Prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh. St. Paul was sent to Athens, Macedonia, Rome. And now Tim Tebow has been sent to New York City.”

Grace is as large in renewing us as sin was in defacing. —Stephen Charnock