Friday, November 28, 2008

Antonin Scalia on Seminary

OK, so he really wasn't talking about seminary (which makes me a faint-hearted originalist like Scalia I suppose).

But in a speech to the Federalist Society he was asked a question on how law schools could teach lawyers to be better advocates. Scalia admitted he was probably old-fashioned on this, but he believed a law school should teach students a body of knowledge and a process of analysis. The rest, he said, could be picked up in any courtroom. Law school is a professional school, not a trade school, Scalia said.

This sparked my mind to think about seminary. Many treat seminary like a trade school, where you go to learn how to be a pastor. So they load it up with all kinds of practical ministry classes.

I think seminary ought to teach a body of knowledge and a process of analysis. The rest can be picked up by hanging around a church and a good pastor.

If you go to seminary and learn methods of ministry, you will soon be outdated. The body of Christian knowledge and sound principles of analysis will serve you well through changing times.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More Thoughts Sparked by Scalia

And speaking of Scalia, he sparked another thought.

If one believes in a living constitution (as most liberals seem to), then why is stare decisis (e.g., abiding by precedent) such a big deal? What if life changed between the previous ruling and this one? Should not the constitution change as well?

It comes to my mind because judicial nomination hearings always involve lengthy pontifications on whether or not a nominee believes in stare decisis. Of course, that is code for "Will you overturn Roe?"

Ironically, these questions of course come from the same group who didn't mind ignoring stare decisis when it was Plessy vs. Ferguson that was overturned, and rightly so.

So if stare decisis was not important in granting equal status to a certain class of American citizens, then why is it important in denying equal status to another certain class of American citizens?

If the court can overturn precedent to grant equal status to Black Americans, why cannot it overturn precedent to grant equal status to unborn Americans?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tony Jones on Homosexuality

Jones says,

In any case, I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.

The article is a good reminder of reasons why it is important not to do theology by experience but by the Word. People without a firm commitment to Scripture will soon find themselves foundering in the abyss of a decadent culture looking for approval.

As Christians committed to the gospel, we must recognize our call to love all people, regardless of sexual orientation. And we must love them enough to tell them the good news of the gospel, that they no longer have to live in rebellion against God.

My guess is that homosexuality (whether in secret practice, pornography, or fantasy) is probably more pervasive than most people would think.

But love demands that we reject the soul-damning conclusion that Jones reaches. We cannot love others while condoning their sin. Love doesn't let image bearers of God continue unwarned.

We, as believers, should reject all anger, crudeness, personal attacks, namecalling, and the like. But we must not stand by and pretend that homosexuality is okay.

It's not just culture that is at stake. It is eternity.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

McKnight on Christians in a Non-Christian Environment

The entire sweep of the Bible teaches that Christians in non-Christian environments are not to be worried so much about changing their environments as they are to remain faithful in whatever kind of environment they find themselves. In fact, the New Testament is unified on this point: Christian teaching concerns Christian theology and behavior, not social institutions and how they might be changed (McKnight, 1 Peter [NIVAC], p. 118).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In the Diner

I was sitting in the diner this morning studying when a man came in who I see all the time in here, and who I met years ago. We spent the better part of an hour talking about life and ministry.

He told me about growing up selling drugs on the west side, next door to a dear lady in our church. He said one day he was on his way to sell drugs when a older man stopped him to talk about hell and Jesus.

Today, he is a Christian of about ten years, teaching in his church.

I am sure it took a lot of boldness for that man to address this younger man on the street.

It reminds me that we never know which conversation may be God's means of calling someone to himself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I am probably a simple guy, but Jelly Bellies are amazing to me. How can you pack all that authentic taste into a jellybean?

Of course, there is a bit of cognitive dissonance in things like chewing root beer, or swallowing bubblegum.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good Article on Church Planting

From Why Some Missionaries Don't Plant Churches:

To put it bluntly, churches and mission agencies send out many missionaries who are not equipped or qualified to plant churches. They may be good, godly men, but they are not gifted for the work of planting churches. They have not been discipled in a church planting atmosphere, and they come from churches that have never planted another church. They have never proven themselves in effective ministry before leaving for a foreign field. They have insufficient training and experience in organizing a church in their own culture, much less a foreign culture with added complexity and complications. They have little idea of the challenges of learning a language and adjusting to life in conditions they never imagined. They are with mission agencies that control rather than coach in order to reproduce clones of North American churches.

I have been greatly and increasingly concerned in recent years about the way in which my general circle of churches goes about ministerial training and assessment. Perhaps one day I will enlarge on that in an article, but simply put, I am not sure that we (broadly speaking) get people in places where their gifts can be most effectively used. We accept, as Steve mentions in the article, this mystical "call of God" as a trump card.

I think more rigorous evaluation and a commitment to discipleship and mentorship would be a better way to go. I think seminary training to the Master of Divinity level is a non-negotiable for the most part. But that is not enough. A person can graduate from seminary and not be able to preach, or relate to people, or organize and administrate. He can have a great desire to see churches planted, but not have the gifts to carry it out.

It's great that in the church of God, he has gifted us all differently. People without the gifts to plant a church are still invaluable in the church. But they are a disaster in church planting. So rather than send out to fail, let's make better efforts to assess what they are gifted for, and then mentor them for that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Prodigal Son - Who Are You?

You are apt to see yourself as the prodigal who has sinned against the grace of God. You have taken the good gifts of God and wasted them on riotous living. You have spent your fortune on the cheap pleasures of self-serving greed and lust. You demanded satisfaction and you used God's gifts to you to achieve it immorally and unethically. And you know it. In the past, this condition has hit you squarely between the eyes. You have reaped the consequences of what you have sown. You have seen the pain and damage you have caused to those around you. You were in the pig-pen and came crawling for grace.

But now have you returned to the old ways. The sins are different, but your state is the same. The problem is that are not yet in the pig-pen, eating the slop. You are, as of yet, unwilling to see just how ugly things are. You are unwilling to come to the Father in humility and repentance. You are not yet desperate. You still think you know more than you do. You think that you are the exception to God's way of living, that you can do it and get away with it, that the end won't be as bad as God promised it would be.

You like to think of your sin as primarily in the past. Yet you are presently miserable, though you have begun to mask it by certain choices. As of now, you are unwilling to obey and come home to a loving and gracious Father because you know what it will cost you, and you would rather live in disobedience than pay that price.

Actually, you are more like the older brother. You are self-righteous, even though you know you have done wrong. You think what they did is so much worse. You can't imagine that anyone would forgive and restore them. You have an elevated sense of your own knowledge. You are upset that someone would think they are sorry. You are angry that someone would "kill the fatted calf" and choose to love and restore.

You are justified in your own mind. You are convinced that prodigals must prove themselves before they are worthy of your acceptance. But, given your self-righteousness and bitterness, there is nothing that they can do to prove themselves to you. You think that if you do not see exactly what you want to see that you are not required to respond biblically.

When someone else celebrates repentance and confession, even in small steps, your anger and bitterness increases. Rather than celebrate, you withdraw even more.

You should be like the father, anxiously desiring to be gracious. You should be watching anxiously for return and restoration. You should have long ago granted it, even as imperfect as the return may have been. Interestingly, the prodigal never had the chance to explain or make his request. The simple act of returning was enough to unleash the grace and love of the father.

You should be ready to kill the fatted-calf in celebration. It is not your job to punish or to withhold favor. It is time to party. Make it a big one filled with grace and love just as you received from your heavenly Father.

Who are you going to be?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Worth Your Time

This message by Al Mohler on "How Not to Raise a Pagan" is worth your time. It was preached at Southeastern Baptist Seminary.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Alternate Beliefs

Stardust over at God is for Suckers avers that atheism is a lack of belief. He says, "How many times do we have to tell these fools that atheism simply means lack of belief in the existence of any god, gods,goddesses? … Atheism is saying gods do not exist and requires no faith in anything."

Yet does Stardust actually have no faith at all? When we think about what Stardust is saying, we see that he is really articulating a belief. His belief is that no gods exist. He cannot prove that no gods exist, but he has chosen to believe it.

When he says "Atheism is saying," he is saying "Atheism believes."

The truth is that everyone believes something. You see, lack of belief is simply an alternate belief system. To say, “I do not believe in the existence of a god” is to say “I believe that no gods exist.” (That is, properly speaking, a statement of faith or religion, not a statement of scientific conclusion.)

You see, every belief can be turned from a negative statement of “I don’t believe” to a positive statement of “I believe.” So it is impossible to believe nothing.

Perhaps in evangelism, when encountering people with divergent beliefs (or lack of beliefs), it will be helpful for us to clarify their statements by saying, "So what you really believe is ..."

That will help us clarify both for us and for them what their alternate belief really is.

I urge you not to do in a smart-aleck, antagonistic kind of way. Do it in a way that manifests a sincere desire to represent their thoughts accurately. By exposing alternate beliefs as true beliefs, we can then address the foundation of belief.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Ed Stetzer re-posts some interesting data about door-to-door outreach.

Door-to-door used to be the almost universal strategy of outreach by conservative Baptist churches (and probably many other types as well). It usually involved an attempt to evangelize (what Mark Driscoll calls "Shotgun Weddings to Jesus" in his book Radical Reformission).

In the last ten years, I have knocked on every door in this community at least four times, and some doors more. We have tried everything from simple invitations to church, to religious surveys, to asking people what they think about church and what kind of church they would attend, to outright evangelism.

In that time, I can recall only one person that came from door-to-door invitations, and he came only two or three times. That may be a testimony to my ineptness at cold-calling, though I have spent many an evening sitting on someone's front porch just "chewing the fat" about life and getting know them. As a result of knocking on doors, I know a lot of people and they know me, but it hasn't been effective in church growth.

In some communities and perhaps with some personalities, door-to-door is still somewhat of an effective way of outreach. Stetzer has some interesting numbers on who is open to invitations, but no numbers (so far as I have seen) on how many actually show up from door-to-door. That would be interesting to me.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Who Is the Big Winner? (Another Election Post)

1. The media for shamelessly accepting over 1/2 billion dollars in advertising.

2. The fuel companies who gleefully filled up jumbo jets and motorcades for gas guzzling campaigns while the people traveling in such style complain about America's dependence on the very thing that was fueling their planes. Somehow that probably makes the complaints about windfall profits go down a little easier for the oil companies, knowing that the ones complaining about the windfall profits have no problem increasing those profits so long as it helps them achieve personal ends.

3. Special interests who will find a single-party government of big-spenders, in conjunction with a minority party of big-spenders, more than willing to dole out tax-payer money for all manner of triviality. This too will make the complaining about special interests by the big-spenders go down easier (not that lobbyists were ever concerned about that to begin with since their general attitude is "Complain all you want, just keep the checks coming).

On the Vote

No, this is not about the election. It is about the vote.

There is no doubt that, in this election, as in every other there has been voter fraud. Only an omniscient God knows how much (although according to some he just found out yesterday). It is likely that instances of voter fraud number in the multiplied millions.

How do we address it? I have a few ideas.

1. Eliminate early voting and absentee voting. The law sets the day of the election as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Therefore, require voting to take place on the day that the law sets (or change the law). Early voting, absentee voting is an invitation to voter fraud. I know places where in local elections, people are paid to collect absentee votes. They take the absentee ballot to the person, get them to sign it, and then fill it in for themselves. And it is public knowledge that it takes place. It has swung many elections. So the first step to addressing voter fraud is to have the election when the law says to have it. Extend the vote to twenty-four hours if necessary.

2. Require picture ID and positive confirmation. People have four years to get ready for this. It's not like yesterday snuck up on anyone. If they don't have picture ID that matches their voter registration, they don't vote. Period. Yesterday, I showed up to vote, signed my name on a piece of paper, gave them my address and birthdate, and was given a ballot. The person sitting in front of me had no idea who I was. All I needed to vote again was the name, address, and birthdate of someone else. In a past election, I walked up to the table with my driver's license and voter registration card out and was told to put it away.

3. Nationalize the voting process for national elections. Make the voting process the same all over, and make it governed by the same rules. There is no reason to have local-run or state-run elections for national office. Yes, it will cost money, but Congress has never balked at spending money. Yesterday (in a flashback to college), I voted by "machine gradeable" ballots. I colored in little ovals for the candidates of my choice. When I ran my ballot through the reader, it showed that I was the 159th voter in my precinct. But I have no idea who the machine read my vote for. Some people were voting by punching chads, and some by touching screens (I don't trust those either). Let's make it all the same.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Election Day

So I feel compelled to comment:

1. I am against everyone voting. Quite frankly there are some people who simply should not vote ... not because their politics differ from mine, but because they are ignorant. They don't know anything. They go into the booth and pull a lever because it says "D" or "R" beside it. They make a choice based on a  thirty-second commercial by one side or the other. The "highest voter turnout" in history won't be good. There are some people who should stay home.

2. I am against abortion. Unfortunately neither major candidate is solidly against abortion. One is quasi-pro-life, the best that I can tell, and the other is solidly pro-abortion, even after birth. What kind of choice is that?

3. In a nation of 300,000,000 people, these candidates are the best we can come up with?

4. The economy will recover no matter who is in office.

5. SCOTUS is the most important issue in this race. There are likely to be at least two and perhaps four nominations in the next term. If this is a two-term president, it is hard to imagine there won't be at least four and possibly five. That means the power to shape the court for a generation. Who do you want to give that to?

6. When all is said and done, God will still be God, and will still be in absolute control. The church won't die because of this election. The gospel will not suddenly stop working. (Some would say it stop working long ago but perhaps that is only because people quit preaching it and started preaching politics and feel-goodism.) But nonetheless, this should be a reminder to us all that our hope as Christians is not in government, at least not until Jesus sets up his government (in which case we won't have to worry about voter fraud). For now, we live as aliens in the world, with our hope and our treasure in the next world.

7. My prediction: It will be closer than most people think.

8. Tonight I will go to sleep and not worry about it. I will wake up tomorrow and try to find someone to talk to about Jesus.