Friday, May 29, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Kingdom

It seems to me that to put the kingdom of God entirely in the hearts of believers is to minimize the ruling Jesus. Our own lives are a consistent testimony to the inconsistency of Christ’s kingship in our lives. The cynical side of us should say, “If’s that all the better he can do, that’s not much of a reign.”

Yet the biblical description of the kingdom is far greater than that. It is a time when all nations submit to the king all the time on this earth and flock to him for teaching and guidance (Isaiah 2:2-4), not just some people some of the time, and not in some eternal state. It is hard to see how any reasonable reading of Isaiah 2:2-4 fits into a “kingdom now” motif.

The rule of Jesus has to be bigger than simply ruling in the believer’s heart because Jesus is a bigger king than that.

I believe Jesus ought to rule supremely in believer’s hearts. I just don’t see that as being the entirety of what the Bible describes as the kingdom. Rogue nations, open display of depravity, persecuted believers, unpunished sin, and short lives are not what Isaiah describes as the rule of the Righteous Branch. Therefore, it should not be what we teach as the rule of the Righteous Branch.


Mornings like today are why I like living in Michigan during the summer (and why I wouldn’t mind living somewhere else during the winter).

Mid 50s, sunny … just right for a brisk four-mile walk at sunrise.

There aren’t many way to ruin a morning like this, but I almost managed to anyway.

But it’s a great way to start the day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Books for Men

Someone recently asked me about books for men. Here’s a short list that comes to mind. Feel free to suggest others.

The Disciplines of a Godly Man – R. Kent Hughes – Hands down, the best book on men that I have read. My wife (who wasn’t my wife at the time) gave it to me more than sixteen years ago. I have read it multiple times. Among the most frequently visited books in my library.

The Complete Husband – Lou Priolo – An excellent and penetrating book on being a husband. Well worth the time to read it. Like Hughes, a bit painful at times. So brace yourself.

Living the Cross Centered Life – C. J. Mahaney – Not just for men, but a book every man needs to read and think about.

When Sinners Say I Do – Dave Harvey – An excellent book on marriage. Men, read it, and take the leadership in your marriage by living like a forgiven sinner who is extending the same kind of grace to your wife that you received from God.

Sex Is Not the Problem, Lust Is – Joshua Harris – A great book on biblical sexuality. Originally titled Not Even a Hint.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Wise Words from Kent

There is nothing to fear in true knowledge. But when men parade their hypotheses and schemes as settled fact, particularly in the spiritual and religious realm, such knowledge is falsely named and must be shunned. This sort of knowledge which by its nature is the antithesis of revealed religious truth is the counter affirmation of the enemies of God to the genuine spiritual knowledge revealed by God’s Word. This falsely-named knowledge subjects God and His revelation to the mind of men (Homer Kent, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 203).

I always cringe (and some others things) when I see people arguing for Christianity without using the Bible. They will quote philosophers, authors, themselves, and the occasional blog post from somewhere. They mock (with clever and attractive mockery) those who differ from them.  They treat their pontifications as settled fact in the spiritual and religious realm. Yet they bother not to show where God said such a thing.

Of course it is hardly worse than those who argue for Christian while using the Bible with no apparent idea of what the Bible actually means by what it says. They seem to have no clue about what it actually means to a serious minded person living a fallen world. They think the call to be “all things to all people” did away with any sense of serious thinking about the intersection of the holy life and culture. They think dances and hot bands with bawdy speech and constant humor that lead to multiple services are a substitute for the kerygma and holy living.

The nonsense of both sides is intimidating to some, funny to others. The smart people don’t even read it.

We need not fear the religious and cultural pontifications of those who parade their hypotheses and schemes as settled fact. God revealed a religion to us. It is sufficient for these things. The simplicity of Christ is too simple for many. And the needle’s eye of philosophy and cultural creation is, for them, something to be threaded. But those driving the camel seem not to know that big objects don’t fit through little holes without serious damage to one or the other, or both.

I don’t know much (as you have figured out) but I hope I know enough to know when Christ is not the basis for religious sentiment of whatever type it might be.

A Wise Word from Homer Kent

“There is no way to refute a myth or a fanciful fabrication, especially if the proponents themselves are incapable of thinking rationally (1:7). One is in danger of granting such errorists a measure of respectability by deigning to consider their schemes, and the uninformed may get the notion that their teaching does contain something after all, instead of seeing it for the empty talk which it is (kenophonia). What must be done is to preach the truth positively, and the myths will be shown to be false.” (Kent, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 202).

I have long since concluded that the blogosphere is full of the most unimaginable nonsense known to man. (I am sure people think the same about my blog. I imagine I will sleep well tonight anyway.)

It is far too easy to get caught up in trying to refute everything little thing said, even with those who demonstrate an inability to engage in rational thinking, whether they are attempting to sound smart (as some do) or demanding answers to non-questions (as others do).

The truth is that even responding to some of it raises it’s level of respectability from nothing. The response of “I won’t dignity that by responding to it” comes to mind.

‘Twould be good to ignore the nonsense of both sides in the interest of our own sanity.

‘Twould not be nearly so much fun though.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My New Office

This is it.

Online Reader’s Bible

A Reader’s Bible is an original language Bible with the less common words defined in the footnotes to help in reading. Let’s face it, most people who graduate from Bible college or seminary consider the day they passed their Greek final as their last day to use Greek. And they don’t know a letter of Hebrew.

That’s bad.

Several years ago, I thought of all the time and effort I had put into the biblical languages, and considered the value of them in Bible study for the pastor, and decided I would not let them go.

So now, most mornings I read a page in my Hebrew Reader’s Bible. It usually ends up being 20-30 verses, depending on the number of words that are defined. I do have an English translation to compare with only after I translate to see if I missed anything or when I am stuck. So far I have read 1 Samuel and most of 2 Samuel, a few minor prophets, a good bit of Genesis, some of Deuteronomy, and some Psalms, and various other passages that I felt led to read randomly opened to.

The good news is that it gets easier. The bad news is that my Greek is not up to snuff, partially because I don’t have the Greek Reader’s Bible. (Email me for an address where you can send your contributions.)

I recently found this site that has an online Greek and Hebrew Reader’s Bible where you can adjust the amount of help you receive. Play around with it some and get familiar with it. And then use it.

Now, don’t get lazy. Use the least amount of help possible, and stretch yourself. If you did ten or twenty verses a day, it would take fifteen or twenty minutes, but over a year’s time, you would be surprised at how much progress you could make. And you could read more in less time.

What would be nice is if John would have some sort of daily feed with a set number of verses that could be emailed to you. It would help you keep up to date and keep on a regular pattern of reading.

So if you took the time to learn the languages, keep them by using them. It doesn’t take long.

If you didn’t take time to learn it, learn now. The rewards are inestimable. I, for one, get tired of hearing pastors talk about the superiority of certain translations when they don’t know a word of Greek or Hebrew. Nothing will cure bad bibliology like reading the Bible in the language God originally gave it in.

Oh No! What Shall We Do?

I received a postcard in the mail recently informing me that the “God Save America” conference has been postponed for a year. What will ever we do?

Sounds like we will miss a chance to hear people misuse the Scripture to preach about America, capitalism, the evil of the Democratic party, prayer in schools, and a host of reasons why America is God’s chosen nation and God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if he doesn’t judge America.

Frankly, perhaps the postponing of this conference is God saving America, or at least saving a few people from the travesty that passes as preaching in some circles.

Americans would do well to remember that the Bible is not about America. And God will save America only by saving Americans. And he won’t save them from socialism, Democrats, the 9th Circuit Court, the border patrol, or high taxes. He will save them from their sins through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After all, Jesus didn’t die to save America from Obama. Or Bush. Or Clinton.

And the gospel should not be attached to the American way of life. It is for people of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

A conference on that would be worth saving.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Critical of Ideas

Andy Naselli links to Kevin DeYoung’s article on being too nice, that is, offering praise before you offer criticism. It’s a good article worth your time.

I think a related issue that DeYoung doesn’t address directly is that people are unable to separate criticism of ideas from criticism of the person.

They assume that if you attack their ideas you are attacking them. I was reminded of this in a recent personal exchange.

The fact is that some people just have bad ideas. That doesn’t make them a bad person … well, apart from the whole idea of being a sinner.

To point out a bad idea, or to critique a poor one is not the same thing as making a personal attack. To point out a loose use of words, or a confusing use of words, or to ask for clarification is not ungodly, nor inappropriate. And if you don’t want to explain it, that’s not the fault of the person asking, and you might think about whether or not you should say it if you don’t want to explain it.

In the “feel good” world that exists today, people think you can’t criticize, or at least can’t criticize them, even though they are perfectly willing to criticize others often without merit and without grace.

Here’s a good word for us all: Get over yourself.

If someone criticizes your idea, it may not be about you. They may not even be thinking about you. In fact, they may not even know you. They just don’t like your idea.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vintage Church and Church Discipline

Vintage Church, by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Brashears, is an ecclesiology. It is a fair book, not great, disappointingly light on actual theology of the church. Most of the biblical interaction seems to take place by way of references listed in the footnotes, so there’s not a lot of comparative ecclesiology, and no real exegetical meat. So this is not a “must have” book (which is why I am returning it to the library).

However, in a book that purports to be about what the Bible teaches about the church, the section on church discipline was interesting. It asserts that “discipline is the responsibility of the church body, which includes Jesus Christ and the elders, deacons, and members of the church. Discipline is intended to bring believers in line with God’s standard for his glory, the progress of the kingdom, and the blessedness of the individual as well” (pp. 170-71).

So far, so good.

But, Jesus says that as a part of this process we are to “tell it to the church.”

At no place does Driscoll recommend following this direction from Jesus. He instead says that the church should set up a discipline court. I wondered about the biblical basis for this “discipline court” so I searched my concordance for “discipline court” and can’t find it. (Hey, if Driscoll can be sarcastic, I can too.) Turns out, the Bible does not seem to have much teaching on this “discipline court.” Jesus seemed to think that “the church” was sufficient. Paul seemed to agree in 1 Corinthians 5.

Jesus continues, “If he refuses to listen to the church.”

At no place, does Driscoll recommend following this direction from Jesus to let the church speak to its own member. Once again, it falls in the purview of this discipline court. Driscoll says, “If members of our church or those who regularly participate in church activities are found guilty, they may be dismissed from the church by the agreement of the elders court” (p. 182).

What does Jesus say? Only after failing to listen to the church, does Jesus say to treat them like a Gentile and tax collector.

Only by asserting that ekklesia really means “two elders appointed as a discipline court” can this be done. But I am sure that Driscoll doesn’t want to redefine ekklesia in such a manner.

What’s the point? It’s not really about Driscoll, though for someone who claims to build the church based on what Jesus teaches, this is a pretty glaring omission, and I know they have practiced church discipline there and it wasn’t well received.

It’s about church discipline. I think many churches who actually practice church discipline never tell the church and let the person hear from the church. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s what Jesus said to do.

I don’t think we have the prerogative to set up discipline courts in lieu of church bodies, which Jesus seemed to think was sufficient as a discipline court.

Part of the discipline process must be “tell it to the church.” If we don’t do that, we are not obeying Jesus.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Why is it that people who demand face-to-face interaction as a precursor to public confrontation usually do so publicly rather than privately?

I Am A Fundamentalist

No, I am not one of those kind. Or one of those.

In fact, whatever you think of as a fundamentalist is probably not me, unless you know me well. Which means it may be unwise for me to use the name fundamentalist. But I don’t use it very often, particularly in my personal arena of ministry precisely because it means nothing to anybody.

I am a fundamentalist because I believe the Bible and the gospel is important. Important enough to separate over. But I don’t think the lines are always clear. And I think some people draw them in the wrong places.

I am a fundamentalist because I think there are lines that necessitate separation even from fellow believers who have good intentions and preach clearly and faithfully. I think separation is necessary because association sends wrong and dangerous messages about the gospel.

I am not a fundamentalist because I care what someone writes on their drums; I don’t care. In fact, I don’t care if they wear a tie or a t-shirt, or a suit or jeans, or socks. I don’t care if they use the KJV or the NIV. I don’t care if they sing Sovereign Grace or Isaac Watts. Or John Newton or Chris Tomlin. Or St. Francis of Assisi or Mac Lynch. I don’t care if they read Driscoll or Mohler. Or Piper or Mahaney. Or Ridderbos or Von Rad. Or Barth or Barrett (whichever Barrett you thought of).

I am not a fundamentalist because I like other fundamentalists. Sometimes I don’t. I do not want to be associated with some of what goes on the name of fundamentalism. I think they handle the Scripture too trivially too often. I think it becomes a prop in their personal sideshow. I think it is often a “good ol’ boys club” and I am not old … yet, and the only club I want to be a part of has eighteen holes and very nice grass with inconveniently placed sand boxes.

I think they too often fail to separate their personal preferences from God’s.

I think there is often way too much attention paid to what we do and not nearly enough to what we love.

I do care if they take the Bible seriously. All of it. Even when it makes us uncomfortable. Even when they disagree with me.

I do care if they are more about building kingdoms or movements than they are about building disciples. I do care if they are more worried about what some pastor in another state is doing in his church than they are about what some man down the street is doing on the way to hell.

I don’t care if they preach to someone who disagrees with them. I do care if they lend credence to those who are living in disobedience or denying the gospel.

I don’t care if they use strong language and preach hard and directly about sin. I do care if they trivialize the gospel through foul language or course humor.

I don’t care if they argue against what I believe. I do care if they pretend to argue against what I believe while actually arguing against something no one believes.

I am a fundamentalist. I am not going there, or there, or anywhere else.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things You Always Wanted to Know About Graduation

From the Mental Floss blog (generally full of useless information along with some interesting quizzes over useless information).

Where did we get the idea of having baccalaureate services?

If you get bored during a baccalaureate service this month, blame Oxford. A 1432 statute required that every Oxford grad deliver a sermon in Latin before he got his sheepskin, and the service took its name from the practice of presenting the new Bachelors (bacca) with laurels (lauri). Since the first colonial colleges modeled themselves after the big-name schools back home in England and largely focused on educating clergymen, the tradition came to the United States. Just thank your lucky stars you only have to hear one sermon, not a Latin sermon from each member of the graduating class.

Sermons in Latin? Today’s seminaries are really slacking off.

Find our more interesting things at Mental Floss.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vanhoozer on Morality and Hermeneutics

Justin Taylor, at Between Two Worlds, interviews professor and author Kevin Vanhoozer about his move to Wheaton. The end of the interview is about the tenth anniversary edition of Is There a Meaning in This Text?, a book about interpretation. Vanhoozer comments on the subtitle of his book, “The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge”:,

Let me begin by saying that my subtitle alludes to Van Harvey's important work, The Historian and the Believer: The Morality of Historical Knowledge and Christian Belief. Harvey argues that it is immoral--always, everywhere, and by everyone--to believe something except on the basis of sufficient evidence. This makes criticism more "moral" than faith. So much for the modern morality of knowledge. What I wanted to call attention to was that some postmoderns move in the opposite direction, succumbing not to intellectual pride but sloth by maintaining that it is immoral (they say "violent") to make claims about a text's determinate meaning.

Hermeneutics is a subset of ethics because interpretation aims at a certain kind of good, namely, understanding. In my book I argue for the importance of what I call the interpretative virtues: habits of mind that are more conducive than not to getting understanding. In particular, humility is a key interpretive virtue without which readers cannot do justice to authors as "others." Other interpretive virtues include honesty, openness, and attentiveness. Ultimately, the interpretive virtues are not merely intellectual, nor even moral, but spiritual and theological. For truly to be honest, humble, self-critical, and open is to be a person with certain dispositions, many of which are related to the fruit of the Spirit.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Waltke and Enns on Enns

The recent edition of the Westminster Theological Journal has an exchange between OT scholars Bruce Waltke and Peter Enns on Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation, which I commented on recently here. (They are re-published at Peter Enns Online.)

Waltke concludes,

A theory that entails notions that holy Scripture contains flat out contradictions, ludicrous harmonization, earlier revelations that are misleading and/or less than truthful, and doctrines that are represented as based on historical fact, but in fact are based on fabricated history, in my judgment, is inconsistent with the doctrine that God inspired every word of holy Scripture. To be sure, the Scripture is fully human, but it is just as fully the Word of God, with whom there is no shadow of turning and who will not lie to or mislead his elect.

Waltke claims that his comments and conclusions are strictly exegetical and a posteriori, which is to say that he is not writing out of his pre-determined theological commitments. Enns, in his response, gently ribs Waltke for his “apparent claim to have achieved exegetical objectivity” (p. 97).

I have to agree with Enns on that point. Exegetical objectivity is a pipe-dream, IMO (although I am as close as anyone I know)*. We all live and study in the sometimes vicious turmoil of the hermeneutical spiral.

Of course, Enns is perhaps a bit condescending when he speaks of allowing a “a responsible reading of Scripture to challenge our own fallen notions of Scripture, God, the gospel, and so forth” (p. 100). It is hard to imagine that Enns means by “responsible reading” anything other than his own approach. His tenor, both in I&I and this response seems to indicate that anyone who doesn’t read it his way is not reading responsibly.

My point is saying that is not to impugn Enns. I do not know him. Waltke affirms his belief that Enns is a man of personal integrity and “unflinching honesty.” Fine. My point is simply to say that Enns, like Waltke (and all of us), can be too in love with our own thinking and not able to see that others might be as “responsible” or perhaps more “responsible” than we are in the reading of Scripture, and still come to different conclusions.**

Having said all that, I think Waltke is right, as I previously expressed. I  think Enns bibliology is woefully lacking. I do not think he has wrestled with inerrancy and inspiration (and incarnation for that matter) in a responsible way. (I recently heard someone say that even the metaphor of incarnation works against Enns because Christ, in human flesh, was sinless. He did not partake of these foibles that Enns would like to thrust on the Scriptures.)

I think Waltke has successfully shown that Enns’ proof-texts can be handled in responsible ways that do not arrive at Enns’ conclusion. I think Waltke has a more coherent view of inspiration.

Enns says he has arrived at this position because has has no other option. I have no problem with that. I am a soteriological Calvinist and a traditional dispensationalist for the same reason: My conscience in the study of Scripture leaves me no other option. But we all (myself and Enns included) must recognize that good-faith study does not make us right. We might mean well and still be wrong.

In this case, Enns makes some good points. I agree with his conclusion that many of these issues are not “open and shut cases” (p. 114). But I still think he is wrong.


*I am kidding … Lighten up.

**Which reminds that I recently saw someone fairly young, obviously theologically and socially immature, accuse a more than 40-year veteran of seminary teaching of being clearly wrong. Having witnessed some of the exegetical process and conclusions of both, it is fair to say that some people would be better served by not speaking up, even when you think it.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Multi-Site Churches - Modern Day Bus Ministry

This article was started prior to my knowledge of the 9Marks EJournal. I have not read that yet. Any thoughts here are to be blamed solely on me.

I have mentioned multi-site churches before. A recent article about Mars Hill Church in Seattle going to its first out of state campus started me thinking again.

It used to be that the buses ran to bring the people to pastor. Now, the modern day bus ministry can take the pastor to the people. Is it bad? Perhaps not. But I think it deserves more thought.

Here’s a quick list of why I think that, some of which probably overlap, and all of which need some development, refinement, or answers as to why they should not be on this list:

  1. Celebrity Preachers – Why listen to some local yokel when you can hear “the Big Guy”? This reminds me of Dan Phillips’ recent article on Porn and Paper Pastors.
  2. Separation of the roles of pastor and preacher – One of the roles of the pastor is to shepherd his people through the preaching of the word. A DVD can’t do that. It ends up minimizing the role of pastoral ministry.
  3. Minimization of local church emphasis – One of the main features of a local church (preaching) isn’t actually local.
  4. Minimization of developing leaders – There is a decreasing need to develop biblical leaders who can teach the word effectively because you can download them. Qualifications for leadership begin to be boiled down to “Who can push play?”
  5. Temptation to Kingdom building – Why do we need 100 campuses in different states?
  6. Temptation to a belief in indispensability – “Smalltown USA doesn’t have a pastor who can preach like me. Let me send you a link so you can download a great church there.” Does Mark Driscoll really think God has no one these other cities who can preach the gospel? Is he really that indispensable? Yes, I know they have planted churches in many places, including local areas in Seattle. So why don’t they keep doing that? Train pastors and send them out.
  7. Difficulty of pastoral training – You can’t learn to pastor by serving under a video pastor.
  8. Separation of preaching and leadership – Local churches should be lead by … wait for it … local people. One of the key factors in church leadership is the pulpit ministry. When the pulpit ministry is hundreds of miles away, it seems hard to avoid a dichotomy between separation and leadership. A church essentially has a special speaker every week.
  9. Difficulty in contextualization – Mars Hill (not the first multi-site, but the one that sparked my thinking here) is big on contextualization in ministry. How does Mark contextualize his preaching for a city he doesn’t live in and doesn’t know anything about? It will be hard to contextualize your message for a city you don’t live in and for a congregation you know nothing about.

I don’t think multi-site is always bad. But as Ed Stetzer recently said, there are some disturbing implications here.