Saturday, February 18, 2012

Around the Horn

Leading off today is an interesting story about a WWII navy ship disaster off the coast of Newfoundland. One of the causes was that the ships didn’t know where they were. Sonar didn’t work well in the storm, visibility was bad, and the navigator was plotting their position by the occasional view of the stars. Grounding, freezing water, an oil-slick, a steep cliff, and a willing community make this fascinating.

At second, here’s an interesting video where Ed Stetzer shares some statistics on younger, unchurched people in America. It’s interesting, particularly about younger people being willing to listen. I have the book that this talk comes from, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them. I have even read some of it. Sorry, Ed. Will finish the rest tomorrow. Or the next day for sure. Seriously, it is an interesting book and talk.

At third, the NY Times reports on the increasing statistics regarding birth to single mothers. For women under 30, most births occur outside of marriage. This is a significant social structure problem in society. Yesterday, I talked with a University of Michigan grad student doing an internship here locally. We talked about the society structures and the idea that a lack of solid family structure is a serious problem for stability in a community. Children are not benefited by parents who do not marry and take responsibility for their lives and their choices. Many children are growing up in a split families, and some do not even know who their dad is, or at least have no relationship with him. This is bad for children, and it is bad communities.

And last but not least, the first signs of spring show up this week in the news reports that the hot stove league is cooling off and the pitchers and catchers are reporting this weekend for most baseball clubs. Full team workouts begin next weekend. The boys of summer are on the way back.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Lloyd-Jones on Debates

In Preaching & Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ or “The Doctor” for some) recounts how he was once invited to a public debate on the question of religion with a man who “held more or less atheistical views at that time.”

MLJ declined and tells of how he was questioned for that.

Many felt that I was rejecting and missing a wonderful evangelistic opportunity.

But I maintained then, and I still maintain, that my decision was the correct one. Quite apart from any detailed reasons which I am going to give, I think it is wrong as a total approach. My impression is that experience of the kind of thing shows clearly that it very rarely succeeds, or leads to anything. It provides entertainment, but as far as I am aware, and in my experience and knowledge of it, it has very rarely been fruitful or effective as a means of winning people to the Christian faith.

But more important still are my detailed reasons. The first is, and to me this was an all-sufficient reason in itself, that God is not to be discussed or debated. God is not a subject for debate, because He is Who He is and What He is. …

To discuss the being of God in a casual manner, lounging in an armchair, smoking a pipe or a cigarette or a cigar, is to me something that we should never allow, because God, as I say, is not a kind of philosophic X or a concept. …

It seems to me that these supposed discussions and dialogues on religion that we have the television and radio are generally nothing but sheer entertainment. Equal time is given to the unbeliever as to the believer, and there is the cut and thrust of debate and jocularity and fun. The programme is so arranged that the subject cannot be dealt with in depth. I protest that the matter with which we are concerned is so desperately serious and vital and urgent that we should never allow it to be approached in this way.” (46-48)

Was MLJ too radical? How should we engage his proposition that weighty matters of theology are not well handled in armchair debates, particularly among scoffers? Is there something here that should inform us as to the value of something like the Elephant Room? Are there some areas in which MLJ’s principles against debate would not apply?

Regardless of how we conclude on these questions, we should give some thought to MLJ’s point, namely, that God is. And therefore, it doesn’t fit to debate or discuss that.

Perhaps it would be a bit like debating the existence and usefulness of air. Without it, you can’t even debate it.

We should take care before indulging the questions of scoffers, which it typically how debates are arranged.

Here’s the other side. I greatly enjoyed and learned from the debate between Gordon Stein and Greg Bahnsen. If you have listened to it, you should. Multiple times. I have greatly benefited from other debates, panel discussions, exchanges of ideas, etc.

After all, Paul engaged people in synagogues, on Mars Hill, in the marketplace, indeed it seems anywhere that he could get someone to engage.

So there’s good precedent it seems.

But we need to be careful.

I suppose I tend to side against MLJ here. But I think his point should be carefully considered.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Ryle on Sanctification

This is a longish series of quotes (in order, but not consecutive), but IMO it is worth hearing in the modern day discussion about sanctification. They are from pp. xi-xv in the introduction to Ryle’s Holiness (which is Logos’ free book of the month this month).

I ask, in the first place, whether it is wise to speak of faith as the one thing needful, and the only thing required, as many seem to do now-a-days in handling the doctrine of sanctification?—Is it wise to proclaim in so bald, naked, and unqualified a way as many do, that the holiness of converted people is by faith only, and not at all by personal exertion? Is it according to the proportion of God’s Word? I doubt it.

But surely the Scriptures teach us that in following holiness the true Christian needs personal exertion and work as well as faith. The very same Apostle who says in one place, “The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,” says in another place, “I fight,—I run,—I keep under my body;” and in other places, “Let us cleanse ourselves,—let us labour,—let us lay aside every weight.” (Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 9:26; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 4:11; 12:1.) Moreover, the Scriptures nowhere teach us that faith sanctifies us in the same sense, and in the same manner, that faith justifies us! Justifying faith is a grace that “worketh not,” but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ. (Rom. 4:5.) Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life is action: it “worketh by love,” and, like a main-spring, moves the whole inward man. (Gal. 5:6.)

But surely the New Testament teaches us that we want something more than generalities about holy living, which often prick no conscience and give no offence. The details and particular ingredients of which holiness is composed in daily life, ought to be fully set forth and pressed on believers by all who profess to handle the subject. True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace. Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations,—our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects,—our dress, our employment of time, our behaviour in business, our demeanour in sickness and health, in riches and in poverty,—all, all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers. They are not content with a general statement of what we should believe and feel, and how we are to have the roots of holiness planted in our hearts. They dig down lower. They go into particulars. They specify minutely what a holy man ought to do and be in his own family, and by his own fireside, if he abides in Christ. I doubt whether this sort of teaching is sufficiently attended to in the movement of the present day.

1.  Ryle is surely right that the faith which justifies does not work the same way as the faith which sanctifies. Remembering the work of Jesus is no substitute for “discipline yourselves for the purpose of godliness.” These two must not be set in opposition.

2.  Ryle is surely right that preaching and teaching about personal holiness is about more than generalities which prick no conscience and give no offense. The Bible is specific, and it does not address only what we believe about Jesus and his cross work. It also specifies what we must do, and the NT makes it plain that it will not be easy and will not be without sacrifice.

3.  Ryle is surely right that this sort of teaching is not sufficiently attended to in our day. There is a great fear of legalism and extra-biblical rules. And it is wise, nay, it is biblical to be concerned about legalism and extra-biblical rules. But today, there are a lot of babies flowing in the waste-water because people have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. There is a fear of clear proclamation of the Scriptures on matters of personal holiness. There is a fear of being grace killers. We just need to get over that. Yes, be cautious, but don’t be fearful of saying what God has already said.