The Temple

Calvinism’s comeback

Time Magazine includes Calvinism in their list of the “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now”.  Other ideas included “Amortality” and “BioBanks”.

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March 13, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | Leave a comment

Typology & Daniel 6

Here are the links I promised to those of you in OT Survey and Bible study on Daniel.

Tonight’s Old Testament Class covered the issue of typology.    Good article on Typology  by W. Edward Glenny from Journal of Evangelical Theology (JETS).  Here is another version of the same article by Glenny, easier to read as it is all on one web page.   Here is an overview type article from Wayne Jackson that is really similar to the material in Bernard Ramm’s chapter on Typology from  Protestant Biblical Interpretation.    Since I don’t have a link to Ramm, this will have to do.

Tonight’s Bible Study covered Daniel 6. Daniel 6 is a good example of a passage that has clear typological elements (innocent man wrongly accused and sentenced to death only to defy death and emerge from a grave alive; visitor races to the “tomb”/pit/den at dawn to find hero not dead but alive;  global kingdom proclamation similar to the great commission) and yet is not classically considered typology.  For a good article on the historical challenges with Daniel, check out this PDF file by A.R. Millard, “Daniel 1-6 and History,” Evangelical Quarterly 49.2 (April-June 1977).

March 11, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Theological | , , , , | Leave a comment

Evangelicalism’s End?

Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) has written a series of articles on what he calls the “Coming Evangelical Collapse” which he parlayed into an article in the Christian Science Monitor.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Church, Culture - Values | , | Leave a comment

You Are Not Your Brain

Philosopher and professor at UC Berkeley Alva Noe has written a book entitled “Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness”.  This is a fascinating topic that spans the disciplines of biology, psychology, neuro-science, philosophy and theology.

Noe has a video on Edge the Third Culture website (hardly a Christian site) which is interesting because the conclusions drawn from this discussion mitigate against a materialistic universe held by most of the Edge crowd (Dawkins, Dennett, Gould, et al).  Materialists want to make consciousness merely a function of the brain.

“The reason we have been unable to  explain the neural basis of consciousness is that it does not take place in the brain…Consciousness is not something that happens inside us but something we achieve.  To understand consciousness – the fact that we think and feel and that a world shows up for us – we need to look at a larger system of which the brain is only one element.  Consciousness requires the joint operation of brain, body and world.  You are not your brain.  The brain rather is part of what you are.”

The question will be how do they link this idea with a materialist worldview.

Of course the Christian worldview has always answered this question with the soul and body composition of man.  We are made up of a material and immaterial part.  We are not gnostics who attribute superiority to the immaterial part, we view man as created in original holiness and good.  Depravity has distorted the image of God in man, and has affected both the material and immaterial parts of man.  Regeneration primarily deals with the immaterial part of man, and resurrection finalizes redemption as it is fully applied to us – the resurrection of the body being the primary focus.  Consciousness resides in the immaterial part of man and uses the brain to communicate between body and soul.

Thanks to Jim O. for the heads up on the Scientific American book review of Noe’s soon to be released work.

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March 10, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Philosophy, Theological | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Energetic Pastor

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton writes about the position of President, and in Federalist Paper 70 he raises the issue of Energy in the Executive.  The fledgling union was struggling to put together a form of government that recognized the strength of a single Executive without the abuses of the monarchy from which they were extricating themselves.  Hence an article on the very idea of a necessary energetic executive in the running of the government.  In his article Hamilton speaks of the ingredients that lend to good energy in the Executive office:

“A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.

“Taking it for granted, therefore, that all men of sense will agree in the necessity of an energetic Executive, it will only remain to inquire, what are the ingredients which constitute this energy? How far can they be combined with those other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? And how far does this combination characterize the plan which has been reported by the convention?

“The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.”

Our new President is especially in need of the substantive ingredients constituting energy.  Elections are about the presentation and perception of “energy”.  We are sold on a prospective candidates potential energy, and then the test of office demonstrates whether that “energy” is real or contrived.  Barak Obama faces a challenge as large as any of our previous presidents, our hope is that he proves himself energetic.

Interestingly enough, there is a correspondence between the office of President and the office of Pastor, and the need for an “energetic Pastor”.  The same four characteristics are necessary for a pastor to provide energy to his office, and to energize the mission of the church.

Unity

Unity refers to a capacity to make singular the direction of an institution.  Hamilton was concerned with the distinction of King and President. The question became can we remove the tyranny that typically accompanies a singular executive, that is the king.  The challenge became, can we maintain unity in the executive with a team?  The answer was negative.  As a result, the idea of President as a singular executive, Truman’s the buck stops here, was affirmed in Federalist 70.

So in churches, a common element contributing to health is a singular, powerful pastor figure.  In the pastorate, even more so than in the Presidency, unity is a necessary component.  Church affiliation is voluntary.  Church allegiance is transitory.  Church support is negotiable, and a method of voting.  To attract and keep people, the pastor must walk the fine line of exercising authority and leadership while maintaining and integrating the necessary plurality of leadership that is prescribed in the Scripture.

One of the keys to unity is the clarity of the plan and direction (clear vision and mission) that is framed from a Biblical perspective.  Unity in the church, and hence unity that flows from the pastor, is a unity that is derived from and submissive to the true head, that is Christ.  This must define the leaders self-perception.  If he is selfish and arrogant he can still be strong and unify a group, but it is not the purpose of the church simply to have strong organizations.  It is the purpose of the church to embody Christ.  When the pastor embodies Christ personally, professionally and directionally he imparts that strong presence to the body, who in fact resonate with all the above as a result of their organic resonance with Christ, hence the pastor.

The unity desired in the body is a special unity.  It is derived from the Spirit, and submitted to by the body.  Hence the competency (see below) of the pastor becomes a key factor in achieving Biblical, Christ-centered and derived unity.

Duration

It goes without saying (doesn’t it?) that in order to achieve Godly results, duration is a necessary component.  Life change may begin with a big bang, a dramatic birthing and beginning, but its growth is elongated.  Our microwave culture mitigates against duration.  We want it now, and we encourage surface and apparent change.  The words “persevere” and “suffer long” are not popular modern Christian terms.

As far as the executive is concerned, duration becomes the appraisal of fitness for ministry.  It is easy to preach one sermon, teach a series, give people my best for a year.  It is a whole different matter to endure before a congregation.  When a group of people can watch you raise your family in their midst, they learn more than any parenting series you could teach.  The church is about life together (thanks Dietrich), and living together takes time. We need more pastors, and more people to stick around and stay put.   Sure, it points out my weaknesses, but presents just more opportunity to point to the true leader.

Support

I have discovered that the church government is not American government.  Church leadership is not about checks and balances, or competing entities striving to get their own way or wield power.  Church leadership is about support.  Church leadership is the stage upon which the church learns how to treat “one another”.  All the one another passages of Scripture are to be played out by the leadership of any church to display what it means to live with one another, to forbear with one another, to encourage one another, to be at peace with one another, to serve one another.

An energetic executive cultivates an atmosphere of support.  He does that by first being a strong support.  The daily work of the pastor is where support is cultivated.  There are some old fashioned pastoring techniques that should be revisited here to achieve the requisite support necessary to build the church.  Ultimately, people give to churches monetarily because they support the pastor.  They support the pastor because he first supported them.

Competency

Uh-oh.  Is the term “Competent Pastor” an oxymoron?  Is there a corollary to the phrase, “those who can’t do, teach” for the ministry?

There is a requisite humility required to pastor.  I often ask the question “who am I?” when reflecting on my role as a pastor.  It is truly a humbling vocation.  With the humility there must be a confidence without which no executive can exert energy.  This confidence must reflect an accurate assessment of competency.

The pastor must be competent in the following areas:

  • Spiritual health, growth
  • Integrity
  • The Scriptures
  • The mind
  • Relationships
  • Communication

I am sure there are many more.  But these seem like the critical areas to me.  Too many pastors are incompetent. This incompetence covers the gamut from big to small churches.  We often ascribe competence to church size, another accommodation to culture.  Pastoral competence (sometimes) has nothing to do with church size.  Many small church pastors are incompetent, and some large church pastors display incompetence in the above areas.  They probably have a rare competence that leads to the large church experience, but are woefully incompetent in many Biblical pastoral ways.

So there it is guys, for those of you who are pastors/elders in churches, what do you think of the list?

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Church, Leadership, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ash Wednesday and Lent

I am not a holiday fan.

I know, grinch-ish.  Nonetheless, they tend to move people in the opposite direction of their intention.  Valentine’s day causes men to believe that the only day they need to buy flowers for their wife is Feb. 14.

“What more do you want from me?”

Burial of the Sardine

So Ash Wednesday and Lent birth Mardi Gras and the false asceticism of lent practices.  Mardi Gras brings out the worst in human behavior, all before we have to get better for lent.  Then we purge for forty days prior to Holy celebrations of Easter only to revert back to “normal” after it is all over.

This is not healthy Christianity.

Here are some of the things we are “giving up” for lent (from Twitter):

Facebook
Texting
Beef
Caffeine
Ben & Jerry’s
Despair
Fast food
Peanut butter
Negative Thinking
Extraneous spending
Alcohol

So the assumption behind the “giving up” for lent is that when it is over we can revert to unhealthy, petty, insignificant, destructive behaviors and restore a “normal” life.  Holidays should not discourage us from maturity, but spur us on to “holi”ness.  So don’t give up a thing for lent. Instead, add a good habit that will begin in the forty days and stick beyond Easter, and because of Easter, which is a celebration of life.  Lent , like all holidays, should be a time of exaggerated living, that is, people trying to increase good behavior.  Give more, pray more, love more, help more, make an extra effort at positive holiness.

We demean the celebration by highlighting our negative behavior, appeasing  our conscience by refraining from them for a season when they should not be a part of our life or an issue at all.  Giving up texting is an unnecessary and trivial exercise.  Texting?  We use these issues as excuses to ignore  the root of the matter.  Instead of giving up texting, do what you are supposed to do when you are texting.  If you are feeling guilty about texting, is it because it is keeping you from…working???  So get to work.  You should probably give up fast food forever, it will kill you early.  Why give it up for lent?  Why not regard your body with the respect it deserves as a precious gift from God and care for it, all year.  Are you seriously going to go back to “negative thinking” after Easter?  Stop using holidays as an excuse for mediocre living.

The Battle between Carnival and Lent

"The Battle between Carnival and Lent"

Maybe I am overreacting, but I for one find this cyclical pattern harmful to my overall progress in Christ.  Make this Holy Season a time to celebrate Christ in a superior fashion.

Christian growth is attempted in one of two ways:  The first attempts the giving up of certain practices.  “Stop doing that!” is the mantra of this camp.

The second, and superior way, attempts to add healthy and positive behaviors to life, and like bermuda grass, the strength and tenacity of health chokes out unhealthy and destructive behavior.

The first way only has limited success and results in legalism and arrogance.  The second way is rewarding and helps us to get to the goal: Christlikeness.

Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, Christmas should reflect ongoing values and behaviors, affirming and celebrating the upward journey.  Fix your eyes on Jesus.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Culture - Values | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Penn Says: A Gift of a Bible

Penn Jillette has a lot to say about religion, he is an atheist, but here is a provocative video where he tells of someone who gave him a Bible. He says some interesting things that Christians should remember when talking to unbelievers:

  • He was complimentary
  • He said nice stuff
  • He gave me…
  • He looked me in the eye
  • He made it personal (Penn says: “He said I wrote in the front of it, wanted you to have it)
  • He was not defensive
  • He was truly complimentary, kind, nice, sane, looked me in the eye
  • He cared enough about me to talk to me

Here are some other things he said about the encounter and evangelism (proselytizing):

  • It was really wonderful
  • I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize
  • How much do you have to hate people to not proselytize, if you really believe heaven and hell is at stake?
  • He cared enough about me to talk to me

Not all atheists and unbelievers are interested in being evangelized, but everyone is interested when you care about them. Evangelism must be driven by unadulterated love for the person you are speaking to. It is not a debate or an argument, it is an expression of care and concern.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Penn Says: A Gift of a Bible“, posted with vodpod

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Atheism, Christian Living, Christianity, Philosophy, Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading Calvin

Some people believe that Calvinists are not Christians.  Odd.  Calvin may have been the greatest Christian mind given to the church.  His Institutes are worth reading, and they are not easy, so it may be easier to read with others.  Here are two websites that are moving through the Institutes this year, both in audio format and in print.  Challenge your mind to some deep thinking.

Douglas Wilson at Blog and Mablog

Princeton Theological Seminary

ht: Between Two Worlds; Douglas Wilson

January 1, 2009 Posted by | Books, Christianity, Theological | , , , | 3 Comments

We Did It!?

I wrote this blog post the day following the election, November 5, 2008.  I decided to postpone posting it because of its sarcasm, and I really don’t think the issue is gay marriage, rather how we impact and influence society and culture.  Now, here is where people will get sidetracked from my argument, so let me clarify.  I am not “for” gay marriage.  The phrase gay marriage is an oxymoron.  The gay lifestyle and disposition has no appeal, people do not aspire to homosexuality, they resign themselves to homosexuality.  Parents do not hope for gay children, and for good reason:  the gay lifestyle and predicament is a burden not a nobility.  It argues against itself.  Christianity  should offer hope and freedom.

Last night, Californians saved marriage.

It was almost pulled away from us by the gay population, but we beat them back at the ballot box.  Christianity prevailed.  We did it.  We saved marriage.  If we had lost, marriage as we know it would be lost forever.  It would have been our fault that we didn’t get out the vote.  But thank God we did, who knows what my household would have been like today if we hadn’t.  Congratulations.

I have been holding out saying much about this until the election was over.  Now it is time to talk about politics and the influence of politics on the church and it’s method and message.

First, we got caught in lies.

Political rhetoric is shamefully obtuse and deceptive.  It leaves out key facts that paint the full picture and it speaks in hyperbole, mostly to engender a response most often a response of fear.  So, Barack Obama was said to have voted “present” in many of his Senate votes as if that were a bad thing when in fact it isn’t as bad as it was made out to be.  So McCain was “attached” to the Bush administration so that he could be marginalized by people who want “change”.  So the economic crisis is pinned on the President when the realities are much more complex.  And the Prop. 8 campaign also spoke in hyperbole.

Here is a quote from the Prop 8 website (“protectmarriage.com” even the name is hyperbolic):

“It is imperative that all pastors and Christian leaders view this for what it is: an irretrievable moment, with profound and lasting consequences.  We must vigorously support Prop 8, as if our ministries and our lives depend on it.  Ultimately, they will.”

That is the end paragraph, the conclusion of a lengthy quote which included statements like:  “hinge of history”; “major change point”; “threatens to forever muzzle Bible believing Christians”.

I disagree.  Yesterday was not an irretrievable moment.  My ministry in no way was dependent on the outcome of prop. 8.  My life was not in danger.  This will not be a shining historical moment for the church, nor would it have been a blight on our history if the proposition failed.  Bible believing Christians will never be muzzled, even if called to die for the gospel proclamation. In many periods of church history, the voice of the church has never been as clarion as it is when the church was persecuted.

This kind of language is harmful to the church and it’s message.  Critics are rightly branding this speech as “untrue”.  Is it worth it to have the reputation of truth tarnished by the language we use to “get out the vote”?  I say it is not.  And today, we will begin to feel the repurcussions of our political dalliance.

Second, we forgot our mission.

Our voice, our strength, our purpose is not to change society or protect our values through legislation.  I heard yesterday on the radio (Southwest Radio Church) that the gospel message needed to be 90% law and 10% grace (they claimed to be quoting Wesley). Now the book of Galatians says that the law is a tutor that leads to Christ.  But this is not a template for evangelism nor is it a template for influencing culture.  If the passage is read carefully, faith precedes the giving of the law!  This is Paul’s argument in both Romans and Galatians.  “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  We don’t preach the law, we preach Christ crucified.

Third, we are missing/losing the more important battle.

Pursuing the battleground of the law when we have lost the battleground of the mind, is to lose the war.   Christians have abdicated the intellectual arena of our culture.  It used to be that the presence of Christian thinkers permeated the major universities of our nation.  The minds of the leaders and opinion makers of the nation were first indoctrinated and influenced by truth and a Christian worldview.  That has changed dramatically.  The rise of  Christian colleges and universities has caused a void in the secular university.  The best and brightest Christians are no longer teaching or attending the major universities.  That change has extended to the market place, where now we seek businesses marked with the sign.

Policy makers and opinion shapers are also the unique home of the secular.  Christian youth are not encouraged to enter the fields of journalism, media, politics or law.  We see those areas of our culture as tainted, ungodly.  This abdication has hurt the cause of truth.  It has hurt the cause of Christian values being the underpinning of our society.  And the more we play the fortress game, the further the divide will become and the more we will bemoan the encroaching evil all around us, and the more we will appeal to the past (this is a nation founded on Christian principles) and the more we will resort to muscling our views on this increasingly secular and non-Christian society.

The real battle lies in our ability to re-enter the culture war and fight the battle for the mind.  It is an intellectual battle and unfortunately there is a raging anti-intellectualism in the evangelical movement.  It is a lifestyle change but we are too comfortable in our modern monasteries that we call church with the accompanying accoutrement of cloistered lifestyle choices:  homeschooling, Christian colleges, exclusive social circles.  All these things, if designed to protect us from “the world” instead of preparing us to engage our culture, keep us from really winning the war.  It is not an election war; it will take much longer than an election cycle.

Lastly…

Proposition 8 just seems like bad strategy to me.

First, it will go before the same 9th Circuit Court at some point when challenged legally.  They have already made their opinion clear on the issue.  There is a good chance “the voice of the people” will be overturned by the 9th Circuit on legal and constitutional grounds rather than on Christian moral grounds.  I am willing to be shown wrong on this point, not being a legal expert, but all propositions must in fact be constituional or they will not become law.  The proponents of Proposition 8 say this is exactly why this was put in the form of a constitutional amendment, nonetheless, it will be challenged.

Second, is the issue homosexual marriage? or is it homosexuality period?  Christians are not simply opposed to homosexual marriage, we are opposed to homosexuality.  It isn’t going away.  If we are opposed to homosexuality and not simply homosexual marriage then shouldn’t we really support legislation against homosexuality?  The reason we would answer no to this is the same answer we should not fight in this arena. America is not the church.  We don’t legislate church law.   Homosexuality cannot be overcome by the law, only by the gospel.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Culture - Values, Ethics, Politics, Politics and Religion | , , | 3 Comments

Matthew taught by Al Mohler

I have been listening to Al Mohler teach Matthew on his program called Powerline…good stuff.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Christianity | , , , , | 2 Comments