Saturday, November 29, 2008


By Jenny Bruce

I'll admit it, I'm somewhat of a technophobe. Since I don't own a computer, I need to drive to work if I want to check my email over the weekend. The most high tech music device in my possession is the nifty CD clock radio I received when I graduated from high school (definitely a step up from my record player.) I'm seriously considering letting my analog television go dark in February because I don't want to mess with a converter box. Oh, and I've started occasionally communicating through a method the kids call "texting."

Technophobe that I am, it's no surprise that I'm a bit wary of the enthusiasm surrounding digital literacy and devices such as the Kindle. Thus, I loved Christina Rosen's recent article, People Of The Screen. Here's a taste:

"If reading has a history, it might also have an end. It is far too soon to tell when that end might come, and how the shift from print literacy to digital literacy will transform the “reading brain” and the culture that has so long supported it. Echoes will linger, as they do today from the distant past: audio books are merely a more individualistic and technologically sophisticated version of the old practice of reading aloud. But we are coming to see the book as a hindrance, a retrograde technology that doesn’t suit the times. Its inanimacy now renders it less compelling than the eye-catching screen. It doesn’t actively do anything for us. In our eagerness to upgrade or replace the book, we try to make reading easier, more convenient, more entertaining—forgetting that reading is also supposed to encourage us to challenge ourselves and to search for deeper meaning."

Even if you don't share my issues with technology, I think Rosen's insightful article is definitely worth a read (even if you have to read it via your computer screen.) Meanwhile, I'm going to go learn how to program my VCR.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Regarding a Theology of Worship: An Aside About Music in the Bible

By Andrew Faris

I still most certainly plan on continuing my series on worship, but two factors have led me to this little interruption. First, it's Thanksgiving Day and I'm sitting on a patio overlooking the beach with my delightful family, a good friend, and my fiancee. Look, it's not that I don't love theology, it's just that there are other things on my mind. What do you want from me?

Second, and more to the point, I was listening to a sermon from Bob Kauflin of Covenant Life church (where C. J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris are also pastors) on music in their series on wordliness yesterday. Kauflin leads worship at that church and made an interesting point: the Bible talks a whole lot about music.

I suppose I never realized how true that is. The OT temple cultus included much singing (e.g. 2 Chr. 7:6), many Psalms were clearly set to music and sung by the congregation, Lamentations is a book of songs, the Prophets predicted that joyful singing would characterize Yahweh's future restoration of His people (e.g. Jer. 30:18-19; 31:4, 7, 12-14), Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn after the institution of the Lord's supper (Mt. 26:30), the NT congregation is supposed to sing to and with one another (Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16), and the Lamb who can open the Scroll in Revelation is praised with singing (Rev. 5:9-10). And that's just to name a few examples.

Why bring this up? The fact the Bible is so full of music and singing makes it all the more conspicuous that there is so little specific prescription about what and how to play and sing.

And that further strengthens my case from this post that we who are trying to worship biblically must work on principles, not specific examples.

More on that next time, when I'm not surrounded by the beach, my family, my friend, and my fiancee.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Helpful Reminder about Giving Thanks

Here's a hilarious little reminder to be thankful. Christians should be the most grateful people in the universe, and this gratitude should show up in even the "mundane" facets of our lives.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is for Tom Wright to Finish the Fourth Volume in Christian Origins and the Question of God... (part 1)

I know I'm asking a lot. After all, the brilliant bishop has penned around 200 books in the past five years. Moreover, he's published a little work on Paul which gives us his take on the apostle in summary form. However, I want more. Back in 2003, when Wright completed the third volume in his epochal, apocalyptic, earth-shattering Christian Origins and the Question of God series, we knew there would be a fourth installment, and that this volume would be devoted to St. Paul. Wright has already distinguished himself as perhaps the premiere scholar of his generation. But I'm a man with questions. Wright has doled out appetizers to his readership, but I'm ready for the main course. And when Tom finally does release this tome, I'd be elated if it addressed three questions in particular, one of which I will address today...

Question 1. Why do you define justification as a bare delcaration? Wright states that justification, "is not how someone becomes a Christian. It is the declaration that they have become a Christian
" [What St. Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997); 125]. Elsewhere he says that, "...dikaioo is...a declarative word, declaring that something is the case, rather than a word for making something happen or changing the way something is" [“New Perspectives on Paul,” in Justification in Perspective: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges, ed. Bruce L. McCormack (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006); 258]. However, as masterful exegete and blogger extraordinaire Michael Bird states, "this reduces justification to an analytic judgment based upon regeneration...." [The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification and the New Perspective (PBM: Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2007); 103]. The crucial question is this; is God's justifying activity merely declaratory, or does it also bring about a new state of affairs?

In a number of detailed studies, Mark Seidfrid has convincingly argued that the righteousness of God is to be understood against a creational backdrop, and refers to the creative action of God whereby he saves/vindicates his people, judges his (and their) enemies, and establishes justice in the world [“Righteousness Language in the Hebrew Scriptures and Early Judaism,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D.A. Carson, P.T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seidfrid (vol. 1: Tübingen/Grand Rapids: Mohr Siebeck/Baker Academic, 2001); “Paul’s Use of Righteousness Language Against its Background,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul, ed. D.A. Carson, P.T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seidfrid (vol. 2: Tübingen/Grand Rapids: Mohr Siebeck/Baker Academic, 2004); 39-74]. When God asserts righteousness by “justifying” his people, this is not a bare verdict, but corresponds to a justifying act/event ("Paul's Use of Righteousness Language," 41). In fact, justification in its forensic sense is intimately bound up with redemption and salvation (Ibid., 41). That Paul understands justification thusly is borne out by his Christological conception of the doctrine. Jesus' death (Rom 5:9) and resurrection (Rom 4:25) jointly comprise the enactment of our justification. Justification for Paul is therefore inextricably tied to an event. Piper [The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007); 98], believes Romans 5:1 also creates problems for Wright’s view. From his previous argument (1:18-4:25), Paul draws the inference that, on the basis of justification, believers have peace with God. This presupposes that justification effects a situation wherein peace with God is operative. However, this doesn’t make sense within Wright’s construal, for justification is God’s declaration that the believer has already been saved and brought into the family of God. While Wright could respond that this verse refers to believers’ awareness of peace with God, such an interpretation does not appear amenable to the context, which has to do with states of affairs created by God’s righteousness. In short, Wright’s contention that initial justification is simply declaratory assumes that a declaration can exist without a corresponding act or event. The literature of the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism, as well as Paul's own words, mitigate the plausibility of this interpretation.

Additionally, Wright might be guilty of inconsistency on this issue. Surprisingly, he acknowledges that God’s declaration in final justification will consist of an event; namely, the resurrection (See N.T. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” 260; this is pointed out by Piper, The Future of Justification, 100). If however God’s act of final justification consists of bringing about a new state of affairs, then it is not a bald declaration that something has happened. Accordingly, should not this caution us from understanding initial justification as a simple declaration that something is the case? Wright suggests that water-baptism is the event which corresponds to initial justification (Ibid., 260), but this begs the question; what changes at the point of initial justification? Wright has yet to explain how justification can sometimes be wholly declaratory, yet at other times refer an event which brings about a new state of affairs.

I'm sure Wright has thought through these objections (he's probably thought through just about everything). I'd just like him to respond to his detractors in greater Christmas.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

These Are a Few of my Favorite Links

Here is this week's round-up:

Andrew: Ian Clausen exposes the internal contradictions when secular liberalism affirms that "all are created equal."
Norm: Ben Witherington III thinks that Lazarus wrote John's Gospel
Jeff: The article about the Serbian abortion doctor turned anti-abortion champion is too good to pass up, even if we've already posted on it this week.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Excuses Are Like Noses - Everybody Has One

When I was a kid, my dad used that expression every time I made an excuse. Then I would promptly reply, "Well what about Tycho Brahe? He didn't really have a nose." Charming child, no?

So my excuse for yet another quote post is that tonight was opening night for our kids' theatre production of "The Aristocats" and it has pretty much consumed my mind for the entire week. Thus, I could post on the acting methods of second graders, or how to make eighty cat costumes using only fur, sweatpants, and hot glue, or just put up an Anselm quote I happen to like. I choose Anselm. The following is from “Why God Became Man” (or "Cur Deus Homo" for all you Latin lovers out there)

"13. That there is nothing in the universal order more intolerable than that a creature should take away from the Creator the honour due to him, and not repay what he takes away.

Anselm: There is nothing more intolerable in the universal order than that a creature should take away honour from the creator and not repay what he takes away.

Boso: Nothing is more self-evident than this.

Anselm: There is nothing, furthermore, which is more unjust to tolerate than the most intolerable thing in the universal order.

Boso: That, too, is very clear.

Anselm: I think, therefore, that you will not say that God ought to tolerate something which it is the greatest injustice in the universe to tolerate, namely: that a creature should not give back to God what he takes away.

Boso: No, on the contrary, I see that this needs to be utterly denied.

Anselm: Likewise, if there is nothing greater and nothing better than God, then there is nothing, in the government of the universe, which the supreme justice, which is none other than God himself, preserves more justly than God’s honour.

Boso: This too is perfectly plain.

Anselm: There is nothing, therefore, which God preserves more justly than the honour of his dignity.

Boso: I must grant this to be so.

Anselm: Does it seem to you that he is preserving his honor intact if he allows it to be taken from himself on such terms that, on the one had, it is not repaid him, and, on the other, he does not punish the person who takes it?

Boso: I dare not say so.

Anselm: It is a necessary consequence, therefore, that either the honour which has been taken away should be repaid, or punishment should follow. Otherwise, either God will not be just to himself, or he will be without the power to enforce either of the two options; and it is an abominable sin even to consider this possibility."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Calvin on Romans 3 and Total Depravity

Still reading Calvin, and thus have plenty of quotes to share. Now that blogging has become a consistent part of my life, there is this strange little filter that is always looking for good quotes in everything I read now. It's weird.

Anyway, my belief in the universality of human sin (and further still, in total depravity, but I especially highlight universality of sin because even Arminians have to reckon with this on some level) has always been a little hard to reconcile with the reality of non-Christians who do really good things. It's the neglected step-brother of the problem of evil: the problem of good.

This isn't exactly the issue that Calvin goes after here (though he certainly addresses it elsewhere), but I found this quote to be helpful regarding the sin that does and does not surface in each human:
If these [the sins described in Rom. 3] are the hereditary endowments of the human race, it is futile to seek anything good in our nature. Indeed, I grant that not all these wicked traits appear in every man; yet one cannot deny that this hydra lurks in the breast of each. For as the body, so long as it nourishes in itself the cause and matter of disease (even though pain does not yet rage), will not be called healthy, so also will the soul not be considered healthy while it abounds with so many fevers of vice. This comparison, however, does not fit in every detail. For in the diseased body some vigor of life yet remains; although the soul, plunged into this deadly abyss, is not only burdened with vices, but is utterly devoid of all good. (Calvin, Institutes, 2.3.2)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good News from Serbia

Here's something for all you disheartened pro-lifers out there. I found this article rather extraordinary, and thought the whole thing was worth posting.

Serbian Abortionist Who Aborted 48,000 Babies Becomes Pro-Life Activist

MADRID, November 13, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish daily "La Razon" has published an article on the pro-life conversion of a former "champion of abortion." Stojan Adasevic, who performed 48,000 abortions, sometimes up to 35 per day, is now the most important pro-life leader in Serbia, after spending 26 years as the most renowned abortion doctor in the country.

"The medical textbooks of the Communist regime said abortion was simply the removal of a blob of tissue," the newspaper reported. "Ultrasounds allowing the fetus to be seen did not arrive until the 80s, but they did not change his opinion. Nevertheless, he began to have nightmares."

In describing his conversion, Adasevic said he "dreamed about a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, from 4 to 24 years of age, but who ran away from him in fear. A man dressed in a black and white habit stared at him in silence. The dream was repeated each night and he would wake up in a cold sweat. One night he asked the man in black and white who he was. 'My name is Thomas Aquinas,' the man in his dream responded. Adasevic, educated in communist schools, had never heard of the Dominican genius saint. He didn't recognize the name."

"Why don't you ask me who these children are?" St. Thomas asked Adasevic in his dream.

"They are the ones you killed with your abortions,” the Dominican saint told him.

"Adasevic awoke in amazement and decided not to perform any more abortions," the article stated.

"That same day a cousin came to the hospital with his four months-pregnant girlfriend, who wanted to get her ninth abortion - something quite frequent in the countries of the Soviet bloc. The doctor agreed. Instead of removing the fetus piece by piece, he decided to chop it up and remove it as a mass. However, the baby's heart came out still beating. Adasevic realized then that he had killed a human being,"

After this experience, Adasevic "told the hospital he would no longer perform abortions. Never before had a doctor in Communist Yugoslavia refused to do so. They cut his salary in half, fired his daughter from her job, and did not allow his son to enter the university."

After years of pressure and on the verge of giving up, he had another dream about St. Thomas.

"You are my good friend, keep going,” the man in black and white told him. “Adasevic became involved in the pro-life movement and was able to get Yugoslav television to air the film 'The Silent Scream,' by Doctor Bernard Nathanson, two times."

Adasevic has told his story in magazines and newspapers throughout Eastern Europe. He has returned to the Orthodox faith of his childhood and has studied the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

"Influenced by Aristotle, Thomas wrote that human life begins forty days after fertilization," Adasevic wrote in one article. Scientific advancements since Thomas’ time, however, have revealed that human life begins at the moment of conception. La Razon commented that Adasevic "suggests that perhaps the saint wanted to make amends for that error." Today the Serbian doctor continues to fight for the lives of the unborn.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hermeneutical Guidelines for a Theology of Worship (Part 2)

It was when I read this quote from a footnote on the first page of Michael Farley's JETS article entitled "What Is 'Biblical' Worship? Biblical Hermeneutics and Evangelical Theologies of Worship", that I knew I would end up disagreeing with his conclusion:
Liturgy and 'worship' are words with multiple meanings and connotations. In Christian perspective, every act and aspect of life can be considered worship, in the sense that every occasion in life is an opportunity for gratefully receiving God's gracious gifts and responding with whole-hearted devotion. Within the context of one's life as a whole, however, there are specific acts of devotion that embody this relational dynamic between God and his people in a more explicit and focused manner...These particular kinds of worship may be performed by individuals in private, by small gatherings of Christians (e.g. families, small groups) or by a whole congregation. This essay restricts its attention to the last of these particular modes of worship, and thus 'worship and 'liturgy,' even when used without any qualifying adjectives, denote the content and order of the weekly coroporate worsihp of the entire Chrsitian assembly in a specific congregation or parish gathered on the Lord's Day. (Farley, JETS Vol. 51, No. 3: Sep., 2008; 591).
Farley's approach is all too common. Many of the books I have read, teachers I have listened to, and dialogue partners I have discussed this issue with begin by tipping the hat to the reality that, well, really, all of life is worship. But that thought is then left behind, as if we can start talking about the real issues now that we've gotten that bit out of the way.

In my first post in this short series on worship, I argued that any attempt to discuss the specifics of worship without a clear grasp of the guiding theological principles proves fruitless, and in my experience, divisive. The Bible is conspicuously silent on the specifics, and we thus must look elsewhere.

And I do not doubt that Farley and any who sympathize with his final position agree. The trouble is that what he leaves behind in a footnote on the first page of his article, I suggest is the key to thinking about biblical worship.

Let me then be quite clear with my thesis: the key theological principle that ought to guide any biblical theology of worship is that musical worship exists to empower the life of worship that every Christian should live at every moment of every day. Put another way, our application of Rom. 12:1-2 should guide our application of 1 Cor. 12-14. I am convinced it did so for Paul.

A few notes on my choice of terms:

- I use the term "biblical theology" broadly as a shorthand for "theology derived from the Bible," not as that sub-disicipline of theology that seeks to work through Scripture diachronically as opposed to "systematic theology." "Biblical theology" in the narrower sense is actually quite important to defending my thesis and will be treated with some detail, but that is not how I mean it here.

- I have tried in all of life (most certainly including these posts) to stop referring to what goes on when we congregationally sing praises to our Lord as "worship" with no qualifiers. When I want to discuss that event, I will use phrases such as "congregational worship", "corporate worship", and/or "musical worship." My thesis being what it is, this is actually quite important. I am convinced that the use of the term "worship" in an unqualified sense to refer to musical worship has been a major factor contributing to the confusion on this issue.

- For ease of discussion I will refer to the Christian's life of worship as, fittingly, "life-worship," though the reader can assume that an unqualified use of "worship" refers to the same thing hereafter.

Having set out my thesis, let me give an overview of my defense with some good old fashioned proof-texting here and save my more in depth exegetical and biblical-theological (in the narrow sense) work for my next post. But for now, here are my major arguments:

1. As I have already argued at some length, the Bible is generally quiet about the specifics of worship. This is not just because there were no electric guitars to fight about in Paul's day, but more importantly because the specifics are simply not the root issues. 'Nuf said.

2. Old Testament temple rituals are relevant to New Testament worship almost exclusively symbolically, and thus do not address New Testament worship specifics much at all. This may sound flippant, but I am convinced it is the best way to handle the relationship between OT and NT worship. This biblical-theological, salvation-historical movement will be the major burden of my next post, but for those who are immediately off-put let me challenge you with this simple question: where in the NT do you find a direct use of OT temple ritual commended to the church?

3. The New Testament consistently frames discussions about what Christians should do when they gather together in terms of how Christians obey the Lord in the rest of their lives. Again, this will get more detail later, but I refer you here to 1 Cor. 12-14, where edification is the answer to extraordinary but not congregationally beneficial spiritual overflow; to Heb. 10:25, where meeting together has the purpose of stirring one another up to love and good deeds (note especially the discussion in 10:26ff); and to Eph. 5:18-20, where Spirit-filled singing is not just meant to praise God, but is meant to address one another and is what precipitates the discussion of how submission plays out in Christian living. I hope you see my point.

4. All of this is based on one major idea, namely the relocation of the temple from a central place in a city to the person of Jesus Christ. Christian living in the NT is the fulfillment of temple worship in the OT. This is much of the same reason why the only priests you find in the NT are Jesus, the Great High Priest, and the community of priests (i.e. all Christians).

We have immediately failed to understand this issue every time we admit that all of life is worship, but that what we're talking about now is musical worship. The biblical picture suggests that it is impossible to rightly understand the latter outside of the terms and parameters of the former. More defense, exposition, and application to follow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Thoughts on Manhood (Courtesy of J.C. Ryle)

Carl Trueman's superb article has prompted more sustained reflection on the meaning of manhood. One resource I have found particularly helpful on the topic is J.C. Ryle's Thoughts for Young Men. This little book is wonderful to work through with High School guys. Here's a quote I read today that was particularly sobering...

Youth is the seedtime of full age - the moulding season in the little space of human life - the turning point in the history of man's mind. By the shoot we judge of the tree - by the blossoms we judge of the fruit - by the spring we judge of the harvest - by the morning we judge of the day - and by the character of the young man, we may generally judge what he will be when he grows up.

Young men, be not deceived. Think not you can, at will, serve lusts and pleasures in your beginning, and then go and serve God with ease at your latter end. Think not you can live with Esau, and then die with Jacob. It is a mockery to deal with God and your souls in such a fashion. It is an awful mockery to suppose you can give the flower of your strength to the world and the devil, and then put off the King of Kings with the scraps and leavings of your hearts - the wreck and remnant of your powers. It is an awful mockery, and you may find to your cost the thing cannot be done.
(p. 11)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

These Are a Few of my Favorite Links

Every Sunday (well, many Sundays...) each contributor to CiC gives you the best thing s/he has read or seen on the internet in the previous week. Here is this week's roundup:

Jeff: Carl Trueman reflects on the immaturity of the world today (HT: JT).
Jenny: Even if it's not Thanksgiving yet, Jenny is in a Christmasy mood and thinks everyone should buy Sovereign Grace's Christmas/Incarnation album.
Andrew: Carl Trueman was my first choice, but since Jeff liked it so much that he made a full post out of it, I'll go with Michael Bird's brief comment on the use of fruit-bearing imagery in Col. 1:5-6, 10. Although that might be just because I've also been connecting the Colossians text to Gen. 1 and am glad to get some scholarly back-up!

Enjoy, and as always with our weekly link post, we'd certainly be glad to know what your favorite link(s) from the week is.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Peanut Butter And Jelly Of Carols

Macaroni and Cheese. Rogers and Hammerstein (or Hart). Ben and Jerry. Batman and Robin. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Brown and Pink. Chocolate Chips and Cookie Dough. These are just a few of history's dynamic duos, and I think we should add Charles Welsey and Felix Mendelssohn to the list.

Wesley's brilliant lyrics and Mendelssohn's gorgeous tune make "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" one of the greatest hymns of all time. Yet had these genuises had their way, this perfect pairing would never have been.Wesley wrote the lyrics in 1739 and wanted them coupled with a solemn tune. Mendelssohn wrote the music in 1840 as part of a cantata commemorating Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press and specifically requested that the music not accompany sacred choruses. Thankfully, both men's wishes were ignored, resulting in this fantastic carol.

And yes, I know that it's not even Thanksgiving yet. But I believe we should sing Christmas carols all year long. Especially the last two verses of this one.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored; Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come, fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed, bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power, ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface, stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above, reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain, Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart, formed in each believing heart.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hermeneutical Guidelines for a Theology of Worship (Part 1)

Perhaps the reason that the practical ins-and-outs of Sunday worship are so frustratingly divisive (who could have guessed that the phrase “worship wars” could manage to not sound like an oxymoron?) is because so many of us are so confused about how to discuss it.

Let’s note the common claims: hymns are stagnant while contemporary choruses are lively; contemporary choruses are personal-pronoun riddled shallow and weightless love songs while hymns are USDA-approved theological meat; what we call “meeting with God” is actually an emotional high achieved through musical pornography; this week’s band was too loud, too sucky, too rock ‘n’ roll-y, too folky, or too whatever-else-doesn’t-fit-my-auditory-preferences; the worship leader talked too much between songs; the worship leader is thoughtlessly playing from one song to the next. And so on. And on. And on. It’s a shock more worship leaders don’t spontaneously combust.

And to think these are only a few of the questions that folks get hung up on. Must the worship leader have a thoughtful answer to every individual problem if he is going to be engaging in biblical worship?

Yes and no. What you might notice if you were to read through all of the complaints I've listed above (and I do think they are some of the most common ones) is that all of them revolve around the specific details of our musical worship. Or put the other way, none of them are really about the more fundamental theological ideas.

The purpose of this short series that I am beginning (I'm thinking 3 posts total) is not to attempt to answer all of these questions, but to suggest that there is one question that every worship leader should be organizing his work around. The details will only be approached well if we can put them in their proper theological context. In fact, attempting to address these individual issues without a well thought out hermeneutical and theological starting point will invariably lead to extraordinary confusion about what the Bible says about how to worship.

Some may immediately take issue with what you have just written, arguing that excluding Levitical temple rituals, the Bible actually does not say much if anything about the "how to" of worship. And it is true that Paul never wrote directly of decibel levels or musical styles.

Which is exactly why most worship leaders typically answer questions about such specifics as, say, emotional overflow during musical worship, with considerations of principles such as how God brings His presence to humans. Or when someone pulls the old "hymns have more weight than contemporary choruses, thus we shouldn't sing choruses," the worship leader might respond that God wants worship that is not just from our brain, but from all of who we are, and perhaps piano-led hymns are less effective for this purpose. The specific hymns vs. choruses question is answered on the basis of a theological principles.

Since there is no specific, "Here's what kind of song you should sing" verse in the Bible, this is the correct approach. The question becomes what is/are the guiding principle(s) for biblical worship? I will suggest to you that the weight of the biblical witness is squarely on one such principle.

But you'll have to wait for my next post (next Wednesday) if you want to know what that is!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sagacity from Carl Trueman and Some Points of Reflection

In his latest article, Carl Trueman offers some prophetic wisdom to the adolescence-besotted cesspool in which we live;

If the poverty and hard work of my grandfather's era left men middle-aged at thirty, the ease and trivia of today's society seems to leave us trapped in a permanent Neverland where we all, like so many Peter (and Patty) Pans, live lives of eternal youth. Where my grandfather spent his day hard at work, trying - sometimes desperately - to make enough money to put bread on the table and shoes on his children's feet, today many have time to play X-Box and video games, or warble on and on incessantly in that narcissistic echo-chamber that is the blogosphere. The world of my grandfather was evil because it made him grow up too fast; the world of today is evil because it prevents many from ever growing up at all.

In my own life, I see the adverse effects of this mindset all too often. Shirking responsibility is a real temptation. Therefore, I've come up with a few propositions to bolster my resolve and resist getting squeezed into the world's mold.

(1) Get a trade/profession that you can fall back on/go back to. I want to plant churches. However, I need to make money in the mean time.
(2) Kids aren't bad. They're expensive, exhausting, and a whole bunch of other things, but the Bible says they're a blessing from God (Ps 127). Plus, the kingdom expands through godly homes. So have children, raise them in the fear of the Lord, and get blessed.
(3) Pay taxes; Pay off debt. It's tough to oversee the church/family if you can't oversee your own bank account.
(4) Figure out how the stuff you own works. House, car, etc. This just makes sense, and it saves a ton of money.
(5) Give money to the church. Your heart is never too far from your pocketbook.
(6) Practice hospitality.You're all grown up, so start serving other people by inviting them into your home.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Interview with Ken Berding and Jon Lunde About Three Views On the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Zondervan recently released the newest book in their often helpful Counterpoints series called Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Ken Berding and Jon Lunde. Both teach in the Biblical Studies department at Biola University as members of the faculty of Talbot School of Theology.

As a graduate of the Bible program at Biola, I have had the privilege of taking two classes from each of them as well as spending considerable time outside of the classroom with each. I can thus tell you from much personal experience that these two gentlemen are exceptional teachers, scholars, and men of God. I should note that one of the classes I took with Dr. Lunde was his "New Testament Use of the Old Testament" seminar for Biblical Studies majors, which was easily one of the best classes in any subject I have ever taken. It has thus been my pleasure to interview them about the content of their new book:

Dr. Lunde and Dr. Berding: thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about the new book you edited. Maybe you could start by giving us a basic overview of what the book covers.

Ken Berding & Jon Lunde
: Thank you for inviting us to dialogue with you a bit about this. We’re really glad to be able to introduce you to the book!

Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is an introduction to the essential issues one faces when studying the way NT authors employ OT texts. The “gravitational center” of the discussion is the relationship of the OT author’s intended meaning to the NT author’s intended meaning. Are those meanings essentially the same, connected in some fashion without being identical, or disconnected?

If that is the “gravitational center,” there are five questions that “orbit” around this central issue. It was around these five questions that we decided to organize the book.
  1. Is sensus plenior an appropriate way of explaining the NT use of the OT?
  2. How is typology best understood?
  3. Do the NT writers take into account the context of the passages they cite?
  4. Does the NT writers’ use of Jewish exegetical methods explain the NT use of the OT?
  5. Are we able to replicate the exegetical and hermeneutical approaches to the OT that we find in the writings of the NT?
Jon wrote an introduction to these issues in the first chapter of the book entitled “An Introduction to Central Questions in the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.”

The heart of the book consists of essays and responses by three prominent scholars, Walt Kaiser, Darrell Bock, and Pete Enns concerning the central and orbiting questions. These three authors were invited to participate in this project because each represented one of three evangelical approaches to our central question. So the heart of the book lays out as follows:
  1. Kaiser: “Single Meaning, Unified Referents: Accurate and Authoritative Citations of the Old Testament by the New Testament.” (Bock & Enns Respond)
  2. Bock: “Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents: The New Testament’s Legitimate, Accurate, and Multifaceted Use of the Old.” (Kaiser & Enns Respond)
  3. Enns: “Fuller Meaning, Single Goal: A Christotelic Approach to the New Testament’s Use of the Old in Its First-Century Interpretive Environment.” (Kaiser & Bock Respond)
At the end of the book, Ken succinctly summarizes the positions of the authors in a chapter entitled: “An Analysis of Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.”

We do recognize that there are scholarly variations on each of these views represented within the broadly-defined evangelical world. So the reader should consider our contributors as general spokesmen for the camps they represent, but by no means as exhausting the nuances within those camps. For example, though Kaiser’s view is broadly similar to the view espoused by John Sailhamer, it would be unfair to either of them to assume that the ways they argue their respective cases are univocal.

This is a short book seeking to provide both the general contours of the discussion and specific representatives within those general categories.

How did you two become interested in this subject?

Jon: Though I was curious about the issue throughout my MDiv and ThM days, my curiosity became a passion when I took Don Carson’s seminar on the topic in my doctoral program at Trinity. I continued sharpening my understanding of the pertinent issues during the writing of my dissertation on Matthew’s apocalyptically-colored, salvation-historical perspective. Then, when I was asked to teach a capstone class for our Bible majors at Trinity College in 1996, I decided to develop a seminar that would delve into the hermeneutical and exegetical issues involved in the NT use of the OT, while at the same time remaining accessible to underclassmen. Consequently, this topic has been on the front burner for me for a long time.

Ken: I became interested in this subject during my doctoral studies at Westminster Seminary during the mid-90s. That topic, perhaps more than any other topic during that period, seemed to occupy the minds and conversations of professors and Ph.D. students at Westminster. I also wrestled long and hard with the issue of how citations, allusions, and reminiscences functioned in texts in my doctoral dissertation (later published by Brill), Polycarp and Paul: An Analysis of Their Literary and Theological Relationship in Light of Polycarp’s Use of Biblical and Extra-Biblical Literature. That study in particular made me sensitive to the ins-and-outs of trying to identify uses of earlier literature by later authors.

It seems that with the release of Beale’s and Carson’s new commentary as well as this book, there is burgeoning interest in this issue. Would you say that’s true?

: This needs to be answered with a bit of nuance. On the one hand, the use of the OT in the NT has been of vital interest to Christians all the way back to the first centuries of church history. In fact, I think it is safe to say this was central to the very first Christians. This interest has grown in the past century, evidenced by numerous scholarly treatments of various issues within the debate.

On the other hand, awareness of its importance has been growing more recently on a broad level among professors, pastors, and lay people who are not specialists in the field. Since most MDiv programs do not offer classes specifically on this issue, most pastors have never been equipped to think through the hermeneutical challenges that the NT use of the OT offers. Consequently, they have typically not included in their sermons the sorts of discussions that would have piqued the interest of their congregations.

So, the publication of the Beale/Carson commentary may very well be changing the situation—providing helpful discussions for the already-interested non-specialists, and awakening many others to the problems and potential that this field offers to the church. Hopefully, our volume will make this discussion even more accessible to this broader audience.

Especially for the benefit of those not familiar with this issue, why do you think it is important to raise it? Or put another way, what are we missing if we do not ask this question?

Jon: For a long time, conservatives have appealed to the NT use of the OT primarily to enhance its apologetic for the truthfulness of the NT claims about Jesus—how can anyone help but conclude that Jesus is the Messiah when the full range of prophetic fulfillment in relation to him is taken into account? Unfortunately, when many of these fulfillments are studied carefully, questions about the legitimacy of the NT writers’ interpretive approach to the OT arise, somewhat qualifying the convincing nature of this apologetic.

But when the NT hermeneutical and exegetical methods are understood, most of these problems are resolved, even though the apologetic question may not be answered in exactly the same way again. More importantly, however, the theological depth of their OT reading becomes visible. That is to say, the theological appreciation for the ways in which the NT writers understand Jesus’ relationship, not only to the particular words of the OT prophets, but to the entire history of God’s interaction with his people in the OT will be expanded and deepened.

This is why I tell my students that the importance of studying the NT use of the OT is less for the purpose of enhancing the convincing nature of our apologetic for non-disciples, and more for the purpose of deepening disciples’ understanding of the significance of Jesus. If the church wakes up to this dimension of the NT use of the OT, it will recover the profound perspective that the first Christians had in relation to Jesus—a perspective that enlivened a mission that changed the world.

What areas of this discussion do you personally find to be the most difficult?

Ken: Probably the hardest issue for me right now is whether I should assume that the OT authors always read the OT—for lack of a better word—richly, or whether some of their uses of the OT are thin readings. Even though I tend to think a rich reading is occurring in most instances, in some cases—at least on the surface—some NT uses of the OT look thin to me. It is difficult to know whether to leave them the way I am seeing them initially, that is thin, or whether I should work harder to find grand canonical trajectories with which they should be connected.

Who are some of the people who have most influenced your thinking in this area and how?

Jon: As I already noted, Don Carson’s PhD seminar stimulated my thinking in a seminal way. But such writers as C. H. Dodd, Leonhard Goppelt, Klyne Snodgrass, Doug Moo, Tom Wright, Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Richard Longenecker, R. T. France, Craig Evans, A. T. Hanson, Pete Enns, Dan McCartney, John Sailhamer, and Walt Kaiser have all furthered this interest.
Obviously, these writers have impelled me to consider the various ways in which the central questions have been answered by biblical scholars. Most of my work in the field has been inductive in the texts themselves. But being aware of the range of opinions has been very helpful to keep me from viewing the evidence from simply one viewpoint.

Are the three positions laid out in this book tied to any particular Protestant traditions or systematic theological commitments?

: No, I don’t think that these three views are necessarily connected to any particular theological grid, at least regarding the central issues discussed in the book. Is there any reason that a dispensational interpreter couldn’t at any level affirm the idea of a “Christotelic” impulse to the Old Testament? Or is there any reason that a Reformed interpreter couldn’t agree that a NT author might be attentive to the context of an OT passage? Of course, on any one of the many sub-questions that attach to this topic, a particular tradition might be more prone to move one way or another. But on the larger questions addressed in this volume, it seems possible that there might be opposing positions even among those who are in the same tradition.

Thanks for taking the time to fill us in on this important issue!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How Not to Use Colwell's Rule (Part 2)

You'll remember from my last post that Colwell's Rule is often invoked to demonstrate the deity of Christ from John 1:1c. The rule states...

Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article...a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or 'qualitative' noun solely because of the absence of the article, it should be translated as a definite noun...

[E.C. Colwell, "A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Creek New Testament, JBL 52 (1933); 20].

I noted that there are two problems using this rule to demonstrate Jesus' deity. Dan Wallace (pictured above) mentions both of these in his outstanding Greek grammar. (pp. 256-270). If you don't have this grammar, go repent and then purchase it.

Here is the biggest problem...

(1) People use the converse of Colwell's rule to prove the deity of Christ, but think they are using the rule itself. Colwell was a text-critic, and was interested in issues of translation. He started by finding nouns that were clearly definite in their respective contexts. Then, he asked what structural categories these definite nouns fell into. He discovered that definite predicate nouns which precede the verb are usually anarthrous. Let's be clear on what he did not do. He did not start with an assortment of pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives and then determine that they were usually definite. However, this is what people often assume when employing Colwell's rule to defend Christ's deity.

Here's a helpful way to think about the issue (complements of Dr. Dan, p. 261). I tell you, "it's raining, therefore there are clouds in the sky." You respond by saying, "oh I get it! There are clouds in the sky, therefore it's raining." You have affirmed the converse of what I'm saying, and have committed a logical fallacy. In sum, people misuse Colwell's rule by drawing the wrong inference from it.

(2) If the converse of Colwell's rule applied here, it would create a major theological conundrum. For the sake of argument, let's say that the converse of said rule applies in this instance. Therefore, the word "theos" in the third clause of John 1:1 (theos hen ho logos) can be translated with a definite article. If this is so, and the sentence translates, "and the word was the God", then the "the" before God is anaphoric (pointing us back to the reference to God in 1:1b), and - to make a long story short - Jesus is the Father! As Dr. Dan puts it...

By applying Colwell's rule to John 1:1 [scholars] have jumped out of the frying pan of Arianism and into the fire of Sabellianism.
(p. 258)

When discussing John 1:1, using Colwell's rule is just a bad idea. It is logically flawed, and thank goodness it is! After all, if the converse of the rule applied here, we'd all be Sabellians (which sounds like a type of alien on Star Trek).

So how are we to understand John 1:1c? It is not definite, and I don't think an indefinite article can be inserted here either (I give some explanation as to why here). Not surprisingly, I think Dr. Dan gets it right in maintaining that theos should be interpreted qualitatively (cf. p. 269). The vast majority of NT pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives are qualitative in meaning, and this nuance fits nicely in context. Jesus has the quality of deity; the divine essence. His essence is exactly that of the Father. However, he is not the Father. With brilliant precision and concision, John shows his readers that Jesus is God, but not the Father.

Now, go out and evangelize. Just try not to use Colwell's rule.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Candy Girl

I bought my first home last June and one of the things I was most excited about (besides being able to paint my walls) was the prospect of trick or treaters. I live on a busy street and was certain that my front porch would be swarming with princesses, monsters, and Hannah Montanas on Halloween. So, I did what any reasonable person would do. I bought 14 bags of candy. Which was definitely enough to feed the 5 trick or treaters who ended up gracing my doorstep.

So now I feel stupid and sad. And that makes me want to eat sugar. And I currently have 14 bags of candy in my kitchen. What's a girl to do? Thankfully, a friend's wonderful idea saved me from this potentially catastrophic situation. She suggested using the candy in care packages for the troops.

Local chapters of Blue Star Mothers, Inc. send care packages to men and women serving around the globe. Sadly, many of these young people don't receive any boxes or letters from home. You can show your love and support by putting together a care package and then dropping it off at your local Blue Star Mothers chapter. Click here to find a chapter in your area.

The Bay Area chapter's website suggests filling your box with goodies like ground coffee from Peet's or Starbucks, candy, peanut butter, lip balm, crossword and puzzle books, batteries, waterless hand sanitizer, and more. Click here for their entire list, but be sure to check out the specifications of your particular chapter.

If you've put together care packages for the troops before and have any tips or ideas, please share them. Happy packing!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Making A List, Checking It Twice

As we enter this season of giving, I cheerfully reflect upon my five favorite childhood gifts:

1. Plantsters. (This was a tiny plastic greenhouse that could grow tiny little plants right inside your room! I was elated.)

2. A Lakers Basketball. (I didn't really play basketball as a kid. Nor did I like the Lakers. But we saw this at a sporting goods store and I thought that the purple and gold colors were really pretty.)

3. A Jar Of Jellybeans. (Every year, my parents would buy me my own giant jar of jellybeans from Costco. Each day I would carefully ration out those jellybeans and suck on each one to try and make them last as long as possible.)

4. A Gloworm. (Do you remember Gloworms? Those little plastic worm dolls whose faces lit up when you hugged them? I slept with that thing every night.)

5. A Powerwheels Jeep. (One magical Christmas Eve, my grandparents unveiled a Jeep that all of the grandkids could play with when we visited. This may have been the best Christmas ever.)

If you're currently constructing your Christmas list and want to add some gifts that will have an even more significant impact on someone's life than a Gloworm, I encourage you to check out the gift catalogues from World Vision and Samaritan's Purse. They have a plethora of gifts you can buy for people in need all over the world. You can do it yourself, make it a family project, or even involve your entire church or community. Here are a few of my favorites:

Small Business Loan For A Woman: This is truly a gift that keeps on giving. For $100, you can help an impoverished woman start or expand a business. Then as loans are repaid, the funds provide new loans to others.

Build A House For A Family In Need: Samaritan's Purse provides homes for victims of natural disasters all over the world and they can build a simple, 500 square foot home for only $7500. You can share in the cost for $15.

Help Stock A Fish Pond: $50 will stock a pond with 500 baby fish or shrimp and provide nourishment and extra income for rural communities worldwide.

28 Farm Animals: That's right. 2 sheep, 2 cows, 2 goats, 2 pigs, and 20 chickens! This carnival of animals will help up to 10 families and provide a lasting source of income and food. This is a $2000 gift and could be a great project for an entire children's ministry. Hmmm, that gives me an idea.

Water Filters: I love this gift. It costs just $100 for Samaritan's Purse to install a water filter that requires no chemicals or electricity and lasts a lifetime. What a simple and practical way to improve the health of an entire family.

Year Of School For An Orphan: Children who have lost their parents to AIDS are unable to stay in school because they can't afford fees and supplies. For $70, you can provide essentials like school supplies, a uniform, and school fees.

Seeds: Farming families in countries like Thailand and Zambia struggle to raise enough food because the seeds they use may be of poor quality or they might not be able to afford seeds at all. $17 supplies a family with fast growing hybrid or drought-resistant seeds for crops like carrots, cabbage, peas, and onions.

Transform The Life Of A Child: Club feet, cleft lip, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, polio, blindness, and deafness can sometimes mean a life without education, employment or dignity for children around the world. Samaritan's Purse helps thousands of kids by providing reconstructive surgery, wheelchairs, orthopedic devices, therapy, and special education. $20 helps support this amazing ministry.

Malaria Prevention For One Family: Malaria kills nearly a million children and adults each year. $20 bed nets to protect one family's children and pregant mothers as they sleep, plus education for malaria prevention and control.

"In Defense of Gay Marriage" Reconsidered

Jeff is tired of talking politics. I am too. But I can't pass this one up.

I've been listening to talk radio for the last couple days, curious to hear analysis of and interaction with the results from all of the various issues from Tuesday. I probably would have been sick of this by Wednesday at noon if it was all about Savior-Elect Obama, but my California airwaves have been filled instead with discussion of the passing of Prop 8.

I hope I am not arrogant when I assume that some of you will remember my going on record as not being against gay marriage- or at least not that against gay marriage. Truth be told, this election season has revealed to me my own political incompetence. I have been forced to consistently reconsider my positions on various issues and recognize some as more complex than I had previously thought. I'm still young.

This is one such issue, and what troubles me most now is that both sides want to make it simpler than it is. On the one hand, I stand by my primary contention with my previous post: I am not ready to argue that Christians should pull a simple, "The Bible says it so let's legislate it." This kind of thinking strikes me as somewhere between lazy and naive, with a dash of self-righteousness to add some flavor.

On the other hand what troubles me now is that I've been listening to radio personalities and various facebook friends express their disgust with those of us who ended up voting "yes" on 8. The issue is pinned as one of basic human civil rights, such that past bans on interracial marriage are invoked as perfectly analogous. Those who are against gay marriage are religious wackos who hate gays. The issue comes down to denying human rights, and no one should deny human rights.

What troubles me is the thoughtlessness on both sides. My older post addressed the religious right's thoughtlessness, so let me spend my comments here on the progressive left. I will be as brief and direct as possible and state my concerns:

Why does the state sanction marriage in the first place? Because the state recognizes that marriage produces children and as such build the blocks of society. Further, a good marriage tends to produce good children, which tends to produce a good society. It is thus in the best interest of society to reward marriage. But homosexuals cannot in fact produce children, which means that marriage for them has little to no societal benefit in that very sense. So why should the state sanction their marriages? If homosexuals want to have state-sanctioned civil unions, which would entitle them to many of the benefits of marriage (including, e.g., the necessary medical and legal considerations for their partners), that would be reasonable. Those are civil rights that heterosexuals and homosexuals alike should be entitled to. But there is no sense in the state rewarding homosexual union in the same way it does heterosexual union, because homosexual union does not have the same societal benefits.

This, by the way, is from what I understand the reason why even Obama thinks that homosexuals should be allowed civil unions but not marriages, and I don't know many "no on prop 8" types who don't like him!

Further, it is still yet to be seen what kind of effect homosexual unions will have on the children that homosexuals adopt and society in general. It is at this point not at all clear that this is a good thing for those children (one of the main reasons I did end up voting yes on 8).

Finally, I have not heard a homosexual marriage advocate address the slippery slope question: what is the limit of the term "marriage" for society? That is, what of other alternatives to one man and woman marriages, such as polygamy? If the reason that we allow homosexuals to marry is because homosexuals want to marry, why not allow polygamy to be carried out as legal, state-sanctioned marriage?

I am not saying that none of these concerns are answerable, by the way. I am still a libertarian wrestling with many of those issues. And I should add that it is a whole new experience for this person who tends to always be clearly one side of an issue or another to be in the gray middle. But this, like most political issues, is complex. It cannot be isolated as a single issue, but must be taken as one part of a larger political theory. And as far as I can tell, many of the loudest voices on this subject are unable to address it on this level.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How Not to Use Colwell's Rule (part 1...due to fatigue and sundry unexpected interruptions)

Now that Obama has ushered in the Pax Americana, I'm ready to talk about anything other than politics. Hence, I submit the following post regarding Greek syntax.

If you've talked much with Jehovah's Witnesses, you know they have at their disposal a slew of arguments which undermine the deity of Christ. Perhaps their favorite tactic is to note that in John 1:1c ("and the Word was God"), there is no article before "God" in the Greek text. Therefore - they maintain - we should supply an indefinite article, and translate John 1:1c "and the Word was a God." This argument can seem quite intimidating, especially if you haven't studied koine Greek. On the other hand, if you've taken some Greek, or just read some good cult apologetics, you have in your arsenal a devastating rejoinder; Colwell's Rule. First set forth by emanent text-critic E.C. Colwell, the rule is as follows;

Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article...a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or 'qualitative' noun soles because of the absence of the article, it should be translated as a definite noun...
[E.C. Colwell, "A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Creek New Testament, JBL 52 (1933); 20].

Nouns that should be translated as definite (i.e. with the definite article) which occur before the verb usually do not have the article. We have just such a noun in John 1:1c. Therefore, many see Colwell's Rule as demonstrating that an indefinite article cannot be placed before "God" in John 1:1c, and therefore Jesus is God, the Arians are wrong (including JW's, Mormons, and a smorgasbord of other cults), end of story. But does Colwell's rule actually demonstrate that which most assume it does?


Colwell's rule does not prove the deity of Jesus. Now before you pick up stones, let me quickly add a few disclaimers...

(1) I worship all three members of the Trinity as equally and fully God.
(2) I think inserting an indefinite article before "God" in John 1:1c is grammatically absurd, grossly inimical to the context (which is all about Jesus being...well...God), and driven by prior theological commitments.

Hopefully your blood pressure is now subsiding. So what's wrong with using Colwell's rule to demonstrate the deity of Christ in John 1:1c? Two things, and I will address these on Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Post-Election Prayer

There have been a slew of good prayers for the election and I make no claim to have prayed the best prayer. But I figure of all the reactions that we could have about this (and any other) election, prayer is probably the best. So I here submit my own post-election prayer:

Jesus, King of All Creation,
You are the King of the heavens and earth,
King over all nations,
and the King over America.
No government rules of its own power, but only the power that you give it.
May we recognize that above all, you are the only sovereign;
that you are the only one we call "Lord."

As Christians, we are citizens first of heaven and the kingdom of God.
Given the grand scales of the cosmos, of the whole earth, and most importantly, of eternity, this election matters little.
Teach us to focus on glorifying your name as our number one civic duty.
That is the only mission you have given your church,
and that mission will go on no matter who the president is.
Our only prayer is that whatever Barack Obama does as president,
it will somehow be used by you to allow your church opportunities to do that.
Show us our sin and your grace in the cross, Lord.

Teach us to preach the gospel to our culture, not to preach morality to it.
Teach us to love the marginalized, not to neglect them in favor of seeking financial gain.
Teach us to listen to your Spirit, not to the prevailing voices of our culture.
Teach us to read your Word more carefully and passionately than the news.
Teach us, your Church, to be a community of sacrificial, Jesus-centered love.
These are what mark us as citizens of heaven.

We pray for President-elect Obama.
Give him wisdom as he leads,
the courage to stick to the convictions he should,
and the humility to change views when he knows he is wrong.
We pray especially that his tenure as president would lead to help for those most in need.

We praise you as the God to whom one day all kings and presidents will down,
and we ask that these things be done by the power of the Holy Spirit,
according to the overflowing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Results From Blitzer's Magic Map

Leave it to Jeff to find you some really edifying, thoughtful comments on how we should think about the election in his earlier post today.

Leave it to me to find nerdy humor about it. Seriously, click the link. It's funny.

Having the Right Orientation on Election Day

After 2+ years of hype, punditry, and massive heaps of rhetoric, election day is finally here. I think I've had my fill of the political process for the next two decades or so. Here's something from Jason Goroncy that helped me remember my priorities as a pilgrim.

1. Remember, if you are a Christian then you are part of a pilgrim people who ought never really feel at home in this world because we have been made for another.

2. No matter which government is in power, the Church’s charge remains the same - to preach the Gospel. This will include, among other things, at least a 4-fold word: (i) challenging the structures of our society that demean humanity made in the image of God; (ii) challenging the agendas of our society that leave the poor and the widows and the orphans without a voice; (iii) challenging the complacency of a people who refuse to think, or can’t be bothered thinking, about the consequences of the decisions we are making (this has obvious international consequences); and (iv) challenging the selfishness of those who get fatter and fatter at the expense of others, and at the expense of the creation.

3. God’s people receive their identity not from earthly governments, but from the knowledge that they belong to the Lord Jesus and live under his government, and by his word.

4. Regardless of what’s going on in the fleeting world of politics, the Gospel will always have something to say to the world, and to a Church that must continuously strive to keep itself from ever thinking that the Gospel of the Cross is not enough.

5. We must beware lest we fall into the trap that so many Christians throughout history have fallen into of believing that there is such a thing as the only and true Christian form of government. No political party can be baptised, nor any political system. The radical call of Jesus remains regardless of what the government of the day is doing. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to bring about godly reforms and laws in the land, but it does mean that we mustn’t delude ourselves into thinking that we can create a heaven on earth.

6. The temptation to deny Christ exists no matter what the political situation and culture is.

7. Don’t be among those who see voting as a chore and as a painful waste of time. Remember that it is a privilege to vote. God has placed many of us in countries where we have the opportunity to take part in decision making as well as in the keeping of our elected leaders accountable. Thank God that some of God’s people live in such places. [I have always struggled to understand how a democracy can encourage non-compulsory voting, not least given the claim of support for democracy-making in other parts of the world!]

8. Thank God for democracy, but never trust it. ‘Democracy’, wrote Forsyth, ‘is but a half-truth. It must have a King. Aristocracy is just as true and as needful. It builds on an authority in things no less than democracy builds on an equality. The free personality of democracy is only possible under a free authority. The free soul is only possible in a free King … There must always be a House of Moral Lords. There must always be leaders and led, prophets and people, apostles and members, genius and its circle, and elect and a called. Ah! democratic and aristocratic principles are both deep in the foundations of our Christian faith’. At the end of the day, ‘democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time’ (E. B. White). Recall the words of C.S. Lewis: ‘I am a democrat [believer in democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true … I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation … The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters’.

9. Remember that even secular leadership comes under the domain of God’s sovereignty, and that God uses non-Christians, as well as Christians, to bring about his purposes. The Bible assures us that all those who serve the people well are servants of God. So thank God for his own sovereign governing of the world (Rom 13:1-7).

10. Pray diligently for the leaders and all those in responsibilities of power and decision making. We are commanded by God to pray for all our leaders. Pray that they would make wise and just decisions and govern with mercy as well as strength. Pray for those who do not know Christ, that they would become Christians.

11. Pray for wisdom about your vote. Make your vote count. Make your vote a wise vote.

12. Don’t vote for the party who will best serve your pocket and own interests, but vote for the government or person who you prayerfully and honestly believe can best think through the necessary and complex issues with an attitude of serving others within their own country, and beyond.

13. Once the election has taken place, don’t grumble if your choice of party or person is not elected, for Peter tells us to, ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king (1 Peter 2:12-17).

HT: Per Crucem ad Lucem

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day Eve

I've always enjoyed rooting for the underdog, so isn't it nice that my candidate of choice is currently trailing significantly in the polls? What fun for me!

Here is my last ditch effort to get the citizens of Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, and California to vote for McCain.

Oh, and I'm throwing in this for free.

Being an equal opportunity blogger, please feel free to comment with any links to articles supporting Obama. Maybe you'll change my mind. But I do so love an underdog.