Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Advance09: Resurgence of the Local Church

Since I work about a stone's throw (literally) from where this is taking place I figured I'd pass this along for any North Carolinians (and others) who might be interested.


Desiring God, The Resurgence, Acts29, and Re:Lit are joining forces for Advance09, "a conference about the power of God's gift to his people—the Church."

John Piper will give two messages on missions and the church based on his book Let the Nations Be Glad.

We'll also hear from...

  • Mark Driscoll
  • Matt Chandler
  • Ed Stetzer
  • Eric Mason
  • Bryan Chapell
  • Daniel Akin
  • J. D. Greear
  • Tyler Jones

Register today—and we'll see you in North Carolina this June!

(HT: Desiring God Blog)

Ruminations on John 14 and Some Eugene Peterson

Tonight at our community group we discussed John 14. The chapter is part of Jesus' farewell discourse (i.e. chs. 13-17), a section rife with material for theological reflection. I spent the preponderance of my time in grad school studying Paul, so it's been refreshing to camp out in John's gospel for the past few months. As I prepared for the study, I had the following thoughts...

1. I'm surprised how many commentators construe Jesus' statement in 14:2-3 as a straightforward reference to the Second Advent, and blithely dismiss alternative interpretations. The remainder of the chapter has to do with post-Easter realities, hence it doesn't seem implausible that Jesus is speaking of something the disciples will experience through the cross/resurrection/coming of the Spirit. Perhaps Jesus prepares a place for the disciples in heaven through union with him, and their experience of this event is mediated by the indwelling Spirit of the risen Christ. The use of "dwelling" language in the chapter also lends credibility to this interpretation (cf. vv. 2, 23).

2. The cross looms large in the background of John 14:6.

3. Love is obedience (14:15, 21, 23, 31). Do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? I do only insofar as I obey the commands of Jesus.

4. Jesus words are elliptical. They do not follow a neat outline. However, Christ's non-linear manner of speaking draws the disciples (and us) into the life of the Trinity. Eugene Peterson states it nicely;

The conversation is rambling and unsystematic. This is not what we ordinarily think of as good teaching. But Jesus is not making things clear, smoothing out ambiguities; he is making them vivid, pulsing. There is no outline and there are no transitions. Definitions are lacking. What the conversation does is immerse us in the presence of another, the presence of Jesus readying us for the Spirit. We are soon listening more to who he is than what he says; we are drawn into this seamless web of relational attentiveness, leaving and sending, sensing within ourselves the pervasive, soul-permeating continuity between the absent Jesus and the present Spirit.

Christ Plays in 10,000 Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005); 237.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Deepest Differences: A Christian-Atheist Dialogue

I've just acquired a book from IVP with the above title that I'm looking forward to reading. I'm not an expert in Christian Apologetics but I have dabbled a little in the past; mainly because in my late teens to early 20's I was a professing atheist. Therefore being converted not by convincing theistic arguments I was eager to explore them soon after I professed faith.

The format of this book is actually what prompted me to begin. It essentially a conglomeration of emails between former senior editor at InterVarsity Press Dr. James Sire and retired senior biochemist Dr. Carl Peraino.

From the back of the book,

Sparked by a chance meeting between two book-club acquaintances and their discussion of Kurt Vonnegut's obituary, this dialogue between long-time Christian Jim Sire and forthright atheist Carl Peraino developed through extended email exchanges exploring minds and brains, science and morality, faith and reason, God and violence, doubt and rhetoric.

Anyone who has experimented with apologetics like myself may find this book interesting. I look forward to sharing some thoughts on it in future posts.

Knowing Movie-Making vs. Knowing How to Treat a Woman

Doug Wilson knows that Fireproof is far from a great movie by movie-making standards. But to those Christians who will be so caught up in that fact that they will miss out on what he considers to be legitimately edifying content, he offers this insightful comment:
If I set myself to think of couples in marriages that I think would be greatly helped by watching this movie, I would run out of fingers inside of a minute. I can also think of Christians who would be offended by the schlock, but many of them would be those who know more about how a movie ought to be made than about how a woman ought to be treated. And they would rather watch a movie about a woman being abused so long as the movie was made right than to have the woman treated right in a movie that offended their refined sensibilities. So which is the altar and which is the sacrifice?
I'm all for Christians raising the bar on the art we make. I remember watching a video online once that was a satire of Rob Bell's Nooma film about "Bullhorn Guy." Besides being frustrated at how condescending the video was towards a Christian brother (one who I myself often disagree with), I remember thinking that the really ridiculous thing was how bad the production was on the satirical video as compared to how good the Bell film was. There is some truth to the phrase, "The media is the message."

That said, I am convinced that Wilson is on to something here. The question for me is simply this: how are Christians going to prioritize our disciplines? In this case the contrast is discipline in movie-making (or just watching and critiquing!) versus discipline in growing to love our wives like Christ loves the church.

And I'll gladly take more bad Christian movies over more failed Christian marriages.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Little Spring In Your Step

I take great delight in tragic love songs that involve spring.

Consider the classic "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most":

Love seemed sure around the new year,
Now its April, love is just a ghost;
Spring arrived on time, only what became of you, dear?
Spring can really hang you up the most!

Or Rogers and Hammerstein's lovely "It Might As Well Be Spring":

I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm,
I'm as jumpy as a puppet on a string.
I'd say that I had spring fever,
But I know it isn't spring.

Or Rogers and Hart's amazing "Spring Is Here":

Spring is here! Why doesn't the breeze delight me?
Stars appear! Why doesn't the night invite me?
Maybe it's because nobody loves me,
Spring is here, I hear.

But for those of you who like your spring serenades a bit less melancholy, I humbly submit Reginald Heber's "When Spring Unlocks The Flowers." Enjoy!

When spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soil;
When summer’s balmy showers refresh the mower’s toil;
When winter binds in frosty chains the fallow and the flood;
In God the earth rejoiceth still and owns his Maker good.

The birds that wake the morning and those that love the shade;
The winds that sweep the mountain or lull the drowsy glade;
The sun that from his amber bower rejoiceth on his way,
The moon and stars their Master’s Name in silent pomp display.

Shall man, the lord of nature, expectant of the sky,
Shall man alone, unthankful, his little praise deny?
No; let the year forsake his course, the seasons cease to be,
Thee, Master, must we always love, and Savior, honor Thee.

The flowers of spring may wither, the hope of summer fade,
The autumn droop in winter, the birds forsake the shade;
The winds be lulled, the sun and moon forget their old decree;
But we, in nature’s latest hour, O Lord, will cling to Thee!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boasting in His Shame

I receive my issue of TableTalk Magazine a little early every month. The April edition speaks to the topic of The Church in the 9th Century. Anyways, I always look forward to gleaning from every article including the daily devotions. This month had a weekend article from Rev. John Sartelle of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. In there he speaks of centrality of the cross and boasting in the sufferings of Christ, as the title of this post alludes to. I came across this rather lengthy (though intriguing) quote that I felt I should share with our CiC readers.

Many of us evangelicals deny that we know Jesus by taking the emphasis away from the cross as we speak to His disciples and present our gospel to the world: "Follow Jesus: He will straighten out your marriage. Follow Jesus: He will make you better parents. Follow Jesus: He will make you financially solvent. Follow Jesus: he will enrich your relationships." Now, that is a Jesus who is easy to like and easy to follow. It is easy to stand in the world and be proud of that Jesus. Be comfortable with Him. Kick back with Him. he is anti-institutional. Living with Him is a cool ride."

Dear reader, if we would recapture the gospel we must return to the ignominious cross. "For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned out-side the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured." (Heb. 13:11-13).

...Paul was so proud of Jesus and His cross that he counted it an honor to suffer in the world for the cause of the cross. Be sure, if you pitch your tent under His cross in the world, your life in some way will bear the marks of His ignominy.

The Parable of the Sea

Check out this beautiful little three minute video called "The Parable of the Sea" and be convicted about how our churches don't fulfill our mission to the lost.

HT: Dan Kimball

Worship Interrupts Politics

Ian Clausen, a doctoral student studying with Oliver O'Donovan at Edinburgh, has a good reflection on the way that worship situates our interaction with the world and reminds the world that it is not alone, starting with this quote from Bernd Wannenwetsch:
Worship again and again interrupts the course of the world. Through worship the Christian community testifies that the world is not on its own. And this also means that it [the world] is not kept alive by politics, as the business of politics, which knows no sabbath, would have us believe.

Great Resources for Church Planters

If you're of the Reformed persuasion and want to plant churches, I'd commend that you take a look at Tim Chester. Tim is a writer and church planter from across the pond. You can read more about him here. I've already benefited a good bit from his stuff on the gospel and missional communities. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Atheism Came from Christianity

A provocative comment from Leithart on Guy Stroumsa's The End of Sacrifice:
Second, Stroumsa shows that everyone in the West (and beyond, in large part) assumes a post-AD 70 conception of what religion means. Today’s religious skeptics depend on a definition of religion that came to them from Judaism and Christianity. Christ is inescapable.

Why Even Bother Going To Church?

Over at Parchment and Pen Michael Patton asks some interesting questions (not his own) with respect to actually going to church. I'd be interested in hearing your opinions on this issue as we have brought similar questions about church up in the past. I know at times I've struggled with "churches" and have asked some of these same questions.

Here is an excerpt:
Why go to church? Church stinks. People are either rude, looking down their self-righteous nose at you, or they are nice and in a hurry. I hardly ever have a significant conversation at the church service, it is just “Hi,” or “Good to see you,” or “How’s the family?” or something churchy and pithy like that.

Teaching? Yes, the sermon is great. But can’t I just listen to someone on the radio or download the podcast? Really. What is the difference?

Are you a Johannine Theologian?

If so, you're about to get excited.

I just received the Spring 2009 Zondervan Academic Resource Catalog and the second page had a forthcoming book that looks very promising, The Theology of John's Gospel and Letters by Andreas Köstenberger. The book is not due out until November but looks like its going to add much to the conversation with its comprehensiveness (a wopping 656 pages). It's part of a new series by Zondervan called the Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) Series and has forthcoming volumes on all the NT books. Noted authors include Darrell Bock, Douglas Moo, and Thomas Schreiner.

The following is an excerpt from the catalog:

After an extensive exploration of the historical setting of John's Gospel and Letters and a discussion of relevant literary features, Köstenberger engages in a close literary-theological reading. This is followed by a study of John's worldview and use of Scripture and a treatment of major Johannine themes, including the Messiah and his signs; creation and new creation' and John's Trinitarian mission theology. The volume concluded with a discussion of the theology of John and other New Testament voices.
There is very little on the internet to speak of this volume other than a video of Köstenberger talking about it. FOUND HERE.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Be a Doer of the Word, Not just a Hearer (James 1:22-25)- A Sermon by Andrew Faris

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach on James 1:22-25 at my church. I thought it might be worth posting if anyone is interested. It can be accessed here.

I'm always glad for feedback too, so if you listen, don't hesitate to email me (andrew@christiansincontext.org) with your thoughts, questions, critiques, or better jokes and illustrations...

Bluegrass, Heaven and Hermeneutics

As mentioned previously, I recently got the chance to play at Deuel Vocational Institution. It was my first trip to a prison. The images, sounds and smells of the place are still vivid in my memory; the musky, windowless chapel; the out of tune piano; the austere, wooden pews. I felt like I was playing at a revival meeting.

The people left a far more lasting impression. These men abounded with joy, gratitude, humility and love. Their perspective on life was heartening and challenging, as it revealed some deficiencies in my own thinking. This became readily apparent when we played I'll Fly Away. I've never had a particular penchant for the song. It isn't too obnoxious musically, but the refrain seems so escapist. When I hear it, I'm instantly reminded of the more unsavory aspects of dispensational theology (e.g. the world is bad, we need to get out of here, Jesus came and died to get us out of the world, heaven has no relation to the present world, etc.). However, as we played the song, my perspective began to change. I witnessed men weep as they cried at the top of their lungs...

When the shadows of this life have gone
I'll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I'll fly
I'll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I'll fly away

Suddenly the song made sense. No longer was it an odd bit of dispensational escapism. It was the cry of the prisoner who longed to be free. To see eighty men proclaim their coming liberation was a sobering experience. These brothers know captivity. They inhabit a symbolic world which constantly reminds them of bondage. Thus, their appreciation for the liberating work of Jesus is profound.

The comfort of suburbia has afforded me the time and space to reflect on heaven. Yet, it has often blinded me to heaven's beauty. I remain quite ensconced in this world, and regularly fail to long for the world to come. The prisoners live in a different context altogether. Every day they see the bankruptcy of life without Christ, and thus they zealously long for eternity.

As we left the prison, the chaplain quipped, "aren't you glad you don't have to spend the night?" I am glad to live on the other side of the bars. Yet I don't want to be glib about the human condition. Everyone is in need of liberation, and Jesus will establish a kingdom forever marked by freedom and life. Though I don't wear the garb or live in a cell, I need Jesus as much as any prisoner, and my heart should ache for his return.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 8:18-25

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Bible and Alcohol

Some time ago I read an essay from Dan Akin called The Case For Alcohol Abstinence. I found the article when I was contemplating going back to seminary at Southeastern, where students had to promise to not consume alcohol while enrolled.

My views on alcohol differed, but I was willing to comply if need be as I was by no means married to alcohol. During that seminary search I found the article.

In the beginning of Dr. Akin's article he notes his personal bias in that alcoholism killed his father. My own father has battled alcoholism for nearly 30 years and his antics have destroyed much of my youth and somewhat still does to this day, so I can relate. So while I understand well that alcohol abuse has destroyed many lives, the big question remains:


I would say "no". Rather than getting too far into why (most people know why; John 2:1-12) I'm going to point you in the direction of a post by Scot McKnight. His short but sweet summary does an excellent job of pointing out the flaws in the argument "against" consumption of alcohol.

The article can be accessed HERE.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"In Art, Economy Is Always Beauty"

I'm going to take a cue from the above Henry James' quote and make this link post on the economy brief. No long lists of things I love. No rhapsodies on how my favorite foods relate to my topic. No adorable stories about my Sunday school class. No strings of adjectives. For instance, I won't write something like:

I love link posts. I love them almost as much as I love sweaters from Anthropologie and Saturday morning cartoons. I love them because they are a collection of delicious little morsels, just like a box of See's truffles! They also don't take too long to compile, which is good because I'm currently preparing a Sunday school lesson involving plastic monsters, cupcakes, and Borax. I think link posts are delightful, fantastic, and all around swell.

Who has time to read something like that? This Saturday, it's just the facts.

Do those AIG bonuses have you sharpening your pitchfork? I recommend Michael Kazin's A Short History Of American Rage for a little perspective.

It's time to brainstorm how we can support pregnant women in our communities because Economy Puts Focus On Family Planning.

Sunday school curriculum too expensive? Write your own with ideas from Rotation.org.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Great Song from a Good Friend

I recently got the chance to play bluegrass with some friends at Deuel Vocational Institute. It was quite the experience, and I'll have more to say about it shortly. Here's one of the songs we performed. My friend Max wrote it and performs it in the video. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Odium of Death and the Fragrance of the Cross

Speaking of John's gospel...

Last night, our small group discussed John 12. John takes pains in said chapter to tether Jesus' anointing/triumphal entry to the raising of Lazarus. Consider these explicit connections;

John 12:1-2: Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table.

John 12:9-11: When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

John 12:17-19: 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him."

According to John, Jesus' anointing/entry must be understood in light of the frenetic milieu occasioned by Lazarus' resuscitation. But John does not connect these stories merely to pique our historical curiosity. John has a theological point to make (surprise, surprise). As John Pryor says;

...the last great sign of Jesus [viz. the raising of Lazarus], which sums up all the other signs and establishes him as 'the life of men' (as the prologue has already declared), becomes for John the catalyst for the passion events which follow. But John the great theologian is not content simply to tell the story, but must also tell the deeper story: the life-giver must give his own life.

John: Evangelist of the Covenant People - The Narrative & Themes of the Fourth Gospel (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 1992); 49.

True life can only be imparted to Lazarus (or anyone, for that matter) through the death of the Son of God. Given the aforementioned connections between these chapters, I believe I have warrant to suggest one more...

In 11:39, Martha is concerned about the odor which might come from Lazarus' tomb. In 12:3, John notes that the perfume with which Mary anoints Jesus fills the house with its fragrance. Prima facie, these appear to be ancillary details. But is anything just
ancillary in John's gospel? Perhaps John employs such statements to articulate his theology of death. Death is the great foe of humanity; an odious monstrosity that devours all that is good. In contrast, Jesus' death - symbolized by Mary's anointing - is a life-giving fragrance that fills the house. John envisages the cross as the moment of Jesus' vindication/glorification (Jn 12:23, 28; cf. 17:5). The shame and ignominy of the cross mustn't blind us to the victory God brought about through it. Jesus' death is the fragrance of life, for it ensures that we will no longer be plagued by the odium of death.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Understanding John 15:1-6

I've refrained from posting a straight exegesis essay for as long as I've been on the CiC team. The blogosphere isn't usually the place for that kind of stuff.

Well, not unless you have a Ph.D. and write a weekly article on Greek words, like Bill Mounce does at Koinonia. I love "Mondays with Mounce" on that blog- at this point it is the main reason I subscribe. Dr. Mounce models scholarship for the sake of the church as well as anyone I know of. "Mondays with Mounce" always moves from exegesis and Greek words to application in genuinely helpful ways.

Today's post was on John 15:2, in response to a question that a reader submitted to him. The basic issue is this: if the semantic range (that is, the range of possible definitions) of the Greek word airo allows for either "to take away" or "to lift up", then why does every translation of Jn. 15:2 elect for the former? Mounce says that "to lift up" basically makes little sense (after all, what does it mean to "lift up" an unfruitful branch?), and we should stick with "take away," especially because Jn. 15:6 parallels that reading. This decision agrees with every translation that I am aware of and every commentary that I've read on the passage.

Which puts me in the serious minority since I disagree. Incidentally this is the single passage of the Bible I've spent the most time thinking about over the last five or so years in my academic theological training. I've considered writing on it for awhile, but haven't wanted to do a simple exegesis post. Well the precedent is now set for me to do so, so here is my response to Dr. Mounce, complete with section markers, since this post got long fast.

First, let's consider the semantic range of airo. There is precedent in John's Gospel for both "take away" and "lift up". If I remember correctly, John uses airo to mean "to take away" twelve times and "to lift up" seven (it is close to that if that is not exact!). Other instances are disputed. This indicates that John's parlance reasonably allows for either translation.

Second, the closer context. The main point of Jn. 15:1-6 is stated in v.1: in one of the six classic "I am" statements in John, Jesus says that he is the "true vine" and that his Father is the vinedresser.

The rest of this post will work through Jn. 15:1-6, and since it got pretty long, I have provided section headings for my arguments.

Jesus' Use of Old Testament Vine Imagery

"Vine" imagery is common in the OT, where often the text speaks of Israel as a vine that God planted. Most notably here are Ps. 80:8ff; Isa. 5:1-7; and Jer. 2:21. Each of those passages has Israel as a vine that fails to produce fruit. The psalmist suggests that God has broken down the vine, but Isaiah and Jeremiah say that the unfruitfulness is the vine's fault, despite that God has given the vine all of the proper care it needs to bear fruit.

This sheds important light on Jesus' use of vine imagery. We should roundly reject the idea that Jesus was passing by some vines while talking to his disciples and suddenly thought, "Gee, that'd make a good analogy." Rather, Jesus knew his Bible well and purposely contrasted Israel's unfruitfulness with his own sufficiency for fruit-bearing as the life-giving vine tended by the perfect vinedresser. Jesus could do what Israel failed to do: give life to all who come to him. Not only is this the maint point of the present passage, but Jesus' sufficiency vis-a-vis Israel's failure is in fact a common theme in the Fourth Gospel.

Understanding 15:2: The Significance of "in Me" (Gk. en emoi).

But this immediately appears troubling when we get to v. 2. If Jesus is so perfectly life-giving, how come there are fruitless branches being taken away? This is especially troubling since the branch described in v. 2a is said by Jesus to be "in Me" (Gk. en emoi). Does this teach that Christians can lose their salvation if they don't bear fruit. Calvinist commentators have to do something about this. Carson, for example, simply says that we shouldn't press the "in Me" statement to mean that the person is a Christian.

To which I say, "Why not?" Of course that's what we should do, because the text plainly says that there is a branch that is really connected to the life-giving, perfect vine, Jesus. There is simply no getting around that fact!

The better answer is to keep reading. Verse 2b gives us a good hint. The Greek word translated "prune" here is kathairo. Even if you don't know Greek, just look at and pronounce the transliterations of the words as best you can: airo and kathairo. Jesus (or John in his translation) is employing some wordplay, paralleling the actions that the Father is taking towards the unfruitful and fruitful branches. Even in English it is obvious that the rest of the two phrases parallel each other.

V. 2 ends with the statement that the fruitful, pruned branch will "bear more fruit". While I am not sure that this final statement is grammatically connected to both statements, the idea seems to be the same: since the emphasis of the passage in v. 1 is on the ability of Jesus and the Father to provide life in a way that will make the vine bear fruit, as long as a disciple of Jesus is "in the vine" so to speak, he will bear fruit.

Understanding 15:2: Vine-Growing in First-Century Palestine

So how can a branch that is "taken away" bear fruit? Well, it can't of course. Not if it's not connected to the vine. But one that is "lifted up" onto a trellis sure might be able to, since trellising (from what I understand) helps aerate the vine. A trellis, for those not sure, is latticework you stand up to allow plants to grow on it. Like this:

You might be saying to yourself "Sure Andrew: we use trellises now to grow vines, but did first-century Palestinians?"

Enter Gary W. Derickson. In a 1996 article published in BibSac, Derickson argues that while vines usually grew along the ground, if they did not bear fruit during the pruning season, they would be lifted up onto a trellis so that they might begin to. In fact, not only did first-century Palestinians trellis unfruitful vines, but they did not cut them off during pruning season (and we assume Jesus is talking about pruning season because of the pruning parallel in v. 2). Vines would have been common enough in first-century Palestine that this would be obvious to most folks, even if they weren't vinedressers themselves.

What makes this an especially interesting proposal is that, as the first footnote of his article indicates, Derickson has a B.S. and M.S. in horticulture from Texas A&M and has even taught grape-pruning! This provides a pretty remarkable perspective on Biblical backgrounds for a guy with a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Dallas as well.

I have checked most John commentaries written after 1996 but have never seen anyone respond to Derickson's article even though they do not accept his thesis. In his massive two-volume John commentary, even the NT background guru Craig Keener notes the article but does not interact with it at all. This is disappointing.

If we accept Derickson's proposal, the passage reads like this: Jesus is the true, life-giving vine and his Father is vinedresser. As long as a branch remains in the vine it will bear fruit. If it is not doing so immediately, it will be lifted up onto a trellis so that hopefully it will begin to bear fruit. If it is already bearing fruit, the Father will prune it so that it will bear more fruit.

15:3-5: Cleanliness and Abiding

V. 3 indicates that the eleven disciples (Judas is gone by now) are already "clean" (another play on words, since "clean" is the noun form of the verb kathairo) because of the word Jesus spoke to them (referring to Jn. 13, where "cleanliness" comes up in the foot-washing). That is, the disciples are in the vine, bearing fruit, and already have been pruned in some sense. They are ready to bear more fruit.

The facts that Jesus is the life-giving vine and the Father is the perfect vinedresser are the reasons why the branches' job is simply to remain/abide in Jesus, the true vine. As long as that happens, they will bear fruit sooner or later. Thus vv. 4-5.

But What about 15:6?

Which brings up one last question: what about v. 6? How come branches there are being thrown into the fire if branches that are in the vine will definitely bear fruit, according to my interpretation? There are a few important issues here:

  1. The branch in v. 6 is never said to be in the vine. This may seem unimportant, but note that "in me" has already come up three times in this passage. Contra Carson, it is actually quite an important part of Jesus' discourse.
  2. Derickson says that during the pruning season, the reason unfruitful branches are not cut off is because they are totally useless little sprigs. But in the later season if they are still fruitless, the branches have grown more and become more "woody" which means that at least they can now be cut off and used for firewood.
  3. Note the change in pronouns. Vv. 3-5 and 7ff has Jesus referring to "you" plural (i.e. the eleven disciples). But v. 6 refers to "anyone." Why the shift? Well, for one thing, the audience is the eleven disciples. John knows full well when he records this story that none of them will in fact fall away. More importantly, the "If anyone..." (or "whoever" in some translations) phrase (more specifically in Greek, ei + tis + a verb in the subjunctive) is a literary device John uses throughout the Gospel when Jesus states a universal truth that applies directly to all people, including his readers who were not there at the time Jesus spoke the words. So in Jn. 3:3, where the same conditional construction is used to present a negative statement, Jesus is telling everyone, not just Nicodemus, that one must be born again to see the Kingdom. In Jn. 7:37-38, Jesus tells his listeners at the Feast of Tabernacles, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." But that expands the audience to John's readers as well. And as Jn. 20:30-31 indicate, John was consciously concerned about his readers' understanding of and belief in Jesus, and this is actually a common construction throughout John. So 15:6 does the same thing: the reader should know that despite that the disciples are clean (v. 3), they must go to the vine themselves or else their fate is to be cast into the fire (whether or not that means hell is a different question!).

Application, Bill Mounce Style (or Using Mounce's Pastoral Approach Even when you Disagree with Him).

I realize that this post has been long and I imagine if you weren't interested in this issue already or in Mounce's discussion, you're not reading this. But since I'm responding to such a pastoral scholar as Mounce, allow me to follow his lead and make a pastoral point: there is nothing more important for us as Christians than to abide in the vine, Jesus. Without him, we can do absolutely nothing of any fruit-bearing significance to Jesus. Do you want to live in a way that pleases God and bears fruit for the Kingdom? Spend as much time as possible fellowshipping with Christ as the true spiritual temple (Jn. 2:1-12-25; 4) eating of him as spiritual food (Jn. 6), drinking of him as spiritually-quenching drink (Jn. 7), and getting spiritual life from him to bear spiritual fruit (Jn. 15).

Andrew Faris on James Grant on Mark Driscoll on Time Magazine on the New Calvinism

Most of us already saw the Time magazine piece that says that the "New Calvinism" is the third of ten major ideas changing the world right now. I'm not even going to go to the trouble of linking it again here- that's how confident I am in our readers' blogospheric intake.

Mark Driscoll responded to that piece with four ways in which the "New Calvinism" is doing what the "Old Calvinism" failed to do:
  1. Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
  2. Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
  3. Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.
That's the whole of Driscoll's post. I linked it, but you really don't need to go read it. That's it- word for word, and all of the emboldened text is his emphasis.

Well, James Grant rightfully took issue with Driscoll's post. Go read his thoughtful response to each of Driscoll's all-too-vague, unqualified charges. Grant makes it clear that Driscoll has been unclear at best and downright wrong in his caricature of the "Old Calvinism" at worst.

I agree almost entirely with Grant's assessment, though I took some issue in a comment with his understanding of cessationists. I'm not html/blog savvy enough to know how to link directly to my comment, but I think the exchange between us that followed was good. In short, Grant's post suggests that cessationists are not in fact "fearful of the power and presence of the Spirit," and I say they are. Discussion and clarification follows. At the time of this post it's likely not finished, and it's quite cordial and friendly and all that.

If you want to know why I think cessationism happens (sounds like a disease or something when I put it like that...), go check out my comments on that post. Here's a hint on my view: most times I don't think it's entirely from the Bible!

When the Ones Who Caused the Ship to Sink Take the Lifeboats for Themselves

While some of this short post from Charity Leslie is overstated (though still thought-provoking), this comment on the backwardness of the fallout of the economic crisis is brilliantly perceptive, well-articulated, and one that I've not seen anyone else make:
I cannot help but recognize that in my workplace it will be all of the people in my generation who are laid off. Young parents, college graduates, experienced thinkers, innovators all will go down with a ship captained by the generation that came before us. That generation, however, will not go down with the ship. In spite of the laws of sea, the captain and crew will jump in the life boats first and leave the rest of us to drown in the price of their inefficiency and late decision-making. Those who would have retired soon are now clinging to the remaining jobs in order to re-boost their 401ks, which is simultaneously understandable and unconscionable.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Root Of All Our Problems

It galls me that the media devotes so much time to covering the economy, war, the housing crisis and our health care system that it completely ignores America's biggest problem: Soccer.

Thank you, Stephen H. Webb, for being brave enough to speak the truth when no one else will. Read How Soccer Is Ruining America: A Jeremiad at First Things.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reflections on the Coming Evangelical Collapse

If you haven't read Michael Spencer's (aka iMonk) op-ed piece in the Christian Science Monitor, I'd enthusiastically commend it to you. The article has enjoyed tremendous circulation (even Drudge picked it up!), and has prompted some good discussion. Spencer's prognostications for evangelicalism are bleak, but the article ends on a hopeful note;

Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, "Christianity loves a crumbling empire."

We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.

We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture.

I agree with Spencer that cultural hostility towards evangelicalism will increase, as will decentralized expressions of the church. Here's what I'm wondering...given that evangelicalism is crumbling in the West (and feel free to dispute this claim if you like);

1. What elements within the movement do we need to fight for?
2. What elements within the movement do we need to redeem?
3. What elements within the movement do we need to discard?

I want to ask these questions while the ship is still afloat.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another Stimulus Plan?

Somebody tell me this is a joke.

The Logic and Method of Fred Sanders' "Today" Church History Posts

If you're anything like me (i.e. you like blogs, you like Fred Sanders, and you're terrible with church history), then you have loved Dr. Sanders' daily mini-biographies of various important folks throughout church history.

I've plugged that series plenty of times here, and I don't hesitate to plug it again: subscribe to Scriptorium on your reader and read as many of those posts as you can. Almost every one is great.

Dr. Sanders started into that series on Jan. 1, 2009 without ever telling us how and why he is doing it. Well, not until two days ago anyway, and since I'm just catching up on the last couple days in the blogosphere, I've just read that post.

So in case you didn't catch it, here is Sanders' explanation of the series.

My favorite/the most intellectually astonishing part:

"3. Where do you get the further information about the events and people?

Mostly from my own study notes from previous research projects."

That's right folks: Fred Sanders has already done almost all of this research. Remind me to never disagree with him about anything.

Star Wars and The Gospel

I’m only 50 pages into offering a forthcoming review of Michael Bird's new book Introducing Paul and came across an interesting analogy. Seeing I have an unhealthy obsession with the Star Wars series I simply had share this comparison Bird draws between Adam, Christ, and the Skywalker's.

In want of a modern analogy, George Lucus’s six-part saga Star Wars can be called a ‘Tale of Two Skywalkers’, and in many ways mirrors the Adam-Christ contrast of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, where Adam and Christ stand for the two respective heads of humanity. They are representatives or types of either a corrupted humanity (Adam) or a redeemed humanity (Christ). The first Skywalker (Anakin Skywalker) faced the temptation to give in to the dark side of the force: he gave in to it and death, destruction and chaos followed. In contrast, the second Skywalker (Luke Skywalker) faced the same temptation, but was faithful and obedient to his Jedi vocation, and consequently hope, life, and the triumph of good followed. In fact, Luke was able to redeem the first Skywalker, his father Anakin, from evil through his faithfulness.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Breakfast Song (no' mo' bacon...)

Not to overshadow Jeff's intriguing quote from Luther via Schaeffer, but this simply had to get posted...I had no choice. The moment I saw it I had to put it up!

Luther on Worldiness

As I was preparing to preach this weekend, I came across this gem from Luther (Schaeffer quotes it at the beginning of The God Who is There: Speaking Historic Christianity into the Twentieth Century [IVP, 1968]; 18).

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Money, It's A Gas

For years I viewed myself as a generous beacon of contentment who loved God too much to worry about money or be ensnared by materialism.

Then I bought a house.

I soon realized that I had never worried about money because my cheap rent allowed me to be completely irresponsible and still have enough cash left over to pay my bills. And I had never been particularly materialistic because I wasn't allowed to paint the walls or install new light fixtures in my old apartment. But ten mortage payments, seven light fixtures, three new appliances, and one property tax adjustment later, I've discovered the ugly truth. I worry about money a lot. And I'm a slave to Restoration Hardware. Another lovely perception of myself shattered.

So now I'm working on trusting God with my money and being a good steward. Which means actually following a budget and writing down everything I purchase. Apparently the concept that having a budget will save you money isn't the old wive's tale I thought it was.

I believe that good stewardship applies to giving, which is why I'm more likely to buy a sandwich for someone asking for money than give him or her cash. And I'm fine with churches having some standards of who they will and won't give money to. However, Tony Woodlief recently posted an interesting little article on this subject called A Year Of Recklessness. He writes:

It’s frightening, even in good economic times, to give in the face of seemingly endless need . . . So we wrap ourselves up in notions of good stewardship. We investigate their needs more thoroughly. We ask tough questions. We remind them to take some responsibility for their lives. These can be good actions, but I know in my own case they’re often sparked by selfish motivations. I remind myself that this homeless man is likely a drug user, and that the poor family over there spent money on a satellite dish. I recall the biblical injunction: If a man will not work, neither shall he eat. I do this not because I am holy or steward-minded but because deep down I am afraid of a relationship with them. I am terrified they will latch on to me in their need and never let go.

Woodlief concludes that:

What would the world think of us if all of us turned off the financial advice shows, imperiled ourselves just a little, and gave so much that every crook and lowlife and spendthrift in town darkened our churches’ doors? They’d call us fools, most likely. Which is a sign, I think, that we were getting ourselves on a better path. It’s when the world thinks us prudent, or business-like, or—merciful God forbid—normal, that we’d better worry.

What do you think? Do you use "good stewardship" as an excuse not to be generous? Do you have any personal criteria for who you do or don't support? Should churches?

Think on these things. I'm off to search for loose change in my couch.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ralph Erskine: "Smoking Spiritualized" - Puritan Tobacco Poetry

While we're on the subject...

Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) was a Scottish churchman and pastor who apparently saw some serious spiritual analogies in smoking tobacco. So much so that he expressed it in poetry. Enjoy!


This Indian weed now wither'd quite,
'Tho' green at noon, cut down at night,
Shows thy decay;
All flesh is hay.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The pipe so lily-like and weak,
Does thus thy mortal state bespeak.
Thou art ev'n such,
Gone with a touch.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,
Then thou behold'st the vanity
Of worldly stuff,
Gone with a puff.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,
Think on thy soul defil'd with sin;
For then the fire,
It does require.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And seest the ashes cast away;
Then to thyself thou mayest say
That to the dust
Return thou must.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.


Was this small plant for thee cut down?
So was the plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what's the pow'r
Of Jesse's flow'r?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon's rose.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
In vain th' unlighted pipe you blow;

Your pains in inward means are so,
'Till heav'nly fire
Thy heart inspire.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
The smoke, like burning incense tow'rs

So should a praying heart of yours,
With ardent cries,
Surmount the skies.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Responding to R. A. Torrey on Smoking

Just when I thought I had done enough of the good work of defending smoking (and here's the follow-up), R. A. Torrey comes out and posts five reasons why Christians shouldn't smoke. I can only assume that Dr. Torrey reads our blog and was writing in response to it...

I'll be brief, and I'll go point-by-point. The objections are direct quotes from Torrey.

Objection #1 "Tobacco costs money and does the one who uses it no good and the money that belongs to God is squandered. Many professedly Christian men spend as much money every year on tobacco as would support several native workers in China or India or Africa."

This is nothing if not a good reminder that we need to be wise about spending money on earthly pleasures.

That said, my two pipes together cost me a little over 100 dollars. I have two specifically so that others who enjoy pipe-smoking but who do not own a pipe can smoke with me. A tin of my favorite tobacco is about thirteen dollars. I buy one tin roughly every three months. So after the initial cost, I spend between 60 and 75 dollars per year on smoking. I think that's reasonable.

Cigar smoking is more expensive (one good stick is typically at the very least seven or eight bucks) and addicted cigarette smokers are spending way too much. Torrey's point here is worthy of serious consideration in general: are we wisely spending our money for eternal purposes? I do not think occasional pipe-smoking violates this.

Objection #2: "Tobacco is physically injurious to at least the overwhelming majority of those who use it. Some it hurts more than it does others. Many a minister’s life has been shortened by the use of tobacco. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost and we have no right to do anything that impairs their health or strength."

I've addressed this in both of my posts linked above and won't bother doing it again here.

Objection #3: "The use of tobacco is a filthy habit. It cannot be made anything but filthy. Some are not so filthy as others in their use of tobacco but every tobacco user sooner or later becomes more or less a filthy person, and we are specifically commanded in the Word of God to 'Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh.'"

This can certainly be true. Yellowing teeth and the stench of stale tobacco are not real good for witnessing. But some proper care can alleviate this stuff pretty considerably. I don't smoke indoors (therefore there is no looming tobacco smell in the house), I ash in ash trays, I wear a jacket when I smoke that protects my regular clothes from picking up the smell, and I brush my teeth thoroughly right after I smoke every time. And again, limiting the frequency of smoking lessens this considerably.

One more thing: many if not most folks consider the smell of pipe tobacco quite pleasant. Cigarette smoke smells bad immediately to most of us, and the stale smell of any tobacco is not pleasant. But I've known many who enjoy being around people when they smoke a pipe or a cigar specifically because it does emit such a pleasant aroma. It can be quite delightful, really.

Objection #4: "No person can use tobacco without infringing on the rights of other people. A man who smokes pollutes the air about him for at least 20 feet in every direction and forces others to breathe this polluted air."

This one just isn't true. We sit around and smoke outside of our home, and like I said, many consider the smell quite pleasant. We close the windows and doors to our house so that the smoke doesn't come in, and anyone who doesn't want to smell it, doesn't smell it. And we don't go out and smoke in public.

One of my roommates doesn't enjoy smoking or the smell of our smoke, but he does enjoy the conversation that arises when we smoke. So he sits outside with us, but just sits a few extra feet away and it is apparently no problem for him.

Point is, the kind of smoking I have described rarely offends other people's senses, and it certainly isn't unavoidable for them when it does.

Objection #5: "No man in our day can use tobacco with out losing his influence with somebody. We could give specific instances of men who in many respects are men of extraordinary power who have lost their influence, and who have done positive harm to the cause of Christ, by their use of tobacco. Every out and out Christian desires his life to count to the uttermost for God and will not do anything, no matter how innocent in itself, which he has reason to think will rob him of an ounce of influence for God with anybody. If one will stop to candidly think of it, he must know that the use of tobacco will rob him of the influence with some whom he might and ought to reach and help."

Much of my point in my first post on this subject was exactly the opposite of this, namely that the benefits of smoking for deep, eternally-meaningful conversations with other men have often been considerable. And again, smoking a cigarette with a non-believer has been the way to build relationships on a few occasions. I use smoking for that very purpose.

I think the difference is probably in the stigma. In Torrey's day, my guess is that the old "Don't smoke, drink, or chew, or go with girls that do" adage was common Christian wisdom. But that, I think, is a basically cultural value that does not exist in the same way today (except chewing, which is still disgusting).

In Dr. Torrey's day he was probably right, and for that reason Christians then probably should not have smoked. But the perceptions now have changed for many (though not for all- we should still most certainly be quite careful about this!), and this is no longer as clearly true as it probably was then.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Some Scary Reminders About the Importance of Community

Regardless of how often I mull them over, some passages in Scripture just seem bizarre. As you might have guessed, the vast majority of these are in the OT (the witch of En-dor anyone?). There are, however, a few standouts in the Newer Testament. At present, two passages come to mind;

1. The story of Ananias and Sapphira (Ac 5:1-11).
2. Paul's statement about sickness, death, and the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:28-30).

God kills people for lying...and the people he kills are living in the New Covenant? People die because they don't take communion correctly? These passages are incorrigibly odd to me.


There's a common thread in each passage; both speak of attending to needs in the body of Christ.

In Acts, the egregiousness of Ananias and Sapphira's action is underscored by the preceding context (cf. 4:32-37). The nascent church holds all possessions in common (v. 32). Land/house owners gladly sell their property and offer it to the apostles for distribution. As a result, not even one believer is in need (v. 34).
And then, things go south.

In 1 Corinthians, the more affluent members in the community are depriving needy people of sustenance, taking portions that "befit" their social standing. Paul roundly condemns such behavior, as their is to be equality in the body of Christ (1 Cor 11:17-22). Those that fail to discern the body (which I think refers to the believers who make up the body of Christ; cf. Robert Banks, Paul's Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, rev. ed. [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994]; 59) are eating and drinking at their own peril. Instead of glutting themselves and reinforcing societal norms, they should wait for everyone to arrive, so that each member's needs might be provided for.

Here's what I glean from these peculiar passages;

1. The church is the context in which impoverished believers have their physical needs met.
2. When this doesn't happen, God starts taking people out.

Jesus wants us to embody the gospel by generously giving to poor brothers and sisters, and to do so with no expectation of reciprocation. Quite simply, how we treat these family members is how we treat Jesus (cf. Matthew 25:31-45).

Frankly, I'm glad God hasn't taken me out for my failures in this area. At the same time, I hope not to put God to the test.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Theologizing Charismatic Excess (or How Satan Really Works when Charismatics Meet)

A lot of folks who reject the charismatic movement do so on the basis of obvious excesses. My evidence for this is anecdotal, but most of us realize it's true.

Many continuationists, myself included, do not think that baptism of the Spirit can be subsequent to salvation or must be accompanied by tongues, and therefore reject Pentecostalism. But even apart from this, charismaticism is so often associated with people rolling on the ground in one part of a room while other folks (often including the pastor) are loudly speaking in tongues all at the same time without interpretation. This sort of behavior obviously disobeys the parameters of mutual edification, orderliness, and the necessity of interpretation if tongues are spoken publicly as laid out by Paul in 1 Cor. 12-14.

People see this sort of thing and reject charismaticism. In one sense this is understandable: it is indeed frustratingly rare to see charismatics take the limiting instructions in 1 Cor. 12-14 seriously, and I hate that fact. It keeps people from embracing all that the Spirit has to offer.

But this is like rejecting Calvinism because of Hyper-Calvinists, isn't it? That is, it is foolish! Almost any good and true thing, whether or not it is a theological issue, can be taken to an unreasonable excess. But that does not mean that the thing itself has no value or is wrong.

Perhaps what is troubling about charismatic excess is that it deals so directly in the spiritual realm, which is why it is common for people to attribute the unbiblical excess to demonic influence. This is possible in some cases, but I am not inclined to think it is the usual cause of excess, for at least two reasons.

First, most charismatics I know are godly people who believe that the Spirit works "charismatically" today. Even if there is excess when they meet (and there often is), these people are still genuinely seeking the Lord. They should be corrected because they are seeking him in ways that are unbiblical. But we need to take seriously that most times these are not the kinds of people who want anything to do with demonic influence. They are seeking the one true God exclusively through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Where is the entrance point for such direct demonic influence?

To be sure, Satan is always at work trying to thwart God's plans in a general sense. But this is not the same as saying that people are speaking in "demonic tongues" or giving "demonic prophecies." It could be happening, but I certainly do not see it as necessary either from experience or from the biblical instruction.

Which leads to my second reason: of all of the critiques of charismatic excess that Paul makes in 1 Cor. 12-14, there is one critique that is conspicuously absent: Paul never says that the Holy Spirit is not the one working. There is no passage that says, "When you speak in tongues without interpretation, the tongues are no longer genuinely Spirit-inspired tongues." Rather, he simply commands that tongues are followed with interpretation because we need to be edifying and orderly.

The problem is that we misuse what is genuinely the work of the Spirit. This might sound strange at first, but it actually fits with most of what we know of Christian practice. Consider this: if the Spirit only ever worked in any of our ministry when we did that ministry exactly right, when would He ever move? Probably never. God is gracious and gives us the good gift of His presence and guidance through the Spirit even when we fail to utilize that gift correctly. In a certain sense that seems to be the whole point of the gift of the Spirit- we mess things up, so He helps us!

Perhaps Satan's major work to thwart God's ministry in regards to charismaticism is more subtle. Perhaps he is at our charismatic church meetings whispering in our ears, "That prophecy is from God- just say it. That tongue is angelic speech- just say it out loud." And perhaps he and his demons are doing that to many people at once, encouraging all of the unedifying, disorderly stuff that the Holy Spirit already made clear should not be happening while He works.

And perhaps all the while Satan is saying to all of the onlooking non-charismatics, "See, they are being unbiblical. That is Satan's work, not the Holy Spirit's. It's like they don't even read their Bibles! And you don't want any part of that, now do you?"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

25 Things I Hate About Facebook

I know this has nothing to do with either orthodoxy or orthopraxy, but being an avid Facebook user I was almost in tears from this.


(HT:Daily Scroll)

Failed Gospel Tract

Lee Shelton (i.e. the Contemporary Calvinist), posted this failed gospel tract:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Free Audiobook Download: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

For the month of March ChristianAudio.com is giving away a free download of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney (Normally $14.98). I read this book some years ago and it struck a cord. I felt it was one of the most intriguing reads and to this day sits in my top 10 list of MUST READS.

From the product description:

...the freedom to grow in godliness-to naturally express Christ's character through your own personality-is in large part dependent on a deliberate cultivation of the spiritual disciplines.
Here is the link....enjoy!

Movies that Make you Cry

Elijah Smith has a good post from yesterday on movies that make him cry, exploring how important themes like honor, kinship, heartbreak, and love come out in movies and tie to our understanding and appreciation of the gospel.

Here is his conclusion:
From tearful heartbreak to tearful elation the Gospel has radically given us a schema with which we can understand the universe and our place in it, and it is not simply a cold, purely logical grid to look at the world (which probably kept me from crying when Dr. Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Through Christ we’ve the opportunity to come to God with our brokenness and to be able to experience true kinship and love as we inhabit a broken yet redeemed world. Because of what God has accomplished throughout history we also have a hope for the undoing of this brokenness and a time when injustice is eliminated. Tears of joy will most assuredly follow.
Read the whole thing.

Better Late Than Never

You may think that this title is referring to my lateness in writing the more substantive post I promised to produce on Saturday. Sadly, that post is still floating around in my head and can't seem to find its way onto my computer (see how I cleverly shift the blame from myself to the actual post?)

The title does refer to the fact that I've come to C.S. Lewis rather late in life. For years I smiled and nodded and pretended to have an opinion when my friends discussed Lewis' theology. I didn't read "The Chronicles of Narnia" until college. And I'm just now getting around to "The Screwtape Letters."

Here's a passage from chapter 6 that I thought was particularly insightful and convicting.

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the Will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us. (I don't, of course, mean what the patient mistakes for his will, the conscious fume and fret of resolutions and clenched teeth, but the real centre, what the Enemy calls the Heart.) All sorts of virtues painted in the fantasy or approved by the intellect or even, in some measure, loved and admired, will not keep a man from our Father's house: indeed they may make him more amusing when he gets there.