Friday, May 25, 2007

The Irreducible Gospel

In THIS SERMON John MacArthur addresses the question, "What is the central, irreducible content of the gospel?" You can listen online or download the mp3 (it's free).

About three-quarters of the way through the sermon MacArthur outlines the stark differences between the Roman Catholic gospel and the evangelical Protestant gospel. I invite my Roman Catholic friends to give a listen to that part especially.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Helpful Resource For My Single Friends

Josh Harris, still known to many only as "that guy who doesn't like dating", has provided a helpful post called A Pastoral Response to Online Dating. It summarizes the counsel and concerns of his church's pastoral team (Josh is the lead pastor--he's grown up, in case you didn't know) regarding the growing trend of online dating.

I know of at least two people who have met their spouses through online dating services, and I must admit it struck me as a little . . . what? Desperate? Not exactly. More like self-willed. Like a lack of faith in God to give what is best. I got the impression (perhaps right, perhaps not) that these people had made marriage a MUST, as in "If I don't get married I CANNOT be happy in life and if God is GOOD he will give me a spouse." To feel this way is understandable. Of course, it's also rubbish. Now, I am married--to THE BEST wife around, no less--which may cause some of you to think, "Easy for you to say--you're already married!" And I would reply that marriage is what taught me that a mere human cannot live up to Lord-and-Savior billing. If you enter into marriage expecting your new spouse to be all your happiness, you will soon be disappointed. Then you'll move on to thinking that you could be happy if only you had children. Disappointed again, you'll move on to other things--if only you had a new house or car, grandchildren, a new spouse, a face-lift--if only, if only. We humans foolishly think that if only we could arrange all the circumstances of our lives just so, we could be truly happy and content.

You see, a mere mortal--and a sinner at that-- cannot provide indestructible joy and contentment. Neither can mere earthly "stuff." But Jesus Christ, who is no sinner and no mere mortal, can. He will be more than enough. Trust it to him.

...AND ONE FROM PIPER TOO: Click HERE to Read/Listen/Watch a sermon from John Piper on how single people can glorify God in ways married people can't.

Friday, May 18, 2007

ML-J Biography

I'm currently reading volume two of Iain Murray's biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A passage I read today gave the full contents of a letter written by ML-J in May 1948 to his daughter Elizabeth, who had recently written to her parents to tell them she believed that perhaps she was being prepared for missionary work overseas. In reply ML-J said, in part (italics added for emphasis):

I need not say that Mama and I were both much moved by your letter of last week and what you had to say in it about your thought and feelings concerning foreign mission work.

As far as we are concerned we are content with God's will for you whatever it may be. That is not easy, of course, but I thank God that we have had sufficient grace to commit you to His will. I have always tried to preach to myself what I have so often said to others, that we are but pilgrims and strangers in this world. All we have is but given to us as guardians and custodians by God, not to keep to ourselves but to enjoy as from Him. This applies to our children, and our business as parents is to prepare them for life and for God's purpose for them in life, regarding it as one of the greatest and highest privileges that they have been placed in our hands . . .
Iain Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1938-1981 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1990), 176-177.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

It's always bothered me when people say bemusedly, in response to a strange or inconvenient happenstance, "Well, the Lord must have a sense of humor!" I think this suggests a deficient view of God. As Luther once said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human." To be sure, God has always existed in a state of utter joy and happiness. But humor is not the same as joy; a chuckle is not the same as happiness. Consider the following quotations from Mark Twain:
So you see, the quality of humor is not a personal or a national monopoly. It's as free as salvation, and, I am afraid, far more widely distributed. But it has its value, I think. The hard and sordid things of life are too hard and too sordid and too cruel for us to know and touch them year after year without some mitigating influence, some kindly veil to draw over them, from time to time, to blur the craggy outlines, and make the thorns less sharp and the cruelties less malignant.
~ Interview in The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1905

What is it that strikes a spark of humor from a man? It is the effort to throw off, to fight back the burden of grief that is laid on each one of us. In youth we don't feel it, but as we grow to manhood we find the burden on our shoulders. Humor? It is nature's effort to harmonize conditions. The further the pendulum swings out over woe the further it is bound to swing back over mirth.
~ Interview in The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1905

Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
~ Following the Equator

Twain believed that humor exists because sorrow exists. I think I agree with him. We humans laugh at ourselves and at one another to ease the pain and frustration of living in a fallen world: "A merry heart does good like a medicine." I, for one, love to laugh. Try to remember the last humorous story you told to a friend. What was it about? I'd wager it was about something that annoyed you, or the pettiness of a co-worker, or a humiliating experience that offended your vanity, or a squabble with a loved one, or some such thing. But in heaven there is none of these things--there is no sin. God does not experience frustration or humiliation. He "works all things according to the council of his own will." Human sin does not threaten his eternal happiness. He does not need humor.

When we arrive in heaven, we will not need it either. It will be replaced by unimaginable gladness in the presence of God. We will certainly rejoice and be merry and laugh--perhaps we will sometimes laugh for a million years--but our joy and merriment and laughter will be of such a kind that we will think of them as altogether new things, and nothing like mere humor.

I think humor belongs to earth, and joy belongs to heaven. As Christians, we understand that life is really very serious business. What could be more serious than warning people of judgment and pointing them to the Savior? But even these matters are ultimately out of our hands. We are responsible to be wise stewards, to pray, to sow, "but God giveth the increase." While we're here, we should accept humor as a gift. We should laugh. Laugh at yourself, and by all means laugh at me.

Quotable, Part II

Passages I marked from chapter two of The Universe Next Door:

"God is not only there--an actually existent being; he is personal and we can relate to him in a personal way. To know God, therefore, means knowing more than that he exists. It means knowing him as we know a brother or, better, our own father." (p. 27)

"How does God fulfill our ultimate longing? He does so in many ways: by being the perfect fit for our very nature, by satisfying our longing for interpersonal relationship, by being in his omniscience the end to our search for knowledge, by being in his infinite being the refuge from all fear, by being in his holiness the righteous ground of our quest for justice, by being in his infinite love the cause of our hope for salvation, by being in his infinite creativity both the source of our creative imagination and the ultimate beauty we seek to reflect as we ourselves create." (pp. 32-33)

"Artistic inventiveness is a reflection of God's own unbounded capacity to create." (p. 33)

"Helmut Thielicke says it well: '[Mankind's] greatness rests solely on the fact that God in his incomprehensible goodness has bestowed his love upon him. God does not love us because we are so valuable; we are valuable because God loves us.'" (p. 34)

"So the greatness of God is the central tenet of Christian theism. When a person recognizes this and consciously accepts and acts on it, this central conception is the rock, the transcendent reference point, that gives life meaning and makes the joys and sorrows of daily existence on planet earth significant moments in an unfolding drama in which one expects to participate forever, not always with sorrows but someday with joy alone." (p. 44)

Quotable, Part I

I'm currently reading The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog by James W. Sire. Here are some passages from chapter 1 that I marked with my pencil:

"So what is a worldview? Essentially this:

"A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being." (p. 17)

"There is, of course, a way things are, but we are often mistaken about the way things are." (p. 19)

"It is important to note that our own worldview may not be what we think it is. It is rather what we show it to be by our words and actions. Our worldview generally lies so deeply embedded in our subconscious that unless we have reflected long and hard, we are unaware of what it is. Even when we think we know what it is and lay it out clearly in neat propositions and clear stories, we way well be wrong. Our very actions may belie our self-understandings." (p. 19)

"So long as we live, we will live either the examined or the unexamined life. It is the assumption of this book that the examined life is better." (p. 21)

Thursday, May 10, 2007


The week before Gretchen and I left Illinois for Louisville, we listened to the Caedmon's Call album 40 Acres almost non-stop as we packed and dashed here and there tying up loose ends. It was a means of grace to us in those final days as we said goodbye to friends and everything familiar. We were closing the book on a very important chapter of our lives. That album made a painful time a little less so by reminding us that the Lord who loves us, bought us, and called us surely orders our steps and knows what is best for us. The song "Faith My Eyes" seemed especially apropos:
But if I must go
Things I trust will be better off without me
But I don't want to know
Life is better off a mystery

So keep'em coming these lines on the road
And keep me responsible be it a light or heavy load
And keep me guessing with these blessings in disguise
And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes

So it seemed fitting two days ago when I was studying for an exam in a lounge area near the campus convenience store and 40 Acres started playing. In that moment I was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God to me over these last months. He has done so much for me. I was convicted too. I thought, "God's grace has accomplished so much for you - for heaven's sake don't try to handle finals in your own strength!" 40 Acres was helpful once again, and stands like bookends at the beginning and end of five extraordinary months. What do you say in the face of unthinkable Divine favor? A hymn comes to mind:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

Here are some things God graciously gave us:

  • When I unexpectedly needed a new laptop the day before we moved - something I couldn't afford - I called my dad to see if he could help me out with the expense. He just happened at that very moment to be setting up a new laptop he had purchased for an employee. He generously gave it to me instead.
  • My dad and seven other friends/family members helped us move into our apartment here in Louisville. Many others helped us pack in Louisville.
  • The Lord provided us an on-campus apartment six weeks earlier than we had expected. We thought we wouldn't know until mid-December, but we received confirmation the first week of November.
  • Generous love gifts from our church family helped defray moving expenses. Our church in Illinois even paid for our moving truck.
  • The week before we moved, Gretchen found out about a job opening at the campus bookstore. She applied online, got an interview for the day after our move, and found out two days later that she got the job!
  • The Lord provided me a Friday and Saturday-only job at the little Italian restaurant we ate at on Valentine's Day. I saw a sign by the door advertising the position, gave them a call, and got an interview - only they thought they were interviewing an experienced waiter named Neal. Since I was there they hired me anyway. I think I got Neal's job some how - sorry Neal! The weekend-only job left my weekday study schedule undisturbed.
  • Regular visits from friends and family kept us encouraged and feeling connected. It's a lot of fun to show people around your new town.
  • The amazing worship, teaching, and friendships at Clifton Baptist Church provided encouragement and conviction at crucial moments.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Beckwith Resigns From ETS

After resigning the presidency of the Evangelical Theological Society a couple of days ago, when word of his conversion to Roman Catholicism began to leak out, Francis Beckwith yesterday resigned his ETS membership altogether. Read his statement HERE.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

ETS Should Exclude Roman Catholics

Here's a disturbing bit of news from Russell Moore:
Francis Beckwith, associate professor of church-state studies at Baylor University and current president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has been received into the Roman Catholic Church, according to reports today.

The Evangelical Theological Society was founded as an academic professional organization for conservative Protestant scholars. The ETS doctrinal statement is, in its entirety: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."
Beckwith also resigned as president of the ETS. Read Beckwith's own account of his journey back to Rome HERE. He says, in part:
[B]ecause I had received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation all before the age of 14, I need only go to confession, request forgiveness for my sins, ask to be received back into the Church, and receive absolution.
It would seem that one thing Beckwith had to ask forgiveness for was believing in salvation by faith alone, apart from works. Sad. Notice that while he has resigned as an officer of the ETS, Beckwith intends to remain a member of the Society. Moore notes that there is at least one other Roman Catholic member of the Society. The ETS, as a body of Evangelical Protestant theologians, needs to expand its Doctrinal Basis to include a clear statement of justification by faith alone, worded in a way that excludes Roman Catholics from membership. The four Southern Baptists on the ETS Executive Committee ought to do everything in their power to begin this process. If the Society is unwilling to defend justification by faith alone, those members who cherish the true gospel ought to withdraw their membership.

Of course, this is the group that couldn't muster the votes to get rid of a heretic like Clark Pinnock.

UPDATE: Carl Trueman responds to the news of Beckwith's return to Catholicism.

UPDATE #2: Between Two Worlds links to a proposal to revise ETS doctrinal statement.

UPDATE #3: Dr. Mohler discussed the matter on his May 10 radio program with Bruce Ware, vice president of ETS and a professor at SBTS (and my Sunday School teacher!). To listen or download, click HERE.