Archives For Evangelicalism

Dead Germans.

They are the subject of a lecture I give every spring in my church history classes: a brief overview of German theologians from the 19th and early-20th centuries.

It’s kind of a depressing lecture to deliver — the sad tale of skepticism intersecting with scholarship; a dismal depiction of the disaster unleashed by unrestrained doubt and disbelief.

Despite standing in the shadow of the Reformation, many German Protestant theologians abandoned the historic truth claims of biblical Christianity due to the mounting popularity of Enlightenment rationalism. In so doing, they shipwrecked their own souls while simultaneously devastating the faith of millions of others.

Higher critics, such as Johann Eichhorn and David Strauss, denied the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch, they claimed; nor did Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John write the four gospels. To make matters worse, they suggested that the Jesus of the Bible is not the same as the real Jesus of history. In their “quest to find the historical Jesus,” the critics created a “Jesus” of their own imaginations — essentially reducing him to a nice guy who couldn’t do any miracles, never claimed to be God, and was largely misunderstood by first-century Judaism. Continue Reading…

z222981615Autocracy, totalitarianism, despotism. The words alone make us cringe. History is littered with tragic abuse of peoples and cultures at the hands of tyrannical coercion. One need not travel far on a historical timeline for evidences of autocratic control over people. Dictatorial agendas have played out in much abuse under controlling leaders. And sadly, the church is not exempt. Heavy-handed church leadership does its far share of damage too.

However, our human nature can tend towards overreaction. We can label things “controlling” which are not. Loving shepherding can be mislabeled dictating. Administering Christ’s care can be confused as controlling. Biblical discipleship can be accused of despotism. Encouragement can be falsely called exploitation. And these are not insignificant accusations. But too often, these serious allegations are lobbed at faithful, loving Christians administering needed care to one another, thus they are erroneously cautioned of controlling boogeymen. But these boogeymen have outstayed their welcome among God’s people and in the church, and for that reason, they need to be shooed away.

Here are 8 controlling boogeymen we need to shoo away:

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Inerrancy and the Prophetic WordLast week, Nate drew attention to the 2015 Shepherds’ Conference Summit, which will be devoted to understanding and defending the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. As we anticipate much conversation related to inerrancy to take place between now and then, I thought it would be helpful to post the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, originally published in 1978, in its entirety.

The CSBI has been a key point of reference in the inerrancy debate, clearly spelling out what its signers believed about the integrity and authority of Scripture, and why they believed “inerrancy” was a necessary designation to use.  Among the original signers were  James Montgomery Boice, John Frame, John Gerstner, Carl F. H. Henry, D. James Kennedy, John MacArthur, Roger Nicole, J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, and John Wenham. (A complete list of the signatories is available here.) The statement also was the frame of reference for the recent book, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.

Given its great importance to the discussion, I’m surprised at how many people I’ve spoken to about this issue who have heard of the statement but have never actually read it. For this reason, I’ve reproduced the statement in its entirety, which includes a preface, a summary statement, articles of affirmation and denial, and an exposition explaining the framers’ intent. It’s an extremely edifying read, and includes some things that many might be surprised to see. Let us know what you think in the comment thread!

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It was almost six years ago when a group of fifteen Southern Baptist evangelists met together to bemoan the growth of Calvinism within SBC circles.

When asked about his concerns, Jerry Drace (the evangelist who initiated the meeting) explained that some Baptist pastors are so Calvinistic “that they almost laugh at evangelism. It’s almost to the extent that they believe they don’t have to do it. So [Calvinism] gives them an excuse not to do evangelism.”

Drace’s comments raise an important question. Does an affirmation of God’s sovereign election in salvation (commonly called “Calvinism”) deter people from faithfulness in evangelism?Calvin and Company

An answer to that question could be approached from several different angles.

One could, for example, consider evangelistic efforts among Baptists — comparing those who embrace the doctrine of election with those who do not. An SBC study “found that Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.”

A much better place to go, of course, would be the Word of God. There are many passages to which we could turn (from John 6 to Acts 13 to Ephesians 1); but I would start in Romans 9–10. Pardon the anachronism, but it is no accident that the most “Calvinistic” chapter in the Bible (Romans 9) is partnered with the most “evangelistic” (Romans 10). Clearly, the apostle Paul saw no disconnect between the reality of God’s sovereignty in salvation and his own evangelistic zeal. Continue Reading…

What makes a conman so pernicious is his ability to conjure a convincing illusory identity based on trust. Thus the moniker, confidence man. At some point in every scam, the prey entrusts money to the predator, with full confidence that it will be returned. But occasionally the hunter’s camouflage is stripped, and he finds himself in the crosshairs of justice.

masksSelva “Silver Fox” Carmichael is Britain’s most notorious petty serial fraudster. He went from surreptitious sneak to celebrity superstar overnight, when caught trying to fleece some beloved TV personalities. The scam was quite simple. He approached two erstwhile Big Brother contestants an offered them a role in a new reality series. The couple then permitted a TV crew to follow them around for 18 hours a day, filming the type of banal, unscripted, melodramatic routine that attracts viewers like gawkers to a car wreck. Carmichael then used the footage like bait in a snare to attract a bevy of salivating investors who fronted the cash for the production of the show.

Later he would put on his saddest face when informing the actors that the network reneged on the deal, and that there was no money to pay them, as per the contract it had to be returned to the investors. His next stop was an investor meeting where he apologized for not being able to return their money, due to contractual obligations to pay the actors. After everyone fussed and fumed, he slunk out with the entire investment in his bank account.

Ironically, it wasn’t the investors who sued him, it was the forlorn would-be actress. Her lawyer, Amir Saleem, recognized some of the details of the story his client told me to be telltale traces of the craft of a scam artist. Saleem successfully sued Carmichael for the amount owed plus damages, and in the process tore off his mask exposing him as The Silver Fox. Carmichael was arrested for criminal charges. But here’s the rub…he too recognized in Saleem’s methods traces of his craft. He tipped off his lawyers who dug a little deeper into the legal credentials of Amir Saleem who had defeated them in open court.

They were astonished to learn that not only was the law practice Saleem worked a fake, but his law degrees had been forged too. Amir Saleem too, was a serial fraudster. The two rival conmen were the undoing of each other. I love the irony that the case in which Saleem was unmasked as a fraud was the case he brought against a fellow conman.

You can’t write this kind of drama; not even for a fake reality TV show. But it goes to show that you can fool most people most of the time, but not all people all the time.

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In Little Rock ArkansasHow many times have I read or watched a news report about the devastation, caused by a tornado in some part of the country? Dozens maybe. I might have paused for a while, to think about the unimaginable power of the violent winds, or pondered what it would be like to lose everything I own in a storm, or I might have remarked how sad it was that a number of people lost their lives… over there.

This time it was different. This time a friend of mine–and two of his children–died.   Continue Reading…

Here are ten reminders for those who preach and teach the Word of God … as confirmed by some of history’s greatest preachers.

1. Effective ministry consists not of fads or gimicks, but of faithfully preaching the truth.

Charles Spurgeon: Ah, my dear friends, we want nothing in these times for revival in the world but the simple preaching of the gospel. This is the great battering ram that shall dash down the bulwarks of iniquity. This is the great light that shall scatter the darkness. We need not that men should be adopting new schemes and new plans. We are glad of the agencies and assistances which are continually arising; but after all, the true Jerusalem blade, the sword that can cut to the piercing asunder of the joints and marrow, is preaching the Word of God. We must never neglect it, never despise it. The age in which the pulpit it despised, will be an age in which gospel truth will cease to be honored. . . . God forbid that we should begin to depreciate preaching. Let us still honor it; let us look to it as God’s ordained instrumentality, and we shall yet see in the world a repetition of great wonders wrought by the preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.

Source: Charles Spurgeon, “Preaching! Man’s Privilege and God’s Power,” Sermon (Nov. 25, 1860).

2. Preaching is a far more serious task than most preachers realize.

Richard Baxter: And for myself, as I am ashamed of my dull and careless heart, and of my slow and unprofitable course of life, so, the Lord knows, I am ashamed of every sermon I preach; when I think what I have been speaking of, and who sent me, and that men’s salvation or damnation is so much concerned in it, I am ready to tremble lest God should judge me as a slighter of His truths and the souls of men, and lest in the best sermon I should be guilty of their blood. Me thinks we should not speak a word to men in matters of such consequence without tears, or the greatest earnestness that possibly we can; were not we too much guilty of the sin which we reprove, it would be so.

Source: Richard Baxter, “The Need for Personal Revival.” Cited from Historical Collections Relating to Remarkable Periods of the Success of the Gospel, ed. John Gillies (Kelso: John Rutherfurd, 1845), 147.

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In case you haven’t heard. . . next year’s Shepherds’ Conference promises to be one of the most memorable and impactful yet.

If you’re thinking about coming, you should plan to register sooner than later. (The conference is already more than half full.)

You can check out the promo video here.

inerrancy

 

Jamie Pierre, 250 Foot Cliff Jump, Grand Targhee Backcountry, WYFor many who live in high alpine terrain, mountain sports like skiing are a way of life. As with any such sport, carnage comes with the territory. On one particular occasion, I watched a friend missile himself off a 60 foot cliff on a day which skiers would label the snow conditions as “boiler-plate” (referring to the penetrability of the snow). When he finally landed, the boiler-plate-like snow gave 4 inches (though he stopped, his skis continued airborne without him for another quarter of a mile). By the numbers, he was going about 40mph, landed, came to a complete stop in a fraction of a second, with only 4 inches of snow-cushion. That’s probably less forgiveness than landing on hot asphalt. Needless to say, he compacted a few vertebrae and was laid up for a month. And once it was clear he was still alive, the stunt provided for a powerfully learning experience as one might imagine: among other things, don’t imitate Eddy the Eagle on boiler-plate snow conditions.

unforgivingThe falls and mishaps of others are never occasion for juicy gloating though they must be for humbly learning. At our local resort, you’re the mountain chump if you chuckle at a big fall. But you’re also the mountain fool if you fail to learn from them.

As normal for any era between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, these past few months have seen a far share of ministry falls, scandals, apology-kind-of-things, disqualifications, and hard-to-name-types-of-things. As the church, this provides opportune learning occaions for us to understand the times and know what to do.

This is by no means exhaustive, but here are 7 suggestions in light of recent events:

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The Noah movie was released, and by all accounts (or by all discerning accounts) was a complete mash-up of gnosticism, mysticism, kabbalah, with an unhealthy dash of environmentalism. It has certainly brought out the worst in the quasi-evangelical community, who produced all sorts of reviews showing their earnestness to engage with popular culture (“it may have promoted devil worship, but the CGI was awesome!!!), whereas others seemed to try really hard to justify all those buses they rented to take their congregations to Christian screenings.

Anyway, Trevin Wax helpfully put many of the best (and worst) reviews in one place. Some of the highlights:

This review shows how the movie is essentially warmed up gnosticism.  Al Mohler’s makes the same point. If you might actually want to see the movie, then Denny Burk gives you a review without spoilers. Meanwhile, Ken Ham does what Ken Ham does.

Today on Cripplegate, Tom Patton (a pastor at Grace Church in Los Angeles, and also a literal acting coach!) gives his meticulous review as well.

As for me, I strongly recommend you read Lyndon’s review. If you don’t know why people care about this movie, then read Lyndon’s review. If you think the movie was fun to watch, then read Lyndon’s review. If you are sick and tired of reading people who say things like “blah blah, at least it will help you talk about God more, blah blah” then read Lyndon’s review. Lyndon does not mix words, tells you all you need to know about the movie, and writes exceptionally well. Plus you will get a picture of Eddie VanHalen eating a McMuffin. If it doesn’t instantly become one of your favorite movie reviews, then let me know, and I will gladly refund your money.