Edwards PortraitJonathan Edwards’ life, thought, and theology was dominated by the glory of God. Edwards argued extensively that God is chiefly concerned with His glory—manifesting the beauty of His perfections—and therefore all His creatures should be concerned with His glory as well. This commitment would shape Edwards’ entire theology, even as it related to theodicy and theology proper, the Calvinist-Arminian debate, the Christian’s pursuit of holiness, and the centrality of the affections in the Christian life. Indeed, it is no overstatement to say, along with one church historian, “No theologian in the history of Christianity held a higher or stronger view of God’s majesty, sovereignty, glory and power than Jonathan Edwards.”[1]

During his years ministering to the Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Edwards wrote his Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, where he masterfully develops the truth that God’s chief end in creating the world was to bring glory to Himself. He wrote:

All that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God’s works is included in that one phrase, the glory of God. … The refulgence shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary. The beams of glory come from God, and are something of God and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God, and God is the beginning, middle and end in this affair.[2]

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Last week, I was on holidays and spent 4 days driving with 2 toddlers.  They did astonishingly well, and while people slept I kept my mind going by listening to some sermons and catching up on the various issues of news/scandal in conservative evangelicalism.  On the way to our destination, I was catching up on the Kirk Cameron exposé/witch hunt that was happening, and on the way back I listened to the “Calvinism Exposed” message by Ron Vietti of Valley Bible Fellowship in Bakersfield, CA.  Ron Vietti warned his congregation that everyone would come after him, and people did respond to him (like here and here).  In a picture, this basically sums it up:

Hindenburg

The video is gone from their Youtube page since it was meant to be up for one week (according to their Facebook page), but it’s in their extended archives.  Nothing really disappears on the internet.  There’s also a copy posted here, for those theological masochists out there who want to attempt to stomach it.

It’s not my intention to respond to the video (beyond the above picture), except for one single point.  In the video, there’s the standard Arminian drumbeat of “God is love”.  At around 44:12 in the video, this statement is made:

“God would rather die than to be without us, and that is the most beautiful picture of our God that you could ever paint, and that is the image that I want all of you as believers to have of God.  That  he loves you so much he would rather die so that you could be with him for all eternity. He loves you.  He loves you with an everlasting love. Amen?”

Yup.  That’s the image of God that I find in the Bible.  He’s so lovesick that he’d rather die than be without me.

Yikes.

Now God is definitely not some suicidal teenager stalker, but the “God is love” idea is still in the Bible, right? Continue Reading…

October 15, 2014

Portrait of a Hypocrite

by Eric Davis

Drama MasksIf you spend any amount of time with little kids, a particular phrase will be heard more than once: “Watch this!” Perhaps they’ll perform a new trick they learned on the playground or show you how fast they can run on their budding legs. And it’s cute to watch. They are learning life and enjoying the thrill of using their newly-discovered, God-given skills.

But it’s quite another thing when the, “Watch this!” isn’t shed by the adult years. And it’s not so cute any more when “Watch this!” becomes the underlying operating principle for which we do life and religion. In fact, far from being cute, Scripture gives it a name: hypocrisy. The New Testament idea comes from a word used to describe an actor who would put on a certain mask during a theatrical performance. You get the idea. Hypocrisy is that thing which is all-too easy to see and diagnose in others, but might be more present in us than we’d like to see and admit. It’s a deep sickness, showing itself in several ways.

Here are 7 things we might see in a portrait of a hypocrite:

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How much is your church like the ancient church?

That’s a popular question these days—especially if you read guys like Robert Webber, Brian McLaren, Wolfgang Simson, or Frank Viola and George Barna.

Finding Our Way AgainMost of the contemporary discussion about the ancient church attempts to show discrepancies between what is now and what was then. The not-so-subtle implication is that there is something very wrong with the contemporary church. Blame Constantine. Blame the Enlightenment. Blame Capitalism. Blame the Fundamentalists. It doesn’t really matter. The only way to fix the church today is to get back to the ancient church.

Based on this premise we are told (by some) that the church needs to be more sacramental, more liturgical, and more mystical. We ought to light candles, burn incense, celebrate the arts, foster community, and avoid conventional church structures (like, especially, preaching). By others, we are told that we need to meet in houses and not church buildings. (And again, cut down on the preaching.)

All of this is proposed on the supposition that these practices characterized the ancient church. Continue Reading…

October 13, 2014

Meet: The Home Team

by Clint Archer

Seeing a book in print is like seeing your child being born—except that people are generally more lenient in their reviews of your baby. Thanks Eric for your very kind and thorough review last week; you had the book before I did!

The-Home-Team-194x300

Click to order

This is an interview I did for Shepherd’s Press Publishers to introduce The Home Team: God’s Game Plan for the Family. 

What motivated you to write the book?

I dropped into the deep end of ministry while still quite wet behind the ears, at age twenty-nine. I had no kids and had never counseled anyone whose marriage was longer than my own (four years at the time). Suddenly people who had been married for decades and had teenagers in the home were knocking on my door for marriage and parenting advice.

Thankfully I had been trained that the Bible is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness and I realized these folks weren’t really interested in my advice anyway; they wanted God’s wisdom. So, I quickly learned to rely entirely on the word of God as the source of the counsel I gave.

Now that I have been married twelve years and have four kids the only thing that’s changed in my counseling is that I have some stories involving snot and diapers. But my counsel is still only based on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

I realized early on that most of the family issues people struggle with start with a break down of the primary unity in the family: the husband and wife “one-flesh” union. I first had to remind them that they are a team, a one-flesh union, and that the problems they face needed to be tackled together. Each spouse is not the problem; the problem is out there and the team needs to address it as a unit.

I also applied the need for unity to the issues that faced children and even situations with in-laws and grandparents. The book is the fruit of what I learned works well in counselling families.

 

How did you choose to use sport as the theme for the book?

People who know me chuckle when they hear I wrote a “book about sport.” Although I have played many sports in my life—soccer, hockey, rugby, fencing, karate, judo, krav maga, cross-country running, and of course, chess—I am really bad at anything that involves a ball, co-ordination, or sweat (which is why I include chess as a sport).team huddle

But the book is not about sport, it’s about family. I like to learn while being entertained, and the world of sports provides a ton of entertaining, interesting, dramatic, and humorous illustrative material to explain the biblical concepts that address family unity. Jesus used parables that involved whatever his listeners were familiar with—farming, weddings, etc.—and today people are familiar with the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Another reason is that my wife reads a ton of parenting and marriage books, and then passes on to me those she thinks I’d like to read. Men lag notoriously behind women in their interest in books on family. I figured that if a lady read The Home Team, and benefited from it, the sporty stuff could be a “selling point” for her to get her husband or teenager to read it.

I also include illustrations about women in sport too, so it’s not a book for jocks. It’s a book for men and women and children who want to play the positions God has assigned for His game plan for the family.

Continue Reading…

Now I will relate how You set me free from a craving for sexual gratification which fettered me like a tight-drawn chain, and from my enslavement to worldly affairs: I will confess to Your name, O Lord, my helper and my redeemer.[1]

Broken Chain

Last week we looked at Augustine’s famous maxim that the human soul is restless until it finds its rest and satisfaction in the Triune God. This week, I want to look at Augustine’s own account of coming to that saving rest.

While he had been sitting under the Gospel preaching of Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo had the occasion to hear of the testimonies of the rhetorician Victorinus and of Anthony and the Egyptian monks—schooled philosophers whom Augustine held in high esteem, men who had come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit by the Scriptures and were humbled to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. At this point he could bear the convictions of his own soul no longer. He confronted his dear friend Alypius and spoke of the inner turmoil he was experiencing.

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On December 31, 1995 something momentous happened.  Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins released the book Left Behind, a fictional account of their (somewhat fanciful) ideas of what the rapture would be like, as well as the 7 years of tribulation that followed.  The book spawned a series that would ultimately involve 16 novels and would sell 65+ million copies.  Many people read the books, many people hated the books, and many people presented the books as the reason for rejecting various points of end times theology (properly known as eschatology) for the next 20 years (if I had a dime for every time I found myself in a conversation about eschatology where someone brought up a series of fiction books as their reason for rejecting Biblical doctrine…).  But that wasn’t the end of it all.  On October 31st, 2000, the Left Behind series hit the big time when it (*gasp*) became a movie.  Not only did it become a movie, but it was a movie that starred Kirk Cameron (the Tim Challies of “Christian” cinema) as well as that guy from Walker, Texas Ranger…

Walker

…and some other show from the eighties that I cannot remember the name of.

This was one of the first “big budget” Christian films ever ($4 million), and I’ll never forget seeing my first “Christian” movie: confused shock.  Shock that people on my TV were talking about Jesus in a way that wasn’t idiotic or revealing a writer who apparently slept through every post-flannel board lesson in Sunday School.  I was weirded out, but mostly because I wasn’t used to seeing Christians act like Christians on my TV.  It was obvious that this was no Hollywood-quality production but it was definitely something I was not used to seeing.  That confusion and novelty factor was likely what gripped me the most about the movie.

Now that Hollywood has basically remade everything that was ever any good, they’ve remade Left Behind too.  This time, it was staring Nicolas Cage rather than Kirk Cameron, and the budget was 4x bigger ($16 million).  On October 3rd (opening night) I sat through the remake.

Here’s a summary of the movie and some thoughts (both positive and negative). Continue Reading…

The Home TeamIt is said that marriage and family counseling comprise something around 80% of all counseling issues. This means that the bulk of a pastor’s counseling will be in the throes of the family. It also means that the bulk of the strife, hurt, and pain out there exist in the place where they should be the most scare: the family.

Not a few writers have recognized that. For example, an Amazon search of books pertaining to help with the family serves up some 200,000 hits. Point being: in so many ways, the family is one of the great battlefields. Everyone needs help and equipping for it. But not all that glitters among the 200,000 hits is gold. For all those reasons, it was a joy to read Clint Archer’s newest book, “The Home Team.”

As you might guess, Clint uses the team theme throughout in order to flesh out the structure and happenings of biblical life in the home. Using that unique illustration, nine chapters are given to covering the family dynamics.

I benefited from the book and recommend it for several reasons:

1. It’s biblical.

This isn’t a given in the slough of family literature out there. In fact, it’s probably the vast minority. Clint’s work is an exception.

A sound theology undergirds each chapter. For example, in chapter one, Clint clears the air as to what the origin of the problem for all families: the Fall. This is critical to set up families up for realistic expectations and actual solutions.

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(Editor’s note: In light of recent news events, it seemed fitting to repost this article written in February 2012 by George Lawson.)

In the beginning of May, 1665 London had a divine appointment with what the Puritan Thomas Vincent described as “one of the most terrible plagues that was ever visited on this or perhaps any other kingdom.” We now know it as the bubonic plague.

plague_victims

The disease at first claimed the lives of only nine people, but after a pause it rapidly spread across the city and was soon taking no less than 470 people a week. The number of deaths collected from the bills of mortality amounted to 68,596 in that first year, though some have estimated that the number was much higher.

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no cussing signIn 2005 the American Film Institute voted that the best movie line of all time was the one that Clarke Gable deftly delivered as the character Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. If you endured all four hours of melodrama you’ll certainly recall his parting dismissal of Scarlett O’Hara’s whiny interrogative, “Where shall I go, what shall I do?” Rhett rewardingly utters the words on the mind of every male viewer who is still awake, served with the cool and immortal preamble: “Frankly, my dear …”

The Motion Picture Association’s production code was fortuitously amended a mere month prior to the film’s release and for the first time it allowed the use of borderline curse words under this condition:

if it shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact …or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.”

The determining standard of what is “intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste” has proven quite the moveable feast. Words that were respectable vernacular in the Elizabethan era would get a kid’s mouth washed out with soap today, and diction that would never escape the censor’s “intrinsically objectionable” razor as recently as 1939 are now heard on every silver screen in the Western world, and even occasionally on the news (at least in Anchorage).

While as Christians we acknowledge that God’s standards of holiness are immovable a thinking linguist must acknowledge that what different cultures and periods consider to be taboo is a perplexing field of study.

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