Back in 2011 John Piper gave challenged his readers to support their understanding of ministering to the unbelieving poor with “strong pillars” of theological argument. People are lost and on their way to hell, and many of them are suffering in this life as well. It has always struck me as particularly meaningless and eternally inconsequential when churches use their resources to do that which God has not called us to do. The poor, as Piper said, deserve better than bad arguments with bad theological foundations.

Yesterday I made the case that the Bible does not command churches to use their resources to lower the poverty rate, and I quibbled with Tim Keller’s statement that Christians owe the poor as much as we can possibly give them. But Keller’s views on mercy ministry are really so extreme, that it is easy to be accused of arguing with a straw man (plus I want to take this to heart) so I want to explain what I see as a biblical view of mercy ministry.

Continue Reading…

Several years ago there was a steady push from the “missional church” encouraging other churches to use their material resources to advance God’s kingdom by meeting the physical needs of the poor. For the most part, that movement seems like it ran its course. Kevin DeYoung’s excellent book, “What is the Mission of the Church” probably deserves much of the credit for exposing and confronting the church’s mission creep. Nevertheless, I recently have received several questions about this topic, which makes me think that the misisonal approach to dealing with poverty might be trying to make a comeback. So both today and tomorrow I will rerun two posts from a few years ago that deal with this approach to poverty. The goal is to get the readers to think critically and carefully about what exactly the Scriptures say about the mission of the church as it relates to the poor of the world. These posts are from 2011:

I am becoming increasingly convinced that dispensationalists understand why social justice is outside the realm of the church, and that others—especially and ironically those in the missional movement—are rapidly losing sight of what the church’s mission is. When Tim Keller says, “It’s biblical that we owe the poor as much of our money as we can possibly give away,” Robin Hood ethics gradually eclipse the Great Commission mandate. Others may squirm, but it takes a real dispensationalist to say, “The Bible simply never commands the church to give anything to the poor of the world, other than the gospel.”

When Jesus said, “The poor you always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matt 26:11Mark 14:7John 12:8), he raises a pressing question: What is the church’s role and responsibility when confronted with poverty? It is not debated that poverty has existed on earth since Cain’s banishment. What is debated is the reason for this, and then by implication the role the church has in ministering to the poor.

Continue Reading…

When I was in Bible College, I took a class on the gospel of John and my “smarter than anyone I’d ever met” Bible College professor told me that my understanding of the phrase”eternal life” had, up until that point, apparently been quite mistaken.  Up until then I had thought that it was basically everlasting life (the unending life that Christians life after the resurrection), but my professor told me that “eternal life” was actually “life lived in the light of the eternal”; some sort of qualitative life on earth in the here and now (which basically meant feeding the poor, abandoning materialism, etc.).  That definition has always left me somewhat suspicious because, beyond being skeptical anytime an intellectual ex-hippie pulls the “we, I used to believe that…” line (which happened an annoying amount in Bible College), I struggled to find that esoteric nuance in the scripture.  As I’ve read and studied the scriptures more and more, I’ve come to increasingly understand that the scriptures are less esoteric and ambiguous than some of my professors in Bible College led me to believe.

Bart

(Some of my professors had strange ideas, but none of them were this bad…)

A little while ago I returned to the phrase “eternal life” and did some exhaustive biblical study, in order to settle the annoying doubts that were buzzing in the back of my mind.  What I learned actually was somewhat surprising to me.  Allow me to share: Continue Reading…

Hamlet is William Shakespeare’s psychological tour de force, which deals with some of the deepest philosophical and anthropological questions in life. What is man? Are we innately good, or evil? What drives us? What curbs us? What is the reason for us to be or not to be? These are the questions the pensive Danish prince Hamlet muses about throughout the haunting story.despicable me

The play touches on one of the enduring debates in psychology—whether humans are born with a good nature or an evil one.

Many popular Oprah-esque paradigms today surmise that the reason people do bad things– the reason for the crime rate, the genocide, the atrocities we see on the pages of history– is because people have been infected with evil by their environment. In fact, they warn that viewing yourself as innately evil is harmful to your self-esteem.

The solutions proffered to cleanse the human stain of violence and wickedness, is a concoction of better education systems, a more stable economy, improved healthcare and welfare for the poor, etc.

Basically if everyone were nourished, healthy, and literate, there would be a sharp decrease in war, crime, depression, stress, pollution, corruption, and foolish decisions that ruin the economy and individual lives.

And this is what Hamlet seems to feel early in the play, as he regales Rosencranz with these words:

Continue Reading…

Last night I was made aware (you know who you are…jerk…) of some of the most insane news I’ve heard in a while and, well, found myself on my laptop far too late.  I’ll reserve comment to the end and let the horse’s mouth speak:

(Full text on Facebook = “I just recorded five wonderful TV shows with Benny Hinn on Jesus in the OT, repentance, holiness, the fear of the Lord, and hyper-grace. They’re scheduled to air the week of January 13th, so watch them and then share your thoughts.”) Continue Reading…

In a previous post, we looked to the seventy Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards as an example of an eternal and God-glorifying perspective that all believers ought to emulate. They are an especially helpful reminder at the beginning of a new year, when everyone is thinking about the resolutions they will make for the upcoming weeks and months.

But let’s be honest. A list of spiritual goals compiled by one of church history’s greatest heroes can be a bit intimidating, especially when there are seventy of them. When we make similar resolutions — and later fail to keep them — it can be downright discouraging to compare ourselves to someone like Jonathan Edwards.

Well, here’s a nugget of encouragement for you. Even a notable Puritan theologian like Edwards struggled to keep his resolutions.

Continue Reading…