August 13, 2013

The Suffering Son

by Joey Newton

Crown of ThornsHave you ever wondered why Jesus had to go through all that He did? I don’t mean just the suffering on the cross, where He bore the curse of the Law for us (Gal. 3:13) and drank the full cup of divine wrath for the sin of His people (Matt. 26:42). We understand that He was and had to be the propitiation – full satisfaction – for our sin (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). However, what I’m talking about is all the other stuff He suffered. Wasn’t the suffering of the cross enough? In one sense, yes, He paid the price in full and no greater sacrifice could be made. But in another sense, no, it wasn’t enough for Him to be our perfect Mediator. Now, that may be a shocking statement to some, but how about what the writer of Hebrews said: “He learned obedience through what He suffered … having be made perfect” (5:8-9). Yes, He “learned obedience,” and He was “made perfect” as our Mediator and High Priest. Continue Reading…

August 12, 2013

Faith in Æther

by Clint Archer

René Descartes (d. 1650) had some trouble trusting his senses. He coined the quintessential philosophical maxim: “I think therefore I am” because the only thing you can ever be sure even exists is yourself, since you are the one thinking that egotistical thought. Everything and everyone else in the Universe could be a figment of your imagination (or a product of the Matrix!) But that still proves that you have an imagination, and as the thinker you are thus the only one who certainly exists.

I find it both bemusing and amusing that Descartes also whole-heartedly bought into the implausible notion of luminiferous æther (or ether).space

Æther is a “substance” that was universally believed—by everyone from any literate third grader to the auspicious father of physics, Sir Isaac Newton himself—to occupy every nook and cranny of outer space. Since light behaves like a wave, it must have a substance through which to move from the stars to earth, which “proved” space was not a vacuum. Ether was described as invisible, weightless, causing no friction or any other effect that would prove its existence. Convenient.

And because the quirky quantum physicists hadn’t yet thrown their revolutionary curveball at all things Newtonian by proving light also has a particle nature, there was no way to disprove ether.

The scientific community lapped up the theory of ether like a thirsty, gullible puppy for centuries until in the 20th Century, when it was proven that ether simply did not exist. At all. Anywhere.

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Last week, we began a series articulating 10 reasons every Christian should learn more about church history. We started with the fact that most believers are clueless about church history, and that ignorance leaves them vulnerable to all sorts of error and misconception about the past. Today we will consider three more reasons why church history is important … and why it should matter to you.

steeple2. Because God is at work in history. Conversely, history is a testimony to God’s sovereign providence.

Pardon the cliché, but it really is His story. Everything is working according to His plans, and He is orchestrating all of it for His eternal glory (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20–28). God declares Himself to be the Lord of history:

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ (Isaiah 46:9–10)

Studying church history reminds us that our God is on His throne. He reigns. He is perfectly accomplishing His purposes and providentially preserving His people and his truth in every generation. No matter how bad society becomes  — no matter how antagonistic or immoral — we already know how history ends. What comfort there is in remembering that the Lord of history is working all things together for His glory and our good.

One of the greatest theological lessons any believer can learn is to rest in the sovereignty of God. The Scriptures are filled with examples of men and women who trusted God and acted upon their faith in Him (cf. Hebrews 11). Church history, likewise, consists of wonderful examples of faithful Christians whose lives are testimonies to the providential care of their heavenly Father.

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Yesterday I wrote about the decline of Sunday evening worship services in the US. The church I pastor, Immanuel Bible Church in the Washington DC area, is one of those churches that used to have a Sunday evening service but stopped it about 15 years ago. The church had grown, they were having four morning services, and it just wasn’t possible to do an evening one. So the elders stopped it, and eventually decided that to better shepherd the congregation they would do community groups on Sunday evenings. But recently the elders began talking about the concept of Sunday evening worship services. Here is the letter I wrote to the congregation explaining why we are going to resurrect ours:   Continue Reading…

I recently did some calling around, and asked various evangelical churches (in the US) if they do a Sunday night worship service. Most do not, but what surprised me more is the reasons they gave for having dropped it. First, a bit of history:

empty church

Historically, many (most?) evangelical churches have had a Sunday evening worship service. The idea, stretching back to the Protestant Reformation, has been that if the Bible is the authority, then it makes sense to have it taught as much as is practical.

Many of the early Protestant churches not only had Sunday morning and Sunday evening gatherings, but mid-week Bible studies as well. In Catholicism, the more you celebrated Mass, the better, and in the reformation that frequency simply jumped into services that revolved not around the sacraments, but around preaching. Eventually, as the reformation spread into Scotland and (sort of) into England, the practice settled into two Sunday worship services, both with different messages.

And in fact, this remains the pattern in much of the world. It is almost universal that Baptist churches have a Sunday morning service, a Sunday evening service, and a midweek prayer gathering of some kind. Some churches do this because they view (wrongly, I think) Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. Others do this because they have learned to appreciate (correctly, I think) the concept of Sunday as the Lord’s day, and the experience that comes with having the Lord’s Day bracketed with worship. But regardless of the motivation, in much of the world, churches that value the Bible (“Protestant” seems too wide of a term, and “evangelical” seems to miss as well—so I’m going with “churches that value the Bible”) have two Lord’s Day services.

But American churches began to drop the Sunday evening service in the mid-1990’s. There were many factors behind this rapture of evening worship:   Continue Reading…

This isn’t a joke. Per se. But it could be.Tutu

When Pope Francis declared last week, “who am I to judge?” in reference to gay people who “seek the Lord,” the media went haywire. Dr. Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has a helpful article telling everyone to calm down, as the Pope hardly said anything new. All Christians believe that sinners need to be treated with respect and compassion, as Jesus modeled and commanded. And when a person who is struggling with any sin, and is “seeking the Lord” he should not be judged or condemned, but rather helped and counseled. So, the Pope and I agree on something (I know, it’s a cold day here too).

There is another prominent cleric, whom I seldom agree with on the issue of homosexuality, who made a cameo appearance in last week’s prurient media cycle.

The colorful Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has amassed an impressive treasury of struggle credentials (the Apartheid version of ‘street cred’). As a Black man staring down the barrel of White South Africa, Comrade Tutu spent the ‘80s vociferously lobbying the West to support economic sanctions against the draconian racist regime.

This much is known by everyone who owns a world history text book printed later than 1994 (or U2’s Rattle & Hum CD).

Tutu then championed the cause of post-election peace with his hatchet-burying  committee, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This effort secured a Nobel peace prize for his mantelpiece, and a lifetime open mic on the airwaves of the New South Africa.

For better or for worse, when Tutu talks, the people hear the squeaky, sanctimonious, gaffe-prone voice of the Church in Southern Africa.

Last week, at the UN-backed “Free and Equal” campaign in Cape Town, Tutu made this portentous claim,

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,… I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

It may surprise you, but I agree with the Archbishop on this latter point. Christians can all agree that God has no phobias, and therefore doesn’t fear gay people. Nor is God more offended by their sin than He is by yours and mine. When you opine about a god who fears humans (regardless of their sexual proclivity), you are no longer talking about the God of the Bible (see Psalm 2 for confirmation of God’s insouciance of human threats).

So, along with Rev. Tutu, I do not worship a god who harbors a phobia about sin, sinners, or sinful behavior of any stripe—hetero- or homosexual.

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