There's this little throw-down opening up at Doug Wilson's blog over what credobaptism "means", and one commenter tossed out this doozy:
A word about baptistic baptism. I grew up in the Church of Christ, where, even though they'd rather be stoned to death than be called a "Baptist," nevertheless their concept of baptism is uber-baptistic.

There is more to the credo part of credobaptism than just a "background check," or even "confirmation." Underlying the baptistic concept of baptism is the philosophical premise that God does not interfere with the unadulterated, absolute free will of men (who, by the way, are morally tabula-rasa at birth).

In other words, credobaptism, at its foundation, is an explicit denial of both God's sovereignty in the area of human will, and the fact that man is dead in sin. This is why it is so repulsive. And this is primarily why I left the COC ("this" being the denials, not the symptomatic credo-stuff).

So when a COC elder or a Baptist pastor starts the interrogation, what they're looking for is: 1)some kind of evidence that the baptismal candidate has reached the mental age where (the philosophical argument goes) she can be reasonably expected to exercise a high level of beloved rationality, and 2)some evidence that the candidate has in fact used her rational ability to remove her own heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (all by herself).

Uuugghhhh... I believed that stuff for 30 years...
Yeah. Whatever. My first response was that this was dumb-factor of 12 on a scale of 5, and I invited our blog friend here to D-Blog this subject, but he passed. Instead, he wanted to know where his opinion went south, and I told him something like what follows.

That said, the "interview" is seeking evidence of faith. Just like in a paedo church prior to confirmation when they comb over the catechism so as to confirm (hence ...) the evidence of faith, so does the ordained baptist malcontent when he asks for one's "testimony".

Seeking the evidence of faith does not imply the superiority of free will over God's sovereignty. It seeks to announce His sovereign action through Baptism. Baptism is for the faithful not for anyone we hope will get faith.
For example, when John the Alcoholic gets baptized at age 47 because Pastor Abe at First Proper Presbyterian evangelized him at the barber shop, presbyterians would not then go an baptize all of Abe's college age atheist children, would they? Why not -- because human free will is sovereign? Or because baptism is for those in faith? See - if what is at issue is that faith is promised to the children of the faithful, then the age of the person gaining faith shouldn't matter. And that goes double for the classic "household baptisms" defense. "Households" in those days were often extended family deals - so what do we do with that if we go paedo on the one hand?

Those adult kids of John the Alcoholic don't have a reservation at the fount just because Dad is suddenly regenerate: why would the infant kids?
I know there's a WCF answer to this, but it only answers the latter half of the question -- not the former half. It ignores the former half.
The comeback was classic:
Whoa, hoss. First, adults who display an obvious lack of faith are presumed to be unfaithful precisely because all the evidence says that they are. Infant children of covenant parents are presumed to be faithful precisely because all the evidence says they are.

Second, you must recognise that credo-baptism is no more "reliable" a measure of true faith than paedobaptism. In both cases, those administering the sign of the covenant are relying upon God's promises concerning covenant status. John says that no man can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit (good enough for the credo-b). And Paul says "but now your children are holy" (good enough for the paedo-b). In neither case do you get a signed, notarized certificate, and in both cases you get the occasional bad apple, which apparently is okay with God, if circumcission is any indicator.
See: the presumption that someone has faith because their parents have faith is fine - unless they do things bad by their own free will. Then we can judge them sinners who need to repent. So while LongShot here wants to pin some kind of crypto-pelagianism on baptists, he's a crypto-pelagian as well because of the value he hangs on bad works.

See: what makes us sinners is not the sin we do - it's our nature. We have this sin nature which makes us sinners. And the question is whether there is a faith which lives inside us as a result of Grace. Baptism is a demonstration of what God has done in us, not what he might do in the future.

Last off, there’s no question there are some false credobaptisms. But let’s be serious: is anyone saying there are –fewer- false paedobaptisms? How about in churches ordaining women and openly-gay men? The objection is hollow when we think about what one of the objectives of baptism is – which is that it brings those who are called by God to Him and demonstrates His work upon them.

No seriously: NOW I am going on vacation.

Candies and Nuts

From the e-mail bag, before I go on vacation:

Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2007 10:53:02 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Frank Turk"
Subject: Re: Maybe she should have left
To: "Coram Deo"

Notes below. If you want a sound bite for your blog
or whatever, I'm sure you can find a way to position
me in the worst like possible using something from

--- Coram Deo wrote:

> Frank,
> Long time no speak (mostly due to being banned from
> both your blog & Pyro),
> but nonetheless I thought I'd share this one with
> you.

Wow. How nice of you to share. It's odd that you
don't remember being banned for giving lectures --
that you just say things and don't defend them, and
are unwilling to defend them, and what you say doesn't
lie up to any facts.

Just being banned. That says something -- about
-you-. Too bad you don't know what that is.

> I guess your pastor calling the police and having
> you dragged from church in
> handcuffs is grounds to leave your local church even
> in Frank Turk's world,
> right? Or maybe not?

Because you are a reactionary who doesn't read
anything thoroughly, you have apparently missed this
part of the story:

According to Mrs. Caskey, she contacted her lawyer and
asked her to represent her in the meeting at the
church. The meeting was not held, and through friends
in the small town of Allen, Caskey was told that “they
were going to try and dismiss me from the church.”

Now, let me ask you -- where, in my recent series of
posts, have I ever advocated going back to a church
that you have been thrown out of? Anywhere? List one

Yes: the meeting "was not held". The fact that they
notified her that they wanted to hold it would be
enough to tell me -- and any reasonable person -- that
she is not wanted there. However, she never
followed up as to why the meeting wasn't held. The
article doesn't say why it wasn't held. But she knew
that she was no longer welcome.

If you can point me to where I said, "go back until
they carry you out in cuffs," you can then have some
royal indignation. Until then, You are only
demonstrating to me that I did a really smart thing by
banning you. You're an ignoramus who thinks that he
has some moral high-ground from which to issue edicts.

> Perhaps this gray haired
> saint should just take it up
> with the elders after she's been sprung from the
> pokey? Oh, and how about
> the other members? Her children, grandchildren and
> other family, her
> brothers and sisters in the Lord beside whom she's
> faithfully served
> alongside for 50 years, I guess so long as they're
> not being arrested and
> dragged from service they ought to just stay put and
> remain under their
> loving pastor's authority and care, right?

No. She shouldn't have gone back. Do I think her
"pastor" did something despicable and vile? Why yes:
yes I do. I think he's the villain in this little
morality play. But he's a villain who has been
enabled by all those who left and so-called elders who
have no way to hold him accountable.

Mrs. Caskey is certainly one victim in this event.
But it seems rather stupid to go back when one is
being actively told they are not welcome, doesn't it?
You might paint this as her being persecuted -- and I
might find a way to agree with you about that. But
isn't that /what we should expect/ when we stand up
for Christ against the world?

When a worldly man takes over a church as pastor, it's
the Gospel against his slice of the world. We should
expect the world to hate us.

Shouldn't we?

> Coram

To save you some time, I'm going to post this e-mail
to my blog for people's summer reading. Then, when
you mis-represent me (again) you can link to that post
so people can see the whole conversation.

Happy 4th -- don't handle any lit fireworks.

in Christ,


UPDATED: here's CoramDeo's reply, via e-mail:

Thanks for taking the time to reply Frank.

I wasn't sure I'd hear back from you,
but the tone and content of your
response is about what I expected.
I do pray that the Lord will open your
eyes to the truth someday soon in
order that He might use your not
inconsiderable gifts for His glory as
opposed to their current wasteful
misuse defending the harlot apostate church.

Enjoy your vacation and God bless.

Coram Deo

What a guy.

Just one. No, really ...

After a week of listening to guys like Roy Hargrave and Tom Ascol speak (yeah, yeah, David Wells ...), I'm full. Not another bite. I couldn't read a single word of Zens paper even as a purgative.

However, I do have a question for anyone reading this blog today -- and it stems from some things that happened to me and Dan and Phil not directly related to the Founders Conference, or related to anyone we saw at the conference.

Let's imagine you're a pastor, and you have a statement of faith which begins like this:
We believe:

the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our every day lives. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
Seriously now: good on you. That's real meat -- real Confessional foundations there. That's where any other statement about the faith you could make would have a place to stand as you roll out your convictions.

But then let's imaging that this is the rest of your statement of faith:
there is one God who is the Creator of all things and is eternally existent in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. (John 14:18-27)

that man was created in God's image, but is separated from God by sin. His only hope of redemption is in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Gen. 1:26-31, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-21)

in salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

that our eternal destination of either Heaven or hell is determined by our response to the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 3:16-17, 5:24)

in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as a subsequent gift to salvation. (Acts 19:1-6)

it is the Father's will for believers to become whole, healthy and successful in all areas of life. Because of the fall, many may not receive the full benefits of God's will while on earth. That fact, though, should never prevent all believers from seeking the full benefits of Christ's provision in order to better serve others.

1) Spiritual (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

2) Mental (Philippians 4:7-8)

3) Physical (1 Peter 2:24 )

4) Financial (2 Corinthians 9:6-10)
As they say: that's it. That's the whole statement of faith.

Without getting all fisky over the problems evident in this affirmation, let me ask you: if the Bible is "God's Word ... accurate, authoritative and applicable to our every day lives", this statement of faith seems to leave out, well, most of the Bible.

I couldn't say much more today without passing out from theological overload, but I want you to think about this: if this is a valid statement of faith for a church, why would anyone have a reason to attend that church faithfully? Would attendance even be on your radar?

I know it is for you people. Be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people this weekend, and try to treat the "accurate, authoritative and applicable" Word of God as if it has more than 27 verses of Scripture in it. Because you know what? It does -- and they are.

GUTS Church

Oh boy. Wait 'til I get back from vacation ...

Sister Mary Viriginity

if you haven't seen this, you should go ahead and see what's cooking at the Catholic Church.

Those Franciscans sure have come a long way from the simple brothers ...

Dr. Orthoblogia

I know that everyone who reads this blog reads every single day, but this post deserves a special mention because it's a lot funnier than James usually tries to achieve.

Things we didn't do

While there's a certain charm to the nostalgic rhetoric Vladamir Putin is currently engaged in, it's sort of nutty that he thinks wants to compare acts committed in war time against an enemy to acts of a government against its own people.

Last meme ever

Seriously now: how am I supposed to blog when people keep tagging me for personal information?

Lisa tagged me with this list-maker:

1. Link to name of person that tagged you.
2. Include state and country you live in.
3. List top 5 favorite local restaurants.
4. Tag 5 other people and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Everyone knows where I live. It's a source of stress for my wife.

There are not 5 local restaurants where I live -- I'd have to list regional.

In no particular order:

-- Barnette's Dairiette
-- Mama Z's
-- Fudrucker's
-- Phil's
-- Kathy's

And I will not tag anyone. The meme stops here.


Those of you following the Zens critique got a fix yesterday, and it turns out that it's a timely thing as it sort of runs together with the new/old topic at TeamPyro, which is Dan Kimball's new book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church.

I say that because Pastor Kimball advocates for something which the Zens paper says is OK by the Bible -- which is, female leadership in the church. And by "advocates", I mean, "it doesn't really know why the church has never done that in 2000 years".

I'm sure Pastor Kimball is a smarter guy than his chapter on that topic comes across, but that's next up. I'll post a review of that book sometime after the Founders' conference next week, and then we can break out the hammers and tongs about female church leadership over here.

In the meantime, you might want to review the following post which I would qualify as the "Best of centuri0n":

The last installment of my Tony Campolo review (you might enjoy following the links to read the whole thing)

A somewhat-bloated commentary on the clarity of Scripture (too many big words)

This one about orthodoxy

This one about the letter to Diognetus

This one for the diagram if nothing else

this one to note our humble beginnings

This one which turns out to be about the Gospel rather than about gay rights

And lastly, because I am sure you don't remember it, read this one because your church needs it

And have a nice week. I may post incidentals from Tulsa next week. If you're at Founders, I'll be the guy trying not to look like I'm part of Phil's entourage. In the mean time, be with the Lord's people on the Lord's day in the Lord's house.


Global Warming Cooling

Dude. I'm sure glad the SBC passed a resolution about Global Warming and not about membership integrity ...

... the good news is that, like all fads, when the SBC gets involved it is officially a dead fad -- completely passe.

SBC Growing Pains


When Kirk Cameron understands the Gospel better than, well, people who want to outlaw booze for Jesus, there is a problem.

Just for the record

No Christians ever got this bent out of shape when Atheists and non-Christians got honored by Her Magesty.

Now and Zens [4]

Seriously now – where were we? We started here with the broad strokes of this paper, and in parts 2 and 3, we started in with the specific detail.

What is evident so far, it seems to me, is that the objective of the laundry list of Scripture Pastor Zens has provided to us in the first 2 or 3 pages of this paper were intended to underscore how women were empowered in the apostolic church to be leaders, therefore setting up the historical context of what Paul was telling Timothy, but sadly, so far, these examples do nothing of the sort. Instead what we find is a sort of out-of-focus picture of the events Pastor Zens points to which only causes us to ask why he would read these passages the way he does.

We'll clean up his list today briefly as they are type of previous statements he has already made.
**Among all the people Paul greeted in Romans 16, ten were sisters among whom were “Tryphena and Tryphosa [who may have been twins], women who work hard for the Lord” (Rom.16:12).
Who denies women "work hard for the Lord"? Who denies they ought to? It seems to me again that this statement is called upon to exemplify more than it either can or should, as does the following:
**In line with Acts 2:17-18, Paul encouraged brothers and sisters to prophesy in the gatherings (1 Cor.11:4-5; 14:23-24).

**The open meeting Paul described in 1 Cor.14 envisioned all the men and women – “the whole assembly” – “each one of you” – “you may all prophesy one by one” – functioning together in an encouraging manner.
Without any doubt, the gift of prophecy was exemplified in the NT church. The question is whether anyone who prophesied is identified by the NY as necessarily a leader or pastor of the church. They are not.
**Gal.3:28 indicated that “in Christ” human distinctions, like male and female, are no longer norms of judgment in the congregation. In the first century, prejudices abounded in folks’ minds when certain people like “Gentile,” “Jew,” “slave,” and “woman” were mentioned. Paul stated that in the body of Christ this should not be the case.
Give Paul's other exhortations about the roles of men and women – for example, in marriage (Eph 5) – perhaps Pastor Zens mistakes what is at stake in Gal 3. The question is not about whether there are sexual differences, yes? But the question is also not about whether there are practical or ecclesiastical differences between men and women. The question Paul is answering here in Gal 3 is whether or not only a Jew with circumcision can be saved. The passage reads thus:
    Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
He is saying that the inheritance of faith comes not just to sons, and not just to sons of Abraham, but to all people without respect to whether they are a man, woman, Greek, slave or whatever.

Paul's point is not that the differences between men and women are somehow effaced: it is that salvation in Christ is not just for one class of people.
**Women were prominent in the assembly at Philippi, beginning with Lydia’s home. In Phil.4:3 Paul asked for two sisters – who must have had no small spiritual influence in the body – to be at peace with one another. He called Euodia and Syntyche “co-workers” and “co-strugglers” in the gospel.
How is this assumption of their "spiritual influence" derived? What's the evidence? It seems to me that the only plausible thing to say here is that they were having some kind of influence, and that was a result of their conflicts. The assumption that their labor was leadership is simply that: an assumption, not a necessary implication of the text.
**2 John is addressed to “the elect lady and her children.” This probably referred to a respected sister in whose home the saints gathered. She had apparently exerted significant spiritual influence upon a number of people. Women’s homes were mentioned as meeting places for the brethren in Rom.16:5, 1 Cor.1:11, 16:9 and Col.4:15.
No question: people met in homes in the first-generation church. No question: some of those homes belonged to or were stewarded by women. Does this make women leaders in the church? Again Zens draws the inference that it does, but this conclusion is simply not warranted. There's nothing to support it.
**In Rev.2:20-24 Christ rebuked the Thyatiran congregation for allowing a false prophetess, nicknamed “Jezebel,” to “teach” some of the Lord’s servants to sin grievously. If it was such a crime for a woman to teach the brethren, why didn’t the Lord just condemn the assembly for even allowing a woman to instruct others? This incident in Thyatira implies that the assembly permitted other male and female prophets to teach the truth. Christ’s bone to pick with them wasn’t that a woman taught, but that what she taught was false teaching. We will come back to this passage in the course of our investigation of 1 Tim.2:12.
What is said in Rev 2 is this:
    But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.
The underlined word there "tolerate" is "eao", and it means "to permit" or "to fail to restrain". Think about that a second – surely Christ condemns the false teaching of the false prophetess, but what he holds against the church there is that they do not restrain her but instead follow her. Surely, the greater implication is that they are following her falsehoods, but at least as likely – especially in the realm where so many other unsubstantiated claims can be presented – is the matter of following her at all. They tolerate her, but she should not be tolerated. And given that Pastor Zens balances more of his argument later in this paper on this passage, this implication has to be considered before any application of this passage can be made.

And in that, we have to view Pastor Zens' appraisal of his list of examples here with some skepticism:
This survey of New Testament highlights concerning women is important because it reveals the freedom of the sisters to function in the kingdom. In the general flow of the New Testament there are no jitters about “restrictions” upon Christ’s daughters. Such a survey should also serve as a corrective to those who squelch and intimidate the sisters by using their interpretation of two passages – 1 Cor.14:34-35 and 1 Tim.2:12 – to cancel out the ministry of sisters unfolded in other Scriptures.
Seriously now: the question is not whether women have the opportunity or even the obligation to serve in the local church: the question is whether they are called or even allowed to lead the local church, and in that, are they allowed to call men into submission to themselves in the way teachers and elders must call people into submission?

If Pastor Zens is making only the case that women ought to serve in the church, I say, "Amen." But this is hardly the scope of his argument – and as we will see, extending the "call to serve" to the scope of "called to rule or lead" is, at best, missing some vital support.

I'd say, "more soon" at this point, but I don't want Al Sends to lose sleep over how soon is soon. More eventually.

Straight Up

You should read this while you're waiting for the balance of the Zens critique.

Bring a lunch.

More on this soon

You can do more for the Dicksons than watch their video in your undies by clicking here.

Team Player

Anyone who has been reading the paper recognizes that is a Democratic team player -- to a fault. But I'd like to go on-record today to say that he has officially taken one for the team and is now the least-credible politician in the history of American government -- and that would include Nixon the day after the tapes were disclosed.

And for those keepin score, I need to say this about Reformed Chicks Blabbing: they're scrappy chicks who put up a good fight, and apologize when they goof up -- that's better than 4/5ths of the blogs out there already!

Greatest hits

The popularity of the "nuance" post has lead me to believe that, after 2+ years of blogging, a "greatest hits" menu in the sidebar would be a good idea.

I could pick my favs, but since you people are my bread and butter, I'm going to seek some nominations for that ignominy.

Take it to the meta.

Read This

I'll be working on the next installment of the Zens critique today (DV), but in the meantime, for those of you who are not daily readers of Doug Wilson, read this and think about it. You mean that somehow preaching by elders is what causes the church to be this way or that way?

Astonishing. I may need an aspirin or something ...

About Nuance

Over at TeamPyro, I posted a little something about the necessity of grasping nuance in order to have a full toolkit, intellectually. One reader posted this in response:
Nuance is the post-modern enemy of clarity.

Yes, you can quote that if you wish.
And this is sadly, exactly wrong. Let me give you a graphic example:

This is a picture of a real landscape, and it's interesting in its own way, but it is completely without any nuance. That is, it is rendered in plain black and white, and while we can get the general lay of the land (so to speak), we really can't tell anything about this place.

This one is only slightly better:

The difference is subtle -- the edges where the contrast changed are not strictly white or black -- it's gray-scale, but it's sort of the wrong kind of gray scale. There's no question there's more subtle use of web-friendly colors in this picture, but it doesn't gain us anything in perceiving the picture.

This would be one example of the misuse of nuance: it's sort of a doodling along the edges where we already understand there are meaningful differences, but it doesn't add anything to what we get in the end. If this were a discussion, it would be like talking about how many different ways you can sit in the pew at church (because you should go to church, amen?) rather than understanding that going to church to worship is for your sake, and for the sake of the body of Christ.

And just to be sure we cover all the bad examples first, here's another bad example of nuance:

It's almost completely unintelligible. In fact, I'd wager that if you hadn't seen the first two images, you'd have no idea what this image was at all. It's completely useless.

But what has happened here is just another kind of the same misuse of subtlety that we got in the first one -- it goes a lot farther, and blurs all the edges to the place where all distinctions are lost. But doodling at the edges is not at all what nuance ought to achieve. Simply making the edges softer is not nuance: it's smearing.

On the other hand, this is a valuable application of nuance:

Like the last two images, this is a gray-scale image -- but look: the grays are not simply blurring the edges. They are indicating meaningful characteristics like terrain, plant life, the brightness of the sky, detailed distinctions among objects in the middle ground, etc.

This picture demonstrates significantly more nuance than any of the previous images, and tells us far more about the landscape we are viewing. And if, for example, I was going to take a hike through this place, I'd much rather have this more nuanced view of the landscape than the black and white. Why? Because more relevant details are exposed in the more nuanced image.

And how much more dramatic is the difference between the gray-scale image of this landscape and this rendering:

You can actually make out what kind of foliage there is in this landscape now, and whether it is all sand or if it has some ground cover. It actually looks like a real place once all the nuances are understood. But before we take that as the whole point, let's examine one last rendering of this image:

This is a snapshot of the center of the color photo blown up to see the pixels. This would be another example of misunderstanding nuance -- because while all the details are there, the context is completely lost. We can see all the colored dots -- and how different they are from each other -- but we can't see the relationships anymore. We are literally majoring in the minors here, seeing every jot and tittle of detail and missing (quite literally) the big picture.

Nuance is not an enemy of clear thinking: it is the result of clear thinking. Being able to grasp the distinctions in a matter without over-blowing them or distorting them into smears takes patience and a certain degree of practice.

And before anyone thinks this doesn't apply to Jesus, the Gospel or theology, think about how often all but the color photo view of an issue erupts in these public discussions of theology.

Now back to your business.

The Berean See and Call

Last week I was manning TeamPyro for various reasons, and I neglected this blog for that reason. Some of you have given up on ever reading the end of a critique of Jon Zens' paper, and I apologize for that.

That said, in one of the threads, Steve Camp posted a couple of long comments, and I have said that I'm going to blog it here. Thus:

There are a dozen or so minor reasons I think Steve's comments need special attention, all of them outputs of my own personal brain jar, like the problem of "readers" like Cyd who points me to 9Marks material for my information in general when the post she is commenting in a almost entirely a citation of Mark Dever from 9Marks material. But those are minor issues -- not about the topic at hand. If there's a major reason, it's at the bottom of this post.

Steve began his first exhortation of me (which I replied to) by saying this:
1.We must remember that the pastor/elder of a church has no authority inherent in the office itself. His authority only extends to that which the Word of God affords him - no more, no less.
I let Steve off the hook on this one in my first response to him, but since he's intent on making his point by every means necessary, we're going to start here.

This statement is self-contradictory and meaningless. On the one hand, Steve wants to say that the pastor/elder has "no authority" based on office, but then he wants to say that the Word of God affords him limited authority. I would agree with the latter, and I would avoid, at all costs, the former because -- as Steve is very worried about in other people -- that statement is completely unbiblical.

To be sure, Elders are not sergeants or majors or generals (or as Doug Wilson said this weekend, "martinets") in God's army: they are ministers of the word, teachers of the people, and servants - - statements I am already on-record as affirming in many places. They don't act autonomously, capriciously, or self-indulgently, and they don't have carte blanche to do whatever they see fit. I have never implied such a thing -- I have never implied that a pastor (especially a lone pastor with no elders and no accountability) should run things in his own image.

In fact, I said this in reply to Steve: "This doesn’t mean that the Gospel is what they say it is: it means that they are tasked to be faithful, and in that fidelity they have the authority to correct, discipline and admonish in a way which is more than merely argumentative. I'd go to Titus 1 & 2 to make that point specifically." So it is hard to guess where the idea that I would say something like what comes next comes from.

Steve then makes his point for saying what he said perfectly clear, in case we were too sleepy to see it:
Subsequently, there are no protestant popes to obey.
And again, I'm pretty sure I never implied such a thing. The series Steve wants to correct here is not about the scope of the offices of the church -- it's about how people, average Christian people, ones who are not leading the church but are themselves under leadership - - should think of and treat God's church in the first place.

One of the things evident in the NT is that God thinks His church is precious: it is the exclusive place where His people are found. And in that, the idea that Christians are better off in family churches or some other such modern innovation which isolates the Christian from the body of Christ is a corruption of the commands we receive in the Bible.

But here's something I think is worth underscoring for the skimmers and the people who won't even do that before dropping a comment in the meta to defend or encourage Steve: I don't think Steve would deny that -- which is why I won't spend any time outlining the Biblical case for such a thing. Steve thinks people should be joined to a church; I do, too. The question is only to what extent does that connection have value in practice .

Thus, when Steve says this:
1. though your "don't leave church under any condition unless they force you out" sounds admirable--it is not biblical. Be dogmatic where the Word is dogmatic; but give room for conscience and wisdom given under godly counsel where Scripture is silent and preference might apply.
We have a sight line on what is bothering him: he is worried that I think there are no circumstances in which someone should leave a church -- and that's simply false.

But I want to start someplace here which Steve does not: with the view that the church -- the local church, not some hypothetical church-in-America, or the eternally-known body of all the ones effectively called-out by God to Himself -- is actually God's plan for things in our spiritual life.

As I outlined in my series at TeamPyro, from the first day -- the day of Pentecost and the pouring out of the Spirit to fulfill the prophecy of Joel -- people who come to Christ are added to the body of Christ not in some hypothetical way but in a concrete and identifiable way. They are joined together. This adding-to is not provisional; you can't find anywhere that says that the believers are joined together until such a time when they thought something else would be better.

And what's worse, there is no command or exhortation in all of Scripture for people to abandon a local church. None. You can't find one.

What you can find is a basis for deductive reasoning which leads one to say, "you should leave that church". On pages 890-891 of his A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Robert Reymond gives a specific line of reasoning to deduce a singular reason for separation: "separation from one's church or denomination is appropriate if it will not discipline heretics." This conclusion is reached by the following line of reasoning:

  1. Elders are charged to guard the church by guarding the truth
  2. Apostates and heretics ought to leave the church
  3. Unrepentent heretics who do not leave the church should be disciplined
And the 4th point is stated, above.

But, I think, Steve would reject this line of reasoning -- because he doesn't think that the the role of an elder is different than the role of a "layman". You can see this in his second point:
2. The congregation of any church should hold their leadership accountable to the office and heavenly charge they have been given by God's mercy. As faithful Bereans they have the duty to examine what they teach with the Word of God. Per Paul's instruction in 1 Thess. 5: "test all things, cling to what is good."
In some way, Steve has simply ignored all of the places Paul exhorts for honoring and submitting to the Elders, and discounted the commands for what Elders ought to be, instead choosing for a radical congregationalism which makes the elders of the church the most pitiable of men: men accountable to a consensus decision.

Now, to make sure that this statement is not mishandled by Steve's many defenders and by Steve himself, let me underscore something: I agree with Dr. Reymond about the responsibility of believers in the worst-case scenario. People should not pretend there is a church where there is no church. But the place where this occurs is not when the pastoral cup is half-empty: it occurs where the cup refuses to hold any liquid at all.

And think on this: Dr. Reymond's view is about the failure of elders to be elders in the sense that they are failing to exercising authority. The mark of a church which has stopped being a church is that the elders do no fulfill their duty to uphold the correction and discipline of heretics.

But how does a layman or woman do that? How do they decide that their church is no longer a church in that sense? The only way to do that is by employing a Biblical method for resolving differences. Steve's a very staunch advocate of Mt 18 when it comes to most things, and he should be an equally-staunch advocate of it in this case when what is at stake is not merely a personal wrong but the life and unity-through-truth of the church. It is in that context which I advocate the "don't leave until they toss you out" application. You should be clear about your concerns if you have them; you should have a couple-three witnesses who agree with you if your concerns are valid; those with whom you have issues should have a chance to respond and not merely cowtow because your nose is out of joint.

And in that process, there is something which is implied: a final submission to the judgment of the whole (local) church. See: if the church decides that your complaint doesn't have any merit, or that you're a trouble maker for bringing it up, it has to say so. And in saying so, you have an objective basis for either submitting to its judgment or doing something else.

Let's take the worst case scenario: let's say that the pastor is caught on tape with your spouse doing something which one does not describe in Christian circles. It's on video. So you take it to him, and to your spouse, and they both laugh you off -- it's nothing, they say.

Well, it's not nothing. It's on video. So you take your Sunday school teacher, the head usher, and your pastor's wife with you next time, and the witnesses agree that it is something, but those two still laugh it off as a lark -- not a sin, and not a reason to be upset.

Well, it's not: it's on video. Anyone with two eyes (you think) will see it as sin and condemn it. So you get a place at the next business meeting, and you bring up the video (you don't show it in public because of content), and a decision is called for from the church on the matter. After discussion, the church says -- to your surprise -- that it is nothing and that you owe the pastor and your wife an apology.

Listen: you have your walking papers from them. When adultery is called nothing and you are called upon to apologize for calling adultery a sin, move on. But find another church .

And if what's at stake is not in the same league as calling adultery a sin, then maybe you have to think about whether you think that you're the one who is infallible. See: having a high view of eldership cannot be confused with thinking these men are infallible -- but what cannot happen is turning your own current state of maturity and Bible knowledge into its own infallible fortress. If you are the only one who has the ability to tell the difference between the Gospel and all the damnable frauds -- and all you see is damnable fraud -- you have established a church of one member.

The view that each person must always test everything is hyper- atomistic, and negates the counsel of scripture which defines the role of elders in a church. The Elders are explicitly the ones who are tasked to guard orthodoxy, and when they fail to do so, they have fallen down on their primary task in the body.

The objection will undoubtably come -- as Steve has already posed it by citing Strauch on this matter -- that this view is authoritarian and violates the principles of Scripture. But the problem with this objection is that it misses Strauch's point and overlooks that Scripture doesn't say that any ol' guy can be an Elder. Eldership has qualifications, and as such bases the duties of the Elder on those qualifications.

Saying Elders with meaningful authority -- for example, the authority to write and deliver a sermon in church for the exhortation and edification of God's people without passing it through a series of other hands to make sure it is pure enough to be read in public -- are inherently authoritarian and somehow oppressive mistakes "having authority" with "being a law unto one's self". Of course elders are tasked to teach what the Bible teaches; of course elders are tasked not to lord over people. This is a premise of eldership in the way they are qualified to that office .

It is not authoritarian in public life to have judges who frankly decide cases every day with minimal oversight. We can see that as having authority subject to law, and we ought to be able to see that having elders who rule wisely, by God's word, not as necessarily authoritarian but as necessary for church to be church at all.

After that, Steve's comments about pastors being teachable men is fine -- who can object to that? But what is far more necessary in a church -- because it is the practical application for all but a handful of people in the church -- is that the rest of us who are not actually called to pastoral ministry be teachable, gracious and willing to admit we are not ourselves finished goods in the Christian life. The caution that Pastors ought to be teachable falls somewhat flat in a country where people are themselves unteachable -- the phrase the Bible uses is "hard hearted" .

This is where my previous comments to Steve really take some shape. Steve has made a career out of complaining about the theological and spiritual vacuum which exists in CCM. And let me put in bold letters here, he's right about that, his ministry there is warranted, and somebody should listen to him about that. But if CCM has this problem, it is a symptom of something which must, because of the kind of spiritual sickness it is, also effect the ability of the average church member to stand in judgment over his or her own elders.

If people cannot tell the difference between the great hymns of the faith and what happens on Christian radio every day, how can they be expected to hold pastors or elders accountable in the way Steve is demanding in his concerns to this point in his comments? It seems incongruous at best to think that someone (not Steve, but some randomly-selected member at a randomly-select evangelical church) who thinks CCM is a method of spiritual edification has the equipment to discern whether or not his or her pastor has made a grave theological mistake.

Steve also says this:

Here are a few ways that people can hold their leadership accountable in Christ:

1. Edify through prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
2. Examine their message (Acts 17:11-12)
3. Encourage godly character (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-8)
4. Entreat their shepherding (Hebrews 13:7, 17)
5. Exhort the unfaithful (1 Timothy 5:19-21)

The brethren of any church have a great duty in their commitment to that local body to honor their leadership by holding them accountable to their biblical duty.
It seems to me that Steve can't decide what categories he's using to make this list -- except, of course, good baptist alliteration. If this is a list of things Scripture says people should do for their pastors, that's a broad enough category to keep the list. But if Steve, for example, thinks "prayer" is a kind of "accountability" -- especially as it is exhorted in 1 Tim 2 -- he's going to have to define how he is using that word.

While I alluded to it in my previous comments to Steve, I'll say it here plainly: this is the major reason for responding to him at all. At some point, Steve is going to have to examine his own ability to handle Scripture, because 1 Tim 2:1-3 is not about leaders of the church but about government leaders , people with secular political power who are tasked to keep society at large stable and safe. While it is certainly not ungodly to pray for our elders in church (it is in fact evident in Scripture frequently -- cf. 2 Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18; Phil 1:9; Col 4:3; etc.), and it is right to pray that these men be edified and spiritually sustained by God, this passage doesn't tell us about that at all. There is actually a significant irony in Steve citing this passage because what Paul says here speaks to whether or not the men in political power are using their authority to allow us (the church) to lead a "quiet and godly life". Paul here entreats the church to prayer in order that God, in His authority, will cause those in political power to use their authority to allow the church to live in peace.

Even if Steve was looking for a passage that was supposed to be talking about "edifying" church elders in some non-specific way, I think Steve has shot pretty wide of the mark. At a glance, John Gill would disagree with him, as would the 1599 Geneva Study Bible, Matthew Henry, and A.T. Robertson. And John Calvin says this about the passage:
For kings He expressly mentions kings and other magistrates because, more than all others, they might be hated by Christians. All the magistrates who existed at that time were so many sworn enemies of Christ; and therefore this thought might occur to them, that they ought not to pray for those who devoted all their power and all their wealth to fight against the kingdom of Christ, the extension of which is above all things desirable. The apostle meets this difficulty, and expressly enjoins Christians to pray for them also. And, indeed, the depravity of men is not a reason why God's ordinance should not be loved. Accordingly, seeing that God appointed magistrates and princes for the preservation of mankind, however much they fall short of the divine appointment, still we must not on that account cease to love what belongs to God, and to desire that it may remain in force. That is the reason why believers, in whatever country they live, must not only obey the laws and the government of magistrates, but likewise in their prayers supplicate God for their salvation. [Commentary on Timothy & Titus,]
It's not about church elders at all: it's about praying for rulers who, as Paul wrote, persecuted the church, in order that God would establish peace for the sake of the church.

My concern is not whether Steve can identify the precepts of the faith: it's whether he knows where they are found in Scripture. If Steve is worried about men who are mishandling the word of God, he has to start in his own, um, camp to make sure he's not part of the problem.

For the record, I will not be answering e-mails about this post. Please bring your specific concerns about this post to the meta. This is a matter of public statements made in public forums, and it ought to be, then, discussed openly, frankly, and publicly.

In other news ...

... Reformed Chicks Blabbing took offense that I tag Jesus in every post I make on this blog, and I take offense that they call themselves "Reformed" when they never mention the Gospel.

One of the highest high-brow exchanges in the history of blogging. Don't miss it -- it's a performance art piece on what's wrong with so-called religious conservatives in this country.

Prelude: a word on the Bereans

I have some other things which I am going to post today after I finish editing them, but I wanted to say a word about Acts 17:11-12 before I got to that, and I have 15 minutes this morning …
    Now [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
It's common for people to consider the noble Bereans as people who were somewhat bibliocentric in their worldview, and that we ought to emulate in what they did with Paul's message to them. We should, as it says, "examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so". Therefore, in the same way the Bereans were skeptics who scrutinized Paul, we should be skeptics who scrutinize all men when they bring some teaching before us.

But we should consider what is being said here both in context and in the force of what Luke wrote. On the one hand, when Paul reasons from the Scriptures with the Thessalonians, they rioted. They didn’t actually listen to what he was saying. Luke says that, "the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar". So what occurs in Thessalonica is ignoble.

But then Paul and Silas go to Berea, and what we have to consider is that Paul did the same thing in Berea that he did in Thessalonica. That is, "Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead".

And when this happens in Berea, the Jews there were themselves not forming mobs as a result of Paul's exposition of Scripture: they received the word with eagerness. Against the jealousy of the Thessalonians, there is the nobility of the Bereans. But in what way were they noble?

When we read the English, it seems that the Bereans were skeptical of Paul, and then because they compared his teaching to Scripture, they received him gladly. But factually, unless Paul was doing something innovative in this synagogue because of what happened to him at the last one, Paul was already giving an argument from Scripture – the Bereans didn't have to go back and see if there was any Scripture which substantiated Paul's message: Paul's message was, as Luke says, "reasoned ... from the Scriptures".

But there is something under the text of the last clause which often gets missed, and that is the optative mood of the verb "echo" regarding the manner in which the Bereans searched the Scripture.

Here's what my handy Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics says about the Optative mood:
There are less than 70 optatives in the entire NT. In general, it can be said that the optative is the mood used when the speaker widhes to portray as action as possible. It usually addresses cognition, but may e used to appeal to volition. Along with the subjunctive and the imperative, the optative is one of the potential or oblique moods. [Wallace. 480]
Dr. Wallace also goes on to say this :
The very paucity of the optative in the NT illustrates a principle of syntactical shifts between Attic and Koine:When one morphosyntactic feature if becoming absorbed by another in Hellenistic Greek and when a Hellenistic author uses the rarer form, he normally does so consciously and with understanding. [Wallace, 480]
The emphasis, btw, is in the original. And as one example of the oblique optative, Acts 17:11 is listed among 6 others.

Well, so what? What's that mean in Acts 17:11? When it says that they examined the Scripture to see if these things were true, the implication of the optative is that they hoped that they were true. They were not scrutinizing Paul to see if he was lying: they were examining and evaluating the Scriptures which Paul presented them because they wanted to believe what the Scriptures said.

This is a very nuanced approach to this passage – and it may not forbid the run-of-the-mill understanding of the nobility of the Bereans. But what made these people noble was not a high skepticism on their part, but a willingness to receive the Scripture for what it says. They would rather examine the Scripture Paul presents to them rather than riot blindly out of jealousy. So as we turn to the Bereans as examples of how we should live as Christians, let's think about whether we believe they are demonstrating skepticism and a cold, rational eye – or if they are demonstrating something else which looks like the hope which Scripture points us toward.

Obligatory Paris Hilton post

Briefly, before the day gets kicked off here, Paris Hilton was apparently releasd from jail last week to spend some time under "house arrest" or whatever you call it when you have to stay at home (I think it used to be called "grounded") rather than go to jail. The Judge wasn't actually happy about that, and ordered her back to actual jail where she has to serve out something like 45 days minus time served and time off for good behavior.

What I'm really posting about here is the somewhat universal glee being expressed on the internet that Ms. Hilton is going to jail and going to serve out her sentence. It's one thing to find some comfort in the fact that our legal system still works sometimes -- maybe most of the time. It's another to sort of throw a party when this girl has to spend 45 days in jail for doing something most people were dying to hear about in the first place. She was famous because she did this sort of stuff and validated all the people who were doing not-more-than-that in terms of social weirdness.

The same kind of thing has happened to Girls Gone Wild producer Joseph Francis -- he has found out he doesn't really have any friends, and the public is rather glad he's in the clink in spite of having bought all his mail-order videos and making him ridiculously rich.

Anyone what to provide the moral to the story?

Oh brother: you can't write punchline like this one.

Who knew?

It's a crisis we didn't even know existed ...

On Mulberry Street

I have this buddy who owns a secular bookstore, and he e-mailed me the following anecdote. As a disclaimer, I don't condone the sale of items related to magic or the occult, but those of you with ESP knew that already:
Backorders happen. Subsequently, people sometimes get frustrated. I understand that. I do what I can and try to be sympathetic.

But it's really hard to swallow the obvious comeback when the lady says, "I have a crystal ball and a line full of people waiting to have their fortunes told, and that tarot kit I ordered was supposed to come in last week. Do you have any idea when it'll be there?"
If you don't get it, check the tea leaves in the bottom of your cup.

Nobody's perfect

Scientist retract his opinion about Global Warming. Says he didn;t mean to get NASA in trouble.

Beckwith Link

Francis Beckwith answers some more questions. His treatment of the Council of Trent here is interesting only in that it demonstrates how little he had to do to return to communion with Rome.

If we assume for a minute that he's right about the sixth session of Trent, and that only "uncharitable" "Bible church" bigots would represent it as saying something other than sola Fide/sola Gratia/solo Christo, how does he explain the great Protestant confessions and catechisms rejecting the decrees of Trent on this matter?

Seriously: was Trent speaking to no one? Were they randomly picking doctrines to affirm in order to simply pass the time? Was no one intended by the canons XVII and XVIII in session 6?

May God be with him. His choice now is as hollow as his choice to leave was 30 years ago.

Church: AWOL?

Anthony Bradley swings for the fence and breaks a window on both the emergent clown car and the megachurch mercedes.

HT: Justin Taylor.


I also wanted to mention today that you can buy really cool Father's day gifts right now and still have them delivered in time for actual Father's Day.

You know: if you needed a gift idea or something.

Programming notes: ScumBlog

There are two or three of you out there waiting to be added to the ScumBlogroll, and factually, I'm behind. I can't access the blogroll from work anymore (long story short: new server with new web filter), and when I get home I have to be a Dad and a Husband and stuff, so you guys are like 12th on my list of things to do.

No offense, OK? I will get you up there at my first available moment. Patience is still a virtue.

Stump the Chump

My guess is that this list is going to be a bit of a let-down for the people who asked for it for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that it's not like I have kept a file of these questions, so I'm working from my own flawed memory. Another reason is that the average theology blog reader is far and away more self-educated about the Bible and about various controversies than the average teenager is, so some of these are going to be somewhat run-of-the-mill.

I could probably write 500 words on why this list is what it is, but that would waste all my time for inserting the list. Here ya go:
  • Bible Contradictions. Yes, I know: {yawn}. However, while you may or may not be able to give a specific answer for any or every alleged Bible contradiction, here's the short list of categories all the ones I have ever encountered fall under --
    1. Anachronistic Scientific interpretation: like the "smallest seed" conundrum -- no, the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in all of creation, but the Jews didn't know that. The point of the Mustard Seed parable is not to make a scientific point but to demonstrate the expansive nature of the Kingdom using something these people understood. Should Jesus have started this parable out saying, "you know, in a land which is across an ocean you guys don't even know about, there's this water Lilly that has as seed that's the size of a mote of dust -- and it doesn't really grow to be that big, so the Kingdom of God is not like that ... Hmm ... oh wait -- it's like a Mustard seed ..."
    2. Materialistic demands imposed on the Supernatural: for example, Noah's Ark and the Flood. All told, there's probably no naturalistic explanation of the Flood -- because it wasn't brought on by naturalistic causes. It was caused by God, and the solution God provided for Noah and his kin, plus all those animals, should also be seen in that light. The irony of this kind of objection, I find, is that they want to go after the "big" ones -- like the sun stopping in the sky, or the parting of the Red Sea -- but they won't just come out and say, "And people don;t just raise from the dead, vis a vis Jesus." A foundational tenet of the Christian faith is a belief in a transcendent God who can do as He pleases in creation because He is its cause and sustainer. Failing to see this is a fatal error.
    3. False demand for conformity: Like the fact that the 4 Gospels tell the history of Jesus' life in 4 distinct ways -- which always cuts both ways. On the one hand, there's no question that the story Matthew tells is distinct from the story John tells -- and on the other hand they are plainly about the same man and the same historical events. The objector usually wants the 4 Gospels to be uniform in detail, but when it is pointed out that they are uniform in substance and the details underscore the perspective and audience intended by the human writer, they retreat to hyperliteralism and abandon any literate way of receiving the texts. Which really leads us to ...
    4. Plain failure to comprehend: The example I always use for this is Psa 3 in which the skeptical reader skims the handful of verses and condemns both David and God of being barbarous for wanting to "break the teeth" of David's enemies. Does David want God to be an Ultimate Fighting Champ -- or does David want God to redeem him and save him, and in the process punish the wicked for blasphemy? David is calling for justice, not brawling here -- and to misread the poetic language in Psa 3 is to read as if one had not progressed past first grade in reading comprehension.
  • Radical Skepticism: This view is manifest in the blogosphere by the complaint, "but how do you know which interpretation is right?" and usually manifest in teens by the question, "How can we trust what the Bible says since it is so old? Is the stuff in the Bible for us today?"

    This question is far more sincere in this form than in the blogospheric form, for 2 reasons. The first is that intellectually, teens are sharp, but even the brightest ones are all saw and no wood, if you see what I'm saying -- they don't have enough information to answer questions like this one, so even if they have a brain like a 10" 5 HP table saw, they don't know what to cut or how wide to rip it.

    The second reason is that this is what they pick up from the culture. And before we start cursing public schools and MTV, most adults aren't really much different. We pick it up at work and at the ball park and whatever -- a kind of individualistic skepticism which negates all kinds of authorities and all kinds of methods of knowing (I'd call them "epistemological footholds", but I'd lose half of you by saying that). For adults, this kind of thing is almost unforgivable -- because this kind of skepticism doesn't hold up in practice. It's lazy disobedience which, if we practiced it at work, would get us fired inside 2 weeks.

    But teens -- kids -- are sheltered enough that they can hang with this sort of mental disingenuity until they have to get a real job and get away with it.

    So how does one address it? I'd take them to Deu 5 & 6 where God tells us the purpose of His Scriptures, or to Exodus 20 where the 10 Commandments are plainly spelled out. In the former case, I'd outline the fact that God says that the reason He gives us these writings is so that we will not forget Him. God does not make a promise to always appear before us as a pillar of fire or a pillar of smoke: God makes it clear that for all time, His Word is the foundation for knowing who He is and what He has done.

    But because we live in a pomo age of experientialism, Exo 20 is a different kind of example. All in all, there are 5 commandments which they will probably not want to pay attention to, and 5 which they cannot deny are true today. You can get them to admit that honoring parents, telling the truth, not stealing, not murdering, and not coveting are true and virtuous. If that holds up, the others can be proven by induction. For example, if Moses believed that it was evil to tell a lie, how could Moses say that God gave him the commandments if there was no God, or that God said something other than what he wrote down?

    The key to these kinds of objections is to demonstrate not only that the objection falls apart under scrutiny, but that there is something far more obvious and useful present in Scripture -- even if it causes us to reach conclusions which are costly or hard to follow.
  • Calvinism vs. Arminianism/Lazy Evangelicalism. They usually don't even have these categories of theology yet, but questions like "How does God know?", "Why does God send people to Hell?", "Why does God allow bad things? Does He cause them?" are all part and parcel of a foundatinal weakness in systenatic understanding of the Bible.

    I would offer one caveat in this: the Bible, really, is not a systematic book. It is mostly a narrative book, a story. It has some expositional writing in it -- all of Paul's letters, for example, are expositional. But the way theology is delivered in the Bible is by example and by analogy. For example, in the OT, while the Messiah is prophecied about, the greatest images of who and what the Messiah will be are manifest in the temple system of worship -- and all of that is shadows and types, as the book of Hebrews says. So in order to "get" the Messianic work, we have to have a firm grasp of the analogies between what the temple provided and what Christ then fulfilled and completed. We can explain these things expositionally and systematically, but we receive them in Scripture analogically.

    In that, the answers are there: the propositional truths are there. The question is if we are willing to go after them and get them and them allow them to form our thinking and understanding of ourselves and of God.
  • Basic Bible Exposition. For example, what is the parable of the Good Samaritan about? Why does Jesus call himself the "Good Shepherd" or the "Son of Man"? What is the Gospel? Why does Paul tell us both to marry and not to marry in 1 Cor? And these questions are all because somehow, they have started to read their Bibles in order to get something out of them. These questions are far more important than the tricky ones, above, because unless these questions can be answered in a way they can understand and in a way which drives to ward a living faith, they will walk away from our faith as irrational and useless.
Don't let anyone walk away from the faith for that reason -- not if you can help it. Our faith is a beautiful and vibrant thing which ought to give us hope and life. If we make it a dead thing, or a matter of trivial pursuit, we should be shamed of ourselves.

The Better Covenant

One of the most edifying and personally-challenging series of sermons I have been listening to recently has been the Desiring God Radio series through Romans, particularly as Dr. Piper has been advancing through Romans 9. I commend it to you no matter who you are or what you believe if you want to get a grasp of the Gospel and its implications for real assurance regarding the goodness of God.

However, there is a real gem in the introductory remarks to today's installment which is not necessarily in the body of the sermon. The excerpt that struck me as especially powerful goes like this:
Surrounding that sacrificial system was a system of cultic practice of clean foods, and certain keeping of certain holidays, and circumcision. Those three things in particular – the food laws, the circumcision laws, the festivals – those are all gone, and wiped away by Jesus' decisive work. [also] Israel was a political, ethnic entity, governed, therefore, by a constitution laid down in the Torah which had the death penalty for several dozen things. You curse your parents, you're dead. You sleep with a woman, you both are stoned. Those things have gone. Jesus didn't require the death penalty for these kinds of things – in fact, he pointed the other direction. And the reason they're gone is because the church is not an ethnic, political entity located somewhere in the world with a capital: the church is permeated through all governmental structures, and all societal structures so that it isn't governed, per se, the way the Old Testament people were with statutory laws that govern all of our legal repercussions to misbehaviors. Rather, we live under various regimes, we operate there, and we show, we teach, the Biblical morality but we don't exercise, as though we were a political entity, the right to do capital punishment.
It is interesting that Dr. Piper here underscores that what is evident in the church ought to be something which transcends the merely political and ethnic.

Think about that today rather than fester resentment because I haven't gotten to the next part of the Zens paper.
The consensus on Global Warming.

I love this stuff.

Stump the Chump

For those who missed it at TeamPyro, I posted this in the meta of a post by Dan:
My experience is that teens don't have enough Bible training to get after apologetic topics. They are all AWANA'd up, full of verses and good intentions, but they can't see the forest for the trees.

About once a year our youth pastor asks me to play "Stump the Chump" with the teens, where they write down their questions about the Bible or the faith, and I take the stack and just go through them with just me and my Bible. The questions we get are, well, an education in and of themselves. [note: we missed it this year -- we played "what's reformed theology and does it matter" instead]

But they reveal a lack of Bible education which is a bizarre shame in a culture which has no less than 80 different translations of the Bible.
That comment has resulted in an avalanche of e-mails from people who want to know what the questions are that I have gotten in the past and what answers I gave them.

I'll post a short list here, and some of them in categories as they are of a like kind. As a warning to all of you, reading this list and its answers does not make you any kind of an apologist: it makes you a trivia expert. An apologist would be diving deep into his (or her) own Bible and getting a view of the Bible which connects to real life.

So next week I'll post the "Stump the Chump" majors, and maybe some random stuff. The first week of the month is tough at work as I have a ton of paperwork to get out.

In the meantime, be in with the Lord's people in Lord's house on the Lord's day. You need those hypocrites, legalists and enthusiasts to help you with your sanctification. They prolly need you, too.