John Piper spikes one

I know you all read the dailies at, but this one by Dr. Piper himself today is pure gold.

What I want to say about Fundamentalism is that its great gift to the church is precisely the backbone to resist compromise and to make standing for truth and principle a means of love rather than an alternative to it. I am helped by the call for biblical separation, because almost no evangelicals even think about the doctrine.

So I thank God for fundamentalism, and I think that some of the whining about its ill effects would have to also be directed against the black-and-white bluntness of Jesus.
Boo-yah to the man from Minneapolis.

What it's all about

I was reading this news at Breitbart about the Dem debate the other night (last night, whatever), and let me lead with this: I didn't watch it, and I'm frankly not interested in the "debates" on either side. iMonk and I would have a better chance of actually "debating" something and helping to clarify any issue before I suspect and 2 politicians could "debate" something in public and actually change anyone's mind.

So that said, as I read that article, I was trying to figure out what the purpose of the "debate" was -- and plainly, it was to make decent reality TV, not to drive meaningful political discourse.

What a bunch of clowns. I feel sorry for them -- they each really think that they are entitled to run the largest country in the free world.

And just to keep the trolls at bey: that's not a slam on Democrats per se -- that's a slam on anyone who's a career politician who thinks they deserve a promotion.

Soccer Update

Ridiculously-easy game tonight. Boys played great; lots of passing and movement and position play. I can't believe they're only 8.

My son scored one and took 4 shots on goal; I swapped offense and defense in the 4th quarter to give the other team a chance. 8-1 final score. 6-3 record to date.

Final game of the season is Thursday; playoffs start Monday.

DebateBlog Update

D-Blog has kicked off again, this time with a young feller names Jesse Phillips who is apparently a friend of Dr. Adrian Warnock. The topic is this:

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians refutes the notion that "sign" gifts are necessary for the on-going life of the church

You can use this post as the repository for play-by-play or general comments on the exchange as it unfolds.

Smartest. Friends. Ever.

James Swan is officially the smartest guy on the internet, bar none. May his tribe increase.

chicken or egg?

Alert Reader Joel G. sent me this link and asked me to comment. My comment is a question: "Who's fault is this -- the pastors who are going through the meat grinder, or the congregations calling pastors to stick their hands into the meat grinder?"

I also have a second question: when was the last time your church read Titus, 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy together, in that order? Could any of you give the main points of those 3 letters and explain how those points work out in the daily life of your church?

I'm just sayin' ...

Talk about uncharitable ...

Doug Wilson linked to this today. Let me say that I think those danged baptists are the most uncharitable of all, and only a child could see that the emperor wears no clothes.

This is why we don't baptize infants, btw: we'd get too much of this smart lip and we'd have to start changing things ...

How evolution works

See: ugly and stupid are genetically paired, and they are actually another species -- or destined to be, anyway.

If I said that without linking to some evolution guy saying it, I'd be a narrow-minded bigot. But the link makes me an intellectual -- very open-minded and smart.


A reading list

This morning I sort of wrapped up (again, at least for the time being) another part of the "stay-or-go" series at TeamPyro, and it made me want to sort of recap or reflect on why I wanted to bother with that anyway. This is where I am right now, so read on at your own risk.

I think the first thing that really got me thinking about this is that, frankly, I have a lot of friends and associates who are frankly church-hoppers. Some of then I feel sorry for because they don't really want to be that way, but they are; others don't see that it hurts them to be theologically high-brow and practically dead in the faith; others are simply superficial people with a faith life so superficial that they'd list "listening to Christian music on the radio" as devotional time. Sheesh.

The next thing that really got me interested in this topic is the inane treatment it got in two books recently (and by (recently) I mean (since I started blogging"): Mega Shift by Jim Rutz and Revolution by George Barna. Both of those books ought to go down in historical infamy for the lack of editorial intervention on the part of their publishers to ask these guys to go back and think a little more deeply about how the NT defines the called-out believers joined together under the Gospel, and the subsequent damage to people who take what is put in print in Christian bookstores at face value.

So in thinking about the first thing, and reading and reviewing the stuff in the second thing, I started looking for better books on this subject, and of course the best book on this subject, in spite of its non-linear delivery of the answers to the questions, is the Bible. I read the Pastoral letters, and then the major letters from Paul to the churches, and tried to put those letters into the contexts that they were written and then immediately read. And I also found a handful of books that are not inspired helpful in setting up logical boundaries by which to view the state of the local church today:

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll

9 Marks of a Healthy Church, and The Deliberate Church, by Mark Dever

No Place for Truth, and Above All Earthly Pow'rs, by the insanely-brilliant David F. Wells

10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, and Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church, by Don Whitney

Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity, edited by Chad Owen Brand & R. Stanton Norman

Lastly, I tried to view my own experiences in the church through these lenses first in order to sort of humble myself and not try to be the example of what's right – because I'm not much of an example, really. In a lot of ways I am a beneficiary of God's grace and providence in who I married, where I have worshipped, where I have lived, and who God has given me to fellowship with.

And in that, I also owe a great debt to a number of men who have given me their friendship over the years when they didn’t really have anything to gain from it, some of whom you'd know and some who are only known by God and whose hidden work will be revealed in the last account – guys who I won’t name because it would embarrass them.

So if you want to try to follow the path I sort of stumbled down to get to where those posts came from, that's it.

Soccer Update

World-class performance tonight. Dominated time of possession, not intimidated by physical contac, aggressive in spite of 54-degree weather, great field position by all the offense. Final score: 3-0. Season record: 5-3.

Worth Reading

John Frame on Culture Transformation. Proof that not all presbyterians are crazy.

I'm looking at you, Al Sends.

More Humble Orthodoxy

Go get this, and get off your high horse. Whoever you are.

Truth War Skirmish!

Well, welcome to the blog this week. Had a few throw-away posts this weekend, but I got redirected a few times to a post by a guy named Bob Robinson at Vangard Church regarding his review/evaluation of the Truth War by John MacArthur. I read it, read a review of the review, and after making a brief post on one of the referring blogs I chose to spend my morning today sorting out the original post for the sake of posting something substantive for the first time since my blog allegedly came back from "hiatus".

Here's the headline of the original blog post:

MacArthur Fits His Own Criteria for an Apostate

Now, before you fly off the handle, let's read the thesis statement of the post:
I’d like to juxtapose three statements by John MacArthur in order to show that, while MacArthur is quick to label other Christians “false teachers” and “apostate,” these labels can just as easily be leveled unfairly at MacArthur.
And to Robinson's credit, he does go through 3 quotes from Dr. MacArthur in an attempt to do what he says he's going to do. But let's make sure we understand what he's trying to do here to determine whether or not it deserves any redress: he's trying to prove that Dr. MacArthur's use of "apostate" is so ill-defined that it can be applied to Dr. MacArthur himself because it is such a broad category.

Here's the first quote Robinson gives, with exposition:
Statement #1:
“What we are called to defend is no less than ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.’ Jude is speaking of apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42) – objective Christian truth – the faith, as delivered from Jesus through the agency of the Holy Spirit by the apostles to the church … Jude speaks of ‘the faith’ as a complete body of truth already delivered – so there is no need to seek additional revelation or to embellish the substance of ‘the faith’ in any way. Our task is simply to interpret, understand, publish, and defend the truth God has once and for all delivered to the church. That is what the Truth War is ultimately all about.” (p. 75)
Let's make sure we have a handle on what Dr. MacArthur has said here before we read what Robinson interprets. Dr. MacArthur makes it clear that, on the one hand, new revelation and embellishments on the substance of faith are out of bounds, but interpretation, understanding, publishing, and defense of truth are all in-bounds. I have added emphasis in that text, above, to make that clear.

So what Dr. MacArthur has put in his scope are things which add to revelation (by which he means "Scripture" and the fullness of revelation in Christ), and things which embellish or exaggerate "the faith". What he has –not- decried are writings or teachings which interpret (that is: writings which make what is in the text more clear), understand (that is: teachings which draw in the larger picture of Scripture), publish (that is: the simple act of disseminating such teachings through print media), and defend (that is: teachings which draw out the contrasts between the faith and other ideas or philosophies in order to show why the faith is itself better).

Let's see where Robinson takes this:
So, MacArthur is saying that Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Stan Grenz, John Franke, John Armstrong, Donald Miller, and Chris Seay are all guilty of embellishing the substance of the faith in some way. They are not being loyal to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”
Yes, I think this is exactly what he's saying, and the word Robinson uses here is exactly right: "embellishing". That is: they have gone beyond the bounds of the texts involved, and therefore have engaged in exaggeration thereby creating a caricature of the faith which is false. And like all caricatures, it might be funny of they weren't serious about making that creation into the faith itself.

Now watch what Robinson does here:
Let’s take this criterion and apply it to John MacArthur. MacArthur is a Dispensationalist, a form of theology that originated in the late 1800s with John Nelson Darby in England and in moved to the United States in the early 1900s when C. I. Scofield began teaching it. Don't miss this: Dispensationalism’s interpretation of the Bible is very novel, less than 150 years old. Dispensationalism insists that God deals with Israel and the Church differently through a dispensational grid and that this grid determines how we must interpret every passage of the Bible so that we can determine whether the passage is referring to Israel or the Church. It insists that the Church must be raptured away from the earth into its heavenly existence so that God can finish His plan for Israel in its earthly existence.

I repeat: This theology is new. It is not the same theological understanding that “was once for all delivered to the saints.” It grew out of a admittedly individualistic interpretation of the Bible (the Dispensationalists insisted that they were reading the Bible literally and letting the Bible alone determine their theology, with little regard for the history of interpretation).
I have two disclosures that I have to make before I go on. The first is that I'm not a fan of dispensationalism – it's a somewhat broad category of eschatology and hermeneutics that includes all kinds of people from John Macarthur to Tim LaHaye to Clarence Larkin, and you simply can't know what kind of thinker you're dealing with by the label "dispensationalist". I don't find it helpful, personally, to know if someone is a "dispensationalist" because it's a category which doesn't mean anything.

And let's be honest: people like Clarence Larkin are kooks. They might actually be "apostate" as Dr. MacArthur defines the term, but that's not the point of this post. I also think that bad forms of dispensationalism and premillenial enthusiasm have caused the American church in particular to exaggerate the priority of the individual in matters of faith -- but that's for another day. The point of this post is to take a look at what Robinson says about Dr. MacArthur's argument and see if it holds water. So no: I'm not a dispensationalist.

The second disclosure is that I'm not interested in reductionistic historical arguments. It's one thing to say that the systematic formulas of Ryrie and Scofield are "new", and it's another to overstate their newness for the sake of trying to make them fit inside an ideological box in order to call some book or some author's reasoning into question. You know: there's something "new" about translating the Bible using "dynamic" translation philosophy, and I doubt that Robinson would try to wedge that into the box of "apostate" – and I doubt that Dr. MacArthur would go there, either. The question is not how "new" something is, but whether or not its "newness" causes the truth to be somehow voided.

Let's be honest: one of the greatest systematic conundrums of the NT is whether or not God will ultimately deal with racial, hereditary Israel in a different way than He will with the rest of the world. To say the sorting out of this matter was somehow "done" by the end of the apostolic age is a little ambitious, and ignores a lot of things – like the anti-Semitism of the 4th and 5th centuries. And in that light, to call Ryrie's attempt to reconcile this issue in the 19th century "new" is, um, demonstrating a lot of gusto.

Here's the rub, however: we have to ask ourselves what's "new" about dispensationalism. Is it trying to renovate the cross to make it palatable for a culture, a worldview, a people, or a philosophy? Or is it "new" in the sense that the cross remains in tact and one view of the end times as a consequence of the way God reveals himself in history is being explored?

I think it's a big jump to say that interpreting the prophecy that God will save all Jews at some point in history as "all the Jews" is in the same league as interpreting the cross as a form of "cosmic child-abuse". That's the problem we face here – the scope of the claims, and the objective of the "newness".

Thus when we read what's next, we should have a pretty big problem:

So, using MacArthur’s criterion of whether someone is "seeking additional revelation or embellishing the substance of the faith in any way," Dispensationalists could be included. Now, I’m not saying that Dispensationalists should be included, just that MacArthur fits his own criterion for an apostate. Before he labels others as “false teachers” he had better know that, in doing so, he opens himself up to that same label.
If we apply definitions the way Robinson does here, the Trinity has to be called an innovative doctrine because the category "trinity" doesn’t occur by name in Scripture – yet I am sure that Robinson doesn’t have that kind of chutzpah. Just because one formulation of one doctrine is not given some name or specific systematic outline in the first generation of Christian writing, this doesn’t force the doctrine into the category Dr. MacArthur outlines – and Dr. MacArthur's paragraph here specifically defines why. A document teaching or explaining what Scripture says is not inherently apostate – even if the presentation is innovative.

What is at stake with the men specifically listed in this post by Robinson as identified by Dr. MacArthur as "apostate" is that they veer off the page of Scripture and into imaginative, speculative, and theological ditches which give us central themes of Scripture for some other ideological objective.

At this point, Robinson goes on to a second statement by Dr. MacArthur:
Statement #2:
“Every form of gnosticism starts with the notion that truth is a secret known only by a select few elevated, enlightened minds. (Hence the name, from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge.) … Another dominant variety of gnosticism (know as Docetism) taught that all manifestations of Jesus’ human nature – including His physical body (and hence His crucifixion and resurrection) – were only illusions. God could not really have come to earth in the true material form of authentic human flesh, the Docetists said, because matter itself is evil.” (pp. 89, 92)
Who can argue with this, really? It's a historical set of definitions. I agree that this is what docetism and Gnosticism are.
Again, if we take this criterion and apply it to MacArthur’s theology, we see that he opens himself up to the same criticism. He talks about Gnostics in general and Docetists in particular, as if those in the Emerging Church are guilty of these heresies. However, it has been largely acknowledged that it is Dispensational theology that is the main culprit of gnosticism in the United States.
Wow. I mean – that's not a logical leap: that's a logical fall off the cliff – and the list of so-called evidences simply makes the case worse and not better.
* Dispensationalism stresses the hope of heaven over the hope of the redeemed earth.
That's not just "dispensationalism" which does this, btw – even post-millenial guys are in for the New Heavens and New Earth which are -far- -better- than what we have today. The question is not whether they will be better, but –how- they will be better. And in that paradigm, even the Dispensationalist says that the Earth is "redeemed" by Christ.
* Dispensationalism stresses the hope of a “rapture” over the hope of a resurrected physical life.
It's sort of breath-taking that someone is willing to say this out loud – because even the sort of weak-tea dispensationalism of a Tim LaHaye doesn't say that the rapture is the be-all and end-all of Christian life. The Resurrection is –still- the ultimate end of redemption, and it is a –physical- resurrection, not merely souls without bodies.
* Dispensationalism stresses the importance of saving people from the earthly existence and inviting them into a spiritual, heavenly existence.
That's almost laughable – especially in the context that Robinson is talking about MacArthur who wrote The Gospel According to Jesus and has opposed the ridiculous easy-believism of "Free Grace" guys like Zane Hodges. MacArthur is about an exclusively-eternal salvation? Document that in some way – especially in the context of his Dispensational leanings.
* MacArthur’s own books on Heaven are filled with hints toward gnostic ideas that matter itself is evil; that true “glory” is when we move out of the fleshly existence and into the spiritual existence.
This last one is interesting because it names "hints" rather than open statements and affirmations. Let me suggest something: frame MacArthur's work as a body of writings that hang together in some way and are related to each other, and these so-called hints will –all- evaporate. That can't be said about the guys Dr. MacArthur is criticizing in The Truth War.
So, before MacArthur accuses others of being “false teachers” and “apostates,” he had better know that he opens himself up to the same accusations.
See above. This is at best a strident accusation and at worst a completely-unsupported fiction which Robinson hasn’t substantiated at all.

Now, for critics who want to peck at this dismissal of Robinson's claims, let me offer you this: when it can be said that Dr. MacArthur advances a secret truth which is not available to all men that makes matter evil and the immaterial the only possible good, and that he preaches a Christ who was not a real man whose death was only a symbol or a metaphysical representation, then you can start barking up the tree of Gnosticism and/or Docetism.

Statement #3:
“Truth (the simple truth of the gospel, to be specific) is necessary for salvation … (Romans 10:13-14). Scripture is clear about this: there is no hope of salvation apart from hearing and believing the truth about Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21). That is why nothing is more destructive than false religion. Mere ignorance is devastating enough: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6). But gospel-corrupting apostasy is the most sinister of all evils.” (pp. 119-120)

In light of MacArthur’s earlier warning against gnosticism, he had better be careful here. Remember that on page 89 of his book, MacArthur wrote, “Every form of gnosticism starts with the notion that truth is a secret known only by a select few elevated, enlightened minds. (Hence the name, from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge.)”
What Robinson had better be wary of is a misrepresentation of Dr. MacArthur and the Gospel which he proclaims – because that's what's at issue here: whether the Gospel is proclaimed or if it is hidden. The Gospel is a public event, something (as it is said in the book of Acts) not done in a corner. And it is because of this aspect of the Gospel – the lifting up of Christ that all men may be drawn to Him – that there is –nothing- Gnostic about the Gospel MacArthur preaches.

But now watch what Robinson does in this next section:
One signature motif throughout MacArthur’s book is that he continually insists that what saves you is the knowledge of the truth. This, again, is a form of gnosticism: it teaches that Christians have a secret knowledge (gnosis) and that people are saved from this earthly existence by believing the knowledge that we can explain to them.
* For MacArthur, evangelism is explaining what he knows is the truth to others.
* For MacArthur, salvation is when someone accepts and knows this truth.
* Therefore, according to MacArthur, the key to Christian ministry is the proclamation of specific truths, so that people will hear these truths, accept these truths, in order that they too will be “in the know.”
This is a classic error on the part of novice critics of Christianity in general and critics of Baptists in particular. On the one hand, they confuse the categories of "proclamation" or "evangelism" with "apologetics" or "defense". On the other, they are seeking to press the philosophy of "gnosis" into service just because of the Biblical statement that we should "know" Christ.

"gnosis" is a secret knowledge which one gains by private means, sometimes referred to as an interior light or spark from God. What Dr. MacArthur advances, in the most obvious terms possible, is a knowledge of God obtained by public and special revelation on the part of God through Scripture and ultimately through Christ.

Only someone with no real understanding of either the Bible or Gnosticism could come to the conclusion that evangelical faith is appealing to a private center – but it would serve one well to compare that to some of the statements coming from guys like McLaren and Bell.
MacArthur is quick to point out that Jesus is truth incarnate, and that we need a personal relationship with Christ in order to be saved. THIS is the gospel. I wish he said this more often in the book.
How often does he have to say it in a lifetime of writing and preaching? Another pretty amateurish mistake on Robinson's part is trying to isolate MacArthur's criticism in this book for the fairly-encyclopedic body of writing he has turned out in 40 years of ministry.

If this were Dr. MacArthur's first book, or if he didn’t have a print and audio archive of what amounts to gigabytes of text and sermon audio, all of which in one way or another points to the fact of the incarnation of Christ as the fulfillment of Moses and the Prophets, Robinson's criticism would have some legs to stand on. Instead, it has to sit down and catch its breath.
However, the way he elevates “knowledge” as the key to salvation over and over again in this book opens him up to the accusation that he is the one that is hedging toward the apostasy of gnosticism, for it is not a secret knowledge of the truth that saves, it is a relationship with Christ that saves.

If MacArthur wants to point fingers at other teachers and accuse them of apostasy, MacArthur had better be ready for some of the same treatment in turn.

This is the basic problem with this book. MacArthur is seeking to label people "apostates" when they do not, in fact, fit the description. The proof is in that MacArthur himself fits his own description!
See above. I can frankly honor Robinson's good form as he structured his criticism here well – it's got good expositional form. It just doesn’t have any substantive expositional content, and falls down for lack of real substance.

UPDATED: For the record, I fixed some typos and clarified one statement, so your RSS feeders may have gotten a double copy of this post. Thanks to all alert readers who helped comb this out.

Hybels: Wake-up call

HT: Justin Taylor

Apparently, Seeker-sentitive, program-driven activity church doesn't make people better disciples.

Stunning -- and this is Hybels' church doing the study and reporting the results. Wake-up call like a herd of elephants.

And while we're at it, iMonk has hit a few pitches into open outfield this week, particularly this one. While I'll be willing to give him a prod if/when he falls off the apple cart, that's good stuff.

Why we are idiots

HT: Twitchell for pointing me to this essay by Wayne Grudem. Apparently Grudem is endorsing Romney for President.

Can I say it clearly that Grudem's point that Mormon moral teachings are "from the Bible" is true enough from a sociological standpoint, but that this argument is completely irrelevant? Listen: If we extract the moral precepts from the theological ones, most moderate Muslims have a good handle on God's law, too. It just turns out that this is a nation which isn't Muslim foundationally, and in the same way it also isn't Mormon foundationally. Frankly, I think its his Mormonism which allows him to be soft on abortion, and that's the end of that.

It matters who the God is we are referring to when we say "In God We Trust" on our money. Governor Romney isn't referring to the John 1:1-4 God who is Savior and Lord in his Mormonism. Sorry -- that puts him off my political menu. He's welcome to practice his religion, to his own eternal peril. I have no obligation to vote for him, in spite of Dr. Grudem's pragmatism.


A gay wizard. If you ask me, it's been done. What's more troubling in the little bits of what is said in this piece, if you ask me, (and you're reading my blog, so I'll consider you as "asking") is that J.K. Rowling says her books are ultimately a "plea for tolerance".

I'm sure that's what happens at the end of the last book -- tolerance all around. That's now she can say her books are "inspired by Christianity", I am sure.

It's religion that's crazy, dude

Seriously -- I just read this article, and plainly it's religion that thinks up imaginary worlds where all kinds of things that don't have any evidence of ever happening have happened, are happening and will happen.

Religion. Not science. Science is for people how believe in things they can prove and demonstrate. In this universe anyway -- maybe it's different in another universe.

Periodical Nonsense

First read this from the ever-self-destructive Christianity Today and then read this from John Piper.

Soccer Update

We played the undefeated team in the league last night, and they play a much more physical form of the game than we do -- we're more like '83 Liverpool and they're more like Hamburg '82. My kids, frankly, are little pints-sized boys who are good runners and breakers; the other kids are a little more likely to go head-to-head because they outweigh most of the others kids by 5 kg -- and when that's 20kg up against 25 kg, that's a big difference.

Anyway, we're calling it a moral victory. They didn't score any goals against our first-string goalie, and our second-string goalie (who is functional but autistic) only gave up 2. Final score: 2-1, and for the record we dominated time of possession, none of my boys went home crying because we lost, and no dads were in the net trying to avoid the character-building experience of being outplayed.

I told my son that sometimes you win by losing -- and giving our second team goalie his full 2-quarters was a win even if soccer rules say it's a loss.

Correction of Errors

Some of you astute readers may remember this post and this post from 2005.

Given that Steve Camp and iMonk have had the audacity to speak in uncertain terms and agree that the man who can bench-press 300 lbs and still have great hair is also outside the fences when it comes to expressing the Gospel, it behooves me to issue a correction of my own previous posts.

To wit: as Camp noted, given the lite version of a statement of faith available for Lakewood, it's actually -worse- for the Osteens than if they didn't have a statement of faith at all. And as Mike Horton has made clear in his writings on this particular topic, it's just a different, chummier legalism to give self-help advice and say God is only love and not also a holy God who owes you nothing even when you do a good deed.

So if you run into my old posts on this subject, consider me corrected or perhaps convicted. iMonk's right about this: if Osteen's preaching is "good enough" for the church at large, we are completely lost. God have mercy on us, but we are not called to be winners: we are called to be the last, the scum, the ones poured out like a drink offering.

Is this a real show?

Is it all this funny?

LBCF (1689) Chapter XXVI - Of the Church

Before you read this, I'm posting this section of the LBCF with Scripture proofs here for the sake of having a place to link my next TeamPyro post directly to this text. It will become obvious why when you read the TeamPyro post. Carry on.

1. The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23; Ephesians 5:23, 27, 32

2. All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.

1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:20-22

3. The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.

1 Corinthians 5; Revelation 2; Revelation 3; Revelation 18:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12; Matthew 16:18; Psalms 72:17; Psalm 102:28; Revelation 12:17

4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

Colossians 1:18; Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-9

5. In the execution of this power wherewith he is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.

John 10:16; John 12:32; Matthew 28:20; Matthew 18:15-20

6. The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.

Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 2:41, 42; Acts 5:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 9:13

7. To each of these churches thus gathered, according to his mind declared in his word, he hath given all that power and authority, which is in any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to observe; with commands and rules for the due and right exerting, and executing of that power.

Matthew 18:17,18; 1 Corinthians 5:4,5; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8

8. A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.

Acts 20:17,28; Philippians 1:1

9. The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.

Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:3, 5, 6

10. The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.

Acts 6:4; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 5:17, 18; Galatians 6:6, 7; 2 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Corinthians 9:6-14

11. Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it.

Acts 11:19-21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11

12. As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15

13. No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.

Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:2, 3

14. As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification.

Ephesians 6:18; Psalms 122:6; Romans 16:1, 2; 3 John 8-10

15. In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.

Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23, 25; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 John 4:1

Soccer Update

Blow out. We won 9-0. Star player (not my son) scored 6 pretty much at-will. Second-tier kids got an extra quarter of play time. Playing the best team in the league on Thursday, and if we play like this on Thursday it will be close.

Hard-Core Southern Baptist

In spite of some heated words in the meta lately, it turns out that I know a little bit about Christian retail. This could be the part of the post today which could make your eyes glaze over where I go on and on about which bible translations with which type of hood ornaments sell the best and why, but there are no proof texts for those things, and we don't want to antagonize the various bye-bul factions reading the blog. Right now, anyway.

I bring up my store, however, because we're going to start carrying a new Bible published by Holman Bible Publishers called the Apologetics Study Bible, which is (as you might guess) a HCSB translation -- technically, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, but known to fans of Ed Stetzer as the Hard-Core Southern Baptist Bible. And to be as transparent as possible, I got my first copy for free because the marketing people at saw that I have a blog and offered to send me one for free if I'd review it.

Challies has probably already reviewed it, so I'm just small potatoes here -- a side dish. But for the sake of coming clean for my free personal copy, here are my thoughts and you can do with them as seems right to you. For those who can't wait to the end, I'd say I'd give this set of study notes a thumbs-up, with a few high-lights and low-lights.

Study Bibles in General

My opinion is that study bibles are a distraction -- they are at the same time too much and not enough. On the one hand, they sort of overwhelm the reader with notes, comments, insights, introductions, devotions, whatever; on the other, they're not really like a teacher because a teacher (a good one anyway) wouldn't get in the way of the subject matter just when you get to the good part, and a good teacher would not try to impress you with how smart he is by pushing the word of God out of the way to get his footnote in edge-wise -- about the iron age, for example, when the Bible is talking about the construction of the temple.

And let's face it: if the Bible is hard to read already (and it can be), trying to read it and 50,000 footnotes can be frankly impossible. Most people don't need more notes: most people need to turn off the iPod and the TV and the cell phone and read their Bibles at least as intently as they read their daily blogs.

So I'm not a huge fan of the "study bible" genre because these are usually a lot more than the average reader needs, and a lot less than the average disciple needs, if you follow me.

That's not to say that someone past the mid-point of Bible literacy couldn't use a few lessons in history, geography, translation theory and/or theology -- they probably could. So if we start with the premise that "study Bibles" are for the intermediate Bible reader, we can start talking about what's going on with the Apologetics Study Bible (hereafter, APB).

Apologetics: mixed fruits and nuts (and metaphors)

However, I have one other small axe to grind, and that's about the insane intellectual wildlife preserve known as "Christian Apologetics". It's a veldt in which everything from the high primates, the low marsupials, the craven scavengers and the feline predators roam. Don't go out there without a guide, 'kay?

Because apologetics is such a mixed bag, and because context is almost everything when you start reading it, I'm not sure that anyone ought to enter in to the field even as a hobby without doing some essential reading of whole books -- like one or two systematic theologies, and a coupla books on church history -- before wading into a pool of apologetic authors that range in theological bent from William Lane Craig to John Frame to Norman Geisler to (a-hem) Ergun Caner.

In that respect, I found the Reformation Study Bible -- in spite of it being NIV -- far more helpful than my first couple of passes at the APB. That Bible approached theology, and therefore apologetics, from one consistent perspective, and you didn't run into issues where in Jude William Lane Craig is advancing Molinism (while failing to note it is a counter-reformational theology, opposed to reformed views of God) and back in Isaiah Bruce Ware gives the reformed view of God's sovereignty and man's freedom, while the reader is left somewhat on his own to sort it out.

So my over-arching caveat, then, is that when you pick this Bible up, don't expect to walk away with the rosetta stone of Christian apologetics which equips you to be the next Gene Cook with an appropriately-narrow mind. The range of essays from the wide range of theological perspectives here is eclectic and probably doesn't square you up to any particular systematic view very well.

The Good News

On the other hand, there are quite a few things to sort of enjoy and savor about the notes in this Bible. For example, the introductions to each book of the bible are good -- like the introduction to Isaiah which points out that many recent objections to the book of Isaiah being written by the prophet himself ought to be overcome by recognizing that Isaiah wrote from the prophet's perspective with supernatural revelation, and that affirming the supernatural is a central part of the Christian worldview. That's basic apologetics 101, and regardless of your theological persuasion it's foundational for talking about the faith in a substantive way.

And the real win in this study bible is the collection of essays distributed throughout the text on topics pointed at by the scriptures. If we account that I have already warned you about the mixed bag/lack of context issues, there are over 100 (the dust jacket says 130) essays and articles on topics from Genetic Engineering to whether we can trust the text of the OT to life after death. In fact, in spite of my little poke at Dr. Caner, his essays about the contrast between Islam and the Bible are really among the better essays in the text -- because these are his areas of expertise.

Another big win is what the editors of this set of study notes call "twisted scripture" where particular cultic misinterpretations of the text are called out and highlighted to keep the canny student between the theological ditches. My only complaint about those notes is that the aren't called out very clearly, and they tend to run into the text if you're not paying attention. Maybe in the second edition Holman can use some hairline borders or something to make these note more accessible and clear to the reader. There is also no index of these notes, and that would have also been very helpful.

And because it's a study bible, APB has the full array of color charts and maps, many of church history and big moments in apologetic history. If you like that sort of thing, you will definitely like these.

Do you need one?

But the big question, really, is "do I need another Bible?" And in a Christian culture where we have 80 distinct translations of the Bible but nobody seems to know the difference between Ahaz and Belshazzar, that's an important question -- do we need another set of "study notes" which turn out to distract us again from reading the Bible itself and getting all "Deuteronomy 6" with God's word?

If you have read the Bible, and you'd like a text which has a quick index of basic apologetic arguments, this is probably a very good edition for you. But if you're looking for an intro to apologetics to start up your own branch office of Alpha Omega ministries, you'll need a lot more than 130 1-page essays to get started.

Holman has published a very concise, useful, interesting, readable volume of apologetic essays from a wide variety of thinkers in this work. Apologetic fan-boys like me will love to get it for Christmas or a birthday or whatever. But let the buyer beware: this Bible is not a substitute for reading far more substantive treatments of these issues and considering them against the text of Scripture itself for the final word of what God hath said.

And for your convenience, you can go here and buy one. Note that there are a wide variety of bindings to choose from.

two scary news items

This one is scary because it demonstrates how desperate Putin is for friends. That's like watching a pack of dogs getting riled up to jump a deer.

This one is scary because it's not the Weekly World News. I think they're serious.

because I laughed

I went to this site and I put in
and I also put in

Try it and see what you get.

Welcome to the Club, Tim Enloe

I even hesitate to link to this site as it brings out the worst in everyone involved, but as evidence that the term "anti-catholic" now means absolutely nothing at all, I welcome Tim Enloe to the ranks of anti-catholic protestant apologists.

HT: "mean" Gene Bridges

Presbyterian Watchbloggers

Baylys earn the name "watchblog" by pointing out President Bush's public denial of the Christian faith. Nice work, fellas. I'm surprised this is the first I've heard this.

Spam Filter folder

Got this e-mail tonight:

"We’re Not Perfect," Says America’s Most Popular Preacher

Answering his critics, Pastor Joel Osteen says he’s not perfect, but the reward he gets from helping to change the lives of his followers is affirmation enough that he is preaching the right message. Then, the popular pastor, who is seen, heard and read by millions across the world, breaks down in tears in his interview with correspondent Byron Pitts. Osteen’s interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday Oct. 14 (7:30-9:00 PM, ET/7:00-9:00 PM, PT) on the CBS Television Network.

"You know, you get people that want to criticize, ‘You’re not doing enough of this, enough of that.’ Well, we’re not perfect," he tells Pitts. "But to have, you know, hundreds of people telling you, ‘You changed my life. I haven’t been in church in 30 years,’ or ‘You saved my marriage.’ Not me, but God, but they’re telling me…," says Osteen, who then buries his head in his hands. "I told you I was a crybaby, but you just feel very rewarded. You feel very humbled," says Osteen of his reaction to his followers’ thanks. Click here to watch an excerpt of the interview.

Osteen’s message lacks the fire and brimstone of fundamentalism and eschews doctrinaire interpretation of the Bible. His extremely positive message, delivered to 42,000 attendees each week in his Lakewood church in Houston and in books and speaking tours, is attacked by theologians for being too optimistic and easy. "I think it’s a cotton candy gospel," says Dr. Michael Horton, theology professor at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, Calif. "His core message is God is nice, you’re nice, be nice….If it were a form of music, I think it would be easy listening," he tells Pitts.

Osteen says he’s just keeping a complicated subject simple. "Sometimes you have to keep it simple and not make it so complicated that people don’t understand," he says. “I think you need to talk on the peoples’ level, not dumbing it down, but just saying, ‘You know what?...I could get up here and try to impress you with Greek words and doctrine.’ And there are people that need that. They want to study deeper," he tells Pitts. "But I know what I’m called to do is say, ‘I want to help you learn how to forgive today. I want to help you to have the right thoughts today.’ Just simple, simple things," says Osteen.

The strategy has paid off in followers and revenue for Osteen, who came from behind the scenes eight years ago to take over his deceased father’s ministry. His Sunday service, seen by 10 million television viewers worldwide, is the most-watched religious service in the world. His books are bestsellers in the U.S. and abroad and are available in 25 languages. In addition to the book revenue, Lakewood Church takes in $43 million a year in collections and followers send another $30 million into his ministry by mail.

I think Mike Horton is jealous. I can admit that I'm jealous that my blog doesn't pull in $73 million a year.

Here's an interesting factoid: I can find Grace to You, the Billy Graham Evnagelical Association, Focus on the Family, and even the disreputable TBN, but I couldn't find Lakewood Church or Joel Osteen Ministries in the Charity Navigator. I wonder why ...

UPDATED: For our international readers, and luddites like me who don't have cable or live in a place where we can receive a decent TV signal, 60 Minutes has the smarts to put some of its interviews on the web via
  1. Go here.
  2. click the link "video" on the left just below the red box
  3. when the popup window/video viewer open, click "60 Minutes" in the nav bar in the center
  4. scroll for the interview you want to see on the right
My guess is that the video won't be up until after the interview has broadcast West-Coast time, but maybe you can get what you want to see there.

Soccer Update

In spite of dominating time of possession and scoring twice in the first quarter, we went down 5-3 due to coaching errors. I experimented with our defense (read: I felt guilty that my son was playing 4 quarters and two of the newest kids were playing only 2) and left our weaker goalie undefended. I never thought I'd have parents of kids on my team saying, "you should play your son more", but I won't make that mistake again.

We're 2-2; we should be 3-1. You know I am taking it hard when I start considering whether or not these 7-yr-old kids can watch vintage 1966 Beckenbauer footage to learn how to manage a sweeper offense ...

Humble Orthodoxy

The guys at New have transcripted and posted a great talk from Mark Dever about what Orthodoxy is and why it is important.

If this is humble orthdoxy, I'm in.

quotable, t-shirtable:
Friends, we’re justified only by trusting in Jesus. Someone who does not believe the gospel that I’ve been talking about very clearly for the last five minutes is not a Christian. Let me say that again. If you get more help in discernment out of this talk than this sentence, you must have this. This is the basis for all true Christian discernment.

Here’s the sentence: Someone who does not believe this gospel is not a Christian.

HT: Justin Taylor.

No proof-texts

All I'm saying is that this guy is actually on to something. I don't think there's any offensive language here, but I do think that's it's good advice both in the affirmative sense (that is: what to do if you're trying) and the negative sense (that is: what to avoid if you're not trying).

Because this is who we are as men. Let's be honest about that and just ask for help in keeping between the ditches.

By any other name

I don't know if you knew this, but "Dear Abbey" isn't really written by the say lady who started the column about 50 years ago. It has been taken over by her daughter, which is its own interesting case study.

I was reading this little piece about some interesting updates to "Abbey", and I wonder: what's the basis for giving out this kind of advice? I mean, I realize it's free advice, kinda like blog advice, so it's prolly not even worth what you paid for it, but when the institution of marriage is suddenly an offense ...

... seems a little, um, lacking in circumspection.

A lesson in nuance

I'm sure many of you have read Obama's quote from this weekend already. For those who haven't, here's what he said:
"Sometimes this is a difficult road being in politics," Obama said. "Sometimes you can become fearful, sometimes you can become vain, sometimes you can seek power just for power's sake instead of because you want to do service to God. I just want all of you to pray that I can be an instrument of God in the same way that Pastor Ron and all of you are instruments of God."

He finished his brief remarks by saying, "We're going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."
I can take or leave the "instrument of God" stuff, but the little Kingdom riff is interesting because Obama didn't intimate he was going to work to bring the Kingdom of God in politics: he said a kingdom. One kind of kingdom -- maybe with some relationship to God.

That's slippery. You have admire a guy who can be that honest about his nonchalance toward which kingdom it will be -- especially when he's talking in an allegedly-Christian church.

For the Record

This is in the top-5 dumbest things I have ever read in my life. A loner fratboy who makes his living by pretending to be fictional people who openly hates anything which advances the civilization which allows him to earn money that way prolly is not qualified to lead the free world.

In my opinion.


Get this and make your life look like it.

Telling the Truth

New junk. Same old prices.

Wake Up Call

Now seriously: when someone will publicly tell you that Kevin Federline is more fit to be a parent than you are, you've got to at least take a day off and ask yourself whether or not they're right.

That's not piling on or anything: as I sit here in my rented house with my middle-class life, I'm just thinking what I would do if somebody -- like a judge -- told me that I was less fit to raise my kids than K-fed. That'd be the end of the sleepwalking, I assure you.

The only other thing I'd add to that is that Britney clearly has no responsible adults in her life. If I got out in public doing half the stuff she does, even people who hate me would intervene because all that stuff is so obviously perpendicular to living past the age of 29.

Britney: seek help. Go to Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA and tell them you don't know how to help yourself. Or go up to Simi Valley and check in with Cornerstone Community Church -- I'll bet they can set you straight. You need help, girl -- your boys need you to get help.


SCOTUS refuses to hear a coupla cases. I'm a little disappointed about the Public Library case -- apparently it's free speech to be able to view porn in a public library but not to worship God -- but that other case about birth control pill was piling on.