Because my pride should be shattered every day, and this video reminded me of that when my pride was welling up.

HT: Mrs. Dr. Warhead


I know you were all dying to know this, but I am now a public figure at facebook, and you can just click here to become my fan.


I got this via e-mail today, and I thought it was hillarious.

Post 1501

Just a post to let you know that I now have a FaceBook account.

Separation anxiety (boc)

As I alluded to in the meta, I'm going on vacation this weekend, so the Best Of Cent comes early this week. The flip-side of the baptism thing going on here lately is the question of separation -- a doctrine for which we baptists are somewhat infamous. This is an excerpt from a two-part series on that notion from 2006.

Listen: at the core of the doctrine of separation are a couple of things which the reactionary, the zealot, and the bigot (which are not all the same things) ignore pretty strenuously – that is, they have to exert a lot of energy to ignore these things.

The first thing is this: every mistake is not apostasy and sin. Can we agree on that? For example, when Paul separated with Barnabas over Mark, neither man was falling into apostasy. Barnabas may have made too much out of the necessity of bringing the young man along, and Paul made have made too much out of leaving him behind, but neither man was violating the Gospel over that matter of tactics.

We all make mistakes. Some of us make bigger mistakes than others – because some of us work on a bigger canvas. You know: a guy with a blog that pulls in 500 readers a day can make a bigger mistake than a guy with 5 readers if they both express the same opinion at the same time over the same subject – like demanding that Joel Osteen is a rank heretic. I don’t think Osteen is a rank heretic: I think he’s a pastor who has made some grave tactical errors, and he’s unable to demonstrate that he can express or defend the Gospel on national TV. What that means is that he’s poor evangelist, and he doesn’t have a lot of experience in apologetics. On those grounds, you’d have to call a lot of pastors in America today heretics. Does that sound reasonable to anyone? It doesn’t sound reasonable to me to call a lot of pastors “heretics” because they aren’t skilled in arguing and facing arguments about the doctrines of the faith.

So every mistake is not apostasy. Sorry! If it was, it would be a lot easier to exercise separation, but it would also probably leave you personally as a person from whom we need to be separated.

The second thing is this: choosing to separate is a matter of conscience. In the post Nate made which elicited this response from his reader, he (Nate) cites Spurgeon’s willingness to separate from his church association as a fine example of separation in practice, and in doing so quotes John MacArthur as saying this:

Spurgeon did not actively seek to pull others out of the Union, but he could not understand why men who wanted to remain faithful to the Scriptures would continue to belong to an organization that was so obviously barreling down the down-grade
Certainly, Spurgeon was withdrawing for “principle” – but he did not condemn those who did not withdraw as heretics but as brothers who were making a faulty choice. They have joined to what Spurgeon himself calls a lost cause, but that doesn’t mean they are themselves lost.

In that, the example of Al Mohler “cooperating” with the Billy Graham Crusade is significantly misused. Dr. Mohler has chosen to do something, frankly, I would not choose to do – but that doesn’t make Dr. Mohler a person of theological disrepute. Dr. Mohler has made the choice to go where there are lost people (along with his church) and seek to deliver the Gospel to them. Is there some question of whether or not they will be confused by seeing Catholic, Reformed Baptists and Finney-esque “evangelicals” all lined up together? Why yes: I think there will be some confusion, and there may be some equivocation.

But what is worse: standing next to a Catholic or a wobbly evangelical and preaching the Gospel to the lost, or sitting in at your desk someplace typing on your computer demanding such a stringent form of separation that we have no opportunity to ever see a lost person, and we studiously avoid events where the lost are bound to be. I think the latter is an offense to Christ, and the former is not.

Last (for the sake of the blog this week) is this, which I have eluded to, above: it’s not a sin to preach the Gospel. Um, Duh? It’s not a sin to preach the Gospel – it’s the #1 thing we are called to do. In that, we don’t, for example, become strip-club owners to preach to strippers and their oglers, but we do have an obligation to preach the Gospel to strippers and their oglers. We don’t become murderers to preach the Gospel to murderers. We don’t become thieves to preach the Gospel to thieves, or drunks to become a preacher to drunks. But we must engage our faith in some way that preaches the Gospel to murderers, thieves, drunks, oglers, and strippers.

You know: the sin is in actually being the servant with the single talent. You know that story, right? Mat 25:14-30? The one servant gets one lousy talent, and rather than do something with it for the sake of his master, he does nothing with it for the sake of his master and is frankly punished severely.

Don’t be that servant. That’s the guy who is going to have a very long and uncomfortable time in front of Christ in the final account because he had received the mercy of the Father (allegedly), and then he did nothing with it or because of it.

That’s where I’m going to stop this week, and just as a reminder to myself, this actually has something to do with the alcohol stuff I’ve been posting, so think about that as you try to keep your grass from spontaneously combusting this weekend.

And, of course, be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s house this weekend. Don’t pretend you’re alone in this world: there are plenty of other hypocrites and sinners just like you who this week will turn towards their savior and worship Him for what He has done. You can join together in the praise. Go do it, and stop pretending that you’re a better person for using separation from sin as an excuse for failing to be obedient to God.

Just to say it out loud

Welty on Baptism.

Who doesn't love him some Welty?

Have a second helping because you're looking a little peaked. (that link's a PDF, so right-click to download)


One of the things I omitted yesterday (I had an engagement problems, is in, “I couldn’t really get engaged in anything yesterday as I felt worn down”) from Dr. Piper’s sermon is this:
There are godly, Bible-believing, Christ-exalting, God-centered followers of Jesus who fail to see the dreadfulness of not being baptized as a believer. And there are godly, Bible-believing, Christ-exalting, God-centered followers of Jesus who fail to see the dreadfulness of excluding such people from church membership.
Now, Dr. Piper's concluding benediction aside (which I think is the right prayer to make in this case), the problem is not intransigence on the part of the credobaptists -- because we want these people of good faith, these people who have a faith we credit as good and from God and as a miracle of the Holy Spirit, to join us as a church. The question is simply not whether we call them to join us: please, in the name of the savior, join us!

But join us by being baptized. You say you were baptized as an infant, but the New Testament says that baptism is for believers and not merely those whom we hope will someday be believers. Baptism is a plea for a good conscience before God.

I want anyone who has good faith to join with my local church. I want none to be excluded. What I don't want is to do that apart from the obedience of faith, either on my part or theirs.

I honor Dr. Piper's zeal to be visibly in union with other believers. That is a goal which must be unity in truth or else it is a superficial and false unity.

First up, the Lutherans

Over at BHT, John H ponies up this thought about Dr. Piper's sermon on baptism:
However, while for you that is a link setting out an argument which supports the intellectual and theological position you hold concerning the subject of baptism, for me it’s a link telling me why I’m not actually baptised (and why I shouldn’t listen to Jesus when he tells me I am). So you’ll appreciate I’m not rushing to print it out and read it carefully over a coffee. (jn)
Snark aside there at the end, the underlined part is where John goes south. John -- where exactly does "Jesus" say your sprinkling as an infant equals baptism? Name one infant in the NT who was "baptized" by drizzling his forehead with water.

Seriously: before anyone goes ballistic over me calling John "not christian", or that I have labelled his view of this rite "heresy", all I am saying is that what John says he got doesn't look anything like what was presented in the NT as baptism -- not in sequence, not in call, not in process, and not in purpose.

One of the things, historically, that the average baptist preacher has done in this matter is bury his head in the sand and not review what the presbyterian or the lutheran means by baptizing an infant. My opinion is that historically, even the most erudite presbyterians and lutherans are guilty of the same sin but to a lesser degree when dealing with the credobaptist case for what baptism is.

So go get your coffee and a print-out of Dr. Piper's sermon, and read it again -- and then formulate something a little more compelling than "Jesus told me" when in fact Jesus doesn't tell you: you tell you. What Jesus says about this doesn't really enter into it.
Seriously: from a Lutheran point of view, making the validity of baptism dependent on whether there was enough faith and enough water present at the ceremony completely negates the purpose of baptism, which is to assure us that – whatever our own doubts and uncertainties may be about the strength and quality of our faith – we belong to Christ by his own word and according to his own promises.
That, of course, is ludicrous. The question is not whether there was enough "faith" present -- because even a lutheran would confess that an agnostic hobo can't sprinkle the guy in the next trash can who has never heard the Gospel with water from a public fountain and that be called a valid baptism.

And this is the classic paedo dodge: the atomization of faith in order to say that the credo makes baptism about faith rather than about Christ. The problem is that the credo -- the confessional credo -- says everything the paedo would say about baptism except when it comes to the transferrability of the faith of one's parents. Doug Wilson says that one baptizes rather than circumcises in order to prove the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant because it is at least as inclusive; The WHI guys say that we baptize infants on the promise of faith, overlooking that their foundational passage there in Acts 2 doesn't just say "and your children", but also "for all who are far off" -- and none of them would baptize every person they see on the street on the promise that those who are called will then come.

What the NT demonstrates for us is that faith precedes baptism in order that our baptism can testify to our faith. Faith causes obedience, and baptism is the first act one can make in obedience to God's call to repent and turn away from our old life of sin and rebellion.
Not just the promises which are made generally in the Bible and in preaching: for us, what happens in baptism is that Jesus (through his minister) declares those promises to us personally, as individuals: “I baptize you…”.
That's your spin on it. That's not what the Bible says happens.
Never mind the issue of whether (and/or which) infants should be baptised. This is the real difference: does our faith assure us that our baptism was real, or does our baptism assure us that our faith is real?
And that, John, is the phony dichotomy that all paedos retreat to in the end. Our faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen; our baptism is evidence of our faith. It can be both: it can be that our faith causes our baptism, and our baptism improves out faith.

In fact, I would argue, it must be both.

UPDATED: John H. has declined to engage this post as he has better things to do. Like Ministry, I am sure.

More classic: baptism

Dr. Piper explains he is actually a baptist.

Let the further merciless beating on this topic continue.

Come Together

    But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. [1 Cor 11:17-22]
The question has come up regarding what Paul is talking about in 1 Cor 11 here, and for your Friday pleasure I thought I'd hammer out a couple of pages on the subject, especially as it relates to this comment recently proffered in the meta:
Since there is no biblical instruction that the table must be conducted in a "local assembly of believers" (I assume you mean a local church), then I posit that any group of believers who is gathered together (a family, a small group, a church, a gathering at a religious camp) may share the table.
Now, just for the record, the LBCF says this on the subject:
The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.[XXX, 1]
And to be sure we reckon what the underlined part there means, consider this:
A particular church, gathered and completely organised 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. [XXVI,8]
That doesn't really have anything to do with 1 Cor 11, but it does point out that the historic Reformed Baptist view of the church, its officers, and the ordinances is that the church is right to call forth "officers" (we might say "ministers") by which the ordinances are administered, and that these ordinances -- particularly the Lord's Supper -- is to be administered to the whole church and not just smaller assemblies in fellowship. This is undergirded by the LBCF's stress on the use of the sabbath for Christian worship.

But that said, is this what Paul would have required? I mean, LBCF and all that stuff, but is it biblicious enough for us to have to follow it today?

Well, the place to start is that Paul wasn't happy with the Corinthians. He says, "I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse." Now, what does he mean by "come together"? "Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly"? I am pretty sure he means "when you come together as a church", because that's what he says in the next sentence. The Greek actually says, when you-all are gathered "ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ" -- which doesn't mean "whenever a couple of you are around". It means when you are gathered together for the purpose of worship as God's people. That doesn't mean "as smaller groups". It means "as the body of Christ; as one body; when you all come together as one assembly".

So as Paul continues his anti-commendation to the Corinthians here, consider that what he is criticizing is what the practice and what they ought to be practicing as a body together.

"When you come together," he says, "it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal." And to this, Paul says specifically, "What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" Notice the contrast he draws between the "houses" of each one verses the "church of God" -- that whatever you do at home, it should not be that way when you come together as the church of God.

"yes, well cent," says one, "we come together as the church of God in many ways, and one of them is that we, in my neck of the woods, come together in our homes as smaller groups to worship God. And when we do that, we sometimes take the Lord's supper -- nobody in the group gets excluded. We come together in a different way than Paul describes here, but it's not disqualified by Paul."

Dude, that's hooie. That's simply wandering around the text rather than reading it. Paul says explicitly here that the church ought to come together specifically for the Lord's supper, and come together specifically without any divisions. When your church goes out to smaller groups in homes to occasionally have the Lord's supper, it's doing in fact what Paul here excoriates -- only it actually goes out to the homes to make the divisions rather than clique up even though the church is all in one place.

Let me say this: there's nothing wrong with small group fellowship. It's great for prayer and real spiritual intimacy. But the gathering in one body specifically has the charge -- seen here as said by Paul -- to remember the Lord's death in the ordinance of the meal.

See: Paul's point here is that if you were in your own home having a select few people over, that's a division which has nothing to do with the assembly of the believers -- it's your party, and you can cry if you want to. But when the believers are actually assembled, your private party time is over. Taking the Lord's Supper out to those smaller groups doesn't sanctify the smaller groups -- it only makes completely obvious that the church is not coming together for this act.

The believers are to assemble for the Lord's Supper, not merely meet up in little coffee claches. Paul says if you assemble but do not treat each other as one body, you are doing something unworthy. How can you then say that if you just don't meet up as one body but instead meet up as smaller units of one body you can get past the criticism that you haven't united?

Paul says come together, right now. I say he's got a good point -- and it's up to you to be in God's house with God's people on His day. You're not coming together if you're not actually with all of those people.

Dr. Horrible

Don't watch it. Especially, don't watch episode 2. And when Episode 3 comes out on Saturday, don't watch that, either.

Listen -- I'm not even linking you to it, so don't blame me if you watch it -- you had to go out and google it, and figure out which site is the fan site and which has the episodes on it, so when you found it and watched it (and I'm saying: don't watch it, so if you watched it, it's because you chose to) it's because you chose to.

I mean, the police do watch the vodcast, so they know.

Just, you know: it's the internet. You shouldn't watch everything on the internet.

UPDATED: well, but you should at least read the COMIC BOOK so you're not completely without sociological and missiological context. Seriously: don't live in a hole.

UPDATED AGAIN: Ok -- first of all, no spoilers. And if you're not watching it like I said, that won't matter to you anyway. But in the first place, Who knew this was a tragedy? Man -- that was unbelieveable. And in the second place, that's so 70's to end like that. I mean, [spoilers omitted]? That's how every issue of Spider-man ended between 1972 and 1983.

However, I would say this: this little 40-minute musical gives great insight into popular culture's self-perception.

I'm going to give you all a week not to watch it (or watch it, if you don't mind a couple of relatively clear but brief adolescent man-humor incidents), and then I'm going to tell you what I really think about this 3-part (not to say "threepenny") opera.

Why I'm OK with being called "anti-catholic"

Listen: I ran into Justin Taylor's announcement of Francis Beckwith's new book of "road home" apologetics, and I posted a comment about as charitable as I could muster. However, let me admit something: there is nothing more distasteful to me than conventional pro-catholic apologetics, and, sadly, Dr. Beckwith participates in that -- he's nice about it, but that's what he does.

Honestly: I'm under Rome's anathema, and I'm OK with that. Their anathemas say more about them than anything I can say about them -- especially when it comes to stuff like how many books of the Bible I must accept and whether or not Mary was bodily assumed into heaven. Those anathemas speak to how stridently Rome applies the force of "anathema". When they anathematize me for believing in imputed righteousness and justification by faith alone, I respect them for admitting that they do not believe in a God who saves through Christ but a god who saves by rites, and I can walk away without any qualms.

Conventional pro-catholic apologetics try to sweep all that stuff under the rug, and that's what gets me.

Let me put it another way. 4 weeks ago, the boys on bikes came by and wanted to talk to me because I was out in the yard, and I gave them 30 minutes (I would have given them an hour, but they had a curfew). Their ploy was that they were just like any other Christian -- expect for that extra book they carry around, which was important to them -- authoritative to them -- but it's OK if I don't accept that.


So they were in the neighborhood why? I mean: my town has 60 churches and 98% of these people are in church on Sunday. So are these guys evangelizing, or are they simply walking around? Because when we go on visitation, we're evangelizing -- we're seeking those who are either lost without Christ or lost without a church with which to fellowship.

And this is the thing: if the goal of Catholic apologetics is to get me into their mass and their sacraments because I'm under anathema and I'm denying what God has commanded so repent, let's talk about that. If the goal is to sweet-talk me by saying we aren't really very different, so try it, you might like it -- dude, forget it. I tried it, and I didn't like it. In fact, I hated it for its hypocrisy.

So am I "anti-catholic" in the sense that I am actually a Protestant? Why yes: I am. Deal with that and not the ridiculous idea that somehow I don't understand what it means to be under the anathema for believing Christ has actually saved me rather than think someday, after I have paid for my sins in Purgatory, Christ will have saved me.

Why Timmy Brister is the luckiest man alive

Darrell Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Florida, and chair of the convention's resolution committee, doubted that the resolution would lead to widespread purging of church rolls. "No one can tell Southern Baptists what to do," he said.

In response, Ascol said, "That's a sad reality. Even Jesus can't tell some Southern Baptists what to do."

BTW, Pastor Tom: nice work for Resolution #6. God willing the SBC will take it as seriously as it takes beer.

Classic: communion

Yeah, I didn't want to bring it up, but somebody pointed me at this and I want to abstract it from any one person as much as possible. However, the opinion expressed here is one which is "going around", it seems related to the Piper thing from Monday, and I have a minute this week.
Then I should be addressed as an unbeliever, and treated as such. Forgive me, but what we have here is the creation of a special category that allows closed communion churches to say things like “we’re not denying your faith in Christ and that you are a Christian brother” and also say “You’re an unbeliever in what amounts to an incarnation level truth.”
Some context here, in case you can't draw it out from this quote. The conversation is about the Lord's Table, and the question is whether or not a "closed communion" is proper or improper, called-for or uncalled-for.

In that, how does one bridge the logical leap between "you can't partake in the table with us" and "you are, de facto, an unbeliever"? I can think of at least two good, biblical reasons not to partake in the Lord's table and to be rightly cautioned by the administer of the table not to partake, even if the person is a baptized believer and member:

[1] One is himself drunk -- that is a direct application of Paul's warning to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 11.

[2] One is seeking the ceremony for status rather than humility in the face of Christ's work -- also in 1 Cor 11. For example, one who wants to be seen taking the bread and wine in the Capital Cathedral prolly should just go home rather than try to make a name for himself using the remembrance of Christ.

Those aren't examples which say someone is an "unbeliever": they are examples of rightly-discerning the body, rightly seeking to remember Christ and not to make His table into something it is not. For the minister to say, "those who are drunk, or are here to be recognized as somehow special by being here -- please, do not partake. This table is not for those reasons," is not to also say, "you dirty unbelievers." It is to say, "be serious about what we are doing here because this is how we remember what Jesus has done for us."
When Fr. Charles says in public, “We’re so glad to have our Christian brother [name omitted] here with us today,” he really looks like a great guy. Catholic ecumenism and all those good Vatican II statements about how grieved everyone is about these divisions. But when we (and Baptists do the same) turn one another away from the table and say “Not just the words of Jesus, but the words of men are required to come to this table. Not just a belief in the real Christ and the real presence of the real Christ, but a belief in the real presence the way we understand 'really real,'" then the previous proclamation of our brother’s faith is blatantly contradicted.
I disagree whole-heartedly. I disagree because the refusal of the minister (in this case, the priest) to hand over the sacrament, which is what he believes he is dispensing, has that implication that he is responsible to dispense it in a worthy manner.

I think it is wholly inside the parameters of consideration to think that Fr. Charles has an obligation to abide by church discipline, which is what is at stake when a Protestant comes through the line to take the bread and the cup. His statement that he is "grieved" reflects something other than being "sorry" in some way he can fix: he is "grieved" because a Protestant is under discipline and is separated until he comes under the obedience of the Church (big "C" in his mind).

Being under discipline is not the same as being an unbeliever: it is a call to repentence. Whether you're a Catholic or not, that is actually a biblical principle: believers under discipline are spiritually separated from the church, and have to be treated that way until they repent. This is one reason why confession is such a big deal for the Catholic, btw: he doesn't want to be separated from the church by his sin and unworthily take the eucharist.

I think there is a way to see what Fr. Charles is doing here which does not speak to the soteriological condition of the person seeking to partake but who is turned away -- and it's not a very convoluted way to see it, either.
The fundamentalists I grew up with were far more consistent. They weren’t going to take fact that you said you loved Jesus as evidence of your Christianity. Nope. Until you’d been baptized by them and confessed their faith their way in their church, then you became a brother. Until then, you were lost and needed to believe the Gospel.
That's certainly more black-and-white. That's not hardly more consistent.

For example, where did they call their pastors from? Did they raise up a man from inside the congregation based on the letters to Timoth and Titus, or did they call a man from the outside? Did that man have to be baptized in that particular church (again) in order to have his confession of faith be believed? Prolly not.

So as far as consistency goes, as they say on the internet, meh.

Fr. Charles is being consistent both historically and, ironically, biblically. The table is closed to those who are sepaparted from the Church -- and it ought to be.

Now, the chat about Fr. Charles was interesting, but this bit to follow is even moreso:
The Table is the essence of the invitation of Jesus to come to him. It is thereby the primary evidence that Christ has received a person as his own through faith and, at least in most understandings, after baptism. Tossing around the term “Christian brother” in the same room where you’lll telegraph to me that I’m not able to come to the table of Jesus says much louder “NOT a Christian brother.” It really does take a theologian to make it say anything else. Even a 4th grader knows what exclusion is and what it means.
Wow. I've been through my NT a couple of times trying to find out where it says that, and I can't find it. Jesus says that the cup is the cup of the covenant of which He will not drink again until the final establishment of the Kingdom (Mt, Mk); Luke adds it's a "remembrance" of what He will have done with His body for us; Paul adds that it be taken in a worthy manner rather than in a drunken or selfish manner.

The implication that the meal is for the sake of unity can be drawn 1 Cor 11 -- no question. But I think Paul's "unity" point is rather one of not seeking to use the table as a means of garnering status, a lesser version of his complaint to the Galatians. I'm not sure how one goes from there to a place there the Table is the sine qua non of Christian fellowship, and that all-comers must be admitted or else they are de facto unbelievers.

Seriously: the man Paul commanded to be cast out in 1 Cor 5 -- should he be admitted to the table before he returns to obedience and repentance? I think his return to fellowship in 2 Cor speaks to that clearly -- and the answer is "no". In disobeying the Church (big "C") as Protestants, we should expect that Church (big "C") to hold us apart from fellowship.
So the problem may not be my lack of Lutheran or Catholic theology. The problem may be how that theology works with the intention to relate to other Christians. Fundamentalists would tell me I was not a Christian and treat me as such. (Think Phil Johnson would let me near a communion table?) But the “inclusive” closed communionist is going to tell me I am the brother for whom Christ died, but then refuse to commune with me.
Yeah, I think Phil Johnson is not the problem here -- because Phil, as I understand it, would hold closed communion at his church for members only for the sake of protecting the table from unworthy use. It wouldn't be a personal, subjective thing: it would be a pragmatic application of a Scriptural command that the table not be used in an unworthy manner. Very much, btw, the way Fr. Charles would administer his "sacrament".
I don’t think the problem is that I feel rejected. I think the problem is that some people think they’ve included me on some level. And I’ll tell you why I think that happens: because exclusion of those with a living faith in Christ is so un-Jesus shaped that a lot of people aren’t comfortable doing it. So they find ways to come out of the logical implications of their beliefs and instead treat other “Christians” as if they are really there.
Yeah, no. One of the great inequalities between me and Christ (and there are many of them) is that Jesus knew what was in the hearts of men -- so when he called the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs", he knew from filthy and rotten. For me, all I know is my filthy and rotten, and most people, frankly, look pretty good when you compare them to me.

But when Jesus said, in words to this effect, "be like me", He didn't mean, "look into people's hearts so you can know them; see what's there and that's how you treat them." He said things like, "remember the widowed and the orphan," and "keep the Law in letter and spirit," and "do this in memory of me." But then He also had this guy Paul who said things like, "let him who has done this be removed from among you," and "rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine". So the "Jesus shape" we have to get to has the condition that we know where the boundaries of Jesus-likeness lie for us on this side of glory.

Jesus loves church discipline. I know because the Bible says so. Sometimes that means that people with good faith but bad practice have to see that in "incarnational" ways. And let me say this frankly: maybe the problem is that the one giving out the bread and wine is the one who is wrong. You know: maybe when the Westminster divines called their mass "idolatry", they were right -- and taking the idol is itself a kind of disobedience which one might be glad to be separated from.
Where I grew up, the church leaders didn’t feel bad about excluding other Christians from being called or treated as Christians. They took it as their duty to address them as lost and their churches as false and their faith as mere religion. Their version of Jesus was on their side on these issues. No stress involved in considering the possibility of Christians outside of [church name omitted]. It just wasn’t possible.
My opinion is that this is, in the best case, hyperbole. Even if they may have had a pigeon ecclesiology, however, that's besides the point. The question is whether the church -- in all its forms -- has an obligation to have an open table or a table which is used in a worthy manner. It plainly has the obligation for the latter.

Haloscan is down

That's particularly annoying to those who were enjoying the baptism thread.

Will update when it is working again.


Haloscan is back up.

Classic: Baptism

Dr. Piper opens up the can of worms at his church again by beginning a series on baptism and church membership.

The long-time readers of this blog know for a fact that this topic is near to me and dear to me -- because it's one of the topics I have blogged about most often. And in that, I think I am more a Baptist for it today than I was 3 years ago.

I respect Dr. Piper and the elders of his church wanting to have an open door at their church for all believers in Christ -- for wanting, as they have said, to keep the front door of the local church as wide as the front door of the universal church -- namely, all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Dr. Piper's message yesterday delivered a stirring call for the importance of church membership -- one with which I would agree almost entirely. Almost.

He says this in the middle of his message:
One of the key convictions behind the elder proposal (that was made and then withdrawn) is that excluding from membership a truly born-again person who gives credible evidence of his saving faith is a more serious mistake than receiving into membership a true believer who is not biblically baptized though, according to his own conscience, he believes he is. But that conviction assumes church membership is really important, so that excluding a person from it is very serious.

So one of the arguments against the elder proposal was that membership in a local church like Bethlehem does not matter very much—certainly not as much as baptism—because a non-member can worship and take the Lord’s Supper and go to Sunday School and be a part of a small group and be visited by a pastor in the hospital; or he can simply go to another church that shares his view of baptism.

So if membership is not that important, then excluding someone from membership will not seem a serious problem. That would mean that the elders are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. This is one of the most crucial issues we need to think through as a church: How serious is it to say to a regenerate person: “You are not permitted to be a member of this church”?
Let me say frankly that this is not a matter either of subjective belief or of merely-judicial or -authoritarian caveat. This is the place where the reasoning at Bethlehem goes of the rails, in my opinion, and let me explain briefly why I would say that.

In Acts 19, Paul finds the "disciples" at Corinth who had received John's baptism but not the baptism of Jesus. Those people there sincerely believed they had been baptized, but in fact they had not been baptized into Christ. That example speaks clearly, I think, to the question of whether or not what one thinks about one's baptism is what we should weigh when we are considering them as members of our fellowship and churches. We are not saying they are not disciples: we are saying they are not baptized, and they should hear that call plainly for what it is: a call to be obedient to what God has ordained for the church and for the believer.

In that way, we are not questioning anyone's status as being regenerate or not regenerate. We are calling them to do what God has called them to do. The excuse, "I think I already have done it," is dispelled by they fact that they did not, in fact, do it -- it was done to them before they could agree or decline. What they have had done is not objectively the same as what we are calling them to.

By saying that, we are not saying to a regenerate person, "your salvation doesn't matter to us and you cannot join our church." We -- that is, the church and specifically its elders -- are saying what the elders ought to say in the name of Jesus Christ: if you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Baptism is a commandment from God for the believer. And without overstating this matter, it is the charge of the elder to exhort the believer to do what God has commanded, and not merely settle for what seems good to every man in his own eyes. Someone who doesn't want to do what God has commanded is someone, I think, who is not under the authority of the elders but on his own program.

I really love that Bethlehem Baptist church is thinking deeply about this matter. But one of the most deeply-resounding themes of its preaching pastor is the matter of obedience to God out of love and joy for what God has done for us. Is it really such a hard thing, in that context, to tell those who want to fellowship in an assembly which hears the Lord commanding us to baptize the believer that this is their first step in truly desiring God?

Say what you believe

The EFCA has done that.


Joe Thorn is a good guy

See – I put that headline up there to make sure that anyone reading this will not miss the fact that I said, “Joe Thorn is a good guy”. Because this post isn’t about whether or not Joe Thorn is a good guy or a bad guy. This post is about his new blogging endeavor.

See: Joe is a good guy. If you meet him, I promise you will probably like him. And if you ask me, that’s probably a good attribute for any Christian: as Paul would say in proper King James, lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. I think that’s Joe.

And he has opened up a new blog with fellow reformissionary Steve McCoy [note: AFAIK, STeve McCoy is a good guy, so no sleight-by-omission intended] called “sub•text”, about establishing the church in a suburban (American) context – which, you know, the suburbs are full of lost people. Everyone from Steve Camp to Steve Sjogren would agree with that. The suburbs need the Gospel.

I agree that the suburbs need the Gospel.

But then Joe and Steve affirm this:
For many Christians the mission of God is seen as the salvation of individual sinners from hell, sin and self. While this is an important part of God’s mission, it is only part of it.

The whole picture is that God is redeeming a people for himself made up of every tribe, tongue and nation. And his mission does not stop there, but includes the salvation of creation itself. His goal is the establishment of a new creation that will never fall into corruption; one that will reveal and revel in his glory for eternity. In fact, at every point along the way of the history of redemption God’s promise to redeem through the Messiah is never pointed merely at individual salvation. The reformed tradition has made this clear in its dealing with the covenants of God.
I added the underlines, btw. Before we go any farther, I don't know anyone who would deny the first underlined part except for a few hard-core anti-reformational types. People would fall on a spectrum of whether God's glory is in the foreground, the middle-ground, the background, or perhaps God's glory is the overarching metaphysical ground -- but the idea that "God's mission" is to glorify Himself is, frankly, baseline Christian metaphysics.

The second underlined part there, though, is where the dust cloud sorta kicks up. And the problem is not the reformed stress in what it means that God calls a people out to himself: it is what Joe and Steve meanby applying that tradition.

The next part is pretty neutral:
In God’s first promise of redemption after the fall (Gen 3:15), hope is given to the human race. Somehow, through the woman’s offspring, Satan would be defeated and sin would be conquered (See Geerhadus Vos, pg 43). God later promised that through Abraham’s seed all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. This covenant would be made with all of Abraham’s spiritual offspring (Gen. 12, 15, 17; Gal. 3). Ultimately God’s promises of redemption always reveal a communal salvation and a creation-restoration.
Now, again -- that's a pretty reformed idea that Jesus didn't die just to save me (even if I do get saved overall). It's also a pretty reformed idea that God will restore creation. The problem, of course, is that these two things are not completed as parallel work. That is: God calls out the church through the proclamation of the Gospel in the course of time, but the renewal of "the heavens and the earth" isn't a like that.

Joe and Steve, I think, would disagree with that:
Concerning the restoration of the earth George Eldon Ladd said it this way,

The biblical idea of redemption always includes the earth. Hebrew thought saw an essential unity between man and nature. The prophets do not of the earth as merely the indifferent theater on which man carries out his normal task but as the expression of divine glory. The Old Testament nowhere holds forth the hope of a bodiless, nonmaterial, purely “spiritual” redemption as did Greek thought. The earth is the divinely ordained scene of human existence. Furthermore, the earth has been involved in the evils which sin has incurred. There is an interrelation of nature with the moral life of man; therefore the earth must also share in God’s final redemption.
George Ladd, The Presence of the Future
For some of you, a bell just rang, and for others of you, well, you need a tour guides here. George Eldon Ladd was a dispensationalist and a baptist who wrote some interesting -- and, I think, when you read it as he intended it -- useful theology on the meaning of the term "Kingdom of God" and how we are to think about that in this church age. The problem is that Ladd's work has been somewhat co-opted by the "Kingdom Now" guys for the sake of setting up the groundwork of dominion theology and/or theonomistic approaches to the church in the world.

Here is what I am NOT saying: I am NOT saying that Steve and Joe have drunk the dominion theology Kool-Aid. I am sure they are not throwing themselves into the Pat Robertson/Gary North right-wing of dispensational reconstructionism.

Here's what I am saying: they are making the same mistake to the left.

These are two obviously-bright guys who have and obviously-right heart about people and God. They want the Gospel to go out, and for it not to come back void, amen? So Joe and Steve are not bad guys. But in wanting to be faithful, and in not wanting to do what their forefathers in the faith have done, I think they are reacting against superficial problems rather than the root cause of their beef with SBC suit-and-tie types.

The problem is not that the SBC doesn't understand the command in James to not be hearers only of the Law but doers also: the problem is that the SBC has made the Law the Gospel in many ways, and has therefore transformed the communio sanctorum from God's work using God's means into men's work using men's means.

And as a word of advice to Joe and Steve, neither of whom are bad guys, let me suggest that changing the works from Gospel sings and passing laws against Gay marriage to, well, raves and passing laws against unkempt yards ... might as well just pass the resolution against alcohol, too, then. Meet the new boss: same as the old boss.

WORD OF CAUTION: I think it is conceivable that the rebuttal from Joe and Steve looks like this -- "dude, that is our point. The SBC is afraid to make superficial changes which will reach people, and that's wrong."

The problem is that this is not my point. My point is that there are fundamental problems in over-realized eschatology, both on the right and the left. I think we should stop quibbling about things like whether or not Lenexa, KS, has the same cultural environment as Miami, FL, and start worrying about whether or not anyone in either city has even encountered the Gospel. Hearing the Gospel proclaimed is not about putting it in the right fashion catalog. It is about whether or not the church itself has as its main focus a savior who transcends culture whose work is greater than aid.

More advice for iMonk

Sorry for the interruption. Don't take a job situated on the edge of a political knife; own the part of the displacement you have made for yourself. Right? I said that already.

Advice #3 is this: make sure you understand why you are working in the first place. You know something? I work for the paycheck. No offense to anybody, but if this was the 23rd century and we lived in the United Federation of Planets were replicators made everything we needed, I promise you I wouldn't be working in manufacturing. Not because Manufacturing is bad in some way, but because I'd rather read and blog. Sadly, blogging isn't the cash cow some people make it out to be, but in my non-blogging time I'm a pretty good leader and job coach -- and there's decent money in that.

I work for the money, and I hope for heaven's sake you do, too. If you work for the status, the "satisfaction", the "challenge", or any other non-money reason, I think the odds of you sleeping well at night are pretty low -- because those things are fleeting.

"Cent," you might say, "money is fleeting, too, don't you think?" Indeed, moth and rust and thieves and all that -- but the common experience is that money spends to a budget and you can know when the money is going to run out. You just have to have a paycheck come in before the money runs out. You can't possibly gage when status, "satisfaction", or any other apparently-lofty aspiration will run out.

The exception to this, such as it is, would be full-time ministry, and again: you should ask your questions clearly about that exception rather than expect me to run up 3 pages on the subject and bore the other readers with your inquisitiveness.

Work for the money. That means you should find a job that requires as much of you as you are willing to trade for the money. Realize that money can't buy back years of your marriage, or your kids' childhood, or your health. Work for the money, and keep money in its rightful place.

But if you find working for the money somehow base or uncouth, then if you choose to work for the status or the power or the admiration of others, work as if those things matter to you. For example, if you're a teacher, you prolly won't get rich. But you will get 35 years to influence the minds of young people. That's what you're working for: don't waste it.

Last one: Don't attach your personal worth to employment. Not to get too God-centered here, but if you're an adopted son of the God of the universe, and the One and Only Son of God has shed his blood for you, none of that happened in order that you can be president of the convention or CEO of the company: it happened for a purpose God has already established, so whether you get to be famous or homeless your worth is not a function of your performance. If you get walked out, rejoice. Hope in God.

I am sure the readers have other good advice, and I leave it to them to go ahead and give it. Cruel and stupid remarks will not be tolerated.

Advice for iMonk

The blogger formerly known as iMonk has asked the following:
One new development in my life, post sabbatical, is an increased possibility that I’ll lose my job.

This could happen in several ways. Even though I am respected, liked and have a great ministry here, political and administrative realities are there. A couple of scenarios are possible.

I could get fired for things I’ve written. Even though I’ve taken extraordinary steps to make my blogging a non-issue at my job, it is still controversial with some people, and some of the people who have been unhappy with it could decide I need to go.

Another is this: A major leadership change will happen in the next year and a half, and I am a likely person to be moved out under new leadership. (Fairly normal in SBC life.) I’m an old geezer in a job that increasingly belongs to 20-somethings.

Here’s today’s question: Have you ever been fired/pushed out from a real job? What did you do to regroup and move on? How did this event work into your personal journey?
As a person who has left several jobs under his own power and has also been relieved of duty, the first thing I can say about this situation is that whoever you are, that hasn't changed just because your job is at stake. Sometimes "they" are going to fire you because "they" are jerks; most often "they" are going to fire you because you were a jerk. I know this factually because most of the people I have seen relieved of duty have been walked out because they didn't do the things their job required.

My first piece of advice is this: "don't take a job which is situated on the edge of a political knife." You are far better served to be in a job where they will fire you if you can't or won't do the work than you would be in a job where they can fire you because you don't look good in the new t-shirt. I would say this especially in the case of ministry work -- and I know that seems to many people to be an impossible requirement. We could talk about that specifically if somebody had a question about that.

That's advice about regrouping, btw -- because it brings into focus what you're going to do for a living after they give you the empty box and the handshake.

My second piece of advice is this: "Own the part of the displacement you made for yourself." I have been fired by neglegent posterior-shielding people (who, themselves, also got fired), and in spite of their shortcomings there was a kernel of truth under the reasons they proffered for separating me from their payroll. So whatever I did that contributed objectively to their extremely-subjective judgment, I need to own that so I don't do that again for someone who, frankly, deserves better. It is possible that you didn't do anything -- that the company went belly up, or they really do make it cheaper someplace else. If that's the case, there's nothing to own except the reality that you need to choose an employer who really does make it cheaper, better, faster -- and they still exist in the US.

I have two more pieces of advice, but I have actual work to do today. Maybe I'll drop the balance after lunch.

For whatever it's worth

I feel like I'm about to return to blogging as an actual hobby again any time now, or else just keep slogging along as you 250-or-so die-hards keep stopping by and checking to see if I have any new graphics.

But seriously: if you want to read 4 books that are essentially blog that have been bound (and I mean that in a good way), you should pick up Mark Driscoll's new releases in the series "A book you'll actually read". Use the search bar on the left and type in "Mark Driscoll", and the titles are "on the Old Testament", "On the New Testament", "On Church Leadership", and "On Who is God?"

I promised Michelle at Crossway that I'd do reviews on these books, and I will later this week. But for now, suffice it to be a recommendation. The short form on these books is that if you have read any other Driscoll material, you have probably read all of these books someplace else; but the truth is that these books are better than tracts, and require you, the Christian, to engage the person you are handing pieces of paper to. They also look like you care more than handing someone a two-color glossy napkin does.

The rest you get when I write the reviews. In the meantime, go buy some.

Oh wait -- I also read the Keller book on God, I have the new edition of William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith, I am trying to finish Kauflin's book on Worship, and I covet your prayers about my professional situation.

So yeah: I'm prolly going to blog a little. Soon.


Great movie. Best line, from the Captain of the Axiom: "I don't want to survive: I want to live."

Irony: every kid who went to see WALL-E opening weekend got a free disposable watch.

You won't get that one until about 3 minutes into the movie. Apparently not all plactis junk is created equally.