Yes, Yes and Yes – Evangelicals PLEASE READ!

I whole heartedly agree with Roger Olson on this issue. Many disagree with Roger Olson (as I do on some issues) but he is a fine theologian and has written a great systematic called The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity. He also has a great blog which is always challenging, even when you disagree rogereolson.com. Below is a something which appears on Roger’s blog but I reproduce it here because some of you may not bother to click the link to Roger’s blog…

Here we go again. The self-appointed evangelical inquisitors are already attacking Rob Bell on the basis of a book not yet published. If accounts (e.g., at Christianity Today’s web site) are correct, critic Justin Taylor read some chapters of the book. However, to the best of my knowledge, he has not produced any direct quote from them that justifies the claim that Rob Bell has now adopted universalism. Apparently, according to the CT report, John Piper has twittered a “goodbye” to Bell–implying that he does not consider him an evangelical and maybe not a Christian. (Clarification should be forthcoming…I hope!)

It seems evangelicals just lurch from one controversy to another. One has not even died down yet when the same controversialists start up another one. Is this all they have to do?

I know, because I’ve been on the receiving end of it. A few years ago on of them (not named above) invented a quote and attributed it to me in an article he disseminated to the Baptist Press. It appeared in Southern Baptist state newspapers. I challenged him to produce the source of it and he could not. I asked for a retraction and he refused.

Another self-appointed evangelical inquisitor, heresy-hunter, claimed in print, in a book, that I believe, with some postliberals, that the Bible is history-like but not historical. I asked him to produce the source. He could not. At least he apologized and the book was withdrawn by the publisher.

Several self-appointed evangelical heresy-hunters have publicly listed me among the open theists. I have never espoused open theism. When I attempted to ask them about it, they did not even do me the courtesy of answering my letters.

The people I’m referring to are all part of the same network–publishing with the same publishers, meeting together, producing materials together, etc. Is there a conspiracy? Well, perhaps not a highly organized one, but certainly there is a network of neo-fundamentalist heresy-hunters out there who get their jollies out of jumping on everyone they suspect possibly guilty of some heterodox opinion. They reward each other for it.

When will someone with real influence across the evangelical movement stand up and say “Stop!”? At the very least–hold the fire until the book is published. You can’t judge a book by one or two chapters and you can’t judge a theologian by one book without at least having a conversation with him (if that’s possible).

Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment by Brian Godawa

Every movie we watch is espousing a world view whether we realize it or not. We may think that most of what HollyWood produces is trash, but for millions and millions of people around the world they are being feed a variety of world views which will have an influence upon them consciously or subconsciously.

HollyWood WorldViews is a great read. It challenges us to be people who see films for what they are: both entertainment and a form of story telling, as well as a vehicle for proclaiming specific worldviews. Brian Godawa, who himself is a screenwriter, implores us not to be cultural gluttons (just absorbing anything uncritically) nor cultural anorexics (not watching anything, or unable to enjoy anything) but people who are able to enjoy good story telling, good entertainment, and at the same time understanding WHAT we are watching and the worldview it promotes.

The book is a wonderful exposition of film and its genres from a Christian perspective. If you love films then this will be a fruitful read for you as you learn to appreciate them even more clearly, but even better, giving you the skills to talk about films in a way that might promote the ultimate worldview – that of Christ and him crucified.

If on the other hand you HATE Hollywood, this will be an eye opening book for you. It will give you the tools to be more informed in a medium that has incredible influence in our world today.

Highly recommended!

I Hate Powerpoint…

… because most powerpoint presentations are just plain bad, especially when used in church for preaching. So I whole heartedly agree with Alan Kurschner’s analysis of why Powerpoint for sermons is a waste of time and effort. Read it HERE

Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ by John MacArthur

John MacArthur is coming to Charleston shortly to speak at a local Church and so I thought I would check out his new book. I have not read all of it, but MacArthur is writing about the fact that the word ‘slave’ has been removed from the english translations, using instead the more tamer word ‘servant.’

It’s interesting that MacArthur thinks that this is a new discovery. This is something I was being taught in the early 90’s. In fact one of the most impressive Bible Teachers I have ever heard is also one of the least known. Roger Price, a pastor from England in the 80’s is one of the most amazing teachers of scripture I have ever heard. I DRUNK in the ministry tapes he produced. Between 1974 and 1986, he recorded approximately 280 Bible studies on audio cassette tape in the context of providing teaching for his own local church and for those he visited during the course of his ministry. They comprised a course of 100 Basic Bible Studies, about 150 Special Topic Studies, studies relating to church life and instruction for local church elders, etc. He always maintained that the teaching of the principles of the Word of God provided a ‘springboard’ for people to search out more truth for themselves. And in those tapes I heard things which still drive my theology today. You can see his inventory of teaching HERE and you can buy his CD’s / MP3’s HERE.

Roger Price taught that Slave was not used enough in the scriptures.

Also, it would appear that MacArthur has not picked up the NET Bible. The NET Bible has corrected some of MacArthur’s laments about English Translations lack of use of slave. Here are some examples…

Matt. 25:21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Rom. 1:1   From Paul a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Col. 1:7 You learned the gospel from Epaphras, our dear fellow slave faithful minister of Christ on our behalf

2Tim. 2:24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient…

All in all, I think it is useful for MacArthur to resurrect this issue for a new generation that others have taught so faithfully in the past.

The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus by Mark Labberton

Although we have heard it many times and it may even sound a little trite, what would happen to us if we began to look at people as Jesus looks at them? What would happen to our compassion and empathy and emotions? What would happen to our time? What endeavors would we pour our energy into if every time we looked at someone, whether a friend, acquaintance or even an enemy and we looked at them as Jesus would look at them?

This is a profoundly challenging book – at least it was for me. And it is a book that really cannot be rushed. Indeed the author suggests that you spend not a few hours but maybe a few days in reflection between each chapter. I am always skeptical when an author says that, but I actually found myself unable to move on because of some of the emotions that were stirred up in me. Not that the book seeks to be emotional. It is just that some of the stories just hit home.

Each chapter is really a meditation with intermittent reflections throughout which encourage you to pause and ponder.

This book is about changing the heart. Not by doing something, or trying harder, but by allowing Christ to transform us into people with Christ centered hearts. Of course this is a life long journey and is not resolved at the end of the book. But like all things which challenge us on a godly level, you will be left at the end of reading this saying, “I want to do that – I want to be like that”.

Highly Recommended.

Do You Know Christians Like This? Or Maybe You Are One….

What is a crusty christian?

For starters, it’s an attitude. It’s a demeanor where being Calvinist or paedobaptist or inerrantist (three things I am gladly) are put on like armor or wielded like weapons, when they are meant to be the warm glow of a Christian whose core radiates with love for Christ and the gospel. I believe in theological distinctives—I believe in them and I believe it is good to have them—but if the distinctives are not manifestly the flower of gospel root, the buds aren’t worth the blooming.

A second mark of crusty Christians is approachability, as in, not having any. There is a sizing up-ness that makes some theological types unnecessarily prickly. They are bright and opinionated and quickly analytical. They can also be incessantly critical. Crusty Christians are hard to be around. They are intimidating instead of engaging and growling instead of gracious. They are too willing to share their opinions on everything and unable to put any doctrine in any category not marked “absolutely essential.”
—Kevin DeYoung, “The Crust and the Core,” in The Good News We Almost Forgot (Moody, 2010)
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Reclaiming The Old Testament For Christian Preaching Edited by Kent, Kissling and Turner

This really is a gem of a book. The Old Testament is becoming more and more neglected in the preaching of the church. When I was in seminary in the mid 90’s I did a project amongst some random evangelical Churches asking them how often they preached from the Old Testament. The end results were that the Old Testament had only 15-25% exposure in preaching plans.

Reclaiming The Old Testament For Christian Preaching will not just encourage you to give more space to the Old Testament in your preaching plans, but for many it will provide a wealth of information, advice and informed understanding in approaching the Old Testament. Contributors to this book include Daniel Block, Tremper Longman III, Gordon Wenham and Christopher Wright tackle issues such as Preaching Ezekiel, Preaching from the Law and Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. I specially enjoyed and appreciated Christopher Wright’s excellent chapter on Preaching From The Law.

This really is a book for all who have a teaching role in the church, but especially for those who regularly occupy the pulpit. If all scriptures are useful for teaching then we need to give the Old Testament 50% of our preaching schedules. And this book is a wonderful polemic as to why and how we should.

Highly recommended.

Juxtapositional Irony? Rubbish!

I heard a phrase while I listened to a talk yesterday, which I had never heard before, and which was used to prove an alternative reading of Acts 6 – Juxapositional Irony. Outside of the preacher, i am not sure the word, or phrase exists, but this preacher used the phrase to argue that Luke, in Acts 6, is using juxtapositional irony to make a point. And the point is that when the Apostles choose the ‘seven’ men to wait tables and distribute food in order for them to retreat into being ‘important’ (note the preachers irony and what he think about that decision) God said, “OK, we will see about that, while you are retreating into your ‘importance’ to pray and preach, I think Stephen and Philip are quite cool and I am going to bless them and use them.” The preacher also argued that the word Diaconate, where we get the word Deacon from also means slave. That is not accurate: diakoneo, dee-ak-on-eh´-o; means to be an attendant, i.e. wait upon (menially or as a host, friend, or (figuratively) teacher). If Luke wanted to convey the idea of ‘slave’ he would have used the word doulos which conveys the idea of both servant and slave – Paul uses it at the beginning of Romans.

The rest of the sermon was a good message and the end was particularly challenging. It was sad that the preacher decided to put this section in. To suggest that the Apostles were being pompous in their thinking that they are more important, and that God showed them otherwise by blessing these menial servants, is somewhat bizarre. Rather than opening up the text, it simply seemed to be a rant against pompous forms of leadership who have used Acts 6 to elevate leaders above administrators in terms of importance. While I am sympathetic with that, this piece of ‘exegesis’, or probably more accurately ‘eisexgesis’ did not enhance his message and probably did it more damage.