Friday, May 23, 2008

Adrian Warnock Interviews John Piper

In a 4 part video series posted below, Adrian Warnock, the prolific, "reformed charismatic" UK blogger, interviews the rarely-interviewed John Piper, who is pastor of Bethelehem Baptist Church, a well-known author, and founder of Desiring God Ministries. Among other interesting questions and responses, Piper responds to a question about where does his passion in preaching come from.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Resources: The Theology Program and 2 New Podcasts

I am currently taking the Spring 2008 Introduction to Theology course provided by The Theology Program (TTP) of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. It's a program that describes itself as "a comprehensive and in-depth training program for the layperson". So far I have enjoyed the course, which personally I'm taking as a way of further exploring the idea of going to seminary.

However I believe most folks who take this course and enroll in TTP are not necessarily intending to enter seminary but nevertheless desire quality, seminary-level resources for learning theology. Thus far I have found the materials to be of excellent quality (downloaded videos and workbook, website resources). Course books must be purchased, although alternate free readings are offered to those who may not be able to afford the required textbooks. Each week, there are 2 online class sessions in which students interact with the instructor and with each other. Weekly assignments and comments are posted online and students may interact with one another's comments on the course blog. The course may be taken for free, or students may enroll in the more challenging certificate program. Certificate courses are $100 per course, and some scholarships are available. Successful completion of the series of six courses earns a certificate.

Instructors for the course are C. Michael Patton, Th.M, and Rhome Dyck, Th.M, both graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary. The aim of the program is to learn about theology historically and biblically, and to gain a methodology for the study of theology that is pursued in an irenic (peaceful), rather than a polemic fashion. Though Mr. Patton is a Calvinist and a cessationist, the program does not attempt to convert participants to these particular views. Rather, the course is about learning how to "do theology". As written on their website,

The contents of TTP are created from a broadly evangelical perspective, engaging other traditions in a persuasive yet gracious manner. In short, we seek to help people think theologically by understanding what they believe and why they believe it.

It has been quite interesting to interact online with others from varied backgrounds who are taking the course, and the weekly assignments and discussions are challenging in that they don't ask students just to regurgitate answers, but to thoughtfully engage with the material. of course the more time and effort one puts into the course work, the more benefit one will derive from the material.

My only frustrations (which may be more personal rather than problems with the course) is that the chat discussion sessions seem a bit superficial in their engagement with the material. I don't think it's easy in a chat room environment to stay focused on the material and not be distracted by all the extra commenting going on. My other frustration is with the broad, irenic approach that characterizes the program. On the one hand, I can see the benefit of this approach, in its openness to hear and engage all viewpoints. Having an accurate understanding of other viewpoints, even those one disagrees with, would help one to think through one's own positions better and develop more strongly considered convictions. On the other hand, I think it important to come to conclusions, and it seems that the irenic method may lend itself to the postmodern tendency of endless discussion and reluctance to point to what is true and to reject what is false. Nonetheless taking the course has been a good experience and I would recommend it especially to those who have no plans to attend seminary but want a structured, quality program for gaining a strong foundation in Christian theology.

The Program also emphasizes trying to bring this program into local churches, and persuades interested students to facilitate this process. Since many if not most churches don't provide systematic theological training, this program may be useful for helping laypeople learn theology. But I'm not yet entirely sure whether I think a program like this would be superior to one that teaches more didactically (from a reformed viewpoint).

New Podcasts/Players- "The Theology Program: Introduction to Theology Course" and "Best of Apologetics Podcast"

Having discovered a method for creating podcasts of audio materials posted on the web, I have created two new resources. One is an audio podcast of all the sessions from The Theology Programs- Introduction to Theology Course, which I described above. You'll find this resource at this link on my Netvibes page.

Also, under the Apologetics section here on Jordan's View, I've created a "Best of Apologetics Podcast Player", into which I'll regularly post Christian apologetics audio from a variety of sources.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Nephew's Commercial

Hey friends

My nephew Joshua (youngest son of my brother Daniel and sister-in-law Sheila) stars in this new commercial for Underjams! He's a great little guy, full of energy-- I think the commercial captures a bit of his real life personality-- although now he's looking older than in the commercial. I'm a proud uncle, of course. Also, his older sister, Lydia Jordan --is quite an accomplished actress... I think I'll need to do an interview with her here, just so I can keep up with all the projects she's been involved in so far!

Of course, my nephew Christopher, oldest of the three siblings, is quite impressive too-- he ponders physics (for fun), can solve the Rubik's cube, does magic tricks, and has done a fair amount of acting himself. It's a pleasure watching them all grow up so smart and accomplished (great job, Danny and Sheila!)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Responses to An Evangelical Manifesto

On May 7th 2008, a "representative group of Evangelicals in America" issued a statement titled "An Evangelical Manifesto: A Declaration of Evangelical Identity and Public Commitment", during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The conference and manifesto are their attempt to clarify the meaning of the term "Evangelical" and also to correct negative perceptions of the Evangelical movement. At the same time, the document challenges Evangelicals to follow a more Christ-like, "civil" way of pursuing common objectives. It encourages all who are of like mind about its analysis and prescriptions for Evangelicalism to demonstrate solidarity with its aims by signing the Manifesto.

At the press conference, Dr. Os Guinness, a chief architect of the document, spoke of its dual purpose, saying that the Manifesto is intended for two groups, "an internal audience calling for reformation of evangelicals", and an "external audience... a call to a re-thinking of the evangelical position in public life, and openly, a call for civility" in the "global public sphere". The Manifesto, written by a steering committee of nine, was signed by over 80 well-known evangelicals and is accumulating hundreds of other signatures, although some well-known Evangelicals such as Al Mohler, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Rick Warren have not signed.

The Manifesto has drawn mixed reactions from bloggers and columnists across the blogosphere and web. Several analyses, by journalists Alan Jacobs and Frank Pastore, and Christian blogger Dan Edelen (see links below), find little by way of practical application to be drawn from the statement, which they assess as too theoretical and not as direct, specific and focused as a manifesto ought to be.

Questioning "An Evangelical Manifesto"- Frank Pastore

A Show About Nothing- Dan Edelen

Come On, You Call This a Manifesto?- Alan Jacobs

Others, such as Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace (both professors at Dallas Theological Seminary), have been positive, citing the Manifesto's call to civility in the global public square, its humble tone and moderate prescriptions, as good, necessary steps towards recovering respect and credibility to the Evangelical movement. They would urge many to sign the document. Joe Carter, blogger of Evangelical Outpost also has signed the manifesto and has generally positive thoughts on it.

Darrell Bock: Why a Manifesto from Evangelicals? Why Now?- Darrell Bock

Evangelical Manifesto - Part 2- Daniel Wallace

I particularly resonated with the assessments of the manifesto made by Bill Muehlenberg and Albert Mohler (links below).

Both writers praise the analysis of issues that the manifesto gets right, yet also point out its weaknesses, especially noting its failure to give more specifics. For example, Mohler writes, "what the document never makes clear is how to hold to deep moral and political convictions, based in biblical principles, without running the danger of identification with a political agenda -- at least to some extent", and again, "The Manifesto is brave in calling for and end to 'culture warring' that threatens to unravel the society and shut down civil conversation and deliberation. But its bravery does not extend to any specific proposals about how this can be done."

Mohler, who has not signed the Manifesto, concludes his critique with the following words:
In the end, I must judge "An Evangelical Manifesto" to be too expansive in terms of public relations and too thin in terms of theology. I admire so much of what this document states and represents, but I cannot accept it as a whole. I want it to be even more theological, and to be far more specific about the Gospel. I agree with the framers that Evangelicals should be defined theologically, rather than politically, culturally, or socially. This document will have to be much more theological for it to accomplish its own stated purpose.

An Evangelical Manifesto: An Assessment

An Evangelical Response to "An Evangelical Manifesto" Albert Mohler

"An Evangelical Manifesto" -- Continuing the Conversation

Having now read the Manifesto through a couple of times and taken in various commentaries, I've come to some of the same conclusions as others. First, the Manifesto seems to be misnamed, as it lays out no strong, specific agenda for implementation of its purposes. Although it rightly decries politicization of the gospel, the document and surrounding press conference seemed mostly aimed at correcting the public image of Evangelicalism (a seemingly political or public relations endeavor). In a time when political correctness rules the media and an increasingly vocal secular influence strives to remove all vestiges of religious and particularly Christian influence from the public square, this document seems too accommodating to the times. The Christian gospel by its very nature is exclusive. It is also a call to repentance and is therefore offensive, a stumbling block to many. Yet the Manifesto seems more preoccupied with civility than with bold proclamation. Certainly the Manifesto affirms the basic truths of Christianity, yet its conciliatory and defensive tone is not inspiring, and its prescriptions seem to open the door to an inclusivism that will ultimately affect not only with whom we align ourselves, but also the content of the message. Like Mr. Mohler, I would have preferred that a Manifesto that declares that "Evangelicals should be defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally" would present a more theologically-based call to action. I am also concerned that evangelicals I admire for their sound theology are nowhere to be found on the list of signatories, but some about whom I would have theological concerns are.

For further information:

An Interview with Os Guinness about the Evangelical Manifesto

An article titled An Evangelical Manifesto by Matthew Kratz at The Truth Will Set You Free blog, does a fine job of quoting and summarizing the key points of the Manifesto.

Press Club and Interview photos about the Manifesto

Why Some Leaders Won't Sign the Evangelical Manifesto