Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christ in you: The Greatest Christmas Gift of All

Today of course is Christmas Eve and many of us are eagerly looking forward to getting together today or tomorrow for happy moments with our families, exchanging gifts and enjoying hearty food, basking in all the abundance God so richly provides. Others are not so fortunate; they may have no one to celebrate this day with, and perhaps don't even feel much like celebrating. And perhaps because they are lonely or feel disconnected from family, the holiday season for them brings on sadness.

Pray today for the lonely ones; lift them up to the Lord. And if you can do more, like inviting a lonely one to your gathering, dropping off gifts at a homeless shelter or serving a meal to the hungry, why not do it?

As I celebrate later tonight with my family, I will try to enjoy all the blessings of family itself-- to have loved ones you can be with is far more precious than whether or not we can lavish one another with gifts, or whether the time together is a successful social occasion. How easy it can be to get all wrapped up (pun intended) in gift-giving and merriment, and lose sight of deeper blessings.

Yet though having family and friends to celebrate with is a truly wonderful blessing, the true riches of Christmas go beyond our natural families and loved ones. At the heart of Christmas, after all, we are celebrating the entry of Christ into human history, the God who loved this world so much that He became one of us, lived with us and died for us, to take away our sins (Matthew 1:21, 1 John 3:5).

Do we recognize this? If Christ does not take away our sins, what are we to do with them? One may object, "but I am not so bad! I may not be perfect, but I do many good things. My good outweighs my bad. God will accept me"

Perhaps your good deeds do outweigh your bad. But is this the basis upon which God evaluates our lives? Why then did Christ come into the world and deliberately die upon a cross, as the many prophecies recorded in Scripture hundreds of years earlier predicted He would? Jesus' death on a cross was no accident. It was not God's reactive plan to a world gone wrong. God planned before the foundation of the world to bring spiritual blessings to His chosen ones. To believers the Scriptures declare,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1: 3-10)

The provision of redemption through Christ's blood (shed at the cross of Calvary), the forgiveness of sins (paid for by His death at Calvary), fulfills God's eternally conceived purpose. It is a purpose that expresses God's lavish grace, wisdom and insight, one which will culminate in the uniting of all things in Christ, things on heaven and things on earth.

Is this really true? If it is then God's great Christmas present is to save people from the consequences of their sins and make them into His children, in fulfillment of the plan He made long ago. Let us not miss the greatest, most critical gift of all, God's own son, the One who alone can save us from sin.

There's more to life than family and presents and earthly blessings, lovely as these are. Sin keeps us apart from God. Sin will keep us from being part of God's family and living with Him in His heaven, where all gifts are perfect and never-ending. As Scripture declares, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9-10).

There is no greater Christmas present we can receive than to humbly recognize that Jesus became a human baby, grew up into a man and lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father, and then died in our place upon the cross, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). He performed what we could not do-- we cannot rid ourselves of our sin, nor as weak and sinful human beings can we live in such a way as to meet God's standards of holiness. Jesus' perfect obedience and His death on the cross justify us before God, as we by faith put our trust in Jesus as our substitute. And "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Receive today the greatest Christmas gift ever given-- the gift of eternal life through Christ. No gift on earth can be compared to it. This salvation is what every one of us truly needs, more than any earthly gift.

Receive the real gift of Christmas-- Christ in you (Romans 8:10-11).

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks to the God of all Blessing

Al Mohler has written an excellent reflection on the topic of thanksgiving. He points out that "giving thanks is one of the most explicitly theological acts any human can contemplate." On Thanksgiving Day in America, who are we giving thanks to, if we don't acknowledge God as the foundation of human blessings?

We may be thankful to one another, but do our friends and family provide us life, health, jobs, food or houses to live in? If God is not behind the universe then who do we thank for such blessings? Ourselves? Luck? Fate?

In my family we have had a tradition in the past few years of writing on little slips of paper those things we are especially thankful for and sharing these with one another. It's a good thing to do and it convicts me of how thank-less I sometimes am for the everyday blessings that come to me through family. Often I take for granted these blessings that come through those close to me. But this year I hope that as I give thanks for all my blessings I'll remember the One behind them all-- for when I bless you or you bless me, we are only ministering back to God the blessing He's given to us.

My friend Rick wishes this Thanksgiving, for himself and others, a thankful heart, one that recognizes God's good and loving hand in all things. I agree-- it's hard, even for Christians, to be thankful for bad circumstances, trials and sufferings unless we really acknowledge God as being in control and working through all things (Romans 8:28).

Someday it will be revealed that our acts of kindness to one another were all done unto God, by His grace alone (Matthew 25:40, 1 Cor 8:6, John 3:21).

Psalm 65: 1-4 reads

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Change We Really Don't Need

I could try to write my own piece on why "ObamaCare" does not offer the short and long-term reform of health care this country really needs. But I'm certainly no expert on this very complex topic. Yet there is no shortage of experts who are analyzing the proposed health care reform package known as Obamacare and find its proposals to be bad for the pocketbook, bad for freedom, and ironically, bad for health care. For example, Jeffrey Flier, dean of Harvard Medical School, offers a compelling analysis of the current health care reform in a recent article, "Health 'Reform' Gets a Failing Grade".

Flier first summarizes the problems in the current system:

Our health-care system suffers from problems of cost, access and quality, and needs major reform. Tax policy drives employment-based insurance; this begets overinsurance and drives costs upward while creating inequities for the unemployed and self-employed. A regulatory morass limits innovation. And deep flaws in Medicare and Medicaid drive spending without optimizing care.

His article points out that the proposed "reform" is no reform at all. It seems the primary achievement anticipated from Obama's package is that millions more people will be added to a dysfunctional health care system. It will neither make health care better nor less costly, yet by over regulating, will stifle innovation. He explains:

In discussions with dozens of health-care leaders and economists, I find near unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape, the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it. Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care's dysfunctional delivery system.

The system we have now promotes fragmented care and makes it more difficult than it should be to assess outcomes and patient satisfaction. The true costs of health care are disguised, competition based on price and quality are almost impossible, and patients lose their ability to be the ultimate judges of value.

Worse, currently proposed federal legislation would undermine any potential for real innovation in insurance and the provision of care. It would do so by overregulating the health-care system in the service of special interests such as insurance companies, hospitals, professional organizations and pharmaceutical companies, rather than the patients who should be our primary concern.

In effect, while the legislation would enhance access to insurance, the trade-off would be an accelerated crisis of health-care costs and perpetuation of the current dysfunctional system— now with many more participants. This will make an eventual solution even more difficult. Ultimately, our capacity to innovate and develop new therapies would suffer most of all.

Mr. Flier argues that many he has spoken are fully aware that although this health care package brings down the number of uninsured, the system will require drastic long-term reforms in the way health care is organized and funded. Indeed, he writes, he has "met many people for whom this strategy is conscious and explicit"-- in other words, they know the current package doesn't accomplish true reform of the health care system but are willing to vote for it as a means of beginning the process of reform. Flier concludes that the American public should be made explicitly aware of this strategy, saying, "We should not be making public policy in such a crucial area by keeping the electorate ignorant of the actual road ahead."

Michael D. Tanner of the Cato Institute has also critically analyzed the current health care reform package in brief but informative articles such as "Obamacare to Come: Seven Bad Ideas for Health Care Reform", "Halfway to Where? Answering the Key Questions of Health Care Reform" and "The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World".

Among Tanner's conclusions:
  • Contrary to the Obama administration's repeated assurances, millions of Americans who are happy with their current health insurance will not be able to keep it. As many as 89.5 million people may be dumped into a government-run plan.
  • Some Americans may find themselves forced into a new insurance plan that no longer includes their current doctor.
  • At a time of rising unemployment, the government would raise the cost of hiring workers by requiring employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee (tax) to subsidize government coverage.
  • Every American would be required to buy an insurance policy that meets certain government requirements. Even individuals who are currently insured — and happy with their insurance — will have to switch to insurance that meets the government's definition of "acceptable insurance."
  • Americans will pay more than $820 billion in additional taxes over the next 10 years, and could see their insurance premiums rise as much as 95 percent.
  • The current health care bills will increase the budget deficit by at least $239 billion over the next 10 years, and far more in the years beyond that. If the new health care entitlement were subject to the same 75-year actuarial standards as Social Security or Medicare, its unfunded liabilities would exceed $9.2 trillion.
  • While the bills contain no direct provisions for rationing care, they nonetheless increase the likelihood of government rationing and interference with how doctors practice medicine.
  • Contrary to assertions of some opponents, the bills contain no provision for euthanasia or mandatory end-of-life counseling. The bills' provisions on abortion coverage are far murkier.
Looking at countries with nationalized health care systems, Tanner points out that theses systems have serious problems and should not be the model for America. Though per capita expenditures for health care may be less, the following troubling facts are also true:

  • Health insurance does not mean universal access to health care. In practice, many countries promise universal coverage but ration care or have long waiting lists for treatment.
  • Rising health care costs are not a uniquely American phenomenon. Although other countries spend considerably less than the United States on health care, both as a percentage of GDP and per capita, costs are rising almost everywhere, leading to budget deficits, tax increases, and benefit reductions.
  • In countries weighted heavily toward government control, people are most likely to face waiting lists, rationing, restrictions on physician choice, and other obstacles to care.
  • Countries with more effective national health care systems are successful to the degree that they incorporate market mechanisms such as competition, cost sharing, market prices, and consumer choice, and eschew centralized government control.
Tanners also finds that in these countries "the broad and growing trend is to move away from centralized government control and to introduce more market-oriented features."

Conservative commentator Chuck Norris (yes, that Chuck Norris) also has contributed a helpful article, "6 Reasons Obama-Care Is Bad Medicine. "

Norris shows that unnecessarily rushed policy-making, hugely increased deficits, greater burden on the American taxpayer, creation of more inefficient, expensive Federal bureaucracy, stifling of competition and innovation are all solid reasons to reject Obamacare. Unfortunately with a Democratic majority in Congress and the mad rush to pass this legislation, Americans may very well end up with a "reformed" system that brings us further along the road to socialism and at the same time does little to improve the quality or expense of health care.

Get educated and make your voice heard-- tell your Senator you don't want ObamaCare! Join with the many organizations fighting on behalf of the unborn who are therefore also fighting hard to keep Congress from passing versions of this legislation that include hugely expanded abortion coverage at taxpayer expense.

Further resources
Americans United for Life
Ideas for Free-Market Health Reform
Susan B. Anthony List
10 Reasons ObamaCare Is Bad for Your Health and Your Pocketbook
Defend Your Health Care

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Blips on the Blogosphere 22

One writer and theologian I have turned to consistently for his reliable counsel concerning biblical spirituality is Pastor Bob DeWaay. Pastor DeWaay has been alerting readers for some time now about American evangelicalism's love affair with New Age spirituality, and how Eastern spirituality has been making inroads into the American church because of the church's biblical illiteracy, its lackadaisical attitude towards doctrine and its drifting away from the principles the great Reformers fought so hard to make known.

One article that caught my attention and I have re-read several times was especially interesting in the DeWaay strongly, but in a non-combative tone, confronts what he views as serious errors in the teachings on biblical spirituality of well-known writer and Reformed professor Don Whitney. Being familiar with Mr. Whitney's writings and his status in the reformed community, I was at first surprised to see such a critique.

But having read Pastor DeWaay's strong arguments, I am persuaded that he makes a solid case for his position that only spiritual practices God has expressly ordained in His word (the "means of grace", such as prayer, the Word and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper), are to be enjoined. DeWaay writes,
Since Scripture alone reveals how we come to God and grow in God, then Scripture alone must reveal sanctifying practices... so Whitney is out of bounds to tell us we must do certain things that are not in the Bible if we want to achieve godliness on no other grounds than he said so.

Writing with evident passion Mr. DeWaay begins the article by stressing that he does think Dr. Whitney gets the gospel right. However, he thinks that Whitney is getting into serious error by enjoining God's people to spiritual practices not specifically commanded in Scripture. Thus Whitney's teaching on spiritual practices becomes akin to erroneous Roman Catholic teaching about grace coming by works, rather than the Reformed principle that says the grace God gives is what enables His people to do works. This is very alarming, says DeWaay, as "Scripture alone and grace alone are compromised— if not rejected outright— when spiritual disciplines are adopted."

I think DeWaay's warning to the Church is very timely and needs to be heeded. I highly recommend the article, which is titled, "Donald Whitney and Spiritual Disciplines--Spirituality Without Boundaries."

Other articles along these lines that DeWaay has written include his latest commentary, "Oprah Winfrey Promotes Pantheist Eckhart Tolle- How Biblically Illiterate America is Being Deceived" and also "Contemporary Christian Divination- The False Claims and Practices of Christian Mystics".


Recently, "An Evening of Eschatology" discussion moderated by John Piper took place at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis. Billed as "The Meaning of the Millennium", the event was a discussion of various millennial views among John Piper, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church and popular author), Jim Hamilton (professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville), Sam Storms (pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City), and Doug Wilson (pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho).

The various views discussed were:

Premillennialism (represented by Jim Hamilton-- and shared by Piper): The return of Christ happens before (pre-) the thousand-year reign of Christ, which is a reign of the risen Christ on the earth.

Amillennialism (represented by Sam Storms): The return of Christ happens after the thousand-year reign, a reign that occurs in heaven, in the intermediate state, and not upon the earth. Those who have died in faith and entered into the presence of Christ share his rule and reign during the current church age in which we now live.

Postmillennialism (represented by Doug Wilson): The return of Christ happens after (post-) the thousand-year reign, which corresponds to the Christian age, and the reign of Christ from heaven leads the church to triumph by and through the gospel to such an extent that the Great Commission will be successfully fulfilled, and the Christian faith will pervade all the cultures of all the nations of men. All Christ's enemies will be subdued in this way, with the exception of death, which he will destroy by his coming.

At the Desiring God website, one can listen, watch or download the discussion for free.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How Christians Really Change the World

I just came upon an excellent and articulate essay titled, RELIGIOUS RIGHT R.I.P. by Cal Thomas that was posted November 5, 2008, just as President Barack Obama had been elected.

Mr. Thomas argues that Christians wanting to make a deep, long-lasting impact upon our culture must not make their primary focus and effort the attainment of political power, but should instead live out truly Christian lives before all, as in the revivals of yesteryear which history proves did bring radical change to our nation. This is a much needed reminder, for though in these days of Obama we rightly are alarmed over the direction this country seems to be headed, it is a mistake to focus all of our energies on political solutions if we neglect the most effective agent of changing the human heart-- the transforming power of the gospel in the life of individuals, which in turn impacts culture at large.

I am not saying Christians should completely extricate themselves from politics; in fact living as faithful Christians means that we as a community must continue to speak out on the moral issues facing this country by defending and applying biblical values and principles. Yet in his essay Mr. Thomas makes the excellent point that even when evangelicals attain the positions of power, this does not and has not of itself transformed the heart of the culture. Only God can do that. He does it by transforming individuals into His likeness, that they might become an example that shines its powerful light in the midst of the prevailing darkness.

I urge you to read his thoughtful essay, which appears below, or click the link to be taken to Mr. Thomas' website.


When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, he will do so in the 30th anniversary year of the founding of the so-called Religious Right. Born in 1979 and midwifed by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Religious Right was a reincarnation of previous religious-social movements that sought moral improvement through legislation and court rulings. Those earlier movements — from abolition (successful) to Prohibition (unsuccessful) — had mixed results.

Social movements that relied mainly on political power to enforce a conservative moral code weren’t anywhere near as successful as those that focused on changing hearts. The four religious revivals, from the First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s to the Fourth Great Awakening in the late 1960s and early ’70s, which touched America and instantly transformed millions of Americans (and American culture as a result), are testimony to that.

Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed. The question now becomes: should conservative Christians redouble their efforts, contributing more millions to radio and TV preachers and activists, or would they be wise to try something else?

I opt for trying something else.

Too many conservative Evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture. The futility inherent in such misplaced faith can be demonstrated by asking these activists a simple question: Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. Why, then, would conservative Evangelicals expect people who do not share their worldview and view of God to accept their beliefs when they control government?

Too many conservative Evangelicals mistake political power for influence. Politicians who struggle with imposing a moral code on themselves are unlikely to succeed in their attempts to impose it on others. What is the answer, then, for conservative Evangelicals who are rightly concerned about the corrosion of culture, the indifference to the value of human life and the living arrangements of same- and opposite-sex couples?

The answer depends on the response to another question: do conservative Evangelicals want to feel good, or do they want to adopt a strategy that actually produces results? Clearly partisan politics have not achieved their objectives. Do they think they can succeed by committing themselves to 30 more years of the same?

If results are what conservative Evangelicals want, they already have a model. It is contained in the life and commands of Jesus of Nazareth. Suppose millions of conservative Evangelicals engaged in an old and proven type of radical behavior. Suppose they followed the admonition of Jesus to “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and care for widows and orphans,” not as ends, as so many liberals do by using government, but as a means of demonstrating God’s love for the whole person in order that people might seek Him?

Such a strategy could be more “transformational” than electing a new president, even the first president of color. But in order to succeed, such a strategy would not be led by charismatic figures, who would raise lots of money, be interviewed on Sunday talk shows, author books and make gobs of money.

Scripture teaches that God’s power (if that is what conservative Evangelicals want and not their puny attempts at grabbing earthly power) is made perfect in weakness. He speaks of the tiny mustard seed, the seemingly worthless widow’s mite, of taking the last place at the table and the humbling of one’s self, the washing of feet and similar acts and attitudes; the still, small voice. How did conservative Evangelicals miss this and instead settle for a lesser power, which in reality is no power at all? When did they settle for an inferior “kingdom”?

Evangelicals are at a junction. They can take the path that will lead them to more futility and ineffective attempts to reform culture through government, or they can embrace the far more powerful methods outlined by the One they claim to follow. By following His example, they will decrease, but He will increase. They will get no credit, but they will see results. If conservative Evangelicals choose obscurity and seek to glorify God, they will get much of what they hope for, but can never achieve, in and through politics.

(Direct all MAIL for Cal Thomas to: Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Readers may also e-mail Cal Thomas at


Friday, October 23, 2009

"Get to Work" - The Impact of Goverment Health Care on the Next Generation

A humorous video from FRC (Family Research Council) on the burden the current health reform package (in terms of debt) will pass on to future generations. "There's no free ride with a government-run health care system."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Blog A Day...OK so I'm Not Tim Challies

Well I didn't blog yesterday so I've already messed up a nice 4 day streak of consecutive blogging. I was going along so well... I was like, this is easy, this daily blogging thing. OK, so I guess I just was trying too hard to be... Tim Challies (you know, the Reformed Christian guy who never ever misses a day of blogging).

But maybe Tim Challies wasn't always "Tim Challies" either, you know? I mean maybe he worked his way up to becoming such a power blogger. Maybe he started out blogging consecutively for a few days straight, then missed a day (like other mortals), then made a longer streak the next time round, and so on, until finally he started blogging like a machine and became "Tim Challies, Überblogger"... I know, who am I kidding, right? Tim Challies has been probably blogging daily since he popped out of the womb with a laptop.

Anyway, so I missed a day but I'm making up for it now by posting this silly little trifle of a blog article. I'll try again tomorrow.

Actually I'm working on something thoughtful, about whether attending seminary is really worthwhile. So y'all come back now, ya hear?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blips on the Blogosphere 21

Now that I am back to blogging, by God's grace, I would like to try to post something "new" every day.

Here on Jordan's View my preference has been to offer fresh, original content, but I need to be realistic-- given my current situation and schedule I know I won't be able to post something original every single day.

But there's much of spiritual benefit out there in the Christian blogosphere, and if I can point you to some of these outstanding reformed resources, there's no need for me to be the one providing the content.

So without further adieu, I offer you my latest edition of Blips on the Blogosphere.

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller, Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford
Nathan Pitchford has written a insightful review of what seems to be a wonderful new book by Tim Keller (By the way, I am quite impressed with Mr. Pitchford-- I don't know where he comes up with the time to write all the books and reviews and poems and articles that he does, and on top of that, his writing is writing is so mature for such a young dude. Seeing the example of guys like that is partly why I am pushing myself to be more disciplined in my output... Anyway, getting back to the book review).

I remember Tim Keller from his early days in New York City, since I live in New York and attended church in Manhattan for many years (right now we attend a church in Bayside, Queens). I used to visit Redeemer Presbyterian in its fledgling early days. Mr. Keller's intellectual, yet friendly style soon became a big draw. He had an uncanny way of making the gospel relevant to New Yorkers. In this city of dreams Mr. Keller often visited the theme of false "idols in the heart". So it's one he's been expertly preaching on for years, and one reason I'm eager to pick up this new book.

I Guess That's My Answer by James White
OK, so I admit I like to watch James White and Ergun Caner go at it. White is a reformed apologist and Caner president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Caner is rabidly against Calvinism, while White is a reformed, Calvinist apologist who seems to relish a good debate. They were supposed to debate a few years ago but it never took place and both sides blamed the other for the debate never materializing. Anyhow their latest skirmish is that James White asked that Ergun Caner back up his claim to have debated over 60 Muslims. Personally I think it's a reasonable request.

The Treasure of Biblical Contentment- active rest in the sovereignty of God by Steve Camp
Steve Camp is one of the bloggers who helped me "reform". I stumbled ("accidentally") upon his blog a few years ago and his writings made a lot of sense to me but I was trying to figure out where he was coming from and found out that he was reformed. So that was one of the things that led me into investigating reformed theology and the rest, as they say, is history. Today I would call myself reformed since I am one who strongly believes in the "doctrines of grace". Of course, some have a more stringent definition of what it means to be "truly reformed". But I digress. Anyway, I really appreciate the seriousness with which Steve approaches blogging. He is dedicated to preaching a reformed gospel, to defending sound doctrine and being totally biblical n the process. His latest post is typical Steve: biblical exhortation with a pastoral heart.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Knowing Revelation: Return to Your First Love

At my church today, pastor Ed Moore preached the first message in what will be a series of messages he plans to teach from the book of Revelation. Our pastor humbly admitted that his knowledge of eschatology (the study of last things) has been a weak area in his preaching ministry. Yet he also said he has been doing his homework in order to remedy this gap in his knowledge, and that he might preach more wisely and effectively in this area. He recognizes that such study is biblically important and will be profitable to the congregation.

Ed began his sermon by pointing out that many who have taught on this book in recent years use the book as a launching pad for their wildly speculative prophetic interpretations. Such persons have read Revelation as pertaining to today's current events and feel free to interpret the figurative language used in much of the book as being about events happening right now or about imminent future events. Some have gone as far as to make exact predictions concerning the date of Christ's return. Ed pointed out that the only consistent thing about such predictions has been one thing --they have all been wrong-- Christ did not return as predicted.

So while fear of getting it wrong and looking foolish before others have been reasons for some of the hesitancy to preach sermons in this area, our pastor seemed to say that this was not a good excuse and that he would no longer neglect this important subject.

I resonate with my pastor as he speaks about eschatology. I too have felt very ignorant in my knowledge in this area, perhaps intimidated by those I've read and heard that seemed to speak so authoritatively on the topic. When I became a Christian in the early 1980's one of the books the Lord happened to use to help me consider the Christian message was the late 1970's bestseller "The Late Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsay. Lindsay captured my imagination because he wrote that all of what is happening today was predicted in the Bible and is currently being fulfilled. He painted a picture of a God intimately involved in the outworking of current events, One who might return at any moment to rapture His followers. God used this imperfect book to prompt me to consider the Bible more closely and to recognize that the Bible has relevance to life today. Now having been a Christian for more than 25 years, I still believe God is intimately involved in the unfolding of all events, and that He could return at any time (for surely this is what the Bible teaches). But I am today skeptical of the kind of prophetic writing presented in books such as Late Great Planet Earth, which seem more an exercise in human speculation than an accurate interpretation of Scripture.

So here's the thing: God can use what truth is found in books such as Late Great Planet Earth, flawed as they may be, to help a person to come to know Him. Yet as we continue in our Christian lives, God expects our knowledge of Him to mature, our theology to become more accurate, and most of all, our love for Him to deepen.

Ed's message on Revelation reminded me of a wonderful yet fearful truth: God knows my works. He knows whether I am growing in the accuracy of my understanding of Him. He knows the kind of job I am doing at work, whether I represent Him well and with integrity there. He knows whether or not I am a good husband and all of my strengths and weaknesses as head of my household. Yet when He judges me, there's one question of highest priority in His evaluation: is He still my first love? Do I still love God more than I love all other things in this life? Do I have a daily affection and a passion for Him? Do I really know Him in a personal way, or do I just know things about Him?

How easy it is to lose sight of this all-important priority-- that Jesus remains one's first love, and that one continues to rely on Him alone as one's daily Bread, sustenance, and only source of true Life.

So I still think studying eschatology is important-- for we ought to know what the Bible says is happening and is going to happen, that we may live correctly now. And improving my theology is also critical-- God's greatest commandment to the believer, after all, includes loving Him with all of the mind. Which means that the knowledge of God that comes through the mind must be accurate-- lest I be in danger of not serving and worshiping God as He truly is, but rather, a god of my imagination. Yet how easy it is, even as one pursues such good things as proper knowledge of eschatology or theology, to lose one's first love.

It happened to the Ephesian church, in Revelation 2, whom Christ had commended both for being hard-workers and for being theologically astute. Nevertheless, He said, they had lost their "first love" and He told them they must repent, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first (Rev 2:5)."

As my pastor points out, this exhortation is dealing with something very serious-- the very salvation of one's soul is at stake. For Jesus promises, "To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev 2:7)"

So we see this is serious business. Allegiance to Christ means to love and obey Him, (John 14:15,23) and to love Him means to value Him more than all other things (John 21:15, Matt 10:37), and what we treasure is (and will be) revealed by our actions (Matt 6:21). And the Lord sees all, and knows our hearts better than we do (John 2:25, Gen 16:13).

All of this makes me fearful, I must admit, for I know that there is much sin that remains in me. But it makes me all the more cry out to the Lord for help and mercy and grace, that I may become and be what He has chosen me to be.

I also happened today upon a very helpful article, "Notes on Our Ongoing Need of Redemption as Christians" by my friend John Hendryx of I consider John a friend, though we haven't ever met face-to-face. But we have interacted and chatted occasionally via our mutual involvement in web ministry. In the past, John was also kind enough to link from to some articles here on knowing God's will. He also linked to this blog and to my Netvibes website. For this I consider him a friend.

His article points out that as one progresses in the Christian life, one's consciousness of the deep sinfulness that remains in the heart becomes ever more acute, and this might cause someone to feel great guilt, to the point of even doubting their salvation. But John points out that such conviction is actually a normal part of Christian growth. He writes,

In light of God’s holy law I saw myself as, not getting better, but increasingly aware of my own sinfulness. But as it turns out, while this “classroom” revealed my own corrupt heart yet it was for my own benefit so the Lord could shine a light on once dark recesses of my being which were not previously exposed. I learned from this that inwardly, as we grow in grace, the greatness of God (and what Christ has done for us) increases in our hearts, while we become less. In fact it is normal that as we grow in the Lord our sense of our own sinfulness and ill-deserving lives may often even become more apparent. However, at the same time, this is in the Lord's plan and He uses it to make us simultaneously more dependent on Christ. And thanks be to God, that in Christ, God does not treat us as our sins justly deserve … and that is something we need to remind ourselves, and praise Him for, daily.

May each of us know our hearts in the light of God's word, and cast ourselves in humility upon the only One who can redeem the corruption we find within, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gary Gilley reviews "The Shack" by William P. Young

Gary Gilley has provided a valuable service to all with his review of the bestselling novel "The Shack" by William P. Young. Analyzing the book's theological message, he demonstrates that while the tale occasionally gets some Christian theology correct, it mostly distorts the biblical message and inaccurately presents the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some would argue that "The Shack" is just a story and as such does not aim to be a theological presentation. It should therefore not be judged on the accuracy of its theology. Gilley acknowledges that "good Christian fiction has the ability to get across a message in an indirect, non-threatening yet powerful, way." Yet he also believes that "what determines the value of fiction is how closely it adheres to Scripture" and sets out to measure "The Shack" by these criteria.

In a sense, every individual has a working "theology". Even if one's theology is not a theistic (or even conscious) theology, human beings are always trying to understand the meaning of their existence. One's "theology" then, describes the beliefs one develops and holds in order to explain and give meaning to reality.

Gilley writes,

The Shack, like many books today, decries theology on the one hand while offering its own brand on the other. A story has the advantage of putting forth doctrine in a livelier manner than a systematic work can do—which is why we find most of Scripture in narrative form. The question is, does Young’s theology agree with God’s as revealed in Scripture? The short answer is “sometimes” but often Young totally misses the mark.

Gilley is quite kind in the tone of his critique, acknowledging that Young portrays some biblical truths accurately. But in my mind this is precisely what makes Young's book all the more deceptive-- it lures one in by getting a few things right, but its overall message is New Age pantheism (and or panentheism) and not Christianity at all.

Friends, if theology describes what one believes about God and the way the world works, let us not make the mistake of saying that all such views and beliefs are equally valid and helpful. The Bible certainly does not present theology that way, but depicts God in a definite way and says: this is God, and this is how you must have a relationship with Him. One can either accept or reject the Bible's presentation, but we must at least acknowledge that the Bible's message is specific. It says Jesus Christ "is the way, the truth and the life" and no one comes to the Father except through Him, rather than "all paths lead to God in the end" (so it doesn't matter what one believes). The Bible contradicts such universalism, as well as the God-is-in-everything message presented in novels such as "The Shack". As for me, I believe the Bible's eternal revelation is true and will stand long after books like "The Shack" are utterly forgotten.

You can read Gilley's full review here:

The Shack by William P. Young

Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Defeat Calvinism

A funny video, very tongue-in-cheek. Calvinists Arminians beware!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Inspiration and Idols

Yesterday it was my birthday. I hung one more year on the line...
Paul Simon
So maybe on my birthday I ought to have been out celebrating, or doing something a little special, but instead I stayed home all day (I had asked for the day off from work). How did I celebrate my birthday? Well, I spent a good deal of time just cleaning around the house and getting things organized in my home office. Also I managed to have an daylong argument with my wife about keeping the house clean. Fun stuff.

Anyway, lately it seems I have lacked inspiration, or to be more accurate, my motivation (for living for Christ and for pursuing certain goals) waxes and wanes. For example, a blog series on reformed theology I was excited to jump back into-- well I just haven't found the energy and focus to keep at it. I haven't been writing new songs either, which is always a bad sign. I mean, usually when I'm in a creative state I have lots of song ideas that come to me spontaneously-- melodies, which I will record. Actually I still have been getting ideas but I haven't been diligent enough to record them. The ideas haven't felt "inspired", so I didn't bother.

And my job. I have a real tough time getting excited about going into the office each day. The work is simply not something I'm motivated by. I know it's not what I am meant to be doing, if you know what I mean.

I know others who are also experiencing spiritual/life doldrums. What is the problem really? Why do I have such a hard time staying excited and motivated about God and about my life path?

Well I think the answer is pretty simple really. It's just putting the simple solution into practice that's the challenge. What is the solution? Well, it's just this: walking closely with God each day, and having a "big picture" life-goal, one that is dynamic and visionary, yet is subdivided into measurable daily objectives.

The key to it all is being connected to the Lord Jesus Christ-- abiding in Him continually, drawing life and inspiration from His life flowing in and though me. Out of this everything else will flow-- vision, goals, energy, motivation.

OK, this sounds simple, yet it's so easy to get distracted by the daily activities of life, isn't it? You get up each day and jump right into whatever it is you have to do next, and before you know it, you're off and running and God is forgotten. But as Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)." A Christian can't flourish without being in close communion with God through His Word. After a while the soul begins to feel its hunger and its weakness.

I feel as if the Spirit has been reminding me again and again about making God the "one thing" I desire more than anything else, by getting rid of idols that compete with Him for the affection of my heart. Most of my sins-- at their root-- have to do with frustration that I'm not getting something my heart longs after. And that thing I long after functions as my "god" in that moment. But "it" (whatever "it" may be) is not God, but only a substitute for Him. So even if I had/get it, I wouldn't be happy or fulfilled. The things of this world can't satisfy the longings of our soul. They were never meant to.

I'm convinced that all believers struggle, in varying degrees, and in thousands of different forms, with this problem of "idols in the heart". Which is of course why the Bible commands us not to worship other gods (Exodus 20:3, 1 John 5:21). It is a deep sin, a sin that underlies and is at the root of so many others.

If am not loving God with everything I have and all that is within me (obeying the great commandment, Matt 22:37, Deut 6:5) I need to ask myself-- what is competing for the affection of my heart? This will eventually lead me to identify my specific idols. Living under the sway of false gods ruling in the heart makes one callous to the presence of the true God. These "gods" redirect our attention to the things of this world, rather than the love of the Father (1 John 2:15-17). They demand that we sacrifice unto them-- our time, our money, or energy, our affection, our joy, our life. And the more we give them, the less satisfaction they provide, which in turn causes us to give them even more, hoping to get more, like a person who mindlessly puts all their coins into a slot machine in the hope of winning a big cash payout. Whatever small returns these gods put out, they never satisfy. Their promises are lies.

So I need to learn to see the truth and the love of God everywhere, to keep Him and His truth before me always. I need to know, not just in theory, but to be conscious of, the fact that He is really there for me, that He truly is with me, that He is working all things together for my good because we are in a love relationship that will never be severed (Romans 8:31-38, Matthew 28:20).

How will I know these things, deep in the bowels of my soul? I don't think such knowledge is to be sought in mystical encounter with God, nor necessarily in the hearing of inspired sermons or message. Regarding the former, I'm not sure that Christianity is really about that at all, despite the fact that having experiences with God wherein one feels Him somehow is all the rage these days in many Christian circles. I don't see in Scripture that body of Christ is being instructed to seek after God in this way. As for sermons and good messages, they are helpful when they bring out clearly some particular truth of God's word. The Holy Spirit applies those truths to us specifically, if we're listening.

So I think that true spirituality is found primarily in connecting with God through His word; in the doing of the simple daily acts of obedience that demonstrate trust and faith. Sowing these little seeds will eventually bear good fruit-- I'll sense more the presence of God and His pleasure. He'll become more and more the treasure of my heart, as I learn to savor His good pleasure in me more than I savor anything this world has to offer. It also involves getting together with the the family of God, to encourage one another, pray together and band together, as we live for God in this world that is not our home. And of course, taking the Lord's supper regularly, so that we remember what Christ did and is doing for us-- He is saving our souls through the gospel-- is not to be neglected.

Lord, keep my heart focused on You. Stir within me a hunger for more of You. Give me a hunger for Your word and eyes and ears to understand it. Direct me in your paths, and reign me in when my heart and life begins to go astray-- lead me back into the way everlasting, the way of truth, of peace, and of eternal joys at your right hand.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blips on the Blogosphere 20- Post-Christian America?

There's been a lot of press and discussion lately about the United States as a "post-Christian" nation.

President Obama's phrase, "we are no longer just a Christian nation", spoken during a keynote address Obama gave in June 2006, later generated much controversy during his presidential campaign. Obama has frequently reiterated this view, including just 10 days ago in prepared remarks made during a diplomatic visit to Turkey. He said, "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

Newsweek's cover story this month by editor Jon Meacham is ominously titled The End of Christian America. Meacham notes troubling statistics about the state of American Christianity. According to the article, recent surveys by the American Religious Identification Survey [ARIS] and the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Study have found that:
  • the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent;
  • the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent;
  • the percentage of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith has doubled in recent years, to 16 percent; in terms of voting, this group grew from 5 percent in 1988 to 12 percent in 2008;
  • the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million. (That is about double the number of, say, Episcopalians in the United States.)

Southern Baptist Seminary President and conservative blogger Al Mohler played a prominent role in the Newsweek essay. In a thoughtful analysis of the Newsweek piece, Mr. Mohler complements "the care, respect, and insight that mark the essay", and notes that the article "is elegant in form and serious in tone."

He agrees that Newsweek is right to designate, at least certain sections of America, as "post-Christian". But in his analysis Mohler highlights that the Newsweek story is primarily concerned with Christianity's waning political influence. Mohler notes that while this is hardly a "non-issue",

... my greater concern is not with political influence and what secularization means for the political sphere, but with what secularization means for the souls of men and women who are now considerably more distant from Christianity -- and perhaps even with any contact with Christianity -- than ever before. My main concern is evangelism, not cultural influence.

Mohler agrees in part with Meacham's argument that "what binds America together is not 'a specific faith' but instead 'a commitment to freedom' and, in particular, freedom of conscience. The founding generation did not establish the young republic on any religious creed or theological doctrine." But Mohler points out "there is something missing from this argument, and that is the recognition that
freedom, and freedom of conscience in particular, requires some prior understanding of human dignity and the origins of conscience itself. Though the founders included those who rejected the Christian Gospel and Christianity itself, Christianity had provided the necessary underpinnings for the founders' claims."

Mohler, as usual, hits the nail on the head-- the incredible freedoms and prosperity this nation has enjoyed to date were built upon a Christian foundation, without which they would not have been possible. So when the President says that we are a nation of citizens "bound by ideals and a set of values", his argument is that there is some set of values that transcends any particular religion and which all may somehow come to recognize and embrace. But Obama's argument raises many questions.

Is it really accurate to say that a certain set of values is going to be universally recognizable and agreeable to all? If not, who gets to define which are the set of values acceptable to be promoted in schools and enacted in public policy? Does government have the authority to play the role of deciding which values are the right ones to be promoted? Are values to be decided by majority vote? And shouldn't religious views be allowed to enter the public debate about values? Even if really it could be, why should values discussion and public policy-making be a "religion-free" zone?

Mohler closed his analysis with these fine words:

This much I know -- Jesus Christ is Lord, and His kingdom is forever. Our proper Christian response to this new challenge is not gloom, but concern. And our first concern must be to see that the Gospel is preached as Good News to the perishing -- including all those in post-Christian America.

Now a few of the questions I raised above are touched upon-- albeit briefly-- by writer/pastor Tim Keller, speaking on the MSNBC program "Morning Joe" last week on a special Good Friday edition. Keller sat next to Jon Meacham and participated in the short but interesting discussion on issues raised by Meacham's article. You can watch a video of the discussion below.

Keller agrees with Meacham that there is danger when the Church becomes overly concerned with grasping for political power and worldly influence. "If the Church tries to turn the world into the Church it turns out that the Church becomes more like the world." But Keller points to the rise of a new generation of college-educated evangelicals that is seeing these issues differently and with more clarity and depth than did their parents, who were more of a "blue-collar generation" of evangelicals:

All public policies are based on views of human flourishing that are basically based on faith, they are not scientific, they are not empirical, they're based on faith. And therefore everything that happens in the public sphere is based on a kind of religiousness, a kind of "faith" view of human flourishing, human nature, the ultimate sense of what reality is about. And therefore Christians wouldn't want to say well, we're not going to bring our religion to the public sphere anymore because they actually see everything happening in the public sphere having essentially religious roots. And I think people that have gone to college see that a little better and they have a tendency to see that there's religious background to all the positions instead of looking at just certain hot-button issues, I think evangelicals in the future are going to have a more nuanced and comprehensive, you might say, public philosophy than they have in the past. So I think John's right, that the old approach is dying.

I agree with Mr. Keller's argument-- public policy is not and cannot be forged in some sort of metaphysical vacuum in which questions about meaning-- theological questions- are simply ignored. Inquiries dealing with profound questions such as the existence of God and the ultimate reality of life must be answered, and those who advocate secularism indeed have their own "faith-based" take on such questions but want to mandate that overtly religious and particularly, Christian answers to these questions cannot be entertained in the public sphere, citing so-called separation of church and state. But Keller's comments show the fallacious thinking behind this position. Additionally history proves that Christianity has had a most powerful role and influence, in policy-making discussions, in law-making, and in the adoption of various policies in the United States. Christian principles have been felt in the creation of American universities, hospitals, charities, and of course, in the creation of our unique form of democratic government. The positive outcome of all this Christian influence is well-documented. And if Keller is right, a new generation of smart evangelicals will continue to see the connection between faith and policy-making and insist that Christianity is allowed to continue to make its case in the public square.

HT: Alex Chediak

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Watchblogging Revisited

In a recent post titled Evil as Entertainment, Reformed blogger Tim Challies takes certain watchblogs to task for harping on evil so much that they neglect to point out what is good and true. He feels such blogs may be the equivalent of a "spiritualized form of YouTube", in that they present evil as a form of entertainment. Reading his piece, I found myself convicted that I have indeed sometimes read certain blog articles that way, perhaps finding a bit too much pleasure in the heresies reported. And I agreed with Challies' main point, that believers are to focus on the good and the true, and that we ought to examine our motives if we find ourselves consistently drawn to those who post about nothing but the evils other believers are doing.

But the chief weakness with the article is its non-specificity- Challies doesn't "name names" (probably because he's trying to be gracious and just point out principles to follow), but specific examples would have made it easier to know just what or whom he's critiquing. Also, I'm not entirely sure that Challies is not critiquing a strawman, for I've not personally encountered those watchblogs that only speak of error while never pointing to what is true. Moreover, saying that some watchblogs are posting such things for mere entertainment value is a rather serious charge, and by not being specific as to which blogs he's talking about, Challies' seems to imply that watchblogs by their very nature are guilty of this.

I do find more that is helpful in Phil Johnson's well-written critique of Challies' piece, titled "Turning a Blind Eye to Evil Is Evil, Too". Johnson writes,

"There's quite a lot to applaud in what Tim said, but I don't think he said everything about the subject that needed to be said. As a result, I thought his post was (quite uncharacteristically for Challies, of all people) lacking in balance".

Johnson goes on to make a number of good points, which have the effect of providing balance to the message of Challies' article.

1) Defending the faith is a necessary task for shepherds.
When someone on his blog comments that he thinks Phil "would rather spend his time building up believers and himself in the Word rather than calling people out for damnable heresies that are causing people to drift away from the true faith and send[ing] them to hell", Phil agrees with the assessment, but hastens to add that

"calling people out for damnable heresies that are causing people to drift away from the true faith" is a shepherd's duty, not an option— and it can be quite edifying if done well.

I heartily concur with Mr. Johnson's point here and it's one I've made frequently here on Jordan's View in previous posts (see below):

Christian Watchbloggers- Good or Bad?
Discerning What Is Truth (Part 2)
Discerning What Is Truth (Part 1)
The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth

But returning to Phil's article:

2) Blogs are an appropriate forum for calling out doctrinal error publicly.
When preaching a sermon, Johnson states his main concern is to "explain the meaning of specific texts of Scripture and exhort people to apply the truth to their lives in obedience to God." However, when writing a blog, Johnson employs both "humor and criticism" to make certain points. The issue of whether this is appropriate is often debated, but certainly Paul and even our Lord both used humor and even sarcasm in ministry.

Of course, godly satire is challenging for sinners like us to pull off. As people who struggle with sin, Christians must check their hearts (motives) while engaged in any kind of ministry. Steve Camp chimes in on the discussion with an excellent, biblically saturated article, Blogging, Watchblogging, and Ministry, which both challenged and convicted me with these helpful questions to ask oneself:
1. How does my post glorify God and exalt Christ? Or am I seeking to only expand my daily readership by addressing controversial issues just for controversy's sake? (1 Cor. 10:31)

2. How does it equip the body of Christ biblically to be better Bereans on any issue they face? (Acts 17:11)

3. How does it convict and challenge me in my own life before I turn its truths on another? IOW, what do I need to learn, model, obey and repent of first before calling others to do the same? (Psalm 119:10-17)

4. How does it bring truth and foster change to the one I am disagreeing with? (Eph. 4:13-16)

5. How does it edify and encourage - not just exhort? (Eph. 4:1-3; 26-32)

6. How does it communicate real biblical resolve? (Roms. 12:1-2)

7. How does it enable others to live more like Jesus as salt and light in their communities, ready to serve their church and world? (Matt. 5-7)

8. Am I filled with the Holy Spirit as I write and unfold God's Word, or am I only giving knee-jerk reactions to what is the hot potato of the moment? (Eph. 5:17-21)

9. And lastly, in what I have just written and confronted caused me to focus more clearly on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and something He would find pleasure, delight and honor in? (Heb. 12:1-3)

Camp offers gracious critique of Challies' article, and at the same time complements Tim for his writing and blog ministry. Camp writes about Challies, "He is thoughtful, circumspect, kind and generous. He is obviously very well read, reformed, insightful, and we are all the better for his contribution on many issues he addresses in the blogosphere."

I would like to stop at this point and also commend Tim Challies for his consistent promotion of reformed teaching and his steadfast output of helpful, well-written articles. As a fellow blogger I appreciate (and envy, in a good way) Challies' prodigious flow of writing. I know that hard work and discipline is involved in this and is probably a big reason his blog has become a great resource to so many.

So my chief concern with Challies' post is the fact that, because it doesn't also point out the value of the watchblogger's task, some may try to use it to justify writing off completely those who engage in the kind of ministry/critique watchbloggers do. But as Phil Johnson and Steve Camp point out in their articles and even I have also tried to do here on my blog, the defense of sound doctrine, together with rebuke of erroneous teaching, is an absolutely vital aspect of Christian ministry (1 Tim 1:3, 8, Titus 1:9, 2 Peter 3:16-18). And good watchblogs are doing this, not as a replacement for pastoral teaching but in response to the marketplace of ideas. And perhaps this task has become more necessary than ever in an age when false ideologies and aberrant teachings proliferate so readily via the Internet, and so may turn to the INternet for information. As Challies suggests, some watchblogs and ministries need more balance as they perform this vital task, but again I have not encountered the kind of watchblogs Tim is writing about. For example, he says:

But if a pastor of a church in Kalamazoo preaches a sermon in which he says something scandalous, it has no effect on my life and, beyond its draw as entertainment, I can think of few good reasons for me to even know about it. Multiply this by hundreds of new stories a week (or even just tens of stories a week) and I end up with a huge amount of negative information that stays in my head and heart, but which has no bearing on my life.
But those blogs I personally follow which write about bad teachings (or even this blog) are not singling out the errors of obscure pastors, but rather, pointing out false teachings infiltrating the evangelical church at large by persons whose names are well-known. So again it would have been helpful to know precisely what/whom Challies was criticizing.

Again, returning to Phil Johnson's article:

3) The role of the critic is just as necessary as the role of the encourager.

Phil writes:
I think what Tim Challies is saying is that it's unhealthy to fix one's attention on error full time rather than spending most of our time dwelling on things that edify. If that's all he is saying, I say (as heartily as possible) AMEN! (Philippians 4:8). But if someone wants to seize that point in order to suggest that it's always better to be an encourager than a critic, my reply is: That very attitude is largely responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place.
And again:
I understand Challies' central concern. There is a vocal segment of the fundamentalist/evangelical community for whom an obsession with sensational exposés and nattering negativity has proved seriously unhealthy. It has given them a sour attitude, a perpetually angry tone, and a really bad reputation. I don't enjoy reading what they write, either, and I don't hang around their blogs.

But the mentality that dominates the evangelical culture today— and the far greater problem, in my judgment— is exactly the opposite. The overwhelming majority of today's evangelical sophisticates would clearly prefer it if no one ever criticized evangelical Golden Calves. Rampant error doesn't unsettle them in the least. They are quite happy to live with it and even actively make peace with it.

But let someone dare to voice an objection to a troubling doctrine in the latest best-seller making the rounds on campus—even a denial of the Trinity or some other soul-destroying soteriological or Christological novelty—and the very people who profess to hate criticism (and who work so hard to seem agreeable in their dealings with with the unorthodox) will heap the nastiest kinds of vituperation on the soul of the one who has dared to criticize unorthodoxy and thereby threaten the "unity" evangelicals think their timid silence has won them.

Exactly-- the real danger in evangelicalism these days is not the relatively few unbalanced heresy-hunters but rather the many for whom heresy seems to be a non-issue, and who, in the name of a unity that is misguided and unbiblical, ignore the biblical injunction of defending sound doctrine and rebuking false teaching.

[Defending the above rather strong statement would require another post, but those of you who regularly read such blogs as Pyromaniacs know what I'm referring to].

And we so badly need truth to be boldly proclaimed by strong leaders who are also godly men, men who have applied the truth first to themselves, as Steve Camp helpfully reminds us.

Of course, we are all at different points in our walk with God and each of us struggles with particular sins (1 John 1:9, Romans 7:14-25). Owning up to this ongoing battle with the flesh does not (necessarily) disqualify us from service, but we need ongoing accountability and confessing of our sins to one another (Proverbs 7:17, Hebrews 10:25, James 5:16). This of course necessitates humility and submission and relationships with others in the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:22, 1 Peter 5:5-6, Phil 2:1-8).

I am truly grateful for men like Tim Challies, Phil Johnson, Steve Camp and others who are blogging about great reformed truths passionately, consistently and intelligently, and more important, trying to live out these truths by the grace of God in their own lives. I am glad too that, as Scripture says, "iron sharpens iron" and that some key biblical truths were shared by others that helped to balance out the point of the article by Mr. Challies.

Happy Resurrection Sunday and may the truth of Jesus Christ and His resurrection fill us with all joy, power and boldness! Let us live and proclaim His truth.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I Was Wrong, Mr. Charismatic!

Those who visit this blog regularly probably have noticed that I have become a staunch advocate of reformed theology here on Jordan's View. The transition was gradual-- I went from being charismatically-inclined to calling myself a reformed charismatic, but for the past year or more I have preferred to think of myself as simply a Christian who believes in reformed doctrine.

This has all suddenly changed.

You see, last night I had a very strange and vivid dream. I was attending a church service already in progress at my old church in New York City, Trinity Baptist, and as I walked in I noticed people of every color and tribe and nationality filling up every seat in the pews. Many were colorfully dressed in the garb of their native cultures. Everyone seemed very happy and there were smiles all around. The atmosphere felt full of kindness and warmth.

Upon noticing me, a kind, elderly usher whispered in my ear that there was a seat available at the front and would I like to be taken there. I nodded my head and he led the way slowly. As I got closer to the front I was amazed to see gold dust falling down like a mist around all around me. Then when I got up to the front I noticed a woman in a pink running outfit drenched in sweat, her baggy clothes soaked. She was lifting her hands and praising God, and her friend told me that when she had come into the service she was 300 pounds, but that God had touched her miraculously and she had lost 150 lbs of water weight in an instant. She smelled rather badly but no one seemed to care.

The preacher up front was getting very excited and kept on shouting "Boom!" and "Bam!". Taking my seat I looked up and noticed that the speaker was a shirtless Todd Bentley! Needless to say I was rather startled since not only was he shirtless but his torso, neck and arms were covered with tattoos. He was pacing back and forth on the platform, preaching a message about "reaching up for your miracle" and saying he could see "in the spirit" countless angels hovering over the audience, just ready to pour out miracles.

The next thing I witnessed shocked me even more-- R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and other guys I recognized from the reformed camp were all down on the floor, some prostrate and others kneeling. Most were weeping. C. Peter Wagner was coming behind them and seemed to be praying for each one in turn.

Then suddenly Bentley was shouting, "Look, the glory, the glory!" as a golden light seemed to fill the room. I asked a man next to me what was happening (I later learned this was Tommy Tenney), and he explained:

"Well my friend, you are seeing what happens when God comes in his shekinah glory and just takes over -- you see all these reformed guys are repenting that they spoke out against God's gifts for today, miracles are happening left and right, and God is just blowing our minds away!"

Then I asked him if he could prove this from the Bible. He looked at me sternly and replied, "The Bible is still being written man, it's happening right here in front of you. Now open your eyes and see His handwriting!" A dreadful fear came upon me and there was something like thick black smoke suddenly pouring into the sanctuary, but it wasn't smoke from a fire. And suddenly a thunderous voice spoke and said, "Just believe!!"

I was at that point I woke up and found that I was drenched in sweat. I was scared and I asked God what it all meant. I felt as if God spoke to my spirit and said, "My child, you need to stop thinking so much and trust my Spirit. You are being made whole."

So it seemed to me that God was saying to me that I should immediately stop being reformed, quit writing this long-winded series on theology and start praying and fasting for new marching orders. So, as of today, I will cease writing my series on "Arminian vs Reformed theology" and obey this prompting. I apologize to those who have been following the series and perhaps were looking forward to reading the updated version.

It seems I was plain wrong, about everything...

April Fools!!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blips on the Blogosphere 19

UPDATE: I'm still working on re-posting the articles from my series on Arminianism vs Reformed theology, but I have decided to edit them as I proceed, so the process of reposting will likely take longer than I'd originally planned.

In the meantime, more "blips from the blogosphere"...


Seems there's been a lot of interest lately in the existence (or not) of Satan. A number of thinkers weigh in on the question, "Does Satan Exist?", in the "On Faith" section of the Washington Post.

Then on Nightline: Faceoff, the same question was debated by a panel in a show that aired March 26th. Arguing that Satan does not exist were writer and philosopher Deepak Chopra and United Church of Christ minister Bishop Carlton Pearson (he doesn't believe in hell either). Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and Annie Lobert, founder of the international Christian ministry "Hookers for Jesus," argued that Satan does indeed exist. I've collected all the videos on vodpod and you can watch some of them right here: Jordan's Video. Click the link at the bottom of the widget to view all my collected videos.


Fans of Tim Keller, author of "The Reason for God" and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City, will be delighted to have this new resource: a "Tim Keller wiki" which features links to news, books, articles, audios, videos, sermons and will be regularly updated by Tim Keller fans.


Recently I received by mail a flyer advertising an upcoming debate at Bioloa University between author and atheism defender Christopher Hitchens and the author and Christian apologist William Lane Craig. I learned that although the debate will be on a live webcast, one must purchase the rights to listen in. As much as I'd like to listen to this debate, in which it sounds Hitchens will be overmatched, I'm not willing to shell out money for it. Besides, Mr. Craig has debated many others and many of the debates are available for free online.

A debate between William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong was later turned into a book titled "God?", which you can preview at this link.

Speaking of debates and apologetics, there is an excellent blog, Apologetics 315, that features links to numerous apologetic resources, including debates in MP3 format.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blips on the Blogosphere 18

I've been hard at work editing the old introductory article to my "Arminian vs Reformed theology" series and getting ready to re-post the series. In the meantime, here's some things I've stumbled across in the blogosphere lately.

Alex Chediak, who live-blogged almost all of the recent Ligonier 2009 National Conference (the reformed ministry headed up by R.C. Sproul), has put together links to all his conference posts here.

AND THIS JUST IN (3-26-09): Videos from the 2009 Ligonier National Conference (The Holiness of God).

And if you're into photos, check out these conference photos on Flickr.

Pointing out that more top church blogs are by reformed bloggers than any other "theological strain or movement", an article titled "Young, Restless, Reformed Bloggers" asked this question back in January:

Are there so many popular Reformed blogs because of the movement, or has the movement grown, at least in part, because of so many average Reformed Joes and more-than-average Reformed mega-stars getting into New Media and using it more effectively than the other guys?

The author of the article, A- Team blogger David Nilsen, is inclined to think that the Reformed community as a whole, from the big ministry names to the not well-known (yet numerous) bloggers, have been drawn to "new media" (such as blogs) and has used such media very effectively in promoting the reformed view. I agree with this assessment. Let's keep up the good work friends.

Mark Dever writes on "What I CAN and CANNOT Live With as a Pastor" (there's also a corresponding MP3). One of those things Dever cannot live with is the practice of infant baptism, which he calls, sin. Wow. Fighting words? But Dever doesn't seem like he wants a fight, and explains his views in a related article, "The Sin of Infant Baptism, written by a sinning Baptist".

The coming evangelical collapse by Michael Spencer

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor (March 10, 2009 edition), Michael Spencer adapted a series from his blog, and created the above-titled article. In it he presents his vision of what is on the horizon for evangelicalism, and the picture he paints isn't pretty. I admire Spencer for speaking in this "naysaying" prophetic voice, saying things that aren't very heartening but at the same time, seeming to do so as a challenge to all Christians to prepare for tough times ahead. He says he's not a prophet and that his predictions could be wrong, but I do think much of what he's envisioning are trends one can already see in the present.

A few of his predictions:

    Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

    Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. Emphasis will shift from doctrine to relevance, motivation, and personal success – resulting in churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

    The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision.

    Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear.

    Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Can this community withstand heresy, relativism, and confusion? To do so, it must make a priority of biblical authority, responsible leadership, and a reemergence of orthodoxy.

While Spencer does see evangelicalism as a "crumbling empire", he remains optimistic. "We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.

We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture."

Personally, I resonate with his statement that "a small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal", noting that "this is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development."

Spencer believes that despite such efforts, the "coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches."

Perhaps a reformation on the scale of the great Protestant Reformation is not to be, still it is my hope to be part of that small band that will trumpet reformed doctrine, and preach and practice the gospel in powerful ways, so as to purify the church and make her more effective in producing mature disciples, of whom I hope to be one.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The New Calvinism- Picking Up Where I Left Off

Back in November of 2006, I began writing a series examining Arminianism vs Calvinism (Reformed) theology. At the time, I had already become convinced that the Calvinistic position was the more biblically accurate, but I was still working through all its theological implications, as well as trying to answer from scripture the Arminian objections.

So as I began writing the series, my purpose was multifold. First, I wanted to study through to solid answers and put my conclusions in writing, as I have found that putting thoughts down in words brings about greater clarity and insight. Second, I wanted to present a strong, biblical argument and to answer objections biblically. My foundation for bible study is the conviction that the Bible contains the answers to these all-important questions, it being the true revelation of God to man. Third, I hoped my writings on the topic would be helpful and even educational to others who might also be wrestling with the serious theological questions brought out by the ongoing debate between Arminians and Calvinists.

I had also come to recognize that one’s answers to these profound theological questions, in other words, one’s theology, plays a vital role in determining how one lives out their Christian faith. For myself and my family, I wanted to be convinced I had come to sound, biblical conclusions. And as one wanting to be a guide and a help to others in these matters, I knew I would need to have solid convictions, anchored in a confidence that I had come to accurate conclusions based on correct biblical interpretation. Of course I recognized that sincere and godly people have come to different conclusions on many of the questions raised in this ancient debate, nonetheless I proceeded, based on the conviction that embarking on this type of study would bear good fruit. It would challenge me to my best thinking and digging into the Bible would undoubtedly bring more light to my understanding of these things.

Yet I found the challenge of writing on these matters while answering many objections was very consuming, and about midway through the series, I set it aside. Now, 2 and ½ years have passed since I first began writing and I feel compelled again to complete it. I have read and thought more on reformed theology. I am now attending a church that is solidly reformed in its preaching emphasis. My convictions about the accuracy of the reformed theological perspective has continued to grow.

A recent article in Time magazine has also provided new inspiration, since it lists “The New Calvinism” as one of the 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now. In fact, the new Calvinism is at #3 on the list, though I’m not sure whether the list is in order of priority. I’m challenged by this that the biblical truths Calvin and others pointed to have fresh relevance in these troubled times.

As the world economy faces monumental challenges, wars continue to rage, and famine and natural disasters plague, religious questions are naturally raised. Does God really exist? What is the nature of God— is He the personal God of the Bible or the impersonal divine force that many religions describe? If He is indeed a personal God who is completely sovereign over all things, then why does He allow such pain and suffering? These are the challenging and profound questions that thinking people have always asked. Perhaps in these tremulous days the answers presented by the great Reformed thinkers are growing attractive to many. But more important, does the reformed picture comport with the Bible, or is it merely a man-made theological system? This being also the 500 year anniversary of Calvin’s birth, I feel it is fitting to take up such questions again, and to re-post my series comparing and contrasting the answers provided by Arminian vs Calvinistic (Reformed) theology. My plan then is to re-post the original articles (with perhaps some editing), then pick up in the series where I had left off. Stay tuned for more.