Sunday, June 01, 2014

Book log: May 2014

  1. Expositional Preaching by David Helm (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014). 128 pages. Good, Very practical. Expositional Preaching is a part of a series by 9Marks that outlines each of the marks of a healthy church. In this book, Helm lays out a simple and reproducible approach to preparing and preaching expository sermons. This book will be helpful to anyone preparing for vocational church work, and for any Christian interested in encouraging and praying for church health in their congregations.

  2. Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D. A. Carson (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008). 160 pages. Good, personally encouraging. Memoirs is an account of the ministry of Tom Carson, an ordinary pastor-missionary in Quebec. This book is encouraging because it shows the triumphs and challenges of an ordinary man working to be faithful in a difficult ministry. O, that I would prove as faithful in the end. God help me, Amen.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year Resolutions 2014

It's common at the beginning of the new year for a person to assess himself and resolve to do better next year. I think this is a useful habit, and now is a natural time to give it a go. So...
  1. Whereas I have been brought by divine grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to give up myself to him, and
  2. Whereas my salvation is not dependent on good works (Romans 4:1-8, Ephesians 2:8-9), but rather encourages them (Ephesians 2:10), and
  3. Whereas Christians are called to strive after holiness (Hebrews 12:14), and
  4. Whereas Christ promises to grant what we ask when we ask in his name (John 14:13, Matthew 7:7-11), and
  5. Whereas God refers to our bodies as temples (1 Corinthians 6:12-20), and
  6. Whereas God refers to the whole church as a temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and
  7. Whereas God calls us to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:17-24),
Now therefore,
  1. Be it resolved, that I will live my life before the face of God, determining to make every decision and do whatever I think will be most to God’s glory.
  2. Resolved, that I will not be idle or waste time.
  3. Resolved, that I will be quick to repent when I fail.
  4. Resolved, that I will work and pray for the unity of the Church.
  5. Resolved, that I will seek, by divine aid, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and remembering that, as I have been buried by baptism and raised from its symbolic grave, so I have a special obligation to live a new and holy life.
  6. Resolved, that I will work and pray for the continuance of an evangelical ministry, that I will contribute regularly to support that ministry, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
  7. Resolved, that I will pray regularly that the Holy Spirit may be poured down on our ministers and churches, that sinners may be converted, the saints edified, the interest of religion revived, and the name of God glorified.
  8. Resolved, that I will attempt to set aside some time each day to walk or do some other exercise for the benefit of my health.
  9. Resolved, that I will attempt to limit or avoid unhealthful foods and drinks.
  10. Resolved, that I will attempt to learn, at a basic level, at least one language this year.
  11. Resolved, that I will attempt to read at least one book per month.
  12. Resolved, that I will attempt to read the scriptures daily.
  13. Resolved, that I will review these resolutions, at least once each week on Sunday, and that I will pray for the grace to keep them insofar as these desires are godly.
* Most of these are not original to me, and come from the following sources: Jonathan Edwards, CHBC Church Covenant, This Road: Calling Again

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Even more backward than that

Perhaps I'll get a little more mileage out of the Phil Robertson controversy. I want to take a minute to think about how different Christians—who believe the same thing about the gospel and Christian morality—respond to things like this. There are essentially three types of responses I've seen from evangelicals:
  1. People saying "I'm with Phil"
  2. People saying "I'm with Phil" with reservations, and
  3. People saying "I'm not with Phil"
Before I continue, let me outline a few of my presuppositions about biblical sexual morality:
  1. Marriage was designed by God to be a covenantal union between a man and a woman.
  2. All sexual activity outside of that union is sinful—heterosexual or homosexual.
  3. Sexual orientation (that is, how or to whom we feel attracted) is not a matter of individual choice.
  4. Sexual activity (that is, how or with whom we choose to have sex) is a matter of choice.
  5. The Christian life is all about choosing a lifestyle of repentance in which we decide that we will submit ourselves to the word of God. We repent every day, or as Phil Robertson put it, we "trust God and try."

I (among others, I think) choose to "stand with Phil" not because of the crude nature of his anatomical comments, but in spite of them. I believe the reaction to Robertson by A&E would have been exactly the same had he cut out the comments about anatomy or comments about his experience in the south as a younger man.

I believe this because of comments made by representatives of GLAAD and other activist groups on CNN in the wake of the controversy. The cultural response is that it is unchristian for Robertson to base his remarks on the Bible. Why? Because, they assert, the Bible supports all sorts of things we believe to be evil today—things like slavery, and racism (it doesn't, of course)—therefore, they continue, we should base morality on the Bible. In other words, they maintain, the Bible is indicative of an out-dated moral consensus, not special revelation from God. Their primary and ultimate objection to what Robertson said is that he included homosexuality among a list of "sins."

I wish Robertson had not described homosexuality the way he did. I hope evangelical and fundamentalist Christians will stop reacting to homosexual people with fear and disgust. But the fact is that Robertson's list and St. Paul's list (1 Cor 6:9-10) of sins are designed not to single out gay people, but to implicate all of us—we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. And so our reaction to other sinners should be open-handed and welcoming, while always pointing to the way we are all called to walk— the "narrow way," a lifestyle of repentance.

And that's where the controversy is. The world wants the sin of the day—whatever is acceptable in our age—to be called okay. The world doesn't want to repent. Interestingly, this is what Pope Francis means in context when he speaks of homosexual men and women of good will who seek after God. A person of good will who seeks after God is a person who endeavors to live a lifestyle of repentance, chastened by the word of God.

Some Christians say "I'm with Phil," and by that, they thoughtlessly echo repulsion toward gay people. I'm not afraid to say that is wrong. Gay people are people like me and like you. They are people with hopes and dreams, desires and flaws, just like everyone else. They are welcome at church just like I am—and like I am, they are called to seek after God and challenged to live according to God's word.

Others say "I'm with Phil," and with that they clarify that they're supporting Robertson's zeal to evangelize anyone, including his interviewer; they're supporting that Robertson, even though he probably knows A&E's and GQ's positions on the issue, lists homosexual practice among a list of sins. This is exactly what the Bible does. And since that is where I believe the controversy lies, I'm with Phil.

Then I've seen responses from other Christians saying "I'm not with Phil." These responses take different forms. Some of them simply echo the culture saying that we cannot call any consensual, nonviolent sexual practice sinful.

But I'm most concerned with other responses, from thoughtful people who ought to recognize that the controversy centers not on how Robertson expressed himself, but on the fact that he called homosexual practice sinful at all.

Thoughtful evangelicals who claim not to stand with Robertson over the way he expressed himself, even though they agree with this overall morality, are missing an opportunity to stand with a brother who is taking the consequences of stating a biblical position on sexual ethics. You might quibble with how he said what he did, or whether he's being "persecuted" in a strict sense of that word, or whether it's in A&E's rights to suspend Robertson for expressing his religious belief. But at the end of the day, he was sanctioned for quoting and agreeing with 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

And to thoughtful evangelical brethren, I believe it is our responsibility to stand with Phil Robertson contra mundum on this issue. To say that Robertson's position on sexual morality doesn't reflect ours, I'm afraid, is to shrink under pressure—to accept Robertson when he prays with his family but then reject him when things get uncomfortable. I'm afraid that failing to stand with Phil at this point is to try to assure the world that at least we're not as backward and as odd as him.

But together, according to the world's wisdom, we believe in something much more backward than that. We believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to forgive our sins. Brothers and sisters, please don't get used to backing away from a stand because it seems unsophisticated. Even the Bible declares the core of our religion to be "foolishness to the gentiles." (1 Cor 1:23)