On 21 October 2013, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed Brigham Young University, a Mormon institution. The substance of his speech dealt with what he sees as the dangers of the ‘secularization of the moral order and the marital contract’, and the ensuing threat to the religious liberties of both Christians and Mormons. Nevertheless, Dr. Mohler stressed the ‘irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity’ that separate Christians from Mormons:
The conflict of liberties we are now experiencing is unprecedented and ominous. Forced to choose between erotic liberty and religious liberty, many Americans would clearly sacrifice freedom of religion. How long will it be until many becomes most?
This is what brings me to Brigham Young University today. I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation comes only to those who believe and trust only in Christ and in his substitutionary atonement for salvation. I believe in justification by faith alone, in Christ alone. I love and respect you as friends, and as friends we would speak only what we believe to be true, especially on matters of eternal significance. We inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds, made clear with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. And yet here I am, and gladly so. We will speak to one another of what we most sincerely believe to be true, precisely because we love and respect one another.
I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together. I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences. Your faith has held high the importance of marriage and family. Your theology requires such an affirmation, and it is lovingly lived out by millions of Mormon families. That is why I and my evangelical brothers and sisters are so glad to have Mormon neighbors. We stand together for the natural family, for natural marriage, for the integrity of sexuality within marriage alone, and for the hope of human flourishing.
Equal rights? Tolerance? Not in 2013 England. The Spectator magazine’s website has a thoughtful post detailing yet another demonstration of the state-enforced über-rights enjoyed by one particularly intolerant minority group:
You’re at home, enjoying a summery Saturday afternoon with the bees and nasturtiums on the patio, when the doorbell intrudes. You’re greeted by an impeccably courteous, fresh-faced police officer from the Norfolk Constabulary – ‘Dedicated to this neighbourhood’, according to their website – and he’s come to speak to you because there’s been a complaint.
Not, you understand, about the troubling number of burglaries, rising car thefts, incidences of property vandalism or madhouse music accompanying balmy barbeques. No, someone has reported you for sending them two gospel tracts by email, one entitled ‘Christ Can Cure – Good News for Gays’; and the other ‘Jesus Christ – the Saviour we all need’. Some people might have simply deleted them both and directed all further correspondence from you to ‘spam’, but these people got offended. Very offended. The allegation against you is that of ‘homophobic hate’.
The officer politely offers you a choice: you can either admit your guilt there and then, accepting an on-the-spot fine of £90. Or you can contest the allegation, provide a signed statement in your defence, after which it will be for a senior police officer to decide whether or not to refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Conrad Mbewe, an African Reformed Baptist pastor, explains why the Charismatic movement is thriving in Africa. Many of his observations also ring true for the West.
Many explanations have been given for the explosion of the Charismatic movement in Africa. Many have seen this as a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit. Whereas there is probably more than one reason, I want to add my own observation to this for what it is worth. In this blog post, I do not refer to the old conservative form of Pentecostalism once represented by the Assemblies of God churches. I have in mind the current extreme form that is mushrooming literally under every shrub and tree in Africa. How can one explain this phenomenon?
I think that one reason why the Charismatic movement in Africa has been like a wild bushfire is because it has not challenged the African religious worldview but has instead adopted it. It has simply baptised it with Bible verses and Christian words that previously meant something totally different.
BetterThanSacrifice.org considers the two religions of Cain and Abel in this sermon (audio and transcript) from on Gen. 4:1–16: the religion of works, and the religion of faith. The highlight is towards the end, when we see how Abel points us to Christ and His work for us.
Many CRN readers have been concerned to know why there have been no posts from Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries for nearly three months. (CRN is a sister ministry of Apprising Ministries.) In a blog post yesterday, he and his wife explain:
My wife Donna and I wanted to give you this short update. The past few months have been very difficult on us, both emotionally and physically.
Although we have no health insurance, I’ve been hospitalized with a very serious, and potentially life-threatening, bone disease in my spinal cord. It’s known as Osteomyelitis, Discitis and has currently incapacitated me.
Please know we’ve not forgotten about our readers and certainly have no plans to abandon this ministry. However, as of yet, I’m still not feeling strong enough to post any articles.
As you might expect, we need to focus right now on my treatment and expected recovery. Please keep us in your prayers because I’m not out of the woods yet.
We also hope you will keep in mind that a ministry like this relies solely upon the generosity of God’s people for its support.
That something of such a very serious nature, which causes excruciating back and leg pain coupled with severe spasms, would happen to me never occurred to us.
It has really taken its toll, not only upon us, but also upon the ministry as well. At this time donations are reaching a critical low, so if you would like to help us out in this time of need, your support would be deeply appreciated.
If you feel so led, you may donate via PayPal by clicking here; or you can make your checks/money orders payable to Connecticut River Baptist Church with Apprising Ministries in the memo and send them to:
Connecticut River Baptist Church
P.O. Box 340
Claremont, NH 03743
Please join us in remembering Ken and Donna in your prayers.
Pastor Matt Richard gives great counsel for pastors, and essential information for all believers on the pastoral office. Quoting a letter to young seminarians from David Petersen:
You are a servant of the Word. Follow Jesus. The Way of the Cross is a lonely, narrow path but it leads to heaven. Be more afraid of God than you are of the people. It is not the one who signs the check who provides daily bread. Do the right thing. Tell the Truth. Suffer the consequences. That is what a servant of Christ does.
BetterThanSacrifice.org offers a meditation on the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience. Based in Gen. 2:25–3:24, a surprising number of Biblical themes are woven together. Sounds dry? Not at all – it’s not only the postmoderns who are allowed to tell a story. Here’s an extract:
Having eaten, the eyes of the man and his wife are opened. And what they see is their own nakedness.
By God’s benevolent grace, the very instrument of their Fall is the means by which they recognize their fallen state. Innocent, they ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Guilty, their open eyes now know their own evil and lack of good: they are sinners against the Lord God and breakers of His holy Law.
As are we. For all Adam’s children born of the will of the flesh are born dead as slaves to sin. From pride or desperation, we array ourselves with the filthy rags of our best good works. And thereby we only add to the guilty debt we owe to the holy, clean and righteous God.
BetterThanSacrifice.org concludes a series responding to a sermon given by a local Purpose Driven pastor with some final thoughts and a review of that same sermon by Chris Rosebrough of the Fighting for the Faith programme on Pirate Christian Radio:
When listening to sermons like these, one has to place oneself in the shoes of someone who has no meaningful knowledge of sound Christian doctrine (clearly the intended audience) and who is therefore going to take away an understanding solely based on the particular message as it is delivered. It is very easy for us to interpret what we think is being meant when we listen to a sermon, hearing everything filtered through our own understanding of what the Bible teaches. But, of course, that is not how someone new to Christianity or without a knowledge of good doctrine hears a sermon. And, all too often, the intended meaning is not the orthodox interpretation that we think we hear, but exactly what has been stated. We must endeavour not to let our orthodoxy and charitable disposition colour our evaluation of what is being taught.
Responding to a poor sermon by a Purpose Driven pastor, BetterThanSacrifice.org discovers the Genesis 4 account of Cain and Abel to be a wonderful passage from which to teach Law and Gospel, faith and works. We see contrasted the futility of works-righteousness and the glory of God’s grace to those who believe His promise.
Along the way, comment is passed upon the propensity of seeker-driven pastors to emphasise the necessity of financial giving:
The seeker-sensitive mute the Law and veil the Gospel for fear of giving offence, yet they are nevertheless proud to solicit money through the most guileful of means. Those who cite the widow who gave all she had would do well also to recall Jesus’ immediately preceding words concerning those who devour widows’ houses.
Prompted by having heard a poor sermon, BetterThanSacrifice.org shows the true object of justifying faith: ‘none other than Christ Himself and the promise of God to us for His sake’. The post beings:
It is not, I think, entirely unreasonable to be alarmed by a sermon that teaches justification by tithing, no matter how affable the preacher:
But Abel offered the first fruits. He gave the best of what he had to God. And it was credited to him as righteousness. You see, tithing is not about impressing your friends. It’s not about satisfying some form of guilt. Tithing is about giving the best of what you have to a God who sees that as righteous.
The primary claim in this allusion to Hebrews 11:4 is that Abel’s offering of his best to God was credited to him as righteousness. In other words, this is an assertion that Abel was justified (that is, declared righteous) by his works.
My previous post, Justified by Faith, Apart from Works, demonstrated the biblical impossibility of such an interpretation, and emphasized the necessity of distinguishing between faith and works. I plan for my next post to look more closely at the Genesis 4 account of Cain and Abel. First though, we must understand Hebrews 11:4.
BetterThanSacrifice.org uses a poor sermon as an occasion to explain the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, highlighting the necessity of distinguishing between faith and its fruit. The post beings:
I recently listened to a train wreck of a sermon by a local Purpose Driven pastor. In his 44 minutes on the subject of faith, he achieved the remarkable feat of avoiding any mention of the proper object of Christian faith: Christ, and His life, death and resurrection for sinners.
The pastor defined faith by a number of its purported attributes. The fourth was this:
Faith is giving when I don’t have it.
Let’s leave aside the aspect of ‘giving when I don’t have it’, problematic though that is. There is a more fundamental error lurking in this statement.
In the light of a new research service endorsed by the likes of Mark Driscoll and Craig Groeschel, Carl Trueman wonders whether it is acceptable for preachers to outsource an integral part of their sermon preparation. View article →
On 8 March 2012, 21 year old Matthew Vines gave an emotionally charged presentation entitled The Bible and Homosexuality. He attempted to argue the case that ‘loving’ homosexual relationships were compatible with biblical Christianity. Many found it persuasive.
Over several recent episodes of his webcast, The Dividing Line, Dr. James White, director of Alpha & Omega Ministries and author of The Same Sex Controversy, has responded systematically to Vines’ entire presentation. Now available as a single five-hour long programme, White’s rebuttal is essential listening for anyone wishing to understand the true biblical position on homosexuality. Download it for free from the Alpha & Omega Ministries website.
CRN research articles give a concise overview of a specific topic and provide links to resources for further study. The inaugural CRN research article examines Mormonism, comparing several of its core doctrines with those of historic orthodox Christianity. View article →
What exactly is the nature of the New Perspectives on Paul? So asks Dr. J.V. Fesko, Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary, California. He presents a lengthy – but very worthwhile – survey of N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul, contrasting it with the Reformation understanding of justification and works of the law as expressed by Calvin. He concludes:
What makes the new perspective most harmful to the church is its use of terminology. Advocates of the new perspective use terms such as Scripture, sin, justification, works, faith, and gospel, but have given them entirely different meanings.
The advocates of the new perspective on Paul give us no reason to abandon the old perspective. Their case lacks evidence from primary sources and has fundamental presuppositions that conflict with Scripture itself. Those who drink at the fountain of the new perspective must drink with great discernment because hiding behind orthodox nomenclature lies liberalism, and the heart of liberalism is unbelief. In the end, it looks like Qohelet was right after all—there is nothing new under the sun.
Nathan Busenitz, Instructor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, outlines seven lessons we can learn from the German liberal theologians and higher critics:
1. The way to reach skeptics with the gospel is not by watering down the gospel. Many of the liberal theologians thought they could make Christianity more appealing to Enlightenment rationalists if they abandoned the historical authenticity of the text; and if they redefined the gospel as something other than salvation from sin through Christ (thereby making it less offensive to modern minds). But, in so doing, they actually undid the very gospel they thought they were helping to preserve.
A minister once wrote to John Newton (author of the hymn Amazing Grace) of his intention to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy. The wise counsel that Newton gave is of startling relevance to all those engaged in the controversies of this present age:
It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.
And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?
Read Newton’s full response on the Ligonier Ministries blog. View article →
Barrister John Warwick Montgomery, Distinguished Professor at Patrick Henry College and author of more than 50 books, gives a brief survey of the increasing hostility of the British judiciary to ‘Christian manifestations of belief and practice’. He argues that believers should see the European Court of Human Rights, which rules on alleged violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, ‘as a friend, not an enemy, particularly at a time when nation states seem to be moving in the direction of secularism and political correctness’. View article →
Issues, Etc. explores the historical figure of Pontius Pilate in a fascinating hour-long audio interview with historian Dr. Paul Maier. Maier is the author of the superb historical novel, Pontius Pilate, and an undoubted authority on Pilate. View article →
Tennessee’s own Darwin Lobby is working hard to pressure Governor Haslam into vetoing an academic freedom bill that has passed both houses in that state. One of their main talking points holds that there is no controversy over Darwinian evolution, so of course there’s nothing to teach…Notwithstanding [what the lobbyists claim] to the contrary, scientists have not demonstrated that life could form on earth by natural chemical means, and neo-Darwinian evolution is under more intense scientific scrutiny today than ever before.
The article cites several evolutionary scientists to support its assertion that the science concerning the origins of life is very far from settled. View article →
About 60 participants came by special invitation, with the proviso that their names would not be publicized without permission. This was intended to encourage open conversation on sensitive topics. Attending were such luminaries as N. T. Wright, Alister McGrath, John Ortberg, Tim Keller, Scot McKnight, Os Guinness, Joel Hunter, and Andy Crouch. Prominent scientists included Ian Hutchinson of MIT and Jennifer Wiseman, senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope. Forty-one pastors and parachurch leaders participated.
We agree that the methods of the natural sciences provide the most reliable guide to understanding the material world, and the current evidence from science indicates that the diversity of life is best explained as a result of an evolutionary process. Thus BioLogos affirms that evolution is a means by which God providentially achieves God’s purposes.
Based on our discussions, we affirm that there are several options that can achieve this synthesis, including some which involve a historical couple, Adam and Eve, and that embrace the compelling conclusions that the earth is more than four billion years old and that all species on this planet are historically related through the process of evolution. We commit ourselves to spreading the word about such harmonious accounts of truth that God has revealed in the Bible and through science.