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All of the Sin, None of the Guilt

Posted on April 30, 2012

It’s utterly erroneous to assume that the gospel is failing in modern culture.  The gospel is more pervasive than ever.  The problem is that it’s a false gospel. The Atlantic’s recent article “Lady Gaga’s Guilt-Free Gospel” raises the specter of Lady Gaga, apparently reared a “repressed” Catholic but whose musical lyrics now exalt sadomasochism and rape fantasies.   Today this world icon pop artist preaches a gospel of self-expression and –exaltation.  Above all, hers is a guiltless gospel: Gaga … luxuriates in the absence of guilt. Again and again on Born This Way, she encourages her “Little Monsters” — these are her fans — to reject, defy, outwit, and ignore external judges of behavior: parents, boyfriends, kids at school. But internal shame — vestigial…

On Cowering Before Scarecrows

Posted on April 30, 2012

“[I]f the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult … some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.” Bruce Waltke Waltke, one of the premier and gifted evangelical Old Testament scholars of our time, worries that if the empirical data supports evolution yet evangelicals oppose it, we will (rightly) end up being viewed as a cult by the wider, enlightened culture. Waltke is only the latest example in an esteemed pedigree of Christians going back at least to Clement of Alexandria and in more recent centuries to the towering…

Those Long-Lived Last Days

Posted on April 21, 2012

In recent times, we have heard a lot about “The Last Days.” A large number of non-mainline conservative Christians in this country (“evangelicals”) believe that we are living in the last few years (or even months, or days, or hours) before the “rapture” of the church, which will precede a seven-year tribulation period dominated by a single, sinister figure known as “The Antichrist,” followed by the Second Coming of Christ at which He will establish an earthly, visible, thousand-year reign in Jerusalem. This is classic or “scholastic” dispensational eschatology. Today we witness the queer coincidence of, on the one hand, the refusal of almost any leading conservative seminary in the country to defend classical dispensationalism with, on the other hand, the dramatic revival of…

Baptism, Covenant, Renunciation and Allegiance

Posted on April 21, 2012

Baptism in much of the modern church has degenerated into an effete and perfunctory ordinance, practiced more for traditional than for substantial reasons. Where it is not treated as divine white magic in sacerdotal churches, it is frequently in more evangelical churches treated in a mindless and mechanical way. The error is not merely the reductionistic denial of baptism as a sacrament among the evangelicals, but also the neglect of its essentially covenantal and moral character that penetrates the very heart of the meaning of Christianity. In sharp contrast to this reductionistic view, the church historic perceived the great significance of baptism, including its oath-bound character. Of the practice of baptism in the early medieval church, Schaff observes: In the act of baptism itself,…

Salvation and Works

Posted on April 21, 2012

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). INTRODUCTION One should expect that in a matter as crucial as personal salvation, Satan will work diligently and subtly to introduce confusion and error into the thinking not only of the unconverted but also of professed Christians. An almost infallible litmus test of the validity of a religion is its teaching with respect to individual salvation. If that teaching reflects and takes into account the entire range of Scriptural data it may…

Jesus, Not Politics, Saves

Posted on April 21, 2012

In reading the current fracas over at American Vision (and I want to mention here that I have the highest personal regard for Gary DeMar), I was reminded again of a travesty I observed frequently while a part of the Theonomy movement (with which I no longer identify): the apparent subordination of Christianity to politics, specifically libertarian politics.  This is the first time I’d ever encountered such misguided thinking.  I’d always been politically conservative, not because there was any inherent value in conservatism, but because conservatism (I mean by this classical liberalism, with its stress on individual liberty that libertarians most value) was more in harmony with the Faith and the Bible than its alternatives.  I was only interested in politics to the extent…

The Accommodation Junkies

Posted on April 19, 2012

It does seem to me that evangelical leaders, and every evangelical Christian, have a very special responsibility not to just go along with the “blue-jean syndrome” of not noticing that their attempts to be “with it” so often take the same forms as those who deny the existence or holiness of the living God. Accommodation leads to accommodation — which leads to accommodation… Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster That few Christians were surprised when leading Emergent evangelical Brian McLaren announced  his decision to participate in the Islamic month of Ramadan testifies to the pitiable state into which evangelicalism has fallen.  What is evangelicalism?  Historically the language is rooted in the Protestant (notably Lutheran) Reformation, though it was also used by certain pre-Reformation…

The Bibliological Burden of N. T. Wright

Posted on April 19, 2012

The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture N. T. Wright New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005 146 pages, cloth, $19.95 US N. T. Wright is arguably the most popular New Testament scholar in the English-speaking world today.  His manner is winsome, his writing is incisive, his speech is engaging, and his scholarship is impressive.   He churns out both scholarly and popular volumes more quickly than most folks can read them, and he has become a darling of many conservatives for his stalwart defense of the integrity of the historic Jesus and the Biblical documents.  In the wake of over 100 years of anti-supernaturalistic bias within mainstream New Testament scholarship, Tom Wright has emerged as a…

Good Friday as Celebration of Conquest

Posted on April 19, 2012

Message Delivered at  San Lorenzo Valley Good Friday Service  First Baptist Church, San Lorenzo Valley April 10, 2009   There are numerous and momentous implications of our Lord’s death that we celebrate today.  I draw attention this afternoon to just one of them: Christus Victor.  This view emerged very early in the church, and with good reason — the Bible teaches it.  It means “Christ is Victor.”  Satan and sin are our enemies.  In dying on the Cross, Jesus vanquished these enemies.  Jesus’ death defeats the Devil.   Sin enslaves us (Rom. 6:17), and Satan is our captor (2 Tim. 2:26).  We’re born into his clutches.  We head down the wrong road from the very beginning.  Satan and sin snare us.  Sin addicts us. …

The False Teaching of “Transitioning” into Discipleship

Posted on April 19, 2012

The fundamental premise of our [C]hristian faith is the lordship of Jesus Christ.  It stands at the heart and core of Christianity.  Everything in the Christian faith — becoming a Christian, living the Christian life, and the ultimate outcome of being a Christian — stands or falls on the lordship of Jesus Christ. Charles T. Carter, “The Lordship of Jesus Christ” Not all false teachings in the church are properly classed as theological heresies, such that they would violate a specific doctrinal statement or confession of faith.  Some of the most pernicious false teachings, ordinarily more implied than explicated, can pass muster at the bar of almost any traditional confession of faith — and in fact are found in almost all kinds of churches. …

Boys, This Ain’t Scholarship

Posted on April 17, 2012

I’m not going to interact with the substance of Robert Godfrey’s and Mike Horton’s breezy responses to John Frame’s The Escondido Theology (just as they didn’t interact with the substance of Frame’s book), but I can’t pass up a “teaching moment” (as we say these days) to those onlookers who might want to learn a thing or two about scholarship — and substandard scholarship. First, read this from Godfrey, the main point of his response to Frame: Perhaps the simplest way to do that [“set the record straight”] is to refer to the thirty-two bullet points with which John has summarized our views at the beginning of the book (pp. xxxvii-xxxix).  He introduces these bullet points by claiming: “Below are some assertions typical of,…

The “Patriarchy” Problem

Posted on April 17, 2012

“Patriarchy” means, “father rule.”  The concept of father necessitates a child or children (“father” is not equivalent to “husband”), so the word patriarchy might be thought to imply that the father as father bears unique and final human authority in the family.  If so, this assumption is false.  From the Biblical teaching that the faithful wife must submit to her loving, sacrificial husband (Eph. 5:22f) some spring to the conclusion that the mother does not bear equal authority with respect to their children.  They believe that the familial hierarchy in descending order goes like this: father –> mother –> children.  The problem is that this is not what the Bible teaches.  Paul teaches, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.…

Crusading Christianity

Posted on April 15, 2012

Passion for Catholicity In recent years I’ve tried to make a chief feature of my ministry catholicity, specifically, orthodox Christians working together for wholesale reformation.  Culture-reclaiming Christians committed to Biblical authority, the apostolic Gospel, and historic orthodoxy should not allow their secondary differences to divide them.  The stakes are too high; our culture is too decadent for us Biblical Christians to wallow in nit-picking sectarianism and divert ourselves from the collective task to press the Lordship of Christ in all of life.  Catholicity for cultural change is a cornerstone of Biblical faith. Tenacity for Truth But culture-avoiding sectarianism is not the only danger confronting us.  We now encounter a massive defection — there is perhaps no better expression for it — from Biblical Faith…

The Empirical Heretics

Posted on April 14, 2012

G. C. Berkouwer has riveted attention on the dangers of the empirical heretic, by which he denotes that false teacher who, while in conformity to the creeds of the church, propagates doctrine (or advocates actions) that diminish the proclamation of the Gospel (The Church, in Studies in Dogmatics [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976], 381). Operating safely within the confines of the creeds and confessions (he’s no Arian, by Jove!), the empirical heretic undermines the church and, if unchecked, vanquishes its mission. Examples in the contemporary church abound.  To wit: The health and wealth Gospel, according to which Jesus saves us to make us rich, fat, happy and sassy.  If we’re not exhibiting exuberant health and material abundance, our faith is lacking. The fact that few…

That Good Old-Fashioned Modernism

Posted on April 14, 2012

In The Courage to be Protestant, David Wells observes that (post)modern “post-conservative” evangelicals (like Roger Olsen) really aren’t that different theologically from the old Protestant liberals (also called “modernists” at the time).  In an extended CCL interview published in “Christian Culture,” I posed this question to John M. Frame, and his answer, in essence, is that the more radical Emergents today (like Brian McLaren) are akin to the older liberals — except that the older liberals were smart. Ancient Modernism The operational motif of Protestant liberalism has been the commitment to refashioning Christianity to make it acceptable to the leading themes of the contemporary age: every age must have its own unique theology.  This conformist program actually began in the patristic church, when some…

On Drawing Lines in the Sand

Posted on April 14, 2012

Somewhere between sectarianism and latitudinarianism lay the Biblical approach to dividing good from evil. The sectarians see their own secondary denominational distinctives as critical for faith and fellowship, and excommunicate — literally or metaphorically — almost everybody who doesn’t toe the party line.  The sectarians divide the Faith and faithful over such ancillary issues as sign gifts, baptism, predestination, communion, church government, home schooling, liturgy, prophecy, Bible translations, and contemporary worship music.  By “The Church” they often mean their church.  If they are confessional Lutherans or Reformed, they permit no deviation from the theological symbols of the 16th and 17th centuries.  If they are Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, they recognize other Christians as, at best, “separated brothers” and, at worst, outside the pale…

Frame, Horton, Westminster, and Old Testament Moralizing

Posted on April 14, 2012

In the current dispute between Professor John M. Frame (see Review of Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church) and the Westminster Seminary California (WSC) Establishment, notably Mike Horton, Scott Clark, and Darryl Hart, relating to Horton’s book Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, one vital issue is the exemplary use of the Bible (especially the OT), that is, how we today should use examples in the Bible in our teaching and preaching. In the interests of full disclosure: I’m a friend of John Frame’s, agree with his criticism of Horton’s book, have enlisted him to speak at my conferences, and contributed to his Festschrift titled Speaking the Truth in Love.  But I ask the reader to…

The Hermeneutics of Homosexual Christianity

Posted on April 11, 2012

Fuller Seminary’s young evangelical scholar Daniel Kirk, reviewing the book Gay Conversations with God by James Alexander Langteaux, speaks of “grow[ing] in [his] understanding of the place of homosexual Christians in the body of Christ.” There can be no doubt that homosexuals (like all other sinners) can be — and should be — converted to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  But the notion that practicing homosexuals stand within the body of Christ (and I’m assuming Dr. Kirk is using this expression to denote actual soteric inclusion in Christ’s body, as opposed to objective inclusion in Christendom by baptism) stands in radical contrast to 1 Cor. 6:9–10, where we read: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?…

Why Christians Celebrate Easter

Posted on April 4, 2012

This Sunday is Easter. Easter is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible makes very clear that on the third day after Christ’s death, He rose bodily from the tomb and showed Himself to His disciples. To those who affirm the authority of the Bible, this is not a matter of conjecture, but of certainty. It is, moreover, of crucial importance. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul makes clear that our Lord’s resurrection is a central component of the Gospel. If Jesus Christ did not rise bodily from the dead, Paul tells us, then our faith is in vain. For this reason, orthodox Christians of all groups and denominations have historically celebrated Easter. Why was Jesus Christ’s…

Transformation by Resurrection

Posted on April 1, 2012

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might…