Category Archives: Theology

The Monday Muse: Prophecy

My wife’s close friend Rachel came over for dinner tonight. Whenever the two of them get together you can count on some deep discussions. I asked them to help me come up with this week’s question and based on an earlier discussion, this is what they came up with:

Does God still speak through prophetic means?

I can see many paths in this discussion. So thanks to my wife Annie and her friend Rachel for this potentially interesting debate. Now…have at it…but play nice.

The Monday Muse: The Millennium

Ok folks…we’re going Left Behind this week. We are venturing into the waters of the end times. I want to know where you stand. I want you to make your case.

Are you a premillennialist, postmillennialist, or amillennialist? And why?

This week’s question comes as a shout out to my friend Jordan who was asked a similar question in an interview for a position at a Christian college.

The Monday Muse: Calling

I have wrestled with the issue of calling for several years beginning with a class I took my junior year in college. It was a class for ministry students who were preparing for service in the church. One day we discussed the difference between being “called” and being “led.” The professor explained that a “leading” was more general while “calling” was more specific. So many of us in his class were being led into the ministry but our calling might not yet be determined (senior pastor, para-church, missionary, etc.). Personally, I find this answer unsatisfactory. And I think this is a question many of us ask though maybe it is phrased a little differently. It doesn’t only relate to vocation but vocation seems to be the greatest catalyst for this type of discussion or thinking. So my question for this week goes like this:

What is calling and how do we determine what we are “called” to do or be?

The Authoritative Jesus

look-to-the-rock.jpgTonight I began reading Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ by Alec Motyer. Lately I have been under the conviction that I need a better understanding of the Old Testament in order to more fully appreciate and understand the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ. Simply put, I desire to know the Old Testament because I know it is important to knowing Jesus and I long to know my Savior. I thought Motyer’s book would be helpful in that endeavor. I have only read the introduction and first chapter but it has not disappointed so far. One of the main points of the book is to bring unity to the Bible and its authority. We often act as if the New Testament carries more authority than the Old Testament because Jesus is humanly present in the New Testament. This kind of thinking fails to recognize that Jesus is present in all of Scripture and thus all of Scripture is authoritative. As Motyer says:

This great Lord Jesus came from outside and volutarily and deliberately attached himself to the Old Testament, affirmed it to be the word of God and set himself, at cost, to fulfil it (e.g. Mt. 26:51-54). This fact of facts cuts the ground from under any suspicion that the doctrine of biblical authority rests on a circular argument such as, ‘I believe the Bible to be authoritative because the Bible says it is authoritative.’ Not so! It was Jesus who came ‘from outside’ as the incarnate Son of God, Jesus who was raised from the dead as the Son of God with power, who chose to validate the Old Testament in retrospect and the New Testament in prospect, and who is himself the grand theme of the ‘story-line’ of both Testaments, the focal-point giving coherence to the total ‘picture’ in all it complexities. (p. 21-22)

To summarize…it’s all about Jesus. All of Scripture centers and converges on Jesus Christ. You cannot properly understand the New Testament Jesus without the Old Testament background. Simple and yet profound.

The Monday Muse: Tragedy

In light of what has gone down over the course of the past week (and further prompted by my pastor’s recent sermon), here’s the question for this week.

Does God cause or allow tragedy to strike?

Convergent Conference

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Today I began listening to the recorded sessions from the Convergent Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Let me just say that so far they are stellar. I have listened to the first three and now wish I would’ve been in attendance. J.D. Greear is soon to become one of my new favorite preachers. He gave some great examples of how to better serve your community. Ed Stetzer did a great job of reminding us of the inherent relevance of the gospel. I thought the highlight of his message came when he distinguished between changing modes and changing theology. The methods of reaching out and sharing the gospel can and inevitably will change as culture changes. However, the message of the gospel is timeless and not subject to the popular notions of the day. This is where the most extreme manifestation of the emergent church has gotten it wrong. Stetzer’s discussion naturally led itself into Mark Driscoll’s session. He gave an overview of his life and ministry and then explained the three streams of the emerging church: relevants, revisionists, and reformed.

These messages are quite possibly the best I have heard on the subject of the emerging church, cultural engagement, and differing methods. They are so good that I’m going to post them all here so you can have easy access to them. And if you are an iTunes user you can download all of the audio directly at the Southeastern podcast.

Gushee Challenges Complementarians

I should begin this post with a word of gratitude toward Dr. David Gushee. Dr. Gushee was a professor of mine during my time at Union University. He is now the Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University. I am thankful for the influence he had on me during my time at Union. His ethics courses challenged me to truly consider the way I live out my faith in every day decisions. Furthermore, Dr. Gushee helped me to see the implications of my faith in regards to many difficult ethical issues. I have found his book Kingdom Ethics, co-written with Dr. Glen Stassen, to be extremely thoughtful and fair minded. It has become a useful resource in my collection of books.

Dr. Gushee recently wrote an article for the Associated Baptist Press called Opinion: Keeping complementarians true to Scripture. The issue of gender roles is a hot topic within the church today. The two views that are at odds with one another within this debate are complementarianism and egalitarianism. A summary of the two positions with objections and responses can be found at The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Dr. Gushee writes from the perspective of an egalitarian. As he puts it, “I am convinced that all positions of service and leadership in the life of the local church should be open to women or men based entirely on calling and gifts — an egalitarian view.” One of his main motivations in addressing complementarians is “to help you keep the application of your approach as biblical as possible.” With this purpose in mind, Dr. Gushee lays out four questions that he believes “expose weaknesses in complementarianism that cannot be mended from within that paradigm.”

  • Are you successfully communicating to young men the conviction that a complementarian perspective must elevate rather than diminish the dignity of women, and therefore inculcating a moral commitment on their part to act accordingly?
  • Are you absolutely clear on which positions of Christian service (you believe) are barred to women?
  • Once you have determined what positions of Christian service are barred to women, you have therefore also determined which positions are permitted. Are you active in encouraging women to pursue the positions that are permitted?
  • When women occupy positions of church leadership that parallel those of men, are their positions named equally and are the individuals involved treated equally?

I believe Dr. Gushee’s questions are extremely valid and appropriately challenging to all complementarians. As a complementarian myself, I believe we should be holding the dignity of women in high regard. I also believe that we should encourage women to use their gifts in service within the church. And I certainly believe that men and women in parallel positions should be treated equally. However, I believe Scripture is clear about the differing roles within the church for men and women. The role of an elder is to be reserved for a male who leads his family well and is able to teach. What about other positions? Are those reserved only for men as well? That discussion is for another time. This distinction does not make men better or greater than women, just different. We can see this same principle when Scripture speaks of marriage. Men and women are equal but different.

Though Dr. Gushee’s questions are very helpful, I believe his conclusion on complementarianism is flawed. His questions reflect experiences with the inconsistency of some who hold the complementarian position. He asks these questions not only to challenge us but to “expose weaknesses” through the evidence of practical inconsistency. However, the inconsistencies do not automatically discredit the position. As Denny Burk says,

Gushee assumes that the abuse of one’s principles (in this case Complementarianism) invalidates the principles themselves. But this premise is totally unwarranted and if applied to other principles would lead to totally absurd conclusions. Can you imagine if someone said the following: “Civil laws are constantly broken by those who otherwise say those laws are just. Therefore, the hypocrisy of the lawbreakers invalidates the laws.”

As Dr. Gushee mentions, the egalitarian position has many practical inconsistencies of its own. The argument against egalitarianism is not based on the inability of people to apply its principles. The argument against this view is rooted in the belief that Scripture does not teach it. I do believe Dr. Gushee’s questions are useful and challenging. However, I believe there are good answers to these questions. I also believe that there are good examples of churches and people living out the principles of complementarianism. It does not negate the fact that many are not consistent with their belief. Practical consistency is an issue for all positions because humans are inconsistent by nature. Yet we could apply this same concern and argument to many aspects of the Christian life. So does the struggle to live out Christian principles discredit a person from being a Christian? I think not. Otherwise our faith would not be based on the grace of God but on the consistent works of man. In the end, I believe Dr. Gushee’s argument falls well short of exposing flaws in the complementarian view. It does however reiterate the fact that inconsistency is a part of who we are as humans. Thus Dr. Gushee’s argument reminds us of our continued need for the transforming grace of God.

The Sovereignty of God in Suffering

What is the sovereignty of God and how does it effect my life?  This is a question that comes across my mind often.  What implications does this doctrine have on my everyday life?  In Sovereignty of God, A.W. Pink explains it this way:

“The Sovereignty of God. What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.”

As far as the implications go, I find that God’s sovereignty has a calming effect on my life.  In the midst of stressful and nearly overwhelming moments, I am reminded that God is completely in control.  Since God is completely in control and above all things, He cannot be overtaken or defeated.  If I am his child and he loves me, then it means I cannot be overwhelmed by the things of this world, life, or Satan himself.  It does not mean health and wealth as some popular “preachers” teach but providential care in the midst of any circumstance.

Today I watched a video testimony of a man named John Farese who has been completely paralyzed and bedridden for many years due to spinal muscular atrophy.  He testified to the sovereignty of God in the midst of suffering.  John states that God created him this way for the purpose of drawing him to the Lord and using his suffering as a unique perspective on the glory and sovereignty of God.  I pray that God would give me faith like John to view all the circumstances of my life as opportunities to testify about the good and sovereign will of God.  Watch and be touched.

Sin and Augustine

augustine.jpgIs it truly in our nature to sin?  What effect does sin have on our lives?  How deep do the roots of sin go?  God’s Word tells us that all men sit under the condemnation of sin “because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12-21)  Paul says that sin entered the world through the trespass of one man.  His trespass led to the death of all mankind.  How is it fair to hold Adam’s sin against us?  To ask this question would be to assume that you would not have made the same choice as Adam.  Indeed we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  If we had been created first instead of Adam, we would have eaten of the fruit just as he did.  How do I know?  Scripture says that we are all sinful and corrupt in our flesh.  We all have flesh so that includes each of us.  Do I really have to press this point further?  It should not take much convincing to understand that something isn’t quite right with the way things are.  It should not take much convincing to determine that we all sin and fail to live perfect lives.  Even the good things we try to do sometimes turn out bad.

Augustine had a strong conviction regarding sin.  His book, Confessions, begins with reflection on the early stages of his life and the sin that was prevalent even as a young child.  Though Augustine can not directly recall his infant years, he uses the testimony of others as well as the study of infant behavior to determine that man is corrupt from the very beginning.  Augustine says that “none is pure from sin before you, not even an infant of one day upon the earth.” (p. 9) From kicking and screaming to loud cries, Augustine felt that infants inherently knew how to manipulate people into fulfilling their own desires whether they needed it or not.  He would argue that it is so engrained in who we are that sin comes naturally.

The effects of sin are too numerous to name in a single post.  Due to sin, death entered the world.  We were not made to die in the beginning but death was the consequence for sin.  Sin can put a deceiving twist on the best and worst things.  Sin can cloak the worst of choices and actions in a mask of goodness.  Sin can also turn good intentions and ideas into a disaster.  Sin has a blinding effect on our lives.  When we are caught up in it, sin can blind us from the reality of the situation as well as the recognition of what is truly happening.  One might say that sin acts as cataracts over our eyes, making everything around us blurry.  The senior pastor at my church, Randall Jackson, said something quite interesting in his message this evening regarding sin.  As Christians, we are always looking forward to the second coming and the resurrection that will take place.  However, there is another type of resurrection that we should flee.  It is the resurrection of our old selves.  Though our old lives are dead, they lie in anticipation of the perfect moment to spring back to life, blinding and corrupting our hearts, minds, and lives.  So there is a constant battle between the old and new.  We would do well to keep a watchful eye on the old self so that we may subdue its desires when it attempts to regain control.

The effects of sin are devastating and powerful.  Yet we know that Christ died on the cross in our place to reap the consequences of our sin for us.  He died to defeat death and overcome it by his resurrection.  Thus he made it possible for us to also defeat and overcome death.  How?  By repenting of our sin and professing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  By pledging and devoting your life to Jesus, you can overcome the effects of sin and can be born again unto a new life.

ADDENDUM: I should clarify what I meant by “overcome the effects of sin” in the last line. I do not mean that you can lead a sinless or perfect life here on this earth. I simply mean that the wage of sin is death and since this wage has been paid by Jesus we can overcome death by placing our faith in Him. By devoting your life to Jesus, you also break the chains of sin in your life so that it no longer enslaves you. Though you may wrestle with sin throughout your life, in Christ you have the freedom to turn away from sin and to pursue godliness.

Baptism, Church Membership, and the Lord’s Supper

A respectful debate has been taking place between many prominent evangelicals concerning baptism and its relation to church membership. The debate is not so much a look at the arguments for or against infant baptism (paedobaptism) and believer’s baptism (credobaptism) but a discussion on the necessity of proper baptism (proper depending on theological conviction) for local church membership. The debate then branched off into the question of whether or not to withold the Lord’s Supper from believers who have not been baptized according to that particular churches defintion of baptism. The men involved with the discussion include Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Mark Dever, Abraham Piper, Sam Storms, and Ligon Duncan. Justin Taylor has outlined and linked the entirety of this debate on his blog. Go read through the discussion and then come back and tell me what you think. Should churches allow both types of baptism in considering membership or only baptism based on their theological conviction? Should believers who have been baptized as infants be denied the Lord’s Supper in a Baptist church?