Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why We Share the Truth and Love of Christ with a Disillusioned World

Warning: This material is very somber and intense, but a sober reminder of the reality of life without the purpose we can only receive from an infinite, wise and all-good God.

What he left behind: A 1,905-page suicide note
By David Abel , Boston Globe Staff
In the end, no one really knows what led Mitchell Heisman, an erudite, wry, handsome 35-year-old, to walk into Harvard Yard on the holiest day in his faith and fire one shot from a silver revolver into his right temple, on the top step of Memorial Church, where hundreds gathered to observe the Jewish Day of Atonement.
But if the 1,905-page suicide note he left is to be believed — a work he spent five years honing and that his family and others received in a posthumous e-mail after his suicide last Saturday morning on Yom Kippur — Heisman took his life as part of a philosophical exploration he called “an experiment in nihilism.’’..... 
“Every word, every thought, and every emotion come back to one core problem: life is meaningless,’’ he wrote. “The experiment in nihilism is to seek out and expose every illusion and every myth, wherever it may lead, no matter what, even if it kills us.’’
Over the years, as he became more immersed in his work, often laboring over it 12 hours a day, Heisman shared bits with friends and family but never elaborated on the extent of his nihilism — his hardened view that life is vapid and nonsensical, that values are pretense, that the “unreasoned conviction in the rightness of life over death is like a god or a mass delusion.’’.....
As his sister, Laurel Heisman, spent last week sifting through what remains of his things — a poster in German, a well-made bed, piles of books in a small room shrouded with a dark curtain — she said she received a separate, posthumous note from him asking that she preserve a website he created to publish his book, a burden she has agreed to bear.
“I love you,’’ he wrote to her.
She wishes she could have made him see more of the beauty of life, and how we create our own value and give our own meaning to life. She might have taken him up a mountain or held him more closely.
“He just told us the safe things, because he knew we would have tried to stop him,’’ she said. “It’s really hard. It’s not like someone who was really depressed because they lost a lover. His whole ideology was wrapped in this concept of nihilism. I wish we could have made him see things differently.’’
 Read the whole article here.

HT: Dave Herring

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to Name a Church

Jared Bridges has a really funny post on naming a church. It looks like we are somewhat safe from his satire with a name like, "King of Grace Church", but perhaps not.  Enjoy these excerpts:
While there’s ample biblical precedent for the naming of animals, textual support for the naming of a church is scant.Thankfully, we evangelicals (who are typically disoriented without written instruction) have found a way to remedy this. I’m not sure as to the origins of the method, but the system below can account for approximately 83.585 percent of all evangelical churches. It’s really a rather simple process.
STEP ONE: Start with the list of words below:
  • Grace
  • Life
  • Community
  • Covenant
  • Fellowship
  • Creek
  • Calvary
  • Fire
  • River
  • Road
  • Word
  • Bible
  • Memorial
  • Chapel
  • Spirit
  • Faith
  • Cross
  • Hope
  • Light
  • Redeemer
  • First
Of course, one could readily add the word “Pointe” into the mix above, but by all means, make sure that the trailing “e” is in place if you want to look like a bona fide evangelical church. Otherwise, congregants might miss the “point.”
STEP TWO: Take any combination of the words listed above, in any order, add to them your denominational (or lack thereof) appellation, and tack on the word “Church” at the end.......Voila! Your church now has a name.

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Christian and An American?

Collin Hansen has an excellent post, Pay Your Taxes But Put Your Trust in Christ, discussing a Christian's approach to government and politics. Much of what he says is taken from a sermon given by Mark Dever. Having a clear and biblically informed understanding of citizenship is so important as we live in this world awaiting Jesus' return.

Here are some excerpts:
Lincoln Memorial
Enjoying a sunny fall day, I walked around the National Mall on Saturday afternoon. Before visiting any other favorite sites, I ascended the temple steps where Father Abraham presides on his throne over American civil religion. ......
Only three weeks earlier self-appointed political prophet Glenn Beck claimed Lincoln’s imprimatur by packing these same steps for a rally. But religious nationalists who invoke America’s greatest president never seem to understand the irony of his memory. The man who saved the Union understood that God transcends and judges it. God’s ways often surpass our understanding. We cannot manipulate him to baptize our pet causes.....  Jesus Christ didn’t robe himself in an American flag...........

I heard from senior pastor Mark Dever the best sermon I know on Christianity and government [3].......In these days of overheated rhetoric and protest rallies, I pray that evangelicals will set aside 70 minutes to listen to Dever’s sermon. Much of the wisdom expressed here echoes the forthcoming book City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era [7], written by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, with a foreword by Tim Keller. We need to hear from the best evangelical thinkers about a faithful, biblical approach to politics. Perhaps I can help the cause by summarizing four pages of notes I scribbled from Dever’s sermon.
Mark Dever
Jesus Paid Taxes
....Jesus regarded the pagan state as legitimate when he said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). The answer stunned the Herodians and Pharisees, because whatever their differences, Israel and Rome both derived their legitimacy by divine appeals.Human government is deeply biblical.....Government is not specifically Christian, but it is good. Certainly order is better than organizing society around unfettered self-interest.......In his second point, Dever argued that no earthly kingdom can be identified with God’s people. Christians are international. With his answer, Jesus unhitched God’s people from any one government, severing the national covenant that extended all the way back to Moses. If followers of Jesus could support Rome with their taxes, which government today—no matter how corrupt—can’t Christians support? “Christians are, by God’s grace, cockroaches,” Dever said. “We can survive anything.”.....With his third and final point, Dever argued that Christians are finally accountable to God. Many remember that Jesus told the Pharisees and Heroadians, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Not so many remember that Jesus ended his teaching by saying we should render “to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
.....If Romans 13 calls Christians to obey government, then Revelation 13 illustrates what happens when the state rebels against God. No government commands the Christian’s unqualified support....
If we were ever tempted to invest our hope in the state, we should remember that Americans live in a country where spanking children is suspect but aborting children is okay. ....
Let us give to God what is God’s, Dever exhorted. Everything is God’s. Let us pay our taxes. But even more, let us trust in Christ.
You can read the whole article here.

A Christian Nation?

Joe Carter's post, Founding Believers, discusses the religious persuasion of some of the founding fathers. It is important for us to understand that many were not orthodox Christians but Deists. While Christianity has had a strong influence on our country we must never think that it is or ever has been a "Christian nation" in the true sense of the word.

Here are some excerpts from the post:
What were the religious beliefs of the founding fathers? That question is at the heart of many of the most contentious debates about the role of religion in the American public square. Countless arguments are centered on claims that the founders were either God-fearing Christians or Deistically-inclined secularists.....

David L. Holmes, a professor of religious studies at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, provides a useful methodology for examining the relevant evidence in his book, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Holmes offers four types of evidence that can help us discern whether a Revolutionary-era political leader was a Deist, an orthodox Christian, or something in between:

1. Examine the actions of the founding father in the area of religion (e.g., Did they attend church regularly?).

2. Examine the participation of the founding father in a church’s ordinances or sacraments (e.g., Did they have their children baptized? Did they take Holy Communion?).

3. Comparison of inactivity versus activity in regards to religious involvement.

4. Examine the religious language used by the founding father.

Using these criteria, Holmes claims that the religious beliefs of the founding fathers can be broadly classified as: Non-Christian Deists who rejected all sacraments and rarely attended church services’ Deistic Christians/Unitarians who held Deistic beliefs, attended church regularly, but rejected the Lord’s Supper and confirmation;. and Orthodox Christians who accepted orthodox Christian beliefs, attended church regularly, and participated in the sacraments and ordinances......

Applying the method to other founding fathers, the list could be roughly delineated as:

Non-Christian Deists: Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen.

Deistic Christians/Unitarians: Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe.

Orthodox Christians: Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, John Jay, Elias Boudinot, John Witherspoon.....

Most—whether they were non-Christian Deists or Deistic Christians—appear to have been held to the classic “five points of Deism”: (1) There is a God; (2) He ought to be worshiped; (3) Virtue is the principle element in this worship; (4) Humans should repent of their sins; and (5) There is life after death, where the evil will be punished and the good rewarded.

The views of the Deistic founding fathers would have been as repugnant to the modern secularist as those of the so-called Religious Right. The founding believers considered belief in a deity to be necessary for good citizenship, believed in intelligent design, had few qualms about establishment of state churches, and took a low view of atheists. They might not pass muster as orthodox Christians, but if they were around today they would considered theocrats.

Regardless of what was believed at the time of the founding, our country is not a “Christian nation” but rather, as the Baptist theologian Albert Mohler duly notes, “a nation of Christians.” America, he argues, “is not Christian by constitutional provision or creedal affirmation—but its people are overwhelmingly Christian by self-affirmation. Thoughtful evangelicals will not overestimate the convictional character of this self-identification. Secularists ought not to overestimate its superficiality.”

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Got Humility?

Not yet, really? Me neither....but we can keep learning by listening in on this excellent discussion on biblical humility between James MacDonald and C.J. Mahaney. via the Gospel Coalition blog.

You can also learn more from CJ's book, Humility:True Greatness.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Have you heard of humble orthodoxy?

Check out this video by Bobby Shook  based on a quote from page 225 of the Humble Orthodoxy chapter of Josh Harris' book, Dug Down Deep: from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Should We Emphasize The Cross vs. the Resurrection?

Please take some time to read these excellent posts by Jeff Purswell, dean of Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College. Here's an index to the questions and Jeff's answers:
  1. Will focusing on the cross lead us to neglect the resurrection?
  2. Why focus on a crucified Savior when we serve a living Christ?
  3. Will a cross-focus lead us to be more aware of our sin than of our new life in Christ?
  4. Doesn’t the book of Acts stress the resurrection more than the cross?
  5. Will paying so much attention to the atonement lead us to make too much of the cross?

You can read all the posts in a PDF document here.

Reproduced from Tony Reinke's post.

A "Rant" on Worship Songs

Check out what Jeremy Pierce hates about some worship songs in his post, "Rant About Worship Songs".  (Warning: Be prepared for some tongue-in-cheek commentary.)

HT: Justin Taylor

What is a Hyper-Calvinist?

Do you  know the difference between "Calvinism" and "Hyper-Calvinism"? It is a very important distinction that is all too often confused.

Charles Spurgeon (via Adrian Warnock)
Iain Murray's book, "Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism", looks at Charles Spurgeon's struggles with the Hyper-Calvinists of his day. This book has been immensely helpful to me in navigating this important distinction and avoiding the serious errors of Hyper-Calvinism. Take a look at Ray Ortlund's summary from this book on his post, "Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism". I think it will help you avoid the danger of Hyper-Calvinism.

Here is an excerpt:
 “Genuine evangelical Christianity is never of an exclusive spirit.  Any view of the truth which undermines catholicity has gone astray from Scripture.”  Spurgeon regretfully disagreed with hyper-Calvinists who “made faith in election a part of saving faith and thus either denied the Christianity of all professed Christians who did not so believe or at least treated such profession with much suspicion.”...... “This controversy directs us to our need for profound humility before God.  It reminds us forcefully of questions about which we can only say, ‘Behold, God is great, and we know him not’ (Job 36:26).”  “It is to be feared that sharp contentions between Christians on these issues have too often arisen from a wrong confidence in our powers of reasoning and our assumed ability to draw logical inferences.”..........  “The final conclusion has to be that when Calvinism ceases to be evangelistic, when it becomes more concerned with theory than with the salvation of men and women, when acceptance of doctrines seems to become more important than acceptance of Christ, then it is a system going to seed and it will invariably lose its attractive power.”
Read the rest here.