Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eric Clapton - Can't Hold Out Much Longer

Adding to Our Sins While Repenting of Them

Spurgeon, writing reflectively on Ephesians 2:8-9--
What does faith exclude? Well, I am sure it excludes boasting. 'He that believeth is not condemned' (John 3:18). Oh, if it said, 'He that works is not condemned,' then you and I might boast in unlimited quantity. . . .

No, Lord, if I am not condemned, it is Your free grace, for I have deserved to be condemned a thousand times since I sat down to write this. When I am on my knees and I am not condemned, I am sure it must be sovereign grace, for even when I am praying, I deserve to be condemned. Even when we are repenting, we are sinning, and adding to our sins while we are repenting of them. . . .

Our best performances are so stained with sin that it is hard to know whether they are good works or bad works. . . . Ah, then, we cannot boast! Be gone, pride! Be gone! Quit boasting, Christian. Live humbly before your God, and never let a word of self-congratulation escape your lips.
--Charles Spurgeon, Faith (Whitaker House 1995), 88


How Do We Make the Huge Decisions in Life? Big Theology, Big Guts.

With two things often seen in tension but actually mutually reinforcing: Calvinism and courage.

Calvinism says: The God presented to me in the Bible is so massive, so much more life-encompassing than the puny little super-god I could have conceived of on my own, that he determines the roll of the dice in Las Vegas (Prov 16:33) and the choices Obama makes (Prov 21:1) and 9/11 (Amos 3:6) and even human sin (2 Sam 24:1ff)--including the Sin of all sins, the murder of the only person who ever lived without deserving to be murdered (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28). This is a God so great, so magnificently in control, that he can tell us Jesus will be betrayed as it has been decreed from heaven and, in the same breath, pronounce woe on the one by whom he is betrayed (Luke 22:22).

Courage says: Game time. Let's go. Not sure what exactly is best here, but I'm going to trust God and take a leap. Life is short. Death is coming. Risk is good. God is big. Failure is likely. But even that can only be for my good. I'm not sure this parachute is going to open: I'm jumping anyway. Enough waiting. Enough pondering. It's time to kill the fierce instinct of self-preservation that keeps whispering to me to play it safe.

At the forks-in-the-road of our lives, these are the two things we need: Calvinism and courage. Calvinism without courage is robot-ism, vacation-ism, paralyzed lethargy. Courage without Calvinism is frantic, scurrying, anguished desperation.

Calvinism says, Relax, he's running the show. Courage says, Just take a risk and do something.

Big theology, big guts.

Do you have a decision to make in life? Trust God and plunge in, one way or the other. Go for it. What honors God more: days and weeks of delayed decision-making as you 'pray about it,' or getting off the couch and taking a risk? It's not a strict either-or, of course. Let's certainly bathe our big decisions in prayer and seek the wisdom of others. But having done this, just do something. Jump. Do it.

Sure, might be painful. But I would like to lie on a hospital bed, breathing my last, in 50 years (or next week), and not wonder what might have happened had I taken that risk. I would like to have more scars, from taking more risks. Wouldn't you?

After all, he bears scars from taking the ultimate risk for us.
Dane Ortlund

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eric Clapton-Judgement Day (2010)

Luther: Why the World is Damned

Let this be your one sure guide: Whatever you have to buy from the pope is neither good nor from God. For what God gives is not only given without charge, but the whole world is punished and damned for not being willing to receive it as a free gift. I mean the gospel and God's work.
--'To the Christian Nobility,' in Luther's Works, 44:189

Deeper into the Gospel

“Our great need is to be led further in to what we already have. The gospel is so deep that it not only meets our deepest needs but comes from God’s deepest self. The salvation proclaimed in the gospel is not some mechanical operation that God took on as a side project. It is a ‘mystery that was kept secret for long ages’ (Rom. 16:25), a mystery of salvation that goes back into the heart of God, decreed ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20). When God undertook our salvation, he did it in a way that put divine resources into play, resources which involve him personally in the task. . . . The deeper we dig into the gospel, the deeper we go into the mystery of the Trinity.”
- Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2010), 13.
Of First Importance


Our Fatal Love Affair with the Law

Grace cannot prevail until law is dead, until moralizing is out of the game . . . until our fatal love affair with the law is over--until, finally and for good, our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed. As long as we leave, in our dramatizations of grace, one single hope of a moral reckoning, one possible recourse to salvation by bookkeeping, our freedom-dreading hearts will clutch it to themselves.

Restore to us, Preacher, the comfort of merit and demerit. Prove for us that there is at least something we can do, that we are still, at whatever dim recess of our nature, the masters of our relationships. Tell us, Prophet, that in spite of all our nights of losing, there will yet be one redeeming card of our very own. . . . But do not preach us grace. It will not do to split the pot evenly at 4 a.m. and break out the Chivas Regal. We insist on being reckoned with. Give us something, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.

Lord, let your servants depart in the peace of their responsibility. If it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with some few shreds of self-respect to congratulate ourselves upon. But if that is too hard, leave us at least the consolation of our self-loathing. Only do not force us free. What have we ever done but try as best we could? How have we so hurt you, even by failing, that you should now turn on us and say that none of it makes any difference, not even our sacred guilt? We have played this game of yours, and it has cost us.
Where do you get off suggesting a drink at a time like this?
--Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace (Eerdmans 1997), 7; italics original
Dane Ortlund

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What the Prosperity Gospel Does to the Gospel

I was reminded tonight by a local TV preacher (asking for money in exchange for prayers, of course) how badly the prosperity gospel distorts the actual Gospel. Here are three major things that I think the prosperity gospel does:
1. Cheapens Grace
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is built upon the fact that God’s wrath needed to be satisfied by the shedding of blood in order for sinners to be taken out from under this wrath. Jesus did not have your material wealth in mind when He died on the cross. No, Jesus had your eternal soul in mind. Your wealth on earth is judged by others, but your soul is judged by God. Grace is poured out because you are born in spiritual poverty with no hope, not because your 401k is lower than you’d like.
2. Glorifies Materialism
One of the grossest sins in America is the infatuation with money and reputation. I live in Dallas where everyone is in debt up to their eyeballs in order to be seen as one of the North Dallas elites. It doesn’t matter that you make $35,000 per year as long as people think you make $200,000. It’s a scary place to be to think that God wants your wealth because He is ultimately concerned with your renown and happiness. There is a reason that faithful believers in the Bible struggled at one point or another by earthly standards – God was teaching them to refocus their standards according to His.
3. Elevates Moralism

It is pretty clear in any prosperity sermon that you are blessed if you are wealthy. A key phrase for a prosperity preacher is, “Are you broke? Does your car need new tires? Did you only get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch this week? It’s because you haven’t unlocked God’s ultimate plan for you!” He (or she) proceeds to tell you that if you do this and that, God will bless you. What is this blessing? MONEY. Duh. What more could you need to be happy? Forget reckless abandon for Christ and His Kingdom, as long as you got Chili’s instead of tuna salad this week. God’s blessing is Him. You get Him with no stipulations.
Modern March


The Other Guys "If I were a Lion" - Will Ferrell & Mark Wahlberg

The Shock of Human History

All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isa. 40:6-8)
Isaiah contrasts human 'flesh' with the divine 'word.' Flesh falters, the word abides. Absolute antithesis.

In John 1:14, however, expounding the mystery of the incarnation, the two are overlaid--'The word became flesh and dwelt among us.' (HT: Martin Hengel, p. 269 of this book)

C. S. Lewis called the incarnation 'the humiliation of myth into fact, of God into Man.' He wrote: 'what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid--no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowing boat on the Lake of Galilee.' ('Is Theology Poetry?' in The Weight of Glory, 99-100)
Dane Ortlund

Trailer for the Coen Brothers’ new True Grit with Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges

This Christmas, the Coen brothers have a new version of True Grit coming out starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.

To clarify, it’s not a remake of the 1969 True Grit with John Wayne, but another interpretation of the same novel the first one was based on, and a more accurate one at that, Ethan Coen says.

Take Your Pick

We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.
--'Bishop' Eddie Long, Christian preacher, describing his ministry to a newspaper in 2005
My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
--the Apostle Paul, Christian preacher, describing his ministry in 1 Corinthians 2
Dane Ortlund

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crash And Burn

Who’s Afraid of Inerrancy?

Perhaps you’ve seen the conversation among Tim Keller, Alister McGrath, Brian McLaren, and Dempsey Rosales-Acosta on biblical authority from the Q conference a few months ago. I’m not sure it’s worth 38 minutes of your time, but I found Tim Keller’s remarks around the 5-minute mark to be especially helpful.
The first topic discussed by the panel was inerrancy–What does it mean?, Is it a helpful term?, Where did it come from?, etc.
McGrath’s response was disappointing. He explained that he doesn’t like the term because it sounds too self-assured, like we have everything figured out and our interpretations are all correct. He prefers to speak of the Bible as “reliable and trustworthy.”
McLaren’s remarks were frustratingly predictable and predictably frustrating. After asserting that many people in the room will get fired if they don’t affirm inerrancy, McLaren went on to talk about the atrocities Christians have committed by using an “inerrant” Bible (e.g., slavery, killing Native Americans).
When it came time for Keller to talk (around 5:20) the discussion had already moved passed inerrancy, but he deliberately brought the conversation back to the term.
Just for the record: I have no problem at all talking about inerrancy. As a pastor if I actually say to someone, any layperson–if I believe in the authority of the Bible but not the inerrancy of the Bible, they’re going to say, “what’s the difference?” And as soon as I begin to explain it, their eyes glaze over. And they’re going to think of it as a distinction without a difference. If I say it’s not authoritative in all its parts and it’s not inerrant, they understand that. And if I say it’s authoritative and inerrant, they understand that. But to say it’s authoritative and not inerrant, I’ve never in 35 years of working with people been able to get that.
Keller is absolutely right. Most people in the pew assume that when we say the Bible is trustworthy and authoritative we don’t also mean it makes some mistakes. For them, inerrancy, whether they know the term or now, goes hand in hand with a reliable, authoritative Bible.
I remember several years ago having a conversation with a deacon at another church. He was asking me why I chose one seminary over another. I tried to explain that the seminary he was asking about (the one I didn’t attend) did not believe in inerrancy. This was a smart man, a lawyer in fact, but he had never heard of the term. So I explained that inerrancy simply means the Bible, in the original manuscripts, doesn’t make any mistakes in anything it affirms. I’ll never forget his response: “Isn’t that what all Christians believe?” He grew up in the church and heard his whole life that the Bible was true, reliable, and authoritative. He was not familiar with the term inerrancy and yet he assumed that’s exactly what all those other words implied.
Here’s the bottom line: if we try to parse some fine distinction between infallibility and inerrancy or between reliability and inerrancy, the average churchgoer will think we’re just trying to avoid a label for some reason or just trying to hide something. And very often they’ll be right on both accounts.
Kevin DeYoung

The majesty of God’s forgiveness

“The majesty of God’s forgiveness is lost entirely when we lose what has to be forgiven. What has to be forgiven is not just what we do but who we are, not just our sinning but our sinfulness, not just our choices but what we have chosen in place of God. . . . When we miss the biblical teaching, we also miss the nature of God’s grace in all its height and depth. In biblical faith it is God’s grace through Christ that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
- David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 167.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers - Who do You Love- Dedication; Bo Diddley

Was The Cross Really Necessary for Forgiveness?

This question is best answered by considering it from God’s perspec- tive. He created a perfect environment for Adam and Eve. He loved them and provided everything for them. The Serpent provoked them to make their own judgments about things rather than trust God and his direc- tion. They refused God’s authority, putting themselves in his place as their own gods. If God had simply forgiven them, he would have vindi- cated them as sinners and accepted Satan as an equal.
Furthermore, God would be endorsing evil by passively accepting it. Simple forgiveness seems merciful at first. However, what it really does is give God’s blessing to Satan and evil by approving such things as rape and murder. Because God is just, he must distinguish between good and evil by promoting the former and opposing the latter. Mere forgiveness would destroy God’s holiness, justice, and righteousness by not distinguishing between good and evil. Because God is good, he cannot approve of or ignore sin and its consequences.
Basically, the debt of sin must be paid, or evil is vindicated. That debt is paid either by the sinner in the torments of eternal hell or by our eternal God Jesus Christ dying on the cross in our place for our sins.
The great reformer Martin Luther put it well: “Since [Jesus Christ] became a substitute for us all, and took upon himself our sins, that he might bear God’s terrible wrath against sin and expiate our guilt, he necessarily felt the sin of the whole world, together with the entire wrath of God, and afterwards the agony of death on account of this sin.”
The cross demonstrates the loving desire of God to forgive and heal. When God was confronted with the first sin of humanity, he was really angry. But instead of destroying everyone and everything he had made and being done with us forever, God called to Adam and Eve, promised that Jesus their Messiah was coming, and mercifully made coverings for their shame (Genesis 3).
This desire to heal and forgive with compassion, grace, and total justice comes together only at the cross. James Denney put this very suc- cinctly: “Nothing else in the world demonstrates how real is God’s love to the sinful, and how real the sin of the world is to God.”
God “just did it” by providing the full solution in his death and res- urrection. Will you “just do it” and receive his gift of eternal life?
- Mark Driscoll, Death by Love: Letters from the Cross (Re:Lit)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A coin reform rant: What’s wrong with pennies and nickels

Bo Diddley - Who Do You Love


He rejoices over us

How heart-cheering to the believer is the delight which God has in his saints! We cannot see any reason in ourselves why the Lord should take pleasure in us; we cannot take delight in ourselves, for we often have to groan, being burdened; conscious of our sinfulness, and deploring our unfaithfulness; and we fear that God’s people cannot take much delight in us, for they must perceive so much of our imperfections and our follies, that they may rather lament our infirmities than admire our graces. But we love to dwell upon this transcendent truth, this glorious mystery: that as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so does the Lord rejoice over us.
- Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, September 21
Of First Inportance

Chain of Grace?

by Eric Landry
So my wife was running some errands this morning and drove through Starbucks to get some coffee. When she pulled up to the window, the cashier said her coffee would have been $3.05, but the guy in the car ahead of her had already paid for it. Odd, she thought, but a nice treat and blessing with a sick little girl in the back seat and a stressful day in front of her. Then the cashier went on: there’s been a chain of nine cars that have done this, each has paid for the person coming after them. She told my wife that she could “take her blessing” or pass it on to the person behind her. If it had been me, I probably would have driven off–I hate chain emails and this smacks of something similar! But my wife, being who she is, paid for the person behind her (spending an extra $.80 for their nicer cup of coffee) and then felt guilty for being a little irritated at having to keep the chain of blessing going.
Blessings aren’t supposed to come with chains (either literal or figurative). The only blessing that really is a blessing is one of pure grace, with nothing expected in return (or “paid forward” as the case may be). I think this is a great illustration for how most of us live our lives with a sense of “sanctified karma” rather than gratitude. Sanctified karma says that we’re getting what we deserve, so we’d better do something nice if we ever hope to receive something nice in return. Rather than being motivated by gratitude, we’re motivated by guilt or by a twisted sense of selfishness. Living and giving out of gratitude allows us to give in the face of rejection, to love in the face of criticism, and to live out of our identity as God’s sons and daughters that we have been freely given in Christ.
May all your acts of grace be given without chains!
White Horse Inn

Friday, September 24, 2010

HOWLIN' WOLF aka Chester Burnett - Wang Dang Doodle

Wang Dang Doodle by Willie Dixon
From "The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions" - 1970
Personnel: Chester Burnett aka Howlin'Wolf - Eric Clapton - Steve Winwood - Charlie Watts - Bill Wyman Add: Ian Stewart - piano

The Crushing Blow Of Government Health care

A Staggering Fact to Consider: God Loves Us

Many today are quite willing to talk about God’s love, but they lack understanding.  There is the temptation to get haughty as if we deserve it, as if it is something that God owes us.  Looking at God’s love that way cheapens this attribute, but when coupled with God’s justice and wrath – attributes in God’s character many choose to ignore – we can grasp its depth.  God’s love is amazing.  It should come as a complete surprise to us because, as R.C. Sproul in his book, The Character of God: Discovering the God Who Is, points out we are totally unworthy of it, but the staggering fact is that He loves us anyway.  So much so that He gave up His Son.
When the Bible speaks of God’s love it invariably reaches the subject of God’s sacrifical kindness. The love of God is the love of a God who gives. The most famous verse in the Bible underscores this fact: “God so loved the world that He gave” (Jn 3:16). This giving of His only begotten Son on our behalf is the dearest expression of the love of God we can find.
The Apostle John wrote, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him” (1 Jn 4:9). Here John spoke of “manifesting” something. To manifest something is to make it plain, to show it clearly. God doesn’t merely talk about being loving; He puts His love to the test by showing it in a way that is undeniable. He shows His love by giving.
What God gives and to whom He gives it further manifests His love. God is a gift-giving God, but His supreme love is showing by His supreme gift—His only begotten Son. Elsewhere Scripture says that there is no greater love than a love that willingly lays down its life for a friend. To sacrifice your life for your friends is the “greatest” display of love we can show. Or is it? Jesus took it one step further by giving His life for His enemies.
Although Jesus did lay down His life for His friends. He died for them while they were still sinners in the midst of deserting and denying Him. This act of self-sacrifice was not done alone. Jesus acted in concert with His Father. In fact, it was His Father’s idea. The Father conceived the cup, filled the cup, and gave the cup to the Son to drink. The Son shuddered before the cup and sought to have it removed. The father said no, He would not compromise. The Son then willingly took the cup and drank it to its bitter dregs. Together they made the gift of Jesus’ precious life.
John understood the order, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10). The essence of the gospel is found in the words, “While we were yet sinners,” The love of God reaches out to us while we are alienated from Him. We have no love for Him, and our hearts are stony and cold. We love ourselves and our things. There is no affection in our hearts for God.
The supreme irony is that although God is altogether lovely, as fallen creatures we do not love Him. He is worthy and deserves our love. We owe Him our love, yet we do not love Him. On the other side, we are altogether unlovely by His standards. There is nothing in us to commend us to God, and He certainly does not owe us His love. But the staggering fact remains, He loves us. He loves us to the extent that He gave His only begotten Son for us.
HT: Tim Challies


Luther, early 1530's:
World, death, devil, hell, away and leave me in peace! You have no hold on me. If you will not let me live, then I will die. But you won't succeed in that. Chop my head off, and it won't harm me. I have One who will give me a new one.
--Off the Record with Martin Luther: An Original Translation of the Table Talks (trans. Charles Daudert; Hansa-Hewlett 2009), 402
Dane Ortlund

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Charlie Musselwhite - Finger Lickin' good

From the album "Takin' My Time" (1974).

Edwards on Union With Christ - Believers Possess All Things

By virtue of the believer's union with Christ, he doth really possess all things. That we know plainly from Scripture. But it may be asked, how [doth] he possess all things? What is he the better for it? How is a true Christian so much richer than other men? To answer this, I'll tell you what I mean by "possessing all things." I mean that God three in one, all that he is, and all that he has, and all that he does, all that he has made or done—the whole universe, bodies and spirits, earth and heaven angels, men and devils, sun moon [and] stars, land and sea, fish and fowls, all the silver and gold, kings and potentates as well as mean men—are as much the Christian's as the money in his pocket, the clothes he wears, or the house he dwells in, or the victuals he eats; yea more properly his, more advantageously more his, than if he [could] command all those things mentioned to be just in all respects as he pleased at any time, by virtue of the union with Christ; because Christ, who certainly doth thus possess all things, is entirely his: so that he possesses it all, more than a wife the share of the best and dearest husband, more than the hand possesses what the head doth; it is all his.
The universe is [his], only he has not the trouble of managing of it; but Christ, to whom it is no trouble, manages it for him a thousand times as much to his advantage as he could himself if he had the managing of all. Every atom in the universe is managed by Christ so as to be most to the advantage of the Christian, every particle of air or every ray of the sun; so that he in the other world, when he comes to see it, shall sit and enjoy all this vast inheritance with surprising, amazing joy. And how is it possible for a man to possess anything more than so as shall be most to his advantage? And then besides this, the Christian shall have everything managed just according to his will; for his will shall so be lost in the will of God, that he had rather have it according to God's will than any way in the world. And who would desire to possess all things more than to have all things managed just according to his will? And then besides, he himself shall so use them as to be most to his own advantage in his thoughts and meditations, etc.
Now how is it possible for anyone to possess anything more than to have it managed as much as possible according to his will, as much as possible for his own advantage, and for him himself to use it [as] much as possible according to his advantage? But it is certain, so much shall the true Christian possess all things; 'tis not a probable scheme, but absolutely certain. For we know that all things will be managed so as shall be most agreeable to his will. That can't be denied, nor that it shall be most for his advantage, and that he himself shall use [it] most to his own advantage.                                                                                                    This is the kingdom Christ so often promised—they shall be kings with a witness at this rate! This is the sitting in Christ's throne and inheriting all things promised to the victors in the Revelation and the like in many other places.

The Wicked Witch

200-Proof Grace

Episcopal priest and author Robert Farrar Capon:
The Reformation was a time when people went blind-staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, 200-proof grace--of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture that would convince anyone that God saves us single-handed.

The Word of the Gospel, after all those centuries . . . suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home free even before they started. How foolish, then, they said, how reprehensibly misleading, they said, to take the ministers of that Word of free, unqualified acceptance and slap enforced celibacy on them--to make their lives bear a sticker that said they had gone an extra mile and paid an extra toll. It was simply to hide the light of grace under a bushel of pseudo-law. . . . And for the Reformers, that was a crime. Grace was to be drunk neat: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor the flowers that bloom in the spring of super-spirituality could be allowed to enter that case.
--Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace (Eerdmans 1997), 109-10
Dane Ortlund

Johnny Knoxville - Detroit Lives Pt 1 -Good Things Happening In Detroit

Johnny Knoxville (of Jackass fame) hosts a really positive, 3-part documentary about the good things happening in Detroit that most media sources ignore.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bavinck on Providence

Here's how the grouchy Netherlander concludes his marvelous treatment of the providence of God in Reformed Dogmatics.
In this consoling fashion Scripture deals with the providence of God. Plenty of riddles remain, both in the life of individuals and in the history of the world and humankind. . . . But God lets the light of his Word shine over all these enigmas and mysteries, not to solve them, but that 'by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope' (Rom 15:4).

The doctrine of providence is not a philosophical system but a confession of faith, the confession that, notwithstanding appearances, neither Satan nor a human being nor any other creature, but God and he alone--by his almighty and everywhere present power--preserves and governs all things.

Such a confession can save us both from a superficial optimism that denies the riddles of life, and from a presumptuous pessimism that despairs of this world and human destiny. For the providence of God encompasses all things, not only the good but also sin and suffering, sorrow and death. For if these realities were removed from God's guidance, then what in the world would there be left for him to rule?

What an impoverished faith it would be if it saw God's hand and counsel from afar in a few momentous events but did not discern it in a person's own life and lot?
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:618-19
Dane Ortlund

Mose Allison - You Call It Jogging

False Bottom

The Value Of Everything Will Be Altered

Sobering words from Bishop J. C. Ryle (Practical Religion pg. 40):
A day is coming when banknotes will be as useless as rags, and gold will be as worthless as the dust of the earth. A day is coming when thousands will care nothing for the things for which they once lived, and will desire nothing so much as the things which they once despised. The mansions and palaces will be forgotten in the desire of a “house not made with hands.” The favor of the rich and great will be remembered no more, in the longing for the favor of the King of kings. The silks, and satins, and velvets, and laces, will be lost sight of in the anxious need of the robe of Christ’s righteousness. All will be altered, all will be changed in the great day of the Lord’s return.
Are you ready?
Tullian Tchividjian

True Worship: Acknowledging Authority and Power

Martin Luther (taken from Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House):
[Worship] is not a function of the mouth but of the whole body.  It is to bow the head, bend the body, fall on the knees, prostrate one's self, and so forth, and to do such things as a sign and acknowledgment of an authority and power greater than self. Just as people bow in one form or another in silence before secular princes and Lords, and just as popes, bishops, abbots, and people generally, have themselves honored and adored by bowing and kneeling, and so forth.  Such outward adoration of the bending of the body is what the Scriptures really mean by worship. We read in the Scriptures that worship or adoration is rendered outwardly both to God and to kings without distinction, just as bowing and kneeling are still rendered outwardly both to God and to men.
From this understanding of outward worship you will also understand what Christ meant by true spiritual worship. It is the adoration or bowing of the heart, so that from the bottom of your heart you are to thereby show and confess yourself to be God’s subordinate creature who owes all to Him.  For from this you see that true worship can only arise from faith; it is faith's sublime activity with respect to God. For no one is able to offer such heartfelt confession, adoration, bending, and bowing of the heart (or whatever you want to call it) before God in his heart, unless he unwaveringly believes and holds God Almighty to be his Lord and Father, from whom he receives and will receive all good things, and through whom, without any merit or worthiness on his part, he is redeemed and preserved from all sins and evil.
Stand To Reason

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Difference Between Sorrow and Despair

There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience a career reversal, you can find comfort in your family to get you through it. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternative sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, Introduction, pg. x -xi

Howlin' Wolf - Dust My Broom

What American Children Will Inherit

The Process of Sanctification?

The two images below are taken from Wayne Grudem’s section on sanctification in his Systematic Theology. The first graph is as it appears in the book and the second as it appears in my copy (my thanks is due to Chris Green, vice-principal of Oak Hill College, who taught me that it is good to write in books, even if my writing is practically illegible). Can you spot the difference?
Already not yet
The first graph represents the way I used to think about Christian life. I had been saved from slavery to sin at conversion; with great gratitude for what Christ had done, I struggled on in the strength of the Holy Spirit and the word to grow in holiness; at death I thought I’d finally be made perfect in holiness. My life was shaped by wanting to be what I wasn’t yet but would be. I now realise that this way of thinking brings about joyless obedience and a nagging sense of guilt.
The true gospel is represented in the second graph. At conversion I was sanctified by Christ (1 Cor 1:2). I am already graciously made perfect, justified, righteous, holy in his eyes. I now look back to the cross with gratitude and forward to glory (1 Peter 1:3-5). The rest of my life is shaped by wanting to be what I already am.
HT: Neil Robbie

The Holy Spirit’s Hidden Floodlight Ministry

J.I. Packer:
The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:39, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (see John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin.
I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed.
When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.
Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us.
The Spirit’s message is never,
“Look at me;
listen to me;
come to me;
get to know me,”
but always
“Look at him, and see his glory;
listen to him, and hear his word;
go to him, and have life;
get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace.
Keeping in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (GR: Baker, 2005), p. 57; emphasis original.
HT: Graham Cole

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mr Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan at Newport

Warning: Beware of dog and cat

When Absolution Isn’t - Taylor Swift absloves Kanye West

The headline over at is striking, “Taylor Swift absolves Kanye West at VMAs.” In case you missed it, the Video Music Awards were on last night and everyone was holding their breath, waiting for the next round of West vs Swift—a fight that started during last year’s awards when Kanye West grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift and boorishly declared that the award she won should have gone to Beyonce.
Early reports on Sunday indicated that Swift had written a song, Innocent, addressing West’s bad behavior, and after everyone from Oprah to President Obama called West out, it seemed fitting that Taylor Swift would have the last final word. What was that last final word? Um…hard to say, and this is where the headline comes in.
Absolution is the Christian doctrine that God has authorized and empowered his ministers to declare the true forgiveness of sins for those who are penitent (or “sorry”) for their sins. In most Christian liturgies, the wording is something like: “In the name of Christ, I absolve you of your sins.” The minister, standing in the place of Christ and typically reading the words of Christ, looks upon the sinner and assures him that his sins are forgiven. It is a powerful, dramatic moment in the congregations that still retain the absolution. But of course, this is why it seems so odd for someone to think that Taylor Swift had “absolved” Kanye West of his sin against her. I’m not even thinking here of the fact that Swift has no standing to absolve someone—she can certainly forgive, but absolution belongs to those ministers who were entrusted with the keys of the kingdom, with the responsibility to retain or remit sins (Matthew 16:19). Instead, I’m thinking of the song she sang in which she addressed the conflict with West. Here are the relevant lyrics of the chorus as reported by the intrepid entertainment reporters at
It’s alright, just wait and see
Your string of lights are still bright to me
Oh, who you are is not where you’ve been
You’re still an innocent
The problem, of course, is that Taylor Swift provides neither personal forgiveness nor declarative absolution. Instead, it’s just a mushy, feel good message about innate goodness, time to become a better person, and the need to judge yourself in light of all the wrongs everyone else has committed! That, my friends, is a confusion of law and gospel, broadcast for all to see on MTV.
True forgiveness (either personal or divine) requires a cost to be born. When you forgive someone who has wronged you, you are taking the debt they owe you upon yourself, promising to carry that cost so they don’t have to. When God absolves you for your sins, it isn’t because he thinks you’re an innocent, or that your lights are still bright (side note: what terrible lyrics!). God absolves you of your sins because he has taken the debt of sin on himself in the person of Jesus.
This overwrought moment of reality TV could have been a powerful experience of forgiveness, living up (almost) to the headlines, if Taylor Swift had understood that forgiveness doesn’t mean making someone else feel better about what they did wrong. It means relieving them of a real debt, by a real sacrifice. If anything, Swift’s inability to truly forgive points us forward to a savior who won’t be upstaged by a meat-wearing Lady Gaga, one who bears in his body even today the cost of our real absolution. May you hear his words of forgiveness wherever you worship this coming Sunday! And if you don’t, get to a place where you will hear those life-changing, life-giving words.
White Horse Inn

The Logic of Penal Substitution

On the bus back from NYC I read the second essay of J.I. Packer published in In My Place Condemned He Stood, called “What did the Cross Acheive?  The Logic of Penal Substitution,” originally an address at Tyndale.  Its fantastic.  Three things that particularly struck me: 1) I like the way he admits that many in the reformed tradition, in responding to Socinian rationalistic critiques of the penal model, have inadvertently fallen into their own kind of rationalism.  Packer brings us back to Calvin, back to an appreciation of the essential mystery of the atonement, back to an awareness of the finitude and analogical nature of our language and logic in speaking about it.  He presents penal substitutionary atonement as a dynamic thought model (his language), not as a logical formula all the mechanics of the atonement.  This sort of approach seems to me to stay closer to Scripture and avoid some of the rationalistic errors of other proponents of the penal model.
2) On pp. 73-74 Packer addresses the objection that a penal substitutionary model of the atonement has too little focus on the resurrection, whereas a Christus Victor model is able to account for the necessity of the resurrection.  Packer points out that only a risen Christ can apply the forgiveness which he died to achieve, and that in Colossians 2:13-15 the Christus Victor and penal substitutionary models are both present.  I would even go further and say that in Colossians 2 the Christus Victor theme is premised upon the penal substitutionary theme, for it is precisely because our sins and trespasses and “record of debt” were nailed to the cross of Christ (vv. 13-14) that Christ triumphed over the demons (v. 15).  I’m convinced that a penal substitutionary atonement model is not at odds with a robust focus on Easter morning – in the New Testament, the two are frequently linked.  For example, in Paul’s speech at Antioch, after a lengthy explication of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 13:32-37), he immediately declares that “therefore” forgiveness of sins and justification before God is possible (38-39).  The apostles just didn’t operate with our either-or categories.
3) On pp. 84-88 Packer shows how the principle of representative solidarity with Christ as the new man, the second Adam (a major theme throughout the New Testament) is not at odds with the penal substitutionary model, but fits together with it.  He draws from Luther’s language that Christ’s substitution for us under the penalty of sin was one “moment” of a larger transaction in which Christ entered into our human situation and became one of us.  The concepts of representation and substitution are complementary, not alternatives, for substitution on the cross is the highest and greatest moment of Christ’s representation.  Packer: “on the cross Jesus’ representative relation to us, as the last Adam who image we are to bear, took the form of substituting for us under judgment” (87).
I’ll close with a powerful Luther quote on the meaning of cross, from a footnote on p. 85:
“all the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc. that ever was … he for being a sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person ….  Our most merciful Father … sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him the sins of all men, saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer, and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and, briefly, be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men.”

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:10-11).
Satan is an accuser and a deceiver. In both cases his weapons are words, which is why we must overcome him with the word of our testimony.
In other words, it is through our belief in the gospel and our confidence in the power of Jesus Christ that we can stand secure in the face of Satan’s lies and accusations.  And it is by the truth of the word of God–believed on and hoped in even unto death–that we can expose and destroy the deceptions of the Deceiver.  This is how we do battle, with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
So when Satan whispers, “Can God really forgive you?  Can your sins be washed away?” you can answer confidently: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2).
When the Devil says your situation is hopeless, when he calls you an addict and says you can’t change, you can reply: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom. 8:8-9).
And when Satan suggests that it must not matter then how we live, that grace and freedom are an excuse for license, we must answer: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13).
And when our Enemy points to our suffering and says, “Look, God cannot be trusted. Surely, there is no use in serving this Master” we will inform him that we “consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
And if Satan should tempt us to believe that God is singling us out for pain, we will remind him that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22).
If he spreads the lie that our trials will be the end of us, that God can no longer help us, we will declare, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28).
And when he shows us our weakness, when he points to the failures of the church, when he accuses us of having let God down and makes us doubt the power of the gospel and the ultimate triumph of the saints, when he comes at us with words and all the weapons of the world, we will stand our ground with a defiant shout: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39).
Satan is hell bent on destroying the church.  He breathes fiery accusations like a dragon and hisses deception like a serpent.  He is in pursuit of the woman and her children.  But the salvation and the power and the kingdom belong to God and to Christ our King.  And we shall overcome the devil, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.
Kevin DeYoung

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Bridge: Bob Dylan, the ‘Ruling Class,’ and the ‘Country Class’

How Bob Dylan checked out of the culture war. Angelo M. Codevilla’s essay, “America’s Ruling Class — and the Perils of Revolution,” published this summer in the American Spectator, and released this week in book form, has already accomplished what few essays do: it has touched a nerve. In his essay, Codevilla contrasts the “Ruling Class,” including both Republicans and Democrats but tending leftward in word and deed, with the the “country class,” consisting of heterogonous individualists who’d rather be judged on their merits than their beliefs and affiliations. Despite its name, it should be emphasized that you can belong to the “country class” and still live in a tattoo-stained neighborhood in a big, fashionable burg like New York City. In fact, many do, even if they often feel a need to lower their voices.
At the heart of Codevilla’s essay lies the charge that today’s “ruling class” was trained to think the same way and speak the same left-of-center ideological language. This he sees as a tragedy for intellectual diversity, and as a danger to America’s future.
Culturally, who represents the “ruling class”? Look at any movie and TV screen, open any newspaper or magazine, and the A-list names and candidates will come tumbling forth like clothes out of a dryer opened mid-cycle. For it often seems as if every actor, singer, novelist, screen writer, TV producer, hairdresser’s assistant, sound engineer, and failed Foley artist aligns his or her beliefs with those of the Democratic Party and will continue to do so until he or she drops dead.
But culturally, who represents the “country class” while also being respected by the “ruling class”? Is there even a Laundromat? Technically, yes, albeit one peopled by strange, threatening,  or quarrelsome types like Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Ted Nugent, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Robert Duvall, and Sylvester Stallone, several possibly armed. Would anyone even dare to go in?
The obvious response on the “country class” side, having a paucity of crossover cultural icons to their name, is to put forward a politician who will immediately and inevitably be covered in opprobrium on a thousand Web sites. After all, few people like politicians. As a certain American sang scornfully over four decades ago, “The drunken politician leaps / Upon the street, where mothers weep.” And if there’s one person who could be said to represent the “country class” it’s the very man who penned those words, namely Bob Dylan. The man, moreover, who was the “voice” and inspiration of the liberal “ruling class” in its infancy, and who nonetheless has long stood apart from its obsessions and precepts.
In the mainstream media, Dylan’s image is still rigidly defined by the social upheavals of the 1960s, though he rid himself of those shackles when he was only 26. To be precise, he divorced himself from the increasingly leftist, anti-American politics of his own generation when, in 1967, he moved to a house in upstate New York to record the Americana-drenched Basement Tapes with The Band. Soon after that, while free love made love to riots and psychedelic stalks burst from a million brain sockets, he married, started a family, and wrote more good songs, few of which had revolutionary applications, although “Dear Landlord” will surely always have a place in city-dwellers’ cramped, rent-obsessed hearts.
So while Dylan may not be conservative in the conventional sense — he’s sui generis, if anyone is — he is definitely not a member of the “ruling class” as described by Codevilla, even if many of its members still regard him with a mixture of wonder and awe. That they do so is partly based on merit and partly on generational solidarity. As the late New Yorker writer, George W.S. Trow, pointed out, rock ‘n’ roll is the baby boomers’ major contribution to the culture and they will forever circle the wagons to protect its status. And by boomer consensus, the most important rock ‘n’ roller of all is Dylan.
Yet by the standards of his ruling-class peers, Dylan is an old-fashioned patriot who wears cowboy hats, loves Texas as much as Greenwich Village, and spoke warmly to Rolling Stone of George W. Bush, whom he’d met when the latter was governor of Texas, while also wishing President Obama well.
Nor does Dylan endorse the anti-Christian fervor prevalent among today’s intellectuals. On the contrary, his work has been suffused in the Bible (Old and New Testament) from the start. One might even argue that the religious, mystical strain which runs through his songs plays a distinct role in keeping his audience interested. They hear it in so few other places, after all, it’s something of a relief. As someone remarks in Don DeLillo’s novel, Underworld, people like to have priests and churches around, or at least to know they’re there, because it would be deeply disconcerting to even the most militant atheist if they all vanished overnight.
That left-leaning boomers have put their philosophical differences with Dylan to one side in appreciation of his lyrical gift is to their credit, of course. But the strain often shows. During an interview with Jann Wenner in the 40th anniversary edition of Rolling Stone, Dylan replied to a question about the urgency of solving global warming with the mocking, “Where’s the global warming? It’s freezing here.”
When Wenner pressed him as to who would solve the world’s problems if not politicians, Dylan came out with words so Biblically harsh or nakedly Libertarian they are frankly astonishing to the modern ear. Forget politicians: “The world owes us nothing,” he told Wenner, “not one single thing.” And: “Human nature really hasn’t changed in 3,000 years. … It’s not meant to change. It cannot change. It’s not made to change.” Which does rather leave social engineers out in the cold.
Read the rest

The Real Truth About The Stimulus

BB King - Lucille

Help for the helpless

“If your religion doesn’t help you, it is no religion for you; you had better be without it.”
Mark Rutherford, The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (New York, 1929), page 266.
Yes, there are times when nothing seems to work. We feel forsaken by God himself, and we don’t know how we got there or what it means or how to get back. There are such times. But they are meant to be seasons or episodes only. They are not meant to provide the narrative. Christ is better than that.
If we have been reaching out for his hand and not finding it, we might be reaching in the wrong direction. Reaching back toward the past, however desirable, is often wrongheaded. Reaching forward into the future, however much we must let go of, is almost always where his strength awaits us.
He is our true help, and his hand will not fail.
Ray Ortlund

Glenn Beck and his Americolatry

I thought this was an insightful comment left here on the blog from Paul Ireland—worth highlighting:
In the whole discussion about Mormonism, I think we’re missing a big part of what is going on with Glenn Beck.  The problem is not simply Mormonism.  The problem is idolatry.
People who follow Glenn Beck may not become Mormon and reject the Trinity, but they will likely follow his Americolatry—his worship of our nation.  His view of life rises and falls on the state of our country.  Christians I know who follow Beck quickly get pulled into his idolatrous fervor that declares that our nation can be our savior.
Both the left and the right subscribe to this Americolatry.  If our government does X, Y, and Z, then we will be joyful, satisfied, safe, and complete.  Then we will live in heaven.  But if the other guys get their way, it’ll be hell.  In that equation, God is no longer our joy, our comfort, our satisfaction, our all.  If God is brought into the conversation at all, it is to use God as a means for our own idolatrous ends.  This kind of idolatry is very alluring and dangerous for Christians.
Justin Taylor

Friday, September 17, 2010

Its Better to Repent

Repenting can be painful.  Self-deception is always easier than staring the undisguised, unexcused ugliness of your sin in the face, completely owning up to it, genuinely hating it, and actually turning from it.  But C.S. Lewis helped me see to today how the alternative is much more painful in the long run:
“Does Christianity encourage morbid introspection?  The alternative is much more morbid.  Those who do not think about their own sins make up for it by thinking incessantly about the sins of others.  It is healthier to think of one’s own.  It is the reverse of morbid.  It is not even, in the long run, very gloomy.  A series attempt to repent and really to know one’s own sins is in the long run a lightening and relieving process.  Of course, there is bound to be a first dismay and often terror and later great pain, yet that is much less in the long run than the anguish of a mass of unrepented and unexamined sins, lurking in the background of our minds.  It is the difference between the pain of the tooth about which you should go to the dentist, and the simple straight-forward pain which you know is getting less and less every moment when you have had the tooth out.”
C.S. Lewis, “Miserable Offenders,” published in God in the Dock, in The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis (Eerdmans, 1996), p. 384.

Third Degree - Eric Clapton (Studio Version)

It's Worse Than We Thought

C.S. Lewis on Man's Passion for The Inner Ring

In a 1944 lecture at the University of London, C. S. Lewis reflected on the universal human desire to be included. He called the object of this mysterious craving the 'Inner Ring.' The lecture is now included in the collection of essays The Weight of Glory. It's fascinating, and illuminating of my own heart and much of the remaining Self there.

'I believe,' he said, 'that in all men's lives at certain periods, and in many men's lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.' Lewis spoke of 'the delicious knowledge that we . . . are the people who know,' 'the delicious sense of secret intimacy,' and the way 'the world seems full of "insides," full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities.'

'Of all passions,' he writes, 'the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.' A desire simply to be on the inside—whatever that inside may be—is a core motivation that propels us in all sorts of ways and is the root of a host of different sins. A desire to be on the inside may lead to stealing if the inner ring is wealthy, immorality if the inner ring is the promiscuous, cheating if the inner ring is academically superior, legalism if the inner ring is scrupulously moral, or duplicity if the inner ring is really, really, really, really nice.

'It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons,' remarks Lewis, 'but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse.'

He goes on to say:
The torture allotted to the Danaids in the classical underworld, that of attempting to fill sieves with water, is the symbol not of one vice but of all vices. It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had. The desire to be inside the invisible line illustrates this rule. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion; if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.
Lewis says there are certainly legitimate reasons to want to be an insider. If one loves playing cards, it is natural to want to be part of a Bridge club. 'But,' he says,
if all you want is to be in the know, your pleasure will be short-lived. The circle cannot have from within the charm it had from outside. By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic. . . . You merely wanted to be 'in.' And that is a pleasure that cannot last. As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another Ring. The rainbow’s end will still be ahead of you.
So true to life, and penetrating. I am instructed and helped. I do wish, though, that Lewis had closed not with his exhortation to avoid seeking to be in the inner ring, but with the gospel.

The gospel is the only yard tool whose blades go deep enough to uproot the inveterate craving in each of us to be inside. For those who belong to Christ are, finally, gloriously, 'in.' Really in. (Yes, I just compared the good news to a shovel.)

Jesus is the one person who ever lived who was, on his own steam, an insider. But he went outside the camp. Outside. On the cross, he allowed himself to be made an outsider so that outsiders like us can be in for free, so long as we admit our out-ness and look to him.

In the terms of biblical theology: Adam and Eve sinned and were kicked out. Ever since we've been trying to get back in. In mercy God established the tabernacle and then the temple, but even then only a handful of priests were allowed in. But Jesus showed up and said he was the temple (John 2). Believers, those who are in Christ, are part of that temple (1 Pet 2). And in the new city there will be no need for a temple (Rev 21:22).
Dane Ortlund

Ross Douthat's Review of "Eat Pray Love"

Even if you’re not a political conservative National Review is worth subscribing to for Ross Douthat’s movie reviews alone. They are invariably insightful and often entertaining. And unlike some Christian reviewers, who tend to find commendable spiritual lessons in even the worst films, he’s willing to tell it like it is. For example, his latest review is on the film adaption of Elizabeth Gilbert’s runaway bestselling Oprah-endorsed memoir. Douthat writes, “Eat Pray Love . . . is one of the most self-consciously spiritual movies you’ll see this year. . . .” But then he adds, “. . . and also one of the most appalling.”
This is after he compares the film to Sex and the City 2:
For all its overstuffed awfulness, Sex and the City 2 was too vacuous, too gross, too upfront in its sleaziness and materialism to really convey what’s wrong with 21st-century American culture. It lacked the unique twist that Americans give to decadence, the pretentious spin that can make our coarseness that much more offensive and unbearable. For all its sins, at least Sex and the City 2 knew that it was trashy. It didn’t claim to be religious.
Douthat recognizes that Eat Pray Love is self-consciously theological: “this is the rare Hollywood production where the theological message is as important as the plotting. . . . Beneath the glossy surface, there’s the outline of a contemporary Pilgrim’s Progress, in which a scattered, baffled modern woman finds happiness by figuring out what God desires from her, and acting accordingly.”
After describing what God wants from the heroine—basically, break up with her husband for selfish reasons, shack up with a handsome young man then dump him, travel the world where she learns to meditate and forgive herself, then fall in love with a new guy—Douthat writes:
If everything “God” wants sounds suspiciously like what a willful, capricious, self-indulgent Western woman with too much time and money on her hands might want . . . well, then you’ve unlocked the theological message of the movie.
To quote the main character in the film: “God dwells with me, as me.”
In response, Douthat quotes G.K. Chesteron’s Orthodoxy (p. 81):
Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. . . . That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within.
Douthat is operating within space constraints, and the quote in the review ends there, but here is how Chesterton continues:
Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.
Justin Taylor

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blues Before Sunrise - Eric Clapton (Studio Version)

Do You See the Glory of God in the Sun? Spurgeon’s Battle Against Depression

It started when he was 24 years old. It was 1858, and Charles Spurgeon later recalled, “My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for.”
Spurgeon battled against “causeless depression” his whole life. This “shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness,” he wrote, “cannot be reasoned with.” Fighting this type of depression, he said, is as difficult as fighting with mist.
But Spurgeon did fight it—with faith.
I am heartily ashamed of myself for falling into [despondency], but I am sure there is no remedy for it like a holy faith in God.
The place of faith was to depend upon God to act:

The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.
In his famous lecture to his students, “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” Spurgeon commended the glory of God in creation as a remedy for depression:
Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the warders of a gaol, while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy.
He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy.
A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours, ramble in the beech woods? umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive.
A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.
Heaviest the heart is in a heavy air,
Ev’ry wind that rises blows away despair.
The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops—these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary.
For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim.
For more on Spurgeon’s depression and his fight of faith, see:
Justin Taylor

We Do Need This

Beck is a Mormon - Christian Syncretist

Finally, we have to have a grid for thinking through degrees of error, damnable beliefs, essential beliefs, etc. I’ve been helped here by Michael Wittmer’s excellent book, Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough. He classifies Christian beliefs into  three categories:
  1. What you must believe,
  2. What you must not reject, and
  3. What you should believe.

I asked him to explain the three categories:
In the book of Acts, the bare minimum that a person must know and believe to be saved was that he was a sinner and that Jesus saved him from his sin. As Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:29-31; cf. 10:43). This is enough to counter the postmodern innovator argument that we can be saved without knowing and believing in Jesus.
But any thinking convert will inquire further about this Jesus. While he may not know much more at the point of conversion than Jesus is the Lord who has saved him, he will quickly learn about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, deity and humanity, and relation to the other two members of the Trinity. Anyone who rejects these core doctrines should fear for their soul.
According to the Athanasian Creed, whoever does not believe in the Trinity and the two natures of Jesus is damned. However, since it seems possible for a child to come to faith without knowing much about the Trinity or the hypostatic union (this is likely not the place where most parents begin), I take the Creed’s warning in a more benign way—that we do not need to know and believe in the Trinity and two natures of Christ to be saved, but that anyone who knowingly rejects them cannot be saved.
The final category is important doctrines which genuine Christians may unfortunately misconstrue. I think that every Christian should believe that Scripture is God’s Word, know its story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, and know something about the nature of God, what it means to be human, and what Jesus is doing through his church. However, many people have been genuine Christians without knowing or believing these things (though their ignorance or disbelief in these facts significantly diminished their Christian faith).
Thus, I believe that every doctrine in this diagram is crucially important for sound Christian faith. And some are so important that we cannot even be saved without them.
If Glenn Beck is a Mormon, he knowingly denies beliefs that one must believe in order to be saved. Let us pray that he leaves this religion in order to embrace the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, and his atoning cross-work so that he has fellowship by grace alone through faith alone with the Triune God.