Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Drivin' South (1980)

When Will The President Get Serious About Drilling In The Gulf?

We Cannot Mix the Gospel of Jesus Christ With Anything Else

Lloyd-Jones, preaching on John 14:1--
I would remind you again that the Bible claims that it and it alone can really show us this quiet heart. I do not apologize for that. I state and assert it.

We cannot mix this the gospel of Jesus Christ with anything else; it is either this or nothing. . . .

Let us, then, consider together the Bible's method of giving us a quiet heart. This, the Bible tells us, is an actual and practical possibility for us in this world of time. . . .

That is what I have to offer. It is my privilege to tell you that it is possible for you, whatever your position, whatever your circumstance and condition and problem, to be delivered from trouble and distress and pain of mind and of heart to know the peace of God 'which passeth all understanding' (Phil 4:7). I want to put this before you as an actuality and as a possibility here and now.
--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Crossway, 2009), 46-47
Dane Ortlund

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Jam 292 - Force Of Nature 2 Bootleg - 10

Rejecting the Rule of our Divine King.

“Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat,” said my friend John Mark Reynolds, “He’s probably a monarchist.” When I first heard that claim I thought it was clever; now I find it to be a profound insight. Jesus constantly talked about the Kingdom of Heaven. So why do so few Christians talk about it? One reason, I believe, is that we are now all republicans and democrats (small-R, small-D) and simply don’t understand what Jesus is talking about. We may use the term “Lord” and “King of Kings” but—unlike the vast majority of people throughout history—we do not comprehend what it means to live under the reign of a king. We need some remedial training on how to live as subjects in a kingdom. We may be justified in rejecting the divine right of kings to rule but we cannot justify rejecting the rule of our divine king.
Joe Carter

Bleeding Heart - Jimi Hendrix


In 1896 a Christian socialist named Charles Sheldon wrote a book called In His Steps which popularized the slogan “What Would Jesus Do” and inspired two of the most well-intentioned but misguided fads of the twentieth century: the Social Gospel movement and the marketing of WWJD paraphernalia. The problem with both is that they are based on WWJD and that is the wrong question.

The gospels provide us with a clear record of what Jesus did—healed the sick, preached, traveled, made disciples. While we may also be expected to do these types of things, they were essential to Christ’s earthly mission. If he were walking the streets of America he would likely still be doing the same thing. But is this what we should be doing? Not necessarily. We are not Jesus; we are his disciples. Our mission is not his mission but the mission he assigns us. The question we should keep constantly before us is “What Would Jesus Want Me To Do?” But then WWJWMTD isn’t as easy to embroider on a bracelet or fit on a bumper sticker.
First Things 

Global Rent-A-War

Giving and Receiving Criticism in Light of the Cross

Some notes below from Alfred Poirier’s excellent article “The Cross and Criticism,” first published in The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Spring 1999).
I’m using criticism in a broad sense as referring to any judgment made about you by another, which declares that you fall short of a particular standard.
The standard may be God’s or man’s.
The judgment may be true or false.
It may be given gently with a view to correction, or harshly and in a condemnatory fashion.
It may be given by a friend or by an enemy.
But whatever the case, it is a judgment or criticism about you, that you have fallen short of a standard.
Key Point:
A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion.
In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.
  1. Critique yourself.
  2. Ask the Lord to give you a desire to be wise instead of a fool.
  3. Focus on your crucifixion with Christ.
  4. Learn to speak nourishing words to others.
How to give criticism in a godly way:
  • I see my brother/sister as one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11; Heb. 13:1)
  • I come as an equal, who also is a sinner (Rom. 3:9, 23).
  • I prepare my heart lest I speak out of wrong motives (Prov. 16:2; 15:28; 16:23).
  • I examine my own life and confess my sin first (Matt. 7:3-5).
  • I am always patient, in it for the long haul (Eph. 4:2; 1 Cor. 13:4).
  • My goal is not to condemn by debating points, but to build up through constructive criticism (Eph. 4:29).
  • I correct and rebuke my brother gently, in the hope that God will grant him the grace of repentance even as I myself repent only through His grace (2 Tim. 2:24-25).  
Justin Taylor

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cream- Sleepy Time Time- Madison Square Garden, NY 10/24/05

2010 Global Corruption Index

Click to Enlarge
Visual Loop

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood Double Trouble (Live From Madison Square Garden)

The Real March Madness

Sit Down and Eat

Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?' -Genesis 3:11

Elyse Fitzpatrick:
We are all the same. We have plucked fruit from that forbidden tree. We have proudly declared that we know best, that we can take care of ourselves. We have crowned ourselves deities. 'Have you eaten from the tree?' Oh, yes and yes, over and over again in ways both glaring and hidden.

But the God-Man has been slain. The Lamb's blood has been spilt, and it covers us. Our rags have been replaced with his robes. The garden has been reopened; we've been invited back in. 'Here, eat of this, it will give you life.'

. . . Have you eaten from that tree today? Have you satiated your soul with the luscious fruit that grows from this blood-soaked ground? Have you nourished your heart with his strength, his righteousness, his perfection, and the gospel? Have you shunned self-righteousness, self-reliance, self-improvement? Which tree are you most aware of?

Eat from the blessed tree, friend. Eat and eat and never stop. When you are hungry for something else, something more, something new, run to that tree. Stay there; rest in his shade. The door is open; the meal is ready. Sit down and eat.
--Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time (Crossway, 2009), 137-38
Dane Ortlund

Monday, March 28, 2011

Son House - Death Letter Blues

For Freedom - Spurgeon On Smoking To The Glory Of God

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
-- Galatians 5:18

From Christian World, September 25, 1874:

LAST Sunday evening, Mr. Spurgeon, before beginning his sermon, announced that he should not preach long that night, because he wished his friend Mr. Pentecost, who was on the platform, to say a few words to the congregation.

Mr. Spurgeon then gave a very earnest address on the words, "I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord; I will keep Thy statutes. I cried unto Thee; save me, and I shall keep Thy testimonies." (Ps. cxix. 145-6.) He spoke strongly and plainly upon the necessity of giving up sin, in order to success in prayer for "quickening," and as an evidence of sincerity. Mr. Spurgeon, in concluding his discourse, said, "Now then, perhaps Brother Pentecost will give you the application of that sermon."

"Brother Pentecost" is an "open communion" Baptist minister, of the American city of Boston. He responded at once to Mr. Spurgeon's call, and, stepping to the front of the platform, gave some excellent remarks on the latter portion of the text, with much simplicity and force of manner.

Referring to one part of Mr. Spurgeon's sermon, he gave us an interesting bit of personal experience. He said that some years ago, he had had the cry awakened in his heart, "Quicken Thou me." He desired to be more completely delivered from sin, and he prayed that God would show him anything which prevented his more complete devotion to Him. He was willing, he thought, to give up anything or everything if only he might realize the desire of his heart.

"Well," said he, amidst the profound silence and attention of the immense congregation, "what do you think it was that the Lord required of me? He did not touch me in my church, my family, my property, or my passions. But one thing I liked exceedingly—the best cigar which could be bought."

He then told us that the thought came into his mind, could he relinquish this indulgence, if its relinquishment would advance his piety? He tried to dismiss the idea as a mere fancy or scruple, but it came again and again to him, and he was satisfied that it was the still small voice which was speaking.

He remembered having given up smoking by the wish of his ministerial brethren, when he was twenty-one years of age, for four years. But then, he had resumed the habit, for he declared during that four years he never saw or smelt a cigar which he did not want to smoke. How, however, he felt it to be his duty to give it up again, and so unequal did he feel to the self-denial, that he "took his cigar-box before the Lord," and cried to Him for help. This help he intimated had been given, and the habit renounced.

Mr. Spurgeon, whose smoking propensities are pretty well known, instantly rose at the conclusion of Mr. Pentecost's address, and, with a somewhat playful smile, said,
"Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night.
"If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not smoke,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.
"The fact is, I have been speaking to you about real sins, not about listening to mere quibbles and scruples. At the same time, I know that what a man believes to be sin becomes a sin to him, and he must give it up. 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin' [Rom. 14:23], and that is the real point of what my brother Pentecost has been saying.
"Why, a man may think it a sin to have his boots blacked. Well, then, let him give it up, and have them whitewashed. I wish to say that I'm not ashamed of anything whatever that I do, and I don't feel that smoking makes me ashamed, and therefore I mean to smoke to the glory of God."
Jared Wilson

China Loves Our Spending Money We Don't Have

Free Will: A Primer

An outline of the chapter on free will in Robert Peterson’s Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility.
Free Will and the Bible’s Story
  1. Human beings as created had true freedom and freedom of choice.
  2. Human being as fallen lost true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
  3. Human beings as redeemed have regained a measure of true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
  4. Human beings as glorified will be perfected in true freedom and will retain freedom of choice.
True freedom = “the ability to love and serve God unhindered by sin” (p. 131).
Freedom of choice or spontaneity = “the ability of human beings to do as they wish” (p. 126)
Free Will and Reasons Why People Are Saved and Condemned
1. Reasons why people are saved
a. People are saved because they trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
b. People are saved because the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to the Gospel.
c. People are saved because Christ died and rose to save them.
d. People are saved because the Father chose them for salvation before creation.
2. Reasons why people are condemned
a. People are condemned because of their actual sin.
b. People are condemned because of Adam’s original sin.
c. People are condemned because God passed over them (reprobation).
Free Will and Its Relation to God’s Sovereignty
1. The Bible affirms both divine sovereignty and genuine human responsibility.
a. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty.
b. The Bible affirms genuine human responsibility.
c. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty and human responsibility together.
2. Parameters for sovereignty and responsibility.
a. Fatalism must be rejected as an error.
b. Absolute power to the contrary must be rejected as an error.
3. To emphasize either sovereignty or responsibility at the expense of the other is to fall into the error of rationalism.
a. Hyper-Calvinism is an error.
b. Arminianism is an error.
Justin Taylor

Saturday, March 26, 2011

U2 & B.B. King: When Love Comes To Town

Heaven Is a World of Love

Most people know Jonathan Edwards as the guy who preached hellfire and brimstone sermons like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But fewer realize that the pastor from Northampton, Massachusetts also preached sermons like this one, called “Heaven is a World of Love.”
The Apostle tells us that God is love, 1 John 4:8. And therefore seeing he is an infinite Being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love, Seeing he is an all-sufficient Being, it follows that he is a full and overflowing and an inexhaustible fountain of love. Seeing he is an unchangeable and eternal Being, he is an unchangeable and eternal source of love. There even in heaven dwells that God from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is or ever was proceeds.
There dwells God the Father, and so the Son, who are united in infinitely dear and incomprehensible mutual love. There dwells God the Father, who is the Father of mercies, and so the Father of love, who so loved that world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life [John 3:16].
There dwells Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Prince of peace and love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for it. There dwells the Mediator, by whom all God’s love is expressed to the saints, by whom the fruits of it have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all the church. There Christ dwells in both his natures, his human and divine, sitting with the Father in the same throne.
There is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, all flows out or is shed abroad in the hearts of all the church [cf. Rom. 5:5].
There in heaven this fountain of love, this eternal three in one, is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love. (The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, 245)
Jonathan Edwards was one of those rarest of persons who saw the terror of hell and the extraordinary beauty and loveliness of heaven.  He understood that we do not have a cartoon God.  God is not a one-dimensional character out of some blockbuster movie.  He’s not some petty, insecure deity with lightning bolts who nurses a grudge against the human race.  But neither is he the divine equivalent of  Ty Pennington, a god just waiting to yell “move that cosmic bus” at the end of Extreme Makeover: Universe Edition so he can show everyone all the nice stuff he’s done to help nice people.
These are not biblical images of God.  The God of the Bible is a God of unswerving justice and boundless mercy. And never can the two be divorced from each other.
One of the striking things in reading the excerpt above is to see just how much his heaven of love rises out from the most foundational elements of Christian theology. When some contemporary preachers try to exult in the love of God it sounds more like a paean to the Love that is God. And that love gets reduced to sentiment, sympathy, and Oprahfied versions of acceptance and affirmation.
By contrast, the love Edwards extols is rich with theological reflection on the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, substitutionary atonement, Christ as Mediator, the importance of the church, and the immutability of God. Edwards’ heaven is full of a love that only makes sense in the world of thought shaped by the whole counsel of God. Cheap imitations of biblical love never plumb the depths of the Christian tradition. Instead they plunder the booty of traditional Christian vocabulary and employ in such a way that everyone from Dolly Parton to the Dali Lama will nod in agreement. Edwards tells a different story, reminding us that heaven is a world where Trinitarian wrought, cross bought, sorrow easing, wrath appeasing, Christ-centered, church focused, overflowing, inexhaustible love wins.
Kevin DeYoung

Jimi Hendrix - Born Under A Bad Sign

The Truth About The Protests In Madison Wisconsin

A God-Pleasing Despair

Do not despair if you feel the flesh battling against the Spirit or if you cannot make it behave. For you to follow the guidance of the Spirit in all things without interference on the part of the flesh is impossible. You are doing all you can if you resist the flesh and do not fulfill its demands.

When I was a monk I thought I was lost forever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. I tried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lust would always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: "You have permitted this and that sin, envy, impatience, and the like. Your joining this holy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing." If at that time I had understood this passage, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," I could have spared myself many a day of self- torment. I would have said to myself: "Martin, you will never be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not, but resist the flesh."

I remember how Doctor Staupitz used to say to me: "I have promised God a thousand times that I would become a better man, but I never kept my promise. From now on I am not going to make any more vows. Experience has taught me that I cannot keep them. Unless God is merciful to me for Christ's sake and grants unto me a blessed departure, I shall not be able to stand before Him." His was a God-pleasing despair.

-- Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians
Jared Wilson

Friday, March 25, 2011

Irresistible Grace

Luther argues (against Erasmus) that all that we do is not by unshackled free choice, 'but of sheer necessity.' For 'when God is not present and at work in us everything we do is evil and we necessarily do what is of no avail for salvation.' [There is a specific context and argument here and Luther is not denying the two doctrines of common grace and the imago dei, which in his broader theology he affirms--see ch. 2 of this book by Bruce Demarest]

Then Luther makes a very important distinction in explaining what he means by 'of necessity.' Very helpful, and strikingly similar to Edwards' Freedom of the Will.
Now, by 'necessarily' I do not mean compulsorily'. . . . That is to say, when a man is without the Spirit of God he does not do evil against his will, as if he were taken by the scruff of the neck and forced to it, like a thief or robber carried off against his will to punishment, but he does it of his own accord and with a ready will. And this readiness or will to act he cannot by his own powers omit, restrain, or change, but he keeps on willing and being ready; and even if he is compelled by external force to do something different, yet the will within him remains averse and he is resentful at whatever compels or resists it.

He would not be resentful, however, if the will were changed and he willingly submitted to the compulsion. . . .

Ask experience how impossible it is to persuade people who have set their heart on anything. If they yield, they yield to force or to the greater attraction of something else; they never yield freely. . . .

By contrast, if God works in us, the will is changed, and being gently breathed upon by the Spirit of God, it again wills and acts from pure willingness and inclination and of its own accord, not from compulsion, so that it cannot be turned another way by any opposition, nor be overcome or compelled even by the gates of hell, but it goes on willing and delighting in and loving the good, just as before it willed and delighted in and loved evil.
--Bondage of the Will, in LW 33:64-65

Sovereign, regenerating grace does not force us to do what we don't want to do. Far more deeply, it brings us to want to do what we should want to do.

I can get my 4-year-old Zachary into bed by picking him up, kicking and screaming, and carrying him. Or I can get him into bed by promising him one more chapter from whatever Narnia book we're currently in (right now it's Dawn Treader). Strategy #1 is not what Calvinists mean by irresistible grace.

But even strategy #2 doesn't quite capture it. For even in #2 Zach isn't getting into bed out of a delight to obey, but because I've dangled something else in front of him. His desire to read Narnia passes the threshold of his desire not to get in bed. But he still doesn't delight in obedience. The will remains untouched. It is a book, not me, that he wants.

Irresistible grace is grace that softens us way down deep at the core of who we are. Taste bud transformation. In a miracle that can never be humanly manufactured, we find ourselves, strangely, delighting to love God.

This is a big God, with big grace. Hallelujah.
Dane Ortlund

Freddie King - She Put a Whammy On Me

The Abbott And Costello Libya Strategy

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bob Dylan - Dreamin' Of You

Justification, a Daily Experience

Puritan pastor William Fenner:
We must use the assurance of faith in applying the blood of Christ; we must labour to purge and cleanse our consciences with it.

If we find that we have sinned, we must run at once to the blood of Christ to wash away our sin. We must not let the wound fester or exulcerate, but immediately get it healed. . . . As we sin daily, so he justifies daily, and we must daily go to him for it. . . . We must every day eye the brazen serpent. Justification is an ever-running fountain, and therefore we cannot look to have all the water at once. . . .

O let us sue out every day a daily pardon. . . . Let us not sleep one night without a new pardon. Better to sleep in a house full of adders and venomous beasts than sleep in one sin.
--William Fenner, A Treatise of Conscience, in Works, 108f.; quoted in J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2010; repr.), 115
Dane Ortlund

B.B.King featuring Willie Nelson - Night life - Duces Wild

How Network News Twists the News

What Does It Mean to Preach the Whole Counsel of God

“I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
—The Apostle Paul to the Ephesian elders, Acts 20:27
D. A. Carson explains what he meant:
When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years.
In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time.
What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.
It embraced
  • God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).
—D. A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit,” in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes, ed. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson [Crossway, 2007], pp. 177-178; bullets and italics added.
Justin Taylor

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

B.B. King & Dr. John: There Must Be a Better World Somewhere

He Must Descend

If for insignificant, guilty, and impure persons there is to be a possibility of true religion, that is, of genuine fellowship with God, of salvation and eternal life, then God on his part must reestablish the broken bond, again take them into fellowship with him and share his grace with them, regardless of their guilt and corruption.

He, then, must descend from the height of his majesty, seek us out and come to us, take away our guilt and again open the way to his fatherly heart. If God were to wait until we—by our faith, our virtues, and good works of congruity or condignity—had made ourselves worthy, in part or in whole, to receive his favor, the restoration of communion between him and ourselves would never happen, and salvation would forever be out of reach for us.
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:204-5

And the Word became flesh . . . --John 1:14
Dane Ortlund

Baby I Love You - B.B. King featuring Bonnie Raitt

Luther on Liberating Despair - Shout It from the Rooftops

He gives grace to the humble. -1 Peter 5:5

God has assuredly promised his grace to the humble, that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves.

But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone.

For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is--or at least hopes or desires that there may be--some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation. But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace.
--Bondage of the Will, in LW, 33:61-62

The doctrine of divine sovereignty and the gospel are not unrelated.
Dane Ortlund

Same Old Tune - Dems Broken Record

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two Kinds of Rest - Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.' --John 14:1

Lloyd-Jones, preaching on this text:
The trouble I find with psychology is that it is simply an attempt to give you quiet nerves instead of giving you a quiet heart. I want to be fair to psychology. It can give us, up to a point, quiet nerves, but that is not what we need--we need a quiet heart. Thank God for something that, as far as it goes, can give us quiet nerves, but do you want to be at rest on the surface or do you want to be at rest in the very depths and vitals of your being?

It is at this point that the gospel claims that it, and it alone, can meet and satisfy our deepest need, and here in John 14 we are told exactly how it does that.
--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Crossway, 2009), 23
Dane Ortlund

If You Love Me - B B King and Van Morrison

"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" - Derek and the Dominos - Eric Clapton

The Dinner Menu In Tough Times

If All This Hell Talk Makes You Uncomfortable

Jonathan Edwards:
The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligations at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.
Tony Payne comments:
Heard anything like that from the pulpit recently? It’s a sentence from one of the most famous sermons in history: ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’ by the 18th-century American preacher-scholar, Jonathan Edwards. It’s by no means the most frightening sentence in the sermon; Edwards holds absolutely nothing back in painting a vivid picture of the dreadful predicament of sinners, who are suspended by a thread above the fiery pit of hell—a thread being held by a fiercely angry God who is incensed at their wickedness and rebellion against him.
I read Edwards’s sermon again recently, and it unnerved me. It wasn’t just the florid language and the out-sized metaphors (which sound over-the-top to our ears). And it wasn’t the relentlessness of the logic, which marches on and on, leaving you gasping for a drop of cool gospel water.
What bothered me was the realization that this was a sermon I would never be game to preach—even allowing for some cultural transposition and differences in communication style. And it occurred to me that the reason for this was not high-minded and theological, but very carnal. I am more frightened of being thought of as a redneck ‘fire and brimstone’ preacher than I am of God’s awful wrath. I care more about the high opinion of others than their eternal damnation in the fires of hell.
If all this ‘hell’ talk also makes you feel uncomfortable, Jonny Gibson’s feature article might be just what you need. It certainly challenged me.
You can also download an expanded version of Gibson’s article, available as a PDF booklet:
‘Where the Fires Are Not Quenched’: Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives.” 
Justin Taylor

Monday, March 21, 2011

"I Am Yours" - Derek and the Dominos

Kadaffy - Winning! Duh...

Have You Considered God’s Patience?

A few observations on a neglected divine attribute:
1. God is slow to anger.
Exodus 34:6, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. . . .”
Numbers 14:18, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. . . .”
Nehemiah 9:17, “They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”
Psalm 86:15, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
Psalm 103:8, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
2. God’s patient kindness is meant to lead to repentance.
Romans 2:4, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
2 Peter 3:9, 15, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. . . .”
3. Even those bound for eternal punishment are the recipients of much patience from God.
Romans 9:22, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. . . .”
4. Paul was saved in order to demonstrate Jesus’ perfect patience as an example.
1 Timothy 1:16, “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
5. The delay of the second coming and final consummation is because of God’s patience, and is designed for salvation.
2 Peter 3:15, “[C]ount the patience of our Lord as salvation. . . .” 
Justin Taylor

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Derek and the Dominos - Little Wing (Studio)

Wow, What A Picture Of The Moon

Signs You Are Not Wakened to the Gospel

The purpose of this book is not to shake your assurance but to bolster it, and in doing so to invite you deeper into your own spiritual brokenness to find the glistening diamond-riddled cave of the gospel treasure. But if at this point you are scratching your head, stretching your faculties to understand what is meant by divine entertainment, transferred affections, gospel-centrality, and the like, allow me the tender ministry of pressing on your assurance like a doctor would a troublesome extremity. Allow the application of a diagnostic test.

The Scriptures do tell us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, so the aim of this diagnostic is not to shake your foundation, but to shake off whatever might not be of God that has been erected upon it.

Some signs you have not experienced gospel wakefulness:

1. The gospel doesn’t interest you—or it does, but not as much other religious subjects.
2. You take nearly everything personally.
3. You frequently worry about what other people think.
4. You treat inconveniences like minor (or major) tragedies.
5. You are impatient with people.
6. In general, you have trouble seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
7. The Word of God holds little interest.
8. You have great difficulty forgiving.
9. You are told frequently by a spouse, close friend, or other family members that you are too “clingy” or too controlling.
10. You think someone beside yourself is the worst sinner you know.
11. The idea of gospel-centrality makes no sense to you.

That last diagnostic question raises what I call the “Catch-22” of gospel-centrality.
As a pastor I am frequently faced with questions, either from curious people or from temptation from the devil, about the durability of the gospel week in and week out. It is the centerpiece of my preaching, the central theme of my ministry, the heart of my life, and the joy of my tongue and pen. Occasionally I am faced with this question: Can it not get worn out from all that use?

Here is the Catch-22 of gospel centrality: Whether one “gets it” or not, the prescription for preaching and all of life is still the gospel. The critic of the one-note Johnnyism of gospel-centrality just doesn’t get it. But the gospel is versatile enough for those who do and don’t. And there’s the awesomeness of the gospel-centered life! Those who haven’t yet experienced gospel wakefulness can only do so by hearing the gospel, and those who have experienced gospel wakefulness don’t tire of hearing it!

Either way, the gospel is the answer.

(This is an excerpt from Gospel Wakefulness, coming from Crossway in October.)
Jared Wilson

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Derek and the Dominos- I looked away - Eric Clapton

Repentance Protects Grace - Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“The Gospel is protected by the preaching of repentance which calls sin sin and declares the sinner guilty.  The key to loose is protected by the key to bind.  The preaching of grace can only be protected by the preaching of repentance” (Metaxas, 293).
In my journey of trying to understand what gospel-centeredness looks like in various contexts, I found this quote very helpful.  Grace must lead to repentance, not just acceptance of the status quo.  If grace doesn’t lead to repentance, its probably “cheap grace.”  Cheap grace, as he put it in The Cost of Discipleship, is “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline.  Communion without confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”  Bonhoeffer’s criticism of cheap grace reminds me that the gospel gives us not only the hope of forgiveness but also the power of change.  Grace doesn’t come to us and say, “you’re fine just the way you are.”  Rather, it says: “you’re totally forgiven and a new creation – now take up your cross and follow me.”  I find that liberating.  I don’t want grace that leaves me in my sin with mere forgiveness, amazing as that forgiveness is.  I want grace that changes me and calls me into new life, into new surrender.
Gavin Ortlund

End Of The Line

Eric Clapton: Groaning The Blues

Resisting Temptation and Responding to the Accuser

Russell Moore:
Gospel freedom is the most important aspect of resisting temptation.
Remember that Satan’s power over you is first and foremost the power of accusation and threatened death.
In Christ, though, you have already been indicted, judged, executed, and resurrected.
You are “dead to sin” and “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).
Regardless of whether you support or oppose the death penalty, you’d probably wince to hear about a state that executed a murderer and then had a public flogging of his corpse. Your discomfort there wouldn’t be because you’re soft on murder but because that act would be insanely beside the point. After all, an executed corpse can’t be punished anymore. It’s over.
Likewise, you’ve been to hell, in the cross of Christ.
You’ve been buried beneath the judgment of God, turned over to the Devil, and you are gone.
Now you stand in Christ, hidden in his identity, and thus free from any accusation.
Knowing that truth doesn’t lead you to yield to temptation but instead to fly from it.
You’re not hiding from God anymore.
Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ, p. 170.
Justin Taylor

Friday, March 18, 2011

Meltdown Mania

C.S. Lewis: When Theological Liberalism Hits the Headlines

Thanks to Robbie Sagers for the following quote from C. S. Lewis:
Liberal Christianity can only supply an ineffectual echo to the massive chorus of agreed and admitted unbelief. Don’t be deceived by the fact that this echo so often “hits the headlines.” That is because attacks on Christian doctrine which would pass unnoticed if they were launched (as they are daily launched) by anyone else, become News when the attacker is a clergyman; just as a very commonplace protest against make-up would be News if it came from a film star.
By the way, did you ever meet, or hear of, anyone who was converted from scepticism to a “liberal” or “demythologised” Christianity? I think that when unbelievers come in at all, they come in a good deal further.
—C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer (Mariner Books, 2002 edition), 119.
Justin Taylor

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red House - Jimi Hendrix

That's alright I still got my guitar

It Boils Down To God's Word

The Gospel is important. As Martin Luther said, “Without it, we have nothing.”

My heart breaks for Rob Bell and the people he has influenced and is influencing. What troubles me so much is that all of these same questions that Rob Bell asks, questions that led him into unbelief, are the very questions that have often dominated my heart. I have felt the tug of this attraction into universalism and often stood on the very brink of the same pit of unbelief into which Rob Bell, I believe, plunges in this book. In the end, however, I have decided to let God’s word stand in my conscience—even though it often shatters my categories, blows my mind, and offends my thinking. I hold onto God’s word like a lifeline in the midst of a storm of unbelief—the parts that make sense to me and the parts that don’t. God’s word is the only thing we can hold onto. His ways are not our ways. We must believe it, as it is written, or redefine it out of our foolish hearts. Paul said God’s word would often appear like foolishness and that it would “offend the wise.”
I have no doubts about Rob Bell’s sincerity. I pray God gives our generation the grace to hold onto the Gospel.
J D Greear

What Happens When You Emphasize God’s Love in the Wrong Way?

Geerhardus Vos, writing in 1902:
Whatever may be charged against the intellectualism of the period when orthodoxy reigned supreme, it can claim credit at least for having been broad minded and well balanced in its appreciation of the infinite complexity and richness of the life of God. The music of that theology may not always please modern ears, because it seems lacking in sweetness; but it ranged over a wider scale and made better harmonies than the popular strains of today.
On the other hand, it is plain that where the religious interest is exclusively concentrated upon the will and entirely exhausts itself in attempts at solving the concrete, practical problems of life, no strong incentive will exist for reflecting upon any other aspect of the nature of God than His love, because all that is required of God is that He shall serve as the norm and warrant for Christian philanthropic effort.
It is a well-known fact that all heresy begins with a partial truth. So it is in the present case.
No one will deny that in the Scriptural disclosure of truth the divine love is set forth as a most fundamental principle, nor that the embodiment of this principle in our human will and action forms a prime ingredient of that subjective religion which the Word of God requires of us.
But it is quite possible to overemphasize this one side of truth and duty as to bring into neglect other exceedingly important principles and demands of Christianity. The result will be that, while no positive error is taught, yet the equilibrium both in consciousness and life is disturbed and a condition created in which the power of resistance to the inroads of spiritual disease is greatly reduced. There can be little doubt that in this manner the one-sidedness and exclusiveness with which the love of God has been preached to the present generation is largely responsible for that universal weakening of the sense of sin, and the consequent decline of interest in the doctrines of atonement and justification, which even in orthodox and evangelical circles we all see and deplore.
But this by no means reveals the full extent of the danger to which the tendency we are speaking of has exposed us. It is impossible for any practical displacement of the balance of truth to continue for a long time without endeavoring to perpetuate and justify itself by means of a corresponding reconstruction of the entire doctrinal system. Thus what may have been at first no more than a matter of relative emphasis inevitably tends to become a question of positive theoretical error, such as makes the return to normal conditions in practical religious life more difficult than before.
From Vos’s essay, “The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God,” The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 13 (1902): 1-37.
Justin Taylor

Dirty pool - Stevie Ray Vaughan

Gadhafi - One Of Many Nuts

MSNBC Host Makes Rob Bell Squirm: "You're Amending The Gospel So That It's Palatable!"

Martin Bashir is a reporter impatient with evasive answers. He even quotes from Kevin DeYoung’s review and asks Rob Bell to respond. Bashir gives his own take on Bell’s book: “You’re creating a Christian message that’s warm, kind, and popular for contemporary culture. . . . What you’ve done is you’re amending the gospel, the Christian message, so that it’s palatable to contemporary people who find, for example, the idea of hell and heaven very difficult to stomach. So here comes Rob Bell, he’s made a Christian gospel for you, and it’s perfectly palatable, it’s much easier to swallow. That’s what you’ve done, haven’t you?”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Work Song - The Butterfield Blues Band

Culture Of Grace Or Culture Of Scrutiny?

"Doctrines of grace, culture of grace. The doctrines of grace--reformed soteriology--tend to have two very different effects on people, with little middle ground. One is humbling, humbling that accords with the doctrine subscribed to. The other effect is hardening, hardening that goes against the doctrine subscribed to. One generates a culture of grace, the other a culture of scrutiny. The ethos of one is open arms, the ethos of the other is peering eyes."

Which one are you living in?

 Dane Ortlund

Wisconsin Senate Seats

Richard Mouw on “Love Wins”

From Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today:
Richard Mouw, president of the world’s largest Protestant seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary based in Pasadena, Calif., calls Love Wins “a great book, well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and passionate about Jesus.
The real hellacious fight, says Mouw, a friend of Bell, a Fuller graduate, is between “generous orthodoxy and stingy orthodoxy. There are stingy people who just want to consign many others to hell and only a few to heaven and take delight in the idea. But Rob Bell allows for a lot of mystery in how Jesus reaches people.”
I think this quote from Mouw portends the shape of the coming debate. Bell’s book begs the question of whether or not universalism is within the bounds of orthodoxy. Mouw says yes, and I’m sure a number of others will join him.
Watch closely those who rally to Bell going forward. There is a real dividing line here, and I don’t think that is all bad (1 Corinthians 11:19). For evangelicals, there can hardly be a more serious question. I hope and pray that very few will follow Bell to the wrong side on this one.
Denny Burk

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jeff Beck and Joss Stone - People Get Ready [2007]

Jeff Beck - People Get Ready

UDO MUSIC FESTIVAL 2006 Live at Fuji Speedway 2006.7.22
Jeff Beck (g), Jason Rebello (key)
Randy Hope-Taylor (b), Vinnie Colaiuta (ds)

From Great To Greedy

God Loves Sinners

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.
-- Galatians 4:28-29

This is a slap in the face of the Judaizers and their justification by circumcision heresy. "You think you’re Abraham’s heirs?" Paul says between the lines (and through them previously). "You think you’re repping Isaac? You with all your covenantal zealotry and your legal p's and q's minded and your pharisaical rigamarole and your detached foreskins think you're Israel? You're children of the flesh. You’re not of Isaac; you're of Ishmael."

This is astounding news. Because this is what Paul is saying: It’s the Galatians – Gentiles brought out of hedonistic paganism! with no prior covenantal cred, much less heritage – who are the children of promise, brothers of Isaac!

Isn’t this amazing news? God takes sin-hungry, idol-crazed, Law-ignorant morons like me and you and, through Christ's righteousness, says "You're Israel. You're my chosen people. You're Abraham's heirs."

The only way this isn't good news is if you think you're hot stuff.
And you are not hot stuff.

The heights of profundity and the depths of knowledge max out at this: God loves sinners so much that he forgives and saves them through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jared Wilson

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Muddy Waters - Blow Wind Blow

Starwars Meets The Footprints Poem

The Biblical Gospel is Not "In The Middle"

Tim Keller:

The church loses its life-changing dynamism to the degree that its theology goes off to this side or that side—into either uptight legalistic moralism, or into latitudinarianism, broadness, not believing the Bible, licentiousness, relativism.

By saying the biblical gospel is in the middle, that’s not saying “moderation in all things.” Jesus wasn’t moderate in anything. He was radically gentle and radically truth loving at the same time. The gospel isn’t a kind of middle-of-the-road, lukewarm thing. But the gospel is neither legalism nor licentiousness. And to the degree we lose the biblical gospel, we’re never going to be a movement that reaches the city.
Read the rest.

(HT: Matt Perman)

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Time For PBS to Grow Up - Cut The Money Strings

A Huge Difference Between Christianity and Many Other Religions

(HT:  Michael Patton)

Good Things To Ultimate

    "Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity apart from him. . . . Most people think of sin primarily as “breaking divine rules,” but Kierkegaard knows that the very first of the Ten Commandments is to “have no other gods before me.” So, according to the Bible, the primary way to define sin is not just the doing of bad things, but the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God." -Tim Keller, The Reason For God
Idol assessment: What are your emotions driven by? What is/are the primary controller/s of your mood or overall disposition?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Joanne Shaw Taylor - Jump That Train

Bonhoeffer - Who am I?

This is Bonhoeffer’s poem “Who am I?,” written in prison at the end of his life.
Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!
Gavin Ortlund

Rolling Stone - Gregg Allman

China Is Really Happy With Our Debt Problems

Luther - And having done all, to stand (Eph 6:13)

Luther, to Erasmus, in Bondage of the Will:
For even I, by the grace of God, am not such a fool or so mad as to have been willing to maintain and defend this cause for so long, with so much zeal and constancy (which you call obstinacy) amid so many dangers to life, so much hatred, so many treacheries, in short, amid the fury of men and demons, simply for the sake of money (which I neither possess nor desire), or popularity (which I could not obtain if I wished, in a world so incensed against me), or physical safety (of which I cannot for a moment be certain) . . . .

When nothing else can be done, we prefer to be battered by temporal tumult, rejoicing in the grace of God, for the sake of the Word of God, which must be asserted with an invincible and incorruptible mind, rather than to be shattered by eternal tumult under the wrath of God, with intolerable torment.
--LW, 33:51
Dane Ortlund

Earthquake in Japan - Pictures

A massive 8.9-magnitude quake hit northeast Japan on Friday, causing dozens of deaths, more than 80 fires, and a 10-meter (33-ft) tsunami along parts of the country's coastline. Homes were swept away and damage is extensive. As more images of this historic event become available, they will be added below. [33 photos so far, more to come]

Click here to see all pictures - In Focus

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Albert Collins - Iceman -Live From Austin Texas

The Delusion

The following quote by John Gerstner comes from Redeemer Presbyterian’s Bible Study on Romans (p. 45-6):
“…the way to God is wide open. There is nothing standing between the sinner and his God. He has immediate and unimpeded access to the Savior. There is nothing to hinder. No sin can hold [you] back, because God offers justification to the ungodly. Nothing now stands between the sinner and God but the sinner’s “good works.” Nothing can keep him from Christ but his delusion… that he has good works of his own that can satisfy God… All they need is need. All they need is nothing… But alas, sinners cannot part with their “virtues.” They have none that are not imaginary, but they are real to them. So grace becomes unreal. The real grace of God they spurn in order to hold on to the illusory virtues of their own. Their eyes fixed on a mirage, they will not drink real water. They die of thirst with water all about them.”
Per Keller – Gerstner again shows that what keeps people from Christ is not their sins, but the imagined value of their “virtues” and good works. It is not so much refusal to repent of their sins that damns them, but the refusal to repent of their “righteousness.” Only when they repent of both sin and righteousness can they be said to have had their “mouths stopped.”
Dan Orr

Albert King - 1980 Sweden - "Watermelon Man","Cadillac Assembly Line"

Can You Believe The Nerve Of Public Sector Unions?

Rob Bell on Martin Luther and Salvation in Hell

Basic Advice on How to Interpret Luther 

Before addressing a particular element of Rob Bell's new book, I want to make sure that anyone reading this understands exactly what I am and am not doing. 

First, to avoid the usual indignant reactions from the guardians of conscience in the evangelical world, I want to stress that I am writing at this point solely as an individual historian. I am not here speaking as a representative of my church, my seminary, nor of some nebulous movement known as `evangelicalism'

Second, life is, as Hobbes said, nasty, brutish and short. Too short, indeed, to waste on controversies that do not immediately affect one's own little world. Rob Bell has, as far as I know, no impact on my tiny world, whether conceived of as that of Westminster Theological Seminary, or as that of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Thus, my interest in engaging him here is not theological; rather, it is historical and concerns a specific claim he makes relative to the thought of Martin Luther. This claim, while only a brief passing comment in the book, might yet prove rather mischievous in terms of its wider impact.

What is this claim? On page 108 of his book (to be precise, an advance reader copy), Bell makes the following statement:

And then there are others who can live with two destinations, two realities after death, but insist that there must be some kind of "second chance" for those who don't believe in Jesus in this lifetime. In a letter Martin Luther, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, wrote to Hans von Rechenberg in 1522 he considered the possibility that people could turn to God after death, asking: "Who would doubt God's ability to do that?"

Again, a good question.

And so space is created in this "who would doubt God's ability to do that?" perspective for all kinds of people--fifteen-year-old atheists, people from other religions, and people who rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure who did anything but show God's love.

A number of comments seem apposite in regard to this statement. First, there is a basic problem of historical method here: it is illegitimate to take a small quotation from a single letter and use it to extrapolate to a person's general theology. Now, to accuse someone of taking statements out of context is not in itself a strong criticism. Is not all historical writing an example of things taken out of one context and placed in another? But to build so much on a single, short sentence, without examining what went before or after it leaves the argument at best half-done.

Second, to extrapolate from a letter to a person's general theology risks distortion, even if the whole letter is taken into account. If someone were ever to express an interest in my opinion on say, classic rock music of the seventies, I hope they would not focus simply on an email or two, or even on a couple of longer essays or papers. I trust they would try to read as much of my material as possible, and set each artifact in relation to others, so as to produce a coherent account of my thought on rock music as a whole. By so doing, they would create a framework for understanding the significance of any individual statement I might have made on the subject. 

Thus it is with Luther: one cannot legitimately draw theological conclusions from statements in occasional letters without taking into account the theological treatises and, indeed, the confessional documents to which he appended his name. Even the briefest reading of, say, Luther's Larger Catechism would indicate that his mature position allows no space for such postmortem second chances. Anyone can express themselves unclearly at points; anyone can make a statement that contradicts a position which he holds consistently elsewhere. Therefore, even if Luther did say exactly what Bell claims, it might prove little more than the fact he was having a bad day.

When we move beyond these two methodological problems, however, the next issue is that Luther does not in fact seem to have said anything like that which Rob Bell seems to imply that he is saying. Bell quotes the 1522 letter from Luther to Hans von Rechenberg but cites no source, itself a problem as I shall note in my conclusion. Such citation should be straightforward. The German text of the letter is readily available in the Weimar Ausgabe, the standard critical edition of Luther's works, in volume 10.ii, 322-26. It is also available in translation in the standard Philadelphia edition, volume 43, 51-54. Almost any theological institution will have one or both of these sets in its library.

When the text is consulted, the context in which this statement occurs is absolutely vital to understanding what exactly Luther is saying at this point. I quote here the Fortress edition, which seems to be an accurate rendering of the German. I have highlighted the phrase Bell is citing, while also reproducing the important wider context:

If God were to save anyone without faith, he would be acting contrary to his own words and would give himself the lie; yes, he would deny himself. And that is impossible for, as St. Paul declares, God cannot deny himself [II Tim. 2:13]. It is as impossible for God to save without faith as it is impossible for divine truth to lie. That is clear, obvious, and easily understood, no matter how reluctant the old wineskin is to hold this wine--yes, is unable to hold and contain it.

It would be quite a different question whether God can impart faith to some in the hour of death or after death so that these people could be saved through faith. Who would doubt God's ability to do that? No one, however, can prove that he does do this. For all that we read is that he has already raised people from the dead and thus granted them faith. But whether he gives faith or not, it is impossible for anyone to be saved without faith. Otherwise every sermon, the gospel, and faith would be vain, false, and deceptive, since the entire gospel makes faith necessary. (Works, 43, ed. and trans. G. Wienke and H. T. Lehmann [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968], 53-54; WA 10.ii, 324.25-325.11)

In this letter, Luther is answering the question, raised by von Rechenberg, as to whether any can be saved without faith. Luther's answer is a clear 'no.' In fact, the letter is specifically aimed at refuting any notion that anyone can be saved by anything other than faith as Luther defines it. In this particular passage, Luther is raising, in a rhetorical flourish, a kind of question which was typical of the late medieval theological tradition in which he was schooled. It concerns the range of God's possible action (technically, his absolute power/potentia absoluta). He asks if God could give somebody faith after death and justify them on that basis. Yes, he replies, he could do so; but there is absolutely no evidence that he does do so. It is akin to asking 'Could God have made the earth without a moon?' The answer is 'Yes, there is no logical contradiction in that claim; but he did not do so.' 

Any medieval theologian worth his salt knows that the key to understanding how things actually are, how God actually works in relation to the created world, is his potentia ordinata, his ordained power, those things which he has actually determined to do. What Luther is focusing on here is not the possibility of postmortem evangelism but the absolute necessity of faith in the ordained order. Indeed, he goes out of his way to say that we have no basis for thinking that postmortem evangelism does occur, only that God could have established it that way had he so wished. Bell's mistake is that he draws a patently wrong conclusion about Luther's argument here because he either did not allow the wider context of the quotation to inform his understanding of its meaning or did not understand the medieval theology and rhetorical argumentation underlying Luther's point.

Now, I do not wish to comment on the theology of Bell's book. Others will no doubt do so with much greater competence and insight than I could ever muster. I would, however, like to suggest that the book seems to fall short in one very obvious way, of which the use of this Luther quotation is a good example. Popular books written for popular consumption are vital in the church; and Bell is to be commended for seeing that need. Further, when such books simply put forth an unexceptionable position, there is no real necessity for any scholarly apparatus; but when they self-consciously present themselves as arguing for significant or controversial paradigm shifts, the author really does need to cite sources. This is crucial because such citation allows the reader to engage in a conversation with the matter at hand. Indeed, the failure to do so actually prevents the reader from checking such for herself. In short, such an author does theology by fiat, adopting a dictatorial and high-handed approach which precludes constructive dialogue, whatever "conversational" rhetoric the author may use to describe his intentions. The message is not one of dialogue; it is rather 'Trust me: everyone else is wrong, though I am not going to give you the means to judge their arguments for yourselves.' That kind of approach lacks any real critical or dialogical integrity.

Building arguments on theological soundbites, especially from the works of prolific and sophisticated theologians such as Luther, is surely very tempting in today's instant internet age. We all want our fifteen minutes of fame but none of us want to spend any more than fifteen seconds doing the grunt work necessary to achieve it. Yet, like a lady of easy virtue, such an approach may have immediately seductive charms but ultimately proves a rather cruel mistress for the would-be historian. It also says much (and none of it flattering) about the competence of the editors at Harper, that they did not seize on this elementary error and correct it. Checking sources, especially when they seem to say something unexpected, is surely the most basic task of both author and editor.

The book will, of course, sell many copies, far more than anything I will ever write, I am sure. But then so did Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code; and that was a book with which, from the safely controversial content to the sloppy historiography, Rob Bell's latest offering would appear to have much in common.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

T-Bone Walker w/ Jazz At The Philharmonic - Live in UK 1966

Norman Granz "Jazz at the Philharmonic"
Poplar Town Hall, UK Weds 30th November 1966 - BBC TV
"Woman, You Must Be Crazy" (Aaron Walker)
"Goin' To Chicago Blues" (Aaron Walker)
w/ Dizzy Gillespie, Teddy Wilson, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Moody, Benny Carter and Bob Cranshaw.

A Heart at Peace

I suppose that in many ways it can truthfully be said that the greatest need of men and women in this world is the need of what is called a quiet heart, a heart at leisure with itself.

Is that not, in the last analysis, the thing for which we are all looking? You can if you like call it peace; that means exactly the same thing, peace of mind and peace of heart, tranquility. We are all restless; we are all disturbed. There is unhappiness in us. . . .

[I]t is not only the Christian gospel that offers us freedom from the troubled heart. There are many ways in which we are exhorted to try to find this peace. . . .

The claim of the gospel is not only that it can give us a quiet heart, but also that nothing else can do it.
--Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Crossway, 2009), 16-18
Dane Ortlund

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Testify

Love Wins - A Review of Rob Bell's New Book

Questions matter. They can help you to grow deeper in your knowledge of the truth and your love for God—especially when you’re dealing with the harder doctrines of the Christian faith. But questions can also be used to obscure the truth. They can be used to lead away just as easily as they can be used to lead toward. Ask Eve.
Enter Rob Bell, a man who has spent much of the last seven years asking questions in his sometimes thought-provoking and often frustrating fashion. And when he’s done asking, no matter what answers he puts forward, it seems we’re only left with more questions. This trend continues in his new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, where Bell poses what might be his most controversial question yet:
Does a loving God really send people to hell for all eternity?
The questions you probably want answers to as you read this review are these: Is it true that Rob Bell teaches that hell doesn’t exist? Is it true that Rob Bell believes no one goes to hell? You’ll just need to keep reading because, frankly, the answers aren’t that easy to come by.
How he asks the question is just as important as the question itself. “Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this ‘good news’?” They say that the person who frames the debate is going to win the debate. That is especially true when the debate is framed in this way, through these particular questions. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. No offense, and no pun intended.

The Toxic Subversion Of Jesus’ Message

Bell begins the book with surprising forthrightness: Jesus’ story has been hijacked by a number of different stories that Jesus has no interest in telling. “The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it.” (Preface, vi)
A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. (ibid)
You may want to read that again.
It really says that. And it really means what you think it means. Though it takes time for that to become clear.

Does Rob Bell deny the existence of hell? He would say no. We would say yes. He affirms, but only after redefining. And that’s just a clever form of denial.
To read the rest click here Tim Challies