Friday, December 30, 2005

No Santa=No Fun? No WAY!!

Some of those who visit my blog may know that in my family we don't do the Santa Claus thing for Christmas. I've taken some criticism about this. People think that I'm sucking all the fun out of Christmas for my two little boys. Well, I'm going to set the record straight! We have plenty of fun on Christmas, and I thought I'd tell you exactly what we did this year to prove it!

We started out our Christmas season by decorating our tree. Actually, I decided a tree was too dangerous (it might tip over). After racking my brain for a replacement, I pulled a nice, soft pillow off of my son's bed and laid it in the floor. Voila! The christmas pillow! We then started decorating it our beloved pillow. First we got out the lights, but I decided that plugging it in was too much of a shock hazard. Still the christmas pillow looked quite lovely with the little bulbs wrapped around it. Suddenly I realized that those pretty bulbs were easily breakable, so they had to go too. As I was plucking all of the bulbs out of their little sockets, I noticed that the chord was still a choking hazard. What if one of my sons got that wrapped his neck? I couldn't take that chance, so I threw the chord away too.

Next we brought out the ornaments. The first box was full of glass ornaments, which I of course vetoed. My oldest son (three years old) helped me put them in the trash compacter. Oh, you should've seen the tears of joy streaming down his cheeks as I threw the brightly colored balls and figurines of Santa and Frosty in the trash to be crushed. He was so happy!

The next box contained the plaster handprints my boys had made. Now, everyone realizes what kind of breathing trouble plaster dust can cause, so I bagged those suckers up in a sandwich bag on the double. Then, wearing a surgical mask of course, I backed over them with my car. I sucked up any escaping dust with a shop-vac. Threat eliminated.

I came back inside the house to behold a wonderous sight. There was my whole family staring at our Christmas pillow and weeping. I have never been more proud.

My wife looked at me, pointed to our christmas pillow and said, "What are we supposed to do with this!?!" Then she hurried back to our bedroom for some unknown reason. I pondered her question for about a half hour with no results. Finally, an epiphany!! I knew what to do with our christmas pillow.

My wife emerged from our room, picked up our boys and headed toward the door.

"Sweetheart," I said, "I know what to do with our christmas pillow!!"

"SIT ON IT!!" she screamed as she slammed the door in my face.

And by golly, she was right! That was my idea! She always seemed to be a step ahead of me!

So there I was, by myself with the christmas pillow. I guess my wife and the boys went out for more wrapping paper or something. She should be back any day now...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I've Been a Long Time Away, Let's Talk

It's been over a month since I posted anything here, and it's been even longer on the apologetics blog. I guess it was partly because I was wrapping up my second to last semester at Tri-State Bible College, and partly because I didn't have much to say. Or maybe I just didn't feel like saying anything. Either way, I'm back to blogging. At least I'll get one post in for the month of December!

As I said, I have finished another semester at Tri-State Bible College. Come next June I will officially be a college degreed individual. I must say I'm more excited than I thought I'd be. I guess it's because I've been an undergrad for about TEN YEARS now. It hurts to think about that. Still, I wouldn't change much if I had to do it over again. Indeed, what would I change? I certainly wouldn't change my wonderful marriage (five years have flown by!), nor would I change our decision to have children (two beautiful boys!). A family makes a full time job necessary, so I wouldn't change that decision either. Add to that the fact that God has been shaping me for this entire decade, and I don't see many things I would change at all. I can see how every memorable experience has been valuable in shaping me spiritually.

After that, it's on to seminary at Covenant in St. Louis. I'm excited. The community was great on our visit, and the class I attended was thought provoking. This is probably rehashing some of what I wrote in my last post, though, so I'll move on.

I have a few other things I would like to write about here, so they should be showing up shortly. One, Mary Ann and I saw the Chronicles of Narnia this past weekend so I'd like to talk about that. That might have some apologetic impact, so I might post it on the other blog. The other is on the ever-churning Santa Claus controversy. As Christians, should we tell our kids that Santa is real? I might try to post on that today while I'm in the mood to blog.

Let's see, what else...

Check out Steve Camp's blog for a post on John Owen. Reading about this great man of God moved me today. I particularly love this sentence: "His primary motivation was the growth in holiness of his flock." Most pastors today would say, of course, mine is too! And in a way it is. But for Owen and so many other Puritans this dominated their lives. Not church growth, not cultural relevance, but holiness. The means to getting their flocks to the destination? The Bible. The very Word of God. We are too focused on being like the surrounding culture in order to attract it, in my opinion. I focus on this because of the painful lack of holiness in my own life.

In closing, some prayer requests:

We are running low on funds at this time of the year, so pray that we would be wise with our money and faithful to Christ amidst any arising difficulty.

We are also trying to sell our house in preparation for the move to St. Louis. Pray that we are able to do so quickly. If you know anyone who wants to move into the Huntington, WV area, let me know! I might post some pictures of the house a little later.

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

St. Louis Bound!!!

Big news!! I was recently informed that I have been accepted to Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis! Needless to say, I'm pretty excited. Some of you may know that in the past I had considered going into philosophy for my graduate work, but that has changed. I was considering philosophy because I wanted to make a difference in the the world of ideas, but then I began teaching some Bible classes at my church. As I taught on the epistles of John and then Hosea, I began to realize that I was teaching from the most important text that has ever existed. I also have a passion for reform in the evangelical church, and I think that going to seminary and teaching afterward will be the best way I can effect change in the Church. Cultural change can only come after the Church stops trying so hard to imitate the culture.

Pray for me and my family because this is a big move for us. Almost all of our family lives here in West Virginia. We are leaving behind both sets of grandparents, which will be hard for my two sons. It will also be hard for them, particularly my mom. She could also use your prayers. This will be the first time we would officially be "on our own," so it is both exciting and unnerving. Ultimately we would like to be in St. Louis by July of next year so I can take some summer Greek courses.

We will be going to St. Louis for a visit this weekend, so you can also pray for a safe trip for us. We'll be leaving Thursday after I finish work and stopping at a hotel after traveling for a few hours. Interestingly, the hotel room we reserved is in Evansville, IN, the site of the recent tornado. I don't think the hotel was damaged, but we all know about the loss of life there, so if you want to pray for the folks in Evansville as well, be my guest!

I am very much looking forward to seeing the campus and getting a feel for the city of St. Louis. I realize I won't be able to do much of either over a mere weekend visit, but I'll know more than the nothing I know now. I'm supposed to go to class with my friend Shawn who already attends Covenant, which will be fun. Then I will have a tour of the campus and have an admissions interview (cue forboding music). I'm actually not all that nervous about it. I have no idea what they'll ask me, but I've been envisioning an interview like this for the past three or four years. I'm sure it will be different than the way I've pictured it, but I'm still not nervous. Maybe that's foolhardy, but I'm just so excited to have this opportunity nothing drags me down. I'm thankful that God has given me this chance. I very much want to learn how to how to handle His Word carefully.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Biblical Nature of Calvinism: A Response to Jacob

About two months ago I wrote a post complaining about people who call themselves “Biblicists” in the debate between monergism (Calvinism) and synergism (Arminianism and other similar positions). I admit it was a rant and the tone of the post wasn’t the best that I’ve written, but it is what it is and I won’t edit it to make it sound more measured (I’m sure it’s pretty tame for some people, but not for me). It actually generated more response than any post I’ve written in a while, which is not surprising considering the subject matter.

The most substantive comment came from
Jacob, who then expanded his critique on his own blog, Via Crucis. I surfed around Via Crucis for a while, and I like some of what Jacob has written. I particularly enjoyed "The Sharlet Letter", his analysis of Jeff Sharlet’s article “The Young and the Sexless” that came out in Rolling Stone a few months back. I imagine I’ll go back from time to time for a visit.

I must take issue, however, with some of his comments about my post. He criticizes me for holding that it is wrong to be ignorant of “supra-scriptural ‘theology. The point of my original post, however, was that in holding to Calvinist soteriology I do not believe myself to be holding to a supra-scriptural theology. Calvinism is, in my opinion, scriptural. This point will rear its head again later.

Jacob correctly states that I believe that one can be either a synergist or a monergist with no other option. He then goes on to talk about a phone conversation he had to make a point:

Duncan begins by saying that ”…you can either
be monergistic of synergistic with no third option available”, and for the sake
of proving a point, I contacted a Christian friend of

Me: Hey, I’ve got a question.

Friend: shoot

Would you classify your beliefs as monergistic or
What does that

Case in point. Now, you may be asking yourself, “What do these terms mean?” or “Where do my views fit into this?” Therein lies my concern with Duncan’s claim. The importance he places on theological systems implies that ignorance of such systems is in some sense wrong
I’m not certain what this phone conversation is supposed to prove. Is it that one can be a Christian without knowing whether you’re a synergist or monergist, or even what the terms mean? If so, that is something I would grant without debate. A little further in the paragraph below the phone conversation, however, Jacob begins to deliver the meat of his first objection:

The importance he places on theological systems
implies that ignorance of such systems is in some sense

Here again is the assumption that Calvinist soteriology is “supra-scriptural,” a claim which I deny. I hold that Calvinism is Biblical, and therefore ignorance of it is ignorance of Biblical truth, which is never a good thing. However, the heaviest objection comes next:

To say that ignorance (or avoidance) of such issues is unacceptable is to argue against the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures.

He uses 2 Peter 2:13 as support:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…

Of course, I disagree quite strongly with Jacob’s point. As I study the Bible, reading verses that pertain to the manner in which God brings salvation, I realize that each verse must be brought into harmony. If the Bible is to be inerrant it must be internally consistent. As a result, I have found that God enacts salvation monergistically; that is, He does all of the work from beginning to end without human assistance. The question is, how can a theology taken directly from the pages of the Bible cut against the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures, as Jacob claims? If Jacob or anyone else does not believe Calvinism is taken directly from the Bible, that is fine. We can discuss that point, but by painting Calvinism as “supra-scriptural” Jacob has short-circuited that discussion.

Jacob later insists that it is possible, contrary to my contention, to not be a part of the debate. To that I say, “yes and no.” It is possible to drop out of the debate by simply refusing to discuss it. However, there is no possible way that anyone who studies the Bible thoroughly cannot hold a position on this topic. Ask any Christian what Ephesians 2:8 means:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is
not your own doing; it is the gift of God

If the Christian says, “it means that even our faith is given to us by God,” then he or she is likely a monergist. If the Christian says something like, “it means that we exercise faith because of God’s gift of grace,” he or she is likely a synergist. With enough study, we will all arrive at one position or another unless we consciously choose to avoid it. But why should we make such a choice? Why choose not to dig deeper into God’s word to find out just what Paul was saying in Ephesians 2:8?

The rest of Jacob’s response misconstrues some of the things I said in my original post. I think this may have been due to the tone with which I wrote it. First, he questions why I call myself a Calvinist if I do not believe that Calvin was right on everything. He states that “By his name you have either (1) studied any and all of John Calvin’s doctrines and found them to be inerrant, or (2) have not studied all of Calvin’s doctrines but have faith that they are inerrant. Those are the only two options, and both are dangerous.” This is a false dilemma because there are certainly options other than the two Jacob presents. At what point did calling one’s self a Calvinist mean that one held Calvin to be inerrant? I call myself a Calvinist for the sake of discourse (the aforementioned third option). I quite happily confess that I believe everything written in the Bible, but people who disagree with Calvinism make the same claim. Since we both hold ourselves to be “Biblicists” we must find some other means of distinguishing between the positions we take. “Calvinism” and “Arminianism” have worked well for hundreds of years, and no one to my knowledge has ever seriously insisted that either Calvin or Arminius were inerrant.

Next Jacob says,I call myself a Christian – and a Christian only – because I do not question Biblical teaching. Do you consider that claim “pseudo-humble arrogance”?”

The answer is no. This question also stems from my lack of clarity. Whenever I wrote this post, and particularly this bit about “pseudo-humble arrogance” I had specific individuals in mind. Jacob was not one of them, and he still is not. I should have been clearer regarding the sort of person at whom I leveled this criticism. I was thinking more of the “fighting fundamentalist” types. I am not comfortable naming specific names at this time. I will think on it and I may later if I think it is appropriate.

Moving on, we find what is probably the most fundamental claim underlying this critique. “Simply, the term “Calvinism” would be unnecessary if it did not go beyond what the Scriptures teach.” (emphasis in original) This is certainly false, and I think I can demonstrate why. Let’s look at this sentence, but change a key word:

“Simply, the term “Trinitarian” would be unnecessary if it did not go beyond what the Scriptures teach.”

Obviously this is not what Jacob said, and I suspect he affirms the doctrine of the trinity, but I think it demonstrates a good point. Theological terms often exist to differentiate correct theology from false theology. In my opinion, “Calvinism” and “monergism” are simply words that describe correct theology, just as “trinitarianism” is a word that describes correct theology. So you see, it is not as cut and dried as Jacob makes it out to be. There are causes for the use of theological terms other than the one Jacob asserts.

In his final few paragraphs, Jacob again accuses me of following the teachings of men over the teachings of the Bible via 1 Corinthians 1:10-14:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that
you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported
to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I
mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I
follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for
you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

As I showed above, calling myself a Calvinist does not demonstrate that I am following a man over Christ. If the Word of God convinced me that Calvinism is false I would abandon it that moment, even if John Calvin himself were sitting in the room with me.

Ultimately, my ire was not directed at all people who claim to stick to the Bible, because that is what I do myself. Rather, my ire was directed at those who, in a caustic spirit of arrogance, deny me the ability to claim that I stick to the Bible. Again, I admit that I was somewhat caustic myself in my original post, and I am sorry for that. In venting my spleen I was ungodly, but I still maintain that I am both a Calvinist and a “Biblicist.”

UPDATE!!!!! Jacob has asked if I would be interested in debating the fact that Calvinism is entirely Biblical, and I accepted. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but we'll see!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

NaNoWriMo Returns!!

I just got my e-mail informing me that NaNoWriMo is starting up again. I participated last year but didn't finish. I did, however, write a lot more than I ever had before, so I'm hoping for a victory this year.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for "National Novel Writing Month." The idea is that during the month of November you write a short novel. 50,000 words, to be exact. It's that simple! That breaks down to 1,666.67 words a day, though you might want to go ahead and throw that 1,667th word in there just to get ahead of the game.

Last year's novel was a bit of a tragic tale about a man and how he copes with the fact that his wife was left brain damaged in a swimming accident. I enjoyed writing it, and wouldn't mind getting back to it some day. I ended with a paltry 20,188 words, but that's just 4,912 words short of halfway!

My novel this year is going to be TOTALLY different. I'm going to write a fantasy novel. I love the idea of inventing my own little world. I've already got a map drawn up and some ideas with where to take portions of the story. I need to settle on exactly what the larger conflict of the book will be though. But, chin up! I have the rest of October to think of that stuff.

Three cheers for NaNoWriMo!! Whee! I'm already giddy with excitement.

Some advice to first timers:

1. Don't worry if it's not an spectacular. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to hit 50,000 words. You can edit and tweak all you want later.

2. Have a plot in mind. You need a basic idea of where you're going or else you won't know how to get there. Things go a lot more quickly if you're not wandering aimlessly.

3. Have fun! Yeah, yeah, I know it's a lame thing to say, but that's what this is all about. Enjoy your time writing, and when it's all over you can truthfully claim to have written a novel!! And who knows, it might actually be good!

4. Visit early and often. They can give you much better advice than I can, you can commiserate if the need be, or even look up writers from your area. Plus, visiting the site gets you into that crazy, whimsical NaNoWriMo frame of mind.

By the way, be sure to check out my awesome "NaNoWriMo Participant" pic to your right. Oh yeah. You know you want that pic. Sign up!

Monday, October 03, 2005

New Link

I just added "Dead Christians Society" to my blog links. I have an interest in Church History, so it promises to be a fun blog to read. It's run by Chris Armstrong, Bethel professor and managing editor of Christian History Magazine. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

My One Year Anniversary Has Passed!!

I can't believe it! I missed my one year blogging anniversary! On September 10, 2004 I made my initial post on this very blog. Frankly, I didn't think I had the fortitude to keep it up. It's been good for me, though. Hopefully I've been able to hone my writing skills in a year's time, but I'll have to go back through and check that out.

My track record is all the more pleasing when I consider that I've also been posting on The Huntington Apolgetics Team blog since December last year. I don't suppose that I've been all that prolific, though. There are people who write twice as much in a day as I do in a couple of weeks, but I didn't get into this to win some sort word counting contest.

Anyway, happy birthday to me! I'm officially one year old!

Have some virtual ice cream cake.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Back From Vacation

I suppose I should've posted something about this before going on vacation, but I was off of work last week. I took the liberty of vacationing from blogging as well. I had a pretty good week, even though we didn't go anywhere. In fact, it's quite possible that I had a good week because we didn't go anywhere. Heck, I even gave the lawn a good mow/trim/edge and stripped the wax off the kitchen floor. If you know me, you know that's generally not my idea of a good time, but somehow I enjoyed it.

The best part of vacationing at home is that it is a vacation in the truest sense. No stress, no long trip, no financial crunch. I could just relax with my family and enjoy a job-free week. Plus, I avoided the need for a "post-vacation vacation." How many times have you taken a vacation trip only to be more exhausted when you return? Give me the comforts of home over some scorching hot beach anytime.

We also celebrated my son Max's 3rd birthday on Saturday (his actual birthday was Sunday). The party was great, and it was a joy to watch his face as he opened his presents. He got a lightsaber for his birthday, and since he already had one we can now engage in lightsaber duels. He and my brother-in-law Brad, who is a fellow Star Wars fan, were dueling out in the front yard during the party. The best part was when Max used his "force powers" on Brad. He stuck his hand out and "pushed" Brad down several times during the duel.

Another welcome pleasure is the beginning of the semester at Tri-State Bible College. This is my last year as an undergrad! By this time next year I will be a degreed individual. I might post on my grad school prospects after lunch.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Calvinism vs. Arminianism...vs. Biblicism?

As I have indicated in a few recent posts, I am a Calvinist. I have some friendly debates with some friends every once in a while, but generally I'm not an "in your face" type. I'll leave that to James White. He gets a little mean for my taste, though he does have a lot of good information to share. But I digress.

As I said, I'm generally not a confrontational, "in your face" kind of guy, but I have heard something that some non-Calvinists have said that sends me into convulsions. In order to set the scenario, let's say that a Calvinist is dialoguing with non-Calvinist. Often the Calvinist will draw a dichotomy between Calvinism and Arminianism on the grounds that you can either be monergistic of synergistic with no third option available. We'll leave the question of the adequacy of these definitions to the side for now. There is a response to this that kills me, and I've heard it several times now. Some of you other Calvinists may have heard this before as well.

"I'm not a Calvinist or an Arminian. I'm a Biblicist."


There are several things that get me fired up when I hear this. First, it's a cop-out that doesn't recognize what the Calvinist is saying. You fall into one of the two camps no matter what. Second, it's insulting to the Calvinist (and to Arminians, I suppose). In essence, the non-Calvinist is saying, "You're following the teachings of some man." Are we supposed to ignore the exegetical work that has been done? Do they think that we venerate Calvin so much that we do not question his teaching? We are Calvinists because we believe in the Bible. Third, it drips of pseudo-humble arrogance. "You can have your fancy theological systems. I'll stick with the Bible." Friend, this "fancy theological system" is derived from the Bible. Please tell me how you've transcended the debate such that neither label applies to you.

Bottom line: You are monergistic or synergistic, end of story. Denying a title because it has a man's name in the title gets you no points.

Phew. I feel better.

Friday, August 19, 2005

One New Link

I just added another link to the blogroll. Idea Soup is the name, and with a guy named "Josh" at the helm it's gotta be good. There was a bit of a delay between his last post and this one, so I was waiting to see if he would post again before I linked him. He did. So I did. Welcome to the blogroll, Josh!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I Want an iPod and YOU can Help!!!

Maybe I'm a doofus, but I've been itchin' to get my hands on an iPod lately, so when I saw a chance to get one for free I decided to go for it. So, if you have an ounce of compassion in your heart :p, click this link:

and sign up for one of the free offers. You have to click on that link otherwise I won't get credit for referring you. I need five people to sign up for offers, so dive in!

Don't you love people you don't know asking you to sign up for stuff so they can get something for free?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Some Notes on the Music in My Life

I have officially discovered another band...or artist, I guess, since he's really only one guy. If you have a thing for melancholy music with breathy vocals and poetic lyrics (and I know you do), you will love Iron and Wine. Iron and Wine is actually a guy from Miami named Samuel Beam. A lot of his stuff is very simple (at least partly because it was recorded on a 4-track recorder), which I like. It seems that lately he has been doing some more complex stuff, like in the song "Woman King." I didn't care for it at first, but I'm starting to come around. Anyway, Iron and Wine comes highly recommended.

Beyond that, my brother and I are going to form a "band" of sorts. We've actually been working on some songs for over a year, but I kind of...well...quit working on anything. But I'm back on the wagon now, so who knows what sort of greatness we'll achieve!!! We've gone through several "band names" but nothing seems to really grab us, so if anyone has any suggestions feel free to offer them up.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I'm Going to JAIL!!!!

I was sitting at my desk at work, minding my own business when I get this phone call. It seems there is a warrant out for my arrest. Thursday, September 1st, I will be going to jail for an hour in support of the MDA telethon. Who swore out my warrant? Not a clue, but I'll tell you this: I look fantastic in black and white stripes. There will be a website through which people can make donations to "bail me out," so I'll post that link as soon as possible.

Heh. I wonder what made someone pick me? I was under the impression that people usually picked their bosses or department managers for this sort of thing. I have exactly zero employees under me. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I get to assist in MD research, not to mention that I think the whole thing sounds kind of fun.

I'll keep everyone updated.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Totally New Ministry Paradigm!!!!

Brothers and sisters, we are on the cusp of something huge. Once in a generation a new idea comes along that is so innovative, so amazing, that it provides a new ministry paradigm for the Church. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I think I just may have stumbled across such a paradigm, ladies and gentlemen.

You might be thinking, "Is he talking about the Emergent Church?"

Heh. Not even close.

No, this idea is so revolutionary it makes Brian McLaren look like a clone of John R. Rice. It makes Robert Schuller sound like Jerry Falwell. Prepare yourself for the future of Christian ministry, my friends. Let this essay mark the kickoff of the Brass Pole Movement!

I was first alerted to this idea by the estimable theologian and exegete Dr. Jessica Simpson. As many know, Dr. Simpson has quite a distinctive method of outreach. She has been ministering in non-traditional ways for a while, but she really began pushing the envelope in her video entitled, "These Boots Were Made for Walking." Some close-minded Christian organizations began criticizing her, saying that her methods were inappropriate (see this Softpedia article). A prophet is without honor in her hometown, Dr. Simpson.

At first I agreed with the criticisms, but then I read Simpson's devastating biblical defense of her new methodology:

"I think that if they're really good Christians the judgment wouldn't be there."

How can one argue with such resistless logic? Notice how succinct she is in stating her position! Sometimes one sentence is all it takes to show what a clear thinker you are, eh Dr. Simpson? You have revealed to us all exactly how deep your Christian worldview has impacted your thinking. Good for you.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Simpson's new model for outreach has changed the way I will view ministry for the rest of my life. The Brass Pole Movement (hereafter BPM) is a cutting edge way to draw in those who are not interested in traditional church. Every Sunday morning Frat Houses would sit empty, with young college men lining the front rows of our churches. And all because of the new "ushers" on the church's staff! What an opportunity!

Consider also how this could impact fundraising! Do you need to get your youth group to Central America for a summer mission trip? Three words: Bikini Car Wash. In the BPM, which is much more compassionate and far less judgmental, such things are possible! Even encouraged!

Won't you join me in moving toward this groundbreaking paradigm for ministry? It is a sad fact that upbeat music and therapeutic preaching just don't draw in some types of people, friends! We need to push the ministry envelope to draw them in. Otherwise, all we will have left is the Gospel, and we all know that won't work!

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Couple of New Links

I've been adding links at an alarming rate lately! Here are the latest: First I broke down and added James White's Alpha and Omega Ministries. Also, Tom Ascol started a Founders Ministries Blog, and has some excellent series of posts examing an article by Dr. Steve Lemke that conflates Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. That error is disturbingly common...

Thoughts on My First Sermon

If you've read my blog over the last week or so you know that last night I delivered my first full length sermon. I preached on 1 John because I had taught on it before and was relatively familiar with the content. The text of my sermon is below, but I thought I'd give you an account of how the evening went down, as well as my impression of how the sermon went.

My wife and I found Kenwood Missionary Baptist Church with no problem. It's a small, semi-rural church in the Ashland/Russell area of Kentucky. We were met by Mark Thompson, a man in his early fifties who had only been a Christian two years. I loved talking to him because I could see a love for God's word in him that few Christians have today. He was hungry. I ended up looking at him for most of the time I spent in the pulpit because I could see his eagerness.

The service itself was a bit of a blast from the past. There were a number of similarities between this church and the church I attended as a boy. Even one of the special songs reminded me of something my grandmother would have loved. Before long, though, it was time for me to speak.

My intention was to go about 25-30 minutes, but I missed that mark a bit. My wife told me it was probably about 45 minutes long. Oops! And here I was worried that I wouldn't have enough material. The people, though, were kind and loving and they didn't seem to mind the sermon's length. I even got a hug from a 3 year old little girl in the audience.

The sermon itself was a mixed bag. Before I continue with my remarks, let me say that I fully believe that God can do whatever He wills with any sermon. I don't mean to indicate my efforts were the most important thing yesterday evening. But let's get on with it. My sermon wasn't as tight as I would have wanted. It didn't flow that well in places, particularly from the introduction to the actual body of the sermon. For some reason in the introduction I focused on others recognizing our Christianity rather than gaining assurance ourselves.

I was fairly happy with the rest of the sermon. I think I got to cover the basics of 1 John fairly well. It just needs some refining. As I said, the text of the sermon is posted below, pretty much as it was preached. The only alteration I made was to replace the King James Biblical citations with English Standard Version ones. I hadn't used my KJV for a long time, but many churches around here still prefer it, so I used it so as not to offend people. I don't think they're King James Only at Kenwood, but it is still used in most churches around here.

Hopefully you'll enjoy reading the sermon below, and I'd welcome your comments.

1 John: A Sermon on Christian Assurance

Bumper stickers. Fish symbols. Sloganeering bracelets. T-Shirts that adapt popular brand names with Christian words. I’ve seen a shirt where the clothing company “Abercrombie & Fitch” becomes “A Breadcrumb and Fish,” referring to the feeding of the 5000. These are the sorts of things that many people use to demonstrate their Christianity. Yet some polls indicate that a great number of self-professed born again Christians do not live differently than non-Christians. I don’t think bumper stickers and bracelets are wrong in and of themselves, but we must admit to ourselves that these are shallow ways to show Christ to people. It’s a sort of “non-committal commitment.” It allows us to soothe our consciences that we are publicly Christian without having to really invest in the lives of other people or say something considered offensive.

But what about things that seem less shallow? How about carrying your Bible to school or work? Or praying over your meal? What about a five minute morning devotion? Surely these are excellent ways to demonstrate you commitment to Christ! Well, though they are commendable on some level, they too fall short of demonstrating one’s Christianity and providing assurance for you personally. It would be easy for a non-Christian to do this, don’t you think? We could probably envision a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness doing these things.

Introducing 1 John and Establishing Context
Since we are running out of options, here, let’s go ahead and turn to the Bible for the true answer to how we demonstrate our Christianity to ourselves and others. Let’s turn to the book of 1 John. It’s my hope that we will be able to cover the book in its entirety tonight. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but I really like the idea of preaching on a book of the Bible as a whole. When we do that we get a better picture of what the author, be he Paul, John, or whomever, intended to communicate in his writings. I think sometimes we read the Bible as though the verses aren’t connected to each other, and that’s a problem. It is very important to understand the context of a passage before we can fully understand what the human writer and God Himself wanted to say.

Something else I like to do for messages like this one is establish the historical context in which the book was written. What event or events motivated the writer, other than the urging of the Holy Spirit? For instance, we know the book of Philemon was written because Paul had met Onesimus, a slave of Philemon’s, and led him to Christ. Onesimus had wronged Philemon and Paul wanted to make amends. But what motivated John to write his letter? I’ll try to keep my historical remarks brief and then get on to the Word itself.

It is pretty well established that John was writing his first epistle at least partially in response to some false teaching, as well as the conduct of the teachers, who were once part of the church, and were spreading the aforementioned falsehood. These teachers, later called “Gnostics,” believed that anything physical was evil. The spirit, they thought, is good, but anything physical, like a human body, is evil. It doesn’t take long, if you claim to be a Christian, to run into trouble if you believe a physical body is evil. Jesus Himself had a body. For these Gnostic teachers it would be impossible for God to actually have a body, so they denied that He did. Some of them believed that it just seemed as though Jesus had a body.

Not only did they have problems with Jesus’ human body, they had trouble with what to do with their own bodies. “If the body is evil,” some of them thought, “then it doesn’t matter what I do with it!” Some Gnostics took advantage of the opportunity to indulge in their own sins, and John directly attacked the Gnostics on both of these fronts. Without further ado, let’s dive into 1 John.

How Do I Know I Am a Christian?
One major problem that arose from the error of the false teachers is that some people began doubting their salvation. For one thing, these false teachers had strange view of salvation, and since these were people who may have had a great deal of influence and charisma, it caused doubts to creep into the minds of the Christians to whom John was writing. He wanted to reassure them that they could know for certain whether they were truly saved or not. As 5:13 states, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” In fact these teachers who had left the church were demonstrating that they were not saved. John uses their actions as a “how to demonstrate that you’re a non-Christian” so we could know the sorts of actions that should provide assurance for a Christian. John chooses three areas to put his readers’ minds at ease. First, according to John, the Christian must hold to the basic doctrines of the faith. As we said, these false teachers did not believe that Christ came in the flesh. Second, the Christian should love his brothers and sisters in Christ. Finally, we must be obedient to the commands of Christ. Let me stress that John is not saying that these things are prerequisites for salvation, or that you must do these things to keep your salvation. The Bible is clear that we are not saved by works, nor is it our job to “keep our salvation” through our actions. God takes care of that. Incidentally, all three of these ideas are woven into the fabric of 1 John. They don’t appear in just one place, they appear and reappear as John writes, so we’ll be bouncing around in the text a bit.

Upholding the Basic Doctrines of the Faith
As we’ve already pointed out, John was battling against the idea that Christ did not actually have a human body. Dispensing with traditional greetings, he wastes no time in attacking that idea in 1:1-2. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us--” John was leaving no doubts in the minds of the readers of this letter; he was there with Jesus, and Jesus really had a physical body. Later, in 4:2-3 John has chilling words about these false teachers.: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

Some of you may be wondering, “what does it matter if Jesus had a physical body or not?” As it turns out, if Jesus was not human like us, then He could not have died for our sins. As Hebrews 2:17-18 states, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” What this is saying is that it was necessary for Christ to become like us, that is, human, so that He could reconcile us to God. So the denial of Christ’s humanity was no small matter. It means everything to our salvation.

Now let’s take this in a bit of a more general direction. Some people don’t want to bother with doctrine at all. Why not just, “love God,“ they ask. “Doctrine divides,” they say. They think that as Christians we should be unified, and we should, as John will point out. However, it is also vital to note that 1 John, which I think of as one of the most love and unity oriented books of the New Testament, actually encouraged division over essential doctrines. Why? Because when people reject the basic doctrines of Christianity they reveal that they were never a part of the family of God to begin with. Read 1 John 2:22-23: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” These false teachers denied Christ by trying to strip Him of His humanity. In the process, they lost the father as well.

I don’t mean to indicate that every little disagreement merits a heresy trial. For instance, if we have two hypothetical men, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Jackson, and they disagree over whether pastors should receive a salary from the Church or not, that they should declare each other heretics and never speak to one another again. That would be extreme because the doctrine is not central to the faith. Unfortunately, however, that sort of thing happens in far too many churches. So doctrine, we see, is quite useful in dividing the true Church from the false professors.

Christian Unity and Love
As we read on in 1 John, we begin to discover other things about these false teachers. For instance, their love for this false teaching had caused them to leave the Church. Ultimately, as we saw, their departure was a good thing. I’m going to take a chance and state the obvious here: It is never a good idea to have influential people teaching falsehoods in your Church, especially about the nature of Christ Himself. However, simply focusing on kicking the bad guys out does not reveal the sort of Christian character that can aid in giving us assurance of our own salvation. We can mentally assent to any doctrinal statement without having a truly regenerate heart. Have you ever run across someone who delights in finding reasons to run people out of a church? Such a person is dangerously out of balance in his or her spiritual life. Were I this person I would examine myself closely and carefully to make certain of my salvation, because John indicates a lack of love for Christian brothers and sisters is something to be taken seriously.

John states over and over that love for our family in Christ is an essential component of the Christian life. Chapter 2:9-11 reads, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

If we carry hatred in our hearts for Christian people, John indicates that the reality of our salvation is in doubt. But by the same token, if we love our fellow Christians, we can be sure of our salvation. This is a beautiful truth. Look at 3:10: “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” It is manifest that we are God’s children when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We’ve spent a decent amount of time talking about the love we should have for our fellow Christians, but we need to address what this love should look like. Should we follow the world’s perception of love and just let everyone fulfill their own desires? John reveals how we are to demonstrate our love in 3:16-19: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;”

These verses can surprise a lot of people. “This is how we show Christian love?” they think. It seems incredibly unspiritual at first glance. Providing for physical needs? Of course John would encourage things like prayer for those in need, but giving to a brother who needs it is, I think, putting your money where your mouth is. Anyone can mouth words to someone, but it takes a real Christian, someone like Barnabas, to give away goods. Do you want to show your Christian brother you love him? Mow his lawn. Buy his dinner. Pay a bill he is late on, as long as that is not a habitual problem. These acts need to grow out of a compassion in your heart that only God can provide. I know, I’ve experienced it. God can put a love in your heart even for that guy who gets on your last nerve.

Our hearts should be moved by stories of our brothers and sisters in need. I think sometimes American Christians, because of the plenty we experience here, forget about the need of Christians around the world. Let me encourage you to forgo buying that latest gadget or beautiful skirt. Search your heart and see if you can find something better to do with that money. I’m not saying don’t buy anything nice for yourself, but if we’re honest we will admit that we have plenty. Open your heart to the needs of your fellow Christians.

The flip side of that is that sometimes we get too prideful to ask for help. Christian, if you are in some sort of difficult situation, don’t try to go it alone. We are called to bear each others’ burdens. Let go of your individualistic pride and give your brother the opportunity to serve you. Not only can this be a confirmation of what John said about Christian love and assurance, but it can also commend Christ to people quite well. We are to be known for our love for each other.

Obedience to the Commands of Christ
John has now provided two ways in which a person can gain assurance of their salvation. Do you believe in sound doctrine? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? If you said yes on both accounts, that should provide a great degree of assurance in your own heart. There is, however, one final way which John indicates can be an avenue of assurance. Read 2:3-5: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him:”

How many people do you know that tell you, “Oh, I’m a Christian. I prayed some prayer when I was seven,” or, “I went forward at a revival,” or something else of that nature, but when you take a look at their life they live no differently than they did before their conversion? I’ve seen a lot of that. According to John, that sort of thing should cause us to stop and think. Are such people truly saved? Ultimately we don’t know anyone else’s heart, so we can’t say for certain, but John’s words should be a wakeup call for everyone.

A life characterized by sin is good evidence against someone’s salvation. Listen to what John says to that effect in 3:4-6: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” When reading these verses we have to be careful because it can sound like a Christian will never sin if we don’t take investigate further. I can hear someone say, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not? Are you saying that a Christian will never sin?” Of course not, because that would contradict statements John himself made, such as this one in 1:8- “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” What, then, does John mean? In the original languages the word “sinneth” means “a lifestyle of sin.” It is someone who lives continuously in sin.

To be sure of our own salvation, and to demonstrate our salvation to others, we must be obedient to the commands of Christ. Since this is the case, it is only natural that we should go on to discover these commandments. Fortunately, John offers us some help. In 3:24 John says “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Conclusion and Application
How beautiful! John gives us three things; three seemingly separate areas in which we should be able to gain assurance of our salvation. But then he comes and shows us that these three things, doctrine, love for the brethren, and obedience, are really one.

I believe in the power of the Word of God. Whenever we dig into the Bible and ask God to change us to His standard, to make His character our character, these three things will grow in our lives and we will know that, to quote 5:13 again, “that ye have eternal life.” I want you to be encouraged, Christian. In your darkest moments reflect on your life. Is it characterized by sin? No? Be assured. Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Yes? Be assured. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, both God and man, as your savior? Yes? Then above all else, be assured. Jesus has prepared a place for you in heaven.

Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have all of these things. Are you saying I’m not a Christian?” That is not something I can know for certain, but I do know what John has said in this epistle, and you should examine your life to make certain of your salvation. This is too important to let pride or stubbornness stand in the way.

Still others of you may say, “I’m not a Christian at all, and I don’t claim to be. What does 1 John say to me?” Well, friend, you still need to take that first step. You need to believe the truth about Jesus. He is the Son of God, and He is truly man. He died to deliver His people from their sins, and this salvation is offered to you tonight.

If you take anything home with you tonight, take this phrase, which I think captures the essence of 1 John. It is our obedience to Christ in loving our brothers, and our love of true doctrine, that will demonstrate our Christianity. To God be the glory.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Tonight's the Night

Tonight I deliver my first sermon. I think I'll post it here on the blog after I deliver it, plus I'll give my impression of how things went. If you read this, pray for me tonight. I only want to say what God wants me to say.

Monday, July 25, 2005

May God Put His Words in My Mouth

I am two semesters away from FINALLY having a college degree. Whew. It feels good to be able to say that. I graduated from high school in 1996, and I must say it has been a long and winding road, if I may quote The Beatles). I think I've had a total of one semester off since '96, but of course I haven't been going to school full time for a while now (marriage, two kids, and a full-time job preclude such things). By June of next year I will be a college graduate, but in the mean time, I'm getting geared up for classes at Tri-State Bible College (see ministry links in the sidebar).

As a prerequisite for graduation at Tri-State all students in a four year program, which includes me, must complete seven semesters of work in "Christian Service" program. I currently have six, and will be doing the last this semester. Until you've reached senior status you have a great degree of lattitude in what your Christian service might be. Once you're a senior, however, the administrators like you to take service opportunities that will prepare you for the ministries you will undertake after graduation. I, along with my advisor (college president Dr. Clifford Marquardt), thought that teaching at the church I attend (Living Hope Bible Church; see ministry links again) would be a good idea, so that's what I'll be doing for the most part. I've done that a number of times before and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, Dr. Marquardt also wanted me to take some speaking opportunities around the area to gain preaching experience. I agreed and that was that.

I suppose I must not have expected a speaking opportunity to come up in such short order. My wife took a phone call from Mr. Leroy Fulford, head of the Christian Service Program, asking me to get in touch with him. When I called, I learned that Dr. Marquardt had indeed secured a speaking engagement for me, and that the date will be July 31. That's next Sunday. Here's the thing: I've never preached before except for a five minute mini-sermon I did when I was a teenager, and now I have a week to prepare for a full length sermon. I'm kinda nervous.

The text I have chosen is the entire book of 1 John. One reason is that I've taught on the Epistles of John at Church, so I have some familarity with the text. Also, I'd like to do an overview of the whole book because sometimes we take an atomistic view of Scripture because we study just a few verses at a time. Not to mention the fact that knowing the general message of a book helps in interpreting the text. It's probably a bit too much to bite off in a week, but I'm going to give it a shot.

Anyway, pray for me, and pray for the people of Kenwood Missionary Baptist Church in Ashland, KY. They don't know what they're in for...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

God the Clever?

A charge that Calvinists often level at Arminians is that their system robs God of His sovereignty because of the role man is allowed to play in salvation. Arminians will sometimes retort, "hey, which God is more sovereign, the one who simply decrees everything or the one who works with the free actions of men and achieves His will anyway?" It seems to me that this is playing fast and loose with the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty is the exercise of supreme authority. It makes no sense to say that anyone is more sovereign because they allow other beings to exercise authority and achieve their ends anyway.

Sometimes the response is altered thusly: "Which God is more powerful, the one who decrees everything or the one who works with the free actions of me and achieves His will anyway?" This does avoid any sort of strange redefinition of sovereignty, but neither does it help the Arminian's cause. The reason being that it does not reveal anything about the amount of power a being might have. If God chose to do one thing, does that mean the other was outside of His power? No, obviously enough. This doesn't conclusively tell much about God's power other than the fact that He can do what He chose to do.

I think the best one could say is that a God who works with free willed beings has found a more clever way to achieve His ends, but that hardly inspires worship. I don't recall any Psalms praising God for such cleverness. No, the focus is on His sovereignty and power. I think that we can now see that, since the Arminian rejoinder to the accusation of diminishing the sovereignty of God fails, the accusation itself stands. The Calvinist view best preserves the sovereignty of God as it is revealed in the Bible.

Monday, July 11, 2005

More New Links!!

I've picked up a few more blog links from reading Phil Johnson's "Blogspotting" posts. First up is Kerry Gilliard, with THINK! I'm Wrestlin' With Words and Ideaz.... Also, I've linked Theological Meditations. Of particular interest is Tony's post titled "Radio Interview on Hyper-Calvinism."

PyroManiac has become a terrific source for great new material to read. The collective blogosphere owes you one, Phil!

edit: I just found Steve Camp's blog. I'm-a-linkin' it.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

I AM Obi-Wan

Heck yeah. I took the Star Wars quiz. I AM Obi-Wan, baby. By far the coolest character in Eps. I, II, and III. Now...I'm going to Indiana. HT: Johnny Dee at Fides Quaerens Intellectum.

Which Revenge of the Sith Character are you?
created with

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hey Bloggers! Take this Survey!!

MIT is doing a survey about bloggers, and they want YOU! I did it, and I know everyone wants to be like me, so take part! It doesn't take long, so just jump in and be a part of something potentially useless!! Three cheers for sociology!

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Next Great Evangelist?

Billy Graham has been the reigning king of evangelists longer than many of us have been alive. He recently appeared on Larry King Live, and as I understand it he said that may have been his last television interview before he passes away. He also just held his last crusade in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, so the evangelistic "torch" will now be passing to the next generation. is currently holding a poll to determine just who will be Graham's successor as preeminent evangelist.

Of course, Franklin Graham is currently tops on the list. After all, he is Billy's son and he is officially taking Billy's place in the organization. Not only that, but Franklin has done some noteworthy things in his own right. I have some respect for Franklin Graham. Currently coming in second is T.D. Jakes. Now, I have some issues with Jakes. First, there's the modalistic view of God that he holds. Basically, he doesn't hold to the orthodox formulation of the trinity. This does not mean that he is not a Christian, it just means that he holds to an error that has been rejected in the church for nearly 2000 years. Holding a false belief about the nature of God can have unforseen negative consequences. Jakes apparently subscribes to the "try Jesus, you'll like Him!" approach to evangelism. Here is how he responded when asked why he is a Christian rather than a Buddhist or something else:

I’m a Christian because my faith works for me. It meets me at the point of my personal needs; it gives me a foundation to stand on when all the world seems crazy. The fact that Christ died for me and rose from the dead and continues to live and influence my behavior is significant to me, and it’s been effective.

But what if someone says that atheism works for them? What would Jakes tell them? This approach to evangelism does not do justice to the gospel. The Gospel is the message of Christ crucified, resurrected, and reconciling people to God. It doesn't have much to do with what "works" when you face the trials of life. Now, I do think that Christ carries His children through their trials, but that is not THE reason to become a Christian. BUT, I would happily vote for Jakes over the man who inexplicably holds third place.

Coming in third is Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church. By now most people know who Osteen is through his best-selling book Your Best Life Now. Frankly, I'm astounded he's on the list, let alone getting votes. Why would I take Jakes over Osteen? Because at least Jakes seems to care about the Gospel. Osteen is more concerned with people living a nice life. His message is something like "God wants you to have good health, a nice job and a good family life." Sin? I don't think that gets much airtime at Lakewood. That's negative, and Osteen doesn't want his people going home feeling low. The kicker is, folks, without sin, there is no gospel. As I've heard Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason say, there is no reason for the Good News unless we know the Bad News first. If you don't talk about sin, you are not an evangelist. Period.

The only remaining evangelist in double figures (12%) at the time of this writing is Luis Palau. This man has my vote. He was asked what his favorite prayer is in a beliefnet interview, and this is what he said:

O God my father, I believe that you created me, that you love me, that you even like me, O God, and even though I don’t deserve it, because I sinned against you, I have broken your moral laws, I believe that you sent your son, Jesus Christ, and that he died on a cross to take away all my guilt, to wash me spiritually, and Lord Jesus I believe that you rose from the dead, that you hear my prayer, and right now I open my heart to you. Please come into my life, Lord Jesus, make me your child, give me the assurance of eternal life, fill me with your holy spirit, and I will serve you, and I’ll obey you until I see you face to face in heaven. Thank you, Father, I am yours forever because Christ lives in me. In his name I think you, Amen.

While I could nitpick on a few issues, I think by and large Palau has it right. There is sin, and there is the need for Jesus to overcome the sin. Earlier in the interview he also indicated that he believes Jesus is the only way to heaven, which is not a given with popular "evangelists" this days. I also know Palau is a man of integrity. In the interest of full disclosure, I have a brother-in-law who does some work for the Luis Palau Evangelstic Association. I like what I have heard from him about Mr. Palau. He is a true, genuine minister of the Gospel.

The current results of this poll are a sad commentary on the state of evangelicalism today. This is because most people who claim to be Christians don't know what the Gospel is! How could they vote for the quality of an evangelist when they don't even know what the message he carries should sound like? If someone doesn't know what a guitar sounds like, it is useless to tell them that "such and such a person is a good player." You must have knowledge of the true standard before you can know who is good at explaining that standard.

Consider this my plea for an education in basic theology for all Christians. We have a responsibility to get to know God and His message as they are revealed in the Bible. If we do that while keeping a heart that burns passionately for God, the list of candidates for "the next great evangelist" might be a mile long (by God's might). Then feel good churches "try Jesus you'll like Him" evangelism will be dumped on the ash heap of history, where they belong.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Theology in Tension?

I had to do it! I had to take the theological worldview test. I must say, I was fairly pleased with the result.

You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Reformed Evangelical


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

I thought that it was strange, though, that my two highest scores were "Reformed Evangelical" and "Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan." Those aren't two strains of thought that normally go together. I don't really know how to explain that. It could be that there were some questions that I misinterpreted or something. I have a feeling that there were some questions that used phrases I would be more familiar with had I been raised in a different denomination, but since I wasn't I interpreted them in my own way. Or it could have been the way I answered questions like the one about spirituality being more important than dogmatics. There wasn't a good way to answer that.

It's not surprising that I scored high in "Fundamentalist." I am very dogmatic about the truth of the Scriptures. I was also surprised by how highly "Neo-Orthodox" ranked. I did say that I thought Barth was an important theologian, but that was mainly because he was/is popular. He's someone you need to learn if you're going to study theology seriously. I don't agree with him on many issues, but he still qualifies as "important" or "influential." I don't consider myself particularly "Emergent" or "Postmodern." In fact, I actively shun the title "postmodern", but I do think the Emergent guys have some criticisms of the evangelical church that are spot on. With the Charismatic thing, I am not a cessationist, so that's probably why I scored so high in that.

I do believe in the importance of social action, so maybe that's why my "liberal" score was so high. I don't know why I even scored anything in "Roman Catholic". When you say the Pope is not the head of the Church that should automatically take you to zero, I think.

Friday, June 17, 2005

New Blog, New Links

Hey, everybody, I have a bit of blog-oriented news. I just started a two man blog with Olen of White Poet Warlord. It's called "Insightfully Shallow" and we agree that the title suits us both well. I have it linked on the right. We will be discussing anything that comes to mind. Right now we're doing top 12 movie picks, but other areas of pop culture, as well as politics and religion, will get "screen time."

Also, I added a couple of blogs to the roll. Phil Johnson's "PyroManiac" is burning up the blogosphere, so I thought I'd jump aboard. The second, called "Foedus Gratiae," is run by a guy named of Tom. I came across his blog via Derek Webb's "Webboard." Check 'em out!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Calvinism and the Internet Beat Down

Calvinism is taking an internet-style beating. I was introduced to this phenomenon when I read Phil Johnson's post titled "Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism". The subtitle is "Bashing Calvinism is the latest fad in blogdom. My turn." While Johnson doesn't bash (or abandon) Calvinism itself, he does point out a few erstwhile Calvinists who have (he seems to think Michael Spencer has, but Spencer says that's not really the case in his "Calvinism Q & A").

Why have so many people been abandoning Calvinism? Before answering that I want to give a short history of my experience with these doctrines. I grew up with a kind of "Calminian" theology. The Baptist Church I attended for most of my life didn't speak a great deal on this topic directly, though the pastor (who was also my grandfather) had dealings with hyper-calvinists in his youth. He has explained to me that there were people in the church he attended who would not associate with non-Christians because those who weren't of the elect were "beneath them." That, among other considerations, lead him to reject Calvinism, even though he was being groomed to take over his hyper-calvinist uncle's spot as pastor. His formerly close relationship with his uncle was badly strained, and I don't think it ever recovered.

Back to the topic at hand. I had no particular view of soteriology other than the fact that we are saved by grace through faith. That is to say, I knew what the verses says, but I had not attempted to look into the various systematized views. While attending college I made friends with a couple of Calvinists who were involved in student leadership of Campus Crusade for Christ at Marshall University (weird, eh?). Through various conversations, Bible studies and books I became convinced that Calvinism was true.

I was a happy Calvinist until I began to dabble a little bit more in philosophy and apologetics. It was then that I came across thinkers like William Lane Craig and made a Molinist friend two. I put Calvinism on the shelf and began looking into Molinism as an option that allowed a more natural interpretation of passages on both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. I liked Molinism and decided that if I thought the two kinds of passages were equally balanced I would go that route, which I pretty much did. I definitely considered myself to be a Molinist, though I would always give the caveat that I needed to do more research.

A couple of years passed before I really started looking into Calvinism again. As I searched the scripture I became more and more convinced that it was not "a tie" as I had once supposed. The language of sovereignty in Scripture convinced me of the truth of the doctrines of grace all over again.

Let's finally get to the point of this story, shall we? I believe Calvinism is true because of the Bible. I don't believe it because I like John Piper, Mark Dever, or Calvin himself. I sure don't believe it because some anonymous blogger or message board denizen does. So, if one or all of these fallible men (or women) turn out to be vitriolic jerks, what reason do I then have to reject Calvinism? In fact, none.

If your Calvinist hero disappoints you, causing you to abandon the doctrine, why did you believe in the first place? We should all check our motivations. We are not primarily loyal to men, but to God and His truth as it expressed in the Bible. Men are not perfect. I love Mark Dever's preaching, but I will be no less committed to the doctrines we agree on if he stumbles in sin or is cruel to people.

If, after becoming a Calvinist, you are suddenly less charitable and less interested in evangelism, who is to blame? Certainly not Calvinism. In fact, the fault is on us as individuals if we allow any doctrine to distract us from tasks we are to undertake as Christians. What is important is if the Bible tells us that Calvinism is true. If it is, then no personal disappointment, no loss of evangelistic zeal, that can justify rejecting it. If it is not, then there is no sense of awe or experience of humility at the feet of God that can justify accepting. Such feelings would be false and therefore not of the true God.

There is only one real way to accept or reject Calvinism, brothers and sisters. I beg you, search the Scriptures and be convinced accordingly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Return of the Laz-i

Yeah, so I'm stretching the Star Wars theme of my last few posts with that title (pronounced "laze-eye"). But, oh well. My pseudo-feud with Olen of White Poet Warlord is over anyway. I just figured it was about time that I post again, and since I procrastinated for a week or so I thought hilighting the "lazy" portion of my blog title was appropriate.

I've been teaching on the book of Hosea in my church for the last twelve weeks or so. I've come to admire everyone's stamina there! Anyway, if you haven't read Hosea it's a truly amazing book. If you want to become acquainted with the holiness of God and the necessity of punishment for sin, read the minor prophets. Hosea is full of such things. At the same time, however, there are some beautiful images of redemption that run through the book, such as the metaphor between Hosea and his wife and God and Israel. Truly beautiful.

I think a lot of people are scared of reading the minor prophets. They're probably one of the most neglected groups of books in the church today (no statistics, that's just a guess). Let me encourage you to dig into them. My two favorites are Hosea and Malachi, but let me warn you, you will be convicted of the sin in your life. But, isn't that what we should want? Shouldn't we want to be more acquainted with the holiness of God? That would certainly facilitate becoming more like Him, don't you think?

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Chump Strikes Back

In an unprecedented display of malice the Chump has launched a revisionist history campaign against the forces of good in these three posts. Let's review: Who has been the most consistent blogger? Me. Who was absent for months at a time? The Chump. And then, after a flurry of posts over a few short days, who accused whom of being "absent?" Once again, the Chump. I did not fire the first salvo in this war. That (dis)honor belongs to my opponent. The Jedi do not start wars.

I am currently on the defensive, but soon I will pen the final chapter of this conflict, restoring peace and order to the blogosphere.

PS: to Olen: I've been trying to come up with a good Sith Lord name for you. How Does "Darth Meatbag" strike you?

A New Dope

The Chump has increased in power because of his flurry of activity. He thinks he has become a greater blogger than me because of his post count since Revenge of the Sith came out. Little does he know that my supposed defeat was not a defeat at all.

The Chump recently referred to me as "Dopey-Wan Kenobi." Little does he know that this Dope is on the verge of a blogging rebellion that will topple the Chump's tenuous Empire. Order will be restored. Rest assured, my friends, the galaxy will soon be at peace again.

Revenge of the Chump

During one of the most anticipated events on the cultural calendar (the debut of Revenge of the Sith) the entire blogosphere rejoiced. Those who love the movie got to post rave reviews and those who didn't got to complain like the whiners they are. All was well in the galaxy. Then, as quietly as he disappeared, the Chump stepped back onto the scene.

His first few posts were of a high quality. Really good blogging. But that was just to lull me into a false sense of security. I was happy to have my friend back, blogging side by side once again. Little did I realize that in the meantime he had turned to the dark side.

In my happiness to have Olen, who I now refer to only as "the Chump," return I did not realize that his posting powers had made him arrogant. His post count rose high, as did his ego. This, I believe, is the flaw that lead to his downfall. In his pride, his unmitigated hubris, he lashed out at me, his closest blogosphere friend.

Read this post. Only when I read this post did I realize that, like Anakin Skywalker, the Chump had turned to the dark side. I was caught off guard, but he did not strike me down. Not at my post? HA! I may have had an off month in May, but I've been fairly consistent in posting once a week.

You're arrogance is your weakness, Chump.

Attack on the Chump

So the previously identified Chump disappears again after he congratulates me on my "arbitrary choice award" in February. Still not suspecting the influence of the dark side, I was pleased with his return to blogging. However, months crept by and the Chump faded from sight again. Truly shadowy, this master of the dark side. Had I known then what I know now, I would have prepared for the worst.

Knowing I can reach the Chump via the Force (aka Yahoo Instant Messenger) I began harrassing him about his second disappearance. "You have a lot to contribute," I would say. "You're funny! People like that!" But no amount of cajoling would stir the Chump from his shadows. He would strike only when the time was right...

The Phantom Chump

So I know this guy. Last year we both decide, hey, let's both start blogs. So we do, and all is right in the galaxy. We're both cruising along pretty as you please, then the guy just stops blogging. That's right. Zero activity. He disappears. Apparently this post took a lot out of him because it was the last one he made for a long time.

Five months later, the Phantom Chump (aka the White Poet Warlord, aka Olen) comes out of hiding for a brief post congratulating me on an award. I was thankful. Little did I know that this was just a ruse. He was setting things up for a masterful attack. More to come.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I Have Seen it, and it was Good!

So I went to the midnight show last night. Episode III will not disappoint. *Warning: There may be spoilers ahead* The thing that surprised me the most was how sad I was to see the Jedi die. I guess I had developed a sort of fondness for Ki Adi Mundi, Plo Koon, Saesee Tinn, and Mace Windu. Not Kit Fisto, though. I thought he looked stupid in Episode II and never understood why he got some sort of mini-following. Good riddance to that guy.

Of course, I'll need to see it again to fully appreciate all of the light saber duels. Another surprising thing was how close Palpatine came to being defeated...twice. Mace almost had him until Anakin screwed that up, and Yoda could've taken him out in the Senate chamber if he could have held on to that ledge and climbed back up. Back to Mace and Palpatine, though. I suppose he was playing possum for Anakin's sake there. Still, Mace had him on the ropes.

One final comment (for now): Did anyone else think Anakin on the operating table was a pretty gruesome sight? Nasty stuff. I'll probably blog on Star Wars some more later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Time Draweth Nigh

These are the days we Star Wars folk have dreamed of. Revenge of the Sith is soon to be released and it is getting (for the most part) positive press. Of course, there's the bit of political axe-grinding that Lucas apparently does in this movie, but not even that is going to harsh my Star Wars buzz. As you know, I have my tickets, and when the drums start beating at 12:01 am Thursday, I'll be there. This is it. I'm very much looking forward to this darker movie. It will be a little sad to see some of the characters I've enjoyed in the last two movies die, but that's the nature of the beast. I have a morbid curiosity as to how the various Jedi are going to die. I'm sure a bunch will be taken out at once in an explosion or something, and many more will be executed off screen, but I seem to remember Samuel L. Jackson requesting that he die on screen. Perhaps his duel with the emperor? I wonder how Ki Adi Mundi will die? Maybe Anakin? Only those who've seent he movie know for sure. By this time Thursday, I'll know too. It's almost time.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

My Friends Woulda Killed Me!

I dodged a bullet yesterday. I was assigned the duty of buying the Star Wars tickets for our local midnight showing (yeah, yeah, I'm a geek). So Monday I call one of the local theaters. The girl says, "I'm sorry, we have it on three screens here and they're all sold out." My stomach dropped. I had seen Episodes 1 and 2 in at midnight shows and the prospect of missing Episode 3's was mildly depressing. Add to that the fact that I was supposed to buy tickets for my brother Aaron and our friend Randy. I was sure they were going to kill me. Fortunately, the movie girl wasn't finished.

"We might get it on a fourth screen," she said, "but we won't know for a few days." So I pester the movie folks for a few days, and yesterday they say they got the fourth screen, but I needed to hurry and buy the tickets. So I zoom across town, and along the way I find out I actually need to buy two more tickets for some of our other friends. That means another stop at the ATM. So a few wreckless driving moments later I get to the theater and procure five tickets for me and my friends. Mission accomplished. And my friends need not be the they read my blog...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

One Post in all of April!??!?!

I can't believe it! I just realized I only posted once in the entire month of April! I'm very disappointed in myself. I think I'll give myself a time out when I get home. Anyway, I have a few things I want to post on in coming days, so I should actually post more than once this month.

One thing that has made me (superficially) happy: the arrival of dark chocolate M&Ms. YUM. It is evident to me that M&Ms have now evolved to their highest form. That brings me to this question: Who the heck decided milk chocolate was so great?!?!? Of course, I'm the type who would buy a bag of Hershey's Miniatures just for the Special Dark candy bars.

Since we're talking dark chocolate here, do you remember dark chocolate Hershey's Kisses? I was so excited when they came out, but I must say I was bitterly disappointed. I like my dark chocolate to put up a bit of resistance to the bite and then break, but the Kisses were just mushy. They were missing a vital part of the dark chocolate experience. Texture is very important to me in my food.

Well, I'm glad that I could share this deep and scintillating conversation with all you readers out there! See you soon.

Friday, April 15, 2005

What's in a (Church's) Name?

As some of you may know, I attend a church in Huntington, WV called Living Hope Bible Church. Recently I was driving through a neighboring town in Ohio when I saw a new church called something like "Living Hope Christian Center." At first I was upset that they had used "Living Hope," but I realized that I was just being petty about our name. The folks who started this church had likely never even heard of us, as we're a pretty young, small church ourselves, so it is unlikely that they were copying our name. Plus, I suspect the two churches would not travel in the same theological circles. Regardless, what is important is that people are brought into the Kingdom of Christ through our respective ministries.

I did, however, continue to ponder the names of the various churches that have cropped up in my region over the last decade or so. New Life Victory Center. Spirit of Victory. Celebration Center. Living Hope Christian Center. End Time Assembly. What do all of these names have in common? None of them contain the word "church" (disclaimer: New Life Victory Center changed to New Life Church a while back). Why have so many Christians eschewed the word "church"?

One answer I might get from a large number of Christians is "Who cares?" Why does it matter exactly what we call our assemblies? Simply put, it matters because we are the Church. We are not "the Centers" or "the Assemblers." We are the Church. I understand the impulse to get away from traditional names that seem boring to people and to come up with something fresh and exciting, but ladies and gentlemen, we should be PROUD to be called the Church. This marks us as Christ's body! We are members of His Kingdom.

When we name our churches these exotic names we are telling the community that the "church" is the building where Christians gather. It is our assembly hall. This is another product of the overly individualized form of Christianity we practice today in America and in other parts of the West. I do not "go to" Living Hope Bible Church. I am a part of the body that is Living Hope Bible Church. When we call Churches "centers" and "assemblies" we play into a false concept of the nature of the Church and our relationship to it.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo, December 3, 1963 - March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo has died of forced starvation and dehydration. She was 41.

Crying Out for Certainty

This whole situation with Terri Schiavo continues to frustrate me. I am firmly allied with those who believe Terri should live (and that she certainly shouldn't be starved and dehydrated) but I just wish I could be talk to all the parties myself, you know? I so desperately want certainty, but it seems to me that there is at least a shadow of a doubt over Terri's condition. That being said, I don't think "a shadow of a doubt" justifies killing anyone in such a case.

Proponents of Terri's death say, "the courts have decided these things over and over" which sounds important until you realize that the "facts" of the case were decided in the original trial and were not open for dispute in any of the appeals. Michael Schiavo had a very good attorney who is well versed in "right to die" issues. The Schindlers had a young attorney working on out of sympathy. It was not until after the trial ended that (at some point) the Schindlers got a better attorney.

Some neurologists claim that Terri is in a PVS, but a leading neurologist, Dr. William Hammesfahr, disagrees. His report on Terri is published on I'm always skeptical of things I just read off of the internet, so I did a quick search on him and he seems to be a real doctor who works in the field of neurology. If you read the report he is convinced that Terri is not in a PVS and is responsive. However, Hammesfahr has been disciplined by the Florida Board of Medicine for false advertizing about his treatment of stroke victims. I read through a bit of the complaint and trial transcript myself, and some neurologists seem to think Hammesfahr's treatments work as advertized, and some don't. The claim that he is a Nobel Prize nominee is apparently false. This doesn't mean that what Dr. Hammesfahr says about Terri is false, but I really wish his record was a bit cleaner. It would be easy to portray him as a doctor who wants notoriety for his controversial method so he claims he can help Terri. For the record, the Schindlers asked him to examine Terri, he did not volunteer himself as I understand it.

People I trust who would know about this sort of thing and are pro-life have seen her CT and say that her brain is really "mush." Where does that leave me? Ugh. I'm confused. Any way you slice it, though, I don't advocate starving and dehydrating Terri.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

New (Old) Music

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I occasionally post on the music I'm listening to. In the past I've advocated the musical stylings of Elliott Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, and Snow Patrol. I'm still a fan of all of the above, by the way, but the music I've been getting into lately is...well...something of a departure from that style. I'm going to add three to the list of "Lazy Logician Approved" artists:

1. Giovanni da Palestrina
2. Don Carlo Gesualdo
3. Hildegarde von Bingen

Yeah, that's right. Medieval composers (you'll have to forgive me if I use incorrect terminology about this kind of music as I'm new to the scene). I guess I'll blame my interest in this music on Hollywood because I've been enjoying this stuff in movies I've been watching (did [em]Constantine[/em] have some?). The intricate sounds these composers crafted using only the human voice put a number of orchestral pieces to shame. I've nearly been brought to tears several times.

These pieces do such a great job of communicating the transcendent nature of God (well, not so much Gesualdo). You can really get swept away by the beauty of the harmonies, or in Hildegarde's case, the stark unison. I think "haunting" is a good way to describe it.

So, for those of you desirous to expand your musical horizons, don't ignore these early classical composers. This is truly beautiful music.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Will George Get it Right?

If you haven't done so yet, go to and watch the latest trailer for Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. WOW. I realize I'm tipping everyone off to my fundamental geekhood (if it wasn't evident already), but that trailer has me ready to go stand in line. If this movie is as good as the trailers look, will Lucas be absolved of his "sins" in the eyes of Star Wars fans (note: I liked episodes I and II, so I don't have much of a beef with him)?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Stranded With Philosophers

Johnny-Dee has a good post over at Fides Quaerens Intellectum. It's a play off of the old "stranded on a desert island game. This time the question is what philosophers you would take with you. It wasn't original with John but, like him, I have no idea who did it first. Anyway, here's my list:

1. John Searle: I disagree with a lot of Searle's opinions, but he's got an interesting perspective, and after hearing him on Philosophy Talk I found out he is pretty funny (or at least he was on that show).
2. Alvin Plantinga: I've got to agree with John on this one. Here's another philosopher with a sense of humor, plus he could balance Searle's atheism.
3. Ludwig Wittgenstein: I know, I know, he wouldn't be all that exciting as a party guest, but what can I say? I love the whole "flawed genius" thing. I find it fascinating (I guess that's why I love Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind).
4. David Hume: By all accounts a philosopher who knew how to party. He could counteract Wittgenstein's introversion.
5. Jonathan Edwards: A personal hero of mine. An absolutely brilliant mind and a giant of the Christian faith. A lot of people have the idea he was just a hellfire and brimstone guy, but that wasn't true. He was a great thinker. He and Hume could have some interesting conversations.

So there's my list. I see potential for interesting interaction. I smell a TV series...