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. Beliefnet.com 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 QuizFarm.com

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?