For Christ’s Sake, Stop It

Folks, whom you vote for and why is your business, but when you say that trying to have sex with a married woman (while being married for the third time yourself) and grabbing women between their legs is normal, justifiable behavior, then it becomes my business. Adultery and abortion are both the results of sexual idolatry. This nation is under the judgment of God because of its sexual idolatry. I’ve never been so discouraged as a Christian and a pastor to see people I love and care about acting like serial adultery and unwanted sexual advances and vile thoughts and filthy speech are “normal.” That ain’t normal. That’s perverted. That’s sin. God will judge both it and those who speak out in its defense. Defending such things tells us much more about you than you realize. If you are a believer and you struggle with understanding why such things are wrong or you are having difficulty with sexual temptation in your own life then I am available to counsel with you or I can find you another Christian pastor with whom you can talk. I am telling you this because I love you, and frankly because I’m terrified for my wife and daughters if this is what they are going to hear and see in the behavior of people who claim the name of Christ. You cannot be a Christian and a spokesperson for adultery. God hates it so much he killed his own Son over it. Those who refuse that sacrifice for sins are not forgiven. They remain in their sins. This is called “the gospel.” It’s the only way people will escape the judgment of God. Not political candidates or Supreme Court Justices. So for Christ’s sake, stop it.

The Virtue of Rebellion

“The problem with cultural Christians and compromising Christians is not so much the vice of rebellion as it is the comfort of conformity.

Rebellion, in other words, should now be thought of as a virtue. If you are a conservative Christian, and by that I mean a theologically conservative Christian, then you must rebel. You must rebel against society. You must accomplish this while being gracious and truthful. You must be clear and consistent in your convictions. You must stand out. And you must do so without compromise.

Christianity is no friend of comfort. If you are to remain faithful to Christ, you must redeem the virtue of rebellion. You will no longer be thought of as popular. You will no longer be thought of as pleasant. You will be hated and called hateful. These are probably a young person’s two worst fears. But God has given us a spirit of love, and power, and a sound mind.

So I am calling you out. Come be foolish with me. Now is the time to stop playing Christian and actually be one. Really believe what you say you believe. Be the rebel who lovingly sacrifices yourself for the sake of others.”

– From “The Vice and Virtue of Rebellion: An Open Letter to My Students

Why Andy Stanley is Right and Wrong

Russell Moore invited Andy Stanley into a discussion at the 2016 National Conference for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Of all the lectures and panels at that conference, this one was probably my favorite. This post is based off my memory of what transpired during the exchange between Moore and Stanley. I did not take notes. I have not watched the video. I have not read any other reactions to the discussion with the exception of this excellent post by David Prince. This post offers some thoughts on the exchange, not an exhaustive critique of Stanley’s methodology.

Value Debate

Witnessing theological and philosophical give and take through discussion and debate provides me with the greatest opportunity for learning. Some (probably more sanctified) believers favor more biblical and/or postmodern approaches to articulating disagreements than what the old, cold, clearly two-sided debate can accommodate, but I genuinely benefit from seeing different viewpoints placed in strongest opposition to one another. In terms of learning, nothing helps me more, and I suspect others learn better this way as well.

In seminary a professor would often commence with the ax-grinding during a lecture and leave me profoundly frustrated as I tried to discern what the “other side” was saying. Good views are strengthened and more easily comprehended when they’re presented as distinct from their opposites. (“Teach the controversy.”) The best systematic theologies are set up so as to interact with opposing viewpoints and grant the learner something closer to 360 vision concerning a topic. Understanding falsehoods grants clarity for discerning where truth begins and ends. So, I was grateful Dr. Moore arranged this exchange even though it certainly was not any sort of traditional debate (nor was it intended to be), and even though some have questioned his wisdom in doing so. The exchange helpfully highlighted disagreements between Moore and Stanley and thereby served as a catalyst for understanding methodological concerns in preaching and, I would argue, in apologetics, as Stanley’s approach to preaching is little more than consistent evidentialism.

Preach the Word

Knowing very little about Stanley, I was immediately impressed with how well he analyzed the topics of discussion and articulated his points. But as his conversation with Moore continued, my feelings grew closer to horror as Stanley described preaching “sermons” that never appeal to the text of Scripture and intentionally avoid the gospel.

Stanley calmly spoke of two-week-long sermon introductions that never ‘get to’ Scripture or the gospel. His comments brought to mind the story about D. L. Moody and the night of October 8, 1871. That night, Moody preached to his largest audience up to that point and asked his audience to contemplate what they might do with Jesus. The plan, if I’m not mistaken, was to offer a more evangelistic sermon and invitation the following week, but before the worship service was over, the tragic Chicago fire of 1871 had begun.

From the standpoint of loving lost people, denying them the gospel is anything but loving. On a more fundamental level, if we are not preaching the Word of God, then we are not actually preaching.

Stanley’s approach is God-honoring and right insofar as it attempts to focus on Jesus and the resurrection (τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν). We have the gospel, the good news of a crucified and risen Savior, so yes and amen, preach the gospel. Stanley’s appeals to the evidences of the resurrection, eyewitness testimony, early beliefs of the Church, and the like have a rightful place (we need to hear this) in the preacher’s repertoire as much as in the apologist’s. Presenting such evidences adds to the persuasive force of the preaching of the gospel. We are rational creatures, and historic Christianity is rich with evidences which appeal to the intellect. We must keep the flesh on our faith. Unfortunately, Stanley wants the flesh of the faith without its biblical bones.

Revisit Van Til

Who is Jesus? What is sin? What does a resurrection have to do with anything? Stanley’s Scripture-less gospel is not merely methodologically problematic, it’s no more persuasive than any other claim that’s based on a less-than explicitly biblical worldview. Stanley finds the historical evidence for the resurrection persuasive because Stanley is a believer, but Bart Ehrman would have a field day with his arguments.

Paul’s preaching of τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν on Mars Hill is hardly devoid of Scriptural authority. Paul explicitly appeals to sweeping claims about God from the Old Testament while engaging with . . . pagan philosophers. Mind you, Paul’s explicit methodology matches his ubiquitous underlying authority, the Word of God. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul bases his entire argument concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ not upon the mere testimony of men (as important as that testimony may be), but upon the very Word of God, as his claims are “according to Scripture.” The problem for Stanley is that the preaching of τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν is not actually τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν if it’s preached from a contextual void. Contrary to the evidentialist’s implicit claim, stripping away authoritative revelation doesn’t leave us with a historical point by which to reenter the Christian worldview. Instead, we are left with nothing.

It’s only through the Bible we even know Jesus. The Bible isn’t merely the biography of Jesus, it’s the redemptive Word of God. It’s impossible to begin with a historical figure quite apart from supernatural, authoritative revelation and inductively reconstruct the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.

But let’s assume it’s not impossible to reason inductively from Jesus to the authoritative revelation of God. If the brute fact of Jesus Christ of Nazareth somehow entails theological conservatism with respect to the doctrine of Scripture – as evidentialists claim in response to those concerned about theological liberalism – then why are we patronizing unbelievers by saying there’s no need for us to defend the Bible against their objections to it? Of course there is.

Evidentialists seek to set the authority of Scripture aside when engaging with unbelievers, and rush to pick it back up when defending against charges that their methodology implies the worst sort of theological liberalism. Can’t we just be straightforward about this? Stop trying to be cute. Preach the Word as the Word. Jesus didn’t apologize for the Bible, and neither should we.

Takeaway

The exchange between Moore and Stanley puts a number of points in stark contrast and brings clarity to the relationship between apologetic methodology and preaching. Stanley rightfully applies consistent evidentialist apologetics to the persuasive element of his preaching. Note well Stanley has rejected the tendency to atomize theology, apologetics, and preaching. He should be commended for this, even if we disagree with where it leads him. Stanley is right to be so consistent. In doing so, he reminds us of the importance of presenting and defending the gospel first and foremost, and of the crucial practice of presenting rational evidences as outlined above. However, we are to preach and defend the gospel upon the basis of the authority of the Word of God. The authoritative nature of the Word of God should not lead Christians to blush, it should lead us to be bold.

On Young Pastors and Churches

Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention writes the following insightful passage regarding young pastors and churches made up of younger people on pages 21-22 of his book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel:

The Christian religion isn’t an ideology, like socialism or libertarianism, tracked by self-identification. The Christian religion is a Body. A lot of people saying to a pollster that they identify as Christians hardly represents a movement. The question is, “Who goes to church?” And, congregationally speaking, Protestant liberalism is deader than Henry VIII. If adapting to the culture were the key to ecclesial success, then where are the Presbyterian Church (USA) church-planting movements, the Unitarian megachurches?

That said, the older generations are mistaken if they assume the next generation will be more of the same, just with even more prayer for “revival” and “Great Awakening” in the land. The typical younger pastor is less partisan than his predecessor, less likely to speak from the pulpit about “mobilizing” voters and “reclaiming Judeo-Christian values” through political action and economic boycotts. This is not because he is evolving leftward. It is because he wants to keep Christianity Christian. As a matter of fact, the center of evangelical Christianity today is, theologically speaking, well to the right of the old Religious Right. It’s true that the typical younger pastor of a growing urban or suburban church doesn’t look like his cuff-linked or golf-shirted forefather. But that doesn’t mean he’s a liberal. He might have tattoos, yes, but they aren’t of Che Guevara. They’re of Hebrew passages from Deuteronomy.

His congregation’s statement of faith isn’t the generic sloganeering of the last generations’ doctrinally oozy consumerist evangelical movements, but is likely a lengthy manifesto with points and subpoints and footnotes rooted in one of the great theological traditions of the historic church. This pastor might preach forty-five minutes to an hour, sometimes calling out backsliding Christians from the pulpit with all the force of hellfire-and-brimstone revivalists of yesteryear. He is pro-life and pro-marriage, although he is likely to speak of issues like homosexuality in theological and pastoral terms rather than in rhetoric warning of “the gay agenda.”

Unlike the typical Bible Belt congregation of the twentieth century, the new kind of evangelical church has strict membership requirements, both in terms of what it takes to enter the believing community and what it takes to stay there. There aren’t likely to be four-year-olds baptized after repeating sinner’s prayers in a backyard Bible club, and the unrepentant often face what their parents never seemed to notice in their red-and-black lettered Bibles: excommunication. If this is liberalism, let’s have more of it.

These churches are often deeply culturally engaged, in terms of music and the arts, with often a more theologically-rich understanding of how to analyze common grace in cultural artifacts than the Christian subcultures of Bible Belt past, which too often replicated contemporary popular culture, at a lower level of quality, affixing Jesus at the end of it all. But they are often unsure of how to think of political engagement. Again, this is not due to liberalism but to theological conservatism. They have seen social gospels of the Left and the Right try to package a transcendent message for decidedly this-worldly, and sometimes downright cynical, purposes of pulling the levers of political power.

Five Creative Uses for a Disc Golf Course

Some people believe disc golf courses are designed for disc golf. They don’t want to wander onto a course because they don’t want to come across as rude or risk physical injury.

But why think a disc golf course should be used for disc golf? Here are five other creative ways to use a disc golf course.

1. Putting Practice

Want to try out disc golf, but just don’t have what it takes to play a full hole? That’s okay! Stand five to ten feet away from a random hole and practice your short range shot for half an hour or so. This will allow you to develop your putt and approach while the group patiently waiting on the tee pad behind you gets to relax in the middle of a game. Everybody wins!

2. Childcare

Bring your kids to the course and let them run around! Children are especially skilled at retrieving discs from those hard to reach places like the center of the fairway. A disc golfer never has to worry about having his or her disc returned after that perfect set up for a birdie. There’s nothing quite like having a caring eight-year-old nearby to track down and return that disc you accidentally landed on the ground right next to the basket.

3. Photography Business

Disc golf courses make some of the most beautiful backgrounds around! Consider taking your photography business to a disc golf course. You’ll find the tee pads are a perfect place to set up your equipment. Tee pads also give you and your clientele a nice spot to stand and chat for an hour or so. Say “Cheese!” Your customer never looked so good as she did right before that disc fell from the sky and took out some teeth.

4. Dog Run

The “Keep Your Pet On A Leash” sign is more of a suggestion than a rule. Give your dog some space to run on a disc golf course! It’s a little known fact that disc golfers pay an extra $15 or so on top of the typical $10 for a disc to get a higher quality, more rubbery chew toy for your pooch. Teeth marks around the edges of a disc actually make it lighter, saving on the disc golfer’s arm and allowing the disc to be seen more clearly as it wobbles through the air on a drive. That loud yelp is doggy for “I love you” and has nothing to do with a tomahawk severing your pet’s spinal cord.

5. Picnic

By all means, bring your entire family out with a quilt and basket for a nice lunch on hole four!

We hope you have a fabulous time with these creative uses for a disc golf course. Our list works even better for regular golf courses, baseball diamonds, and racetracks. Make sure to show up when tournaments, games, and races are in progress!

 

Baptism as Prerequisite to Membership and the Lord’s Supper

Section VII of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states:

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. . . . Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

Allow me to state from the beginning that I affirm this statement.

However, I have my doubts about its biblical basis, and I am deeply concerned about the implications of such a statement. (Interestingly, the statement strikes me as even narrower than the respective statement on the Lord’s Supper in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, which is somewhat shocking, given the somewhat “big tent” philosophy which seems to drive certain aspects of the BFM 2000.)

  1. Are those who disagree with credobaptist (baptism as or upon profession of faith) immersion (which is to say, “baptism”) in unrepentant sin?
  2. Are those in (1) thereby excluded from catholic church membership, as seems to follow from the presence of unrepentant sin, their exclusion from local church membership, and especially their exclusion from the Lord’s Supper?
  3. Are we to have any fellowship with those in (1), given (2), and since it seems to follow that they do not gather as true gospel churches?

The really fun response to those questions is to pull a person’s Baptist card.

I think I understand (I think) the systematic concerns that drive the aforementioned statement from the BFM 2000, assuming I am reading the statement correctly. In fact I think denying that section, as a Baptist, is inconsistent. It is just that in terms of my fellowship with other Christians who are not Baptists, I run into inconsistencies again.

But more on that later, Lord willing.

 

 

 

The Shape of Eucharist (David Chilton)

The Eucharist is at the center of our life, and all of life flows out of this central liturgy. The “shape” of the Eucharistic liturgy, therefore, gives shape to the rest of life, the daily liturgy we follow as we pursue our calling to exercise dominion over the earth. The “rite of life” is patterned after the central ritual of communion, which is itself patterned after the liturgy of creation set forth in Genesis 1: God took hold of the creation, separated it, distributed it, evaluated the work, and enjoyed it in sabbath rest. And this is the pattern of Holy Communion, as James B. Jordan observes: “When we perform this rite on the Lord’s Day, we are becoming readjusted, rehabituated, retrained in the right way to use the world. For Jesus Christ, on the night of His betrayal, (1) took bread and wine, (2) gave thanks, (3) broke the bread, (4) distributed the bread and wine, naming it His body and blood; then the disciples (5) tasted and evaluated it, eleven approving of it, and one rejecting it; and finally (6) the faithful rested and enjoyed it. It is because the act of thanksgiving is the central difference between the Christian and the non-Christian that the liturgy of the Christian churches is called ‘Holy Eucharist.’ Eucharist means Thanksgiving. It is the restoration of true worship (thanksgiving) that restores the work of man (the six-fold action in all of life). This explains why the restoration of true worship takes primacy over cultural endeavors.”

David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Fort Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), 190.