23 August 2011

How To Be A Legitimate Continuationist

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples." (Jn 8:31, HCSB, emphasis added)

It's about the word, not the gifts.

(More, later.)

19 August 2011

Sola Mortalis (Justification by Death Alone)

As R. C. Sproul has pointed out in numerous places, the prevalent belief in America today about the mode of justification is not sola fida, nor is it justification by works, or some combination of the two.  It is in fact sola mortalis, or justification by death.  That is, the only thing most people believe is required to be ushered into the glory of heaven after we die is to, well...die.

How did this come to be so?  Where did our culture adopt such a non-biblical idea of justification in the face of contrary claims of scripture and of pretty much every church, conservative or liberal, up until very recently?

I think it is the innate humanism that resides in the heart of all of us.  We continually walk away from the stated claims of the gospel and back into our natural state of, I-can-do-this-for-myself.  It is the antithesis of the gospel to rely on ourselves for our own justification, yet it is our natural tendency.  As one author put it recently, we don't need heretics in the church to pull us away from the gospel...all we need is a good night's sleep.  Our natural character (fallen souls) pull us away from the gospel unless we are continually reminded of what it says and what it means.

So what conclusions can we draw from this, given it is true?

One, we need fellowship with other believers.  Christianity is not a go-it-alone religion, as going-it-alone usually results in a therapeutic religion rather than a relationship with Christ.

Two, study of history, particularly historical theology and church history, is critical if we are to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.  It seems like anytime a new controversy turns up in Christianity, its not long before someone points out that this controversy has happened before, and was dealt with by some council about fifteen-hundred years ago.  As G. K. Chesterton once said, 'The wit of man is insufficient to invent a new heresy.'  I think he's right.

Three, we need to hear solid biblical exposition, especially from our pulpits on Sunday mornings.  Deistic therapeutic moralism won't cut it.  (Yes, I renamed that...see this post for why.)  We need to hear the word of God and see the Word of God in our worship.  In many places, that's not happening.

Four, we must always reforming.  We must constantly test ourselves against what orthodox Christianity has always believed and be less enamored with innovation and more enamored with faithfulness.  God doesn't change.  Why is it that we always desire change, even when change isn't warranted?

Five, we need to stop talking about justification as sola mortalis.  This is the hardest for many of us, especially if we have family and friends who are not believers. If you spent much time on my blog, you know of the respect I have for the US Marine Corps.  They are all honorable men.  Yet there is a common belief, spoken openly amongst Marines, that when a Marine dies, he goes to guard Heaven's gates.  Even Marines need Christ if they hope to guard Heaven's gates.  I pray they all heard the gospel, but I fear it is not so.  We can't continue to talk like semper fidelis is the same thing as sola fide.  (Though I'm sure that is a tradition that will not change.)

And six, in order to accomplish number five, we need to start talking about these things before someone dies.  We need to proclaim the good news of Christ- sola gratia through sola fide, and why it is vitally important (pun intended).  And in conjunction, we need to keep praying for those we know who are not believers, so that when they come to faith in Christ, we can rejoice with them that they no longer hold the view of sola mortalis.

17 August 2011

A Factor of Twelve

A year or so ago, one of the earlier blog posts in this blog was about jumping into the world of Kindle.

I've just discovered an empirical bit of information of some interest, since I've been reading Tim Challies wonderful book, The Next Story.  The information is-

       I acquire books on my Kindle at twelve times the rate at which I read them.

Do the math.  I average reading about three books a month (shameful, I know, but I have four kids at home and a real job I have to do).  That means I'm acquiring about 36 books a month.  In just five years, I'll have 2160 books on the Kindle, but I'll only have read 180 of them.  (In case my wife reads this, about 8 out of 10 of the books are acquired for free, by paying attention to publisher's tweets on Twitter, and the rest are under $2, by paying attention to a couple of free/cheap book blogs on Google Reader.)

I either need more time for reading, or need to stop acquiring books so quickly.


10 August 2011

Harry Potter...Who Woulda Thunk It?

Was all the brouhaha over Harry Potter over the last ten or twelve years a tempest in a teapot?  Or was it something worse, an example of law-based parenting over gospel-based parenting, and the legalistic foundation therein?

Jerram Barrs has this fascinating review (on YouTube) of the last book and movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

J. K. Rowling a Christian. Who woulda thunk it?

Why Is My Church So White?

Here's a very moving post from the Gospel Coalition blog...it is worth the read.

08 August 2011

Why Theology Shouldn't Be, and Can't Be, Boring

Carl Trueman posted this blog entry on why we must fire boring teachers and preachers (taken from his recent sermon on 1 Timothy 1).

Now, I'm a Sunday School teacher.  Something like this can be threatening to someone like me.  Yet it is important that I not run away from the threat.

I fear that I often vacillate between the two extremes- being interesting without saying much, and saying a lot, dryly.  The first I'll call the Obama effect.  He is a very interesting speaker, but when you listen to the words, he doesn't say much.  (But then, most politicians don't...that's not necessarily a personal problem for the President.)  The second I'll call the Pinhead position.  Most pinheads (dry academic types) really do know their stuff, but they make everyone with whom they come in contact very uninterested in their stuff by the way they present it.

There's a third way- I'll call it the Reagan method (sorry, no clever alliteration there...suggestions welcome).  Ronald Reagan could say a great deal of meaningful things in a most concise and efficient manner, and do it in an engaging and fascinating manner.  He wasn't called, The Great Communicator for no reason. That's how I need to do what I do on Sunday mornings, and if Trueman is right, that's how our pastors should be doing what they do.

But let's not get Descartes before the horse*.  I'm not suggestion that I (or your pastor) come up with a false method of engaging the respective audience for the purpose of being interesting.  And that's not Trueman's point either.  The point is, doctrine (what the scripture is telling us about God) should be engaging and interesting by its very nature.  Here's how Trueman puts it in his blog-

"...making providence...as dull as ditch water is false teaching as sure as open theism is."

I've been trying to establish the principle for a couple months in our SS class this summer.  We've taken a short break from our expositional book study to look at some theology.  Specifically, we are looking at the attributes of God, both communicable and incommunicable, trying to get a better understanding of God's nature and character.  I keep telling my folks that this is a worthwhile endeavor, and is God-honoring.  I think most of them agree, but a few have dropped off the map the last couple weeks.  I don't know if it is due to last-moment-summer-vacation-before-school-starts, or the sometimes dryness of the topic.  You see, I'm not John Piper, and I can stumble over this material and not communicate the passion I have for it if I'm not careful.  That's unfortunate, because this can tend to make the material less engaging to the average SS student.

I continue to pray that all of us would find the character and nature of God a thing that fascinates us.  Because if it bores us, we need a serious (as it were) check-up from the neck-up.

* For those of you who didn't take a philosophy class, his name is pronounced, "Day-cart".  My mixed metaphor comes from this old joke-

One day a man wandered in to his veterinarian's office and asked about having his horse put down.  

"Why," asked the vet.  

"Well, he won't pull my milk cart any more."  

"How's that?", asked the vet.  

"He's an unusual horse," the milkman explained.  "He loves to read philosophy.  Instead of dangling a carrot from a stick to make him go, I'd just tie a book by Thales or Hume or Sartre on the stick and he'd follow wherever I lead.  But now, he wont' move."  

"Let's take a look," said the vet. Upon examining the setup, the vet said, "I think I've found the problem."

"What is it?" asked the milkman.

"You've got Descartes before the horse," explained the vet.