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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Here We Go Again

William F. “Bill” Harrell, pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, is the new chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, the elected body of state convention representatives that develop policies and attend to Convention business between the annual sessions of the Southern Baptist Convention. Morris Chapman, the former Chairman of the committee had this to say of Harrell:

“ . . . He makes it a priority to know the issues and allow the facts to guide his decisions.”
Well, it looks like Mr. Harrell has gotten off on the wrong foot. In his first new article, Harrell argues that there are two “important issues to solve” in our Convention. The first is worship style (gasp), and the other is Calvinism. Here is his quote:
“Second,” Harrell continued, “we must deal with Calvinism. I have solid Christian friends, some of them pastors who are Calvinists, but I think they are wrong about the tenets of five point Calvinism. In my opinion too much of the New Testament must be ignored or radically interpreted to embrace the five points of Calvinism.” (emphasis mine)
This has to be one of the most misinformed statements I have ever heard coming from a leader in our Convention. While I want to give Mr. Harrell the benefit of the doubt, having someone in such a powerful position as the chairman of the most influential committee in the Southern Baptist Convention, there is no excuse or justification for such erroneous comments. In the article, the reporter was quick to know the size of the church’s weekly budget, the value of the church’s property, and their television ministry (as though these were important and prerequisites of being a chairman), but it says nothing about his knowledge of Baptist doctrine or church history. All Mr. Harrell needs to do is take a brief glance at our roots as a Convention and find that we have been Calvinistic from the beginning. The article continues:
Harrell further explained, “I think the problem of Calvinism in the SBC could be solved if we establish one ground rule. If a man wants to start a Calvinistic church, let him have at it. If a man wants to answer a call to a Calvinistic church he should have the freedom to do that, but that man should not answer a call to a church that is not Calvinistic, neglect to tell them his leanings, and then surreptitiously lead them to become a Calvinistic church. That is not to suggest that all of our Calvinistic friends do that, but when it is done it is divisive and hurtful.
“The problem of Calvinism?” It is a problem to those who don’t want Calvinism in our Convention. Notice how the anti-Reformed are framing the public discussion of the doctrines of grace. Jerry Vines calls Calvinism a “Baptist battle” and here we see it a “problem.” They see it either as a fight or a problem to fix, but either way, if you are Southern Baptist and a Calvinist, you are lampooned and stigmatized as though we should be walking around the convention floor with out scarlet “C” on our chests. The SBC is cycling through new leaders, and one would hope that for once, one of these men appointed to lead our Convention will get it right or at least be fair in their dealings with their Reformed brothers. If what Morris Chapman said of Mr. Harrell is true, then he should not be stating his opinions, but "make it a priority to know the issues and allow the facts to guide his decision." I don’t know where Mr. Harrell gets his idea that “five-point Calvinists” either ignore or radically interpret the New Testament, but mark it down: he did not get it from the New Testament or Baptist history.

Abraham Booth on Opposition to the Doctrine of Election

From the back cover: The son of a Nottingham farmer, Abraham Booth (1734-1806) had no formal schooling and taught himself to read and write. He was introduced to the doctrines of grace in 1768, and they completely transformed his faith. They stirred up such a burning love for Christ and his Word that he was prompted to write The Reign of Grace, which was first published in April of that year. In his chapter, “The Reign of Grace in Election,” Booth has a section where he addresses opposition to the doctrine of election in which he says the following:

The doctrine of election, or as we sometimes call it, the doctrine of distinguishing grace, is rejected and ridiculed today. It is not thought to be worth any serious thought by many who are sophisticated in their thinking. In times past, great men who were noted for their piety and learning always gave a prominent place to this doctrine in their theological works. This was especially true of the early Reformers who delivered the church from the darkness of Roman Catholicism. Election is now considered to be a relic from the past which gullible men believed hastily. It is dismissed as a teaching that is abhorrent to human reason and even opposed to God’s perfect character. It is thought best to forget all about election as something that we should not presume to pry into, as it is a waste of time. This doctrine is slandered because it is considered to be detrimental to practical godliness and the happiness and hope of mankind. No wonder election has become so out of fashion today. It Reveals Our Pride Why is there so much opposition to this teaching? The reason must be because it lays the axe to the root of all our supposed moral excellence about which we love to boast. One of the main purposes of election is that it is designed to reveal all hidden pride in the heart. Everyone is brought down to the same level. The only reason why God should choose one person for salvation and not another is revealed in the words of our Lord: ‘Even so, Father, for it seemed good in your sight’ (Matt. 11:26). Everyone who believes and loves this doctrine rests upon this. So we must resolve any difficulties that we have with election, by leaving the matter with the sovereign God. The Word of God has no praise for anyone who would dare to call God to account over this matter. This includes those who may be educated, wise and morally upright. The Scriptures oppose such audacity bluntly: ‘But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?’ (Rom. 9:20). It Reveals Our Works as Futile A further reason why election is opposed is because it teaches that the same sovereign grace which began the work of salvation must also carry on that work to completion. At no point is there a place for any contribution from us. The Most High is always jealous of his own honour and he is determined to have all the glory. For these and other reasons we can see why election is resented and attacked today. Men and women rely upon themselves and this independent spirit within them is stirred up by such a teaching. It follows that the few who have lovingly bound themselves to this precious doctrine will be criticized and ridiculed and may even suffer something worse. Such is the unpopularity of this teaching!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hughes for Congress - One Week Away!

Some of you may remember me sharing with you that my good friend, Brad Hughes (better known as the former editor-in-chief of P&P), is runnning for the U.S. House of Representatives 2nd Congressional District for the state of Georgia. If he wins, he will be the youngest U.S. Congressman in the history of Georgia as well as the first Republican ever to win that district. I just got word earlier this evening that Brad will be meeting the President for the second time tomorrow (Tuesday) as Bush will be traveling through Georgia. He said that Fox or CNN might be covering the speech, so if you are interested, be checking the cable news stations around 3:30 p.m. or so and you might just happen to catch Brad there as well. In case you didn't know, Brad is a recent graduate of Southern Seminary who has gone back to his roots with a desire to make an impact in his community. I ask that you pray for Brad during this time as you could imagine the schedule and stress is really high right now. I along with a couple of other guys are flying down next week to help out the last couple of days as well as be there for the election party. Next week, I might just have to "live-blog" the whole thing (since that happens to be the thing bloggers are doing these days . . .). But seriously, please remember these elections coming up and pray that God will raise up men and women in elected office who will vote in accordance to a biblical worldview and value system grounded in God's Word. Brad is such a man, and I as a friend and brother in Christ, I am proud to see his courage and conviction as he desires to represent the people of the 2nd Congressional District of Georgia.

PPT Gospel Presentation by Dr. Stuart Scott

Dr. Stuart Scott, assistant professor of Biblical Counseling and executive director of the Center for Biblical Counseling here at Southern, has an excellent gospel presentation in powerpoint and the first part is available for download. Dr. Scott shared this presentation in class earlier this semester and thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it presents the gospel of Jesus Christ in a clear and accurate way. Let me encourage you to take the time to download this gospel presentation and share it with others. I have seen many outlines and presentations, but I do not think I have come across one that is as sound as the one Dr. Scott has put together. Here is what Dr. Scott said about why the presentation was created:

Over the many years of Ministry, I have seen a growing number of shallow commitments, weak assurances and some seemingly false professions of faith. This presentation was born out of a desire to help God’s people know and give the Gospel in the context of the whole counsel of God. A true response to the grace of God is life-changing and yet, it is not uncommon for individuals to unwittingly read verses out of context, miss an important element, or fall short of the ultimate goal of the Gospel: a reconciled, personal and God-glorifying relationship with Him. This PowerPoint presentation is an attempt to offer another tool to help God’s people in the strengthening of their own faith as well as their faithful proclamation of it to the lost.
You can also purchase the full PPT presentation and/or brochure from their website as well.

NT Exegesis and Textual Criticism

I thought I'd share a couple of links pertaining to New Testament exegesis and textual criticism: ** Roy Ciampa's page of Resources for New Testament Exegesis (HT: JT) ** NT Gateway Textual Criticism (and their blog) ** The Unbound Bible (from Biola) ** Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog ** Center for the Study of NT Manuscripts ** TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism . . . and if you are really serious about NT Greek Exegesis, you will buy Bruce Metzger's library! (ahem, this would make a nice Christmas present you know.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Through Love, Serve One Another

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
- Galatians 5:13-14
At this time every year at UPS, someone goes around asking about any volunteer work or community service that any employee has done, seeking to tally up the number of hours and workers, I suppose, to tack onto the UPS public relations and give it a nice front. I was the last person in my immediate area (about 30 of us work together), and the lady came to me desperately hoping that I had some volunteer hours of service after having gone to everyone else and no one sharing that they had done or are currently doing any type of volunteer work or community service. I shared with her that if she counted my involvement in my local church, then I could give share with her what I am/have been doing. My new supervisor asked me, “You do volunteer work?” The lady who knew me responded, “Yeah, he’s a minister. You didn’t know that?” Stricken by that reality he looked aghastly and replied, “Are you serious? You’re a minister?” After that moment, I began thinking about how selfish we are in our society and how much I have bought into that lie. Then I began thinking about the motivations of worldly service and how much that confirmed our selfishness. Let me explain. There are three reasons why I believe folks outside of Christ serve. The first reason is self-promotion. We are taught this throughout our life. For instance, why are you encouraged as a high school student to get involved in the community and help out with organizations and services to the needy, the elderly, and the poor? It is because such acts of service are required to promote yourself as a student whether it be the National Honor Society or for a college scholarship. When the beauty pageants are on television (I have to watch them with my wife and always guess who’s going to win), it is not only a competition of who is most beautiful, but also who does the most community service and has the best record of volunteerism. It is without question that a real reason why, whether it is for education, employment, or contest, people serve for self-promotion. The second reason why I believe people serve is for reward. In a general sense, some people serve because of the good feeling they get out of helping people out in a time of need. Who hasn’t enjoyed the warm fuzzy when you have done a good need of service when someone need it most? But this sense of reward goes even further can carries much weightier significance. You see, many do such charitable works to develop a good-works resume in hopes that their good works will outdo their bad works and therefore give them a greater chance of going to heaven. If the reward of eternal life is to be earned, then the self-recompense must be guaranteed by a life of continual service. For many, this is their only security, their assurance of heavenly pay-back. Finally, some people serve as an act of retribution or punishment. Often the case is with a child who has disobeyed their parents, what is required of them is to do extra chores around the house. In the court system, a criminal who has committed a crime not deserving of jail time will often have to do so many hours of community service. Therefore, the service they provide to the community is a means of punishment and payback for the things they have done wrong. As I look back at these three motives, I find self at the very center. Whether we are wanting to improve ourselves and our status in life, or benefit from the sense of earthly or heavenly reward for our good works of charity and benevolence, or if we are wanting to free ourselves from the punishment handed down to us, we serve with ourselves at the center. So it makes perfect sense why the world outside of Christ largely doesn’t serve others. If they don’t want self-promotion, self-congratulation, or need self-vindication, then the self will be content to eat, drink, and be merry. The most supererogatory acts of mankind are plagued with this reality, and the sad irony is that when life is through, a life spent centered on oneself is a life tragically wasted. Such is not the life for the Christian. We have called to serve, not because we are at the center but because Christ Jesus is the center of everything we do in life. Whether we give a cup of cold water or provide meals for the poor, we do this in Jesus’ name. This is what it means when Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). That verse does not make sense to the natural mind. When the world looks at our works and appraises our acts of charity, the miracle is that they do not look at us and say, “What a great and noble person you are!” but rather “What a great and glorious God he must know!” If our lives of service as Christians were to draw attention to ourselves, then the verse would conclude, “ . . . see your good works and give glory to the one who serves.” This is blasphemous and cannot be, for everything in life and death for the Christian is to the praise, honor, and glory of Jesus Christ who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We know Him as the Suffering Servant – he who bore our sins by laying down his life for us. A life of sacrifice without which we would never know what true love looks like, for John tells us, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16; cf. 4:9-11). Indeed, it is no greater love than this, than someone lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13). So this is the love which we have as Christians, and this is the motivation for which we serve. Paul reminds us that the manner in which we serve one another is not through self-promotion, self-reward, or self-vindication, but through love—a love that was demonstrated on the cross where Jesus suffered as a Servant and gave Himself unreservedly and undeniably for sinners and the good pleasure of His Father. It is true that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but He is also the Servant of servants. Jesus was skilled in the undignified ministry of foot-washing and leper-touching, of putting the needs of others before his own, and embodied the fullness of true servanthood in the giving of his life. Furthermore, this servant reminds us that “a servant is not above his master” and that “it is enough for the servant to be like his master” (Matthew 10:25). If our Master so loved and so served, then it is enough that we should be like him and follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21), even if they call us sons and daughters of Beelzebul. After all, when we have done all that we have been commanded, the only true response is, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10). Being forgiven by free grace, we have been set free from the bondage of sin. Our freedom, according to Paul should not inspire us to indulge in the flesh our selfishness, but to become joyful bondservants who are in love with our Master. The freedom He gave us is the means in which we can give ourselves to one another in love; therefore, let us, dear brothers and sisters, so love and so serve that our world is brought face to face with the love of God which constrains us and causes us to “do everything in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

Friday, October 27, 2006

POTW :: 10.27.06 :: Broken

{click to enlarge}
Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed a growing danger regarding apathy in my heart towards my unbelieving friends. It is not a militant apathy but a gradual, casual approach to their souls which is all-the-more alarming to me. Building relationships and spending more time with unbelieving people can exposure you to their lifestyle and sinful rebellion in ways that will either desensitize you to it or break your heart in such a way that you are wanting to confront it and call them to repentance. Far too often, I have just gotten used to it and excused their lifestyle without a passionate pursuit for the name of Jesus being glorified in their lives and His joy being extended to the depths of their being. I chose this picture as my picture of the week because it is a powerful picture of a little girl and her little brother in Ecuador who was begging for money on the streets of Quito. This picture has made it onto The Towers (SBTS newspaper) as well as Baptist Press earlier this year. It is one of my favorite portraits because their eyes always seem to pierce my heart no matter how many times I look at them. I pray that God will help me to have eyes to see people with an outpouring heart and lifestyle of sacrifice. This hasn't always been the case, especially as of late, and the absence of tears and preoccupation with my agenda is proof of that dreadful reality. It is my hope that we as believers will continue to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. We desperately need to hear it, to believe it, to cherish it, to understand it, and to share it. Without it, we will become careless, casual, and comfortable - none of which can be found near the cross.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

J.C. Ryle on Refusing the Doctrine of Election

In his great book, Old Paths, J.C. Ryle addresses the doctrine of election and concludes with “a few plain words of personal application.” His first word of application deals with those who would want to refuse the doctrine of election, and here is what he had to say (emphasis mine).

First of all let me entreat every reader of this paper not to refuse this doctrine of Election, merely because it is high, mysterious, and hard to be understood. Is it reverent to do so? Is it treating God’s Word with the respect due to revelation? Is it right to reject anything written for our learning, and to give it hard names, merely because some misguided men have misused it, and turned it to a bad purpose? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration. If men begin rejecting it, they are on slippery ground. There is no saying how far they may fall. What after all do men gain by refusing the doctrine of Election? Does the system of those who deny Election save one soul more than of those who hold it? Certainly not.—Do those who hold Election narrow the way to heaven, and make salvation more difficult than those who deny it? Certainly not.—The opponents of Election maintain that none will be saved except those who repent and believe. Well: the advocates of Election say just the same!—The opponents of Election proclaim loudly that none but holy people go to heaven. Well: the advocates of Election proclaim the same doctrine just as loudly!—What, then, I ask once more, is gained by denying the truth of Election? I answer, Nothing whatever. And yet, while nothing is gained, a great deal of comfort seems to be lost. It is cold comfort to be told that God never thought of me before I repented and believed. But to know and feel that God had purposes of mercy toward me before the foundation of the world, and that all the work of grace in my heart is the result of an everlasting covenant and an eternal Election, is a thought full of sweet and unspeakable consolation. A work that was planned before the foundation of the world, by an Architect of almighty power and perfect wisdom, is a work which will never be allowed to fail or be overthrown (472-73).

Dagg on the "Vessels of Wrath"

Yesterday, I shared the basic outline of John L. Dagg’s chapter on election but stopped short of his treatment on reprobation. The following section is Dagg’s exposition on the title “vessels of wrath” (Romans 9:22) and can be found on pages 313-14 in his Manual of Theology.

Those who are not included in the election of grace, are called, in Scripture, “the rest,” and “vessels of wrath.” Why they are not included, we are as unable to explain as why the others are included; and we therefore compelled to refer the matter to the sovereignty of God, who, beyond all doubt, acts herein most wisely and righteously, though he has not explained to us the reasons for his procedure. His absolute sovereignty, in the discrimination he makes, is expressed by Paul in these words: “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will hardeneth.” The natural tendency of human depravity is such, that the heart grows harder under the general mercies which God bestows, unless he superadds to all the other benefits which he confers, the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, by which the heart is changed. This renewing grace he gives or withholds at his sovereign pleasure. This sovereignty, in so bestowing mercy as to soften the hard heart, is unquestionably taught by the words just quoted, however we may interpret the phrase “he hardeneth.” It is not necessary to understand these words as implying a positive act of God, exerted for the purpose of producing hardness of heart, and directed to this end. When Paul speaks of the vessels of mercy, he says that God hath “afore prepared” them for glory; but when he speaks of the vessels of wrath, as fitted for destruction, he does not say that God has fitted them for this end. As the potter, out of the same mass, makes one vessel to honor and another to dishonor; so God, out of the same mass of mankind, prepares some for glory, as vessels of mercy; while others, whatever benefits they may receive from him, being left without renewing grace, abuse the mercies which he bestows, and, growing harder by the influence of their natural depravity, are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

John L. Dagg on Opposition to Sovereign Election

John L. Dagg was, according to Mark Dever, the first writing Southern Baptist theologian. His Manual of Theology was published in 1857 which was also the first published systematic theology in the South. Dagg provides an excellent chapter on the doctrine of election in which he addresses its nature and handles several proposed objections which are often brought up even today. Here is how Dagg began his chapter on the doctrine of election:

The doctrine of election encounters strong opposition in the hearts of men, and it is therefore necessary to examine thoroughly its claim to our belief. As it relates to an act of the divine mind, no proof of its truth can be equal to the testimony of the Scriptures. Let us receive their teachings on the subject without hesitation or distrust; and let us require every preconceived opinion of ours, and all our carnal reasonings, to bow before the authority of God’s holy word (309).
As Dagg rightly asserts, it is the testimony of Scriptures we must square our theology. Following his introduction, Dagg shows how the Scriptures: 1) “clearly teach, that God has an elect or chosen people” (309) 2) “teach expressly, that God’s people are chosen to salvation” (309) 3) “plainly teach that the election of grace is from eternity” (310) 4) “teach that election is of grace, and not of works” (311) 5) “teach that election is according to the foreknowledge of God” (312) Concerning election based on foreseen faith, Dagg writes:
From the views which have been presented, it necessarily follows, that election is not on the ground of foreseen faith or obedience. On this point, the teachings of Scripture are clear. They are chosen not because of their holiness, but that they may be holy; not because of their obedience, but unto obedience. As the discrimination made in effectual calling is God’s work, and antecedent to all holiness, faith, or acceptable obedience; the purpose to discriminate could not be on the ground of acts foreseen, which do not exist as a consideration for the execution of the purpose. The discriminating grace which God bestows, is not on the ground of faith and obedience previously existing, bur for a reason known only to God himself. This unrevealed reason, and not foreseen faith and obedience, is the ground of election (312).
I think many Southern Baptists do not realize that the doctrine of unconditional election (along with the entire doctrines of grace) is historic Baptist theology. Yet it is to no one’s surprise that the doctrine of election received a considerable amount of opposition as it does today. As a follow-up to Dagg on election, I will share how he handles the issue of reprobation and double predestination. If you want to read his chapter on election yourself, here is the link.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dr. Bruce Ware on the Trinity

Last Wednesday, Dr. Bruce A. Ware, professor of Christian Theology here at Southern Seminary, gave a faculty address called "Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles: Eternal Functional Authority and Submission among the Essentially Equal Divine Persons of the Godhead" (sounds Puritan to me!). I wanted to post this last week but the audio was not yet available. You can listen to his lecture by clicking on the title, and you can also peruse previous faculty addresses by going here. Also, let me heartily recommend to you Dr. Ware's excellent book called Father, Son & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles and Relevance. Here is the table of contents to give you a taste of what it is about: Chapter One: Beholding the Wonder of Our Triune God: Importance of This Doctrine Chapter Two: Beholding the Wonder of Our Triune God: Historical Overview Chapter Three: Beholding the Wonder of the Father Chapter Four: Beholding the Wonder of the Son Chapter Five: Beholding the Wonder of the Holy Spirit Chapter Six: Beholding the Wonder of the Triune Persons in Relational Community Finally, if you want to listen to more of Dr. Ware on the topic of the Trinity, be sure to check out "This Is My Beloved Son!" Exulting in the Trinitarian Relationships of Jesus Christ - 2005 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in which Dr. Ware gave three lectures on the Trinity: 1. "The Trinity of Persons: Unity and Distinction, Equality and Differentiation" 2. "Jesus and the Father: Love and Obedience, Authority and Submission" 3. "Jesus and the Spirit: Trust and Reliance, Exaltation and Glorification" The audio for these messages can be purchased here. Note: Sorry for no pics. Plain text until I get my computer back. :)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Piper on Listening Before You Answer

"If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame." Proverbs 18:13 At the close of last week, I went to a couple of men in my life whom I love and trust and asked them about how I could have better handled the situation that occurred on my post which got out of hand in the comments section. I am grateful for their advice, admonishment, and sound words that I so often need. One brother directed me to a meditation John Piper wrote almost a year ago to this date regarding Proverbs 18:13. In his article, Piper gives ten reasons why you should listen to questions before you answer. I am finding these thoughts most helpful for me and pray they will for you as well. It is really easy in the flurry of comments and the fast-pace blogging environment to blow right past someone, their questions, and their argument. Listening, I have come to find, is an area that I need to really work on, and if you think about it, pray for me in those regards. I do not want to misrepresent anyone, especially the Lord, and while I earnestly want to become a better listener regarding others, it all begins with me becoming a better listener to God. As you consider these ten reasons provided by Piper, maybe it would be worthwhile to meditate also on a passage the Lord brought to my mind regarding this. It is Isaiah 50:4-5:

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.”

Here are Piper’s ten reasons:

1. It is arrogant to answer before you hear. Humility does not presume that it knows precisely what a person is asking until the questioner has finished asking the question. How many times have I jumped to a wrong conclusion by starting to formulate my answer before I heard the whole question! Often it is the last word in the question that turns the whole thing around and makes you realize that they are not asking what you thought they were. 2. It is rude to answer a half-asked question. “Rude” is a useful word for Christians. It means “ill-mannered, discourteous.” The New Testament word for it is aschëmonei. It is used in 1 Corinthians 13:5 where modern versions translate it, “Love is not rude,” but the old King James Version has “Love doth not behave itself unseemly.” This means that love not only follows absolute moral standards, but also takes cultural mores and habits and customs into account. What is polite? What is courteous? What are good manners? What is proper? What is good taste? What is suitable? Love is not indifferent to these. It uses them to express its humble desire for people’s good. One such politeness is listening well to a question before you answer. 3. Not answering a question before you hear it all honors and respects the person asking the question. It treats the person as though their words really matter. It is belittling to another to presume to be able to finish their question before they do. 4. Careful listening to a question often reveals that the question has several layers and is really more than one question. Several questions are all mixed into one. When you see this, you can break the question down into parts and answer them one at a time. You will not see such subtleties if you are hasty with your answer and not careful in your listening. 5. A question sometimes reveals assumptions that you do not share. If you try to answer the question on the basis of your assumptions without understanding the questioner’s assumptions, you will probably speak right past him. If you listen carefully and let the person finish, you may discern what he is assuming that you do not. Then you can probe these assumptions before you answer. Often, when dealing at this level, the question answers itself. It was really about these deeper differences. 6. Questions usually have attitudes as well as content. The attitude sometimes tells you as much as the content about what is really being asked. In fact, the attitude may tell you that the words being used in this question are not all what the issue is. When that is discerned, we should not make light of the words, but seriously ask questions to see if the attitude and the words are really asking the same question. If not, which is the one the questioner really wants answered? 7. Questions have context that you need to know. So many thoughts and circumstances and feelings may be feeding into this question that we don’t know about or understand. Careful listening may help you pick up those things. It may be that there is just a small clue that some crucial circumstance is behind the question. If you catch the clue, because you are listening carefully, you may be able to draw that out and be able to answer the question so much more helpfully. 8. Questions are made up of words. Words have meanings that are formed by a person’s experience and education. These words may not carry the same meaning for both you and the questioner. If you want to answer what they are really asking, you must listen very carefully. When the possibility exists that their question is rooted in a different understanding of a word, we will be wise to talk about the meaning of our words before we talk about the answer to the question. I find that talking about the definitions of words in questions usually produces the answer to the questions. 9. Proverbs 18:13 says it is our “folly” to answer before we hear. That is, it will make us a fool. One reason for this is that almost all premature answers are based on thinking we know all we need to know. But that is “foolish.” Our attitude should be: What can I learn from this question? The fool thinks he knows all he needs to know. 10. And finally Proverbs 18:13 says that it is our “shame” to answer before we hear. What if you are asked publicly, “My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering . . .” and you cut the questioner off by giving your answer about the value of counseling and what counselors might be helpful. But then they say, “Well, actually, what I was going to say was, “My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering, now that our counseling is over and things are better than ever, how you would suggest that we celebrate?” Then you will be shamed for not listening.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spurgeon's Discovery of Sovereign Grace

At the age of sixteen, Charles Spurgeon underwent an experience which changed his life. Follow as he tells his story:

When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths [the doctrine of election] in my own soul--when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man--that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, that clue to the truth of God. One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, "How did you come to be a Christian?" I sought the Lord. "But how did you come to seek the Lord?" The truth flashed across my mind in a moment--I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, "How can I pray?" I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. "How came I to read the Scriptures?" I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."
- Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1962): 164-65. [emphasis mine] In upcoming weeks, I will post similar excerpts from men in Baptist history as well as other leading theologians on the doctrines of grace (in particular the doctrine of election). I hope these quotes will be helpful to you in your [historical] understanding of the doctrines of grace.

Friday, October 20, 2006

POTW :: 10.20.06 :: Fallen

{Click to enlarge}
As I mentioned earlier, I do not have access to anything on my hard drive and cannot edit any of my photos; therefore, I have reached into my Flickr archives and put up a picture from the fall of last year. This was taken in Cherokee Park close to the seminary. As a matter of fact, I still remember that day because I went shooting with my good friend Ben Dockery who, by the way, allowed me to shoot a wedding with him last week. Conerning the laptop, I have sent it into the manufacturer. Fortunately, I found that I purchased a three-year warranty on all parts of the laptop, so I will only have to pay for the shipping and handling. You would think that UPS would give me a break because I work for them but nope. Oh well, I should have it back (hopefully) by the first week of November, just in time to write two major papers. A while back I had started putting up some posts dealing with photography (gear, technique, style, etc.), and I was wondering if there is still an interest in kicking around some photography stuff here on P&P. What do you think? Anyway, I hope everyone has a blessed weekend!

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online!

When I read this yesterday, I had to immediately go and check it out for myself. This site is masterfully done and makes the works of Jonathan Edwards easily accessible and quickly researched. Here is a blurb from their site:

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online is now available for use in a Public Beta phase. After thousands of hours of use, loads of email feedback from our initial Closed Beta team, and a great deal of internal QA testing, we are ready to make the Works of Jonathan Edwards Online available to the general public. The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online is a world-class digital learning environment which will make Jonathan Edwards' entire manuscript corpus available for the first time in history. It is an XML-based, fully-searchable, thematically, scripturally, and chronologically tagged interface in which anyone can explore the entirety of Edwards' written thoughts. Professor Ed Ayers, Dean of the College and the Graduate School at the University of Virginia writes that "this is wonderful in every way, especially with all the alternative ways of searching...you're not only making Edwards available in a profoundly new way, but you're also establishing a new standard for digital archives." The Works of Jonathan Edwards Online presently contains all of the Miscellanies (Edwards' private theological notebooks) and some two hundred sermons, many of which have never been published. We are presently preparing the contents of numerous additional volumes for the official launch of our "Essentials" package in 2007.
Note: You will need to register to be able to access the works online. Also, it may be worth nothing that the "Jonathan Edwards Is My Homeboy" t-shirts are now available just in time for the holidays. HT :: JT (random thought: I don't know why I do this . . . it is not as if the people who don't read blogs don't already read JT's blog first! But in case you are one of the few who happen to not read his blog, I guess this hat trip would be a good directive.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Strange BaptistFire Addresses Dr. Vines on Calvinism

Almost a year ago to this date, I wrote a post called "Who's Next?" in which I made a prediction concerning who would be the next SBC elite to attack Calvinism. I chronicled the previous attacks from men like Adrian Rogers, Johnny Hunt, Jack Graham, Bobby Welch, and Steve Gaines. So who was my guess? You got it - Dr. Jerry Vines. So here's the deal. I along with the rest of the team at SBF will be addressing Dr. Vines' message with the hope that our articles will shed light on the common misrepresentations of Calvinism and provide some good discussion as well. First Baptist Woodstock has received more than their share of anti-Reformed sermons in recent years, so it does not leave one to wonder why Dr. Johnny Hunt requested Vines to address this issue (again). Clearly it was for the larger audience, and in particular, the churches in the SBC and the pastors who are in the Woodstock network. Needless to say, the Hunt/Vines combination is very powerful and influential in the SBC, and there are some out there who think that responding to them in any way is a form of attack. But the same people also think that SBF is "not known for its irenic, scholarly tone." I guess we can never measure up to some people's standards and expectations. :) Anyway, Dr. Vines' sermon does need a response from the community, and while some have already begun to respond (see especially Tom Ascol's gracious critique), we at SBF will seek to address the message (not the messenger I might add) in an "irenic, scholarly tone." Here is the introductory post I wrote for the team yesterday. Stay tuned for more posts in the future. -----------------------------------------------

SBF Programming Announcement: The Vines Series
The team at SBF has decided to respond to a recent sermon preached by Dr. Jerry Vines at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, GA where Dr. Johnny Hunt is the pastor. Vines’ message is entitled “Calvinism: The Baptist and His Election” and can be viewed online here. Dr. Vines is a powerful figure in the Southern Baptist Convention and carries a wide influence through his ministry. The reason we at SBF have chosen to respond to this message by Dr. Vines is because we believe there are several misunderstandings of Calvinism in his message. As often is the case, most people hear about Calvinism from non-Calvinists (or anti-Calvinists) who either unintentionally or intentionally misrepresent the Reformed doctrines of grace and monergism. Therefore, we are writing to interact with what Dr. Vines has said, and as a result, to offer a more faithful presentation of Calvinism. When this blog was created, we intended to respond to and correct the faulty notions of a website called BaptistFire. Less than two weeks into our existence, this website disappeared, not allowing us to respond to their attacks on the Reformed faith. We are quite certain that, were BaptistFire still existing today, Dr. Vines’ message would make the headlines of their website. Therefore, we believe that it is in accord with our stated purpose of this blog as well as in the general interest of the wider audience to present the glorious doctrine of grace from those who espouse it. All of us at SBF are Calvinists and are not ashamed to be called such; however, given that there are so many misunderstandings, caricatures, and straw men regarding Calvinism, any time that word is used, it must necessarily be qualified; furthermore, given that so many people are being informed on Calvinism from those who have more than a mild distaste for it, we think it would be profitable to set the doctrines plainly on Scripture, not mere sentiments, emotional appeals, or philosophical presuppositions. The goal of our posting is to allow each article to stand for a couple of days before another one is posted. The posts probably will not be in the order to which they were presented in the message, but we hope to address each major point individually, giving due treatment without any confusion. In the end, it is our hope and prayer that we have accurately presented the truths of the Reformed faith and helped you in your understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Laptop Woes and A Brief Response

When I last responded in the meta from my computer on the last post, I was heading out for my Monday night class. While taking notes during the class, my computer screen went black, and I haven't been able to get it up since then. For the past couple of weeks, I have been having problems with my laptop screen, and the manufacturer told me that the graphics card as overheating. I purchased a laptop surface cooler (laptop sits on top of cooling fans) with the hope that the problem would be resolved. Well, it didn't. I am currently trying to get in contact with the manufacturer of my laptop to see whether I need a new screen, graphics card, both, or something else. At this present moment, I am in the computer lab at the school, getting ready to head over to the library to do some Greek exegesis and some research on a paper I am working on dealing with inclusivism and the nature of saving faith. The reason I share this with you is to inform you that I have not been intentionally trying to ignore all the questions and comments from my previous post. I also have not read all 65 comments but hope to when I have time. I would like to address some of the questions and comments concerning Calvinism and Arminianism in the near future, but I don't know if doing so would further incriminate me as being "obsessed with Calvinism." For the record I am not. I do care about the doctrines of Scripture and of grace very much, and I do believe that we should really believe what we believe. Part of the reason why I believe Calvinists are committed to the doctrines of grace so much is because they refuse to have a surface-level, minimalistic understanding of the gospel. When your mind is arrested by truth and these truths make your heart sing, such soul-riveting glories inevitably manifest itself in daily discourse. It is not a rant, meaningless argument, but the commentary of a Christian who has been staggered by grace. I know many of you have already read my "What Is a True Calvinist?" posts, but I would like to provide the links again in case anyone hasn't and would be interested. I have yet to post the last two in the series (Evangelism and Missions, and My Concluding Reflections) but hope to do so soon. Regarding Calvinism and evangelism, I am scheduling to post a five-post series in which I hope to address how the doctrine of election relates to evangelism. And because it has been asked of me to address my position on double predestination and reprobation, I hope to write on that as well. The purpose of me writing on these matters comes with the hope that I can encourage you to study the Scriptures for yourselves as good Bereans (Acts 17:11). In writing these posts, I am not making the assertion that I know everything or claim to; furthermore, I believe that my position can be refined with a better understanding of the matters as it is discussed with sincere hearts and studious minds. Concerning the debate over free will and predestination I am reminded of what Spurgeon said:

There are some men who claim to know all about the matter. They twist it round their fingers as easily as if it were an everyday thing; but depend upon it, he who thinks he knows all about this mystery, knows but very little. It is but the hallowness of his mind that permits him to see the bottom of his knowledge; he who dives deep, finds that there is in the lowest depth to which he can attain a deeper depth still.
Let me be clear. I am not writing for theological one-upmanship or for debate. I also hope to not caricature anyone's beliefs or call into question their character (as I hope you do for me as well). I do, however, want to take a serious and thorough look at what the Bible says about the gospel and the doctrines we believe. In the end, I believe that it would be worth it, even if we agree to disagree. If I have offended any of you with an attitude or demeaner not becoming of Christ, I sincerely apologize. I do not want my blog or its comments section to be a place where people are belittled or treated with contempt because they think differently on a matter. There is no reason why we cannot have genuine discussion and strong convictions without resorting to ad hominems and castigations. In the end, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and when the discussion is ended, I want to be able to pray with you and look you in the face and tell you, "I love you and appreciate you." Again, thank you for your interest in the things I write, and I hope that indeed the truths of Scripture will bind our consciences, ground our thoughts, and govern our lives. Here are the links for the "What Is a True Calvinist?" series: Part One: Introduction Part Two: God-centered Mind and Penitent Spirit Part Three: Grateful Heart and Submissive Will Part Four: Holy Life and Glorious Ambition

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Question for My Arminian Friends

On the eve of the night where there was supposed to be a debate over Baptists, Calvinism, and/or omnibenevolence (or something like that), I thought I’d pose a question that I had been thinking about since yesterday afternoon to my Arminian friends. Let me provide the context of my question first if I may.

According to the Arminian theological framework, God’s election of a person is conditioned on the basis of foreseen faith. The faith which God sees is an act of trust that is inherent within a sinner (that is derivative of man and not a gift from God) who freely, of his own accord and without any external or internal influence, chooses Christ. The Arminian position readily emphasizes the human responsibility to “call upon the name of the Lord” and right they should, but the nature of the free will is libertarian and carries the idea of “power of contrary choice” in where there is no efficient cause (“contra-causal freedom”) resulting in a framework of indeterminism. So there are three key aspects: conditional election (foreseen faith), saving faith derivative of man, and libertarian free will – all components in the soteriological underpinnings of Arminian theology.

So my question comes regarding God’s foreknowledge and the nature of saving faith. God’s foreknowledge assumes (apriori) that His knowledge carries some measure of determinacy, for to know something in advance is more than a prediction; it is definite, certain knowledge. And, according to the Arminian position, God foresees those who place their faith in him and therefore elects them. But, in actuality, they have not existed at the time of God’s foreknowledge and have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ. And, if they possess libertarian free will, they must necessarily be able to choose contrarily if they are to really be free. So in essence, God cannot foreknow what a man who possesses libertarian free will will do, whether he believes or not, because if God knew they would put their faith in Him, they would not be free. So here’s my question:

How can God, in his foreknowledge, know something that, according to your theological construct, cannot not be known?

It appears to be that one either has to forfeit God’s foreknowledge or forfeit man’s libertarian free will. So your two options are either Calvinism (the biblical position) or Open Theism. The former holds to a deterministic (compatibilism) view of free will and retains the doctrine of foreknowledge while the latter is forced to logically conclude that God cannot foreknow the future acts of (libertarian) free agents (abandoning God’s omniscience). This is why many who have been staunch proponents of Arminianism are now Open Theists. They have realized the logical inconsistencies and have sought to develop a system more internally consistent and fully explanative. The only problem is they do it while gutting the very nature of God and reformulating the message of salvation according to Scripture.

As a follow-up question then would be: Where in the Bible can you show me that libertarian free will exists? Conditional election? Faith derivative of man and not a gift from God?

Now, before you answer, let me tell you I know Norm Geisler’s answer, so please don’t read Chosen But Free and regurgitate it to me (and worse, please don’t consult Dave Hunt). I would like to know what your answer is to this dilemma. Biblically, I can show you where election is unconditional, free will is compatibilistic (and deterministic), and saving faith is a gift from God.

When I think about this question and the consequences to the answers, I am led to ask myself which system honors God, is grounded in Scripture, and represents the Gospel according to Jesus. When I look at Arminian theology, what I find is philosophical constructs like libertarian free will that is not in the Bible and doctrines like foreseen faith that confuse the nature of God’s omniscience. Furthermore, I do not see where a synergistic gospel (God + me [and my faith]) gives glory to God alone. What is worse is that ultimacy is attributed to me (man), my free will, and my faith. On the other hand, Calvinism gives ultimacy to God in that He accomplishes the ends (my salvation) and provides the means (saving faith) according to His election which is unconditional and irrevocable. So at the heart of my question is, in my mind, a real dilemma for non-Calvinists who do not want to go off the deep end into Open Theism. Either you admit the inconsistencies in your doctrinal framework and its unbiblical elements or you change those elements. In that change, you can either choose to glorify God and His supremacy and sovereignty in salvation, or you can glorify man and his autonomy and self-determination in which he contributes to his own salvation with his own faith.

If I have misrepresented the theological framework of Arminianism, please let me know. The purpose of my question is to discuss this matter because I believe it is essential to the gospel and how we communicate it to others. My hope and desire is that we would be radically God-centered in our thinking (theology) and our practice (methodology) so that our worship (doxology) can truly be “from him, and through him, and to him all are things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). May our minds and hearts be ignited with wonder of God’s amazing grace and taste afresh the goodness of God.

Uh Oh.

It looks like naughty number five doesn't want to leave the SBC landscape. Go here to see what I mean. Along these lines, has anyone considered what the Guidestone invests in regarding the companies in which they are stockholders? That reminded me to check back to what Tad Thompson revealed in a post back in June in which he provided these examples:

Starbucks: I love Starbucks coffee - but they do have a pro-homosexual agenda. BP just did a story on this. Carnival Cruise Lines: gambling, alcohol, and yes...gay cruises Cox Communications and Comcast Cable: ########### and other questionable programming
You can go here and glance around in last years financial report of Guidestone. I think if you start on page 47, it will start showing the investments. A couple more I found interesting that are in no way friends of Christian values and convictions include Yahoo (54,700 shares), Time Warner (201,900 shares), and the New York Times (16,900 shares). Now I didn't mention the clothing stores like The Gap (25,100 shares) and Limited (15,000 shares) which SBC monies are also invested, whose clothing are not conducive to the kind of holiness the Joshua Convergence mentioned in their gathering (along with abstinence from alcohol of course). Now, you might think that I am just being picky here, but I am trying to prove a point - a point which is a matter of consistency and integrity. If we, as a convention, want to go down the side street of such resolutions of #5, at least be consistent. And if we are going to condemn such peripheral matters as the consumption of alcohol, why don't we consider the poor that are being exploited in other countries by American businesses or the child slavery market in third world countries in which goods and services have been outsourced? Ironically, I happen to see a few of those companies on the report as well. But before you start throwing stones or discarding my thoughts as an idealist, I think we should take a moment and consider the type of things Marty brought up yesterday and Tad did several months ago. It would be well worth our time.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

And Now for the Rest of the Story (Of My Trip)

As a follow up to my thoughts on the Desiring God Conference, I would like to share a little about what I experienced outside the conference, including meeting Larry Backlund, backpacking and photography excursion, and the drive.

Meeting Larry Backlund (again)

I never cease to be amazed at the providence of God. A couple months ago, I wrote about my disappointment with Billy Graham and his view of the gospel and salvation. In the meta of that post, I shared a little story of how I met a man named Larry Backlund, who at the time was Director of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism (BGSOE) for BGEA. Ironically, on my first solo trip, I went to Orlando, Florida to attend one of these schools during my sophomore year in college (Spring 1999). It was a common thing for the BGSOE staff to find a person have them as a prayer partner for that week. In the kindness of God’s plan, he sent Larry Backlund my way. That week was a life-changing week for me, and I was blown away that someone would take interest in an obscure college kid with nothing to offer.

Mr. Backlund and I kept in touch for about another year and then lost contact after a change in contact information. I always told Mr. Backlund that I was wanted to come up to visit him in Minneapolis but was well aware that the likelihood of me meeting Mr. Backlund was very slim. Yet it was not too slim for God. Just days after writing my article about Mr. Graham, Mr. Backlund googled his name and came across my post. He then emailed me and asked me if I was that college kid back from eight years ago, and I responded to him in the affirmative. Having already made plans for the DG Conference, I emailed Mr. Backlund and asked if we could meet for lunch while I was Minneapolis. Within a matter of days, not only was correspondence re-established with Mr. Backlund, I was going to see him again—only eight years later!

Well, our lunch was an amazing time. I sat and listened to a man who ministered for 30 years in the BGEA and dedicated his life to equipping people in sharing their faith. An interesting note is that my evangelism professor here at SBTS is Dr. Timothy Beougher who has also known Mr. Backlund for some time, having ties with the BGEA as well, and I was glad to get them reconnected as well. Mr. Backlund has gone on to retire after BGEA relocated to NC in 2003 but is still active in speaking and serving. In fact, in just a matter of weeks, he will be leaving for three strategic places in the Middle East (I won’t name the countries for his security’s sake) to encourage and minister to Christian leaders in these countries. Since his last trip, one of the leaders was charged with the crime of planting churches without the government’s permission and was later martyred. I ask that you remember him in your prayer as he prepares for the trip, that God would give him wisdom and Spirit-filled words, guard him from the enemy and keep him safe, and that he would be mightily used of God to build our brothers and sisters in a very volatile and difficult situation.

Mr. Backlund is a man whom I greatly admire. He is using his “retirement” days to minister and run his race so that the last chapter of his life is the best chapter of his life. I praise God for him and for men like him who have served the Church and ministered in the name of Christ so faithfully throughout the years. Before I left, I had the special privilege of praying for Mr. Backlund, and it was a moment that brought me back to when we first met—praying in the hallway of Orlando eight years ago. I hope to keep in touch with him and glean from his years of wisdom and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through this man’s example. My, what the sweet providence of God can bring your way!

North Shore Although I was hoping for some snow and ice, I must say that the North Shore lived up to its expectations. The weather was quite mild, and the fall color was excellent, yet I noticed that most of the colors were yellow and a little orange, quite different from here in the south where you get a lot of reds and even purple. There were plenty of overlooks and places to stop. One of the things I wish I had the opportunity to do was hike parts of the Superior Hiking Trail. It looked like a wonderful trail to explore. But as I mentioned earlier, my main purpose of this excursion was photographic, so I was constantly moving up and down the North Shore.

On Monday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours at Split Rock Lighthouse just before sunset. The light was golden, the sky was clear, and the scenery was perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out there and walking down the shoreline. Leaving Split Rock, I went back to Gooseberry State Park to take some photos of Gooseberry Falls, one of the most popular tourist spots on the North Shore. After the sun had set, I set up camp and noticed that the moon was illuminating Lake Superior brilliantly, so I left to take some night shots of Lake Superior at Palisade Head, a huge cliff about 350 feet over Lake Superior in Tettegouche State Park. My plans were cut a little short there on Palisade Head because I had a drunk man suspiciously following me on a dangerous cliff, alone, with no cell signal, and on a windy road. You get the idea. So I went back to camp.

When I woke up the next morning, I thought I had overslept and missed the sunrise. After tearing down the tent and gathering my gear, I went to the car and noticed that the sun was just peering out over the waters, so I rushed to the car, dumped my stuff, and went along the shoreline to enjoy the morning sunrise and take a couple of photos. From there I proceeded up the North Shore, taking photos at places such as Tettegouche State Park and its sea caves, the High Falls of the Baptism River, Palisade Head, Cascade Falls, Caribou Falls, Cross River Falls, and the High Falls of the Pigeon River at Grand Portage State Park (half of which is in Canada). I finished shooting at Grand Portage around 5:30 p.m. and began the drive back and over to the Apostle Islands with plans to catch the last ferry over to Madeline Island to camp out at Big Bay State Park. However, inclement weather and a long-than-expected drive changed things as a projected 4 hour drive turned into a long, six hour drive. Consequently, I missed the last ferry departure and was forced to come up with a plan B—which was to sleep in my car.

Apostle Islands

Unfortunately, I did not have as much time as I had liked to tour the Apostle Islands, given that I had only half a day to drive around a hike a bit. I awoke in the small town of Bayfield and capture the sunrise at the docks where the ferry runs and then proceeded to Sand Bay, a beautiful vacation spot on the northern tip of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Then, my last destination was to hike the trail along Meyers Beach on the west end and try to get up-and-close with some sea caves. Little did I know, it was more than a five mile hike, so I got my exercise in for the morning. One of things that amazed me about the North Shore and Apostle Islands is the small number of people touring or vacationing in such beautiful places. For hours on in during my hike, I neither heard nor saw anyone, and I remember that I felt like it was a crime that so few people enjoy such wonderful places that I was seeing. In all, I have no real regrets and was pleased with my trip. Of course, between the destinations was a lot of time in the car, which was also very profitable for me.

The Drive

All in all, I drove a total of 57 hours or 2,547.4 miles. That’s a lot of time! During this time, I listened to many sermons, including Josh Harris’ “Humble Orthodoxy” and Tim Keller’s “On Preaching the Gospel from the Reform & Resurge Conference which were both excellent. I highly recommend them to you. Also, I was able to catch up on all chapel SBTS chapel sermons from this semester. Moreover, most of my time was listening to audio books. The major book I listened to on the way up was James Sire’s The Universe Next Door, and on the way back, I listened to Stanley Grenz’s A Primer on Postmodernism. These two books were particularly helpful for my current studies as I am not where I need to be in my understanding of various worldviews and our current postmodern ethos. The British and Scottish accents of the narrations were a nice touch as well, but after eight CD’s respectively, the voices got on my nerves (I guess because I am from the South). If you are ever planning a long drive, let me recommend that you look into buying a good audio book. They kept my mind stimulated and thus kept me awake (which was really important!).

Note and Special Thanks:

On my way up to Minnesota, I found myself low on gas in the middle of Illinois. Because I was on an interstate, I thought I would find a gas station at any of the exits or at least could make it to the next big city. Unfortunately, after 30 miles on the interstate, there were no exits with gas stations, and I was another 20 miles from the next big city. With less than five miles left on my gas gauge reader, I pulled off at the next exit and was able to find a gas station. The only problem is that it had closed 11 minutes earlier! Not knowing what to do, I went to the only place I knew would be open – the emergency room entrance to the little hospital off a gravel road. There I found four really nice ladies who got me in touch with the local cop on duty who was able to retrieve a gallon of gas to get me to the next gas station (which was closed but had a pump open 24 hours to pay at the pump). Alone, out of gas, and in the middle of nowhere, I was a little nervous, but through the providence of God and the kindness of some folks in IL, I was able to make my way up to MN. So to the four ladies and officer of the small town of Hopedale, IL (ironically), I want to say a special thanks.

I also want to say thanks to Marc and Joe for letting me stay at your places during the trip. These are two men I have grown to love and appreciate and find myself always learning from them and laughing with them as we enjoy God and his gifts of friendship with one another.

I guess that’s it. The only thing that remains is next year’s fall photographic destination. Any suggestions?

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Belated Thoughts on the Desiring God Conference

I know, I know. Everyone has already done this; it is two weeks old (really old news in the blogosphere), and I probably won’t say anything someone else has already said. But . . . I would still like to chip in my $.02 if that is okay.

2006 Desiring God Conference

I have been thinking about what this conference in the long run will accomplish. People have already adequately addressed the great messages given, the humility of the speakers, especially from John Piper himself, and the controversy over Mark Driscoll. What was monumental in this conference was its desire to address straightforward on of the biggest issues of today with some of the greatest voices in the evangelical world, both from academia and church fronts. But the enormity of this conference lies, in my mind, in a couple of areas. First, this conference was a real convergence of scholars and pastors from various backgrounds, philosophy of ministry, and geographical contexts. However, what they did have in common is an unyielding commitment to the supremacy of Christ in our postmodern world and want to lead the Church in the epistemological shift from the modern to the postmodern ethos – which leads to my second thought. In the conservative evangelical world, there were men who valiantly lead the Church from both scholarly and pastorally perspectives. There were men like Carl F.H. Henry, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. Gresham Machen, James Montgomery Boice, among others. We are now in a postmodern era, and a new crop of leadership is needed to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, but to do it in a relevant and contextual fashion. The Christian community, and now its leaders, have recognized men like Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and Voddie Bauchum as men who have taken up the postmodern challenge – which leads to my third thought.

As our elder leaders of the conservative, evangelical movement fade away into history, there is a real sense of recognizing, conferring, and blessing the generation to come, along with its leaders. When men like Piper welcome on the same platform men like Driscoll, this should say something of confidence and commendation that one should take note. C.J. Mahaney is an evangelical leader who has recognized this transmission of orthodox teaching and the gospel by training up and handing over the mantle of his ministry to Joshua Harris. As men like MacArthur, Piper, Mahaney, Mohler, Sproul, Dever, and Duncan see their day in the setting sun, they will soon look to the uprising of another generation who will lead the Church under the same pattern of pastoral fidelity and theological integrity required to respond to the day in which we live. Furthermore, scholars like D.A. Carson and David Wells are raising up first-rate scholars to serve the Church and forge ahead in pursuit and defense of biblical truth.

So I ask? Who will lead this next generation of conservative, evangelical Christians? Who, in this next generation will resemble men like Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Francis Schaeffer, Carl F.H. Henry, J.I. Packer, John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, D.A. Carson, David Wells, John Frame, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever? My guess is that you find many of them being welcomed to the same platform as their predecessors and conferred with the blessing and responsibility to love the Church and care for the gospel in a developing cultural context and diverse world of philosophies, theologies, and worldviews. So when I see men like Joshua Harris, Voddie Bauchum, and Mark Driscoll, I am encouraged by what I see. Over the course of time, we will see the men God raises up for such a time, who are God-appointed leaders that the Church recognizes as servants with grave responsibilities but endowed with great gifts to meet those responsibilities. My prayer is that God will continue to bring biblical scholarship and pastoral ministry together so we can see the Church become the first responder to cultural and theological issues and advance the kingdom of God with humility in spirit and fidelity to the Scriptures.

Brotherly Edification

At the T4G Conference, I met for the first time Marc Heinrich, Joe Thorn, and Tim Challies. Marc graciously allowed me to infest his basement along with Joe, and the fellowship, conversation, and encouragement I received was truly enjoyable. Joe and I met up early Friday and took the back roads into Minneapolis, stopping to take photos, eat, and hang out. Sunday, after the conference was over, Marc and I spent the afternoon and evening together which I was really grateful to be able to spend with him. Marc also was nice enough to take me on a tour of BBC Monday morning before I headed out.

Along with meeting old friends, I was also excited about meeting some folks for the first time who I either know through the blogosphere or mutual friends. Of those, I was privileged to enjoyed lunch with Nick Kennicott who is ministering in GA and shares many similar passions as I do. All in all, I must say that it felt like family at the conference. These were my kind of people – lovers of God, lovers of people, and lovers of the gospel and wanting to bring all three together and make them central in their lives.

POTW :: 10.13.06 :: Consolation

{click to enlarge}
After a long, six hour drive down the North Shore from Grand Portage (on the MN/Canada border) to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin), I missed the last ferry ride over to Madeline Island where I was planning to camp out my final night. It was cool with that because it had rained all day, and I wasn't about to set up camp in the mud and rain around midnight. So what did I do? Well, I slept in my car somewhere in the little town of Bayfield (population 611) and woke up to this sunrise at the dock where the ferry goes in and out. So I figured that the long drive and little sleep was worth it, after spending a couple of hours watching this sunrise over Lake Superior. A little update on the Desiring God Conference photos. As of today, I am 95% done uploading photos. The total in the album stand at 129 photos. I still would like to post a few from the panel discussion and maybe a couple more of the speakers. According to my little Flickr set counter, the album is nearing 2000 visitors, so I just wanted to say thanks to those of you who have visited my images of the conference. I hope that they are of some benefit to you. And here is the exif data for those interested: Camera: Canon 20D Lens: 28-135mm IS USM Focal Length: 28mm Tv: 10 sec Av: f/4.5 ISO: 200 WB: Custom (4500k) Please visit my Flickr Photostream and the Friday Photo Group as well.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bloggers Are People Too!

It was only a matter of time . . . To view other buying options, go here. I am looking into this one for my boss, Hershey. HT :: Tim Ellsworth

Christian Audio Book Sale

Before I left on my trip, I mentioned that I have recently developed an interest in audio books for my drive time edification (along with sermons). Tomorrow, I will share some of my reflections on the trip as well as the DG Conference and a few other things, including the audio books I listened to during my 57 hours of driving last week.

Like many of you, I have a little commute to and from school, work, and church. Over the course of a week, it comes out to be about 10 hours a week in the car for me. Now, if I am going to take my time management seriously, I need to utilize those 10 hours as best as possible, either listening to good preaching or audio books. While the run time of the audio books vary in their length, one can easily listen to an entire audio book within a matter of a couple of weeks. Now, how many people do you know read one book a week or two? Over the course of a year, it would certainly be within reason to think that you could listen to dozens of books through audio that otherwise you would not have the time to read. So what are you waiting on?

That brings me to the purpose of this post. JT posted yesterday that Christian Audio is having a 50% off sale on their new releases which ends on October 16. Some of the ones featured include:

Author: Nancy Pearcey Publisher: Hovel Audio Narrator: Kate Reading Run Time: 17 Hrs. 45 Min. MP3 CD: $12.49 Download:$ 18.49 CD: $24.49

Author: John Piper Publisher: Hovel Audio Narrator: David Cochran Heath Run Time: 12 Hrs. MP3 CD: $9.99 Download: $16.99 CD: $18.99

Author: R.C. Sproul Publisher: Hovel Audio Narrator: Grover Gardner Run Time: 9 Hrs. Download: $10.49 CD: $14.49

Author: John F. MacArthur Publisher: Hovel Audio Narrator: Johnathon Marosz Run Time: 8 Hrs. 45 Min. Download: $12.49 CD: $14.49

Anyway, be sure to check them out. Let me say, however, as a footnote, that there are some books published on the Christian Audio that I certainly do not recommend. In this case, as always, be sure to exercise discernment.

Machen on "Accepting Christ" and Church Membership

It has been a great grievance of mine to have been so late in acquiring and gleaning from the writing of such men as Carl F.H. Henry and J. Gresham Machen. For the past year, I have been working on catching up on lost time. This past week, I have been reading Machen's book, What is Faith?, and I came across this blurb that I thought was most fitting to the current situation in the SBC. Amazingingly enough, this was first published in 1925! If what Machen speaks of is so prevalent then, imagine what he would think of our treatment of the gospel, faith, and church membership now! Just this week, my home church, Ninth and O Baptist Church has been working on cleaning up the church rolls, seeking to bring greater integrity to the meaning of church membership. Lest we forget, we have a denomination that has over 8 million people who cannot be found by the FBI, most one would presume at one time "accepted Christ" to use the popular term. Let's pray for change, honesty, humility, and integrity in our churches, and let's take seriously the words of a man who knew the signs of the times - words that speak undeniably relevant today. Consider what Machen had to say:

One of the very greatest evils of present-day religious life, it seems to me, is the reception into the Church of persons who merely repeat a form of words such as “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” without giving the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean. As a consequence of this practice, hosts of persons are being received into the Church on the basis, as has been well said, of nothing more than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus, or else on the basis of a vague purpose in engaging in his humanitarian work. One such person within the Church does more harm to the cause of Christ, I for my part believe, than ten such persons outside; and the whole practice ought to be radically changed. The truth is that the ecclesiastical currency in our day has been sadly debased; Church membership, as well as Church office, no longer means what it ought to mean. In view of such a situation, we ought, I think, to have reality at least; instead of comforting ourselves with columns of church statistics, we ought to face the facts; we out to recall this paper currency and get back to a standard of gold.

- J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 156.

Site Counters as of May 4, 2005

Author: R.C. Sproul Publisher: Hovel Audio Narrator: Grover Gardner Run Time: 9 Hrs. Download: $10.49 CD: $14.49

Author: John F. MacArthur Publisher: Hovel Audio Narrator: Johnathon Marosz Run Time: 8 Hrs. 45 Min. Download: $12.49 CD: $14.49

Anyway, be sure to check them out. Let me say, however, as a footnote, that there are some books published on the Christian Audio that I certainly do not recommend. In this case, as always, be sure to exercise discernment.

|W|P|116070606868294322|W|P|Christian Audio Book Sale|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com10/12/2006 04:03:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|It has been a great grievance of mine to have been so late in acquiring and gleaning from the writing of such men as Carl F.H. Henry and J. Gresham Machen. For the past year, I have been working on catching up on lost time. This past week, I have been reading Machen's book, What is Faith?, and I came across this blurb that I thought was most fitting to the current situation in the SBC. Amazingingly enough, this was first published in 1925! If what Machen speaks of is so prevalent then, imagine what he would think of our treatment of the gospel, faith, and church membership now! Just this week, my home church, Ninth and O Baptist Church has been working on cleaning up the church rolls, seeking to bring greater integrity to the meaning of church membership. Lest we forget, we have a denomination that has over 8 million people who cannot be found by the FBI, most one would presume at one time "accepted Christ" to use the popular term. Let's pray for change, honesty, humility, and integrity in our churches, and let's take seriously the words of a man who knew the signs of the times - words that speak undeniably relevant today. Consider what Machen had to say:

One of the very greatest evils of present-day religious life, it seems to me, is the reception into the Church of persons who merely repeat a form of words such as “I accept Christ as my personal Saviour,” without giving the slightest evidence to show that they know what such words mean. As a consequence of this practice, hosts of persons are being received into the Church on the basis, as has been well said, of nothing more than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus, or else on the basis of a vague purpose in engaging in his humanitarian work. One such person within the Church does more harm to the cause of Christ, I for my part believe, than ten such persons outside; and the whole practice ought to be radically changed. The truth is that the ecclesiastical currency in our day has been sadly debased; Church membership, as well as Church office, no longer means what it ought to mean. In view of such a situation, we ought, I think, to have reality at least; instead of comforting ourselves with columns of church statistics, we ought to face the facts; we out to recall this paper currency and get back to a standard of gold.

- J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 156.

|W|P|116064493038933437|W|P|Machen on "Accepting Christ" and Church Membership|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com10/12/2006 12:34:00 PM|W|P|Blogger justin|W|P|Tim- Great quote from Machen. This past year I have tried to read more of him, since reading about him in Piper's Conteding for our All.
I would suggest getting the D.G. Hart collected shorter writings. There are some good collections in there.
Thanks for the post.10/12/2006 02:53:00 PM|W|P|Blogger ThunderScot1505|W|P|Machen's "Christianity and Liberalism" was life-changing for me. His insight was nothing short of prophetic, in my opinion. I bought about 20 copies and gave them to family at Christmas several years back.10/12/2006 10:07:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Timmy|W|P|@ Justin,

You're welcome. Machen is great reading.

@ Thunderscot,

Good idea. That book is relatively inexpensive and should be in every student's library. I wonder if that was on CT's top 50 book list recently published . . .-->