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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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why McKnight Kissed Calvinism Goodbye

Not everybody is down with the "young, restless, and reformed." A couple of days ago, Scot McKnight shared why he "kissed Calvinism goodbye" (to use the Joshua Harris phrase). Interestingly enough, what it came down to was the warning passages in the OT covanent coupled with the warning passages in Hebrews that did it for him (from reading I. Howard Marshall's Kept by the Power of God). McKnight's conclusion was, "I couldn’t contest his [Marshall's] many, many passages that all added up to one thing: genuine believers can lose their faith by throwing it away consciously." A couple of things worth noting: 1. I have heard many reasons from various people why they reject Calvinism, but McKnight's rationale is intriguing (and in my view lacking warrant for wholesale dismissal of Calvinism). 2. Several Reformed theologians have addressed the warning passages in Hebrews, not the least of which are Dr. Tom Schreiner and Wayne Grudem (which he did in a conference here at SBTS). Worth Noting: Start at comment #54 where Terrance Tiessen joined in the conversation. You might know him as the author of Who Can Be Saved? and Providence and Prayer.

Re: Inclusivism - A Concise Bibliography

This is my final post about Billy Graham and inclusivism (actually, I had not planned on writing any of these until I heard of his letter to the editor). I hope that these books, essays, and articles will be helpful in directing you to resources for your personal study. Admittedly so, whenever categories are provided, some level of subjectivity is determinative pertaining to what group I put the work in. Furthermore, some are not in either category because they have either gone both ways or cannot be easily categorized (Millard Erickson and Alister McGrath for example). Anyway, here it is. I will be adding this to my bibliography sidebar (to the right). Enjoy.

For Inclusivism:

Braaten, Carl E. No Other Gospel! Christianity Among the World’s Religions. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1992.

Cobb, John B., and Clark H. Pinnock. Searching for an Adequate God: A Dialogue Between Process and Free Will Theists. Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2000.

Dupuis, Jacques. Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997.

Edwards, David L. and John R.W. Stott. Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988.

Grenz, Stanley J. Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.

Kung, Hans. Christianity & World Religions: Paths of Dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1993.

_________. “The World Religions in God’s Plan of Salvation.” In Christian Revelation and World Religions. ed. Josef Neuner. London: Burns & Oates, 1967.

Kung, Hans, and Jurgen Moltman, eds. Christianity Among World Religions. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1986.

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: Touchstone, 1996.

Lindbeck, George. The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984.

McDermott, Gerald R. Can Evangelicals Learn from Other World Religions? Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. “The Reality of God and the Gods in the Experience of Religions.” In vol. 1 of Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

Pinnock, Clark H. A Wideness in God’s Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

_________. “Acts 4:12: No Other Name Under Heaven” in Through No Fault of Their Own?: The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. eds. William V. Crockett and James G. Sigountos, 107-15. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

Punt, Neal. Unconditional Good News: Toward an Understanding of Biblical Universalism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980.

Race, Alan. Christians and Religious Pluralism: Patterns in the Christian Theology of Religions. London: SCM Press, 1983.

Rahner, Karl. Theological Investigations vol. 5: Later Writings. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1965.

_________. “Anonymous Christianity and the Missionary Task of the Church.” In vol. 12 of Theological Investigations. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1982.

_________. “Anonymous Christians.” In vol. 6 of Theological Investigations. Baltimore: Helicon, 1969.

_________. “Jesus Christ in the Non-Christian Religions.” In vol. 17 of Theological Investigations. New York: Crossroad, 1981.

_________. “Observations on the Problem of the ‘Anonymous Christian.’” In vol. 10 of Theological Investigations. New York: Seabury, 1976.

_________. “On the Importance of the Non-Christian Religions for Salvation.” In vol. 18 of Theological Investigations. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1983.

_________. “The One Christ and the Universality of Salvation.” In vol. 16. of Theological Investigations. New York: Crossroad, 1983.

Sanders, John. No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.

_________., ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995.

Stackhouse, John G., ed. No Other Gods Before Me? Evangelicals and the Challenge of World Religions. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.

Stott, John R.W. The Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992.

Tiessen, Terrance L. Irenaeus on the Salvation of the Unevangelized. Landham, MD: Scarecrow, 1993.

_________. Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004.

Wright, Chris. The Uniqueness of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Monarch Books, 2001.

Yong, Amos. Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003.

Articles for Inclusivism:

D’Costa, Gavin. “Karl Rahner’s Anonymous Christian—A Reappraisal.” Modern Theology 1/2 (January 1985): 131-48.

Fudge, Edward. “How Wide Is God’s Mercy?” Christianity Today 36 (April 27, 1992): 30-33.

Grenz, Stanley J. “Commitment and Dialogue: Pannenberg on Christianity and the Religions.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 26 (Winter 1989): 196-210.

_________. “Toward an Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 31 (Winter-Spring 1995): 49-65.

Osburn, Evert D. “Those Who Have Never Heard: Have They No Hope?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 32/3 (September 1989): 367-72.

Yong, Amos. “Whither Theological Inclusivism? The Development and Critique of an Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Evangelical Quarterly 71/4 (October 1999): 349-57.

Pinnock, Clark H. “Toward An Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33/3 (September 1990): 359-68.

_________ “Why Is Jesus the Only Way?: No Other Way, Truth or Life Open to God.” Eternity 27/12 (1976): 12-34.

Sanders, John. “Is Belief in Christ Necessary for Salvation?” Evangelical Quarterly 60 (July 1988): 241-59.

Books/Essays Against Inclusivism:

Carson, D.A. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Fernando, Ajith. The Supremacy of Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1995.

Geivett, R. Douglass and Clark Pinnock. “‘Misgivings’ and ‘Openness’: A Dialogue on Inclusivism Between R. Douglass Geivett and Clark Pinnock.” In Who Will Be Saved?: Defending the Biblical Understanding of God, Salvation, & Evangelism. edited by Paul R. House and Gregory A. Thornbury, 111-28. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000.

Henry, Carl F.H. “Is It Fair?” in Through No Fault of Their Own? The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. eds. William V. Crockett and James G. Sigountos, 245-56. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

House, Paul R. and Gregory A. Thornbury eds. Who Will Be Saved?: Defending the Biblical Understanding of God, Salvation, and Evangelism. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000.

House, Paul R, Timothy George, Carl F.H. Henry, D.A. Carson, Scott Hafemann, and C. Ben Mitchell. “Forum Discussion on Inclusivism.” In Who Will Be Saved?: Defending the Biblical Understanding of God, Salvation, & Evangelism. edited by Paul R. House and Gregory A. Thornbury, 145-62. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000.

Moo, Douglas. “Romans 2: Saved Apart from the Gospel?” in Through No Fault of Their Own?: The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. eds. William V. Crockett and James G. Sigountos, 137-45. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Noll, Mark A. and David F. Wells. Christian Faith and Practice in the Modern World: Theology from an Evangelist Point of View. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Okholm, Dennis L. and Timothy R. Phillips, eds. Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

Plantinga, Alvin. “A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, 2nd ed. Louis Pojman ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1994. 528-44.

Ramesh, Richard P. The Population of Heaven. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.

Ryken, Phillip Graham. Is Jesus the Only Way? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999.

Sanders, J. Oswald. What of the Unevangelized? Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1999.

Strange, Daniel. The Possibility of Salvation Among the Unevangelized: An Analysis of Inclusivism in Recent Evangelical Theology. Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 2002.

Other Books:

Bavinck, J.H. The Church Between the Temple and Mosque: A Study of the Relationship Between the Christian Faith and Other Religions. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966.

Crockett, William V. and James G. Sigountos, eds. Through No Fault of Their Own? The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

Erickson, Millard J. How Shall They Be Saved? The Destiny of Those Who Do Not Hear of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.

Jones, Hywel R. Only One Way: Do You Have to Believe in Christ to be Saved? Kent: Day One, 1996.

Jonsson, John H. Vatican II and World Religions. Louisville, KY: SBTS, 1986.

Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to the Theology of Religions: Biblical, Historical, & Contemporary Perspectives. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003.

Neill, Stephen. Christian Faith and Other Faiths: The Christian Dialogue with Other Religions. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

Shenk, Calvin E. Who Do You Say That I Am?: Christians Encounter Other Religions. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1997.

Other Articles:

Ashcraft, Morris. “The Finality of Christ and the World Religions.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 21/2 (Spring 1979): 23-39.

Blue, J. Ronald. “Untold Billions: Are They Really Lost?” Bibliotheca Sacra 138/52 (Oct-Dec 1981): 338-50.

Brown, Harold. “How Crowded Will Hell Be?” Christianity Today 36/10 (September 14, 1992): 39-40.

Campbell, Iain D. “The Possibility of Salvation Among the Unevangelized: An Analysis of Inclusivism in Recent Evangelical Theology.” Westminster Theological Journal 65/2 (Fall 2003): 390-92.

Erickson, Millard J. “Hope for Those Who Have Never Heard? Yes, But . . . .” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 11/2 (April 1975): 122.

_________. “The Destiny of the Unevangelised.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 152 (January-March 1995): 3-15; 152 (April-June 1995): 113-44; 152 (July-September 1995): 259-72.

Ferrante, Joseph. “The Final Destiny of Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel.” Trinity Studies 1/1 (Fall 1971): 55-62.

McWilliams, Warren. “Spirit Christology and Inclusivism: Clark Pinnock’s Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 24 (Fall 1997): 325-36.

Reichenbach, Bruce R. “Inclusivism and the Atonement.” Faith and Philosophy 16/1 (January 1999): 43-54.

Richard, Ramesh P. “Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism.” Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (January-March 1994): 85-108.

Wright, Christopher J.H. “The Christian and Other Religions: The Biblical Evidence.” Themelios 9/2 (January 1984): 4-15.

Note: Future Bibliographies in the works include: Universalism and Hell, John Hick/Pluralism, David F. Wells, and Billy Graham's Theology of Evangelism and Conversion.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

15 Questions I Would Ask Billy Graham

At the close of yesterday’s article, I shared that I think more clarification is needed regarding Billy Graham’s theology of religions and exclusivity of the gospel. On several occasions, Graham has tacitly denied one of the most important issues of the Christian faith—the necessity, extent and efficaciousness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His redemptive plan through His Spirit and Church. Because I would attempt to probe into these issues and press for theological precision, Graham’s interviewers would label me as one of those “rigid” traditionalists. And that’s okay with me, so long as they are referring to classical Christianity as expressed in a firm conviction in sola Scriptura and solus Christus along with due treatment to the conciliar creeds formative to orthodox Christianity. One does not have to go far in church history to find that the early Church continually had to define, clarify, and become more precise in their beliefs in order to refute heresies—heresies that would simply change a word here or take a word out there and completely alter the definition of an essential doctrine to the Christian faith. We can find this in such heresies as Arianism, Nestorianism, Doceticism, Apollynarianism, Modalism, and so on. The Definition of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) is a word-specific, theologically precise definition which unified the Church. Other creeds and historical documents universally agreed upon were not the result of development new doctrines or formulating new beliefs but rather the clarification and acknowledgment of beliefs and doctrines held from the beginning of the church. New heresies and false teachers come with each generation, and it is necessary for Christians to care for sound doctrine, to give a defense for the gospel, and to contend for the faith once for all handed down to the saints.

So with that said, I would like to post . . .

15 Questions I Would Ask Billy Graham

  1. Do you believe that a sinner must have knowledge about Jesus Christ in order to be saved?
  2. Do you believe that a sinner can be saved and not know it?
  3. Do you believe that other religions are included in God’s redemptive purposes, either as viable “vehicles” of salvation or find their fulfillment in Christ(ianity)?
  4. Do you believe that a sinner who has never heard the gospel will go to hell?
  5. Do you believe that a sinner can respond positively to general revelation and be saved by that light?
  6. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit accomplishes another work of redemption apart from Christ and His Church?
  7. Do you believe that a sinner can experience a post-mortem encounter with Jesus if he did not have the opportunity to hear the gospel in their lifetime?
  8. Do you believe that a sinner has to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel to go to hell? In other words, what qualifies a person to go to hell when they die?
  9. How do you define lostness?
  10. You have stated that only through Christ a person can be saved. How would you define the content of saving faith placed in Christ? Can it be implicit as well as explicit?
  11. Do you agree with this statement by Vatican II, “Those who can attain to everlasting salvation who through on fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of their conscience”?
  12. Do you believe there is a distinction between a believer in God and a Christian?
  13. Would you agree that “outside the Church, there is no salvation” (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus)? How so?
  14. You have mentioned often about the love of God as a motivating rationale for your inclusive beliefs. How do you believe the love of God is balanced with his other attributes such as holiness, justice, and righteousness?
  15. Finally, do you believe that Christianity as defined by Christ and the Scriptures is sufficient and satisfactory for explaining God’s purposes on earth, or do you believe that Christianity must learn from other religions and integrate other religious beliefs consonant to Christian ideals?

These are 15 questions that I thought of today specifically related to Graham’s statements. How Graham would answer these questions would clarify a great deal about his belief in the gospel, other religions, and the nature of his exclusivism (whether he is of the Pinnock/Sanders/Rahner mold of inclusivism or Carson/Piper/Geivett/Nash mold of particularism).

Tomorrow, I hope to provide some resources for further research on inclusivism for those interested. Instead of putting up a lengthy and running bibliography, I will try to organize the books and articles in sections, with those for inclusivism and those against it. Some would be debatable of course as the lines are not clearly drawn on some of the finer points. Anyway. The matter which has received spotlight (inclusivism) through Billy Graham’s interviews is a huge topic of discussion and debate among evangelicals, and now is NOT the time to be vague, ambiguous, and evasive. May God give us wisdom from His Word, coupled with humility that speaks where God has spoken and remains silent when he hasn’t. Let there be a clarion voice from truth-abiding, Christ-confessing, gospel-proclaiming Christians who do not apologize for the Cross and don’t shy away from it when it is their turn to carry theirs.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Moore About Billy Graham

Last night, I was made aware that Billy Graham has written to Newsweek magazine in the upcoming issue (September 4, 2006) regarding his recent interview with Jon Meacham. Here is what Graham had to say:

I was overwhelmed by NEWSWEEK's generous coverage of the life my wife, Ruth, and I are experiencing as we grow older. "Pilgrim's Progress" was an apt title for the article. Like every other Christian, I see myself as a pilgrim journeying through life, looking expectantly to what God has promised in the future and yet yearning to be faithful in the present. Jon Meacham worked diligently to understand how my thinking on certain issues has grown over the years, and I commend him for seeking to capture my commitment to the Gospel I have always preached. The world is constantly changing, and I am only one in a long line of men and women who have sought to relate God's unchanging truth to the challenges of their time. As I grow older, my confidence in the inspiration and authority of the Bible has grown even stronger. So has my conviction that only Christ can give us lasting hope—hope for this life, and hope for the life to come. As the Bible says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Billy Graham Montreat, N.C.
Dr. Russell Moore, academic dean of Southern (of which I attend) as well as director of The Henry Institute, shares in the great disappointment of many evangelicals who read the article called “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Two main areas, two fundamental, non-negotiable areas for conservative evangelicals is the inerrancy of the Bible and the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In both of these areas, Billy Graham has compromised his once-held positions as he has sought to distance himself from what his interviewers call “fundamentalism” and “traditionalism” (which are implied as antithetical to the progressive and inclusive tenor of Graham). Moore accepts the letter from Graham as a clarification on these issues, according to Graham’s affirmations implied in his statements. While I would love to share that optimism, there are several reasons why I am neither convinced nor believe there is sufficient reason to be. Let me explain: First, I believe we must consider the nature and seriousness of this matter. We are not talking about the percentage of alcohol in NT wine and the various usages of oinos. We are talking about matters which led previous generations to the burning stake and severed bodies, and even to this day our brothers and sisters are having their tongues cut off for confessing the name of “Jesus” (which happened to missing from the articles I read concerning Graham). Second, we must consider the venue and exposure of this matter as it has received national and even worldwide attention having been on the cover of one of the most widely read news magazines in the world. Such a serious and essential issue, coupled with the worldwide exposure, demands more than a sentence or two (which are also lacking precision). Third, one cannot take Graham’s comments in isolation, away from previous interviews and public statements. I will provide just a few below, along with some additional resources. But suffice to say, these comments, especially regarding the exclusivity of the gospel, did not come from old age or just happening to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Finally, as conservative evangelicals, we must be consistent in our criticism of those who error from biblical truth. Were the comments Graham made to come from the mouths of a confessing liberal, we would unequivocally denounce those statements without apology. Yet for some reason when someone of such high repute (and I sincerely mean that – Graham is one of the most well-respected and honorable men no doubt), we tend to let them say whatever they want without public criticism. This is a tragic but truthful reality. We must be honest, transparent, and up front, even when it means admonishing someone much holier than I/we would ever be. Regarding Graham’s comments, I see three things lacking. First, I believe there needs to be clarity where there has been compromise. Graham has attempted to do this, but it appears that his comments were intended to appease his critics but not necessarily affirm his convictions. If he believes in the inerrancy of the gospel, then why doesn’t he just come out and say it? If he believes that all those who die apart from explicit saving faith in Jesus Christ are going to an everlasting punishment in hell, then why doesn’t he say it? While his letter was helpful to a degree, the doubts still remain, and the periods which have turned into question marks still have one looking for a substantive, precise, and clear affirmation. Second, I believe there needs to be a correction or retraction of his compromising statements which receive the same proportionate exposure and coverage as his previous statements. It is one thing to make a compromising statement on a cover story, with paragraph after paragraph being read by millions, and it is quite another thing to write a sentence or two in the “letters to the magazine” section which hardly receive any attention whatsoever. So the correction, be there as it may, simply does not measure up to the magnitude of his errors. Why is it, that whenever he gets a cover story with Time, Newsweek, or USA Today, it invariably speaks of his distancing from evangelicals and the essentials of the Christian faith? Why can’t the gospel and the name of Jesus get as much attention through Billy Graham and his prime-time interviews as his denials and errors? For instance, there are several times where Graham has opportunities to publicly go on record for the name of Jesus and the exclusive nature of His gospel. Here are just a few, starting from the most recent:

Graham in Newsweek (interviewer Jon Meacham) on August 14, 2006:

“When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: ‘Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won’t . . . I don’t want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.’”

Graham in USA Today (interviewer Cathy Lynn Grossman) on May 16, 2005:

“Today, as many fundamentalists and traditionalists refuse to share podiums with people who don’t share their exact vision of salvation, Graham opens his events to Christians of every stripe. . . . ‘There are a lot of groups that feel a little bit strange around me, because I am inclusive,’ says Graham who draws a distinction between ‘evangelical’ – a label often claimed by conservative Protestants – and ‘evangelism.’ ‘Evangelism is when the Gospel, which is good news, is preached or presented to all people,’ he says.” (emphasis original)

“The Christian world today is full of niches – from the vaguest spiritual seekers to the most doctrinally rigid conservatives who decry the ecumenical movement and see tolerance as moral relativism. Words like pluralism and inclusivity, which Graham considers positive, have taken negative connotations, as if they meant all paths to God were equally valid.” (emphasis mine)

Graham and Schuller on May 31, 1997:

“SCHULLER: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?

GRAHAM: Well, Christianity and being a true believer — you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ … I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ, because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.” (emphasis mine)

“SCHULLER: What, what I hear you saying, that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?

GRAHAM: Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they’ve tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.” (emphasis mine)

"SCHULLER: [R.S. trips over his tongue for a moment, his face beaming, then says] I'm so thrilled to hear you say this. There's a wideness in God's mercy. (emphasis mine)

GRAHAM: There is. There definitely is."

Graham in January 1978:

“I used to believe that pagans in far countries were lost if they did not have the gospel of Christ preached to them.. I no longer believe that.” (McCall’s, January, 1978).

Here you get just a sampling of what Graham has said for the lat 28 years. Like I said, one cannot take his comments from the latest Newsweek article and think this is an anomaly. He has been saying this for more than a quarter century. Were one remove the name and simply took the statements themselves, one would come to the conclusion that this person was more influenced by the Vatican II than Scripture, lining up with Catholic theologians Karl Rahner, Gavin D’Costa, and Jacques Dupuis than Ronald Nash, R. Douglass Geivett, or John Piper. As Graham has sought to broaden his base and become more inclusivistic, he has been forced to ride the fence on issues which do not allow it. You hear him making statements like, “I feel I belong to all churches. I am equally at home in an Anglican or Baptist or a Brethren assembly or a Roman Catholic church. I would identify with the customs and the culture and the theology of that particular church” (David Frost, Billy Graham in Conversation, 68) which make you wonder if his theology drives understanding of the gospel, the church, and even God. While Graham has adapted an agnostic claim on those without Jesus, the Bible makes it very clear where God the Father stands. Consider the Scriptures:

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:9-13
It doesn’t get any clearer than that. And God’s testimony is much greater—even greater than Billy Graham’s. Indeed, we can know that we have eternal life, because whoever has the Son has eternal life which has been granted by the Father. This testimony all Christians have in themselves, for God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). Ironically enough, as I was driving home this morning from work, I was reminded of my paper which I wrote for Dr. Moore in which I addressed the role of general revelation in the fate of the unevangelized. It was my first paper here at Southern. From my research and studies that semester, I was launched into a field of religious pluralism that has marked my theological education for the past three years. In that paper, I argued against inclusivists like Rahner, Clark Pinnock, and John Sanders. I made my case very clear where I believe the Bible stands. Obviously, as I received my paper (and even a personal phone call) back, Dr. Moore whole-heartedly agreed. However, it would have been no different had I put Billy Graham’s name next to Pinnock, Sanders, Grenz, or any other our school disagrees with, and were Graham to write a paper on his views of salvation, I am quite certain he would not get an “A” in Dr. Moore’s class. My point is simply this: when someone is wrong, let us lovingly yet truthfully make it plain that they are in error and seek to bring them back to a biblical understanding of the gospel. This is my hope and prayer for Billy Graham and others who have been influenced by him to adopt a view of the gospel and salvation apart from the saving knowledge of Christ. Just this past December, I eulogized my grandfather who died at the age of 89. Graham is 87 right now, so there is some similarity. My granddad was a graduate of Southern Seminary in 1943 and was the first in our family to ever have a high school diploma. He went on to minister for 64 years laboring among people who needed Jesus. As a chaplain in both wars and VA hospitals to pastoring little churches all across the heartland of America, my grandfather ran the race and finished strong. What you see here is his Bible which he preached from an a sermon entitled "Prepare to Meet Thy God" (preached on Sept. 10, 1950). In the center of the page you will find the words, "Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Only Way to God." Although at the end of his life, where he could not speak and battled Alzheimer’s, he could still pray and smile when you talked about Jesus. Now he has met his God and is worshipping at his Savior’s feet. Billy Graham is at the close of the last chapter of his life. It would be tragic to see the last pages written with interviews where he backtracked and retracted the convictions which bound his conscience to God’s Word. Having just witnessed the last days and breaths of my granddad, it has made me all the more sensitive to Graham and my hopes that he finish strong. Like Paul, I hope it can be said:

“I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
My granddad never merited an interview except from the little ones which loved to sit on his lap. He never preached to more than a couple hundred at a time. But by God’s grace, He ran the race faithfully. No matter how big or small you are in the world’s eyes, we are nothing without Jesus. And as we reflect on what it means to preach the word, in season and out of season, to endure suffering, to do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill our ministry, may we ever be mindful to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). *************************** Note: Over the past couple of days, I have had the exciting privilege of catching up with a man I mentioned in the comments section of my previous post. His name is Larry Backlund, and he has served as the President of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism across America. He has been very kind to email me, and I am hoping to meet up with him during the week I am in Minneapolis. Having known Graham personally, Mr. Backlund said, "I DO know where Mr. Graham stands on the Cross and the Gospel and the Bible." While he mentioned that he hasn't read the articles, he is certain that Graham holds strongly to the gospel and inerrancy of Scripture. Speaking of that, I was able to find an article in which Graham speaks of that now well-known crisis in the summer of 1949. You can access it by going here.

************************** Below are some selected works I picked out that would be helpful for further study. Tomorrow, I am going to post some specific questions that, were I able to sit down an interview Graham myself, I would ask him concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some selected works to consider:

“A ‘Paradigm Case’: Billy Graham and the Nature of Conversion” in Evangelical Landscapes: Facing Critical Issues of the Day by John G. Stackhouse (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002): 103-20.

Drummond, Lewis. The Evangelist: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham. Nashville: Word, 2001.

Frost, David. Billy Graham in Conversation. Oxford: Lion, 1998.

Graham, Billy. How to Be Born Again. Dallas: Word, 1989.

_________. Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham.. London: HarperCollins, 1997. Johnson, Thomas Paul. Examining Billy Graham’s Theology of Evangelism. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003. Martin, William. A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story. New York: William Morrow, 1991. Murray, Iain H. Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000. Pokki, Timo. America’s Preacher and His Message: Bill Graham’s View of Conversion and Sanctification. Landham, MD: University Press of America, 1999.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Above All Earthly . . . Blogs

I am aware that many of you have either started or are looking to start reading David Wells’ latest book, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World. Since there are so many people reading it and a great deal to talk about in the book, a couple of friends of mine have started a blog for the expressed purpose of discussing the book. The blog, aptly called, is Above All Earthly Pow’rs, and I encourage you to check it out if this book is anywhere on your radar screen.

Shannon McKenzie, who came up with the idea, is welcoming anyone who wishes to contribute with their thoughts through posting and will add you as a contributor. K. Elijah Mayfield has also put together a reading plan which takes small chunks at a time in a disciplined and chronological fashion which would serve the blog well. Of course, if you choose not to be a contributor, you are welcome to comment on anything written!

I haven’t written anything yet, but I hope to have something up this week. You might be asking about how to got about joining. If you are, here is what you should do:

  1. Email Shannon at Shannon [at]treasuringchrist[dot]net and let him know that you are interested. He will fill you in on the details.
  2. Go to the original post and check the calendar dates for the scheduled reading. The idea is to write about that particular section (corresponding to the date) of the book in a blogpost, your reflections, thoughts, or just a review of the material.
  3. If you come in late, you are welcome to write about previous sections as well, but we wish that you do not get ahead of the scheduled reading as it would not contribute to the discussion. Therefore, write a post about the whole book would not work, neither would your thoughts on Chapter 6 when we would be on Chapter 2. You get the idea.
  4. Lastly, it would be helpful if you do post to read other folks posts as well. In other words, interact, critique, and affirm.

I think this book deserves meaningful discourse and interaction, and I am heartened to see that Shannon and Elijah have taken up this endeavor. For those planning on attending the Desiring God National Conference, this blog may have particular interest to you. In any case, please check it out. It would be worth your time.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday Thoughts

Here are some thoughts I had today . . . * After hearing news of the plane crash in Lexington, I couldn't help but think about the questions which will inevitably be asked (usually on Larry King Live) as they were when 911, the tsunami, and Katrina happened. Questions like "Where was God that Sunday morning?" or "How could God allow this to happen?" To take the paradigm of Rabbi Kushner who wrote Why Does Bad Things Happen to Good People, the argument goes that either God is all-powerful or all-good, but he cannot be both. Some would argue that he could not be all-knowing, for if he were to know that this would happen and didn't stop it, he would not be a good God, and if he couldn't stop it, he wouldn't be all-powerful. These are important questions which Christians must think hard about and humbly respond to with grace. Too many leading evangelicals will want to dismiss God (as Tony Compolo recently has) and say He has nothing to with it. Such an unbiblical response is neither helpful to those suffering nor honorable to God. May God give us wisdom, compassion, and seasoned speech to give an answer for the hope that is within us with gentleness and kindness. * On another note, I usually don't listen to the radio on the way home from church. I usually listen to my wife and talk about the mornings message or Sunday School. She was back in Athens this weekend, so I turned the radio on to the Christian station here in Louisville. A prominent charismatic preacher was on there foretelling (once again) that the rapture is going to take place in "four to six years." When I was in college in 1997, I was told this very same thing (except that Jesus would come back in 1998). He went on to say that there was a pyramid-shaped oil reservoir underneath Israel which would suck all the oil from the Middle East and bring wealth to the nation of Israel. The text he was eisegeting had the word "spoil" in it somewhere, and he proofed his interpretation by saying, "Just take the "s" and the "p" off, and what do you get? Oil." I didn't know to laugh or to shout at the console. It was deplorable - one of the worst messages I have ever heard. Scary and crafty, but horrible. * After helping my dear friend Terri move her stuff before leaving for D.C., I went to Books-a-Million to catch up on some reading before church tonight. I decided to go down the magazine section in hopes of finding the latest issue of Christianity Today. Guess what? Out of the hundreds and hundreds of magazines there in the store (some I have no idea who in the world buys them), they did not have Christianity Today. Ironically, I did find two issues of Biblical Archeology. Some things I just don't understand. * Dorcas Hawker linked up to my previous post on worship and has some thoughts as well. I mentioned in a comment that we need to recover a healthy balance of transcendence and immanence in our worship, which is very difficult to do because of our man-centered, existentialist approach. Her comments prompted me to go back and read some of A.W. Tozer regarding worship. Two books I would recommend to you are Whatever Happened to Worship? and Tozer on Worship and Entertainment. I hope to post some quotes sometime soon. * I spend a lot of time this weekend researching Universalism and Hell (if you have read back in previous posts, you would know this is a major topic for me this Fall). I hope to provide you with a bibliography of some resources very soon. In the meantime, let me provide you a quote and see if you can guess who penned it. Here it goes: (No Googling - that's cheating!)

"There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. . . . I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture."
Have at it. Blessings and see you tomorrow.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Liars in Perfect Harmony

This weekend I am working my way through Paul Little’s How to Give Way Your Faith for review and critique for my personal evangelism class. From what I have read thus far, there are some points which Little emphasizes that I appreciate and others where I see where we differ on soteriological grounds. But one place where we do not differ is the importance of having an authentic witness which involves more than the “gospel-pill” and “quick-fix” witnessing as he puts it. One paragraph that caught my attention has more to do with worship than evangelism, although there is definitely a relationship between the two. Here is what Little said:

“It has been observed, wisely I think, that hymns and choruses make liars of us all. We sing of glorious Christian experiences as though they were our very own, and yet they are not. Hymns of commitment are probably the ones most often sung without putting the words into action. When we mouth truths without thought or meaning, it leads us to accept an unreal experience as the norm. Without realizing it, we’re actually living a lie. It is lamentable that our rich heritage of Christian music may lead us to substitute a fiction for the real thing” (28). Emphasis mine.

How true is this statement! While I acknowledge that CCM and praise choruses have taken a beating lately (and mostly deserved), there is just as much (or more) a danger of singing as liars in perfect harmony than crying in one of those ‘Jesus is my girlfriend” choruses. Frankly, worship is dangerous these days, and I have often found myself struggling internally over songs with progressive key changes that evoke a lifted hand along with lyrics which find there reference point in my will rather than the unchanging, glorious character of God.

So what are we do to when songs are sung that say, “I will follow you all of my days” when you know you won’t? Or “I will worship, I will bow down, I will give you all of my praise,” when you know you aren’t? Or “In the presence of a thousand kings, you are my one desire,” when you know he isn’t? The songs are legion here, and inasmuch as they have become imbedded in our worship services, they have made liars out of us all.

Now it is incumbent for me to make a caveat here. I am NOT saying that we should not worship God and dedicate our lives to him, nor am I saying that since we are sinners who are saved by grace we should not sing songs that include passionate and emotional responses to God. After all, Scripture tells us that it is God who both wills and works in us according to his good pleasure. But in the same token, let us be mindful of David when he confessed, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being” (Psalm 51:6) and also prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). So as we consider what it means to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” I am longing to be truthful to myself. I don’t want to be a liar at any time, but especially not in worship to Him who “discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:2) and is intimately acquainted with all my ways! To have integrity in worship may mean that we keep our mouths shut during songs which do not convey the reality of our lives. After all, God is after the purity of hearts, not the harmony of our voices.

I realize that this is a touchy subject as “worship wars” has been ongoing my entire lifetime. I am not advocating a style of worship but rather a spirit of truth and a desire to be authentic in our worship and our witness. My prayer is that our affections would rise to the level of our affirmations, that the beauty and excellencies of Jesus Christ will find harmony in our worship and way of life which would prove to be much louder than words and a sweeter song in our Savior’s ears.

Most of us are not songwriters, but I guess you could say that every day of our lives could be “a hymn of praise” to God. If that is the case, then what song is being sung? If we, a people committed to the truth, being truthful to ourselves? To our fellow brothers and sisters? To our world? Or are we, as the song goes, singing:

I am a whore I do confess I put you on just like a wedding dress And I run down the aisle And I run down the aisle I’m a prodigal with no way home I put you on just like a ring of gold And I run down the aisle to you

May God find us as children in the kingdom that represent the King and His worth with truth on our lips, rooted in our hearts, and manifested in our lives.

Friday, August 25, 2006

POTW :: 08.25.06 :: bigstick

{Click to enlarge}
This the well-known Louisville Slugger bat in front of the museum here in Louisville, Kentucky. I took this photo earlier this summer when some fam came up. I enjoyed the flare action I received from shooting into the sun as well as underexposing the woodgrain to bring out a little detail. Well, I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! To go to my Flickr page, go here. To go to the Friday Photo group, go here.
Here's the exif data for the photogs: Camera: Canon 20D Lens: 28-135mm IS USM Focal Length: 28mmTv: 1/2000 sec Av: f/4.5 ISO: 200 WB: Custom (6000k) I in no way want to be exclusionary by not linking to everyone with a Friday special, but the number of participants is simply getting too big to link everyone. If you have a photo for the Friday Photo group, be sure to put it here. For poetry and prose, check out Brent Thomas, and for church history, see William Turner.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Resurgence of Steve Lemke's Argument Against Calvinism

I went to the bookstore the other day to pick up the latest copy of Christianity Today only to find that the August edition is still out, so it is obvious that the only information I have received about the cover story about the resurgence of Calvinism is through secondary sources. Another source came yesterday, as Tom Ascol shared his thoughts on the article. One part of the article I had not heard was the comments made by Dr. Steve Lemke who once against took opportunity to argue the historically fallacious position that a firm belief in the doctrines of grace somehow diminishes a passion for missions and evangelism. Dr. Ascol has addressed Lemke's "white paper" in a series of blogposts, so it is not necessary to rehash his rebuttal to Lemke. However, what is interesting is Lemke's renewed commitment to being wrong after having been debunked with a humble, honest, and open critique of his poor research and faulty conclusions. When one holds to a position that is obviously in error and still refuses to admit it, there is something motivating and driving that impulse other than the truth, for if one would square with the truth, these perpetuating statements wouldn't surface in print media. Many have experienced such a case in Dave Hunt's attempts to dismantle Calvinism after having been rebutted time and again by James White, refusing open discussion or debate of Scripture or history. Being in such a predicament is not desirable nor virtuous, so one must hope that hearing the other side of the story from an objective perspective would change one's disposition, if not position altogether. In the Christianity Today article, Lemke makes the following comment.

"For many people, if they're convinced that God has already elected those who will be elect ... I don't see how humanly speaking that can't temper your passion, because you know you're not that crucial to the process."

For the life of me, I do not understand how Lemke can make such a demonstrable error to think that a conviction to unconditional election equals a tempered passion for reaching the lost. Calvinists actually believe in evangelism and the gospel more than Arminians because they believe God has not only ordained the ends (salvation) but the means (the preaching of the gospel) as well. They also believe that God does not just make salvation possible but actually saves sinners, and uses His people in the process. The God who draws sinners by an effectual call also infuses a passion within the heart of the Christian to preach the gospel. That is why Paul, who believed that God had chosen those would be saved before the foundation of the world could also exclaim, "Woe to me if I don't preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16, cf. Rom. 9:3; 10:1). I have addressed this in greater detail, including the references to Dr. Lemke's paper in an article called "Corrupted Evangelism and the Recovery of Means." To argue that Calvinists believe they are not crucial to the process is to tacitly acknowledge that one knows little about evangelical Calvinism. I guess my point regarding Dr. Lemke and others who have disagreements with Calvinism is this: if you disagree with Calvinism personally, that's fine. No problem here. But when you attempt to explain why you disagree without the witness of church history (and Baptist history in particular) and biblical support, it is hard to accept your disagreements as plausible. Sure, Christianity Today will include you in their print articles, but what does that mean anyway?

McKnight on Emerging Orthodoxy

Last week (I think), Scot McKnight put together a series of posts on the Emerging Church and orthodoxy. I found this series particularly interesting, as I have being doing a little research over the past couple of months on this. For now, let me provide the links as I will address this in the near future with particular attention given to theology, orthodoxy, and pluralism.

Here are Scot McKnight’s posts:

Emerging Orthodoxy 1 (creeds and examples) Emerging Orthodoxy 2 (Scriptural defense/examples of creeds) Emerging Orthodoxy 3 (creeds and the emerging church) Emerging Orthodoxy 4 (creeds and the local church) Oh, and here is McKnight’s commentary on orthodoxy and the emerging church:

So, where does that leave the emerging movement and orthodoxy? I’ll speak my mind. I think some in the first group are not so convinced creedal orthodoxy (or any other kind) is all that important. Not all who have been touched by the postmodern shift are against creeds, but some have big issues — some suggest they are historic documents we respect but are not tied to. And there are some who simply no longer believe such things. The praxis impulse, on the other hand, is I suspect more committed to the orthodox creeds, even evangelical ones, than not. The postevangelical impulse, I suspect, opens up two points of view: some are still evangelical in theology and find great freshness in the shorter more historic creedal statements, while others are more joined at the hip with the pomo impulse and want to question the place of orthodox creeds. Some, I suspect, are willing to reduce the Christian faith to “following Jesus” in behavior — and that is all that matters.

I’m not sure about the political impulse, but I think this impulse is probably in tune with pomo and postevangelical impuse [sic], along with a commitment to justice that is so central that orthodox creeds aren’t part of the equation.

Now here’s my claim: the emerging conversation is for all of these sorts (in fact it already comprises all these sorts). But, what that means is that some think orthodoxy really matters (I do) while others think it doesn’t. The conversation is open to both kinds. The conversation is no more only for those who have jettisoned the path of orthodoxy than it is only for those who adhere to orthodoxy. This makes emergent a special movement; there aren’t many like this. I don’t agree with those who are universalists, but I think that question is being asked today and I want to participate in that conversation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"What Is a True Calvinist?" Part Three: Grateful Heart and Submitted Will

I am currently posting a six-part series called “What Is a True Calvinist?” based on the booklet written by Phillip Ryken which can also be found in the book, Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (chapter eight) by James Montgomery Boice and Ryken (Crossway, 2002). The purpose of these posts are not to give detailed expositions of the five points of Calvinism but to express in summary form the heart of a true Calvinist and the impact the biblical truths of Calvinism on the Christian life. For previous posts, see Part One and Part Two.

Grateful Heart

Ryken continues his answer to the question, “What is a true Calvinist?” by expounding upon a grateful heart and submissive will. He shares that “the only proper response to such amazing grace is profound gratitude. If God has touched us with his mercy, thereby infallibly securing our salvation, then we must thank him with grateful hearts” (15). If such a salvation provided and accomplished by God so that no man can boast, if our election is not based on anything foreseen or meritorious within us so that God is “the source of our life in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30), what else could one have but a heart of gratitude that never ceases to be amazed by grace nor gets over “so great a salvation” of which they have become partakers?

Abraham Kuyper shares that the true Calvinist is someone “who in his own soul, personally, has been struck by the Majesty of the Almighty, and yielding to the overpowering might of his eternal Love, has dared to proclaim this majestic love over against Satan and the world, and the worldliness of his own heart, in the personal conviction of being chosen by God Himself, and therefore of having to thank Him and Him alone, for every grace everlasting” (15). Is this not the testimony of the apostles and the early church? At their very best, when all duty, sacrifice, and service has been fulfilled, the only reply from comes forth, saying, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).

Both Peter and Paul began their writings with pronouncements of blessings upon God. Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Paul adds, saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4). The depth of Paul’s gratitude to God for his sovereign mercy and electing grace was remarkably profound. He who confessed that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and exclaimed that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10) recognized that one should “give thanks in everything” (1 Thess. 5:18), for he knew that in everything God has shown Himself good, gracious, and glorious.

Submissive Will

Following through the example of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 6:1-8), Ryken shares that the response of a grateful heart to as a recipient of marvelous mercy is a submissive spirit that cries out, “Here am I. Send me!”

Al Martin explains how God makes a Calvinist:

“In one way or another he gives him such a sight of his own majesty and sovereignty and holiness as the high and the lofty One, that it brings with it a deep, experimental acquaintance with human sinfulness personally and in terms of our own generation. It brings experimental acquaintance with the grace of God, and intimate acquaintance with the voice of God, an utter resignation to the will and the ways of God” (17). Emphasis mine.

I particularly like the assertions of “experimental and intimate acquaintance” with the grace, voice, will, and ways of God, for it is possible to know God theoretically as some abstract construct in our minds which can easily lead to cold, barren, and lifeless souls. To have such an acquaintance with God, our wills must be made live, changed, and empowered. As Ryken reveals, “The doctrines of grace teach us that, in salvation, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is true every step of the way. Long before we could ever choose for God, the Father chose us in Christ (unconditional election). When we were unable to remove our guilt (radical depravity), the Son died for our sins (particular redemption). When we would not come to God in faith, the Spirit drew us by his efficacious grace and he will keep us in the way of salvation to the very end (perseverance). The doctrines of grace thus require the sinner to accept the sovereignty of God in salvation” (17-18). The umbrella of these truths is the conviction that God monergistically works salvation in a Trinitarian fashion where God the Father chooses the sinner, Jesus dies for the sinner, and the Holy Spirit brings the sinner to new life (regeneration). The opposing position is called synergism where salvation is both the work of God and the work of an autonomous agent whose free will exists outside the realm of God’s sovereignty. That will does not have to be submitted to the sovereignty of God according to this position, for were it to do so, according to the proponents of synergism, then the human agent would not be truly free. When asked, “What is a true Calvinist?,” B.B. Warfield responded by saying that they are “humble souls, who, in the quiet of retired lives, have caught a vision of God in His glory and are cherishing in their hearts that vital flame of complete dependence on Him which is the very essence of Calvinism” (19). Throughout the pamphlet, Ryken iterates the importance of having an attitude of dependence and casting oneself entirely upon God’s mercy as the disposition of a submitted will to a sovereign God. This dependence occurs particularly within two practical areas where a submitted will manifests its change—namely the prayer life and evangelistic fervor. Regarding prayer, J.I. Packer observed, “The Calvinist is the Christian who confesses before men in his theology just what he believes in his heart before God when he prays” (19). In the same vane, Warfield adds, “The Calvinist is the man who is determined to preserve the attitude he takes in prayer in all his thinking, in all his feeling, in all his doing. . . . Other men are Calvinists on their knees; the Calvinist is the man who is determined that his intellect, and heart, and will shall remain on their knees continually, and only from this attitude think, feel, and act” (19-20).

Ryken adds that such an attitude of dependence should “characterize the Christian’s entire approach to evangelism. True evangelism is entirely dependent on God for its success: the regeneration of the sinner’s mind and heart is the work of God’s Spirit” (20). It is precisely at this point that many Calvinists have suffered through the mischaracterizations that holding to a high view of God’s sovereignty diminishes evangelistic fervor and a robust commitment to the Great Commission. Anyone who knows church history can give a laundry list to disprove that notion, but two most recent works profitable for that discussion would be J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God and Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People. So why does a Calvinist surrender to God’s will in sharing the gospel? Ryken answers and says, “ . . . because God’s sovereignty in grace gives the only hope of success” (20).

Put together, Ryken concludes with the following statement:

“Prayer is the heart’s surrender to the will of God. Those who believe most strongly in the sovereignty of grace ought to be more persistent in asking God to do what only he can do, and that is to save sinners” (21). There is a whole host of rich and deep theological discussion here, including God’s providence, the relationship between sovereignty and free will, primary and secondary causation, determinism and indeterminism, and God’s purposes in prayer and witnesses to include us in bringing him glory. I hope to share more about that last point in a later post, but suffice it to say, one cannot be a true Calvinist without having a grateful heart and submissive will.

Tell It Like It Is, Mr. Driscoll

Update: For a much more entertaining article about Driscoll, be sure to check out Challies' reporting on the upcoming issue of Preaching Illustrated and the "theo-doping" scandal. One of the things that I really appreciate about Mark Driscoll is that you do not have to ask him to parse his words to figure out what he is saying. He is the antithesis of many voices in the postmodern culture who seem to revel in ambiguity and vagueness. In his recent article, “Now the Mainline Churches Make Sense,” Driscoll shares a scene with he and his son in conversation about dead, liberal churches. In summary, he gives ten easy steps to destroying a denomination. Here they are:

  1. Have a low view of Scripture and, consequently, the deity of Jesus.
  2. Deny that we were made male and female by God, equal but with distinct roles in the home and church.
  3. Ordain liberal women in the name of tolerance and diversity.
  4. Have those liberal women help to ordain gay men in the name of greater tolerance and diversity.
  5. Accept the worship of other religions and their gods in the name of still greater tolerance and diversity.
  6. Become so tolerant that you, in effect, become intolerant of people who love Jesus and read their Bible without scoffing and snickering.
  7. End up with only a handful of people who are all the same kind of intolerant liberals in the name of tolerance and diversity.
  8. Watch the Holy Spirit depart from your churches and take people who love Jesus with Him.
  9. Fail to repent but become more committed than ever to your sinful agenda.
  10. See Jesus pull rank, judge you, and send some of your pastors to hell to be tormented by Him forever because He will no longer tolerate your diversity.

God forbid that the Southern Baptist Convention go back to its liberal past of recent decades. On the other hand, I am most encouraged by many of the younger voices in the evangelical world like Driscoll, Keller, JT, and Josh Harris. May there be one, biblical, clarion, and unalterable voice among future Southern Baptist leaders for the sake of Jesus and His Church.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Needy

Below is a prayer that I have kept before me for the past three days. It has transcribed the disposition of my heart better than any I can think of. I have had the acute recognition of my neediness in recent weeks, and my heart has been yearning yet troubled. I hope to memorize this and make it a constant piece of meditation during my days . . . Lord Jesus, I am blind, be thou my light, ignorant, be thou my wisdom, self-willed, be thou my mind. Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit’s voice, and delightfully run after his beckoning hand; Melt my conscience that no hardness remain, make it alive to evil’s slightest touch; When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds, and there cease to tremble at all alarms. Be my good shepherd to lead me into the green pastures of thy Word, and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts. Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales may ruffle the calm surface of my soul. Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge, Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean, Thy death occurred to give me a surety, Thy name is my property to save me, By thee all heaven is poured into my heart, but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love. I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel, but thy cross has brought me near, has softened my heart, has made me thy Father’s child, has admitted me to thy family, has made me join-heir with thyself. O that I may love thee as thou lovest me, that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord, that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born. May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith, and to feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart, for unless he moves mightily in me no inward fire will be kindled. The prayer can be found in The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett.

 
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D’Costa, Gavin. “Karl Rahner’s Anonymous Christian—A Reappraisal.” Modern Theology 1/2 (January 1985): 131-48.

Fudge, Edward. “How Wide Is God’s Mercy?” Christianity Today 36 (April 27, 1992): 30-33.

Grenz, Stanley J. “Commitment and Dialogue: Pannenberg on Christianity and the Religions.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 26 (Winter 1989): 196-210.

_________. “Toward an Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 31 (Winter-Spring 1995): 49-65.

Osburn, Evert D. “Those Who Have Never Heard: Have They No Hope?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 32/3 (September 1989): 367-72.

Yong, Amos. “Whither Theological Inclusivism? The Development and Critique of an Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Evangelical Quarterly 71/4 (October 1999): 349-57.

Pinnock, Clark H. “Toward An Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33/3 (September 1990): 359-68.

_________ “Why Is Jesus the Only Way?: No Other Way, Truth or Life Open to God.” Eternity 27/12 (1976): 12-34.

Sanders, John. “Is Belief in Christ Necessary for Salvation?” Evangelical Quarterly 60 (July 1988): 241-59.

Books/Essays Against Inclusivism:

Carson, D.A. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Fernando, Ajith. The Supremacy of Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1995.

Geivett, R. Douglass and Clark Pinnock. “‘Misgivings’ and ‘Openness’: A Dialogue on Inclusivism Between R. Douglass Geivett and Clark Pinnock.” In Who Will Be Saved?: Defending the Biblical Understanding of God, Salvation, & Evangelism. edited by Paul R. House and Gregory A. Thornbury, 111-28. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000.

Henry, Carl F.H. “Is It Fair?” in Through No Fault of Their Own? The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. eds. William V. Crockett and James G. Sigountos, 245-56. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

House, Paul R. and Gregory A. Thornbury eds. Who Will Be Saved?: Defending the Biblical Understanding of God, Salvation, and Evangelism. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000.

House, Paul R, Timothy George, Carl F.H. Henry, D.A. Carson, Scott Hafemann, and C. Ben Mitchell. “Forum Discussion on Inclusivism.” In Who Will Be Saved?: Defending the Biblical Understanding of God, Salvation, & Evangelism. edited by Paul R. House and Gregory A. Thornbury, 145-62. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000.

Moo, Douglas. “Romans 2: Saved Apart from the Gospel?” in Through No Fault of Their Own?: The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. eds. William V. Crockett and James G. Sigountos, 137-45. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Noll, Mark A. and David F. Wells. Christian Faith and Practice in the Modern World: Theology from an Evangelist Point of View. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Okholm, Dennis L. and Timothy R. Phillips, eds. Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.

Plantinga, Alvin. “A Defense of Religious Exclusivism,” in Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, 2nd ed. Louis Pojman ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1994. 528-44.

Ramesh, Richard P. The Population of Heaven. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.

Ryken, Phillip Graham. Is Jesus the Only Way? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999.

Sanders, J. Oswald. What of the Unevangelized? Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1999.

Strange, Daniel. The Possibility of Salvation Among the Unevangelized: An Analysis of Inclusivism in Recent Evangelical Theology. Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 2002.

Other Books:

Bavinck, J.H. The Church Between the Temple and Mosque: A Study of the Relationship Between the Christian Faith and Other Religions. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966.

Crockett, William V. and James G. Sigountos, eds. Through No Fault of Their Own? The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

Erickson, Millard J. How Shall They Be Saved? The Destiny of Those Who Do Not Hear of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.

Jones, Hywel R. Only One Way: Do You Have to Believe in Christ to be Saved? Kent: Day One, 1996.

Jonsson, John H. Vatican II and World Religions. Louisville, KY: SBTS, 1986.

Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to the Theology of Religions: Biblical, Historical, & Contemporary Perspectives. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003.

Neill, Stephen. Christian Faith and Other Faiths: The Christian Dialogue with Other Religions. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

Shenk, Calvin E. Who Do You Say That I Am?: Christians Encounter Other Religions. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1997.

Other Articles:

Ashcraft, Morris. “The Finality of Christ and the World Religions.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 21/2 (Spring 1979): 23-39.

Blue, J. Ronald. “Untold Billions: Are They Really Lost?” Bibliotheca Sacra 138/52 (Oct-Dec 1981): 338-50.

Brown, Harold. “How Crowded Will Hell Be?” Christianity Today 36/10 (September 14, 1992): 39-40.

Campbell, Iain D. “The Possibility of Salvation Among the Unevangelized: An Analysis of Inclusivism in Recent Evangelical Theology.” Westminster Theological Journal 65/2 (Fall 2003): 390-92.

Erickson, Millard J. “Hope for Those Who Have Never Heard? Yes, But . . . .” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 11/2 (April 1975): 122.

_________. “The Destiny of the Unevangelised.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 152 (January-March 1995): 3-15; 152 (April-June 1995): 113-44; 152 (July-September 1995): 259-72.

Ferrante, Joseph. “The Final Destiny of Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel.” Trinity Studies 1/1 (Fall 1971): 55-62.

McWilliams, Warren. “Spirit Christology and Inclusivism: Clark Pinnock’s Evangelical Theology of Religions.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 24 (Fall 1997): 325-36.

Reichenbach, Bruce R. “Inclusivism and the Atonement.” Faith and Philosophy 16/1 (January 1999): 43-54.

Richard, Ramesh P. “Soteriological Inclusivism and Dispensationalism.” Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (January-March 1994): 85-108.

Wright, Christopher J.H. “The Christian and Other Religions: The Biblical Evidence.” Themelios 9/2 (January 1984): 4-15.

Note: Future Bibliographies in the works include: Universalism and Hell, John Hick/Pluralism, David F. Wells, and Billy Graham's Theology of Evangelism and Conversion.

|W|P|115701509882001074|W|P|Re: Inclusivism - A Concise Bibliography|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com9/02/2006 10:12:00 AM|W|P|Blogger blake white|W|P|Thanks for this. Is John Stott an inclusivist?? Seems inconsistent.9/02/2006 01:50:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Timmy|W|P|Blake,

I would call Stott a "soft inclusivist" who takes an eschatologically hopeful view where he argues against the idea that "only a few will be saved." He also adopts the post-enlightenment agnostic approach of McGrath. Below is a quote from his book The Contemporary Christian, but you would find more from another source, namely

Edwards, David L. and John R.W. Stott. Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988.

Here's the quote:

"What we do not know, however, is exactly how much knowledge and understanding of the gospel people need before they can cry to God for mercy and be saved. In the Old Testament, people were certainly 'justified by grace through faith,' even though they had little knowledge or expectation of Christ. Perhaps there are others today in a somewhat similar position. They konw they are sinful and guilty before God, and that they cannot do anything to win his favour, so in self-despair they call upon the God they dimly perceive to save them. If God does save such, as many evangelicals tentatively believe, their salvation is still only by grace, only through Christ, only by faith."

And later he says,

"Although we have solid biblical grounds for cherishing this expectation [that the final number of God's redeemed people will be countless], we are not told how God will achieve it."

Source: The Contemporary Christian, 319.

I would call Stott a soft inclusivist because he argues that there will be some who will be saved apart from specific knowledge about Jesus Christ, who through general revelation (content) trust in God but not in the person of Jesus Christ. This is a soft position, contrary to Pinnock, Sanders, et al., but I do not see how one could call Stott an exclusivist. I will see if I can get some qotes from the other book aforementioned.

Hope that helps.9/04/2006 09:46:00 PM|W|P|Blogger blake white|W|P|Thanks bro. That helps. I do remeber now that Piper goes after Stott (at least in the footnotes) in 'Let the Nations Be Glad.' See you in class.12/06/2006 06:19:00 AM|W|P|Blogger -sirhemlock@yahoo.com|W|P|Stott is a representative of a slightly nuanced category: Agonostic But Open to the Inclusivist Position: "I believe the most Christian stance is to remain agnostic on this question.... The fact is that God, alongside the most solemn warnings about our responsibility to respond to the gospel, has not revealed how he will deal with those who have never heard it." (John Stott, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1988), 327). Similarly, Timothy Philips, Aida Besanton Spencer, and Tite Tienou "prefer to leave the matter in the hands of God." (Through No Fault of Their Own, 259, footnote. 3). For one of the best online defenses of Inclusivism see
http://www.ukapologetics.net/evinc.htm6/13/2014 10:41:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Samuel Maynes|W|P|If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism and the Trinity, please check out my website at www.religiouspluralism.ca. It previews my book, which has not been published yet and is still a “work-in-progress.” Your constructive criticism would be very much appreciated.

My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or "Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the "body of Christ" (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

* The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

For more details, please see: www.religiouspluralism.ca

Samuel Stuart Maynes

8/30/2006 04:14:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|At the close of yesterday’s article, I shared that I think more clarification is needed regarding Billy Graham’s theology of religions and exclusivity of the gospel. On several occasions, Graham has tacitly denied one of the most important issues of the Christian faith—the necessity, extent and efficaciousness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His redemptive plan through His Spirit and Church. Because I would attempt to probe into these issues and press for theological precision, Graham’s interviewers would label me as one of those “rigid” traditionalists. And that’s okay with me, so long as they are referring to classical Christianity as expressed in a firm conviction in sola Scriptura and solus Christus along with due treatment to the conciliar creeds formative to orthodox Christianity. One does not have to go far in church history to find that the early Church continually had to define, clarify, and become more precise in their beliefs in order to refute heresies—heresies that would simply change a word here or take a word out there and completely alter the definition of an essential doctrine to the Christian faith. We can find this in such heresies as Arianism, Nestorianism, Doceticism, Apollynarianism, Modalism, and so on. The Definition of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) is a word-specific, theologically precise definition which unified the Church. Other creeds and historical documents universally agreed upon were not the result of development new doctrines or formulating new beliefs but rather the clarification and acknowledgment of beliefs and doctrines held from the beginning of the church. New heresies and false teachers come with each generation, and it is necessary for Christians to care for sound doctrine, to give a defense for the gospel, and to contend for the faith once for all handed down to the saints.
So with that said, I would like to post . . .

15 Questions I Would Ask Billy Graham

  1. Do you believe that a sinner must have knowledge about Jesus Christ in order to be saved?
  2. Do you believe that a sinner can be saved and not know it?
  3. Do you believe that other religions are included in God’s redemptive purposes, either as viable “vehicles” of salvation or find their fulfillment in Christ(ianity)?
  4. Do you believe that a sinner who has never heard the gospel will go to hell?
  5. Do you believe that a sinner can respond positively to general revelation and be saved by that light?
  6. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit accomplishes another work of redemption apart from Christ and His Church?
  7. Do you believe that a sinner can experience a post-mortem encounter with Jesus if he did not have the opportunity to hear the gospel in their lifetime?
  8. Do you believe that a sinner has to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel to go to hell? In other words, what qualifies a person to go to hell when they die?
  9. How do you define lostness?
  10. You have stated that only through Christ a person can be saved. How would you define the content of saving faith placed in Christ? Can it be implicit as well as explicit?
  11. Do you agree with this statement by Vatican II, “Those who can attain to everlasting salvation who through on fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of their conscience”?
  12. Do you believe there is a distinction between a believer in God and a Christian?
  13. Would you agree that “outside the Church, there is no salvation” (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus)? How so?
  14. You have mentioned often about the love of God as a motivating rationale for your inclusive beliefs. How do you believe the love of God is balanced with his other attributes such as holiness, justice, and righteousness?
  15. Finally, do you believe that Christianity as defined by Christ and the Scriptures is sufficient and satisfactory for explaining God’s purposes on earth, or do you believe that Christianity must learn from other religions and integrate other religious beliefs consonant to Christian ideals?

These are 15 questions that I thought of today specifically related to Graham’s statements. How Graham would answer these questions would clarify a great deal about his belief in the gospel, other religions, and the nature of his exclusivism (whether he is of the Pinnock/Sanders/Rahner mold of inclusivism or Carson/Piper/Geivett/Nash mold of particularism).

Tomorrow, I hope to provide some resources for further research on inclusivism for those interested. Instead of putting up a lengthy and running bibliography, I will try to organize the books and articles in sections, with those for inclusivism and those against it. Some would be debatable of course as the lines are not clearly drawn on some of the finer points. Anyway. The matter which has received spotlight (inclusivism) through Billy Graham’s interviews is a huge topic of discussion and debate among evangelicals, and now is NOT the time to be vague, ambiguous, and evasive. May God give us wisdom from His Word, coupled with humility that speaks where God has spoken and remains silent when he hasn’t. Let there be a clarion voice from truth-abiding, Christ-confessing, gospel-proclaiming Christians who do not apologize for the Cross and don’t shy away from it when it is their turn to carry theirs.

|W|P|115693004544275066|W|P|15 Questions I Would Ask Billy Graham|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/31/2006 07:29:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Mike Hess|W|P|Timmy,

These were great questions and I find this quite interesting coming from a Southern Baptist. I admire your courage speaking out about Billy Graham and his dangerous statements and theological persuasions that have come to light in recent years.

Keep up the good work!

Mike8/29/2006 05:48:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|Last night, I was made aware that Billy Graham has written to Newsweek magazine in the upcoming issue (September 4, 2006) regarding his recent interview with Jon Meacham. Here is what Graham had to say:
I was overwhelmed by NEWSWEEK's generous coverage of the life my wife, Ruth, and I are experiencing as we grow older. "Pilgrim's Progress" was an apt title for the article. Like every other Christian, I see myself as a pilgrim journeying through life, looking expectantly to what God has promised in the future and yet yearning to be faithful in the present. Jon Meacham worked diligently to understand how my thinking on certain issues has grown over the years, and I commend him for seeking to capture my commitment to the Gospel I have always preached. The world is constantly changing, and I am only one in a long line of men and women who have sought to relate God's unchanging truth to the challenges of their time. As I grow older, my confidence in the inspiration and authority of the Bible has grown even stronger. So has my conviction that only Christ can give us lasting hope—hope for this life, and hope for the life to come. As the Bible says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Billy Graham Montreat, N.C.
Dr. Russell Moore, academic dean of Southern (of which I attend) as well as director of The Henry Institute, shares in the great disappointment of many evangelicals who read the article called “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Two main areas, two fundamental, non-negotiable areas for conservative evangelicals is the inerrancy of the Bible and the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In both of these areas, Billy Graham has compromised his once-held positions as he has sought to distance himself from what his interviewers call “fundamentalism” and “traditionalism” (which are implied as antithetical to the progressive and inclusive tenor of Graham). Moore accepts the letter from Graham as a clarification on these issues, according to Graham’s affirmations implied in his statements. While I would love to share that optimism, there are several reasons why I am neither convinced nor believe there is sufficient reason to be. Let me explain: First, I believe we must consider the nature and seriousness of this matter. We are not talking about the percentage of alcohol in NT wine and the various usages of oinos. We are talking about matters which led previous generations to the burning stake and severed bodies, and even to this day our brothers and sisters are having their tongues cut off for confessing the name of “Jesus” (which happened to missing from the articles I read concerning Graham). Second, we must consider the venue and exposure of this matter as it has received national and even worldwide attention having been on the cover of one of the most widely read news magazines in the world. Such a serious and essential issue, coupled with the worldwide exposure, demands more than a sentence or two (which are also lacking precision). Third, one cannot take Graham’s comments in isolation, away from previous interviews and public statements. I will provide just a few below, along with some additional resources. But suffice to say, these comments, especially regarding the exclusivity of the gospel, did not come from old age or just happening to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Finally, as conservative evangelicals, we must be consistent in our criticism of those who error from biblical truth. Were the comments Graham made to come from the mouths of a confessing liberal, we would unequivocally denounce those statements without apology. Yet for some reason when someone of such high repute (and I sincerely mean that – Graham is one of the most well-respected and honorable men no doubt), we tend to let them say whatever they want without public criticism. This is a tragic but truthful reality. We must be honest, transparent, and up front, even when it means admonishing someone much holier than I/we would ever be. Regarding Graham’s comments, I see three things lacking. First, I believe there needs to be clarity where there has been compromise. Graham has attempted to do this, but it appears that his comments were intended to appease his critics but not necessarily affirm his convictions. If he believes in the inerrancy of the gospel, then why doesn’t he just come out and say it? If he believes that all those who die apart from explicit saving faith in Jesus Christ are going to an everlasting punishment in hell, then why doesn’t he say it? While his letter was helpful to a degree, the doubts still remain, and the periods which have turned into question marks still have one looking for a substantive, precise, and clear affirmation. Second, I believe there needs to be a correction or retraction of his compromising statements which receive the same proportionate exposure and coverage as his previous statements. It is one thing to make a compromising statement on a cover story, with paragraph after paragraph being read by millions, and it is quite another thing to write a sentence or two in the “letters to the magazine” section which hardly receive any attention whatsoever. So the correction, be there as it may, simply does not measure up to the magnitude of his errors. Why is it, that whenever he gets a cover story with Time, Newsweek, or USA Today, it invariably speaks of his distancing from evangelicals and the essentials of the Christian faith? Why can’t the gospel and the name of Jesus get as much attention through Billy Graham and his prime-time interviews as his denials and errors? For instance, there are several times where Graham has opportunities to publicly go on record for the name of Jesus and the exclusive nature of His gospel. Here are just a few, starting from the most recent:

Graham in Newsweek (interviewer Jon Meacham) on August 14, 2006:

“When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: ‘Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won’t . . . I don’t want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.’”

Graham in USA Today (interviewer Cathy Lynn Grossman) on May 16, 2005:

“Today, as many fundamentalists and traditionalists refuse to share podiums with people who don’t share their exact vision of salvation, Graham opens his events to Christians of every stripe. . . . ‘There are a lot of groups that feel a little bit strange around me, because I am inclusive,’ says Graham who draws a distinction between ‘evangelical’ – a label often claimed by conservative Protestants – and ‘evangelism.’ ‘Evangelism is when the Gospel, which is good news, is preached or presented to all people,’ he says.” (emphasis original)

“The Christian world today is full of niches – from the vaguest spiritual seekers to the most doctrinally rigid conservatives who decry the ecumenical movement and see tolerance as moral relativism. Words like pluralism and inclusivity, which Graham considers positive, have taken negative connotations, as if they meant all paths to God were equally valid.” (emphasis mine)

Graham and Schuller on May 31, 1997:

“SCHULLER: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?

GRAHAM: Well, Christianity and being a true believer — you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ … I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ, because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.” (emphasis mine)

“SCHULLER: What, what I hear you saying, that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?

GRAHAM: Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they’ve tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.” (emphasis mine)

"SCHULLER: [R.S. trips over his tongue for a moment, his face beaming, then says] I'm so thrilled to hear you say this. There's a wideness in God's mercy. (emphasis mine)

GRAHAM: There is. There definitely is."

Graham in January 1978:

“I used to believe that pagans in far countries were lost if they did not have the gospel of Christ preached to them.. I no longer believe that.” (McCall’s, January, 1978).

Here you get just a sampling of what Graham has said for the lat 28 years. Like I said, one cannot take his comments from the latest Newsweek article and think this is an anomaly. He has been saying this for more than a quarter century. Were one remove the name and simply took the statements themselves, one would come to the conclusion that this person was more influenced by the Vatican II than Scripture, lining up with Catholic theologians Karl Rahner, Gavin D’Costa, and Jacques Dupuis than Ronald Nash, R. Douglass Geivett, or John Piper. As Graham has sought to broaden his base and become more inclusivistic, he has been forced to ride the fence on issues which do not allow it. You hear him making statements like, “I feel I belong to all churches. I am equally at home in an Anglican or Baptist or a Brethren assembly or a Roman Catholic church. I would identify with the customs and the culture and the theology of that particular church” (David Frost, Billy Graham in Conversation, 68) which make you wonder if his theology drives understanding of the gospel, the church, and even God. While Graham has adapted an agnostic claim on those without Jesus, the Bible makes it very clear where God the Father stands. Consider the Scriptures:

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:9-13
It doesn’t get any clearer than that. And God’s testimony is much greater—even greater than Billy Graham’s. Indeed, we can know that we have eternal life, because whoever has the Son has eternal life which has been granted by the Father. This testimony all Christians have in themselves, for God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). Ironically enough, as I was driving home this morning from work, I was reminded of my paper which I wrote for Dr. Moore in which I addressed the role of general revelation in the fate of the unevangelized. It was my first paper here at Southern. From my research and studies that semester, I was launched into a field of religious pluralism that has marked my theological education for the past three years. In that paper, I argued against inclusivists like Rahner, Clark Pinnock, and John Sanders. I made my case very clear where I believe the Bible stands. Obviously, as I received my paper (and even a personal phone call) back, Dr. Moore whole-heartedly agreed. However, it would have been no different had I put Billy Graham’s name next to Pinnock, Sanders, Grenz, or any other our school disagrees with, and were Graham to write a paper on his views of salvation, I am quite certain he would not get an “A” in Dr. Moore’s class. My point is simply this: when someone is wrong, let us lovingly yet truthfully make it plain that they are in error and seek to bring them back to a biblical understanding of the gospel. This is my hope and prayer for Billy Graham and others who have been influenced by him to adopt a view of the gospel and salvation apart from the saving knowledge of Christ. Just this past December, I eulogized my grandfather who died at the age of 89. Graham is 87 right now, so there is some similarity. My granddad was a graduate of Southern Seminary in 1943 and was the first in our family to ever have a high school diploma. He went on to minister for 64 years laboring among people who needed Jesus. As a chaplain in both wars and VA hospitals to pastoring little churches all across the heartland of America, my grandfather ran the race and finished strong. What you see here is his Bible which he preached from an a sermon entitled "Prepare to Meet Thy God" (preached on Sept. 10, 1950). In the center of the page you will find the words, "Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Only Way to God." Although at the end of his life, where he could not speak and battled Alzheimer’s, he could still pray and smile when you talked about Jesus. Now he has met his God and is worshipping at his Savior’s feet. Billy Graham is at the close of the last chapter of his life. It would be tragic to see the last pages written with interviews where he backtracked and retracted the convictions which bound his conscience to God’s Word. Having just witnessed the last days and breaths of my granddad, it has made me all the more sensitive to Graham and my hopes that he finish strong. Like Paul, I hope it can be said:

“I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
My granddad never merited an interview except from the little ones which loved to sit on his lap. He never preached to more than a couple hundred at a time. But by God’s grace, He ran the race faithfully. No matter how big or small you are in the world’s eyes, we are nothing without Jesus. And as we reflect on what it means to preach the word, in season and out of season, to endure suffering, to do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill our ministry, may we ever be mindful to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). *************************** Note: Over the past couple of days, I have had the exciting privilege of catching up with a man I mentioned in the comments section of my previous post. His name is Larry Backlund, and he has served as the President of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism across America. He has been very kind to email me, and I am hoping to meet up with him during the week I am in Minneapolis. Having known Graham personally, Mr. Backlund said, "I DO know where Mr. Graham stands on the Cross and the Gospel and the Bible." While he mentioned that he hasn't read the articles, he is certain that Graham holds strongly to the gospel and inerrancy of Scripture. Speaking of that, I was able to find an article in which Graham speaks of that now well-known crisis in the summer of 1949. You can access it by going here.

************************** Below are some selected works I picked out that would be helpful for further study. Tomorrow, I am going to post some specific questions that, were I able to sit down an interview Graham myself, I would ask him concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some selected works to consider:

“A ‘Paradigm Case’: Billy Graham and the Nature of Conversion” in Evangelical Landscapes: Facing Critical Issues of the Day by John G. Stackhouse (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002): 103-20.

Drummond, Lewis. The Evangelist: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham. Nashville: Word, 2001.

Frost, David. Billy Graham in Conversation. Oxford: Lion, 1998.

Graham, Billy. How to Be Born Again. Dallas: Word, 1989.

_________. Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham.. London: HarperCollins, 1997. Johnson, Thomas Paul. Examining Billy Graham’s Theology of Evangelism. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003. Martin, William. A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story. New York: William Morrow, 1991. Murray, Iain H. Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950-2000. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000. Pokki, Timo. America’s Preacher and His Message: Bill Graham’s View of Conversion and Sanctification. Landham, MD: University Press of America, 1999.

|W|P|115685112856429944|W|P|Moore About Billy Graham|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/29/2006 08:56:00 AM|W|P|Blogger J. Gray|W|P|Timmy,

Good post.

I was thinking the same thing as I read the letter to the editor. He didn't really say anything better or conclusive to convince people he believed in the exclusivity of Christ for salvation or inerrancy.

In fact, I don't think quoting John 3:16 or saying you believe the Bible is inspired makes up for MULTIPLE statements against the exclusivity of Christ for salvation...or statements contradictory to inerrancy. We would not grant that to anyone else.

The sad irony of this all is that if this was Brian McLaren or a lesser-known pastor or Timmy Brister...all the SBC big-wigs and all the evangelical big-wigs would have juped from their chair and blasted that person in their sermons or on their blogs. But yet despite repeated statements of heretical views, very few utter a peep about Graham...moreover, we erect a statue outside of LifeWay of him.

The CBF (and others) have to be laughing at the "Champions of Inerrancy" (the SBC) with a massive statue of a man who doesn't necessarily believe inerrancy, and who has repeatedly said that their will be muslims and pagans in heaven.

Why are we so inconsistent? Celebrity overrides conviction, I suppose.8/29/2006 04:06:00 PM|W|P|Blogger jeff|W|P|Timmy,

It truly is sad to read Mr. Graham's comments, especially since he stands as such a recognizeable figurehead for Evangelicalism.

When I lived in Kansas City, The Kansas City Star ran a faith page every Saturday. The front-page highlight (or lowlight, depending on perspective) of this section was a Q&A, where a local resident would submit a question and it would recieve an answer by two of KC's local religious leaders, of all stripes.

Mostly the answers angered me, so I wrote the editor to ask if my conservative pastor could be a contributor. The editor replied, "We already run Billy Graham, and he represents the conservative evangelical viewpoint." Sadly, however, much of what the local religious quacks were saying were almost identical to Mr. Graham's comments. Very sad.

Hey, when are you going to be in Minneapolis? I am an associate pastor at a Baptist church in St. Paul, and would love to meet you, if you have some time.2/16/2011 05:09:00 PM|W|P|Blogger woodie|W|P|Tim,
Great journalistic work. I have to say that to spite Graham's recent comments I really didn't believe the rumors and certainly didn't know how far back the issues went. It's very disheartening, but proves how difficult it is to stay on that narrow path, even for men of faith.
One thing is for sure, we as conservative evangelicals have circled the wagons around him for a while now. I guess the question is, why is that? Were we too scared of losing an icon, a man whose name has become a household word, to guard the very gospel that he preached? I think for many it was not that we were protecting Graham, the " wolf in sheep's clothing." I think that many were like me and simply didn't believe that this could be true and dismissed it as silly rumors or words misquoted or taken out of context. Whatever the reason, there is still an untouchable, unreproachable air about him in evangelical circles. That's why when I use these interviews as sermon illustrations I will say "a well respected evangelical leader" said... And not "Billy Graham is a heretic!"8/28/2006 11:50:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|I am aware that many of you have either started or are looking to start reading David Wells’ latest book, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World. Since there are so many people reading it and a great deal to talk about in the book, a couple of friends of mine have started a blog for the expressed purpose of discussing the book. The blog, aptly called, is Above All Earthly Pow’rs, and I encourage you to check it out if this book is anywhere on your radar screen.

Shannon McKenzie, who came up with the idea, is welcoming anyone who wishes to contribute with their thoughts through posting and will add you as a contributor. K. Elijah Mayfield has also put together a reading plan which takes small chunks at a time in a disciplined and chronological fashion which would serve the blog well. Of course, if you choose not to be a contributor, you are welcome to comment on anything written!

I haven’t written anything yet, but I hope to have something up this week. You might be asking about how to got about joining. If you are, here is what you should do:

  1. Email Shannon at Shannon [at]treasuringchrist[dot]net and let him know that you are interested. He will fill you in on the details.
  2. Go to the original post and check the calendar dates for the scheduled reading. The idea is to write about that particular section (corresponding to the date) of the book in a blogpost, your reflections, thoughts, or just a review of the material.
  3. If you come in late, you are welcome to write about previous sections as well, but we wish that you do not get ahead of the scheduled reading as it would not contribute to the discussion. Therefore, write a post about the whole book would not work, neither would your thoughts on Chapter 6 when we would be on Chapter 2. You get the idea.
  4. Lastly, it would be helpful if you do post to read other folks posts as well. In other words, interact, critique, and affirm.

I think this book deserves meaningful discourse and interaction, and I am heartened to see that Shannon and Elijah have taken up this endeavor. For those planning on attending the Desiring God National Conference, this blog may have particular interest to you. In any case, please check it out. It would be worth your time.

|W|P|115678522114691423|W|P|Above All Earthly . . . Blogs|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/27/2006 08:17:00 PM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|

Here are some thoughts I had today . . . * After hearing news of the plane crash in Lexington, I couldn't help but think about the questions which will inevitably be asked (usually on Larry King Live) as they were when 911, the tsunami, and Katrina happened. Questions like "Where was God that Sunday morning?" or "How could God allow this to happen?" To take the paradigm of Rabbi Kushner who wrote Why Does Bad Things Happen to Good People, the argument goes that either God is all-powerful or all-good, but he cannot be both. Some would argue that he could not be all-knowing, for if he were to know that this would happen and didn't stop it, he would not be a good God, and if he couldn't stop it, he wouldn't be all-powerful. These are important questions which Christians must think hard about and humbly respond to with grace. Too many leading evangelicals will want to dismiss God (as Tony Compolo recently has) and say He has nothing to with it. Such an unbiblical response is neither helpful to those suffering nor honorable to God. May God give us wisdom, compassion, and seasoned speech to give an answer for the hope that is within us with gentleness and kindness. * On another note, I usually don't listen to the radio on the way home from church. I usually listen to my wife and talk about the mornings message or Sunday School. She was back in Athens this weekend, so I turned the radio on to the Christian station here in Louisville. A prominent charismatic preacher was on there foretelling (once again) that the rapture is going to take place in "four to six years." When I was in college in 1997, I was told this very same thing (except that Jesus would come back in 1998). He went on to say that there was a pyramid-shaped oil reservoir underneath Israel which would suck all the oil from the Middle East and bring wealth to the nation of Israel. The text he was eisegeting had the word "spoil" in it somewhere, and he proofed his interpretation by saying, "Just take the "s" and the "p" off, and what do you get? Oil." I didn't know to laugh or to shout at the console. It was deplorable - one of the worst messages I have ever heard. Scary and crafty, but horrible. * After helping my dear friend Terri move her stuff before leaving for D.C., I went to Books-a-Million to catch up on some reading before church tonight. I decided to go down the magazine section in hopes of finding the latest issue of Christianity Today. Guess what? Out of the hundreds and hundreds of magazines there in the store (some I have no idea who in the world buys them), they did not have Christianity Today. Ironically, I did find two issues of Biblical Archeology. Some things I just don't understand. * Dorcas Hawker linked up to my previous post on worship and has some thoughts as well. I mentioned in a comment that we need to recover a healthy balance of transcendence and immanence in our worship, which is very difficult to do because of our man-centered, existentialist approach. Her comments prompted me to go back and read some of A.W. Tozer regarding worship. Two books I would recommend to you are Whatever Happened to Worship? and Tozer on Worship and Entertainment. I hope to post some quotes sometime soon. * I spend a lot of time this weekend researching Universalism and Hell (if you have read back in previous posts, you would know this is a major topic for me this Fall). I hope to provide you with a bibliography of some resources very soon. In the meantime, let me provide you a quote and see if you can guess who penned it. Here it goes: (No Googling - that's cheating!)

"There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. . . . I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture."
Have at it. Blessings and see you tomorrow.

|W|P|115672787335591532|W|P|Sunday Thoughts|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/27/2006 08:39:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Steve Weaver|W|P|Timmy,

Great thoughts! I guess. Good seeing you this week! Catch you again soon.

Was the quote by David Hume?8/27/2006 09:22:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Shannon Mckenzie|W|P|Clark Pinnock?8/27/2006 09:47:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Stephen Newell|W|P|I'm saying it's from Brian McLaren.8/27/2006 09:47:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Shannon Mckenzie|W|P|I want to change my answer. Bertrand Russell. Final Answer. I was reading Clark Pinnock's view of hell and Why I'm Not a Christian at the same time for a "Heaven and Hell" class at UM. I just read back through Pinnock's argument and couldn't find it, but his book sits right below Russell's on my bookshelf - then it hit me - Papa Russell said that. I don't know if that is a sad testimony of me that I can't tell the difference between a adamant atheist and a liberal theologian, or if it is a worse testimony against Pinnock that his writings are indistinguishable from an atheist's.8/27/2006 10:20:00 PM|W|P|Blogger justin|W|P|Very biblical words on the plane crash...my younger brother's good friend's father was on the flight. He had an ailing body, now he is in glory, what is not to praise?

I have been trying to get a copy of the new CT also. Should I be suprised that the Christian bookstores in Lexington do not even carry CT?8/28/2006 12:15:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Timmy|W|P|Ding ding ding!

We have a winner.

Mr. McKenzie, you Russellite! Only bad Christians read Betrand Rusell. Go back to Max Lucado, okay?8/28/2006 12:19:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Timmy|W|P|@ Steve,

Enjoyed the Backyard Burger as well. How many did you eat again?

@ Stephen,

Good guess. Not far off.

@ Justin,

I am very sorry to hear about the loss of a loved one close to you. As you have said, there is great rejoicing and comfort in the face of death when the person who has died has placed their trust in the One who has overcome death and the grave.

I think finding a copy of CT might be just difficult as finding the papyri of ancient Q.8/30/2006 08:55:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Nick Kennicott|W|P|I know I'm late and see someone got it, but based on your more recent posts, I was going to say Billy Graham... (while I'm kidding, these days I'm not too sure I'd be suprised).8/26/2006 08:49:00 PM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|This weekend I am working my way through Paul Little’s How to Give Way Your Faith for review and critique for my personal evangelism class. From what I have read thus far, there are some points which Little emphasizes that I appreciate and others where I see where we differ on soteriological grounds. But one place where we do not differ is the importance of having an authentic witness which involves more than the “gospel-pill” and “quick-fix” witnessing as he puts it. One paragraph that caught my attention has more to do with worship than evangelism, although there is definitely a relationship between the two. Here is what Little said:
“It has been observed, wisely I think, that hymns and choruses make liars of us all. We sing of glorious Christian experiences as though they were our very own, and yet they are not. Hymns of commitment are probably the ones most often sung without putting the words into action. When we mouth truths without thought or meaning, it leads us to accept an unreal experience as the norm. Without realizing it, we’re actually living a lie. It is lamentable that our rich heritage of Christian music may lead us to substitute a fiction for the real thing” (28). Emphasis mine.

How true is this statement! While I acknowledge that CCM and praise choruses have taken a beating lately (and mostly deserved), there is just as much (or more) a danger of singing as liars in perfect harmony than crying in one of those ‘Jesus is my girlfriend” choruses. Frankly, worship is dangerous these days, and I have often found myself struggling internally over songs with progressive key changes that evoke a lifted hand along with lyrics which find there reference point in my will rather than the unchanging, glorious character of God.

So what are we do to when songs are sung that say, “I will follow you all of my days” when you know you won’t? Or “I will worship, I will bow down, I will give you all of my praise,” when you know you aren’t? Or “In the presence of a thousand kings, you are my one desire,” when you know he isn’t? The songs are legion here, and inasmuch as they have become imbedded in our worship services, they have made liars out of us all.

Now it is incumbent for me to make a caveat here. I am NOT saying that we should not worship God and dedicate our lives to him, nor am I saying that since we are sinners who are saved by grace we should not sing songs that include passionate and emotional responses to God. After all, Scripture tells us that it is God who both wills and works in us according to his good pleasure. But in the same token, let us be mindful of David when he confessed, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being” (Psalm 51:6) and also prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). So as we consider what it means to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” I am longing to be truthful to myself. I don’t want to be a liar at any time, but especially not in worship to Him who “discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:2) and is intimately acquainted with all my ways! To have integrity in worship may mean that we keep our mouths shut during songs which do not convey the reality of our lives. After all, God is after the purity of hearts, not the harmony of our voices.

I realize that this is a touchy subject as “worship wars” has been ongoing my entire lifetime. I am not advocating a style of worship but rather a spirit of truth and a desire to be authentic in our worship and our witness. My prayer is that our affections would rise to the level of our affirmations, that the beauty and excellencies of Jesus Christ will find harmony in our worship and way of life which would prove to be much louder than words and a sweeter song in our Savior’s ears.

Most of us are not songwriters, but I guess you could say that every day of our lives could be “a hymn of praise” to God. If that is the case, then what song is being sung? If we, a people committed to the truth, being truthful to ourselves? To our fellow brothers and sisters? To our world? Or are we, as the song goes, singing:

I am a whore I do confess I put you on just like a wedding dress And I run down the aisle And I run down the aisle I’m a prodigal with no way home I put you on just like a ring of gold And I run down the aisle to you

May God find us as children in the kingdom that represent the King and His worth with truth on our lips, rooted in our hearts, and manifested in our lives.

|W|P|115664340006211424|W|P|Liars in Perfect Harmony|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/27/2006 01:52:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Broadstone|W|P|Timmy,

Good to see you recently.

I like this post. In recent years I have found myself unable to sing at times in church...because I cannot sing the words that often times seem glib and not a part of God's hard work in our lives and in this world.

Yet, I also cannot sing because my heart is not enamored with the God I am supposed to love and I don't won't to lie with my lips.

I spoke to a group of Campus Crusade High Schoolers once and challenged them, after a bunch of them had crowded a "worship" stage, "I sure hope you meant all that because Jesus said we'll be judged for our words..." I think we all held the same guilty and surprised gaze with each other for a moment before I went on.8/27/2006 06:57:00 AM|W|P|Blogger reformedbaptistman|W|P|[gulp]
As they say back home in Vermont, I think you hit the nail right between the eyes. And to think I am off to church now. Worship really is about our heart. I will keep extra careful watch on my heart and the words my lips sing.8/27/2006 03:15:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Cate Hanchez|W|P|I like this post so much. I have been convicted myself many times when singing these songs that they aren't really telling the truth about me. A song that recently has really had me thinking about it is "In Christ Alone". I love the words to that song. But I can't truthfully say, "No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me." I can't say it, but I want to be able to say it, so I pray as I sing. "Make this true in my life, God. Let me have this kind of faith."8/27/2006 09:16:00 PM|W|P|Blogger William E. Turner Jr.|W|P|In-spite of our shared disagreements with Little he does have some gems. Here is one I appreciatted a while back.
http://theologiaviatorum.com/2005/08/17/loss-of-gospel-power/8/28/2006 10:44:00 AM|W|P|Blogger jeff|W|P|Timmy,

Excellent post. This is a struggle that I think all biblically minded believers go through, but none voice, and expecially not as eloquently. You said:

"I am not advocating a style of worship but rather a spirit of truth and a desire to be authentic in our worship and our witness."

I think that is the crux of the issue. I wonder if Jesus didn't have some of that in mind when he was pointing out to the Samritan woman in John 4 that the Father is seeking true worshippers, who worship in spirit and in truth. Not just that out worship is true in its content, but also that it is true in its authenticity in our lives.

Thanks for makeing me think of these things afresh.

Jeff Mobley8/25/2006 05:10:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|
{Click to enlarge}
This the well-known Louisville Slugger bat in front of the museum here in Louisville, Kentucky. I took this photo earlier this summer when some fam came up. I enjoyed the flare action I received from shooting into the sun as well as underexposing the woodgrain to bring out a little detail. Well, I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! To go to my Flickr page, go here. To go to the Friday Photo group, go here.
Here's the exif data for the photogs: Camera: Canon 20D Lens: 28-135mm IS USM Focal Length: 28mmTv: 1/2000 sec Av: f/4.5 ISO: 200 WB: Custom (6000k) I in no way want to be exclusionary by not linking to everyone with a Friday special, but the number of participants is simply getting too big to link everyone. If you have a photo for the Friday Photo group, be sure to put it here. For poetry and prose, check out Brent Thomas, and for church history, see William Turner. |W|P|115650216038185452|W|P|POTW :: 08.25.06 :: bigstick|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/26/2006 02:41:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Shannon Mckenzie|W|P|This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.8/26/2006 02:44:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Shannon Mckenzie|W|P|Tim,

Nice Picture!
In other news, I sent you an email about the David Wells blog that I talked to you about. I don't know if you received it, so here is a link (aboveallearthlypowers.blogspot.com/2006/08/reading-schedule.html) that'll give you the info. Just give me a call or send me an email (if you're still interested)[shannon(AT)treasuringchrist(DOT)net] so that I can add you to the contributors list. I hope that you are having a wonderful day of killing sin and making your body a holy habitation for the Lord.

sm8/24/2006 04:09:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|

I went to the bookstore the other day to pick up the latest copy of Christianity Today only to find that the August edition is still out, so it is obvious that the only information I have received about the cover story about the resurgence of Calvinism is through secondary sources. Another source came yesterday, as Tom Ascol shared his thoughts on the article. One part of the article I had not heard was the comments made by Dr. Steve Lemke who once against took opportunity to argue the historically fallacious position that a firm belief in the doctrines of grace somehow diminishes a passion for missions and evangelism. Dr. Ascol has addressed Lemke's "white paper" in a series of blogposts, so it is not necessary to rehash his rebuttal to Lemke. However, what is interesting is Lemke's renewed commitment to being wrong after having been debunked with a humble, honest, and open critique of his poor research and faulty conclusions. When one holds to a position that is obviously in error and still refuses to admit it, there is something motivating and driving that impulse other than the truth, for if one would square with the truth, these perpetuating statements wouldn't surface in print media. Many have experienced such a case in Dave Hunt's attempts to dismantle Calvinism after having been rebutted time and again by James White, refusing open discussion or debate of Scripture or history. Being in such a predicament is not desirable nor virtuous, so one must hope that hearing the other side of the story from an objective perspective would change one's disposition, if not position altogether. In the Christianity Today article, Lemke makes the following comment.

"For many people, if they're convinced that God has already elected those who will be elect ... I don't see how humanly speaking that can't temper your passion, because you know you're not that crucial to the process."

For the life of me, I do not understand how Lemke can make such a demonstrable error to think that a conviction to unconditional election equals a tempered passion for reaching the lost. Calvinists actually believe in evangelism and the gospel more than Arminians because they believe God has not only ordained the ends (salvation) but the means (the preaching of the gospel) as well. They also believe that God does not just make salvation possible but actually saves sinners, and uses His people in the process. The God who draws sinners by an effectual call also infuses a passion within the heart of the Christian to preach the gospel. That is why Paul, who believed that God had chosen those would be saved before the foundation of the world could also exclaim, "Woe to me if I don't preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16, cf. Rom. 9:3; 10:1). I have addressed this in greater detail, including the references to Dr. Lemke's paper in an article called "Corrupted Evangelism and the Recovery of Means." To argue that Calvinists believe they are not crucial to the process is to tacitly acknowledge that one knows little about evangelical Calvinism. I guess my point regarding Dr. Lemke and others who have disagreements with Calvinism is this: if you disagree with Calvinism personally, that's fine. No problem here. But when you attempt to explain why you disagree without the witness of church history (and Baptist history in particular) and biblical support, it is hard to accept your disagreements as plausible. Sure, Christianity Today will include you in their print articles, but what does that mean anyway?

|W|P|115641280297029032|W|P|The Resurgence of Steve Lemke's Argument Against Calvinism|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/24/2006 06:12:00 AM|W|P|Blogger Ched|W|P|When I first started reading this post, I thought to myself, "this guy just totally ripped off the article at Strange Baptist Fire. Then I realized you're a contributer and it was actually you that posted there. Forgive my brief negative thoughts toward your blog. Good post.8/24/2006 03:45:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|Last week (I think), Scot McKnight put together a series of posts on the Emerging Church and orthodoxy. I found this series particularly interesting, as I have being doing a little research over the past couple of months on this. For now, let me provide the links as I will address this in the near future with particular attention given to theology, orthodoxy, and pluralism.

Here are Scot McKnight’s posts:

Emerging Orthodoxy 1 (creeds and examples) Emerging Orthodoxy 2 (Scriptural defense/examples of creeds) Emerging Orthodoxy 3 (creeds and the emerging church) Emerging Orthodoxy 4 (creeds and the local church) Oh, and here is McKnight’s commentary on orthodoxy and the emerging church:

So, where does that leave the emerging movement and orthodoxy? I’ll speak my mind. I think some in the first group are not so convinced creedal orthodoxy (or any other kind) is all that important. Not all who have been touched by the postmodern shift are against creeds, but some have big issues — some suggest they are historic documents we respect but are not tied to. And there are some who simply no longer believe such things. The praxis impulse, on the other hand, is I suspect more committed to the orthodox creeds, even evangelical ones, than not. The postevangelical impulse, I suspect, opens up two points of view: some are still evangelical in theology and find great freshness in the shorter more historic creedal statements, while others are more joined at the hip with the pomo impulse and want to question the place of orthodox creeds. Some, I suspect, are willing to reduce the Christian faith to “following Jesus” in behavior — and that is all that matters.

I’m not sure about the political impulse, but I think this impulse is probably in tune with pomo and postevangelical impuse [sic], along with a commitment to justice that is so central that orthodox creeds aren’t part of the equation.

Now here’s my claim: the emerging conversation is for all of these sorts (in fact it already comprises all these sorts). But, what that means is that some think orthodoxy really matters (I do) while others think it doesn’t. The conversation is open to both kinds. The conversation is no more only for those who have jettisoned the path of orthodoxy than it is only for those who adhere to orthodoxy. This makes emergent a special movement; there aren’t many like this. I don’t agree with those who are universalists, but I think that question is being asked today and I want to participate in that conversation.

|W|P|115641440958368612|W|P|McKnight on Emerging Orthodoxy|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com10/27/2006 01:35:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Steve Hayes|W|P|I've been trying to relate the Emerging Church movement to Orthodoxy since I first hear the term "Emerging Church" about a year ago. So I was interested in what you had to say, but I think McKnight's understanding of "orthodoxy" is very different from mine.10/27/2006 05:00:00 PM|W|P|Blogger Timmy|W|P|Steve,

I agree. His definition is different from mine as well. At the time of this post, I was planning on addressing the heterodoxy of some of the Emerging Church leaders, especially Spencer Burke's A Heretic's Guide to Eternity but never got around to it. Ergo, the post doesn't really fit nor does it really explain why I chose to post it at the time I did.

Thanks for the comment. Oh, and btw, do you know any other Steve Hayes? There is another guy who blogs at Triablogue who has the same name but I think he spells his last name without the "e." Just curious.8/23/2006 12:33:00 PM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|

I am currently posting a six-part series called “What Is a True Calvinist?” based on the booklet written by Phillip Ryken which can also be found in the book, Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (chapter eight) by James Montgomery Boice and Ryken (Crossway, 2002). The purpose of these posts are not to give detailed expositions of the five points of Calvinism but to express in summary form the heart of a true Calvinist and the impact the biblical truths of Calvinism on the Christian life. For previous posts, see Part One and Part Two.

Grateful Heart

Ryken continues his answer to the question, “What is a true Calvinist?” by expounding upon a grateful heart and submissive will. He shares that “the only proper response to such amazing grace is profound gratitude. If God has touched us with his mercy, thereby infallibly securing our salvation, then we must thank him with grateful hearts” (15). If such a salvation provided and accomplished by God so that no man can boast, if our election is not based on anything foreseen or meritorious within us so that God is “the source of our life in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30), what else could one have but a heart of gratitude that never ceases to be amazed by grace nor gets over “so great a salvation” of which they have become partakers?

Abraham Kuyper shares that the true Calvinist is someone “who in his own soul, personally, has been struck by the Majesty of the Almighty, and yielding to the overpowering might of his eternal Love, has dared to proclaim this majestic love over against Satan and the world, and the worldliness of his own heart, in the personal conviction of being chosen by God Himself, and therefore of having to thank Him and Him alone, for every grace everlasting” (15). Is this not the testimony of the apostles and the early church? At their very best, when all duty, sacrifice, and service has been fulfilled, the only reply from comes forth, saying, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).

Both Peter and Paul began their writings with pronouncements of blessings upon God. Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Paul adds, saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4). The depth of Paul’s gratitude to God for his sovereign mercy and electing grace was remarkably profound. He who confessed that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and exclaimed that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10) recognized that one should “give thanks in everything” (1 Thess. 5:18), for he knew that in everything God has shown Himself good, gracious, and glorious.

Submissive Will

Following through the example of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 6:1-8), Ryken shares that the response of a grateful heart to as a recipient of marvelous mercy is a submissive spirit that cries out, “Here am I. Send me!”

Al Martin explains how God makes a Calvinist:

“In one way or another he gives him such a sight of his own majesty and sovereignty and holiness as the high and the lofty One, that it brings with it a deep, experimental acquaintance with human sinfulness personally and in terms of our own generation. It brings experimental acquaintance with the grace of God, and intimate acquaintance with the voice of God, an utter resignation to the will and the ways of God” (17). Emphasis mine.

I particularly like the assertions of “experimental and intimate acquaintance” with the grace, voice, will, and ways of God, for it is possible to know God theoretically as some abstract construct in our minds which can easily lead to cold, barren, and lifeless souls. To have such an acquaintance with God, our wills must be made live, changed, and empowered. As Ryken reveals, “The doctrines of grace teach us that, in salvation, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is true every step of the way. Long before we could ever choose for God, the Father chose us in Christ (unconditional election). When we were unable to remove our guilt (radical depravity), the Son died for our sins (particular redemption). When we would not come to God in faith, the Spirit drew us by his efficacious grace and he will keep us in the way of salvation to the very end (perseverance). The doctrines of grace thus require the sinner to accept the sovereignty of God in salvation” (17-18). The umbrella of these truths is the conviction that God monergistically works salvation in a Trinitarian fashion where God the Father chooses the sinner, Jesus dies for the sinner, and the Holy Spirit brings the sinner to new life (regeneration). The opposing position is called synergism where salvation is both the work of God and the work of an autonomous agent whose free will exists outside the realm of God’s sovereignty. That will does not have to be submitted to the sovereignty of God according to this position, for were it to do so, according to the proponents of synergism, then the human agent would not be truly free. When asked, “What is a true Calvinist?,” B.B. Warfield responded by saying that they are “humble souls, who, in the quiet of retired lives, have caught a vision of God in His glory and are cherishing in their hearts that vital flame of complete dependence on Him which is the very essence of Calvinism” (19). Throughout the pamphlet, Ryken iterates the importance of having an attitude of dependence and casting oneself entirely upon God’s mercy as the disposition of a submitted will to a sovereign God. This dependence occurs particularly within two practical areas where a submitted will manifests its change—namely the prayer life and evangelistic fervor. Regarding prayer, J.I. Packer observed, “The Calvinist is the Christian who confesses before men in his theology just what he believes in his heart before God when he prays” (19). In the same vane, Warfield adds, “The Calvinist is the man who is determined to preserve the attitude he takes in prayer in all his thinking, in all his feeling, in all his doing. . . . Other men are Calvinists on their knees; the Calvinist is the man who is determined that his intellect, and heart, and will shall remain on their knees continually, and only from this attitude think, feel, and act” (19-20).

Ryken adds that such an attitude of dependence should “characterize the Christian’s entire approach to evangelism. True evangelism is entirely dependent on God for its success: the regeneration of the sinner’s mind and heart is the work of God’s Spirit” (20). It is precisely at this point that many Calvinists have suffered through the mischaracterizations that holding to a high view of God’s sovereignty diminishes evangelistic fervor and a robust commitment to the Great Commission. Anyone who knows church history can give a laundry list to disprove that notion, but two most recent works profitable for that discussion would be J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God and Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People. So why does a Calvinist surrender to God’s will in sharing the gospel? Ryken answers and says, “ . . . because God’s sovereignty in grace gives the only hope of success” (20).

Put together, Ryken concludes with the following statement:

“Prayer is the heart’s surrender to the will of God. Those who believe most strongly in the sovereignty of grace ought to be more persistent in asking God to do what only he can do, and that is to save sinners” (21). There is a whole host of rich and deep theological discussion here, including God’s providence, the relationship between sovereignty and free will, primary and secondary causation, determinism and indeterminism, and God’s purposes in prayer and witnesses to include us in bringing him glory. I hope to share more about that last point in a later post, but suffice it to say, one cannot be a true Calvinist without having a grateful heart and submissive will.

|W|P|115635458601088957|W|P|"What Is a True Calvinist?" Part Three: Grateful Heart and Submitted Will|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/23/2006 04:03:00 AM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|Update: For a much more entertaining article about Driscoll, be sure to check out Challies' reporting on the upcoming issue of Preaching Illustrated and the "theo-doping" scandal. One of the things that I really appreciate about Mark Driscoll is that you do not have to ask him to parse his words to figure out what he is saying. He is the antithesis of many voices in the postmodern culture who seem to revel in ambiguity and vagueness. In his recent article, “Now the Mainline Churches Make Sense,” Driscoll shares a scene with he and his son in conversation about dead, liberal churches. In summary, he gives ten easy steps to destroying a denomination. Here they are:
  1. Have a low view of Scripture and, consequently, the deity of Jesus.
  2. Deny that we were made male and female by God, equal but with distinct roles in the home and church.
  3. Ordain liberal women in the name of tolerance and diversity.
  4. Have those liberal women help to ordain gay men in the name of greater tolerance and diversity.
  5. Accept the worship of other religions and their gods in the name of still greater tolerance and diversity.
  6. Become so tolerant that you, in effect, become intolerant of people who love Jesus and read their Bible without scoffing and snickering.
  7. End up with only a handful of people who are all the same kind of intolerant liberals in the name of tolerance and diversity.
  8. Watch the Holy Spirit depart from your churches and take people who love Jesus with Him.
  9. Fail to repent but become more committed than ever to your sinful agenda.
  10. See Jesus pull rank, judge you, and send some of your pastors to hell to be tormented by Him forever because He will no longer tolerate your diversity.

God forbid that the Southern Baptist Convention go back to its liberal past of recent decades. On the other hand, I am most encouraged by many of the younger voices in the evangelical world like Driscoll, Keller, JT, and Josh Harris. May there be one, biblical, clarion, and unalterable voice among future Southern Baptist leaders for the sake of Jesus and His Church.

|W|P|115632479777848496|W|P|Tell It Like It Is, Mr. Driscoll|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com8/22/2006 07:44:00 PM|W|P|Timmy Brister|W|P|Below is a prayer that I have kept before me for the past three days. It has transcribed the disposition of my heart better than any I can think of. I have had the acute recognition of my neediness in recent weeks, and my heart has been yearning yet troubled. I hope to memorize this and make it a constant piece of meditation during my days . . . Lord Jesus, I am blind, be thou my light, ignorant, be thou my wisdom, self-willed, be thou my mind. Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit’s voice, and delightfully run after his beckoning hand; Melt my conscience that no hardness remain, make it alive to evil’s slightest touch; When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds, and there cease to tremble at all alarms. Be my good shepherd to lead me into the green pastures of thy Word, and cause me to lie down beside the rivers of its comforts. Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales may ruffle the calm surface of my soul. Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge, Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean, Thy death occurred to give me a surety, Thy name is my property to save me, By thee all heaven is poured into my heart, but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love. I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel, but thy cross has brought me near, has softened my heart, has made me thy Father’s child, has admitted me to thy family, has made me join-heir with thyself. O that I may love thee as thou lovest me, that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord, that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born. May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith, and to feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart, for unless he moves mightily in me no inward fire will be kindled. The prayer can be found in The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett. |W|P|115629436645933409|W|P|Needy|W|P|timmybrister@gmail.com-->