A Resting Place

"It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Friday, April 29, 2005

ATF Review, Part Two

I mentioned in passing in the previous post that there was a bit of a "war" theme at ATF this year. This was perhaps one of the most disturbing trends of the weekend, for various reasons.

1. There was no clear definition at all of the enemy's identity. Generally, the students were accosted with a slew of statistics about how many teens are getting pregnant, having abortions, doing drugs, etc. right before pressing the war theme, which involved bold calls to "take a stand." With no clear definition of the "enemy," it would be very easy for teens to run home and think they are supposed to unleash an unmerciful barrage of criticism on anyone who would commit such sins.

2. This leads to point number two, which was the absolute absence of mercy in the message. Sin is bad; the Bible is right. Therefore, go take a stand against sin. Not, "Go preach the gospel," but "fight the war."

3. There was absolutely no balance whatsoever. Verse after verse using "war time" metaphors ("fight the good fight;" "put on the full armor;" "violent people take the kingdom by force," etc.) were severed from their literary contexts in Scripture, and there was not a single reference to a verse about peace. Not a single mention that Jesus gave us a different way of "fighting a war" than developing an offensive attack strategy. No "blessed are the peacemakers;" "live at peace with all people;" "pray for kings, etc...so that we may live a peaceful and quiet life." It was all about getting loud and riled up. All throughout Saturday evening, every couple of minutes, "Joel the Superchristian" would say, "Let's hear your battle cry!" And thousands of teens would erupt into shouting.

4. The whole thing, as far as I could tell, was a big advertisement to get all the teens to go to Teenmania's big "Battle Cry" event next year. This event was played up as the ONLY way to take a stand in this generation. After getting us all fired up about the event, we were "challenged" to get in our youth groups, discuss how many God wanted us to bring to the event next year, and submit a card with the number along with our youth group contact info. Our discerning youth group (I'm so proud of them) looked at me and said, "how 'bout zero?" Good for them. I told them we'd do something different; perhaps calculate the amount of money we'd waste going to the big event and use it to do ministry in the area. You know, like feeding the poor, and taking care of orphans and widows. Remember that?

Next youth group lesson is going to be a discussion of Michael Spencer's article, Wretched Urgency. After that, I think we'll watch Saved! and have some good discussion. No more silly nonsense. Time to follow Jesus instead, who told His disciples to put down their weapons and pick up a cross.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Responding to ATF

This will be the first of hopefully a few posts responding to a weekend I just spent with thousands of teenagers at a Teenmania Aquire the Fire event. I had a group of 12 teens with me, along with some chaperones, including my lovely wife, who was very gracious to go.

The speaker for the event was some guy named Joel, a bona fide Superchristian. Dad left when he was 14 months old; mom married again to an alcoholic abusive guy whom they had to spend lots of their teenage years running from.

At age 14, Joel was radically saved at a Christian camp, and by age 16, he was preaching from cafeteria benches in his high school during lunch time. He even brought a white picket fence into school with him for a few weeks, and when asked why, he explained that you can either be on the wrong side of the fence or on the right side with Jesus. Believe it or not, he was "persecuted" for this. (I'm a Christian, and I think I would have taken his fence and hid it on him, too).

The great thing was, after everyone "got saved" the first night, the next day we learned about how shallow we all are since we've only got the gospel now, and how we need to (1) read the Bible a lot; (2) pray; (3) witness a lot, apparently being as obnoxious as you can while doing it; (4) go on a Teenmania missions trip; (5) go home and break all secular cds; and (6) make sure you're at the big Teenmania Battle Cry event next year. These are the secrets to the Christian life. This is what it means to "go deeper."

There was lots of yelling and shouting, and kids were told they were in a war with everyone who gets abortions and has premarital sex and needed to take a stand.

The theme for the weekend was "keep it real." Funny thing was, it was all about the wonderful victorious Christian life and not sinning and stuff. Not a single (not one!) mention of real life struggles with sin. Not a single mention that Christian teens sin. Joe, the Superchristian was on fire for Jesus all his life, and you can be, too. There were lots of references to how the "world" and "sin" and other such things are not "real," but the whole production looked like MTV baptized into the Christian subculture.

At one point, they got the kids all hyped up about donating to help the Dalits (lowest caste in India), and followed it right up with an advertisement: the ATF 2005 event was on DVD for $30, but act now during the next break, and you can get it for only $25. In fact, it was amazing how often flow of the weekend went like this: (1) Get the kids all fired up at the end of a message, then (2) present something for them to buy or some Teenmania event for them to join.

I'm certain Teenmania thinks they just won a bunch of teens for Jesus. I say they created thousands of little monsters.

I posted these thoughts over at the BHT, and Michael Spencer responded with a good summary of what these types of youth events are normally like:

-Raw emotion
-Stupid, lying speakers
-Hawking of someone's CDs and shirts
-Blatant attempts to get emtionally damaged people as upset as possible with lots of stories of abuse, etc.
-Manipulation of emotion and thought through media, to the point of little critical thinking.
-Constant appeals to legalism and fanaticism.
-Lies and more lies about what will result if you come forward, pray, surrender, etc.
-Little or no reference to anything Biblical that would matter past the last altar call.
-Fanaticism constantly held up as healthy and normal.

I would leave these meetings beyond upset. Really, if you think I am emotionally damaged, these are the people to sue. I can give you the names.
A good summary, indeed. Thanks, Michael.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Props to Gaines for linking to this article from Challies.com on "worship." I really do get frustrated about all the singing about how we're going to sing, and worshipping by singing that we're going to worship. In fact, I'm overall tired of all the things we say we're going to do in modern worship songs. "I will" this and "I will" that... Isn't worship about what God has done? I'm becoming more convinced that, overall (though not in every case), hymnody really did take a bad turn sometime in the 19th century.

Are Your Hymns Too Spiritual? is a chapter from In the Face of God by Michael Horton. I read the book last year and highly recommend it to every single living Christian. I think it addresses the issue well.

Al just posted on this as well, and he quotes Marva Dawn, whom I'd highly recommend on the issue of worship. Check out Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down.

Calvinists and Unity

I've been meaning to link to this post by Doug Wilson on Unity and Doctrine. An excellent summary indeed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005



Ok, here are the resources I mentioned to you at the retreat.

ESV Online
For reading the Bible without chapter, verse, and header markings:
Click on the "Read it Online" link from the homepage.
Click on the "options (beta)" link in the top right hand corner.

Monergism.com resources on Church History
Excellent series by Sam Storms on Historical Theology
Hall of Church History (or, "Theology from a bunch of dead guys")

I'll provide more as I think of them. Happy reading!

Monday, April 18, 2005

To SUNY Geneseo, IVCF

Hello, all. Once again, thank you for being so gracious to me this weekend. I always enjoy the chance to be with you. As I said, I intend to post a good number of links that I hope will be helpful to you to pick up where we left off this weekend, whenever your studies permit you time to do so. I will try to put that list together tomorrow.

I trust your time of communion, singing, small groups, and lunch together after I left was blessed by God. I look forward to being with you some time again in the future. Until then, feel free to come visit my blog here, post some comments, or keep in touch by email.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A Passing Comment

Please take the following as a passing comment as I work through this stuff, and not as a definitive statement, since I haven't read enough of Wright or his critics to even make definitive statements yet.

I found the following on the N.T. Wright Page:

Anyway, Paul's point in the present passage is quite simply that what now marks out the covenant people of God, in the light of the revelation of God's righteousness in Jesus, is not the works of Torah that demarcate ethnic Israel, but "the law of faith," the faith that, however paradoxically, is in fact the fulfilling of Torah. There is no problem in adding the word "alone" to the word "faith"--a tradition that goes way back to Aquinas--as long as we recognize what it means: not that a person is converted by faith alone without moral effort (that is true, but it is not the truth that Paul is stressing here), nor that God's grace is always prior to human response (that is equally true, and equally not Paul's emphasis here), but that the badge of membership in God's people, the badge that enables all alike to stand on the same, flat ground at the foot of the cross, is faith."

--From the Commentary on Romans, by N.T. Wright
Now, I'm just a normal guy and all, but doesn't it seem that Wright is not denying some of the most beloved truths of Reformed theology, but rather making us look at texts more closely to see which ones are communicating those truths and which ones are addressing other issues? That's how it looks to me. It sounds like he's calling us back to the Bible and away from applying the statements in our Reformed confessions to any and every text, as though Paul was addressing in Romans the exact same questions that were being hashed out when the Westminster Confession, or any other such statement of faith, was written.

I could be wrong. It's just a passing thought based on one comment, but struck me as interesting nonetheless. Anyone who's read more Wright than I, feel free to add your thoughts.

Preaching Romans 12

So this is new. As I said, I'm preaching at the IVCF chapter retreat this weekend, and I've been asked to preach Romans 12. In days gone by, this passage would have been easy to preach. A long list of commands. Check. Hammer away for a few hours about how we should be doing these things, and if we're not, we might not really be Christians, or at the very least, we're about to be judged terribly by a holy God. A series of great big mean sermons. Easy.

Now that I'm recovering from my Christian moralism and actually believe the gospel is our only hope for being saved from sin and progressing in sanctification, I'm finding it not so easy to preach a list of moral commands!

Something tells me the way to do it is to place it in the context of the whole biblical story, especially since it follows 11 chapters of Paul's accounting of that story, but that's going to take more work than just listing rules we should be following.

I've got a long day of sermon writing ahead of me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

on the frequency of posts

Word around the cath lab is that they're going to be taking the internet away from us (@#$%@!!). Since many of my posts are written during breaks at work, there may be fewer posts until I figure out an alternative time to post more often.

I'm also trying to keep up better with the BHT now, so that's also a factor.

If you read this and think of it, toss up a prayer or two for me - I'm preaching to college kids all weekend again (one of my favorite things to do). I've been asked to speak at the SUNY Geneseo IVCF chapter retreat - 4 messages (30-45 minutes each) out of Romans 12.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

BHT Fellow

I was accepted this morning as a fellow at the Boar's Head Tavern, one of the discussion blogs I regularly visit, which means my life is complete and I could die a happy man. But before I do, come on over and check out the discussion.

Oden Rocks

Thomas C. Oden is my new hero. That's strange, since he's not a Calvinist, but he seems to be the only one I've read so far who's making the most clear-headed sense of what the church should do in our current cultural situation. Not only is he not a Calvinist, he's a United Methodist. J.I. Packer likes him, too, so I'm not in bad company. In fact, the two just co-edited a book called One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus in which they document the growing theological agreement between the various Christian denominations and organizations. He's a former liberal and modernist who is skeptical about modernism but does not think postmodernism is the answer.

I intend to post more (which means I might, if I remember) about his own quest to promote classical ecumenical confessional theology as a point of unity for Christians, but for now, I just want to provide a few great quotes. The one thing I love about reading Oden is that almost every page is jam-packed. He has this uncanny ability to say a whole lot in just one or two sentences. Here are just a few examples from The Rebirth of Orthodoxy:

"The Freudian idealization of sexual liberation and the dream of freedom from limits have resulted in the realization that it is easier to make babies than parent them morally." p.8.

"Those who willingly enslave themselves to passing idolatries should not be surprised when the gods of modern times are shown to have feet of clay." p. 11.

"Both Jews and Christians view all of history as the arena of revelation, but both see revelation through the lense of a particular history. They tell the story of salvation as a particular narrative, not as a general logical, scientific, or philosophical set of arguments." p. 17.

"The most salient feature of orthodoxy is not its rigidity but its flexibility. Since orthodoxy is centered in life in the eternal Word, it is free to enter willingly into infinitely varied cultural settings on behalf of its all-embracing vision of the truth." p. 41.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Wilson on Wright

Here is an absolutely excellent post by Doug Wilson on N.T. Wright.

He gets at a key issue which a lot of people seem to misunderstand - it is possible to learn things from people with whom you disagree on certain other issues. For some reason, there's this odd tendency to entirely dismiss someone because "he believes in [insert theological agenda]." But that's dumb. Especially with someone like N.T. Wright, who has done far more work trying to understand the issues at hand than you or I.

Thesis Outline Revisited

As some of you know, my thesis topic has changed from historical research of Christianity during the time of the Revolution and writing of the Constitution to an evaluation of the present Christian response to postmodernity and an agenda for moving forward. I'm workin' away at it, and at the present, the outline will take the following form:

Part One: Postmodernity and Emergent Church - A basic overview of postmodernism and a look at the "Emerging Church," a group of believers who believe, in one way or another, that Christians must embrace postmodernism.

Part Two: Postmodern Idolatry - Some concerns about "Emergent" based on an argument that postmodernism feeds perfectly into a consumer mentality that results, in essence, in a system of idolatry.

Part Three: Root Problems with Postmodernism - this will be a deeper look at the challenges we face as Christians when it comes to postmodernism and argue for a return to classic ecumenical consensus as a path forward for believers (Oden).

Part Four: The Apostles' Creed Applied - I will put part three into practice by formulating a response to postmodernism using the Apostles' Creed (classic ecumenical creed) as an outline.

The paper will be from a Reformed position, but I will be arguing for a more "generous orthodoxy" than most Reformed believers are willing to allow (though perhaps not quite as generous as McLaren's).

I'm still working some of the bugs out, but I'm hoping to pull this all together finally in the next few weeks.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Meet Bodhi

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Sunday, April 03, 2005

everything's a debate

As much as I've been helped by many of the writings of James White over the years, I've come to the conclusion that he is the embodiment of every negative connotation associated with the word "dogmatic." Sometimes I want to clobber him over his bald head and say, "RELAX!" Here's an excerpt from his thoughts on the death of John Paul II:

Sit back and start taking notes. How many, anywhere, even in "Christian media," will address the only relevant issue regarding the death of John Paul II? And that issue?
Well, it isn't the length of his Pontificate, one of the longest and most stable in centuries.
It isn't the fact that as far as Pontiffs go, he was a great administrator, traveler, even uniter of a very factionalized church. His "greatness" as a Pope isn't an issue.
It won't be that he was a nice man, or that he took courageous stands on controversial issues.
No, the issue almost no one will speak about is very simple: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And further:

As I have noted on the Dividing Line, the passing of John Paul II opens up a tremendous opportunity for dialogue. Are you prepared? Can you address the issue of the Papacy, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how Rome does not possess that gospel (but instead dogmatically denies it)?
You see? Everything in evangelicalism these days is turned into a debate to prove that we're right.
The reason he believes no one will get the "real" issue?

It will not be spoken of for the simple reason that very, very few today believe the gospel can be known with sufficient clarity and depth to even address the issue of Rome's teaching.
Well, maybe. Or maybe it's because not everyone in evangelicalism thinks that the day a pope dies is the day to embark on a 30 city evangelistic crusade to "save" Catholics. Or maybe not everyone in evangelicalism believes that White's particular version of "Reformed Baptist" theology is the most perfect definition of orthodoxy.

So if you're looking for a kinder, gentler Protestant response from a solid, orthodox Christian, check out Leithart on Pope John Paul II instead.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

credo, paedo, and the learning space between

This post by Doug Wilson is tremendously helpful for me right now when dealing with the question of infant or believer's baptism. I know that wherever I end up landing on this issue, I'm going to spend a good, long time studying it.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Rochester Sports

Now that I live in Rochester, I'm looking forward to getting into Rochester minor league sports. Good time to start, too. The Rochester Americans, farm club for the Sabres, is tearing up the league, and the playoffs are starting soon. The Red Wings' season is starting April 9th, which also means that Rohrbach will be brewing its "Red Wing Red" again. I'm looking forward to some nice evenings in the ballpark.