Sunday, January 31, 2010

What is worse?

Last evening I watched CNN video of Scott Roeder's courtroom testimony. The jury, appropriately, convicted this man of murder. Yet as I reflect on this whole situation, I find it hard to determine which of the situations below is the most morally heinous. All are utterly sinful, but any thoughts as to which of the four is worst?

A. The murder of a single human being.
B. The murder of over 60,000 babies by a single human being.
C. A nation's legally protected approval of the murder of babies.
D. A church body that affirms/accepts into membership one who practices the murder of babies.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What if Satan wrote Ephesians 5:25-28?

If Satan wrote Ephesians 5:25-28 it would probably read something like this:

"Husbands, despise your wives, as Satan despises the church and actively seeks to abuse her, in order that he might destroy her, having nothing but hatred for her in the thoughts of his heart, so that he might rid himself of her, with her being dead and gone once and for all, that he might be released from her blemishes on his joy and freedom. In the same way husbands should despise their wives because he is far more important than is she. He who despises his wife truly loves himself."

Think that is a bit extreme? Not at all. This evening I was shocked to hear of a Baptist pastor, Matt Baker of Waco Texas, who is on trial for killing his wife. Some stories we read are tragic, others are beyond imagination, and still others are living nightmares. The story below is perhaps one of the most disturbing, demonic, and evil actions I've ever encountered.

According to witness testimony, the pastor became invovled in an adulterous relationship with a divorcee from within his church. While his wife was grieving the loss of one of their children to cancer, the pastor was plotting how he could get out of the marriage. The pastor told his mistress that "divorce was not an option because it would mean he could never preach again and he was concerned that his wife Kari might fight for custody of their kids." In court his mistress testified that "Baker talked of various ways to kill his wife: a drive-by shooting, hanging her and making it appear to be suicide, and tampering with her car brakes. Once when his wife was late arriving home...he 'started getting excited that maybe she did have a wreck and he wouldn't have to do anything.'"

Sensing her husband was becoming distant emotionally, his faithful wife tried in desparation to spice up their marriage sexually by ordering sexual enhancement drugs. In an act that can only be described as demonic, this supposed "man of God" used this opportunity to murder her. Earlier in the evening he opened the pill casings and dumped the contents and replaced them with a powerful sleep-inducing drug he had stolen from his mother-in-law. His mistress testified that Baker "kissed her until she fell asleep and then kissed her forehead, telling her to give their deceased daughter a hug or kiss for him. Baker then smothered her with a pillow, but she gasped for breath, so he put his hand over the pillow directly over her nose until she died."

How can one preach the love of Christ and yet have the mind of Satan? Our sinfulness and rebellion against God is indeed without restraint. We all stand urgently in need of a Redeemer, and how pitiful it is to see a man pretending to be an expert on the very Gospel that he has never truly possessed.

Tonight I think of my precious Amy, a woman who I spent several years criticizing and demeaning, only to eventually realize she is the precious jewel given to me by the very hand of a sovereign God. He blessed me with His choicest of daughters, and rightfully expects that she be cherished and honored. His command to me, and to all Christian husbands, is as simple as it is all-encompassing: "husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the Church".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Newton's Confession of Faith

I just began re-reading Letters of John Newton, and came across a brief confession of faith he drafted in a letter to Rev. Francis Okeley. In this confession Newton was attempting a hasty draft of those things "necessary to believe" (e.g. those doctrinal truths essential to Christian faith).

I believe that sin is the most hateful thing in the world; that I and all men are by nature in a state of wrath and depravity, utterly unable to sustain the penalty, or to fulfill the commands of God's holy law; and that we have no sufficiency of ourselves to think a good thought.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the chief among ten thousands; that he came into the world to save the chief of sinners, by making propitiation for sin by his death, by paying a perfect obedience to the law, in our behalf; and that he is now exalted on high, to give repentance and remission of sins to all that believe, and that he ever liveth to make intercession for us.

I believe the Holy Spirit (the gift of God, through Jesus Christ) is the sure and only guid into all truth, and the common priviledge of all believers; and under his influence, I believe the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation, and to furnish us thoroughly for every good work.

I believe that love to God, and to man for God's sake, is the essence of religion[1], and the fulfilling of the law; that without holiness no man shall see the Lord; that those who, by a patient course in well doing, seek glory, honour, and immortality, shall see eternal life; and I believe this reward is not of debt but of grace, even to the praise and glory of that grace, whereby he has made us accepted in the Beloved. Amen[2].

[1] Per custom of the time period, in this context Newton used the word 'religion' to mean 'Christianity'.

[2] Newton understood his language and formulation was probably lacking in accuracy. Just after writing the above, he noted to Okeley: "I pretend not accuracy in this hasty draught; they are only outlines, which if you please retouch and fill up at your leisure, I hope you will favour me with sight of it."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Apologizing for Hell

Below is a lengthy excerpt from an article Al Molher wrote for 9Mark ejournal (bold/italics mine).


In recent years, a new pattern of evangelical evasion has surfaced. The Protestant liberals and modernists of the twentieth century simply dismissed the doctrine of hell, having already rejected the truthfulness of Scripture. Thus, they did not enter into elaborate attempts to argue that the Bible did not teach the doctrine—they simply dismissed it.

Though this pattern is found among some who would claim to be evangelicals, this is not the most common evangelical pattern of compromise. A new apologetic move is now evident among some theologians and preachers who do affirm the inerrancy of the Bible and the essential truthfulness of the New Testament doctrine of hell. This new move is more subtle, to be sure. In this move the preacher simply says something like this:

"I regret to tell you that the doctrine of hell is taught in the Bible. I believe it. I believe it because it is revealed in the Bible. It is not up for renegotiation. We just have to receive it and believe it. I do believe it. I wish it could be otherwise but it is not."

Statements like this reveal a very great deal. The authority of the Bible is clearly affirmed. The speaker affirms what the Bible reveals and rejects accommodation. So far, so good. The problem is in how the affirmation is introduced and explained. In an apologetic gesture, the doctrine is essentially lamented.

What does this say about God? What does this imply about God's truth? Can a truth clearly revealed in the Bible be anything less than good for us? The Bible presents the knowledge of hell just as it presents the knowledge of sin and judgment: these are things we had better know. God reveals these things to us for our good and for our redemption. In this light, the knowledge of these things is grace to us. Apologizing for a doctrine is tantamount to impugning the character of God.

Do we believe that hell is a part of the perfection of God's justice? If not, we have far greater theological problems than those localized to hell.

Several years ago, someone wisely suggested that a good many modern Christians wanted to "air condition hell."[11] The effort continues. Remember that the liberals and the modernists operated out of an apologetic motivation. They wanted to save Christianity as a relevant message in the modern world and to remove the odious obstacle of what were seen as repugnant and unnecessary doctrines. They wanted to save Christianity from itself.

Today, some in movements such as the emerging church commend the same agenda, and for the same reason. Are we embarrassed by the biblical doctrine of hell?

If so, this generation of evangelicals will face no shortage of embarrassments. The current intellectual context allows virtually no respect for Christian affirmations of the exclusivity of the gospel, the true nature of human sin, the Bible's teachings regarding human sexuality, and any number of other doctrines revealed in the Bible. The lesson of theological liberalism is clear—embarrassment is the gateway drug for theological accommodation and denial.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Update on why I haven't been blogging

Just a quick note about why I haven't been blogging (yes, this is a plea to stop the daily e-mails I receive wondering if I'm dead, depressed, trapped under an overturned vehicle, forsaken the faith, or had my internet connection shut off).

Actually, I'm up to my ears in theological study. We began a massive undertaking about 6 months ago to study through and "tweak" our church's Confession of Faith. That little 'tweak' turned into a complete overhaul. I've been in the final writing stage for about 6 weeks. By God's grace, that has been completed! Now we are going through all of our notes (as well as new study) in order to attach a massive "scripture proofs" to this new confession. It is slow going. Tonight we just finished the scripture proofs for Article 7 of the new confession (there are 19 Articles). Once everything is done we will post it online (probably as a doc file on Scribd), but keep in mind it still needs to go before the congregation for review. Lord willing everything will be done by the end of next week.

My wife has accused me of being in a 'zombie-like' phase for weeks. Since I do have a habit of talking to myself out loud, it seems I walk around the house saying things like "I think I took that verse out of context", "using the word perspicuity would be ironically self-defeating", and "I haven't quite captured the inherent goodness of God's wrath".

Lord willing, I am planning on resuming normal posting in February. Actually, I've been writing daily devos, so those should be up and running Feb 1.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

And you thought I was obsessive with books

In 10th Century Persia Grand Vizier Abdul Kassem Ismael was loath to part with his 117,000 volume library. When traveling he carried the collection along in a caravan of 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order (A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel.) Thus his camel drivers were able to deliver volumes to the master upon request.

1/4/09 Update: Perhaps this is a modern day equivalent (though I would need quite a few to replace 400 camels worth).