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This video gives insight into what real life is like for those bearing witness to the light of the world in Central Asia:
If so, you’ll want to check out The Rhetoric Companion from N. D. Wilson and Douglas Wilson.
I’m not saying that reading this book will enable you to write a book like N. D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl or be as clever as Doug Wilson in a verbal swordfight. After all, it’s one thing for Michael Jordan teach you his moves, it’s something else for you to try to dunk from the free throw line. Some things have to be put there by God, and if God didn’t give it, there’s no getting it. These guys have talent.
But even if you’re not going to win the NBA dunk contest, working on your fundamentals will help you in pick up games and the church league ball. You won’t become Michael Jordan, but you can make the best of what you have. And you should. And this book can help you do it.
Please don’t object at this point that I’m introducing worldliness into this conversation. I’m not suggesting that what N. D. and Doug Wilson do is somehow more holy or more pleasing to God than what the rest of us do. It is the case, though, that N. D. Wilson’s fiction is being published by Random House and he’s appeared on Good Morning America and been featured on NPR. Meanwhile, Doug Wilson’s prose is an inimitable combination of G. K. Chesterton and P. G. Wodehouse. What theologian is more fun to read?
They’re playing in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean the pick up ball the rest of us enjoy on Monday nights is any less significant (or fun), and it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fundamentals of basketball. Hone your skills. Serve your people. Love them. Work on your technique. Practice your free-throws and ball handling. Learn how to see the floor. Read this book.
Into a land of darkness
Where the light not legal is,
We will go to sing the song
Of how the soul may live.
This is a land where evil men
Forbid the truth be known,
Though illegal, we will go,
God’s glory must be shown.
Doubt not the truth that in the end
The gospel will prevail.
Through flame and blood we testify
To one who did not fail
When into a land of darkness
Where the light not legal was,
The baby’s cry did pierce the night
Satan’s seed were set to flight
The blind were given back their sight
When came the one to set things right
The Lord of all, the light of light,
Against him stands no chance the night.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
From December 2–19, 2011, I was overseas teaching. The country I was in is among the 50 worst countries for the persecution of Christians (it’s in the top 20).
The nations rage, the peoples plot in vain, and the one who sits in the heavens laughs: the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Ps 2; Rev 11).
The darkness will be vanquished.
What hath Whittaker Chambers to do with “Hope and Change”?
What hath communism and secular liberalism to do with the promises of God in the Bible?
What do racial equality and diversity, environmentalism, peace in our time, provision for all, the hope of socialism, the goals of liberalism, and the aims of all politicians have to do with Christianity?
On Sunday, November 20, 2011, it was my privilege to address “Hope and Change and the Promises of God” at Providence Baptist Church in Pasadena, TX.
This was an overtly evangelistic, gospel sermon. This was a sermon aimed at unbelievers pleading with them to embrace Christianity.
May the Lord be pleased to call many to himself.
Insightful article by Jonathan Gibson in the latest issue of Themelios, looking at how Edwards viewed his mission to the American Indians, how he adapted his preaching to the new context, and how he pursued “social justice”!
Credit where credit is due: the title of this post comes from Mike’s answer to the last question in this interview.
Mike Wittmer’s book Christ Alone was written in response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, and Wittmer’s book appeared within one month of the release of Love Wins. In this book Wittmer models charity and firmness, clarity and creativity. He is as kind and fair to Rob Bell as he is unrelenting in the force of his logic and the power of his critique. These two books represent a paradox: Wittmer’s is a masterpiece of erudition and delight. Love Wins is nowhere close to being in the same league with Christ Alone, and yet to this point Bell’s book has sold far more copies and received far more attention. I suspect that as the decades roll by this situation will be reversed.
Prof. Wittmer was kind enough to answer a few questions on his book. Thanks, Mike!
Remarkably, you had a book length response to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins in print within a month of that book’s publication. You had a pre-pub draft of Love Wins, right? Did you clear your schedule entirely to crank out Christ Alone? And what was the turn-around time between handing in the manuscript and holding the published book in your hands?
I knew in November that Rob was coming out with a controversial book, but I didn’t see a copy until three days before it was released. I was on sabbatical in Florida when the Internet began buzzing, and while there I received an email from a publisher asking if I’d be interested in writing a response. I said that I’d have to see Rob’s book when I came home, and after a quick read I decided that it deserved a book-length critique.
It’s a lot of work to write and publish a book in six weeks—and I don’t necessarily want to do it again—but I had a terrific editor who turned chapters back to me the day after I sent them to him. Most important, there were moments when I felt that God was directing my thoughts. More than once I looked at my blank computer screen and asked God for an illustration to open a chapter, and each time He gave me an idea that expressed my point better than I had ever done before. I didn’t run into any dead ends, which I didn’t have time for anyway. I was researching, organizing, and drafting all at once. Usually that spells disaster, but this time it turned out very well.
You live in Grand Rapids, where Rob Bell pastors, and you mention that you guys know and appreciate each other. I’m sure you’ve given him a copy of the book. Any indications as to whether or not he has read it?
Rob and I talked about the issues in Love Wins about a year before I knew he was writing it. At that time I gave him a copy of my book, Don’t Stop Believing, which I hoped would bring many emergent Christians back to the faith. Obviously, it didn’t have that effect on Rob! I don’t want to share the specifics of our private meeting, but it’s fair to say that we didn’t understand each other. Our failure to communicate—and Rob’s response to the critiques he has received—led me to conclude that it would be futile to send him a copy of my latest book. But as I think about it, it seems that would be an appropriate thing to do, and I will send him one tomorrow, along with a note offering to buy lunch.
I think it’s important to add that Christ Alone is not responding to Rob per se but to the content of Love Wins. My goal is not to correct Rob but to counter the false gospel of Love Wins. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to readers what Rob personally believes, but only what they think Love Wins is saying. And it’s that message that Christ Alone seeks to correct.
Have there been attempts to organize a public forum where the two of you can discuss the two books?
A local television station floated the idea but nothing ever came of it. I’m appearing at a local bookstore next week, but they said they wouldn’t have room to put all the people if they invited Rob! So while I think that could be a very interesting meeting (perhaps even bring in Kevin DeYoung from Lansing and Richard Mouw for Rob’s side), I doubt that will happen. Rob doesn’t do many debates, and the ones that I’ve seen haven’t been particularly productive.
In this book I think you’ve out-belled Rob Bell–you’re doing what he does better than he does it, particularly in provoking thought by asking better questions than he does, refusing simple answers while affirming what can be known, and you’re a lot better with the actual evidence than he is. It mystifies me that his book is a New York Times bestseller and yours isn’t. Why are people attracted to Bell’s book when other books (not least Christ Alone) are so much better on so many levels?
I was surprised to find that Love Wins doesn’t tell a compelling story. It’s ironic that a man who is rightly praised for his story-telling is now telling a story that has nothing at stake. The story of Love Wins is as bland as a children’s bed-time story. Everyone lives happily ever after, because they were never at risk. No one fought for them. God does nothing heroic, for there is no danger that calls for heroism.
Still, I think Love Wins is popular for several reasons. 1) Rob is a rock star, and celebrity sells. 2) Love Wins says what the culture wants to hear from the evangelical world, which is probably why Time magazine put Rob’s story on its cover. Love Wins gives our culture a reason to think that conservative evangelicals really are ignorant and foolish, as one of their brightest lights now says. 3) There’s the Internet uproar, which stoked interest in Love Wins several weeks before it was to be released. We’ll never know how Love Wins would have done without the controversy (probably pretty well), but I hope we have learned not to feed the narrative that “we criticize before we’ve read the book.”
You show again and again how Bell is selective with the evidence–this happens both in his use of the Bible and in use of church history. I’m shocked by the way that he quotes Luther out of context, for instance (Christ Alone, 68–69). Is Bell kind of a bumbler who is making a bunch of honest mistakes, or has he repeatedly, intentionally, dishonestly misrepresented reality to gain rhetorical advantage?
I am afraid this will sound harsh, but I think Love Wins displays either ignorance, dishonesty, laziness, or some combination of the three. The best defense I’ve heard is that Rob is an artist who doesn’t think in logical categories, but paints with a passionate though not finely tuned brush. That may be true, but artists still can’t make the unforced errors that occur in Love Wins.
I’m curious about the title of your book, Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins. For one thing, I might have expected a play on the title Love Wins; for another, with titles like Heaven Is a Place on Earth and Don’t Stop Believing, I might have expected something that had to do with pop music in the 80′s. Were there other possible titles? Why did you ultimately settle on Christ Alone?
Our original title was God Wins, but we feared that it sounded too polemical. Christ Alone also comes with a soundtrack (so my streak of song titles is still alive), but more importantly it corrects the natural theology that lies at the heart of Love Wins. That is the unique contribution of Christ Alone. Other books address the issues of hell and universalism in Love Wins, but these are symptoms of a much deeper problem. The fundamental issue with Love Wins is that it changes the meaning of the gospel. Jesus no longer dies to save us from our sin, but merely to affirm that everyone who dies will live again. Love Wins says this truth is hard wired into creation, for it’s “how the world works.”
As you know, the biblical gospel isn’t that every human is saved just because they’re born, but we all must be born again by placing our trust in Jesus. The cross and resurrection don’t merely reveal that life comes after death, but they are the very things which make it true. The gospel says that we aren’t saved by nature, but by Christ alone.
Thanks again for engaging these questions, Mike!
In my opinion, even those who have not read Love Wins and are not interested in that book can nevertheless benefit from Christ Alone. How much more for those who have read Rob Bell and are wrestling with these issues. Do check out http://www.christalonebook.
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit the Grand Canyon.
In the mercy and kindness of God, I got to go on a trip for Christian Leaders with my good friends Andy Naselli and Jason Derouchie, and I have definitive proof that my new friendship with Mike Wittmer has changed his life.
A few logistics and some stray comments before I attempt to combine words to get across the four big things I want to say about the trip: The expedition was made financially possible by Answers in Genesis, Canyon Ministries, and The Master’s Seminary. I don’t know who the donors were (each of us received a $3,300 scholarship), but I hereby register my gratitude for their generosity.
Let me also say that if you’re looking for a way to contribute financially to a Bible teacher or Christian leader having a great time on the river with Christian brothers discussing the age of the earth, the flood, and the Canyon, this is a great cause.
Or, if you’re looking for an exciting and educational vacation, why not plan a trip through the Canyon? You won’t find a better guide than Tom Vail of Canyon Ministries. The man knows where to find a shaded campsite, how to run a rapid, how to explain the Canyon’s geology, how to relate to all kinds of people, and even how to cook a birthday cake down there on the river. I’ve heard he catches rattle-snakes if they enter camp (seriously–thankfully no need to this time), and the power of the gospel is heard in his testimony and seen in his actions. Go to the Canyon Ministries website to book your trip.
We entered the river at Lees Ferry, and we helicoptered out 190 miles later, just past Lava Falls. I had never ridden in a helicopter. I had never been white water rafting. I had never been to the Grand Canyon. I had never slept under the open heavens–no tents necessary with no bugs and clear skies. I never imagined I would eat so well on a rafting trip.
I had no idea the Colorado River was so cold–47 degrees–and wouldn’t have expected bathing and doing laundry in it to be so easy (ok, it took a couple days to get used to the shiver-inducing cold of the water). Nor could I have imagined that the Little Colorado River would look like the clear blue waters of the Caribbean, or that flash flooding upriver could make the water of the Colorado look like Chocolate Milk. Willy Wonka would be proud.
I had no idea that the connections between the geological evidence about the formation of the Canyon and the Genesis flood were so strong.
I’m hoping to go back with my wife and kids (once they get old enough) and as many other family members as possible.
My four big take-aways from the trip have to do with the immensity and beauty of the Canyon, the relationships strengthened and formed, the power of the flood, and the joy of homecoming.
Immensity and Beauty
If you want to feel small, high thee up on that ledge above Deer Creek Falls that leads to Upper Deer Creek. Jason Derouchie has nerves of steel. He was standing right next to that ledge! I was with Mike Wittmer trying to get as close to the cliff sloping up behind it as possible. Eventually we agreed it was better not even to look at those guys who were so close to it. Especially when Nate started mocking us by acting like he was going to lunge off the ledge. Crazy. I was claiming Psalm 121:3, “He will not let your foot be moved.”
But from that ledge you can see a long, long way, and it’s Canyon as far as eyes will go. Enormity. Immensity. And it goes a lot farther than weak human eyes take in.
I wish my words were as beautiful as the Canyon’s splendors. It’s a place worthy of poets. Pictures can’t do it justice, but my sweet wife checked out several picture books on the Canyon from the local public library so she and the kids could have a glimpse of its glory.
At the end of the trip we received Tom Vail’s book, Grand Canyon: A Different View. When she saw it, my lovely wife said, “This is what I was hoping for from the books we got from the library; these pictures are far superior.” Its message is, too.
The size of the place is awesome.
At one point you’re a mile deep from river to rim. As you pass through the Upper Granite Gorge and the Middle Granite Gorge (we choppered out before the Lower Granite Gorge), you’re in canyons within the Canyon, and the walls of granite rise so steep and high that the outer rim cannot be seen.
It is big. And it is beautiful. Variety, radiance, harmony, wholeness: glory seen there.
Thirty-two men on two boats rafting down the Colorado River. Away from wives, kids, and work responsibilities. No cell phone signals, no laptops, no blogs, twitter feeds, or facebook pages. Walls of rock rise on either side of the river. Eat. Raft. Eat. Raft. Hike. Raft. Eat. Sleep on a cot on a piece of sand in a bend of the River. When you wake up you’re with the same guys ready to sit on the boat again for hours. Plenty of time to talk. Long conversations punctuated by blasts through drenching rapids.
That’s a recipe for relationships, especially when the men are Christ-following and eager to serve.
What a blessing to walk through life with Christian brothers. There is indeed a unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There were four men from the UK, an Australian, and Americans from California and Virginia, Minnesota and Georgia, and a bunch of places in between. It was a blessing to strengthen old friendships and start new ones.
What a gift is friendship, yea, brotherhood–sweetened by the knowledge of the true and living God, faith in his Son Jesus Christ, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
That massive and beautiful Canyon was cut by water. A lot of water moving fast. A catastrophic amount of water. It’s stunning, really, to look at the Canyon and imagine how much water moved through there. Sea water, no less, as evidenced by many, many fossils of salt-water critters.
Anyone who has read the opening pages of my recent book knows that I love guided tours. Even better than some device with a recording is a live tour guide who is a good teacher and likes to answer questions. Andrew Snelling was our live and in person geologist through the Canyon. You can check out his writing in short or long form. In addition to Andrew guiding us through the rocks, Bill Barrick was there to guide us through relevant passages of Scripture. What a blessing to be taught by these men.
We had many discussions of the age of the earth as well, and Terry Mortenson took the lead in these. I’m a convinced young-earther who thinks that flood was global. As World magazine’s books of the year demonstrate, this is a hot topic. Some have recently advocated the idea that what threatens fidelity is not the idea of an old earth but of theistic evolution. With that I’m sympathetic, and I also think the Preface to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is relevant to this dispute, as it shows men humbly contending earnestly for the truth. For this we should strive as we engage old-earthers (among whom, apparently, we find Augustine, Thomas Chalmers, C. H. Spurgeon, B. B. Warfield, James M. Boice, and Wayne Grudem).
Consider the attractive power of the earnest humility expressed in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. In the Preface the framers begin by asserting the significance of the issue:
We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large.
Then a few lines down there is this challenging graciousness wrapped in an invitation to continue the conversation:
We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we propose by God’s grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.
We invite response to this Statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help that enables us to strengthen this testimony to God’s Word we shall be grateful.
Amen. May the Lord give us grace to engage in these disputes with a similar spirit.
The waters of the Colorado are powerful, as can be seen in this clip (note how the guy seated front left has his hat knocked off his head when the water rushes over him, and enjoy Derouchie’s fist pumping enthusiasm when he has passed through the waters):
All this water, however, does not appear to be now widening the river’s banks or deepening its channel, which seems to indicate that the Canyon was cut by a catastrophic, unprecedented, and unrepeated flow of water. My mind can barely begin to imagine the fury of the raging waters of Noah’s flood. Praise God that Jesus was baptized in the flood-waters of God’s wrath so that those who trust in him are delivered, as Noah was in the ark.
My gratitude to those who made the trip possible runs deep. I’m thankful for those who made it financially possible, but the deepest waters of thanksgiving flow toward my family. My sweet wife rejoiced in the opportunity to hold down the fort with our four kids, and my heroic dad came to help while I was away. The deep channels of their sacrificial love caused soaring heights of joy when I finally got home. I am the most blessed husband and father in the world.
To have that woman throw her arms around my neck.
There are pleasures that can only be felt in this permanent, exclusive, monogamous, comprehensive, interpersonal, organic union of one man and one woman called marriage.
My sons prepared for my arrival with a note taped to the door of our home, “Dad’s Home, Yippee!” And they made a lap-book of the Grand Canyon. Is it possible to describe what I felt when those three boys, 7, 5, and 3 years old, clambered out of the van and sprinted down the sidewalk at the airport to fling themselves into my arms? I hope they have sons like themselves, and I hope the Lord gives them each a wife like their mother. And then there was the joy of that wobbly five month old baby girl, with her bright-eyed smile and delightful pre-word baby cooing.
The Canyon was enormous and beautiful. The friendships renewed and formed full of joy and promise. The thought of the flood-waters of judgment that cut those rocks, leaving beauty in the wake of destruction (ahem, God’s glory in salvation through judgment) evokes praise for the Maker of the mountains. Coming home to my sweet wife and our four little ones is like stepping into a dream come true.
And all of it is mercy.
Cue organ to blast out the Gloria Patri:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen, amen.
What do I mean by cheating?
- Manipulating evidence so that it says what you want it to say to get people to do what you think they should do, even if that’s not what the Bible tells them to do.
- Making bad arguments on the basis of bogus statistics that you then use to prey on people’s emotions.
- Exploiting a vague sense of guilt people feel about something that the Bible does not condemn so that you can twist their arms to get them to do something you know they don’t want to do.
- Using unverified background material as illustrations to twist the text of Scripture into saying what you want it to say, so you can use it how you want to use it, usually to coerce people.
- Saying things that you know aren’t precisely true but that sound really, really good, things that give you the appearance of being more learned than you are, or that make a situation sound better than it is, or that present miraculous revivals that never happened, and in all this you pull the wool over the eyes of the ignorant to gain power over them.
- Creating straw men and constructing caricatures of people, overdrawing the foibles of enemies, misrepresenting their arguments, exaggerating their faults, jumping to unwarranted conclusions about their motives or the outcome of their lives, and generally treating human beings as less than human–the human beings you’re talking about and the ones you’re talking to.
These are some of the ways that people cheat. Writers, speakers, presenters, and others who want an outcome will use these strategies. They’re not trying to convince you by means of legitimate persuasion; they’re not respecting your intelligence; they’re not counting on you thinking carefully about their arguments; they’re not expecting their evidence to be analyzed; and they’re not honoring God.
The authors of the Bible never cheat. Have you noticed that? That may be one of the reasons the books of the Bible feel less glamorous than some of the sermons you’ve heard. I’m not saying that all glitzy sermons or sexy books about the Bible partake of sentimentality, but those that don’t have really accomplished something. Those that don’t are the work of craftsmen who are long tried pious poets. Those that do may have a morning in the sun but will wither and be gone in the heat of afternoon.
The truth is good enough. We don’t need to cheat. Don’t do it. There are things that really move people. Don’t trick them into tears. Don’t tell lies. God doesn’t need you to make it sound better than it really is. You won’t please God, and you will wind up discouraging people, loading them up with guilt, and causing some of them to go back and analyze your evidence and your arguments. And if you’ve cheated, those who have some experience with evidence and arguments will see it and draw conclusions about your character. These are the kinds of people whose opinions matter. These are the folks you want to persuade. These are the folks with the theological backbone to resist you, the hermeneutical sophistication to follow your tracks and see where you left the path, and they will then warn others not to follow in your footsteps.
Tell the truth. Don’t cheat. Don’t manipulate. Jesus wouldn’t do that to people, and you shouldn’t either. Follow the golden rule: try to persuade others as you want to be persuaded, by an open statement of the truth.
God knows what people need to do. God’s Spirit will convict God’s people to do what God wants them to do. God’s word is sufficient. Trust it. Teach it. And trust God. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost don’t need us spray-painting the grass to make it look green from the other side. They can send the rain, plant by living waters, and show leaves that don’t wither. They don’t need us making it look like a bed of roses when actually it’s a cross to lie down on.
The most recent issue of the Towers publication from SBTS reproduces a condensation of a pamphlet John Broadus wrote on “The Duty of Teaching Baptist Distinctives.” If the link doesn’t go straight to the article on the PDF, it’s on the lower third of page 5 (Towers, January 3, 2011). I’ve copied and pasted it below:
The Duty of Teaching Baptist Distinctives
by John A. Broadus
EDITOR’S NOTE: John A. Broadus (1827- 1895), founder and former professor at Southern Seminary, first published this material as a 35-page pamphlet with the American Baptist Publication Society. This article is a condensed version of excerpts from an issue of “The Baptist Vision.”
A duty we owe to ourselves
We must teach [Baptist] views in order to be consistent in holding them. Because of these we stand apart from other Christians. We have no right thus to stand apart unless the matters of difference have real importance; and if they are really important, we certainly ought to teach them.
This teaching is the only way of correct- ing excesses among ourselves. Do some of our Baptist brethren seem to you ultra in their denominationalism, violent, bitter? And do you expect to correct such a tendency by going to the opposite extreme? You are so pained, shocked, disgusted at what you consider an unlovely treatment of controverted matters that you shrink from treating them at all. Well, the persons you have in view would defend them-selves by pointing at you. Thus one extreme fosters another.
A duty we owe to our fellow Christians
It is urged that we ought to push all our differences into the background and stand shoulder to shoulder against Popery. It seems to us that the best way to meet and withstand Romanism is to take Baptist ground. Our brethren of the Protestant persuasions are all holding some “developed” form of Christian- ity, not so far developed as Popery, and some of them much less developed than others, but all having added something, in faith or govern- ment or ordinances, to the primitive simplicity. The Roman Catholics know this, and some- times say that the Baptists alone are consistent in opposing the [Roman Catholic] Church.
We may say that there are but two sorts of Christianity: church Christianity and Bible Christianity. If well-meaning Roman Catholics become dissatisfied with resting everything on the authority of the church and begin to look toward the Bible as authority, they are not likely to stop at any halfway house, but to go forward to the position of those who really build on the Bible alone.
It is not necessarily an arrogant and pre- sumptuous thing in us if we strive to bring our Protestant brethren to views that we honestly believe to be more scriptural, and therefore more wholesome.
A duty we owe to the unbelieving world
We want unbelievers to accept Christianity; and it seems to us they are more likely to accept it when presented in its primitive simplicity, as the apostles themselves offered it to the men of their time.
For meeting the assaults of infidels, we think our position is best. We can say to the skeptical inquirer, “Come and bring all the light that has been derived from studying the material world, the history of man or the highest philosophy, and we will gladly use it in helping to interpret this which we believe to be God’s Word.” There is in this freedom no small advantage for the truly rational inquirer.
But, while thus free to search the Scriptures, Baptists are eminently conservative in their whole tone and spirit; and for a reason. Their recognition of the Scriptures alone as author- ity, and the stress they lay on exact conformity to the requirements of the Scriptures foster an instinctive feeling that they must stand or fall with the real truth and the real authority of the Bible. The union of freedom and conservatism is something most healthy and hopeful.
A duty we owe to Christ
It is a matter of simple loyalty to Him. He met the eleven disciples by appointment on a mountain in Galilee; probably the more than 500 of whom Paul speaks were present also: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com- manded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
The things of which we have been speak- ing are but a part of all the things which Jesus commanded; what shall hinder us, what could excuse us, from observing them ourselves and teaching them to others? Shall we neglect to teach as He required, and then claim the prom- ise of His presence and help and blessing?
Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford have done us a great service in editing The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ until He Comes, which has just appeared from Broadman and Holman.
I’m honored to have contributed to this project, and I’m grateful that Broadman and Holman has kindly granted me permission to post my essay here:
“The Lord’s Supper in Paul: An Identity Forming Proclamation of the Gospel,” pages 68–102 in The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford, NACSBT (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010).
Patrick Schreiner has an interview with the editors.
Here’s the outline of my essay:
2. Problems in the Corinthian Church
2.1 First Corinthians 1–4, The Gospel Against Factionalism
2.2 First Corinthians 5–7, The Gospel Against Sexual Immorality
2.3 First Corinthians 8–10, The Gospel Against Idolatry
3. The Lord’s Supper: An Identity Shaping Proclamation of the Gospel
3.1 Anti-gospel Divisions
3.2 Proclaiming the Lord’s Death
3.3 Partaking in a Worthy Manner
3.4 Receiving One Another
4. Implications for the Contemporary Church
Here’s the Table of Contents for the volume:
David S. Dockery, “Foreword”
Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford, “Introduction”
1. Andreas J. Koestenberger, “Was the Last Supper a Passover Meal?”
2. Jonathan T. Pennington, “The Lord’s Supper in the Fourfold Witness of the Gospels”
3. James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Lord’s Supper in Paul: An Identity-Forming Proclamation of the Gospel”
4. Michael A. G. Haykin, “‘A Glorious Inebriation’: Eucharistic Thought and Piety in the Patristic Era”
5. David S. Hogg, “Carolingian Conflict: Two Monks on the Mass”
6. Gregg R. Allison, “The Theology of the Eucharist according to the Catholic Church”
7. Matthew R. Crawford, “On Faith, Signs, and Fruits: Martin Luther’s Theology of the Lord’s Supper”
8. Bruce A. Ware, “The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper in the Theology of Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531)”
9. Shawn D. Wright, “The Reformed View of the Lord’s Supper”
10. Gregory A. Wills, “Sounds from Baptist History”
11. Brian J. Vickers, “Celebrating the Past and Future in the Present”
12. Gregory Alan Thornbury, “The Lord’s Supper and Works of Love”
13. Ray Van Neste, “The Lord’s Supper in the Context of the Local Church
Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford, “Epilogue”
Under the leadership of the prolific Timothy Paul Jones, the Gheens Center for Christian Family Ministry has re-launched The Journal of Family Ministry. The editorial introducing the new journal recounts in miniature the remarkable changes that have happened at SBTS since the late 1980s.
If you’re thinking about ministering to youth and families, you’ll want to avail yourself of this new resource. I’m honored to have an essay in the first issue. Here’s the table of contents:
2, The Editors, “Acknowledgment: The Gheens Family”
4, Timothy Paul Jones, “Editorial: The Long Journey Back Home”
10, James M. Hamilton Jr., “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord”
18, Robert L. Plummer, “Bring Them Up in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord”
28, Andy Stirrup, “From Whom Every Family in Heaven and on Earth is Named”
36, Bryan Nelson with Timothy Paul Jones, “The Problem and the Promise of Family Ministry”
46, Andrew Parker and Brandon Shields, “Research Briefs” (summaries of their dissertations)
48, William Cutrer, “Medical Issues in Family Ministry: When Does Life End?”
52, Lauren Foster, “JFM Forum: Connecting Church and Home Conference 2010″
58, Book Reviews
66, Jay Strother, “Equipping the Generations: Learning to Listen”
This journal represents an important effort to address family issues with rigorous and careful study, submission to the truth of the Scriptures, and love for God and his people. I just got my copy yesterday, and I’m eager to read the whole thing. Here are a couple reasons why:
- Rob Plummer is an insightful interpreter, and glancing through I notice that he has collected a sampling of texts on family ministry issues from the Apostolic Fathers.
- Paging through Andy Stirrup’s essay I note a sketch of Artemis from the Ephesus museum, as well as pictures of coins from the reign of Claudius and Vespasian. What do such artifacts have to do with family ministry? You’ll want to read the essay to find out!
Thanks to the editors for graciously allowing me to post my essay here: James M. Hamilton Jr., “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,” Journal of Family Ministry 1.1 (2010): 10-17.
In this study I’m looking at the role of family discipleship in the OT. Here’s the outline:
God’s Purpose to Cover the Dry Lands with His Glory
Instructions for Fathers and Kings in Deuteronomy 6 and 17
Instructions for Fathers in Deuteronomy 6
Instructions for Kings in Deuteronomy 17
Solomon’s Example in Proverbs 3
Table: The Influence of Deuteronomy 6 and 17 on Proverbs 3
May we teach the Bible diligently to our children (Deut 6:4-9), that the coming generation might praise the Lord (Ps 102:18).
I remember hearing John Hannah say at DTS: There are two things that you need to learn at seminary. First, the Bible is God’s word. Second, the Bible is the tool God uses to conform his people to the image of the Lord Jesus.
To see God’s word at work in the hearts and lives of his people is to see God do miracles. When we see people do what the Bible tells them to do, we should not take it for granted. We should not assume that’s just what people do. We should remember how selfish our own hearts are, contemplate how God by his Spirit has enabled these people to hear his Word, and worship God for the power he exercises in conforming people to the image of Christ, who laid down his life for us. It’s a miracle when a sinner acts like Jesus.
What a blessing and joy to see God’s mighty power at work: Jesus loved us by laying down his life, and I praise God to see the people of Kenwood Baptist Church living out true religion by caring for orphans and widows.
Here’s a beautiful picture of what you normally think of when you think of widows and orphans, and here’s another instance of a man caring for the “orphans” whose parents are alive but don’t protect them (in this instance I’m picking up on the way that Piper spoke of the women and babies affected by abortion as widows and orphans).
David Brakke has published a signifcant essay with a fresh translation of Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter:
“A New Fragment of Athanasius’s 39th Festal Letter: Heresy, Apocrypha, and the Canon.” Harvard Theological Review 103 (2010): 47-66.
He points to some of the implications of a “new fragment of the Coptic text” of Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter:
“When I read the letter in the mid 1990s, I argued that Athanasius’s promotion of a biblical canon supported a parish-based, episcopally-centered spirituality in opposition to other forms of Christian authority, namely, the teacher and the martyr. I still think that is the case, but the new fragment does suggest that I underestimated the specifically anti-heretical intent of the letter and of Athanasius’s canon. That is, Athanasius promoted a biblical canon not only—as I argued earlier—to support one form of Christian piety, social formation, and authority in opposition to others, but also to refute the specific teachings of persons and groups that he deemed ‘impious’ and ‘heretics.’”
As for what’s new in the new fragment:
“ . . . . These other passages do not, however, include brief descriptions of each heresy’s distinct false teaching as the new fragment does.”
“While the beginning and end of the fragment merely extend or supplement what we already knew of Athanasius’s argument, the brief catalogue of heresies with the biblical passages that refute them in its central section is genuinely new . . .”
Brakke makes an observation that supports the notion that the early church rejected pseudepigraphy/pseudonymity, writing of Athanasius:
“. . . he devotes considerable attention to two particular themes. . . . The second theme is that no ‘apocryphal’ books really come from Isaiah, Moses, Enoch, or any other authoritative figure. They all published their teaching openly, and any ‘apocryphal’ books attributed to them must be recent inventions of heretics.”
This comment adds to a lot of other evidence that when early figures in the church wrongly cited extra-canonical books as Scripture, they did so thinking that the attribution to some ancient inspired prophet was genuine. In other words, had they known the document was pseudepigraphical or pseudonymous, they would have rejected it. To my thinking this adds to the evidence that there were clear notions of authorship in the ancient world, that Jesus accepted the traditional claims about who wrote the books of the OT (e.g., Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Isaiah wrote Isaiah, Daniel wrote Daniel, etc.), and that the early church followed Jesus on this point.
Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter is not saying something new about the canon. Rather, Athanasius sees himself re-stating ancient tradition. Brakke writes:
“As Athanasius and others like him present the matter, when legitimate officeholders of the church (bishops) teach, they are faithfully passing on what Christ told the disciples, who subsequently informed their Episcopal successors, and so they are not really teaching at all. Athanasius claims this about himself in our letter: ‘I have not written these things as if I were teaching, for I have not attained such a rank. . . . I thus have informed you of everything that I heard from my father,’ that is, Bishop Alexander of Alexandria.”
Athanasius was a shepherd seeking to protect the flock from wolves:
“Although most scholars remain focused on the lists of books, the greater importance of the letter is that it reveals the role of canon formation in supporting one form of Christian piety and authority and undermining others. . . . The new fragment . . . makes clear that in establishing a defined canon Athanasius sought to undermine not only a general spirituality of free intellectual inquiry and its academic mode of authority, but also the specific false doctrines to which he believed such a spirituality gave rise.”
A fresh translation of the entire letter, with a revised version of the new Coptic Fragment, follows on pages 57–66.
 David Brakke, “A New Fragment of Athanasius‘s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter: Heresy, Apocrypha, and the Canon,” Harvard Theological Review 103 (2010): 48.
 Ibid., 50.
 Ibid., 51.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 56.
The apostle Peter, the rock, follows Christ by humbling himself to serve others, identifying himself as a fellow-elder as he exhorts elders to model Christ-like self-sacrificing shepherding (1 Pet 5:1-4).
Then he calls the congregations to Christ-like humble submission to authority (“I came not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me”) as he calls them to be subject to the elders in humility (1 Pet 5:5-7).
Peter then explains that Christ-like shepherding and Christ-like submission are enacted in Christ-like standing against Satan (1 Pet 5:8-9).
He concludes with a promise and a doxology (1 Pet 5:10-11).
Spurgeon, being dead, yet speaketh, and here are some of his eloquent statements that appeared in this sermon:
“It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” (Lectures to My Students, 2).
On the pastor’s job description:
“To face the enemies of truth, to defend the bulwarks of the faith, to rule well in the house of God, to comfort all that mourn, to edify the saints, to guide the perplexed, to bear with the froward, to win and nurse souls—all these and a thousand other works beside are not for a Feeble-mind or a Ready-to-halt, but are reserved for Great-heart whom the Lord has made strong for himself. Seek then strength from the Strong One, wisdom from the Wise One, in fact, all from the God of all” (Lectures to My Students, 12).
On seeing the saints safely home:
“I am occupied in my small way, as Mr. Great-heart was employed in Bunyan’s day. I do not compare myself with that champion, but I am in the same line of business. I am engaged in personally-conducted tours to Heaven; and I have with me, at the present time, dear Old Father Honest: I am glad he is still alive and active. And there is Christiana, and there are her children. It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling. I am often afraid of losing some of the weaklings. I have the heart-ache for them; but, by God’s grace, and your kind and generous help in looking after one another, I hope we shall all travel safely to the river’s edge. Oh, how many have I had to part with there! I have stood on the brink, and I have heard them singing in the midst of the stream, and I have almost seen the shining ones lead them up the hill, and through the gates, into the Celestial City” (source).
Have a listen here: 1 Peter 5:1-11, Shepherd, Submit, Stand
What is the greatest honor you can imagine? Perhaps the medal of honor given to an American soldier? The honor that Christ the King will bestow on those who served him faithfully so far surpasses that as to make the comparison of the two seem inappropriate. The church is God’s cause in the world. She is Christ’s own bride. The work done in the church has eternal ramifications and it pertains to all nations.
There is no other gospel that saves, no institution more significant, no agenda more important, no task more urgent, no cause more noble, no message more true, no office more dependant on the character of those who discharge it, and no reward greater than what Peter describes here.
It has been my privilege to preach through the book of Ezra at Kenwood, and here are the sermons in one post:
June 27, 2010, Ezra 1-2, God Keeps His Promises
July 4, 2010, Ezra 3, Disappointing Fulfillment
July 18, 2010, Ezra 4, In the World You Will Have Trouble
August 1, 2010, Ezra 5-6, The Second Temple
August 8, 2010, Ezra 7, Change the World: Study the Bible
August 22, 2010, Ezra 8, The Hand of Our God for Good
August 29, 2010, Ezra 9-10, Repentance Is the Only Remedy
May the Lord bless the reading and hearing of his word.
Here are some highlights from Gerhard Hasel’s essay, “The Book of Daniel Confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 1/2 (1990): 37-49.
“At this juncture we need to make the point that according to current historical-critical opinion with its ‘Maccabean hypothesis,’ the book of Daniel originated in its present form during the time of the Maccabees and the crisis brought about by Antiochus Epiphanes, that is between 168/7 and 165/4 B.C. It seems difficult to believe that such a significant number of Daniel manuscripts would have been preserved in a single desert community, if the book had really been produced at so late a date. The large number of manuscripts can be much better explained if we conclude that the book of Daniel had a much earlier origin.”
“Scholars who theorize that the book of Daniel wasn’t written until the Maccabean crisis (around 165 B.C.) are being compelled to admit that 4QDane [ca. 125 B.C.] comes from ‘only a half century later than the composition of the book of Daniel.’ This means that these scholars will now have to demonstrate that a mere forty or fifty years was sufficient time for all the editorial and other processes needed—according to their traditio-historical and redaction-critical theories—for the book to be developed into its present form and become canonical!”
“In 1969, based on the evidence available at that time regarding the Qumran Daniel texts, Roland K. Harrison concluded that the second-century B.C. dating of the book of Daniel is rendered absolutely impossible by the evidence from Qumran. There was, he said, insufficient time for Maccabean compositions to be circulated, venerated, and accepted as canonical Scripture by a Maccabean sect.”
“There can no longer be any possible reason for considering the book [of Daniel] as a Maccabean product.”
“Ulrich, ‘Daniel Manuscripts from Qumran. Part 1,’ observes that 4QDanc, with its very early dating, ‘is thus, for the Hebrew Bible comparable to the Rylands manuscript of the Johannine Gospel for the New Testament.’ The papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John (published in 1935) known as Rylands 457 and as P52 and dated to the first half of the second century A.D., was made about as few years after John was actually written as 4QDanc was made after Daniel was allegedly written—according to those scholars who insist that Daniel wasn’t written till around 168-165 B.C., during the Maccabean period.”
This evidence inclines me to think that those who persist in dating Daniel to the Maccabean era do so for uncritical, dogmatic reasons. Namely, their religion (historical critical naturalism with its priesthood of archeologists and orthodoxy of unbelief) dictates that they must not believe in a God who inspires predictive prophecy.
At any rate, primary source testimony, manuscript evidence, and historical probabilities are not dictating their conclusions.
 Gerhard F. Hasel, “The Book of Daniel Confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Journal of the Adventist Society 1, no. 2 (1990): 40.
 Ibid., 41. Hasel here quotes Eugene Ulrich, “Daniel Manuscripts from Qumran. Part 1,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 268 (1987): 17.
 Hasel, “The Book of Daniel Confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 44. Hasel here cites R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 1127.
 R. K. Harrison, “Daniel, Book of,” ISBE 1:862. Cited in Hasel, “The Book of Daniel Confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 44.
 Ibid., 47–48 n. 27.
JT has a nice summary in Q&A form showing that Christians and Mormons don’t believe the same thing.
Because of the prominence of some Mormons in our culture, it is important for Christians to be clear on this.
- What’s the Point of the Millennium? July 10, 2014
- So there could be a Jesus: TGC Interview on Ezra–Nehemiah June 12, 2014
- SBTS Alumni Academy on Biblical Theology June 7, 2014
- Jason Duesing on Taking the Gospel to the Unreached June 5, 2014
- May Women Teach Men at Church? September 2, 2006
- Q & A on Paul and Jesus, Women and the Law January 21, 2007
- Three Objections Enns Makes to Mohler: Apparant Age, Authority, and World-Picture November 4, 2011
- How Often Should a Church Take the Lord’s Supper? May 3, 2011