Monthly Archives: January 2013

Women in Combat and the Undoing of Civilization

From Denny Burk. Perfectly said. Ponder his cartoon. Thank you, Burk.

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012313_2107_WomeninComb131Our civilization just took a gigantic leap backward today, though I’m wondering if anyone will notice. Today Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed a rule that restricts women from serving in the front lines of combat. The U. S. military already has women serving in various roles in forward areas, but this latest move crosses another line. Here is the report from the Associated Press:

Leon Panetta is removing the military’s ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta’s decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.

I understand that we are living in times of tremendous social change. Americans have by and large cast aside the “quaint” view that men and women are different and that they ought to have roles and responsibilities that correspond to those differences. So for many people, I’m sure this news merely appears as the next stage of progress toward equality in our society. I have a different view.

Are the fortunes of women in our country really enhanced by sending them to be ground up in the discipline of a combat unit and possibly to be killed or maimed in war? Is there a father in America who would under any circumstance risk having his daughter shot or killed in battle? Is there a single husband in this country who thinks it okay for his wife to risk being captured by our enemies? To risk becoming a prisoner of war? Is this the kind of people we want to be? Perhaps this is the kind of people we already are. I would sooner cut off my arm than allow such a thing with my own wife and daughters. Why would I ever support allowing someone else’s to do the same? Why would anyone?

What kind of a society puts its women on the front lines to risk what only men should be called on to risk? In countries ravaged by war, we consider it a tragedy when the battle comes to the backyards of women and children. Why would we thrust our own wives and daughters into that horror? My own instinct is to keep them as far from it as possible. Perhaps this move makes sense with an all volunteer force, but what if the draft is ever reinstituted? Are we really going to be the kind of people whopress our wives and daughters to fight in combat?

I cannot improve upon John Piper‘s 2007 article for World magazine in which he writes:

If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.

Everyone in America ought to be scandalized by this news, but I’m wondering if it will even register on the radar of anyone’s conscience. To the extent that it doesn’t, we reveal just how far gone we are as a people. God help us.

Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from Daniel

Daniel07Westminster Bookstore sent me notice today of the arrival of Sidney Greidanus’, Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons (Eerdmans), on its shelves. Greidanus’s works are known for helping the expositor pay attention to literary structures and genre features within Biblical texts, as well as for giving serious thought to revealing the Gospel from each text. Greidanus works hard at making application(s) from each text.

Recently, several good works have been published to help readers work through Daniel and think about the significance of Daniel’s prophetic narrative to the modern believer. Among these are works by Iain Duguid and Ernest Lucas.

UPDATE (1/26/13): WTS Bookstore fixed the link on the author’s name on their page so that all of Greidanus’ works can be reached through the Daniel work’s page.

Publisher’s Description

In Preaching Christ from Daniel Sidney Greidanus shows preachers and teachers how to prepare expository messages from the six narratives and four visions in the book of Daniel. Using the most up-to-date biblical scholarship, Greidanus addresses foundational issues such as the date of composition, the author(s) and original audience of the book, its overall message and goal, and various ways of preaching Christ from Daniel. Throughout his book Greidanus puts front and center God’s sovereignty, providence, and coming kingdom.

Each chapter contains building blocks for constructing expository sermons and lessons, including useful information on the context, themes, and goals of each literary unit links between Daniel and the New Testament how to formulate the sermon theme and goal contemporary application and much more!

440 Pages
Published January 2013

About the Author

Sidney Greidanus is professor emeritus of preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. His other books include The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, Preaching Christ from Genesis, and Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes.

When Hope is Shipwrecked

735262-3x2-340x227The kind people at christianity.com posted my article, “When Hope is Shipwrecked,” concerning Acts 27:39ff.

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What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
~ Langston Hughes, “A Dream Deferred”

Many answers to Langston Hughes’s questions came during the Civil Rights movement. When a dream was deferred there were protest marches on one hand, and the Blank Panther Party on the other. For some it meant sit-ins at lunch counters; for others it meant starting riots in Watts. The delayed dream of equally accessible educational, social, occupational, and economic opportunities shriveled up for many in the post Jim-Crow generation of African Americans. However, for some it exploded.

No one likes coming to the edge of a new day only to have someone put up a sign that says, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.” When struggles have been insurmountable and a ray of sunshine finally breaks through, if something steals that sunshine, you can expect the downtrodden to do every desperate, hope-recovering thing – from occupying Wall St. to turning on one’s own fellow soldiers in war.

There is another course the believer can take when earthly expectations go up and down – when your hope shipwrecks. It is a course that goes right through Calvary.

Paul is headed toward Rome. He has death threats behind him in Jerusalem, a trial before Caesar ahead of him, and raging seas between the two cities. After fourteen days out at sea, being blown 470 miles off course, and not seeing the sun or stars for a very long time, many of the passengers on Paul’s ship have lost hope of seeing land again. The travelers probably would have written last notes to their families if there had been any chance the letters would have been found. Something changes, however, in the last episode of their journey: Land is sighted!

So the passengers do what people with a new last hope do—they throw everything into this hope: They cut their anchors and they hoist the mainsail to catch the wind. If another storm wind or current comes, they have no way of slowing or steering the ship. No matter! For,when hope issighted, we will make eager plans even without full information (Acts 27:39-40). This is the nature of unredeemed hope: we act immediately on it because there seem to be no other answers.

When one feels hopeless, it is easy to put hope in something new and shiny without any research, prayer, or seeking of wisdom. The default button asks, “Well, what else do you want me to do? Do you want me to keep suffering?”

Acting quickly on the first sign of new hope without getting all information often lies blind unnecessary cosmetic surgery, lost of virginity, committing adultery with an co-worker, or taking stupid peer-pressure dares. “This is my last opportunity for love, or for acceptance,” someone says. Yet it simply is the first sign of a new hope that one can see.

All goes well at sea until the travelers strike a reef—literally “the place of two seas,” or a place where a sandbar built up between two currents (41). The bow of the ship is stuck in such a manner that it cannot be lodged free. The currents behind the ship are so strong that the rear of the storm-battered ship actually is being broken up (41). There is potential for the prisoners to use the ship’s demise as an opportunity to escape.

The soldiers decide that it would be better to say the prisoners were killed than that they escaped. So they intend to kill all of them, because when hope is shipwrecked, we make panic plans to save our hides (27:41-42).

Think about typical panic responses—the “What else am I going to do now?” response:

·         Now that my grandkids’ father (or mother) has walked out;

·         Now that I spent all my money trying to start this business and I have nothing to show for it;

·         Now that I can’t make the team because I am injured;

·         Now that my court case is lost;

·         Now that my insurance (or unemployment) has run out.

One of the great things about having one’s trust in Jesus is that he has given the Holy Spirit as another Comforter to guide believers and assure them of their true hope. Everything is not the end of the world for us.

Paul finds favor in the sight of his centurion guard. Because of Paul, the centurion saves the whole crew. He stops and thinks long enough to come up with a plan contrary to that of the men under his command. Thus the original hope of getting safely to landis salvaged it is because someone makes rescue plans that focus on the Gospel (27:43-44).

In the narrative Paul represents the Gospel servant. The centurion’s hope might not be in Christ, but his actions do save the one to whom Christ said, “you will preach the Gospel in Rome” in Acts 23:11.

The Gospel and the sovereignty of God are visibly tied together in this passage as in all of Scripture. The Gospel depends upon Joseph going to Egypt so that God can save his family, to which Joseph says, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good!” The Gospel depends upon the Jews killing the Holy and Righteous One according to the foreknowledge of God, and then God raising him from the dead (Acts 2:23). The Gospel getting to Rome rests upon God’s faithfulness to his word to Paul, including that not one life will be lost and that only the ship will be destroyed (Acts 27:22-24). God’s good hand in the lives of those who have trusted Christ provides all the hope one needs when it seems that earthly hopes have been shipwrecked.

Eric C. Redmond is Executive Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He blogs at “A Man from Issachar.”

 

The Most Widely Misunderstood and Misrepresented Supreme Court Opinion of All Time

From Justin Taylor’s blog: The Most Widely Misunderstood and Misrepresented Supreme Court Opinion of All Time.

Francis Beckwith, author of the important and learned Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), writes:

It is no exaggeration to say that no U.S. Supreme Court opinion has been more misunderstood and has had its arguments more misrepresented in the public square than Roe v. Wade (1973). There seems to be a widespread perception that Roe was a moderate opinion that does not support abortion on demand, i.e., unrestricted abortion for all nine months for virtually any reason. . . .

In order to fully grasp the reasoning of Roe, its paucity as a piece of constitutional jurisprudence, and the current state of abortion law, this article looks at three different but interrelated topics: (1) what the Court actually concluded in Roe; (2) the Court’s reasoning in Roe; and (3) how subsequent Court opinions, including Casey v. Planned Parenthood, have shaped the jurisprudence of abortion law.

You can read online the whole analysis: “The Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, and Abortion Law.”

For shorter summaries of the serious flaws in the legal reasoning, see Beckwith’s blog posts on (1) The Court’s Failure to Address the Question of the Unborn’s Moral Status, and (2)The Court’s Two Unwarranted Stipulations.

John Piper: When Words Are Wind

Earlier this month, the Solid Joys app posted a devotional from Desiring God dating back to thoughts from John Piper from 1983. They are just as good in 2013 as they were thirty years ago. “When Words are Wind:”

Job 6:26

Do you think that you can reprove words,
when the speech of a despairing man is wind?

In grief and pain and despair people often say things they otherwise would not say. They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow when the sun comes up. They sing in minor keys and talk as though that is the only music. They see clouds only and speak as if there were no sky.

They say, “Where is God?” Or: “There is no use to go on.” Or: “Nothing makes any sense.” Or: There’s no hope for me.” Or: “If God were good this couldn’t have happened.”

What shall we do with these words?

Job says that we do not need to reprove them. These words are wind, or literally “for the wind.” They will be quickly blown away. There will come a turn in circumstances and the despairing person will waken from the dark night and regret hasty words.

Therefore, the point is, let us not spend our time and energy reproving such words. They will be blown away of themselves on the wind. One need not clip the leaves in autumn. It is a wasted effort. They will soon blow off of themselves.

O how quickly we are given to defending God, or sometimes the truth, from words that are only for the wind. If we had discernment we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.

There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil. But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by the pain, the despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real within where they come from. But it is temporary—like a passing infection—real, painful, but not the true person.

Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind—spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul not reproving the sore is the aim of our love.

Learning to listen to the soul,

Pastor John

The Servant Who Came to Rule

Screenshot of The Servant Who Came to Rule Addended

For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.  – Jesus Christ in Mark 10:45

Great customer service is becoming a thing of the past. Right next to holding a door for a lady and giving your bus seat to the elderly, good service is about to take its seat in the box labeled, “Things from days gone by.” Today it is common for you to expect to wait indefinitely in a fast food line than to get prompt service with a smile. Yet in spite of changing expectations in the world, the followers of Jesus are called to display the Gospel of the kingdom by serving in the model of our Lord.

The Gospel According to Mark presents a fascinating picture of the servant ministry of Jesus. It begins without a birth story of Jesus, moves at breakneck speed with healings, exorcisms, and other miracles occurring “immediately” in succession, and oddly ends without a post-resurrection account. Between its pages, the work of the Servant is so powerful that we are left to conclude with a Roman Centurion, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15:39)

Join us Wednesday evenings at 7:00 PM, beginning February 6, at New Canaan Baptist Church as we take an incredible journey through an account of a Man who demonstrated that servanthood and great service should not be associated with being weak, a pushover, or a doormat, but instead with the rule and power of the kingdom of God. Along the way, watch your life as a servant begin to look much more like the mighty works of the Servant who came to rule.

Feb 6       An Introduction to Mark’s Account

Feb 13     Mark 1: He Came to Serve as God

Feb 20     Mark 1: He Came to Make You Love Fishing

Feb 27     Mark 4: He Came So You Might Grow

Mar 6      Mark 5: He Came So You Can Regain Control

Mar 13    Mark 7: He Came Against Religious Tradition

Apr 3      Mark 9: He Came to Prevent Hell

Apr 17    If we have Mark, why then Matthew and Luke?

Apr 24    Mark 10: He Came to Give Kingdom Seating

May 8     Mark 11: He Came to Make You Great

May 15   Mark 15: He Came to be Crowned King

May 22   Mark 16: He Came without Mk. 16:9-20

 

A 2012 Book of the Year: Carl Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative

9781433521904“Modern culture has not really rendered creeds and confessions untrue; far less has it rendered them unbiblical. But it has rendered them implausible and distasteful. They are implausible because they are built on old-fashioned notions of truth and language. They make the claim that a linguistic formulation of a state of affairs can have a binding authority beyond the mere text on the page, that creeds actually refer to something, and that that something has a significance for all of humanity. They thus demand that individuals submit, intellectually and morally, to something out- side of themselves, that they listen to the voices from the church from other times and other places. They go directly against the grain of an antihistorical, antiauthoritarian age. Creeds strike hard at the cherished notion of human autonomy and of the notion that I am exceptional, that the normal rules do not apply to me in the way they do to others.

They are distasteful for the same reason: because they make old-fashioned truth claims; and to claim that one position is true is automatically to claim that its opposite is false. God cannot exist and not exist at the same time; he cannot be three persons and one person at the same time, at least not without unhelpful and hopeless equivocation (despite the claims of some Reformed theologians to the contrary). Truth claims thus imply a hierarchy whereby one position is better than another and where some beliefs, and thus those who hold those beliefs, are excluded. That may not be a very tasteful option in today’s society but, as noted above, even the modern pluralist West still excludes those that it considers, if not wrong, then at least distasteful and unpleasant.

We are naïve as Christians if we think that our thinking is not shaped by the cultural currents that surround us. Of course, we cannot abstract ourselves from our context; we cannot cease to be embodied individuals, each with our own personal biographies, who live within a complex network of social relations that influence the way we live and think and speak. Yet to know something of our context is to make ourselves aware of some of the invisible forces that have such an unconscious influence on us. Once we know they are there, we at least have the possibility of engaging in critical reflection, which will allow us to some extent to liberate ourselves from them—or, if not to liberate ourselves, at least to make us more aware of why we think the way we do.” (Carl R. Trueman, The Creedal Imperative, 48-49.)

Among the various Christian “2012 Books of the Year” lists, I think Carl Trueman’s, The Creedal Imperative, should have had greater prominence. Many are familiar with Trueman’s exhortation to see the historic creeds and confessions as a means of preventing us from reinventing the faith in very successive generation of the church. Instead of reinventing, we can contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and prevent ourselves from creating and embracing false teachings and heresies as we pass the truth to the three and four generations below us.

Some familiar with Trueman’s writing style might be turned off by the cultured wit and sagacious drollness of his previous works. Certainly Trueman’s tongue is carved in the mold of his Wittenberg hero; unquestionably he has the mind of his Puritan champion. Yet the sophisticated from-across-the-pond-humor is toned down in this work. Trueman writes with great accessibility for the average reading believer humbly seeking the truth in a walk with the Lord.

I would encourage the many in pulpits and pews to ponder deeply Truman’s arguments for a recovery of the creeds in the use of church (and family) life. Having used the Westminster Shorter Catechism with my own children, and the Heidleberg with my Baptist (!) congregation and my family, I certainly understand the case for the creeds. My children have a bedrock of theology from which they can judge all other claims of truth. Our discussions of theology have been rich, from prior to their teen years throughout their young adult years. I hope this will mean each of the churches of their adult attendance will have a family in membership that understands the truth of the Gospel. With Trueman’s work, in the Lord’s grace, might many churches experience this joy as the norm among their memberships.

Related

Trueman, “T-t-t-talkin’ Bout My Generation (But Thinking About the One After Next),” reformation 21

Trueman, “A Good Creed Seldom Goes Unpunished,” reformation 21

Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos: Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster (Or, Why It Really Does Matter What You Believe).

J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way.