Peter Jones: “Overture 22 Before the PCA General Assembly: Bring It On!”

Dr. Peter Williams, Scholar in Residence at Westminster Seminary California, provides great, Christian-worldview thinking on gender and gender-related issues:

Biblically, in my opinion, the “vitals of religion” must include more than the five points of Calvinistic soteriology. This is no longer an issue of ecclesiastical power or of male chauvinism. We need a biblical cosmology, a clear statement of how the world is made that can answer both the feminist and LGBT dismissal of gender, behind which stands a pagan rejection of God the Creator. It seems to me that one of the “vitals of religion” is the understanding and defense of the foundational issue of the image of God, without which soteriology is a non-starter. There have been many useful suggestions as to the content and extent of that image, from intelligence, moral sensitivity to the role of dominion. But what is incontrovertible, since it is clearly stated in the text, is the place of the binary distinction of male and female. What I call Twoism, the essential notion of the God-created distinctions related in deep unity, is how humanity and the entire cosmos reflect the nature of the triune God, Who in the three persons is both distinct and one. This is how the created order makes us without excuse (Romans 1:20), for God’s Trinitarian being and the fact of His distinction as Creator from the creation are reflected in the Twoist world He makes. Thus God creates, explicitly distinguishing between day and night, dry land and water, and finally between male and female (Genesis 1). Gender distinction is also reflected in the mystery of Redemption where the male/female difference prior to the Fall bespeaks the coming unity and distinction of Christ and his bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Read the whole thing here.

 

Timothy George: Troubled Waters, SBC and Baptisms

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In, “Troubling Waters,” Timothy’s George writes on the the trend of the decline of baptisms in Souther Baptist-cooperating churches. George suggests that the problem may be related to our theology of baptism, going so far as to breathe out the possible connection between catechesis and baptism in church life. He writes,

Strikingly, the taskforce says nothing in its report about the act of baptism itself, its meaning and theology, what kind of catechesis should precede or follow from it, how baptism is related to the covenantal commitments of the congregation, or the ethical implications of being “buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Admittedly, such things were not in its brief. Its aim was to issue an urgent SOS—to stop the bleeding before it is too late—and the report does this very well. Yet is it just conceivable that the decline in baptismal statistics is masking another, more basic problem: the downgrading of baptism itself?

Two items in the report suggest as much. “We have a celebration problem,” the report frankly admits. Baptism has lost its place as a central act of Christian worship in many Baptist churches. No longer promoted as the decisive, life-transforming confession, witness, and event it is supposed to be, baptism is now often tagged on as a prequel to worship or added later in the service as an appendix to the “main event.” Although Baptists still perform baptism by total immersion, they do so in a prim, proper and quite decorous manner. Some churches have installed a newfangled baptistry in which the minister does not even enter the water but, standing behind a plastic shield simply reaches over and submerges the baptismal candidate who is seated on a reclining chair! But baptism should not be such a neat and tidy event. It ought to convey something of the trauma of death and resurrection, with real commotion and real water getting splashed around a bit.

It would be great to see the recovery of catechesis as warp-and-woof of what it means to walk as a Christian in Baptist churches. It might require us to rethink the nature of “Christian education,” and what the “Christian” modifier means for the mode(s), contents, and goal(s) of education in our churches. However, it would be a tremendous blessing to our congregations.

Related Article: Molly Worthen, “Did the Southern Baptist ‘Conservative Resurgence’ Fail?” (The Daily Beast)

Related Resources:

John Piper, “A Baptist Catechism

Charles Spurgeon, “A Puritan Catechism” (Free download from philmorgan.org)

S. M. Houghton, A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of 1689 (Carey Publications)

Clinton E. Arnold, “Early Church Catechesis and New Christian’s Classes in Contemporary EvangelicalismJETS 47/1 (March 2004) 39-54.

 

WAPO, B1: “Was Hillary Clinton a good secretary of state?”

UntitledWalter Russell Mead is the James Clarke Chace professor of foreign affairs at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest. He is the author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. He writes a good (and fairly balanced) article on grading the tenure of Madame Clinton at the State Department. You might wish for more on Benghazi, but its not there. Some quotes from the article:

“The U.S. emphasis on human rights and democracy, as well as the active support for civil society organizations, contributed to China’s harsh response to the pivot to Asia and probably deepened Vladi­mir Putin’s view of the West as a danger to Russia. For Moscow and Beijing, Washington’s work to engage and strengthen democracy activists and movements represents an aggressive effort to undermine the Russian and Chinese regimes. And the push for changing gender relations allows Islamists to portray the United States as a threat to religious values. American opponents often fear ideological and cultural “aggression” as much as U.S. military power.”

“The answer: Historians will probably consider Clinton significantly more successful than run-of-the-mill secretaries of state such as James G. Blaine or the long-serving Cordell Hull, but don’t expect to see her on a pedestal with Dean Acheson or John Quincy Adams anytime soon.”

“The verdict? Clinton brought a clear vision of U.S. interests and power to the job, and future presidents and secretaries of state will find many of her ideas essential. Yet she struggled to bring together the different elements of her vision into a coherent set of policies. The tension between America’s role as a revolutionary power and its role as a status quo power predates Clinton; the struggle to reconcile those two opposed but equally indispensable aspects of American foreign policy has survived her tenure at the State Department.”

 

 

Repost: Brothers in the Local Church: Serving or Throwing Stones?

05/20/2014 

I am grateful to the brothers at The Front Porch for posting this interview.

In this interview, Thabiti Anyabwile chops it up with Dr. Eric Redmond, executive pastoral assistant and bible scholar in residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington D.C. The brothers discuss what makes a good senior and assistant pastor, how to transition from the former to the latter, and focus on Eric’s book: “Where Are All The Brothers?” How do you speak to men who are skeptics about the church in a loving, winsome way? How do you correct theirs errors and encourage them to lovingly engage accurate perceptions they have about the church — even if they’re negative?  Pull up a chair and join Eric and Thabiti up on the porch as these brothers discuss how black men can taken from A to Z in the life of the local church.

 

Eating Dry Bouillon or Reading the Gospels Wisely?

51I85awIxWL._AA160_I just finished Jonathan Pennington’s, Reading the Gospels Wisely, (currently a steal at only $4.99 in the Kindle edition). I highly recommend this text for gaining a greater appreciation of the role the Gospels should play in one’s reading of the entirety of the canon. Pennington and I differ on our hermeneutical approaches to reading texts, but as a whole, his thesis is outstanding.

I was struck by one of the word pictures at the end of the book he uses to highlight the significance the Gospels should play in our corporate worship:

“A rediscovery of the central role of the Gospels in the church will affect our worship services and preaching…. [M]ost liturgical traditions maintain a special regard for readings and expositions from the Gospels…. But in general, the Gospels have tended to play a lesser role in much of American evangelicalism. There ‘the gospel’ has often been boiled down to ‘justification by faith,’ which is then fed to people in moralism-dusted bouillon cubes on a pilaf of pietism. If indeed the Gospels are significant in the ways I have argued in this chapter, this approach will not do if the church is to thrive. Both in our worship-service Scripture readings and in the content of our preaching, the Gospels themselves must play the dominant role. And when the Gospels are read and preached, they must not be used merely as springboards to other doctrinal ideas. Rather, honoring the narrative form of the Gospels, we must enter into the power and tension of the story and apply this to the lives of believers by focusing on the final Word, Jesus the Christ.”

Jonathan T. Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2012): 256; emphasis mine.

Think about the word picture. Endeavor to eat something vastly different. Get a copy of Pennington’s work.

_______________________

Related Resource: P. T. Smuts, Mark by the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels (P&R); I reviewed here.

Reblog: Racists Can’t Own An NBA Team But They Can Go To Heaven

By Jarvis Williams

The recent racist rant of LA Clippers’ owner, Mr. Donald Sterling, caused an enormous outrage throughout the NBA and beyond. Virtually every major news and entertainment source, from ESPN to late night talk shows, applauded the NBA’s decision to ban Mr. Sterling from any association with the team that he owns or with the NBA. In essence, both the league and most major media sources have categorically stated that Mr. Sterling has forfeited his right to be part of the LA Clippers’ organization, although he purchased it with his own money, because he is a racist. Now that much of the controversy has ended, I think it’s time for an African-American Christian to provide his perspective on Mr. Sterling’s racism and to provide his perspective on what the gospel says about the eternal destiny of racists. In my view, the Christian gospel promises that Mr. Sterling and all racists can go to heaven.

As an African-American Christian, I think Mr. Sterling’s comments were both a sinful offense to God and hateful racist speech toward African-Americans. His comments violated Jesus’ basic commandment of loving God above all and loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Luke 11:27). But if Mr. Sterling confesses his sins to God, turns from them, and gives his life to Jesus Christ by faith, the Christian gospel promises that God will forgive him of his sins (1 John 1:9), even his gross sin of racism, even if the NBA will not.

The NBA and the media have focused on the content of Mr. Sterling’s words toward African-Americans, and many African-Americans were rightly disgusted, hurt, and angered by his explicit racist comments. But the Christian gospel says that we should be more concerned with why Mr. Sterling perceives of African-Americans in the precise ways that he expressed in his private conversation with his girlfriend. The Christian gospel emphatically states that Mr. Sterling expressed racist comments and embraces a racist worldview because of the dominating power of sin in his life.

Genesis 1-3, for example, states that God created human beings; human beings sinned by disobeying his command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and God cursed the entire creation as a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Consequently, as Romans 5:12 states, sin and death entered the world through Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, and his sin transmitted sin to the entire creation so that all human beings are conceived in sin (Psalm 51). According to Genesis 3:8, after Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God. This reflects that their relationship with him was broken because of sin. According to Genesis 4, shortly after the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin likewise severed humanity’s relationship with one another. Cain murdered his very own brother, Abel. Thus, it is evident from the narrative of Genesis 3-4 that sin shattered humanity’s relationship with God and with one another (see also the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9).

However, the New Testament states on numerous occasions that Jesus died on the cross and resurrected from the dead to save all sinners from their sins. He even died for the sin of racism and he even died to save racists! He died to restore both humanity’s broken relationship with God (1 Peter 3:18) and humanity’s broken relationship with one another (Ephesians 2:11-22). For example, John 3:16 states that God gave his son to the world to die on the cross to save anyone who believes in him. Romans 1:16 states the gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s power unto salvation, and by means of the gospel God will save anyone from any race who believes. Romans 3:21-30 states that Jesus died on the cross to satisfy God’s wrath against all sins and all sinners so that they would be justified by faith. Romans 4:7-8 states that God counts the sins of sinners against Jesus on the cross and that he counts Jesus’ righteousness on behalf of the sinner who has faith in Jesus so that the sinner can be saved from his sin and from God’s wrath. Romans 5:8-9 states that God demonstrated his love for sinners by offering his son to die for their sins in order to save them by faith and to reconcile them to God.

The problem with racists and with Mr. Sterling’s comments is not fundamentally that they are racist. But the fundamental problem with racists and with Mr. Sterling’s comments is that racists and racist comments reveal the spiritual deadness of humanity’s spiritual heart and the need for God through Christ and by his Spirit to resurrect one’s spiritual heart from the dead (Eph 2:1-10). The solution to Mr. Sterling’s racism is not banishment from the NBA, which will neither change the way he feels toward African-Americans nor the fact that he’s a racist. But the solution to his racism is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If he trusts in and follows by faith Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and resurrected from the dead for all types of sins and for all types, races, and kinds of sinners, then Mr. Sterling can be liberated from racism. If Mr. Sterling chooses to become a Christian, the Christian gospel promises that he will go to heaven, a place filled with many sinful Christ-followers—even liberated racist Christ-followers. The NBA has decided that a certain kind of sinner (a racist) can’t own an NBA team, but this African-American Christian believes that racists can go to heaven by faith in Jesus Christ. May God give the church of Jesus Christ the grace to seek to win all lost people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, even racists!

 

Jarvis J. Williams serves as Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary. He is the author of Maccabean Martyr Traditions in Paul’s Theology of Atonement: Did Martyr Theology Shape Paul’s Conception of Jesus’s Death?One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology, and For Whom Did Christ Die? The Extent of the Atonement in Paul’s Theology.

From the SBTS Souther Seminary Blog: http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2014/05/19/racists-cant-own-an-nba-team-but-they-can-go-to-heaven-an-african-american-christians-perspective-of-racism-in-the-nba/

Pauline Theology @ Mt. Pleasant Christian Education Institute

It has been my privilege and joy this week to teach the 10-hour course, A Pauline Theology of the Church, for the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Christian Education Institute, Washington, DC. The students are asking great questions and providing challenging responses to the presentations.

As promised to the students, I am posting the resources below for further study beyond the the course text:

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Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology – with a free study guide (Zondervan)

Thomas Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (IVP Academic)

Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans)

Tom Holland, Paul: Contours of a Pauline Theology (Mentor)

I suggest you start with Horton; read with a small group or class. Advance to Schreiner after Horton. Then read Ridderbos and Holland in any order of preference.

Also, as a follow-up to the brief discussion on same-sex marriage, please consider Justin Taylor’s post, “Gay Marriage: Not Just a Social Revolution but a Cosmological One.